Rejoicing in the Preaching of Christ

Rejoicing in the Preaching of Christ

Rejoicing in the Preaching of Christ
Text: Philippians 1:15-18

You will know if you are a believer here today, that there are various things that we repeatedly find difficult to deal with as Christians. Things that consistently get under our skin. Now I personally believe that when God calls a man to the ministry, he gives that man thicker skin than normal. That’s not to say that preachers are always the most resilient Christians, but I believe if they’re genuinely called they will have more resilience than what may be termed ‘average’. There is no way you will last in the ministry if you are of a sensitive disposition.

With that said, even for a preacher, there are certain things that really get to you. The kind of things that have the potential to keep you awake at night if you allow them to. One of those things I’ve experienced is being falsely accused, not just by anyone, but by fellow preachers of the gospel. I have seen me on several occasions hearing about these false accusations or misrepresentations from fellow preachers and getting before God about the matter and saying to God, ‘Lord, let this not rob me of my sleep. Take the worry out of my mind, and when I wake up in the morning don’t let it ruin my day’, and it’s amazing to see God answer that prayer.

There seem to be no lack of preachers who feel it part of their ministry to discredit others. I’m not even sure these men have a deliberate agenda, I like to hope not. I prefer rather to think that they’re just not as close to God as they should be, and they’re giving place to the devil.

I’m no novice to facing bullies who try to bring you down, but there’s a reason why this attack is so frustrating for a preacher. Trust is the foundation upon which you exercise your ministry. It takes years to build and seconds to destroy.

But sometimes you get comfort by the company you keep, and if a preacher is serving God with a clear conscience and with sincerity before God and gets falsely accused, then he finds himself comforted by the company of the Apostle Paul.

Last week we noted that Paul didn’t care that his freedom was taken from him, provided that the gospel progressed. He rejoiced in the furtherance of the gospel in spite of his strange circumstances. This week we’ll see that Paul also would put up with the loss of his reputation, provided the gospel progressed.

Now it’s amazing to think that Christian leaders went around trying to pull down the Apostle Paul, but the problem with some people in the ministry is that they have egos greater than their ability. They can observe the preaching of a man like Paul and actually think they’re better, and get jealous of his greater success.


a) The Subject of their Doctrine – “Christ”

Preaching of Christ applies to both groups. To preach Christ is to declare the truths concerning His person and work as the only appointed Mediator between God and man and the only Saviour of sinners, and this I think is specific to those set aside for preaching, rather than all who witness. Sometimes with increased religious zeal, there can be a dilution of the truth, as chaff and false teachers arise during times of spiritual advancement. Paul says that they’re all preaching Christ.

b) The Substance of their Doctrine – made a difference to their hearers.

Paul was able to rejoice because the gospel was preached to the saving and sanctifying of sinners. And that’s how we judge preaching we can rejoice in. Does the man preach the person and work of Christ to the saving and sanctifying of sinners?

And herein we see the weakness of much preaching today, even among the so-called New Calvinism. It often (though not entirely) seems to fail in the making of men holy. And beloved, if my preaching under God does not make men more holy, then I am NOT preaching the gospel of the Bible. It MUST make men holy, otherwise you won’t worship in the glory of the risen Lamb of God.

c) The Success of their Doctrine – “your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”

Rom 1:8 “your obedience is come abroad unto all men.” Rom 16:19. People took knowledge that they had been with Jesus.


a) The Detractors

1. Their Attitude

“envy” = jealousy. His gift, and more likely his success and his following. His experiences and testimony of having met with Christ. Their egos couldn’t handle God’s blessing on his life. Just like the Lord Jesus Christ, “For he [Pilate] knew that for envy they had delivered him.” Matt 27:18

“strife” = contentious. Instead of being a companion with Paul they are in competition with Paul, and they are willing to pull down his reputation in order to help their cause. How were they doing this? He doesn’t say specifically, just as I won’t give the specifics of my experiences. No doubt there were those who thought he was there because of sin. And those who thought he couldn’t get out because of lack of faith.

“contention” the idea of selfish ambition. Working or acting entirely for self-serving reasons, influencing others for self-serving interests. So this gives the attitude and spirit of how they preached the gospel, and saying things about Paul simply to try and make others lose trust in him with the hope that they would give attention to themselves.

“not sincerely” – not purely. Not with pure motives (not like v10).
“pretence” – they put on a show like they had the right motive.

2. Their Aim – “supposing to add affliction to my bonds”

“affliction” – to press or quash. Oppression, harassment, and tribulation. Those circumstances that make life more unpleasant, either inward or outward, either mental or physical. In the midst of Paul’s present circumstances, they’re trying to cause more unrest and do it by even more preaching.

The witness at Rome had been going some time and no doubt among its ranks were influential characters who had led they way or had ambitions to lead the work of God there. But all of a sudden, Paul arrives in Rome and begins garnering all the attention. He becomes the talk of the city. Even though he’s imprisoned, he is seeing people converted that the church there had never been able to win. And people are gathering around his little hired house in order to hear him preach the Word. And some of the preachers have their noses put out of joint. 

The result? These men start preaching more fervently than ever before. They are determined to draw attention to themselves again. They assume the Apostle is trying to draw attention to himself, and they fight back against this imaginary scenario with a driving attitude of envy, strife, and contention, trying to ‘get’ at Paul and get him back.

Isn’t this shocking reflection of the human heart? One of the most lofty exercises man can give himself to, can be done in such a base way. Were they believers? Not if this is how they were all the time, but I’m inclined to believe Paul’s gifts and success brought out the worst in them. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Gal 5:26.

Would I be wrong to say this is a particular vice for preachers? Pray your pastor never becomes guilty of this! “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor 5:9-10.

Let these verses purify all our motives. There are far too many who are devoid of an attitude that’s able to rejoice in the gifts and graces and fruitfulness of other men. Some men are given gifts like a coat of many colours, and some brethren would sell him into Egypt.

b) The Supporters

“good will” = is not a classical word and occurs for the first time in the Greek Bible (Septuagint). Origen found it only in the LXX, and regarded it as its creation. But we can understand it’s use in NT scripture, and in scripture the term shows that their desire aligned with God’s desire and was moved only by love.

Used: Phil 2:13; Eph 1:5,9 “good pleasure”. Rom 10:1 “heart’s desire”.

“love” v17 – this is their root motive. They preach from a heart of love toward Paul. This also implies the others did NOT preach out of love (1 Cor 13:1-3). Love is the most essential element of the Christian life (v9). If you don’t have love you’re nothing. These preachers understood he was there to defend the gospel.

“in truth” v18 – no hypocrisy in their labours. What you see is what really is, and that’s rare. They really did sympathize with and love the Apostle Paul. They weren’t jealous of him. They were thankful for him and how his presence had strengthened their hearts to preach the gospel more boldly.


a) Why did he rejoice?

“Christ is preached” – He wasn’t clouded by the attacks upon his reputation or even by the disturbing attitude of those called to preach, no doubt for their own benefit he would have preferred if it wasn’t the case, but he could see through all that and rejoice that Christ was being preached in the city with greater vigour than prior to his arrival.

b) How did he rejoice?

1. He was a Placed Man – “set” – both active i.e. I am myself in place to stand for the gospel. And passive i.e. I have been set here by someone else, and in that sense God had set Paul where he was to defend the gospel. It’s a military term. He was on duty. He was there just as a soldier commanded to a post.

2. He was a Prepared Man – “defence” – is the word we get our word apologetics. A reasoned defence or formal justification. The greatest saint that ever lived when it comes to defending the gospel. Do you defend the gospel?

Closing – This passage also shows a certain tolerance that some of us may be surprised by. Some would have preferred to see Paul call for disciplinary action against his persecutors, but he doesn’t. Paul had a realism about the church, that it wouldn’t exercise its ministry in complete harmony of personality, but that didn’t mean he went after everyone that might be a bit different in attitude to him. Even the great Apostle just left some people to God. In this case, he rejoiced because Christ was preached, even in some cases out of sinful motives.

We are called to separate from those that compromise the truth. But let us be careful that we never become sinfully divisive, seeking to destroy others who ought not to be attacked. Let us choose our battles wisely, and in all that we do, may God keep our motives pure, our consciences clear, and our hearts full of love.

Once again, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example. He lived impeccably and yet turned on Him and called for his execution. His actions and words were without fault – his very thoughts were entirely pure, and yet they found reason in their depraved minds to crucify Him. And so Christ committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously, and if we face the same, let us rejoice as long as Christ is preached.