Philippians 1:15

Monday, 12 December 2016

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: Philippians 1:15

Paul now introduces two clauses which he will expand upon in the verses ahead. However, at the same time, they are based on what he has just said concerning the “furtherance of the gospel.” His chains had caused others to speak boldly and confidently in the Lord. Of these, he names two separate groups. The first actually forms a paradox – “Some preach Christ from envy and strife.” In Christ, there should be no such envy or strife, and yet this was the motivation behind their preaching.

Who he is speaking of here is plainly evident from his comments elsewhere, both in Philippians and in his other epistles, and even in the book of Acts. It is the sect known as the “Judaizers.” They were envious in two ways. First, they were envious of Paul. He was a champion among the Gentiles, he was tireless in his proclamation of Christ, he was a chosen apostle even though he had once persecuted the church, and he preached freedom from the bondage of the law. Secondly, they were envious of the freedom which he possessed and which he preached.

They loved the bondage of the Law of Moses because it implied that they had in some way merited a right standing before God. If they “did” things in order to please God, then they felt that made them “better” than the heathens who Paul explained were justified by mere faith in the finished work of Christ. But the stupidity of their argument is evident in the fact that they – while adhering to the Law of Moses – had to then observe the Day of Atonement.

This was a day given for the purpose of granting mercy on those who had failed to meet the demands of the law. If they needed this day for being made right with God, then it nullified the very premise they held to – that they were able to boast in who they were as Jews who observed the Law of Moses. This is because the Law of Moses only condemned them. It could not save them. The badge of circumcision which they bore didn’t nullify their need for justification; it highlighted it.

These Judaizers were not just envious though. Their message was also one of strife. They were contentious and argumentative. And this is fully evident in Paul’s writings elsewhere. The book of Galatians, in particular, highlights their strife. However, they are also mentioned later in this epistle –

“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Philippians 3:2

The meaning of these words will be explained when we arrive there, but he is specifically speaking of the Judaizers. This angry, contentious, and jealous group was an infection within the body. Unfortunately, they remain until this day. The Hebrew Roots movement, and other groups of Judaizers are still out there, tearing people away from the freedom which is found in Jesus Christ. They reinsert the law, and they bring upon themselves and those they teach only bondage and condemnation, not freedom and salvation.

There are many other classes of envious people out there as well. We need to be careful to ensure that those who preach do so with a full adherence to the word of God, in context, and with the foundational message that man is saved by Christ alone, by faith alone, and through grace alone. Those who so preach do so “from goodwill.” The word translated as such indicates that which is good and beneficial to others. HELPS Word Studies further defines it by saying, “God’s good pleasure requires something is done through His work of inbirthing faith.”

Life application: Pay attention to the teachings, various videos, and sermons you watch. Are the words you hear based on adherence to God’s word, free from adherence to the law, and based solely on the grace of Jesus Christ? If not, then get away from there! Let there be no hint of envy or strife in your life and doctrine. Instead, do all to the glory of God.

Heavenly Father, it is so wonderful to know that we are not bound to a law which only highlights our sin nature, but which does nothing to take care of the sin-problem. Instead, we are brought into a New Covenant through the finished work of Christ. We are free from dietary restrictions, the observance of certain days or feasts, and we can worship You in spirit and in truth. Thank God that through Christ, we are dead to the law, but alive in You! Thank You for Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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