Recently, I had a discussion with a person regarding a particular false teacher. I had given him some information about this false teacher. In our discussion, this person asked me about what I think of Philippians 1:18, which reads as follows (New King James Version):
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”
My thoughts are as follows:
My thoughts on Philippians 1:18 do not matter.
Now, I could leave that answer as is and it would be fine. After all, who cares what I think about it? However, I want to go deeper on this matter. In his book called Interpreting the Bible, Roy B. Zuck explains “the goal of Bible interpretation is to determine the original meaning of the text. This is called exegesis, reading the meaning out of the text, and is the opposite of eisegesis, reading a meaning into the text” (p. 63). As a result, what matters most are no less than the following:
- Context, context and context
- What the passage’s author (in the case of Philippians 1:18, the apostle Paul) intended to say
- The audience of the passage
- What the passage means in its historical and literary context
Notice that “my thoughts” are nowhere to be found there. With that being stated, it is important to look at Philippians 1:18 in context. Here, I start at verse 1 and go through verse 18 (New King James Version):
1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Here, Paul, the author, clearly identifies himself and young Timothy as “bondservants of Jesus Christ” (v. 1). Furthermore, Paul writes this letter to the “saints who are in Christ Jesus in Philippi”, thanking God for every remembrance of them, making requests for them all with great joy, for their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”, confident that God would complete the good work He began in them until the day of Jesus Christ (vv. 1-6). Paul, writing this letter of Philippians from prison, longs for them “all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (vv. 7-8). Paul then tells of his prayer for the saints at Philippi (vv. 9-11).
In verse 12, Paul wants his audience to know that the things which happened to him (specifically his imprisonment, discussed in Acts 21-28) “have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that” his chains are in Christ (vv. 12-13). Furthermore, “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 14). Here, we clearly see that Paul is talking about some fellow brothers in Christ. He speaks of these same people in the verses that follow.
Paul states that some of these brothers preach Christ “even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill” (v. 15). He also states “the former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (vv. 16-17). We then get to our target verse:
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Here, Paul clearly states that he will rejoice that Christ is preached by a fellow brother in the LORD, even if said fellow brother (who is indeed preaching the Gospel) has impure motives. Paul would not rejoice over a false teacher’s “preaching Christ.” In fact, nowhere in Scripture does Paul rejoice over a false teacher’s preaching Christ. Instead, Paul names false teachers publicly (2 Timothy 1:15, 2:15-18, 3:8, 4:10, 14; 3 John 9; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Corinthians 11). These false teachers’ end is destruction (Philippians 3:18-19; Jude 4). If these “brethren” spoken of in Philippians 1:14 were in fact false teachers, then certainly Paul would have either named them or stated their destination in the immediate context. However, Paul does not do such a thing. Furthermore, Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), and God does not contradict Himself (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; John 8:32 & 40, 10:35, 14:6, 17:17; Psalm 12:6, 19:7-9, 119: 9 & 11 & 15 & 104; Ephesians 4:21, 5:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Samuel 7:28).
As mentioned earlier, my answer to the question of what I thought of Philippians 1:18 was that it does not matter what my thoughts are. Instead, what matters the most is what the verse says in context. In context, Philippians 1:18 shows that whether a fellow brother in the LORD (and not a false teacher) preaches Christ in either pretense or truth, Paul will rejoice.