Friday, March 30, 2007

Only that Christ is Preached

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry… [they] proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment”

One of the most penetrating questions I must consistently ask myself is this: “Why are you preaching the gospel”? It is imperative that as ministers of the gospel (that means all who are Christians) that we check our motivations. It is so unbelievably easy to preach the Word of God with the wrong motives. I can preach for my own glory. I can preach to tickle someone ears (making men happy). I can preach to follow the mold of great preachers of the past (glorifying men). I can preach for money. I can preach out of envy. I can preach to harm others ministries. There are numerous motivations and aspirations in preaching the gospel. I can even use the gospel to further political causes or social issues.

What motivated these preachers who were preaching Christ “from envy and rivalry”? Some commentators erroneously believe it is a heretical group like the Judaizers. But it is obvious from the context and Paul’s stern rebukes in Galatians 1 that these are not heretics. Paul would not commend or call any type of heretical teaching “preaching Christ”. Perhaps these men are trying to create a “strife by preaching and thus incur the anger of Rome, in order to bring down upon themselves and Paul suffering, persecution, even martyrdom, in the belief that tribulation (was necessary to hasten the end of the world and the return of Christ?”[1] But that view cannot be correct either, as Hawthorne later points out, “(a) since, similar to “good will” and “love” the words “envy” “strife,” and “selfish-ambition” are relational words, (b) since these latter words are exactly parallel to the former words, and (c) since Paul was the object of those former words—“love” and “good will”—therefore one is forced to conclude that, for whatever reason, he is also the object of the latter words—people reacted against Paul himself and thought to hurt him by their preaching.”[2]

I think our best bet at understanding this passage is to look at an example given by Vincent Cheung. “In the University of Pennsylvania a professor of history read to his class Jonathan Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The aim of the professor was to show how harsh, disagreeable, and morose the New England Puritans were. Because of his reading, however, at least one student was converted to Christianity.”[3]

The point that Paul is making and the reason Paul is still able to rejoice (see v.18) is because even though they are not preaching Christ from the right motives the gospel is still being preached. And Christ is still being proclaimed and for this we have cause to rejoice. Amidst all of this we must ask the question; “Am I even preaching the gospel”? What a shame that those who are proclaiming Christ from wrong motives actually give more cause for rejoicing than Christians who sit on the truth of God’s Word and never proclaim it. Get off your duff and proclaim the beauty of Christ to the nations!

Tomorrow we will look at the correct motivation for preaching the word of God

[1] quoted by Gerald Hawthorne in Word Biblical Commentary. Taken from
[2] Ibid
[3] quoted by Cheung, Vincent pg 33

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