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Mixed Motives in Ministry

Philippians 1:15-18a
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (NIVUK)

It is strange that some of God's people can pretend to love while practising hate, and even stranger that God might use them.  Paul's imprisonment in Rome had opened a whole new debate about Jesus.  Not only did it provide the church with new opportunities in personal witnessing, but Christians who were gifted to speak publicly found a new platform before an eager audience.  Although some identified themselves with the Apostle Paul and spoke out in support of him, others appeared to forget their spiritual family roots: they tried to compete against Paul, who experienced a bizarre hatred from such preachers.

It seems that they wanted to make themselves look bigger or more spiritual than the Apostle or were trying to avoid being put in the same prison.  To gain validity for their ministry, they belittled his.  To Paul, the contrast between those with wholesome motives, and those who were seeded with envy, was so great.  But greater still was the unique power in the gospel itself.  For the Apostle, the most important thing was that the truth about Jesus had to be released.  Even the negative publicity Paul received from some preachers just drew attention to the fact that he was in prison because he preached about the living Jesus.

Obviously Paul would have preferred to have been supported - he certainly did not commend his detractors and told the church not to copy their selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3).  Like John the Baptist, Paul understood that his ministry was not to promote himself (John 3:30) ... it was all about promoting Jesus whatever the cost (Philippians 1:21).  Jesus is always promoted when the gospel is preached/announced/explained, even by people whose motives are clearly wrong.  So, although Paul could not enjoy fellowship with them and suffered from their slander, he was glad that more people were hearing about how to find salvation.  

Perhaps this principle may help in dealing with people, at work or church, who speak truthfully about Jesus, but with wrong motives.  Rejoice whenever Christ is promoted!  Rejoice when the gospel is clearly explained (www.crosscheck.org.uk).  Because the gospel is God’s powerful tool for the salvation of all who will believe (Romans 1:16), its content has a power and authority which exceeds that of the preacher.  That is not to encourage a careless approach, or accepting any ‘gospel’ if it is not true.  But it should remind us, and preachers in particular, that it is God’s Word and not its presentation which changes hearts.  To rejoice when the true gospel is proclaimed by somebody you do not like or even trust is a sign of sharing the Apostle’s gospel humility (Philippians 2:1-5).  After all, every person is flawed including the preachers, but the Word of the Lord is perfectly true (Psalm 18:30).


Dear Lord. Thank You for the gospel through which I came to know You. Forgive me for failing to rejoice when people speak truthfully about You but slander me. Help me to bear with the folly of those who use the gospel to promote themselves, and to pray that people will come to know the truth about Jesus, wherever He is preached. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams