Wednesday

01 October 2014

“What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.” (v. 18)


Background

Having got all the introductory niceties over, Paul begins to tell the folk about his own experience. He first of all writes that despite his imprisonment he is able to continue his work as an evangelist; he speaks of how he has managed to make Christ known to the imperial guard and his fellow prisoners, letting them know that it has been his belief in Christ that has got him there in the first place.

He then continues with the good news that the people, presumably in Rome, who had already come to faith through Paul's ministry, have begun to speak out in faith to the people around them, bolstered by the message that he has been arrested.

But then comes the less positive part. It seems that the folk in this burgeoning church are not all of one mind when it comes to telling the story of salvation. Some are seemingly competing with each other, perhaps to see who can gain the most converts. There is clearly rivalry between them and perhaps a falling apart of the united folk. And with their leader not being actively amongst them, there may be a battle for leadership with ambitious people seeking to gain positions of authority amongst them.

And then Paul returns to the more positive speaking of those who are generous with their time, and are seeking to spread their message not out of any sense of self worth or self importance, but because of the love they have for Christ and indeed for Paul as their imprisoned leader.

Reading this we might think that everything is falling apart. However that is not how Paul sees it: he views both sides of the situation as being positive because the gospel is being proclaimed by them all whether their overall motive is positive or negative. Paul ends this passage with the short phrase "Yes and I will continue to rejoice" (v. 18).


To Ponder

  • Which of the groups that Paul mentions would you count yourself in, those who compete to make their voices heard, or those who get on quietly spreading the love of Christ as we are commanded to do?
  • Do you sometimes find yourself, however loving you are of your brothers and sisters, feeling envious of those who seem to do a better job of evangelism than you do?
  • How far are you sometimes tempted to let those with the loudest voice get on with the work and sit back complacently feeling that you have done our bit and need do no more?


Bible notes author: 
The Revd Pat Billsborrow

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