15 Some certainly preach Christ with jealous and competitive motives, but others preach with good motives. 16 They are motivated by love, because they know that I’m put here to give a defense of the gospel; 17 the others preach Christ because of their selfish ambition. They are insincere, hoping to cause me more pain while I’m in prison.
Paul was competitive. Throughout his letters, he frequently uses the imagery of athletic contests – often speaking of boxing or running. He says in his letter to the Romans that he would much rather preach in places where no one has preached before. In letter after letter, he makes it clear that others who follow him undermine his work to share a gospel of grace. I hear that anger and frustration in his letter above.
He’s concerned for the Philippians. He believes that during his time in prison they might be subjected to teachings that undermine the grace of Christ. He was constantly concerned that those who preached strict adherence to the law were doing so in order to exert power or control over people. He believed that the gospel was meant to set people free, not to trap them in obligations and expectations that no one could ever expect to meet.
Paul’s mode of operation was competitiveness. But it was competitiveness fueled by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. His goal was not to make himself known, but to make Christ known. His goal was not the control that comes with preaching the law, but the love that comes from preaching the free grace we know in Jesus.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Are you a competitive person? Do you sometimes question whether this dimension of your personality can be used in service of the gospel?
If you are competitive by nature, maybe it’s time to reflect on how this could be a good thing. For example, if it drives you toward excellence, is that so bad?
For Paul, competitiveness was fueled by the love and grace of Jesus. Is yours?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, let our competitiveness be fueled by your love for people. Let us work hard not for our own recognition but for the sake of sharing your gospel of grace with those around us. Amen.