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What Are Your Intentions? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:15-18a


Well, I am always amazed when I pick up the newspaper at what I find, as I'm sure you are, but I've been following over the last few weeks a couple of cases that you have as well, a couple of court cases that I find fascinating. They're both in my former state of California. On July 15, 2003, an eighty-seven-year-old man named George Weller, accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake and drove his car through a barricade into a crowded Santa Monica farmer's market. When his car finally came to a rest, a thousand feet later, it was carnage in his wake and ten people lay dead. The other case is that of Scott Peterson, who is accused of killing two people on Christmas Eve 2002, his wife Lacey and their unborn child.

What fascinates me about these two cases is where the prosecution is heading with each. George Weller, who killed ten people, is facing manslaughter charges and a sentence of anywhere from probation to eighteen years in prison. Scott Peterson (who may have killed two), if he's convicted, faces the death penalty. Now what's the difference between those two cases? A man who killed ten faces manslaughter and a maximum of eighteen years, and a man who killed two faces the death penalty. It's all about motive. Motive. Often, the only difference between a relatively light sentence in our culture and lethal injection comes down to motive and intent. Well motive, that is, why we do what we do, is also crucial in God's economy.

It's interesting that when you look at the Scripture, neither the Hebrew Old Testament nor the Greek New Testament have a word for motive, the same word that we have. Although you will occasionally find the NAS translating a Hebrew or Greek word with the word motive. Instead, both the Old and New Testament original languages speak of the purpose or intention of the heart. Let me give you a few examples. Proverbs 16:2 says, "All the ways of a man [That is literally, all the paths. The word "ways" is that familiar Hebrew word for "path," that is our habits of behavior, our "ruts of behavior" if you will.] all the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives."

Proverbs 24:12, "If you say 'See, we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does not He know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" Jeremiah 17:10, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds."

But obviously, it's not just deeds God is weighing, because He's talking about weighing the heart, that is, what motivates the deeds. In the New Testament in Luke 16:14, the Pharisees were told,

… who were lovers of money, were listening to all … [the things Christ said] and were scoffing at Him. And … [Jesus] said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts…."

Revelation 2:18, "The Son of … [Man] … has eyes like a flame of fire…." Those descriptions in the beginning of the letters to the seven churches are fascinating. This one describes Christ with eyes like a laser beam that pierce to the heart, eyes like a flame of fire. In that same letter, Revelation 2:23, it says, "… all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds." God is concerned about our deeds, but He's also concerned about the motive behind those deeds. Sadly, neither our own motives nor those of others are always right, are they? We know that.

Scripture can help identify our motives. You're familiar with that text in Hebrews 4:12. "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword." Listen to what God's Word does. It pierces "as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both [the] joints and [the] marrow, and [listen,] is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The Word of God can cut to the core of our being and help discern and distinguish between what our motives and intentions are. Verse 13 says, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." The Scripture can help us discern what our motives are. It lays open our motives like a sword that fillets us to the heart. But really, we'll only know what our motives are when we reach the judgment.

Romans 2:14 says, "… when [the] Gentiles who do not have the law do instinctively the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the law [the substance of the law] written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness … [in] their thoughts … [either] excusing or … defending them."

So, though they don't have a written law, God has written the substance of the law on every human heart. And because of that law, we are measuring ourselves against that law, and either our conscience is excusing us or accusing us in light of what it finds there. But listen to verse 16. But there's a day coming, "… when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." You see, our own conscience right now is sitting in judge of what we do and why we do it, but it's an imperfect judge. The day will come when Christ Himself will judge the motives and intentions of the heart.

When we come to Philippians 1:15 through the first part of verse 18, we find Paul dealing with this crucial issue of motive. Verse 15, Paul writes,

Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strive, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Motive. In this passage Paul shows us how he responded to his detractors, men who were ministering with all the wrong motives. And in the process he raises several questions for us. What are the appropriate motives for ministry? And how should we respond to those who are ministering for the wrong motive?

I'll be honest with you. This is a very difficult passage, and one that I've wrestled with a great deal this week. It's seldom understood, I think, and often misused by those who quote it. Before we can really understand it and understand how to apply it to ourselves, we have to resolve really the most difficult question in this passage. And that is this: who exactly were these men in Rome who were preaching Christ from envy and strife, motivated by selfish ambition, and even had a desire, having a desire to hurt the Apostle Paul? Who exactly are these men? Well, a number of suggestions have been offered. Let me give you a few of them.

Some say that these are pagans, simply using the name of Christ. You remember in Acts 19 there were a group of men who for personal profit, who weren't even believers (Acts 19:13). They were Jewish exorcists who went from place to place and attempted to name over those who had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches," come out. Some say that those who were preaching Christ from envy and strife there in Rome where Paul was in prison, were doing it just as these Jewish exorcists did. They weren't believers, but they were merely using the name of Christ for some personal profit.

Others say that they were heretics or false teachers. You remember Paul is constantly running up against this in the church. In Galatians 1:6, he says,

I'm amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who calls you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort [or pervert] the gospel of Christ.

Some say that's what was happening in Rome where Paul was imprisoned. There were those there who were preaching Christ, but it wasn't the true Christ, it wasn't the true Gospel, it was some sort of a perversion of it.

A third option that's often raised for who these people were is that they were Judiazers. The Judiazers were simply those Jewish people who wanted to embrace Christ, but they demanded that, as a necessity for salvation, some of the law had to be kept, and sort of the touch stone was the issue of circumcision. They were adding works to faith. We meet them in Galatians as well. Basically, the book of Galatians is the defense of justification by faith against the Judiazers. In Galatians 2:2, let's start at verse 1. There was

… after an interval of fourteen years [Paul said] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up.

[Now listen to this.] … I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. Verse 3, But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. [Now he's getting into the issue of the Judiazers.] Verse 4, But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ … in order to bring us into bondage. Verse 5, But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of gospel would remain with you.

Some say that's what was happening in Philippi. Basically, these Judiazers, these who wanted to mix works with faith, and they wanted to insist that those who were coming to faith in Christ keep the Law as a prerequisite for salvation. That's what was happening.

Others, in Rome, where Paul is imprisoned, say that these people are misguided Christians who were making capital out of Paul's imprisonment rather, but we're not really personally attacking him. They were just misguided people, Christians, who didn't intend to attack Paul, but that's what really happened by virtue of what they were doing.

Others say "no," these were people who held a divine man theology. In other words, the belief that a true apostle would be almost divine in his authority and his power. There would be visions and miracles and an inspired proclamation and a sort of domineering personal presence, a kind of awe-inspiring man. To these people who believed that, Paul's humiliating imprisonment was proof to them that he wasn't a true apostle. That's what was really going on in Rome.

A final option, and the one that I'm going to argue with you this morning, is the valid one, is this: that these people in Rome who were preaching Christ from envy and strife, from selfish ambition, desiring to hurt the Apostle, were genuine Christians who did not love or follow the Apostle, but who wanted him to remain in prison, wanted to see his imprisonment as galling and difficult as possible. And their motive was as simple as this. It was personal rivalry. It was envy and competition. It was the fight for influence and power in the church in Rome. As I've looked at this text, that's where you have to land.

Let me give you the reasons I think you have to say that that's who these people were. It's important that I do this because when we get to the application, you're not going to buy into it unless you see the foundation laid. Why is it that I insist that these people are Christians, true Christians preaching the true Christ and the true Gospel? Let me give you several reasons.

First of all, a theological reason: Paul commends their preaching. He says, in their preaching "I rejoice," verse 18. Is that how Paul responded to heretics and Judaizers and false teachers? Not on your life. Galatians 1:8, he says, "But even if we, [that is if Paul walked in here] or an angel from heaven." If an angel from heaven stood on this platform this morning, and we could verify that he was in fact an angel from the presence of God, and Paul says if I or an angel showed up in your midst and preached to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you before, he is to be damned. He says listen, if Paul shows up here, if an angel from heaven shows up, and he gives a different gospel, a different message than what you have recorded in the pages of Scripture, then let him be damned.

Verse 9, "As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" No, these cannot be Judaizers, they cannot be false teachers, they cannot be heretics. We know how Paul responds to them. Paul would never have commended them. He would have never commended their ministry in any way. Those who preach another Jesus are false apostles and must never get the ear of the church. Notice 2 Corinthians 11, just a few pages back from where we were there in Galatians. Second Corinthians 11:4,

… if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." He's chastising them. He's saying listen, you can't do this, you can't accept this different kind of message, this different Jesus, this different Gospel, this different spirit.

Notice verse 13, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it's not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

No, Paul's words were very straightforward, very clear, for those whose doctrine was contrary to what had been taught. They cannot be Judaizers.

Later in Philippians, Paul will address the Judaizers (Philippians 3:2), and he doesn't do it with commendation. Listen to this. "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;" No commendation for those who distort the gospel, who preach a different Jesus and a different way of salvation. Galatians 5, Paul is brutal in his comments. Galatians 5:2, he says,

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. [Listen, if you're going to stick your toe in the water, he says, then you got to keep the whole thing, and that's the only way you will ever earn salvation, and it can't be done.] Verse 4, You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. [That doesn't mean they were saved before, it means they slipped away from the message of grace into the message of law.] Verse 5, "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness."

No, Paul's message against those who were preaching a different Jesus and a different gospel was clear: it was never one of commendation. Carson puts it this way. "Paul is not open to commending every preacher who offers some show of piety and who preaches Jesus. He wants to know which Jesus they preach. We must constantly ask if the Jesus being pushed is the Mormon Jesus, or the Jehovah's Witness Jesus, or the naturalistic liberal Jesus, or the health wealth and prosperity Jesus, or is it the Biblical Jesus?" So Biblically and theologically, we can argue that these men must have been true Christians preaching the true Gospel. Paul would have never commended them otherwise.

There's a second reason these must be Christians, and that's the language used. Notice Paul's phrase, they're "preaching Christ." In the New Testament when that phrase occurs, it refers to those who are preaching the true Christ and the true Gospel. In the interest of time, I'm not going to turn to these passages. Let me give you a couple to consider: 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 15:11; 15:12; 15:14; in 2 Corinthians 1:19. Let's do turn to 2 Corinthians 4:5. Paul says, "For we do not preach ourselves but [we preach] Christ Jesus [and we preach Him] as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake." You'll find that throughout the New Testament, this phrase "preach Jesus" is used for preaching the true Jesus, in the true way, and the true message of salvation. So, the language tells us that these people must be Christians.

There's a third reason that I would argue that they must be Christians, and that's the grammar. Turn again to Philippians 1. You can see it in the English, it reflects the Greek text. Notice in verse 15 that you have the phrase "preaching Christ" one time, and that refers to the some who were preaching from envy and strife and the some who were doing it from good will. Again, in verses 16 and 17, "proclaim Christ;" verse 17 occurs one time, and that is what both groups are doing. That's what I want you to see. The phrase "preaching Christ" or "proclaiming Christ" occurs one time, and it describes the activity of both groups. So, whatever the one group is doing, the other group is doing. The grammar supports the fact that these people were truly Christians.

The context also insists that these people were Christians. Notice verse 14, we looked at this last week. The context is this. He's just said that because of my imprisonment, most of the brethren [the majority of the brethren in Rome] "… have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear. Some," [which is a pronoun, has as it obvious reference what happened in the previous verse, the majority – some of the majority who have this more courage to speak the Word of God without fear are doing it] from envy and strife, … [and] some [of the majority who've give-been given courage by my imprisonment, do it] from good will. It's the natural flow of the context of this passage.

And then finally, the final argument that I would give you that these must be Christians, is a logical one. Follow this carefully. If the some who were preaching Christ of good will in verse 15, are part of that majority in verse 14 that's found courage to preach, then logically, we would assume that the some who were doing it from envy and strife, are also a part of that majority that found courage from Paul's imprisonment. So, when you look at all the lines of evidence that I've given to you, it becomes absolutely crystal clear that these people who are preaching Christ from all the wrong motives are true Christians preaching the true Gospel, but with seriously mixed motives. They were anti-Paul, and anti-Paul with a vengeance.

Now, who were these Christian people who resented the Apostle Paul? Well, we're not told outright in the text who they were, but there are several interesting clues. And I can't prove this to you, but let me just give this to you for thought. If you look at the church in Rome, you remember that it was not started by Paul. When he wrote his letter to Rome, he says that he has not yet been there (1:13), but he wants to come. Now he's found himself there through his imprisonment. When he wrote that letter, he'd not visited them, but there were issues going on in the church that he'd become aware of. There was a mixture in the Roman church of Jews and Gentiles, and this had created some tension. Notice Romans 15. Romans 15:5,

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [You begin to get a hint that maybe there was some concern that wasn't happening. Why?]

Verse 7, Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. [So, there was this tension because one group wasn't accepting another group. What were the groups?] Verse 8, For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy….

So, there was this tension that had developed between the Jewish Christians there in Rome and the Gentile Christians. My guess is, these people who resented Paul (when we come to Philippians, and he's describing what's going on there in Rome as he's in prison) were Jews who had exercised authority in the church, perhaps were even involved in the founding of the church originally, and then Paul came along as an Apostle to the Gentiles, emphasizing his ministry to the Gentiles. So, these people resented the loss of their position and their influence and Paul's more Gentile interpretation of Christianity.

Let me show you this in Acts. Turn to Acts 21. You can see that the Jews did struggle with some of the things Paul taught, even true Jewish Christians. Notice Acts 21:17. Luke writes,

"After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. [So far, so good.] And the following day, Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. [So, we're now in the Jerusalem church in a meeting of the leadership.] Verse 19, After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. Verse 20, And when … [the Jewish leadership of the Jerusalem church] heard it they began glorifying God; [Great response, but, not all is well.] … they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, … they are all zealous for the law; and … [they've] been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs."

How are we going to solve this problem? So, you see that there was this tension. And I can't prove it to you, and we don't know for sure that this was the source of tension in Rome when Paul was there, but there seem to be indications that that may have in fact been what was going on. There were these Jewish Christians who were involved in founding the church who resented the loss of their own position, as well as, Paul's more Gentile approach to Christianity. He didn't appear to be zealous enough to the Law for them. Well, regardless of the source of the rivalry, and we can't know for sure, we do know it was there.

Although no criticism is enjoyable, it's a lot easier to take from your enemies, than it is from your friends. Imagine Paul's situation. He's sitting in his own rented room in Rome, a prisoner, eighteen inches away from members of the Praetorian guard, twenty-four hours a day. He undoubtedly had hoped that when he came to Rome, he would enjoy rich Christian fellowship with the Christians that were there, and there was some of that. But there was also this group in the church in Rome who capitalized on Paul's imprisonment for their own advantage, and who actually sought to make Paul's situation worse. Paul's response in that light is remarkable: in their preaching, in the advance of the Gospel, "I rejoice."

Again, this isn't merely autobiographical. As we noted last week, this section is not merely Paul telling what happened to him. He intends it to apply to the Philippians. You see, the Philippian church is also facing those who were motivated by selfish ambition and envy and strife. Notice Philippians 1:27. He says I want you to stand firm "in one spirit with one mind." Why is that important? Chapter 2:3, Listen I'm warning you folks, don't do anything "from selfishness or empty conceit, … [don't] merely look out for your own … interests, [verse 4] but also for the interests of others." You get to 4:2, you find out that there are names to this conflict, this sort of fight for position that's going on. Verse 2, of chapter 4, "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord." So, Paul gives his own experience, his own situation, as an example to the Philippians to follow. He wants them and us to follow his example.

In these verses, Paul drives home two very simple points about the issue of motives, and we're going to look at them this week and next. Two very simple points about the issue of motives: the reality of mixed motives, number one, and secondly, the response of a mature man or a mature believer. The reality of mixed motives, and the response of a mature man or a mature believer.

So, let's look this morning as far as we can get at the reality of mixed motives. Verse 15,

Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strive, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than … pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment."

How many times have you heard a Christian say, "Aah, I wish we were in the early days of the church, if only we would be more like the early days." Listen, it's the myth of the good old days. If only the church today could be like the first century church. Well the truth is, it probably is. There's hardly any problem in the church today that wasn't there in some form in the first century.

We're always picking on Corinth, because they deserve to be picked on to some degree, but there's a sense in which that was a prosperous church. Notice 1 Corinthians 1. Listen to what Paul says about them. Verse 4,

I thank my God concerning you always because God's grace has been given to you. Verse 5, In everything you were enriched in … [Christ,] in all speech and in all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you." Verse 7, "so that you are not lacking in any gift, [and you're] awaiting eagerly the revelation of … Jesus Christ."

There was a lot going on right in the church in Corinth. And yet they were a church that was filled with problems: divisions, immaturity, the toleration of incest, some were attending pagan idol festivals, some were getting drunk at the Lord's table. Yes, the early church had the same kinds of issues that are in the church today, and in some cases even worse. And the church in Rome, where Paul was held prisoner, is no exception.

There were strengths. Last week we saw that the majority of the Roman Christians, because of Paul's imprisonment, were strengthened with courage to proclaim the Gospel. They were an evangelizing church. They were communicating the Gospel in the most difficult, trying of circumstances: living in the heart of Rome, Caesar worship, emperor worship, as well as all of the other pagan Roman faiths. But all was not well. There was a darker side to the church in Rome. Paul writes that there were some in the church who were ministering the true Gospel, but their motives were all skewed. They actually were willing to promote themselves at Paul's expense. In the church, listen to me, in the church, in any church, there will always be a variety of motives that drive ministry. Not only will we as individuals occasionally have mixed motives, but there will even be groups within the church that can be characterized by their different reasons for ministering in the church.

Paul divides the entire Roman church into two groups, and in verse 15 we get our first glimpse of these two groups and the motives that lie behind their service. "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife." Right away, did you notice the problem with this first group isn't their theology? It's their motives. It's not what they preached, but it's why they preached it. So, let's look at what Paul's says about the wrong motives that these Christian people served for. Notice that they minister or preach Christ from "envy and strife." As a rule, Paul says, their ministry, their service in the church, springs from envy and strife. The word "envy" is an interesting word. Aristotle defined this word as "The concern to deprive another person of something, more than the desire to gain it for yourself."

I'm reminded of that story of Solomon's wisdom. You remember when the two harlots came with the baby that belonged to one of them, but they were both claiming it, in 1 Kings 3? And Solomon said fine, if you're going to fight over the baby, let's just cut him in half, and we'll give half to each of you. The true mother of course responded in horror: never, never could that happen, just give the child to the other woman. But the woman who was not the mother of the child says this: "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!" If I can't have him, he's not going to be yours either. That's envy.

You see, jealously is, I want what you have. Envy is, I don't want you to have it, or at least I want more of it than you have. Usually, jealousy and envy go hand in hand. So, although Paul doesn't mention it here, it's reasonable to assume that both were problems in the church in Rome where he is. The Greek word translated "envy" occurs nine times in the New Testament. It occurs in the vice lists that describe those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. You can see that in Romans 1:29 and Galatians 5. In Matthew 27:18 envy is used to describe the motive that lies behind the people who gave Christ over to Pilot. Galatians 5:21 says it's one of the works of the flesh. Turn to Titus 3, Titus 3:3.

Paul says, "For we also … [ourselves] were [once] foolish …, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our … lives, [here's how we lived] spending our … [lives] in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." I don't want you to have it, and I'm also jealous, I want it myself. Envy describes or characterized our lives before Christ. First Peter 2:1-2 says that envy is be "put off" by every believer. But believers sadly (and we know this from experience) often don't practice all that we know, do we? We don't always respond in obedience, in submission to Christ, and so we struggle with envy. And there was a group in Rome captivated by this sinful motive.

Undoubtedly, those who had been influential before Paul came, lost some of their power, some of their influence, some of their prominence. Their names weren't mentioned as often, and so they were envious of Paul. Listen, mark my word, conflict in the church almost always begins with envy, and specifically the envy of power and influence. Someone who's never had it, wants it, and takes steps to get it; or someone who had it and lost it, wants it back. I've had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of counseling with churches and pastors that are in trouble. Invariably, it's one of three things when there're problems in the church. Either there's an issue of unconfronted sin (someone is being allowed to live on in sin without it being dealt with), there are doctrinal disagreements (either perceived or serious), or there is a fight for power and position. And that desire for gaining or keeping power is always accompanied by envy: I don't want you to have it.

And he adds "strife." This refers to rivalry or competition. Barclay defines it this way. "It's squabbling in the interests of one's own party." Huh. Pick up the newspaper any day of the week, and you'll see that going on; the Democratic presidential primary. Squabbling in the interests of one's own party, one's own interests, against others. You see, envy always leads to competition, and competition always leads to conflict. The fact that these people in Rome were motivated by strife or rivalry means that they were essentially pugnacious people. They were always looking for a fight. They weren't particularly concerned whether their shots hit their own fellow soldiers or the enemy, and in fact, it seems to be implied here that they were just as happy to shoot their fellow Christians, particularly Paul and those who supported him. Their efforts were focused on advancing their party rather than the cause of Christ.

There may have been several factions in Rome just as there were in Corinth, each with it's own allegiance and it's own views. We don't know what these opponents of Paul said. They may have claimed that Paul was in prison as some sort of punishment from God for a secret life of sin, which is something he was accused of in Corinth. Perhaps they pointed to a supposed inadequacy in his preaching; maybe his physical presence which was weak. They may have claimed that he lacked the sort of victorious faith that would have seen him freed from prison. It may have been that they were ashamed of Paul. They considered him old fashioned and out of touch, that the sophisticated people of Rome needed a fresh approach. It's even possible that they were saying that if Paul hadn't compromised, he would have already been martyred for his faith, so, the fact that he's still alive must mean that he cut a deal with the Romans. Regardless of what his detractors were saying, Paul tells us they were motivated in saying it by envy and rivalry.

Sadly, this same attitude and behavior is apparent in Christianity today. There are Christians and Christian ministries who exist to point out the faults of other true, faithful Christians. I'm not talking about identifying error. We're talking about fighting your own. They aren't happy unless they're attacking someone. They have this partisan spirit. You see this sadly in other places in the New Testament. Turn to Luke 9, the ministry of our Lord; the disciples manifest this spirit.

You see this sadly in other places in the New Testament. Verse 46 of Luke 9, "An argument started among … [the disciples] as to which of them might be the greatest." [This was like an intramural sport for the disciples. They're always doing this.] "But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great."

Well this sort of pricks John's conscience, and so John answered and said (verse 49)

Master, [uh-uh-I hate to say this, but] we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us. [He's not one of us, he's not in our crowd, he's not one of our party.] Verse 50, But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you."

You see this same thing going on in the church in Corinth. Let's pick on them yet a little more this morning. Turn to 1 Corinthians 3.

… Brethren, [I couldn't] … speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not able to receive it. Indeed, even now … [you're] not … able, for you are still … [you're acting like you're men of the flesh.] … For since there is jealousy and strife among you [there's our word,] are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," … another [says], "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each…. I planted, Apollos … [waters,] but God … [was causing] the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything." [Listen, don't line up behind a particular guy and demean everyone else, he says. We're just servants, we're all servants.] "Now [each one-now] he who plants [verse 8] and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are [all] God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." [That same partisan, party spirit had gotten hold in Corinth.]

Back to Philippians 1:15. [There are] Some to be sure, [who] are preaching Christ from envy and strife (or rivalry), but some … from good will. Some from good will. "Good will" can refer to "divine favor" or "God's good pleasure." So, what Paul may be saying is that the motive of these people was to acknowledge that Paul enjoyed the favor of God. They preached in acknowledgement that Paul was God's appointed man. But the word "good will" is also used in the New Testament for "doing for what is best for others." In this case, doing what is best particularly for Paul. So, in other words, he might be saying this: those who are preaching from good will are those who are supporting me, who are looking out for my best interests; they're doing it because of their love for me. And he says that in verse 16. So, there were these two groups in the Roman church, two groups of genuine Christians preaching the same true Gospel message: those who ministered out of envy and rivalry, and those who served out of good will.

Now briefly, what are the implications that we've learned so far? And we're going to look at a number more implications next week, but let me just leave you with a couple of thoughts. What are the implications of this to us?

Number one: accept the fact that there will be mixed motives in Christian ministry. There will be people in the church who manifest these attitudes, and we'll talk next week about how we should respond to that.

Number two: remember that motives determine whether you will receive rewards or not. God will and does evaluate motives: not merely what you do, but why you do it.

And thirdly, and this is where we have been leading: we need to weigh and evaluate our own motives. Weigh and evaluate our own motives. Do you serve and minister because you resent others having the spotlight, and you want it for yourself? or because you want to convert others to your cause? Then you're serving Christ from envy and strife. Confess that as sin, and set a different course. Set out to serve out of a desire to lift up Christ and to help others, even, listen, even if no one else ever notices.

You see the true measure of the quality of a servant is how he responds when he or she is treated like a servant. How do we respond to what we see going on in Rome? Well, we accept the fact that there will be mixed motives. We remember that motives are important, that they determine reward or not, just as on earth they determine probation or lethal injection. And let's make sure that we weigh and evaluate our own motives. Why is it that we serve Christ? What is it that we're seeking to do? promote ourselves? Or do we do it out of genuine love for Christ and love for His people?

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for how Your Word is so timeless, how it speaks to the human condition and the issues of the human heart so profoundly and directly.

Lord forgive us for ever serving You out of envy: wanting what someone else has, or wanting them not to have it. Lord, forgive us for serving You from a spirit of partisanship, competition, rivalry.

Lord I pray that You would help us to instead, examine our own motives, to confess our sin to You, and to set out to serve you because of our love for Christ and our love for others, desiring nothing in return except, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I pray it in Jesus name, Amen.


Living Above Your Circumstances

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:12-14

What Are Your Intentions? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:15-18a

What Are Your Intentions? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:15-18a

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Philippians' Raison D'tre

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A Real Thanksgiving

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The Sovereign of Salvation

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Who Do You Think They Are?

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The Essentials of Spiritual Growth - Part 1

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The Essentials of Spiritual Growth - Part 2

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The Essentials of Spiritual Growth - Part 3

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Living Above Your Circumstances

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:12-14

What Are Your Intentions? - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:15-18a

What Are Your Intentions? - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:15-18a

The Reason We Live - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:18b-26

The Reason We Live - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:18b-26

The Reason We Live - Part 3

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The Reason We Live - Part 4

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Not From Around Here - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 1:27-30

Not From Around Here - Part 2

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United We Stand - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:1-5

United We Stand - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:1-5

United We Stand - Part 3

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Riches to Rags - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:5-8

Riches to Rags - Part 2

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Men at Work: Every Believer's Role in Sanctification - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:12-13

Men at Work: Every Believer's Role in Sanctification - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:12-13

Men at Work: Every Believer's Role in Sanctification - Part 3

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Men at Work: Every Believer's Role in Sanctification - Part 4

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God at Work: The Divine Role in Sanctification

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No Whining Allowed - Part 1

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No Whining Allowed - Part 2

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In High Definition - Part 1

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In High Definition - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 2:19-30

Just By Faith Alone - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 3:1-11

Just By Faith Alone - Part 2

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Just By Faith Alone - Part 3

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Just By Faith Alone - Part 4

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Just By Faith Alone - Part 5

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Just By Faith Alone - Part 6

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Run to Win

Tom Pennington Philippians 3:12-16

Learning How to Walk

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Six Steps to Spiritual Stability - Part 1

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Six Steps to Spiritual Stability - Part 2

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Six Steps to Spiritual Stability - Part 3

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Six Steps to Spiritual Stability - Part 4

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Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:10-13

Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 2

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Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 3

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The Joy of Giving - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:14-19

The Joy of Giving - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:14-19

The Last Word

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:20-23