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Motives for the gospel (envy, rivalry, or goodwill)? – Philippians 1:12-18

Philippians 1:12-18 talks about the advance of the gospel and demonstrates that mere men cannot extinguish the light of the gospel of God. The preaching of the gospel is of utmost importance because the gospel is God’s power for salvation. God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith and declares the righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17). 

Many people in the world preach the gospel, but what is the motive for their preaching? During Paul’s time, some preached due to envy and rivalry, and others out of goodwill. Likewise, there are many preachers of the gospel in today’s world, preaching with various motives. Some are faithful to the word of God and boldly proclaim by being a servant of Christ, while others do it for a variety of self-fulfilling and self-honouring reasons.    

Philippians 1:12-18 says 

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is writing from prison, proclaiming that his situation had not been damaging to the gospel; instead, it has been advantageous. 

This passage from Philippians shows us two ways the gospel had advanced. 

Firstly the imperial guard and everyone else heard the gospel.

It was made clear throughout the whole imperial guard and everyone else that Paul’s imprisonment was for Christ. The reference to everyone else could be those who came to his quarters. In the first century, prisoners sent to Rome were entrusted under the praetorian guards’ care in cases of an appeal. 

This reference to everyone else could be members of the Jewish community as mentioned in Acts 28:17, and we see there was at least one Gentile as described in Philemon 1:10. Even in dire situations, Paul found a way to still keep proclaiming the gospel. Amen!

The Apostle Paul never fell into self-pity and doubt; instead, he took every opportunity to make the Gospel known. Paul trusted in the sovereign will and plan of God, knowing all things will turn to the glory of God.

Friends, likewise, every situation you are in is a chance to speak about the good news of Jesus Christ. It does not matter whether you are in front of the pulpit speaking to a congregation, or you are talking one on one to someone, or in the workplace, whether you are in prison or you are in the streets. Every situation is an opportunity to preach the gospel. Use it! Amen!

Secondly, emboldened Christians proclaimed the gospel.

It is easy for us to jump to the conclusion that due to Paul’s imprisonment, it would have brought fear upon the others to quieten them from proclaiming Christ. Instead, it had the opposite effect. They drew courage from Paul’s unwavering boldness, whether in prison or not, to continue in the work of Christ. 

When there is persecution, may you be encouraged to continue to speak out about the truth of God. Do not hold back or shrink back because the world and others reject the truth. Instead, in boldness, continue to speak the word of God. In fact, in Acts 4:39, the early church prayed unto God for boldness amid persecution, saying, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,”

The problem: “motive” for preaching

When those emboldened to speak the gospel amid Paul’s imprisonment, some did it out of goodwill, but others did so out of envy and rivalry (Philippians 1: 15).

The problem here was not the message that was being spoken, instead the root reason for them doing so. In these passages, Paul does not have a problem with the message, as he did have with others who were proclaiming another gospel described in Galatians 1:6-9, such as the Judaizers.

The problem here was the “motive”. They were preaching from self-seeking opportunities and promoting themselves at Paul’s expense. Even today, there may be Christians who use the gospel to further their own agenda at the expense of other Christians.

What is the motive behind your preaching? Is it for the glory of God or for the glory of man? Without the right motive, you cannot please God. Regardless, God will continue to use it for His glory and purpose, but it is the heart that God looks at. 

That is why it says in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 

Proclaim the gospel with the right heart and for the right reason. Do it as a servant of Christ, loving God, and loving your neighbour. Be the light amid the darkness.

Have the attitude and motive of the Apostle Paul, when he says in Philippians 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”

Don’t occupy yourself with what others are doing or trying to do to you. Focus on Christ, and glorify God by proclaiming the truth of the gospel so that God may shine His light into the hearts of those he has called. 

The disciples of Jesus also questioned Christ when some cast out demons in Jesus’ name even though they did not follow them. Jesus responds in Mark 9:39-40, saying, “But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”

In conclusion, many may speak the gospel, some of envy, others out of rivalry, self-seeking motives, and others out of goodwill. In either case, if the true gospel is being preached, let us rejoice because Christ is being proclaimed. God will judge the motives and the heart of each person. 

On the other hand, if the true gospel is not being preached and a false Gospel is being preached, then we must stand up, speak out, and ensure that false teachings are dealt with boldly. 

God bless.

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