12) But I want you to understand, brethren, that the things about me to a greater degree
have come to the advancement of the gospel; 13) so that my bonds in Christ are clearly
revealed in all the praetorium, and to all the rest; 14) and most of the brethren in the Lord,
becoming confident by my bonds, are much bolder to speak the word fearlessly. 15) Some
truthfully preach Christ even through envy and strife; and some also because of good will:
16) these preach Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, thinking to add trouble to my bonds: 17)
but these of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. 18) For what? Yet in
every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I do rejoice, and
The Philippians were well aware of the difficulties Paul had faced in proclaiming the gospel.
They knew of his appealing to Rome, and the house arrest he found himself in upon arrival in
Rome. [see Acts 21:27-28:31] Yet, the apostle does not cry and whine about his difficulties: he
thanks God for the opportunity that his difficulties have brought to the furtherance of the gospel.
[see 2 Corinthians 4:1-5:10]
The knowledge of Paul's difficulties coupled with the great love and affection they had for Paul,
would cause the Philippians sorrow and grieving for Paul's condition. However, Paul wanted
them to understand that rather than being a burden and problem, God had used his difficulties
for the furtherance of the gospel. His imprisonment had allowed the gospel to be known to
those in the praetorium, or the headquarters of the Roman camp, and to everyone else. His
imprisonment had allowed the gospel to be preached to the very heads of empire, and to allow
the gospel to be spread throughout the Roman empire. This was not something to mourn, but
to rejoice over.
It is difficult for us to try to find the good in any problem which confronts us in life. Generally,
that is true because of our narcissism (self-centeredness). The only thing we look at is how it
affects us, not at how it works in the grand scheme of things for the furtherance of the gospel.
How different would our lives and our outlook be if we didn't just concern ourselves with our
own good, but with the furtherance of the gospel and the good of others?
His imprisonment had even caused most of the brethren to preach the word fearlessly. No
longer were they holding back, but now they were boldly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus
Christ. Paul's example of courage had empowered the brethren. If Paul could do it, so could
We sometimes underestimate the power of our example: for good or for bad. There is a song
that we sing sometimes in our worship that states:
"We are the only Bible
The careless world will read,
We are the sinners gospel,
We are the scoffers' creed;
We are the last message
Given in deed and word.
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?"
[The World's Bible; J. E. Hamilton; copyright 1934: The Stamps-Baxter Music Co.]
Peter showed the power he knew was in an example when he said "husbands; that, if any do
not obey the word, they also may be without the word be won by the behavior of the wives;
observing your pure behavior in fear" (1 Peter 3:1,2).
Remember the words of Jesus: "You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its flavor,
with what will it be salted? For it is good for nothing, but to be thrown out and trampled under
the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city which is set on a hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light
to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
We sometimes dwell on the statement of Paul: "Do not be deceived: evil companionships
corrupt good habits." (1 Corinthians 15:33). We forget that we can influence others for good by
our example. We think only in terms of being influenced for evil by others, rather than the
influence we can have on others for good. Remember, good triumphs over evil! Don't
underestimate the power of evil to influence you, but do not underestimate nor forget the power
you have to influence others for good.
Paul knew that not everyone who was preaching Christ was doing it for the right reasons.
Some were doing it because of envy and a desire to fight. The "contention" of the King James
Version in verse 16 is everything bad represented by the word "politics." Young translates it
with the phrase "party spirit." It is the idea of doing something for what you can get out of it
personally, willing to even to do dirty tricks, just as long as you win. It is the word used in
classical Greek to speak of dirty, selfish politicians. It is translated in Galatians 5 as a work of
the flesh by "factious." These people were preaching Christ, but only for what they could get
out of it themselves. Now that Paul was in jail, they saw an opportunity to become better
known, or more powerful in the church. They were seeking to further themselves, not the
cause. If they could harm Paul, or belittle him while he was jailed, so much the better. They
were who was important, not the gospel or the salvation of those who heard them. Their
purpose was promoting themselves, not proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Others were preaching Christ from goodwill for Paul and for the right reasons. Their love
spurred them on. A love for Paul, who was an example to them of the courage and
commitment they should have in proclaiming and promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. A
love of the truth, realizing that the message of salvation in Christ Jesus was needed by all
men, and that God would remember all their works regardless of what men might think or say.
[see 1 Corinthians 15:58] These brethren were willing to stand for the truth of the gospel
regardless of what the cost: imprisonment, death, or whatever may come. They knew Paul
would do and had done the same.
People are people, and always will be people. Or as Solomon said, there is nothing new
under the sun. There are those today who proclaim Christ for the same reasons as those in
Paul's day: both good and bad. Those in the first category may speak the truth, or they may
pervert the truth to serve their own ends. But, remember, there are also those who "speak the
truth in love." There are brethren, who are preaching not out of envy, or to promote themselves,
but in promotion and defense of the truth.
Yet, Paul rejoiced in Christ being proclaimed, for whatever reason the preacher had. To Paul,
it was not his reputation, it was not his elevation, it was not his person that was important. To
Paul, what was important was the proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and the
elevation of Jesus. So whether they were pretending, or whether they were completely sincere,
Paul rejoiced that the message was getting out. It was the message, not the messenger that
There is no room for jealousy among preachers. They is no room for striving for supremacy. It
is not the messenger but the message that is important.
However, it must also be recognized from all of Paul’s writings that he does not rejoice,
commend, nor ignore false teachings about how one comes to salvation, the teachings of
Christ, the church, or how one conducts oneself as a Christian. Paul’s words are not to be
construed to condone the acceptance of false teaching, they are a rejoicing over the truth being
taught no matter by whom or for what reason.