The question posed for this verse is: “What is the meaning of the contrast εἴτε προφάσει εἴτε ἀληθείᾳ?” As the title of this post suggests, is Paul simply contrasting two opposing parties or using a rhetorical device? If this phrase is a rhetorical device, then to what effect is it being employed? However, it is erroneous to categorize this phrase in such black and white terms (i.e., it has to be ‘this way’ or it has to be ‘that way’ and there can be not middle ground or synthesizing of the two ideas). The language here is ambiguous as to whether Paul wants his reader to understand this phrase as either a simple contrast or a rhetorical device. I argue that the language can allow for both.
Paul is expressing two opposites as a rhetorical (or literary) device for a specific reason in the text. Previously, Paul mentions those who seek to discredit Paul because of his chains and have selfish motives (v. 15-16). In verse 18, Paul contrasts those who preach out of false motives and those [who preach] with honorable/truthful motives. Unfortunately, Paul doesn’t mention which conduct is better or worse; Messiah is proclaimed by both parties, despite their internal motives, and Paul rejoices (ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω). He then emphasizes his rejoicing with the contrastive coordinating conjunction Ἀλλὰ (Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, 657) followed by the future passive indicative 1. singular χαρήσομαι. Paul will rejoice even if the motives of some are unworthy, because Messiah is proclaimed. The internal motives are overshadowed by the proclamation of Messiah.
A second option is that this phrase is a subtle backhanded verbal twist against those with impure motives. Paul implies to his listeners that for all the efforts of the selfish, vain and with false motives are in vain. He deftly brushes aside their feeble attempts to belittle Paul’s imprisonment and equates them with those who preach Christ out of love and truth. Essentially, Paul says that they are of one accord. They preach the same message, which is more important to Paul than his honour or self-esteem.
How would you respond to those who besmirched your ministry, yet preached the resurrected Christ? Like Paul? Some thoughts to ponder as a I contemplate if I should enter into full time ministry.