Can't Stop the Gospel, Part 2
November 17, 2019
“Can’t Stop the Gospel,” Part 2
If you have your Bibles this morning, please go ahead and open up to Phil 1:15. As my pastor in Dallas always used to say, if you need a Bible you should buy one. If you need money to buy a Bible, you should get a job.
Friendship is a blessing from God. To have people who support, love, and encourage us is one of life’s greatest blessings. I’ve had and continue to have a number of tremendous friends in my life. These men have shaped me and have blessed me in ways I don’t even know. I know many of you have great friends. God is good, and he shows that goodness to us through the love of others.
One difficult truth about life, though, is that you can’t be everyone’s friend. It’s just not possible. If you are everyone’s friend, your no one’s friend. We choose friends based upon shared interests and convictions. People don’t share the same interests and convictions. Because of these differences in interests and conviction, you can’t be everyone’s friend.
Not only is it not possible to be everyone’s friend, in this life you are going to run into people who don’t like you. Your bound to have people who dislike you. Especially if you’re a Christian who actively shares the gospel, people are not going to like you. You can’t be everyone’s friend and some people are not going to like you.
You might even have people in life who seek to harm you. They seek to do things to inflict pain, suffering, and misery on you. One time when I was in Dallas I went for an evening stroll and saw a group of young men talking. I proceeding to go up to them and evangelize. One of the guys wasn’t very nice. He told me that if I didn’t go away, he was going to go get his gun and shoot me. I didn’t stick around to see if he was going to keep his word. I left. There are these types of people in this world.
Paul had his run ins with these types of people. People who sought to harm him and inflict him with suffering and pain. Paul ended up dying at the hands of someone who wanted to harm him. Paul knew this firsthand.
That’s the situation that we find ourselves in with our Philippians passage this morning. Let’s go ahead and read from Phil 1. We will begin in v. 15 and end in v. 18.
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.
Paul main point here is that the gospel is not stopped by the actions of others. Nothing can stop the gospel. Paul states that the gospel is advancing even with jealousy and factionalism within the church. And Paul is content with that. Despite the personal pain that Paul experiences due to the harsh treatment of others, he is content that the gospel advances even if it means he is ridiculed.
What we are also going to learn this morning concerns how the gospel impacts how we deal with not being liked, to being treated poorly, and how in these situations we must keep the gospel, not ourselves, as primary in our lives. That is where we are headed.
The Situation (vv. 15–17)
Two points for you this morning. For the first point, write, “The Situation.” For this point, we will look at vv. 15–17. I will read them again. 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.
In these verses, Paul mentions that there are two groups of people who are sharing the gospel during Paul’s imprisonment. There is a group of good-natured evangelists and a group of badnatured evangelists. We’ll deal with the good-natured evangelists first.
The Good-Willed Evangelists
Paul mentions this group at the end of v. 15 and in v. 16.
But others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
These are the type of people you want at your church. These are honest, purely motivated early evangelists. Their pursuit of evangelism comes from love. These evangelists are humble, loving, and concerned for Paul. They believe that Paul’s imprisonment is due to his apostolic pedigree.
The Ill-Willed Evangelists
Next is the ill-willed evangelists. Paul mentions this group at the beginning of v. of 15 and in v. 17.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry . . . The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
It is this group that Paul spends the most amount of time discussing. This group is characterized by three attributes.
The first attribute is that these ill-willed evangelists are Christians. This point was new to me. Prior to studying this passage, I always assumed that these ill-willed evangelists were not Christian. But look with me at verses 14 and 15. Notice in v. 14 that it says at the beginning, “And most of the brothers?” Notice that? Now, look at v. 15. It says, “Some” and “others.” That “some” and “others” are grammatically related to the “brothers” in v. 14. The “brothers” are referring to Christians. The “some” and “others” are to be understood as the two subsets of “brothers.” Or, in other words, the people who are preaching Christ to spite Paul are Christians.
Paul views them as fellow brothers and sisters.
The second attribute of these ill-willed evangelists is that they have sinful motives in their evangelism. Verse 15 specifies that their motives are rooted in “envy and rivalry.” Also, v. 17 states that they preach out of “selfish ambition.” The idea here is that these ill-willed evangelists wanted the glory for themselves. They’re doing the right thing but for all the wrong reasons. They wanted the attention. The sought to evangelize for personal gain, not for the building up of the body of Christ.
We see this type of stuff in our social media age all the time. A classic example of is the Christians who post pictures of themselves doing godly things—such as reading Scripture—and the motives for doing that is so that everyone knows their reading their Bibles. When Christians do this, there not really in it to grow in their relationship with God. Rather, they’re in it so that everyone believes they’re trying to grow in their relationship with God. Quite twisted. That’s what these ill-willed evangelists are doing. Doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons.
The last attribute that characterizes these ill-willed evangelists is they thought that by preaching Christ they could “afflict” Paul in prison. This is the hardest part to understand about our passage this morning. It is unclear as to how their gospel preaching could afflict Paul. One suggestion was that these evangelists that that by preaching Christ, Christianity would grow, and the Roman authorities would become more enraged at the growth of Christianity and thus punish Paul with a more severe punishment. That’s just one suggestion. I’m not convinced by it. I don’t really know how it fits together. What is clear, though, is that they sought to further inflict Paul while in prison.
Putting these three attributes together, these ill-willed evangelists were Christians who shared the gospel from impure motives in order to spite Paul. We don’t know exactly who these people were. It doesn’t really matter who their specific identity is. What we know is clear enough to make some practical conclusions about how we should live.
Don’t Be a Negative Example
If you remember from our last sermon, I mentioned in my last point that we have both the obligation and the blessing of stirring up in one another, in our brothers and sisters in Christ, love and good works. I mentioned this on the basis of Heb 10:24. One way I mentioned we do this is from our example. We can live lives that inspire others towards love and good works. We have this responsibility and blessing towards one another.
These Christians who we seeking to spurn Paul are not following Heb 10:24. They are not stirring up in Paul love and good works. Rather, they are stirring up in him hostility and discouragement. Now, Paul seems to not give into this hostility and discouragement, as he will mention in v. 18. Nevertheless, the example of the ill-will evangelists is not conducive for Paul’s growth in the gospel.
In the community of faith, we can either serve as a good example to others—we can inspire them to love and good works—or we can serve as a bad example to others—we can lead them to stumble and be discouraged. How you treat others gives shape to their faith. Our actions have consequences for others. We must be mindful of that. We must be mindful that Christ calls us not place stumbling blocks for people in their walks with Christ but to stir them up in love and good works.
Humility and Selflessness
The most basic application of this passage is that we need to repent of all rivalry, envy, and selfish ambition. These vices are all symptom of someone who is inward focused. Someone who cares only about themselves. Someone who is only in it to get something out of it for themselves. We see these vices all our hearts all the time. Whenever you see others succeed in life—whether through a new job, a new house, a new significant other, and new child—and inside you you’re angry that they have received these blessings. That’s rivalry. That’s envy. In my own personal life, when I played college soccer and one of my teammates would score, I wouldn’t always wan to go celebrate with them because I was upset, they scored and I didn’t. Wickedness. That’s true wickedness. We all do this.
The Bible tells us that this type of posture dishonors God. Rather than rivalry, envy, and selfishness, Scripture calls us to humility and selflessness. Turn to Phil 2:3. We will read through v. 4. The passage reads,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This is exactly what we need to do. This is exactly how we should respond. Envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition has no place in the family of God. Rather than these virtues, we must put act humbly towards one another and selflessly. We must not be infatuated with our own interests, our own agendas, and our own goals, but rather to the interests, agendas, and goals of others.
Paul’s Response (v. 18)
Well, how does Paul respond to these ill-willed evangelists, these instigators? How did the gospel radically change Paul’s perspective? This will be our second point. Write, “Paul’s Response” for the second point. For this point, we will focus upon v. 18. Paul’s response is twofold here.
The first part of Paul’s response is apathy towards other people. Paul responds with indifference to the actions of these ill-willed evangelists. We get that we the first two words in v. 18. In these ESV it says, “What then?” Another way to translate this little phrase is, “What does it matter?” We might put it into English slang by translating it as, “So what?” Or, did put it a bit differently, “Whatever.”
Now Paul wasn’t apathetic about every situation. Turn with me to Phil 3:2 to see a different response that Paul gives to other people. It reads,
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.
Paul is discussing the Judaizes in Phil 3:2. What the Judiazers did was they distorted the gospel message. This set Paul off. This made Paul very mad. Paul was not apathetic about this. Notice Paul’s different response when we compare 3:2 with 1:18. Paul responds with strong words towards those who want to distort the gospel. Paul responds with apathy towards those who seek to harm him.
Paul’s main concern in life was the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the gospel was attacked, Paul sought with severe rhetoric to protect it. If Paul was attacked and yet the gospel wasn’t and the gospel was going forth, “Whatever.” Paul doesn’t ultimately care that these people are trying to harm him, trying to shame him, and trying to make his imprisonment worse. He doesn’t care. What matters to him is the gospel. If the gospel is good, Paul is good. Paul responds this way because he does not regard himself highly. Listen to what he says about himself in 1 Tim 1:15:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Paul does not regard himself very highly. He does not esteem himself highly. He doesn’t view himself as important. Paul was humble, unassuming, and not self-consumed. Because Paul was humble, he did not make much of personal offense. Because Paul was not self-infatuated, he ultimately didn’t care how people treated him, so long as the gospel went forth. People who are humble don’t make much out of personal offense. People who view themselves lowly don’t make a big deal out of being treated badly.
Paul could even find joy in the whole situation. His indifference and apathy to the how and why of others evangelizing actually led to joy that they were evangelizing. Look again at v. 18. Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.
Now Paul does not have joy that this people are sinning or that these people are treating him badly. Paul didn’t enjoy the ridicule. What Paul has joy in is the gospel. Paul had joy in the gospel going forth even though that meant suffering for himself. What mattered for Paul was not himself. What mattered to Paul was the gospel going forth. Christ mission—his gospel going forth to the whole world—was the all-consuming passion of Paul’s life. That was his sole focus. Everything else took a back seat to that main desire and drive. Even himself. If his demise and his own ridicule meant that the gospel would go forth, he was okay with that. He ultimately did not care how or why others evangelized.
There are several important points of application that I want to bring out from Paul’s response to these ill-willed evangelists. As Jesus did with Paul, Jesus wants to invade our lives and impact and change how we respond to others. These are the ways he wants to change our lives through Paul’s example here.
First, you are in control of how you respond to others. Others cannot control your psychological state. We live in this victim-mentality mindset today. If someone says something hurtful or mean treats you badly, I have the right be angry and upset. No. The Bible tells us to control our emotional response to how others behave. You do not have to give in to the ill-motives and hatred of others. For Paul, these ill-willed evangelists didn’t like him. In fact, they sought to make his pain worse in prison. Paul could have responded with anger back. He didn’t, though. He did not allow their hatred towards him to rob him of his joy. We, too, have that obligation.
We must control our hearts and our minds. You are in control of how you respond, not others. When others say mean and hurtful things, you can and should control how you feel. Do not let others steal your joy in Christ. Fight for that.
Two, ultimately you should not care what others think of you. These ill-willed evangelists thought very poorly of Paul. They didn’t have positive vibes towards him. They didn’t like them. Did that bother Paul? Did their dislike of him rob him of his joy and purpose? No. It didn’t. As Christians, we are not slaves to how others perceive us. Many Christians walk around being consumed with the question of, “I wonder what this or that person thinks of me.” If you live by other people’s opinions, you will die by other people’s opinions. The Proverbs say that the fear of man is a snare. The fear of man will cripple your fear of God. What matters most is not how people think of you, but how Christ thinks of you. Paul could respond with joy to his situation
because he ultimately did not care about how the ill-evangelists thought of him. So what if they didn’t like him or didn’t think well of him? So what if other people don’t like you or think highly of you? If you’re a Christian, the God of the entire universe approves of you. That’s enough. That’s enough to have an eternal satisfying joy.
Last point of application. Sometimes it’s good to say, “Whatever.” We cannot control other people. They are their own. When people do and say things that we don’t like, it can be very healthy to model Paul’s response, “Whatever.” Proverbs 19:11 states, Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is a man’s glory to overlook an offense. You’re not going to be able to solve every problem in this world. There will remain conflict and.
Sometimes you just got to say, “Whatever” or “Sure.” Sometimes you need to be like Elsa. Just let it go. God will make all things right one day. That day is not today. In between this day and that final day when God makes all things right, learn to say, “Whatever.” Trust God and give us control of the situation. Be content with the gospel. All the other stuff give it to God. Let him deal with it.