Philippians 1:15-18 – Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 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.
This may surprise you, but as a preacher I know it’s true: preachers are sinners too. Yes, even a good preacher can preach a good sermon about bad sin while still having sin in his own heart. This can be very confusing for people, which is why Paul, from prison, distinguishes four kinds of preachers based upon the message they preach and motive behind it.
- Good Message, Good Motive – These people speak of Jesus Christ, “from good will”, “out of love” and “in truth”. These people understand that churches and ministries should complete one another and not compete with one another because God wants His kids to build one another up and not beat one another down.
- Good Message, Bad Motive – These people speak of Jesus out of “envy…rivalry”, “in pretense”, and “selfish ambition” with the motive being “to afflict”. In Paul’s day, like our own, people had their favorite teachers and bashed the other teachers. Some people were not anti-Christ, but they were anti-Paul. In our day, things have only gotten worse with competition for platforms and market share and social media where Christians can fight with one another in front of non-Christians. In these cases, the only people who win are Satan and the companies that profit from clickbait.
- Bad Message, Good Motive – These people are like the two ladies mentioned later in Philippians 4:2 – “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord”. These were both godly women who supported Paul, but they somehow wrongly thought that speaking ill of one another publicly was a good idea. In our day, this category of person would include well-intended but misguided Christians who are a bit hurt and need to watch what they communicate, as well as those who have been poorly taught and need some help to get healthy.
- Bad Message, Bad Motive – These people are referred later in Philippians as “dogs” and “evildoers” (3:2) as well as “enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18). These folks are dangerous, as they are not only anti-some Bible teachers, they are also anti-Christ.
In closing, there are two important lessons we can learn from all of this:
- Good news is not best shared through negative ministry. Christians should be known more by Who and what we are for, than who or what we are against. We should spend our energies getting the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the nations and not think that critiquing those who are is a ministry.
- Messages are best dealt with publicly; messengers are best dealt with privately. The New Testament was written in large part to correct all kinds of messages that disagree with and undermine the Word of God. On occasion, the name of a well-known, very ungodly messenger is also given. Therefore, it is usually best to attack messages publicly but seek to connect with and influence messengers privately so that we can make a difference in their life and not just a point with our attack.
Of the 4 categories above, which one most closely resembles you today?