“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
What is going on here? Some are preaching with the right motives and some with wrong ones. There may have been a faction that, though believers, did not like Paul’s leadership or methods. They may have wanted the people to follow them, not Paul. We see this elsewhere when Paul comments on the groups in Corinth who were dividing over Paul and Apollos.
What are your motives? How are you showing the unity of Christ? We now have denominations that divide the body. We have superstar preachers and those who are unknown. It can cause envy and rivalry. In our day, a preacher might want to be as well known as Rick Warren or Billy Graham. It can set up an envious spirit in some of us.
Some, on the other hand, preach Christ out of their pure love for him and his gospel message. Their names may never be remembered, their ministries forgotten, but through them Christ and his message will continue.
Paul says that it doesn’t matter what a person’s motivation as long as Christ is preached. That’s hard for us to get. My ego may be driving me to be a better, more well-known speaker or writer, but if I preach the truth of the gospel, Christ will still be honored.
What is the lesson here? First, while all preachers, teachers, and leaders are not perfect, their love for Jesus can shine through their imperfections. If we lift up the name of Jesus, others will hear and respond. This was always Paul’s goal. He rejoiced in even the most flawed person who still proclaimed Christ.
Second, we need to learn from Paul’s example. Not everyone is a Paul, or even an Apollos. Not all of us can be a Beth Moore or a Billy Graham. It does us no good to want to be someone else, nor does it do any good to try to damage their ministry in favor of our own. Paul could say what he did because he knew what God wanted from him. His humble response to the motivations of others, teaches us to respond in like manner.
Where do you stand on the continuum? Are you sharing Christ because of ambition, a need to be admired or famous? Or, are you humble enough to realize that God will use you where and when he wants? Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Remember, God will use you if your faith is true, but seek, like Paul, to be used because of God’s great love for you, not out of your own needs. And pray for your leaders, that their motivations might be pure.