I recently read a blog article that misapplied the following verse in Philippians.
Philippians 1:18 (ESV) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
I say it was misapplied, because it was inflated to cover all doctrine and practices of a mega-church pastor who has come under fire recently from secular and Christian media over money, messaging, branding, and doctrine. The odd thing here is, that the use of the Scripture did not, in any way, defend the individual; rather, it got warped into an attack on any who would dare speak out against what may have been viewed to be out-of-step with Scripture. It is even issued as a blanket accusation of pride to any that would dare speak against this particular ministry, and issued a call for repentance. But was Paul attacking Timothy, accusing him of pride, calling Timothy to repentance? Let’s look at the verse in its immediate context:
Philippians 1:1-20 (ESV)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 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. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
If Christ is proclaimed, then I can rejoice in that. If the motives of the proclaimers are wrong, but the proclamation or teaching of Christ is correct, then we can rejoice in the latter, but that does not remedy the former. The former is still a problem, for that person, and should not be emulated with reckless abandon. In this case, though, Paul identifies the wrong motive as an attempt to afflict Paul in his imprisonment. Interesting. Paul is forgiving the personal attack for the sake of the Gospel. Paul never forgives false teaching. In fact, look at how he instructs Timothy at the end of his first letter:
1 Timothy 6:3-10(ESV) If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
The doctrine we preach/teach/share matters. If what we preach/teach/share isn’t plainly stated in the Gospel of Jesus, or in the teachings/writings of the Apostles in the New Testament, we need to be careful. There is a big difference between “words” and “Word”. Arguing over “-isms” without relying on the Word of God to explain the Word of God is tantamount to arguing over “words”. When we open our Bibles, the prevailing thought should be, “What does God’s Word say?” Too often, we skip that question and jump right into interpreting the meaning of bits and pieces of scripture without ever really understanding what it plainly says in context.
There is One Holy Spirit. If anyone thinks he has received a direct revelation that cannot be substantiated in the Word (by which the Holy Spirit teaches all Christians)… I recommend he test the spirit (1 John 4) behind that “revelation”. Am I against mega-churches? Not if they preach sound doctrine. If they don’t preach sound doctrine, my heart breaks because their false teaching is affecting a much larger audience wholesale. We judge a tree by its fruit, but “congregation size” isn’t included in the Fruit of the Spirit. If the one speaking out against a mega-church is doing so out of envy, then the accuser is wrong. However, accusing everyone who speaks out against a mega-church of doing so out of envy, is equally wrong.
1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV) Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
May the Lord bless and keep you,