Thursday, December 10, 2009

Philippians - Part 4

As Paul continues to explain his current situation, he mentions that people were preaching more boldly because he was imprisoned. “Some are preaching from good motives. Others are preaching out of a striving for personal advancement and hoping that their preaching will add to the misery in my imprisonment.” Either way, Paul was happy because whatever their motives, they were preaching the good news of Jesus. Paul’s attitude is amazing, but I find it very intriguing to wonder why someone that knew the truth well enough to preach it, would preach with the hope of harming Paul?

My best guess is this. These preachers with selfish ambition were promoting doctrines Paul would oppose. I suspect that these people were teaching something closely akin to the health and prosperity teaching common on television these days. If they were promoting this false doctrine along with the gospel it would make Paul’s chains more painful because he clearly disagreed with the teaching: Even more so because if the teaching were true, it would disqualify Paul as a man of God. Paul’s faith had placed him into persecution, beatings, and imprisonment… even while he had been in Philippi. If Christ will provide health and wealth to those that obey him and have faith, then Paul was a spiritual failure.

This hypothesis would explain the strong emphasis in this section and throughout the epistle on the necessity, importance, and joy of suffering for Christ. It would also explain how the advocates were preaching with the motivation of making Paul’s suffering worse. It would pain Paul for the false doctrine to be promoted in his absence. But it would also pain Paul for the credibility of his testimony to be undermined.

Ponder the import of these excerpts from the first two chapters, if Paul was being undermined by the teaching that if he was right with Christ and had enough faith, that he would be prosperous and wealthy.

“You were partners with me in my imprisonment.”

“You have been given the priviledge to suffer for Christ, as you are encountering the same conflict you saw me face.”

“Instead of being motivated by self-serving goals or pride, you should each be humble and moved to treat others as more important than yourselves. You should be concerned about the welfare of others, not just yourselves. Your attitude should be that of a servant who sacrifices for others, like Jesus did.

“Timothy is a reliable example of someone who thinks of others not himself.”

“Epaphroditus risked his life to serve me on your behalf.”

The teaching out of “selfish ambition” is not identified. I’m just taking an educated guess as to what it was… but either way the clear teaching is that we should be servants of Christ and His people, living and working on His agenda, not our own.

“For me, to live is Christ.” Can we honestly say that?

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