11 December 2008

Verse-by verse through Philippians (1:15-18)

Last time we talked about how the trials that we go through in life are meant to grow our faith in God. It’s nice to have things. I don’t think anybody would deny that. It’s nice to have a nice, easy life, free from the messes that we find ourselves in. But we also know that ain't gonna happen. That this world beats us down and keeps piling stuff on top of us. And when those trials come, we have two choices. No, three. We can either fold up and give in. Or we can try to make our own way out, cut some corners, do some things that may be kinda maybe not unethical but at least questionable. Or we can depend on God to bring us through and consider the fact that maybe God is allowing this to happen because if we follow His ways, and stay true to His word and see our situation as a way to glorify Him, then we will receive a reward when we stand before Christ on Judgment Day. James 1:12Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

The apostle Paul, who wrote about half of the books of the New Testament, went through some terrible times. You won’t hear about the life of the apostle Paul on TBN because it wasn’t all sunshine and puppies and penthouse suites and satin pillows. We saw last time that he was beaten with rods, he was whipped, he was imprisoned many times and in fact one time he was crushed with stones, and taken outside of the city and left for dead. Yet he didn’t stop preaching Christ. Not only did he have all these physical torments he had to go through, but he had all kinds of problems in the churches he started. The Colossians were being influenced by one group of heretics, the Galatians were being influenced by another group of heretics, and the Corinthians—just couldn’t stop sinning. So Paul was being torn every was from Sunday by not only physical beatings but the mental anguish of knowing the flocks he was called to pastor were being drawn away into heresy.

But that still wasn’t all. There were men who were teaching truth—but not to glorify God. They were teaching the right things for the wrong reasons. They were doing it to make themselves look good in the eyes of the people, or they were doing it to make themselves rich. Don’t think there aren't a few of those kinds of people around today. There are many pastors today who are preaching truth—they are teaching the right things for the wrong reasons. That’s what we’re going to look at today as we continue going verse-by-verse through the book of Philippians. Today we are at Philippians 1:14-19, although we won’t get to verse 19 today. Philippians 1:14-1914 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 goodwill: 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…

There are a lot of preachers out there that are only in it for the money. I ain't gonna lie, it’s true. I won’t go so far as to name them, because that would be wrong, we can't be absolutely sure that a certain man is preaching out of a desire for personal gain. But they are out there, and we know from this verse that this has been true from the earliest days of the church, from the first 30 or so years after the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s been going on for almost 2000 years, and it ain't gonna stop any time soon. So, to begin, let’s take a look at what Paul is saying, but we also need to look at what he’s NOT saying. We willl start with verses 14-16.

Verses 14-16. 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 goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains…When the brethren in the Lord had learned that Paul was in prison—again!!—they heard that even while he was chained to a Roman guard he was preaching the gospel, and that gave them confidence to go out and do the same. But evidently these people fell into one of two categories: those who preached Christ and Him crucified out of a pure desire to make known the name of Jesus and to glorify God—we’ll look at the folks in a minute. The other group of people saw this as simply a chance to grab the spotlight. This was their time to shine. They were gonna go out and show—“We’ll show ya how to preach!”

It would appear that these men had maybe been at odds with Paul about something, we don’t know for an absolute certainty. But from verse 14 we can see that these were Christians, and even those who were preaching Christ from selfish ambition were none the less preaching Christ. That’s something we’ll look at in a little while. What they were preaching we do not know, but we’re gonna take a minute and speculate. Paul says they were preaching not sincerely. Not sincerely. Why did Paul say it like that? Well, let me give it a shot here. When your wife makes dinner, and—well, let’s just say, it was...um...dinner. The mashed potatoes, you know, you pick out the lumps of undercooked potatoes, and you make it through the half a salt shaker she poured in them. You don’t want to lie and say that it was really good, so what do you say when she asks, "Honey, how did you like your dinner?" And what do you say? It was...“Not bad.” Think about that. You don’t want to hurt her feelings so you use the negative of what you kinda don’t want to say. So fellows, next time you say that to your wife after she burns the roast, she'll know what you are really saying. And if you find a iron skillet upside your head...sorry.

I think that’s what Paul was doing here. He could have used a very negative word to describe these men. He knew these guys were out there, showing off, preaching Christ and rather than call these men out-and-out liars--the Greek word ψευστης (pseustats, lit., liars), he simply said they were “not sincere”--ου αγνως (ou agnos, lit., not with sincerity). In Galatians 2:4 he referred to ψευδάδελφος (pseudadelphos, lit., false brethren). But instead of using a forceful negative word, he uses the opposite of a positive. Now, I don't know if there is a particular word for this structure. But what it does is it lets people know that it’s OK to listen to these men, these men were not necessarily preaching heresy, their heart just wasn’t in the right place. And I think what he was saying is what he would tell us today. These men may not be the best teachers in the world, they may not be giving people the whole picture—but there is a needle of truth you can pick out of the haystack. Or, as the old saying goes, you may have to spit out a few seeds.

There is a lot of seed-spitting going on in many churches these days. There are a lot of men—and women, and that may be something we look at some day—who preach Christ because they have sat in their pew for a few years, they’ve got their own ideas about how a church should be run, and what should be preached, and they’ll get a few people together, and they will go and split and form their own church. Or they will rise up and have the current pastor removed because they don’t like him preaching about all that sin and Hell and judgment stuff. They don’t do it out of a love for God and His glory and His word, but rather because they want to “do church” the way they want to. Just ask Dr. Steve Lawson about his experiences when he pastored at his former church in Mobile. There may not be anything wrong with their doctrine, but their motives are far from pure.

Supposing to add affliction to my bonds. Last week I mentioned 2nd Corinthians 11:22-29, how Paul talks about going through beatings and whippings and being crushed with stones and adrift in the sea and going for days and weeks without eating, and all these things, and he says besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Paul could care less about his physical body—cripple him, break his bones, cut off his limbs, so what—do whatever you want to his physical body. But mess with the church? His crown and glory? Kinda like how, with most men, you can talk about him all you want—but say something about his wife, or his kids, and he ain't having it. That would crush his heart. Today many churches have that backwards—you can teach all the heresies and blasphemies you want, just so long as we can be healthy and wealthy and happy and have our "felt needs" met. Now, again, these men were not necessarily teaching a false Christ—they were most likely preaching the true Christ from a false heart. These men were doing it not only to add to their bank account, but because they thought that “We’ll show Paul! We’ll crush his spirit and make him never want to come around again!” We’ll see later that didn’t bother Paul.

16 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition…17 the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. There were some who knew that Paul was appointed by God to give a defense, an άπολογία (apologia, lit., defense). 1st Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (άπολογία) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. Paul was eventually brought before the Caesar himself in Rome to offer his άπολογία , his defense of the truth, and to tell the Caesar—the man who set himself up as a god, a man who was worshipped as lord, who commanded the people to declare Caesar est dominus, “Caesar is lord,” make that public declaration or possibly be put to death—Paul was brought before this man to offer his apologia, his defense of the truth, and to tell the Caesar that “No, you are not lord—Christ is Lord!” And in about the year 67 AD, that cost him his head. That’s a pretty heavy weight to carry. And those who knew of Paul’s imprisonment did not care about their own lives; they went out and preached Christ knowing that Paul may not see another day.

These people had the attitude “Hey, Paul’s in prison, and he’s still preaching Christ. So let’s go out, bring glory to God, preach Christ even if it means getting arrested. And if we do get thrown in prison—then we’ll preach to the guards!” These preached Christ out of love, knowing that Paul was appointed by God to glorify God before the Caesar in Rome.

Verse 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. Now I want to point out—I need to point out—something Paul is NOT saying. I do a lot of dialoging online, pointing out the many false teachings that have crept into the church. Trying to help people avoid falling into heresies like Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism. While I haven’t come across anybody who has used this verse in particular, I have heard the sentiment—that by pointing out heresies of folks like Kenneth Copeland, and TBN and TD Jakes—people will say that I’m causing “division” and that I should be more concerned with “unity in the body” etc etc etc. And I can almost hear this verse in the back of their heads, waiting to come out. These people would probably read this verse and say, “Yeah, see? Paul said that wherever Christ is preached he rejoiced!

Christ was very clear in His teachings; Paul was very clear in every one of his letters that we are to avoid false teachings. John, and Peter, these men were very clear in warning us to avoid false teachings. When I tell a Mormon that they worship a different Jesus, and that they have a false gospel they will say “That’s impossible, there is only one Jesus, there is only one gospel.” Then I have to point out 2nd Corinthians 11:4For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! Joseph Smith was given the Book of Mormon by an angel named Moroni, who gave him another gospel. I will show them Galatians 1:6-8I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another…But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursedανάθεμα (anathema). If anyone brings you a “gospel” that is different than the one we have brought you, Let him be, literally, damned.

The apostle John wrote in 2nd John 1:9-11Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your church nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. Peter talks about false teachers in 2nd Peter 2:2-3And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. It doesn’t sound like these men—who wrote these words because that was what God told them to write—doesn’t sound like these men would rejoice at men teaching a false Christ.

What Paul was saying was that wherever the truth of Christ, and the TRUE Christ was being preached, then he would rejoice. Because Christ brings life. False Christs bring death. When Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples the night he was arrested, He prayed to the Father, in John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” We are not to rejoice in false teaching. We are not to sit back and let heresies grow until the whole church is filled with destruction. That’s no reason to rejoice.
It’s hard, sometimes, to tell the difference. And the size of a church isn't always a proper indication of what is being taught, or the motives of the pastor. There are many little, tiny churches that teach great, big truths. I like to think this is one of those. There are great, big churches that teach nothing but heresy (**cough** Potter's House **cough** World Changers). There are preachers in tiny churches that only do it for the extra couple hundred bucks a week. There are some pastors of humungous churches that do it for the love of God and His Word. Like I said before, sometimes you gotta eat a watermelon and spit out the seeds. But if you're getting more seeds than fruit, you might want to find a new watermelon. I know that’s not real deep, but just roll with it.

We should always rejoice when the true Christ is being preached. And it’s hard to rejoice when we know that a certain preacher is only doing it for the money. Those of us who come here ain't gonna be buying many Caribbean islands with what we make--'cause we don't make anything here. But we're not too concerned about that. We rejoce in teaching the truth of Christ.

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