Several questions arise when one reads this text, particulary Paul’s use of φθόνον καὶ ἔριν (v. 15), θλῖψιν ἐγείρειν (v. 17), ἐξ ἐριθείας (v. 17), and the repetition of the μὲν…δὲ construction in verses 15, 16 and 17. I am following along with some questions that Dr. Larry Perkins has made to assist our breakfast and Greek group in exegeting, analyzing, etc., our way through Philippians. The question that interested me was how does one proclaim the Gospel out of strife, jealousy, and selfish ambition?
Four possible answers come to mind. (NB I haven’t read any commentaries or journal articles at this point; these are my musings; however, I will follow up on them and see what other scholars say. If I’m way off target, then I will rethink my answers accordingly). First, is it possible that there are leaders, (ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις) who are jealous of Paul’s status as an apostle? Second, perhaps they are Greek Christians ,who with good intentions, don’t like Paul because he’s Jewish or vice versa. Third, are they Jewish Christians who maybe question Paul’s preaching to Gentiles and disagree with him. Fourth, these proclaimers of the Gospel out of jealousy, strife and selfish ambition do so to advance their honour or social status amongst their fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Then Paul contrasts them with those who ‘out of love’ (ἐξ ἀγάπης) know that Paul is appointed in the defense of the Gospel (εἰδότες ὅτι εἰς ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμα). They respect his status as an apostle, despite his chains, and they don’t find him a threat to their social status or honour. In addition, they do not place him in a status of shame because of his chains for Messiah.
Those who seek to gain from Paul’s imprisonment probably consider Paul’s situation shameful. How could an apostle of the Most Holy God be in chains, especially in the custody of the Romans? What a disgrace, and thus they seek to cause strife and besmirch Paul’s name. Yet, for Paul, he is glad that the Gospel is preached even if it is with bad intentions (Χριστὸς καταγγέλλεται, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω, v. 18). So how does this situation apply to our modern context? Can it? HOw is it good that the Gospel is preached when the preacher does so out of selfish ambition or to cause strife or from simple jealousy? I guess, for Paul the fact that the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the hope of salvation in Messiah is preached outweighs the motives; therefore, it seems that the motives are irrelevant and Paul continues to proclaim Christ as Lord and leaves the matters of motive to God.
I wonder how this would translate into today? If my motives were out of jealousy (i.e., I was a sessional faculty and was jealous of the Professor of NT studies and did everything to get that position, even cause discord in the academy) but Christ was preached, would that be a good thing?