What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice…
It is scarcely possible to conceive of a more magnificent breadth of charity, a more heroic self-abnegation, or a more ardent devotion to Christ than St. Paul here manifests. His preaching at Rome appears to have excited opposition in the Judaizing section of the Church there. In jealousy of the influence gained by the great apostle, this party was roused to more earnest missionary enterprise on their own account. Their motive was miserably narrow and ungenerous. But they little understood the spirit of the man whom they thought to annoy. The last thing that mean and selfish men can comprehend is the larger heart of a better nature. St. Paul completely triumphed over this miserable attempt at raising up afflictions for him in his bonds. Instead of being irritated at the injury done to himself, he utterly forgot that injury in his joy that a flesh impetus was given to the preaching of Christ. What a noble example for all Christians!
I. THE PREACHING OF CHRIST IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK OF the CHURCH. There were truths dear to the heart of St. Paul which the Judaizing party denied, and it was part of the life-work of the apostle to vindicate these truths. But he clearly saw that they were subsidiary to the great, common Christian gospel. Therefore he would rather see the gospel preached by men who were at the same time resisting those truths, than that the secondary truths should triumph but missionary work be less zealously promoted. We are all in danger of losing theological perspective. We are inclined to magnify our own special views to the neglect of the truth that is common to all Christendom. To make Christ known - not to preach this or that doctrine about Christ, but to reveal Christ himself in his beautiful life, death, and resurrection - this is to preach the gospel, and all else is of minor importance.
II. CHRIST MAY BE PREACHED IN A GREAT VARIETY OF WAYS. The more illiberal Christians set forth the gospel in a very different way from St. Paul's method. Yet he had insight to see that the essential truth was proclaimed by them.
1. Because men do not pronounce our "shibboleth," let us not refuse to recognize that they preach our Christ, the one Christ.
2. Moreover, note that, as a rule, the grounds on which Christians agree are far more important than those on which they differ.
3. Observe also that, though the spirit and motive of the preacher are important, the truth of the gospel is of more importance; so that, though this be proclaimed with an unworthy motive (as here in very spite to St. Paul), yet, being proclaimed, it may reach the hearts of men and do its own work.
III. DIVISIONS AMONG CHRISTIANS MAY LEAD TO ThE MORE ZEALOUS PREACHING OF CHRIST. We naturally deplore these divisions. They are very injurious to Christian charity. They generate sectarian bitterness of spirit and narrowness of thought. They lead to much waste of effort in controversy and to a scandal in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, they undoubtedly excite greater zeal in propagating the gospel. The sects provoke one another to good works. The motive may not be the highest; still, the result is that the gospel is preached more energetically and with more variety, so as to reach different classes of mind. And often the emulation is not unworthy. Each party is honestly desirous not to be found wanting, and is stimulated by the example of the rest. Competition, which greatly encourages efficiency in study and in business, is not without its influence in religion. Competitive Christianity may be, indeed, a low form of religion, but it is much better than lifeless Christianity.
IV. THE TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST WILL VALUE THE PREACHING OF CHRIST MORE THAN THE EXTENSION OF HIS OWN VIEWS AND INFLUENCE. It is exceedingly difficult really to rejoice at efforts which weaken our own particular cause while they promote the great cause of Christ. But this is because we think more of ourselves than of Christ. Greater devotion to Christ will issue in larger charity to rivals and enemies. When we can say, "To me to live is Christ," we shall be able to experience the grand feeling of St. Paul in rising above the provocation of jealous opposition to himself with the joy of witnessing a more earnest preaching of Christ. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.