A few months back, I wrote an article entitled, How to Listen to a Pharisee. In that post, we examined how Christ instructed his disciples to respond to truth when it is taught by someone who is flagrantly hypocritical. The conclusion: Christ commands us to listen to and obey the truth, even when it is taught by someone who does not listen to and obey the truth they are teaching. “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3). Jesus doesn’t allow us to give in to the ever-so-easy inclination to ignore truth when it is taught by someone who is not being affected by the very truth they proclaim. Insofar as they are teaching God’s Word accurately, our responsibility is to listen and obey.
In a similar way, we can tend to forego rejoicing in the truth when it is proclaimed by those who we know are preaching and teaching the truth from wrong motives. What should our response be when we hear wonderful, Christ-exalting truth preached and taught by those whom we know are preaching and teaching from altogether wrong motives of pride and ungodly competition? Paul was confronted with this same question and gives us an insightful answer in Philippians chapter one.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians from prison. While in prison, Paul learned of two groups of people preaching the gospel in his stead. One group was preaching the gospel out of right motives; the other, out of ” envy and rivalry;” out of a desire to advance to a place of prominence and recognition (1:15). Since Paul, the “Big-time” apostle was locked up, they could now pursue their own fame among the Christian community by preaching the gospel. They had right doctrine but the wrong motives.
But what is Paul’s response? Verse 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, I will rejoice.” Rejoicing! Paul’s response when he learned that people were preaching Christ out of wrong motives was to rejoice that Christ was preached! So, how should we respond when we learn of someone who is preaching Christ from wrong motives? If they are teaching the truth about Christ; if they are teaching the real, life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, our response should be rejoicing that our Savior is being proclaimed. Don’t let your heart become entangled with bitterness and anger by those who are already entagled with bitterness and anger. Focus your heart on Christ and His gospel and rejoice when He is preached. This will mean glory for God and freedom for you.