Philippians 1:12–18 (NKJV)
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.Philippians 1:12-18
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Paul is writing this letter from prison in Rome. The Prison Epistles were all written during one of Paul’s two imprisonments there. This letter contains more affectionate language, partly because Philippi was a help and blessing to his ministry more so than perhaps others, and also because he was in a different stage of ministry, being in prison for the gospel’s sake, and perhaps more reflective at a slightly older age. He moves into this section of the letter with a presentation of his positive perspective on his arrest and imprisonment. He sees this as having furthered the gospel in Rome and surrounding areas. He has established a relationship with all the palace guard, them seeing his witness and his positivity even though in chains. Seeing Paul’s attitude and faith–even in prison–the rest of the Christian leaders in Rome are emboldened to speak the gospel and preach to the lost. Paul may be in chains, but the gospel is unchained and active in Rome!
Paul then addressed an interesting fact about those that preach the gospel. He identifies some who preach the gospel in an effort to create issues for Paul, hoping that their preaching will make it harder on Paul in prison. They feel that, even though they are not necessarily sincere in their preaching, it will make the government more intent on punishing Paul. Their motivation is envy. Their goal is strife. Others, however, are identified as true disciples of Christ, witnessing and preaching the gospel as an extension of Paul’s ministry. These are devout, dedicated Christians who see Paul’s example and run to answer the calling of God to win the lost. Paul’s rather poetic response to both of these groups is amazing. He says that whether they preach from pretense or in truth, at least the gospel is preached. He further states his intention to rejoice in the fact that Christ is preached. What a powerful response! Paul does not attempt to stop the insincere preachers, but encourages them, knowing that the gospel message has power, regardless of the condition of the preacher. God will handle the false spirits and eventually weed them out. They will realize that their “ministry” is not having the deleterious effect on Paul’s condition that they hoped and will either repent or grow weary in the plot to harm Paul. In the meantime, people will hear the gospel and respond, and will be brought into the church for discipling. Let the message go forth, regardless of the motive. Either way, Christ is preached!