Philippians 1:15-18 Devotional
Philippians 1:15-18. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 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.
Reflection. This is quite a remarkable few verses, the key to which is in 1:18. Paul was unconcerned about his circumstances, and the attempts by some to worsen them (1:17), because something far more important was taking place: “Christ is preached.” A helpful contrast to Paul’s thinking here is found in Galatians 1:6-9, where he says that all who preach a false gospel are cursed by God. Therefore we can conclude that even though Paul’s rivals were motivated by selfish envy, seeking to harm him (1:15, 17), they preached the true gospel. Paul rejoiced in this. Earlier in the letter, Paul made his prayer for the Philippians with joy because of their gospel partnership (1:4-5). But now he rejoices in the advance of the gospel (1:12), even if he suffers for it, despite the intentions of others. Paul’s comfort - even more, Paul’s life - mattered less to him than the gospel. Christ proclaimed meant he was happy to be poured out for others (2:17). Thus Paul’s joy did not depend on his circumstances but on seeing others come to Christ.
There is something worth observing in our text. The other group, who preached Christ “out of goodwill” (1:15) and proclaimed the gospel without fear (1:14) shared Paul’s perspective. They understood his present suffering. They knew that Paul was imprisoned to defend the gospel (1:16). “I am in chains for Christ” (1:13). Building on a point that was made last week (1:12-14), Paul’s suffering had purpose. He was imprisoned but that did not mean God ceased to be sovereign. Rather, they knew that because God was sovereign he would make Paul’s suffering result in his glory. God had already done this.
Those who knew Paul understood this. They did not grow doubtful and fearful as Paul was locked away, instead they trusted God to make his suffering meaningful. They knew he was imprisoned to defend the gospel. Ironically, those who preached the gospel with the hope that it would increase Paul’s suffering only increased God’s glory, through the proclamation of Christ.
If we have begun to grasp the meaning of these verses then they will be a challenge. Paul considered the proclamation of the gospel of higher value than his own comfort, even his own life. He did this because he knew the gospel was God’s means to save, bringing people from sin and death to hope in Christ. We rejoice in many things but rarely seek to find joy in the faith of others. This tendency goes beyond our underestimation of God’s means - the proclamation of Christ - to us being constantly distracted by our own matters. Paul could very well have grown bitter in that Roman prison. But he took the opportunity to make Christ known. He would have our sympathy if he became discouraged and began to doubt God’s loving presence. But, confident of God’s sovereignty in his own suffering, he declared God’s love.