Online Bible Commentary
Motives in Teaching
Philippians 1:12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. (NKJV)
Paul writes from a Roman prison that good has come from his imprisonment, even though it was meant for bad. The good is twofold. First, he has had the opportunity to witness to the guards and other prisoners. The guards now know that he is not a criminal, but that he is there solely because he preached the gospel, the good news of Christ. The second good is that his disciples have become emboldened by his persecution, which has resulted in an even greater spread of the gospel (v.12-14).
But not all of those who are spreading the gospel are friends of Paul. Some are jealous of his stature in the faith and seek to build up themselves, through his misfortune. They are motivated by selfish ambition, wanting to stir up trouble for him. But Paul’s friends know that he is “put here” in prison by divine appointment to defend the gospel. The phrase “put here” (v.16) is the Greek word “keimai”, which means to be laid out, destined or appointed. Paul is defending the gospel, answering critics of the gospel, while in prison. At the same time, his disciples on the outside are preaching the gospel out of love and goodwill (vv.15-17).
Paul rejoices because the gospel is being preached, regardless of the motives of the preachers. He is rejoicing because the truth is being preached (v.18). He, also, will continue to rejoice because he is confident that through the prayers of his disciples and the work of the Holy Spirit he will soon be released from prison (v.19).
But whatever happens, whether he is freed or put to death, Paul’s goal is that Christ will always be magnified by his life. He expects and hopes that he will not fail, but will have the courage to finish the race, to reach the goal (v.20).
It is important to make a distinction here. Preachers may not always have the best motives, but if they teach the truth of the Bible God can use them for good. The problem comes in when they have bad motives AND false teaching, such as is happening today in the teaching that homosexuality is not a sin.
These false teachers are guilty of sin. Repentance, turning from sin, is required to receive God’s forgiveness and salvation. You are not turning from sin if you continue in your sin or support someone else in their sin, causing them to stumble. "Do not cause anyone to stumble..., even as I try to please everybody in every way" (1 Corinthians 10:32-33).