“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in 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…” (Philippians 1:15-18/NIV).
The apostle Paul was a prisoner while writing his epistle to the Philippians. Obviously prisoners are not most highly esteemed in the society of men. Yet Paul was confident that many were aware of the fact that he was in custody not because of having committed a crime. He was here only because he had preached and proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians has been handed down to us. Thus we have evidence that at least Paul was allowed to write and send this letter while in jail.
Yet otherwise his opportunities to spread the good news were considerably limited. He could not freely go about and preach. So he was very interested to gather from the scant reports he received what was happening in the outside world.
He was glad to learn that some Christian brothers had taken up the baton and were proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. So his trouble would not mean the end of the Christian cause in the parts of the world he was concerned with.
On the other hand he learned that some were spreading the gospel guided by unclear motives. They were promoting themselves rather than the kingdom of God.
Some of them possibly did not hide their true feelings about the apostle. For whatever reason, they may have disliked Paul’s influence. Peobably they did not really favour all the results of the apostle’s labours.
Others just will have sought to be brilliant speakers. Eloquence was more important to them than the message of the gospel. They were seeking to be brilliant and to be admired rather than to be helpful to their audience.
Paul characterises these men as speaking out of ‘envy and rivalry’. But he also mentions a more serious problem about these self-appointed messengers of Christ.
They were trying to proclaim the truth that Paul preached in a way that could be offensive. In doing so they sought to bring Paul’s gospel into disrepute.
They pretended to preach just what Paul would otherwise say himself. Yet they exaggerated certain aspects of the message. They preached a distorted gospel.
In doing so they hoped to harm the Christian cause. Currently Paul was in custody. They might manage to convince people that Paul really deserved punishment. Paul says about them, they were “supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.”
The apostle’s reaction is remarkable. He says he rejoices about whatever is being done to spread the news of Jesus Christ.