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Monday, July 24, 2006

Do you share Paul's spirit about this?

Philippians 1:15-18 "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

Are you able to rejoice when Christ is preached with impure motives? It seems that Paul was. But I must confess that I really struggle with this. Yes, even in some cases that intellectually I think may meet Paul's criteria my heart still recoils.

Paul is not speaking of a compromised or falsified gospel. That was anathema to him: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8)." When he contrasts "whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached" the reference must be to the reason or motive rather than the true facts about who Christ was and what He did.

In the case Paul affirms in Philippians, Christ WAS being preached. It seems there are two classes of preachers in mind, those with impure motives (some preach Christ of envy, strife & contention) and those with pure motives (some preach Christ of good will & love). The pretence is evidently that the pretended cause is to forward the gospel of Christ, when in fact the true motivation is an attempt to cause more affliction to come Paul's way. Their envy and strife is directed toward Paul.

What is the relation of verse 19? "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ..." Does the "FOR" mean that the reason he is rejoicing that Christ is preached is BECAUSE this spreading knowledge will result in his (Paul's) deliverance from his present imprisonment? The attempt of the envious ones will be thwarted. Their pretence causes Paul to rejoice, and eventually lightens his affliction rather than adding to it. He is ready to die for Christ, but expects to be delivered (saved) from his bonds and minister once again to the Philippians (vs. 25,26). Or should we take a more "standard" interpretation -- regardless of how Christ is preached, the truth will not return void, but will accomplish what God sends it to do? Or both?

We should also consider that to some extent this passage emphasizes the importance of the message over the messenger. With that thought I am reminded of Jonah. He was a running, disobedient, whale-vomit-stinking, sulking, pouting prophet who didn't care for those to whom he was sent to preach. But ultimately he did preach the preaching that God bid him!

I suppose I've never found a particularly comfortable middle ground of interpretation of this passage. What think ye?

6 comments:

Jim1927 said...

I had a friend who went through all the motions of attending seminary, graduating, entering the ministry and was even ordained.

He was not really interested in ministry as such, but his mum and dad, and his home church "wanted" him to enter ministry. He preached quite well, and was true to the word, but I know, from our personal contacts, that his heart was not in the ministry. He eventually left and went into business. Could this be such an example?

Cheers,

Jim

R. L. Vaughn said...

Jim, I think that could fall under the principle. While we might prefer that all ministers are called, sincere and interested, we could still rejoice that the truth is preached by one who doesn't meet all that criteria. In Paul's situation it seems that the motive was more "sinister" than with the gent to whom you refer.

Jim1927 said...

The understanding I always had about this passage in Philippians, was not a hostility to the gospel, but rather an hostility to Paul himself. They were quite orthodox (verses 15,17 & 18) but they lacked brotherly love for Paul. This was also the viewpoint of Karl Barth..."a question of prestige that brought a section of the Christians at Rome in opposition to Paul." It was pettiness, which we sometimes see to-day among some preachers. We almost get jealous of our successful brethren.

Some of the older commentators, such as Lightfoot, Bengel, Meyer and even Ellicott suggested Paul was speaking of the Judaizers. but the fact that what they preached does not differ to what Paul preached. So, the personal things seems the more appropriate understanding, in my opinion.

Hence, my illustrative story...My friend preached the same truth I did, but his heart was not in his preaching...even though my friend did not show animosity in my direction. He was rather cynical about some things, however.

Cheers,

Jim

You realize by raising these questions you are stretching my memory to recall what I have read so many years beforehand? (Insert a smile here...lol)

R. L. Vaughn said...

Jim, I agree. Those folks being Judaizers does not fit the context or the point Paul in making. One commentator (I don't remember, Gill maybe) suggested a scenario in which these that were jealous of or hostile toward Paul were going around preaching; while doing so they were making the point that they were preaching the same thing as Paul but haven't been thrown in prison (thereby implying that Paul was in prison for something other than preaching the gospel). Now certainly all that isn't in the text, but illustrates one possibility of what could have been the problem.

amity said...

I have known instances where preachers are in fact "preaching" against someone in the congregation in a self-serving manner. The scripture is true, but they "wrest (the scripture) unto their own destruction" by giving it a false application.

Jim1927 said...

Is that why sometimes the pulpit is called "coward's castle"?

My principle in ministry was to be friendly to all and familiar with none. This tends to keep one away from personal quirks, and focused on what we are intended to teach and preach.

Cheers,

Jim