Today’s post continues my series examining the book of Philippians. You can read the previous posts here:
- An Introduction to the Book of Philippians
- Paul’s Greeting, Gratitude, and Group Focus (Phil 1:1-11)
Photo Credit: Martin Fisch
“12But, I want you all to know, brothers, rather throughout my circumstances the gospel has advanced 13so that the entire imperial guard and everyone else knows of my bondage in Christ 14so that our many brothers in the Lord, having known of my bondage, are daring even more fearlessly to speak the word. 15Indeed, some are preaching on one hand because of envy and strife, but others because of good will. 16Some are preaching out of love because they know that I have been appointed for the defense of the Gospel. 17But others are proclaiming Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think it will cause trouble in my bondage. 18So what? Except that in any and every way whether in pretense or in using truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and I rejoice in this. Indeed, I rejoice!” (Phil 1:12-18)
I. PAUL’S IMPRISONMENT AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL (1:12-14)
“12But, I want you all to know, brothers, rather throughout my circumstances the gospel has advanced 13so that the entire imperial guard and everyone else knows of my bondage in Christ 14so that our many brothers in the Lord, having known of my bondage, are daring even more fearlessly to speak the word.”
A. Through Paul’s Circumstances the Gospel Advanced (v. 12)
“12But, I want you all to know, brothers, rather throughout my circumstances the gospel has advanced”
Paul was in prison because he shared the Gospel (Acts 28:16, 30-31; Phil 1:7, 13-14, 29-30), yet the Gospel had continued to spread.
1. μᾶλλον — rather
The adverb here, μᾶλλον, appears to have been moved up in the syntax of the sentence for emphasis. Greek often moves a word up in the sentence in order to provide emphasis (F. Blass, A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Robert Funk [University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL: 1961], 248-249). What is the emphasis here? Paul was saying that while his reader would assume that the Gospel progress should have slowed while he was in prison it rather had advanced! What Paul was saying was the opposite of his readers thought he would say.
2. εἰς προκοπην του εὐαγγελιου – the Gospel has advanced
“εἰς προκοπην του εὐαγγελιου” – “the Gospel has advanced” is how Paul’s circumstances have served to advance the Gospel. Here, προκοπη denotes progress and prosperity in the physical, economic, and social sphere (O’Brien, Philippians, 90). BDAG explains this word as “a movement forward to an improved state, progress, advancement, furtherance” (BDAG, 871). This word “was used of pioneers cutting the way through tough terrain before an army so that the troops could advance (TDNT 6:703-719). The idea here is that Paul was pioneering the way for the spread of the Gospel (Comfort, Philippians, 158). See this word also used in Phil 1:25; 1 Tim 4:15.
B. The Gospel’s Advancement Outside the Christian Community (v. 13)
“13so that the entire imperial guard and everyone else knows of my bondage in Christ”
The ὥστε “so that” introduces the results of προκοπη “advancement.”
“Imperial Guard” or “praetorian” probably is the Roman imprisonment that Paul had endured, and under which he was eventually killed (Acts 28:16, 30-31). However, “This does not automatically identify Rome as the city from which Paul wrote his letter, for each province had its own praetorian. Nonetheless, Rome is the most likely place (Comfort, Philippians, 158).
O’Brien provides four specific options for the location of this “praetorium:”
- The Emperor’s palace
- The barracks attached to the imperial palace
- A large permanent camp of the praetorian soldiers
- A body of men (not a palace)
The last option is the most likely place because ancient inscriptions and reference to people (O’Brien, Philippians, 93).
C. The Gospel’s Advancement Inside the Christian community (v. 14)
“14so that our many brothers in the Lord, having known of my bondage, are daring even more fearlessly to speak the word.”
This sentence gives the result of Paul’s imprisonment for it has encouraged others to dare even more fearlessly to speak the word.
Four words heighten Paul’s emphasis on courage:
- πεποιθοτος “having known, persuaded”
- περισσοτερως “especially, even more”
- πολμαν “daring”
- ἀφοβως “fearlessly.”
II. PEOPLE PREACHING WITHOUT PURE MOTIVES (1:15-17)
“15Indeed, some are preaching on one hand because of envy and strife, but others because of good will. 16Some are preaching out of love because they know that I have been appointed for the defense of the Gospel. 17But others are proclaiming Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think it will cause trouble in my bondage. “
Phil 1:15-17 forms a chiastic structure following:
A – Bad Guys (15a)
B – Good Guys (15b)
B – Good Guys (16)
A – Bad Guys (17)
Chiasms are well known in the Old Testament (especially Psalms) but play a lesser role in New Testament literature. Yet, “Chiasmus plays a considerable role in Paul; he arranges words, parts of sentences, and even whole sentences according to the schema a b/b a” (Funk and Debrunner, Greek Grammar of the NT, 252). Two other areas Paul uses a chiasm is 1 Cor 8:5 and Phlm 5.
A textual note is due here for vv. 16-17. A close look at the King James Version (KJV) compared to modern translations (ESV, NLT, NET, NIV, etc.) shows that verses 16 and 17 are switched in the KJV. This is because the KJV is based on “later” and “newer” manuscripts that are less likely the original text that Paul wrote.
The KJV’s evidence for switching verses 16 and 17 is based on a scribe making a correction to a majuscule manuscript, D – Codez Bezae (Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament, 4th ed. [New York, NY: Oxford, 2005], 70-73). While this is a fifth century manuscript (considered early and credible) there was a correction made to the text by a scribe at some later date. Additional manuscript evidence for this reading is based on K (ninth century), ψ (ninth to tenth century), 104 (AD 1087), 630 (eighth century), 1505 (seventh century).
However, the manuscript evidence which supports the text of modern translations is much better because it is based on “older” manuscripts. These manuscripts are P46 (AD 200) א (fourth century), A (fifth century), B (fourth century), D* (fifth century), 048 (fifth century), 075 (fifth century). Due to the strong evidence of these older and more Alexandrian text-type manuscripts, the reading listed in our Bibles is preferred.
This is a good example of New Testament Textual Criticism. While there are variants in the manuscripts, it is advantageous to ask what the meaning of these variations are. Is there any difference in the meaning of the text? Do these changes affect any core doctrines of the Christian faith? The answer, of course, is no!
The next time you see some so called “expert” on PBS or CBS talking about the many “errors” in the New Testament and why it is not trustworthy, be sure to remember that this is an example of those so called “errors.” No key Christian doctrine is effected here.
A. Some Preach from Jealousy and Strife While Others Preach Because of Good Will (v. 15).
“15Indeed, some are preaching on one hand because of envy and strife, but others because of good will.”
The Gospel was being shared but not with the same motives by everyone. φθονος (“envy, jealousy”) and ἐρις (“strife, contention”) were well known ethical terms that turn up in the lists of “vices” in Paul’s time (O’Brien, Philippians, 99).
1. φθονος – envy
φθονος here has the nuance of trying to deprive a person of the desired thing rather than to gain it (Mark 15:10; Matt 27:18; Rom 1:29; Gal 5:21; 1 Tim 6:4; Tit 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1-2; James 4:5).
2. ἐρις – strife
ἐρις is often with φθονος in Rom 1:29; Gal 5:20; Phil 1:15; 1 Tim 6:4; Tit 3:9. It also occurs with ξηλος (“jealousy, envy”) at Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 12:20.
B. Some Preach from Love Because They Know Paul Had Been Appointed to Defend the Gospel (v. 16).
“16Some are preaching out of love because they know that I have been appointed for the defense of the Gospel.”
This is an explanation of the people that preached from “good will” in v. 15.
κειμαι is a military term indicating that Paul was under orders that were issued by God (O’Brien, Philippians, 101).
C. Some Were Preaching Christ from Selfish Ambition (v. 17).
“17But others are proclaiming Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think it will cause trouble in my bondage.”
This is an explanation of those preaching from “envy/jealousy” and “strife/contention.”
1. ἐριθεια – selfishness
ἐριθεια (“selfishness”) is a word found before New Testament times only in Aristotle and is a self-seeking pursuit of political office by using unfair tactics. It is selfishness or ambition (O’Brien, Philippians, 101). See its use in Rom 2:8; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; Phil 2:3; James 3:14, 16
2. θλιψιν – trouble
θλιψιν (θλιψις, εως, ἡ — “affliction, trouble”) has a variety of meanings, but here it is an “inward experience of distress, affliction, trouble” (BDAG, 457). Also see 2 Cor 2:4.
Leadership with Correct Motives
Paul shared in this section of his letter that some people were preaching with selfish motives (Phil 1:15-17) while others preached with pure motives (Phil 1:15-16). The fact that some people were doing the same job as Paul but with the wrong motives is something that everyone has to deal with regardless of profession.
A baseball player who loves playing the game might get frustrated when other players go on strike because they only play for the money. A salesman might get discouraged when he tries to do his job with integrity while someone else sells the same product using deceptive tactics. Even more severely is the nonprofit employee who pours her heart into her work only to be hindered by another employee whose heart is focused on a paycheck instead of the community.
This passage reminds leaders that the only person they can control is themselves. Leaders must ensure that their motivations for the work they do are pure. This means that leaders lead for the correct reasons. What are those reasons? Maybe it is more helpful to describe what the wrong reasons for leading are.
When someone leads because he likes to be in control, that is the wrong reason. When someone leads because he wants to make more money than followers, he leads for the wrong reason. When someone leads because he wants the recognition of “being the leader” of things that went well, then he leads for the wrong reason.
Instead, leaders with pure motives desire to make a difference by the work they do with and for people. Leaders naturally want to do good quality of work and they more than likely think they can make a bigger difference as a leader than they could as a follower.
III. PAUL DIDN’T CARE ABOUT MOTIVES (1:18)
“18So what? Except that in any and every way whether in pretense or in using truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and I rejoice in this. Indeed, I rejoice!”
This is Paul’s response to those who are preaching with unselfish motives (vv. 15, 17).
Προφασει (προφασις, εως, ἡ — ) is “falsely alleged motive, pretext ostensible reason, excuse (BDAG, 889). See its use in Matt 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47; Acts 27:30; 1 Thess 2:5.
Conclusion & Application
One of the things I like to do is listen to music on YouTube while I work at home. Occasionally I will type “Johnny Cash” into the search and let his music play for a while. I was intrigued recently when I heard his song, “When the Man Comes Around” (American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002). The song starts with Johnny saying, “And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. One of the four beasts saying, “Come and see.” And I saw. And behold, a white horse.” Then the song ends with, “And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name that was on him was ‘death.’ And hell followed with him.” And in another song I have heard him say, “I heard Jesus say, ‘Johnny go do my will!’”
I often wondered if he really saw a vision of four beasts and if Jesus really had spoken to him. Or, were those just examples of years and years of alcohol and drugs still working there way through his brain? However, I eventually came to the conclusion that regardless of where that vision and voice came from, like Paul I should rejoice in the fact that Jesus was being shared! Thousands of people heard him sing those songs live in concert and now because of the internet, literally millions of people have watched those music videos on YouTube. I should rejoice that Jesus is being preached and not care what the motives are behind them!
Rejoice as Others Advance Your Cause
Paul’s response here is one that very few people would have had. Even though people were preaching the Gospel from jealousy, rivalry, and personal conceit (Phil 1:15-17), he rejoiced in the fact that the Gospel was not only being shared but also advancing!
For five years I worked as an employee of the United Way of Stanislaus County doing fundraising for our work in the community. In a county that had more than 500,000 people there were lots of people also doing fundraising for good projects in our community. If you were to tell me that someone was doing the same thing that I was doing with better results but the wrong motives, I would have struggled to be happy for that person. I would have resorted to bad mouthing that person or trying to discredit them. Thankfully, I never knew of someone doing fundraising with impure motives and I am glad that I never did. I fear that I would not have responded like Paul.
Rejoicing for another person’s work done with impure motives is something that I think most leaders would have trouble admitting. If people are doing the same work that you are but do it with wrong motives while getting better results than you, would you be happy for them? While you might be envious of that person for the results he received, Paul has shown that the appropriate response for leaders is to rejoice (Phil 1:18-19).