“Lord Jesus, we pray that we can listen to you with a humble heart. Thank you for this opportinity to study your word.”
12 Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happenedunto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the [h]gospel; 13 so that my bonds became manifest in Christ [i]throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; 14 and that most of the brethren in the Lord, [j]being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 [k]the one do it of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the [l]gospel; 17 [m]but the other proclaim Christ of faction, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds. 18 What then? only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (ASV link.)
Because we have read Scripture and listened to sermons about Paul’s various imprisonments many of us have some idea about how St. Paul felt about being a “prisoner for Christ” and his opinion that by being in prison, he was quite effective in spreading the Gospel. However, until I became involved in prison ministry, I was completely unaware of how the prison system, through various ministries, spreads the Gospel. I can tell you of many testimonies of prisoners who make the claim that they would be dead and in Hell if they had not gone to prison and met Christ. What is more, many of these prison converts take Christ to their families. The Word is spread, in part, through the prison system!
The Asbury Bible Commentary gives us a quick analysis of this section. What it highlights is that “Christ is preached” and not to worry so much about the motives of those preaching. I’ve been thinking about this and I have a question, “Where does one draw the line?” Is everyone outside of my denomination a heretic? What if, as the Asbury Commentary asks, they are motivated by some form of “selfish ambition”? What if they preach a “prosperity Gospel”?
The IVP Commentary suggests that St. Paul considered those who were preaching from a motive of “selfish ambition” (The ASV uses the word “faction” where the NKJV and the NIV use “selfish ambition.) were not preaching a rival Gospel, but were preaching the true Gospel. The IVP comments here are rather detailed and shed some light on the subject.
The concept of “Christian Unity” is very dear to me. Rather than discuss this ‘rabbit trail’ here, please check out ForeverStone.AlwaysRejoicing.com. That is the appropriate place fot this discussion.
Why does St. Paul discuss this here? Well, as we get into the letter, we discover that there are dissention and party factions in Philippi. St. Paul names two of those in disagreement. I think he is making the point that the motive of a preacher is not important, instead, it is the message of the Gospel.