Tonight I had a friend go off to seminary. What I like about him the most is that he lives out his faith so others can see it without being obnoxious. He isn’t perfect but he is a great example of putting flesh on the Gospel. In some respect, as we read these next three verses, I think about how my friend would react to Paul’s message. I think about how I would react to these verses. I think about how we should all react to these verses and allow them to transform our minds and hearts for Christ. With that, we will begin.
“The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”
Paul sees two people. People who do things out of love while others do it out of rivalry.
To Paul, all that matters is that the Gospel is proclaimed.
The message of Christ is more important than how it comes across in Paul’s mind.
Paul likes the word, “rejoice.”
As Paul sits in prison, there are lots of people going around talking about him. He is the brunt of the gossip train and knows that some are being more positive about it than others. There are some people who mock him. They say things like, “Can you believe that Paul would hold to the gospel of some guy claiming to be the Messiah – the promised Messiah? Isn’t that crazy? He is in jail for this gospel message!” There are others though who see why Paul is the way he is and rejoices with him. They would say things like, “Praise God Paul didn’t back down from the gospel message. We need to continue to pray for him and his abilities to share the gospel even as he is in prison.” What we see is two groups of people. One mocks while the other is more encouraging. To Paul, it doesn’t matter how the message comes about. He could care less about those who mock him. He knows that they will have to share the message with others. The Holy Spirit could use even those who mock him as a tool for others to know Christ. Paul thus rejoices in that.
As Paul rejoices, he hopes others will too. Throughout the rest of these chapters, we will see the word ‘rejoice’ pop up here and there. Rejoicing is a word that reflects worship, admiration, happiness, and excitement. Paul knows that the gospel is the most important aspect of all he is going through. So he rejoices and wants us to rejoice with him. To worship, have admiration, be happy, and be excited for the work the Holy Spirit is going to do through Paul’s imprisonment. Paul can hardly contain himself.
As I sit and think about my life, do I see the opportunities that perhaps are not the most exciting as Paul does? Do I rejoice in my “imprisonments” I seem to face? I wish I could say that I always do, but I often don’t. I think this is an area we can all work on. We can all learn to rejoice more and be thankful through all circumstances. As long as we are living our lives sold out for Christ, the message will go out and God’s will, will be accomplished.