Every organization needs a leader. They need someone that sets the bar high and gives them the motivation to achieve those goals. They need someone that has vision and sets the example of doing the hard tasks that need to be done.
In the early church, Paul was a leader. But not just any leader. He led others because he followed Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write many letters that now make up a large portion of the New Testament in order to instruct as well as encourage believers. He did not just lead with words. He also led with his actions.
Even in the midst of a time of intense persecution, Paul displayed such a sense of boldness in sharing his faith and discipling believers. This boldness contagiously spread, causing others to follow his lead and share the gospel and disciple believers as well. This is where we left off in our last study, and we pick up today in verse 15 of Philippians 1:
“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill” (NKJV).
Paul took every opportunity to share his faith, whether writing in a prison cell, talking to prison guards, or speaking in the city. He did this with reckless abandon regardless of the consequences. And the good news is that people decided to share their faith as well. However, Paul identifies two different styles of preaching that some followers employed.
Some preached out of envy and strife. Envy has the meaning of desiring something someone else has. It is quite similar to coveting or jealousy. This implies pride or insecurity and means this may have been more about status than substance.
Strife has the meaning of conflict between people. When I was trying to figure out a quick way to remember “strife” for definitions on a Bible test in school, I would remember that 5 of the 6 letters in strife make the word, “first.” Actually, if the “t” and “s” were flipped, it would exactly spell it if you started at “f” and worked your way back.
Anyway, strife is conflict that goes beyond healthy debate for the purpose of resolution and improvement. It is when anger sets in, and the Bible says that man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Period. In order to curb this human tendency, if we place others before ourselves, instead of always wanting to be “first”, we will make great strides in not engaging in “strife.”
Others preached out of goodwill. They preached it sincerely and from their heart. They did not preach for the status, accolades, or anything else that man could give them. They preached because they loved the Lord and wanted to make an impact on others. They evangelized and encouraged believers for the right reasons.
Paul elaborates on the effects and motivations of those preaching out of envy and strife and those preaching from goodwill in the following two verses:
“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (NKJV, Philippians 1:16-17).
The envious and strife-filled preaching arose from selfishness. Selfishness is a very human trait because people have a tendency to like themselves and find it appalling that others would not like them so much, too. The sad part is that it does not simply damage the reputation of those who display envy and strife publicly, but that it also harms the name of Christ and fellow believers. The actions and words of these people added physical pain to Paul. With that in mind, we must remember that we are image-bearers of God and what we say and do does have tangible impacts on the name of Christ.
Those who preached out of love had the right motives. They wanted God’s name to be exalted and to see His kingdom grow. In a dark world, God calls His children to be salt and light. Salt, because we need to be part of the cleansing solution in a world that is stained by sin. Light, because we need to shine the light of the truth of God’s Word so that others can experience the abundant and eternal life now and later that Jesus offers to all who believe on Him.
Anyone can show envy and strife. They stand as natural effects of a fallen world. But to assist in helping our spiritual leaders in “defending the gospel”, we must preach out of love. Jesus said that the way others should be able to identify His children is by how they love each other.
People want feelings of acceptance. There is a void in every human being that can only be filled with Christ. Pointing others to Christ so that they, too, can experience God’s goodness begins with walking in the light and following our greatest leader, Jesus Christ.