Gospel Motives

Gospel Motives
“And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” - Philippians 1:14–18

Jealousy covets the success of others and leads to actions that cause suffering. When a person wants what another has, he will do unspeakable things to take it away from him or use circumstances to boost his own position.

According to Philippians 1:14-18, Paul experienced the jealous and covetous nature of his fellow man. Nevertheless, he refused to allow the motives of the jealous to cause him harm in his imprisonment. In this passage, we observe two groups of people with contrasting motives, as well as a proper perspective on how to deal with our circumstances.

Men began proclaiming the gospel after Paul's imprisonment, having become "much more bold to speak the word" (Philippians 1:14). Some of them were properly motivated, preaching out of a love for the Lord and for Paul. They understood the importance of spreading the gospel. They knew Paul's purpose was to defend the gospel (cf. Acts 9:15), and they may have wanted to encourage him by continuing to spread the message.

Just as some proclaimed for the right reasons, some also preached the word for selfish motives. This second group was acting with envy and pride. They wanted to be recognized and looked up to like Paul, and they wanted to cause Paul pain, hoping that by spreading the gospel he would suffer further in his bonds. They preached for the wrong reasons, with the wrong motives.

Regardless of the motivation behind their actions, the gospel message went forth because of Paul's imprisonment. Paul recognized the actions of those preaching and perceived their motives, yet he was not judging them outrightly, knowing that God would deal with them (Romans 12:18-21). Rather, he found reason to rejoice in the knowledge that the gospel was going forth despite the motives behind their actions (Philippians 1:18). What Paul's rivals meant for harm, God used for His purpose and will. Paul understood that all was happening as it was supposed to, and that God was using it for both Paul's and other’s good (cf. Romans 8:28).

In our own lives, we encounter people who want what is best for us and those who wish us harm. Paul could have been discouraged by the falsely motivated actions of some, but he chose to focus on the positive outcome despite his circumstances. We should do the same. The reasons for actions matter, but when it came to the gospel, Paul's primary concern was that it went forth. Because that happened, he rejoiced in the will of God.

We too must look at how we perceive the actions of others despite their motives. Do they help to fulfill God's purpose in our lives and the lives of others? Do we look for how this could benefit the body of Christ, or do we focus on the negative? Today, when we see the envious actions of others, we need to ask ourselves if we are going to focus on the negative or positive outcomes. We need to take a larger view on life and ministry than our singular circumstance allows.