Paul’s detractors- a reflection of our problems

29 May

Lessons from the Apostle Paul — examining the situation from Phil 1:15-17  

Phil 1:15-17   “Some to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather then from pure  motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.

Paul realized what Christian detractors were trying to do to him and to his ministry work as outlined in Phil 1:17  He describes in real clarity regarding these christians that were proclaiming Christ and preaching Christ, but with wrong motives and envy and strife.  Paul’s detractors ruthlessly attacked Paul, even while he was in his imprisonment, for the soul purpose of making his distress worse.

Paul’s purpose in confronting the issues wasn’t to get sympathy, or to retaliate against his detractors. No,  what Paul was saying here in these passages is that: Faithfulness in Ministry includes ‘right motives’, integrity, as well as ‘right doctrine.”  He tells how in the church, there are those who out of competition and envy, want to exceed others.  They come to resent those who are respected and bear fruit in their ministry work and want to take their place.

The detractors or enemies of Paul’s had selfish-ambitions, envy and strife.  They wanted what he had-a reputation of good-will and love, and wanted his ministry work for themselves.  They upset his work in possibly several ways in order to ‘discredit’ Paul.

In one commentary it says it this way:

“Exactly what was being said about Paul to hurt him and wreck his reputation, is not revealed.  But because the charges were false, the particulars are not important. The apostle’s purpose was not to be defensive but simply to give a correct account of the situation. As in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11-17) it is probable that several ‘factions’ were involved.  Each claiming several allegiances, insight, and authority.  When false teachers gained a hearing in Corinth, they ruthlessly attacked Paul, who wrote in 2 Corinthians to answer those attacks (2 Cor. 10, 11) Like Job’s friends, some of the envious preachers in Rome may have claimed that Paul’s imprisonment was the Lord’s punishment for some secret sin (John 9:1-2)  Others may have believed Paul was in prison because he lacked the victorious faith that would have gained his release.  In their view, he obviously failed to fully ‘tap into the Holy Spirit’s power’.  The fact that they were free and he was in prison was proof to them that his (Paul’s) spiritual power and usefulness were inferior to theirs…

“Still others may have presumptuously thought that the Lord kept Paul in prison because of his supposed inadequate and misleading preaching of God’s Word. With access to Paul limited, people had more opportunity to listen to his opponents, who claimed a ‘deeper and more complete’  understanding of the faith.  Like some Christians today, they perhaps felt Paul was old-fashioned and that a ‘fresher and more relevant’  approach was needed to reach the sophisticated people of Rome.”


“Unlike the detractors, the latter, those of ‘good will and right motives’ preached Christ out of love. Only a few years earlier in Paul’s first letter to the bickering and factious church in Corinth, he wrote 1 Cor. 13:1-3,13. “

The Church at Corinth elevated the Gifts, but they failed and neglected love and demoted it’s purpose in the cause of Christ, in the proper function of the church, and in their relationships with other believers.  This was a major problem in the church at Corinth, and all kinds of sins of the flesh were being committed,  so paul wrote:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clang cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  13) But, now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  1 Cor. 13:1-3,13.

Love should always be our motivation in our work for the Lord. Love is not just kind thoughts or sentimental feeling but is based on the truth, primarily the truth in God’s word.  It is the only thing that remains that will please Him.  We can be busy in ministry, we can be great at evangelism and communicating the gospel, but if that work lacks the right motives, integrity, and love, it will be less then what God asks of us.

But if you do have the right heart motives, that doesn’t alway mean that those around you will identify it as being done in right motives if there are those in the church with motives of competition, envy, jealously, and if factions exist or false teaching are in that church.

Paul knew that these self-promoters (his detractors) would hurt the cause of Christ in the long-run and it also  increased his distress, and knew they would begin to spread immature attitudes because of selfish-ambition once they had gotten into the church and it had not been dealt with. This caused Paul grief and effected him personally as these ones’ discredited his work.

Selfish-ambition means– to look out for your own interests, regardless of the consequences to others.  Like ruthlessly climbing the ladder to the top of a given profession or field, in any way they can, even at the expense of others. Envy is the root cause of selfishness. Paul further writes the instructions for this problem :

Phil 2:3-4, ” Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important then yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

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