I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 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 selfish ambition, 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.
- Paul imprisonment has advanced the gospel.
- The gospel was known throughout the imperial guard.
- The gospel was known by more than just the imperial guard.
- The guard and others understood that the reason for Paul’s imprisonment was for Christ.
- Others had become bold and preached the gospel because of Paul’s imprisonment.
- Others had become confident in the Lord because of Paul’s imprisonment.
- Most of the other Christians were emboldened by Paul’s imprisonment.
- Some envied Paul.
- There was a jealously of Paul by some.
- Some preached the gospel because they were envious of Paul.
- Some preached the gospel because they saw Paul as a rival.
- Some preached the gospel out of love.
- Those who preached the gospel out of love understood Paul was imprisoned for the gospel.
- Those who were jealous of Paul preached because of selfish ambition.
- Those who preached because of selfish ambition thought they could hurt Paul during his imprisonment.
- The gospel was being preached for various reasons.
- Paul was excited that the gospel was being preached regardless of the reason why it was being preached.
Imprisonment is not a good thing. It is hard to think of anything good about being in prison. But Paul says that his imprisonment is yielding great results. First those that are guarding him are hearing the gospel. Not only are they hearing the gospel, they are telling the other guards about gospel. The whole imperial guard knows that he is imprisoned because of the gospel
The second thing that is happening is others are being emboldened to preach the gospel. They see the effect of Paul’s imprisonment and they are saying, “I want to get me some of that.” As a result, they are preaching the gospel and more than Paul could possibly preach to are hearing the word of God. They saw the hand of God involved in the life of Paul. Seeing the handy work of the Lord emboldens people to preach the gospel.
Notice that the measure of success was not that the whole imperial guard was being converted. Nor was the measure of success that many are being converted. Rather the measure of success was, they heard the gospel. Our job is to preach the gospel. God is responsible for the changing of hearts. We preach. The result of our preaching is in the hand of God.
This measurement of success is even more striking in the next paragraph. Paul says some are preaching out of love. Others are preaching because they are jealous. But Paul rejoiced in either case because the gospel was being preached.
I find it interesting that some were jealous of a man who is in chains. But evidently they were. They were preaching with impure motives. These are not what we would think of as godly men. Nonetheless, God used them and their preaching. Paul rejoiced even though they meant him harm. The reason Paul rejoiced was that the gospel was being preached. It does not matter what the motives are, the result was the same. People are hearing the word of God. As Joseph told his brothers. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
But let us not confuse preaching with an impure hear with preaching a corrupt gospel. Paul would not rejoice if a corrupted gospel was being preached because then it would no longer be the gospel. See, for example, the letter to the Galatians. There Paul says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1: 8) No, the measure is, is the gospel preach correctly.
The church historically has asked the question “Is it important that the minister or priest be pure when the sacraments are administered?” It is partly from a correct understanding of this passage that the answer has been that the sacraments are not corrupted by a corrupt priest. We should find great peace in this. God can use anyone to advance His kingdom. He can even us you and me.
For the longest time, I was afraid to saying or preach anything to anyone. I might say the wrong thing. I might offend. They might take it the wrong way. I might not have the best witness. But it is Christ who is responsible for the results. My job, your job, our job is to simply preach the gospel, let God be responsible for being God. He is sovereign.