Commentary on Philippians, 1:14-18 (Right Motives)

Philippians 1:14-18

“12 Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the advancement of the gospel,”
13 so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ,
14 and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my chains, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear.”

One would think that since Paul was in prison because of the name of Christ, that other Christians would be a bit fearful to preach the gospel of Christ, as Paul had done. However, his imprisonment actually gave them even greater boldness. I think the reason for that, is that they saw that Paul was being treated well, and that he was given the freedom to preach the Christian faith, without hindrance or punishment.

Oftentimes all it takes to motivate other Christians to share the gospel message, is for one brave and faithful Christian to lead the way. Once others see the positive results, it encourages others to follow in his or her wake.

“15 Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and rivalry, and some also out of goodwill.
16 The one does so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;
17 but the other preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for me in my chains.
18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

“rivalry”  (Gr. eris – 2054)

Strife, contention.


Strife (2054) (eris [word study]) means contention, wrangling, quarrels. It refers to engagement in rivalry, especially with reference to positions taken in a matter, such a belief in the meaning of a genealogy! Strife, a general term that carries the ideas of all kinds of self-centered rivalry and contentiousness about the truth. Strife is an expression of enmity with bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension. It refers to persistent contention, bickering, petty disagreement, and enmity. It reflects a spirit of antagonistic competitiveness that fights to have its own way, regardless of cost to itself or of harm to others. It is produced by a deep desire to prevail over others, to gain the highest prestige, prominence, and recognition possible. Strife is characterized by self-indulgence and egoism. It has no place even for simple tolerance, much less for humility or love.

“goodwill”  (Gr. eudokia – 2107)

Kindly intent, benevolence, a gracious and sincere purpose, friendly disposition, cheerfulness, a desire to do good to others.


“Good will (eudokia) refers to good pleasure, good intent, benevolence, a gracious purpose. This group was kindly disposed to Paul & was composed of Gentile converts, friends of Paul, who were encouraged to preach by the thought that it would give joy to the great apostle whose liberty was restricted. They were sympathetic towards Paul and grateful for his ministry. There are also people like that today–what a blessing, encouragement, and source of joy they are! If these “Barnabas” type folks are in your life then you should give praise and thanks to God for their lives.”

It’s amazing that any Christian could preach Christ out of jealousy of others who are doing the work of the Lord. But just as it was in Paul’s day, I believe it’s true today, that there are Christians who like to be in the spotlight, who like making a name for themselves. They like to be admired and held in high esteem. Thus they feel that they need to do the same sort of things that other Christians are doing that have gained them the respect of others.

Then there are others who serve Christ with right motives. They don’t care about the praise of men (Jn 12:43). They don’t care about promoting themselves. They do the work of the Lord with sincerity, with a right heart before the Lord. They have a true concern for the spiritual welfare of others. They seek only to please God and to bring glory to Him. These type of servants will be wonderfully rewarded one day (Matt 5:11-12; 6:1).

“knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel”

Paul’s appointment was by Jesus Himself (Acts 22:10; 26:12-18; 23:11; 27:23-24). This was his calling. This was his whole mission in life. He defense of the gospel was both in his general preaching, and as he stood before the Jewish leaders, governors Felix and Festus, King Agrippa, and ultimately Caesar himself.

“thinking to raise up affliction for me in my chains”

“raise up affliction”

Has the idea of raising the level of distress for Paul while imprisoned.

Who they were, and why they thought that they could add to Paul’s distress while in prison, is not clear. However, it had the opposite effect. Paul actually “rejoiced” in their preaching of Christ. “Whether in pretence or in truth,” he was glad that the message of Christ was being proclaimed. Those who did so with wrong motives, and seeking to trouble Paul, that was between them and the Lord. But from Paul’s perspective, people were hearing about Jesus, and that was something that brought great joy to his heart.