I may be naive, but I like to think that all preachers of the gospel preach out of pure motives. I want it to be true, that every preacher preaches because he loves God, the gospel, and lost souls so much that he cannot help but preach.
Unfortunately, I also know that this is not the case. I know that there are preachers who preach God’s word, very effectively who have the wrong motives in their hearts.
What are pure-hearted preachers to do about this?
Paul wrote the following:
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
As we break this passage down, we need to remember that Paul is at Rome in prison. He has had success in reaching out to the house of Caesar even from his bonds. And because of Paul’s boldness in teaching while in bonds, it has allowed other preachers to also become emboldened to preach the gospel as well.
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
There are 2 groups of preachers listed here. One group is motivated by genuine love and good will. They preach the gospel, for the sake of souls and for the love of God. On the other hand, the other group is motivated by jealousy and selfish-personal ambition.
At this point, we notice something interesting. I find it very interesting that Paul included the good and the bad. He wrote not just good things about what was happening, but both good and bad. When I did mission work in Southeast Asia, I was compelled to write to the churches who supported me. When I wrote these letters back from Asia – I included everything. Both good and bad. Because, I wanted to be honest with people. I could not simply write all good, because it was not honest. And I wouldn’t write all bad, because that too would not have been honest. But growing up, and listening to missionaries, and reading some missionary letters, you would think that it was ALL POSITIVE all the time! Because, many tell about only the good things that happen... Well, Paul is not like that.
In effect, he says, “look – I am grateful that God’s word is spreading. And I am especially thankful for the ones who are spreading it, faithfully and sincerely, honestly and with proper motives. And yet- there are those who are contentious, and jealous...” “But”, he says, “at least God’s Word is still spreading, in spite of their lousy attitudes.”
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
This type of preacher is the one who because of jealousy, goes about trying to stir up trouble... and contention. And he is hoping that by his actions, it causes Paul to be troubled further while he is in prison.
Preachers are people too!
Preachers like all people deal with these struggles. One preacher gets invited to be on a lectureship, or gets invited to do a series at some church, some place... another preacher gets jealous about it... then he starts to talk bad about the first preacher... Why? Pride!
The desire for ‘being known’ – is a terrible and debilitating desire. And it only causes affliction to those who are trying to preach out of love, and in sincerity.
One of the biggest problems anyone faces is the desire for more and more influence... it is this PRIDE that rears its ugly head. And it spoils good preachers of the gospel, just as it does anyone else. Yes, preachers are people, just like everyone else. The struggle is real for them too.
And when a preacher cannot rejoice, that another preacher is doing well is sad. When a preacher at one place, is not genuinely happy and excited about growth at a congregation someplace else...because the same is not happening at his church - there very well may be a deep problem of pride and envy.
Preachers need to check themselves daily, just as all men do, to make sure that their pride is not driving their mission.
But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
Paul says, there are those who are still doing it for the right motives.
But how does Paul handle the situation? What does Paul do? Does he cry, get all flustered, and angry at those others? Does he write a rebuking letter? NO
Why? As one commentator put it “The wrong motives of bad men – must NEVER be allowed to become the determining element in OUR attitude.”
If I stop preaching- if good hearted ministers stop serving God, because someone else has bad motives – or a wrong heart. Then the Devil wins. If I stop my work based upon the wrong motives of others, then God’s work doesn't get done. It will cripple the work of God. To allow people with wrong motives and bad attitudes to stop the sincere, and good workers... It will be God’s work that will suffer.
If I focus all my attention on these guys who are preaching Christ with bad hearts and evil motives... If I allow myself to turn bitter towards them, and keep focused on their wrong, then Satan has gained a victory.
Instead of me just going out and preaching the gospel, if I spend all my time – refuting these bad intentioned brothers– then the gospel is not being presented to people who sincerely want and need to hear it!
Notice what Paul says next:
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Now, before we mover further, we need to notice that it is not that a false gospel that is being taught. – No!
Paul is not saying that it is okay for them to be preaching error! No! Just read Galatians 1 and you will see that is not Paul’s attitude towards bad doctrine.
What he is saying is, that these preachers' attitudes are not right... and yet, even though their own hearts are not right, - the true message is still getting out.
So what is going on?
I can imagine a situation where a preacher in Paul’s day says to himself, “Hey, while Paul is in prison, I will go out there and start preaching non-stop. I will build up my church, and get invited to this program, and that program, and I will really make a name for myself.”
And it is as if Paul says... “Okay, as long as you are telling the truth, and preaching Christ, good for you... go get your crowd if that is all you want. But get out there and preach Christ.”
The truth is, Paul can’t take care of their motives... that is God’s business. God will pay them for their evil and impure motives. Paul’s mission is to spread the gospel. He was more concerned about the Lord’s name, than his own name. He cared more about bringing followers to CHRIST than he did followers to Paul.
What We Can Learn
We learn some things here. First is the realization, that preachers are just people. We all have individuals and preachers that we love and are so thankful for their preaching the gospel. I know I do. I owe so much gratitude to those who have taught and preached and trained and worked – to mold me into the person and the preacher that I am.
I admire men – many of whom are not even physically alive anymore. And I hold their teachings so close to me, because they mean so very much to me.
And yet, I realize that they are just men. And I know now, after the fact, that I grew up reading these men’s articles and books, and listening to cassette tapes of these men. And writing down notes from them... I now learn that some of them may have had bad attitudes. Yet, some did not. But here is what I know. I know that these men preached Christ... and I know that, I am at least partly the person I am because of their teachings.
I will leave it to God to judge their motives... their hearts... That is not my business.
My business is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to people who need it. And to do everything in my power to make sure that my heart, and my attitude is right!
So to all pure-hearted preachers, keep on preaching. Keep on teaching the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Allow God to do His work. There will be preachers who preach out of impure motives. I am resigned to just leave them and their motives to God. And I will simply teach God’s Word to any who will listen.