Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and was persecuted by them who but for him would not have had a gospel to preach.
1. The apostle had, by nature, a temper that could not bear very much being abused. He was naturally sensitive and aggressive. In prison and helpless no doubt there were slight heavings of the old volcano at the conduct of his opponents. Moreover his conscience was an inspired one, and he must have felt, "Who is a judge of orthodoxy if I am not?" Did he then rouse the alarm and denounce these preachers of envy and strife? No, he rejoiced where few could have rejoiced, viz., in prison, and at what few could have rejoiced, viz., that his enemies were doing good.
2. Paul might have felt that his life was thrown away, that God had need of him. Many feel that everything must be done, and that there is none to do it hut themselves. Paul had a right to feel so if any man had. But the thought never seems to have occurred to him. No doubt he felt the cowardliness and the cruelty of these men, but the feeling was swallowed up in the reflection that they were doing his work when he could not do it himself.
3. Paul held that so precious is this truth of Jesus that no man can present even a particle of it that is not worth presenting. You cannot preach Christ so that it is not worth while to have preached Him thus. It is better that He should be preached by bad men for bad purposes than not preached at all.
4. It would have been enough in Paul to have said less than he did, such as "I trust all will be for the best. I hope it will do some good, but I fear it will do much harm. Of course I cannot associate with them." On the contrary he exults over the certain good of the issue. The hounds of love are better than the hounds of theology to hunt heretics with. How painful not to know the difference between conscience and combativeness.
5. Consider in a few deductions the temptations to which men who are working for religious ends are liable.
I. THE DANGER OF SUBSTITUTING ACTIVITY FOR THE LOVING GRACES. The bee that goes buzzing about the flowers in the spring is very useful; but, after all, I think the flowers, that never stir or buzz, are full as interesting and far more important. The buzzing bee gets a good deal of honey, but he would not get a particle if it were not for the silent flowers which contain it all. There is a great peril of an external rattling activity leaving the heart cold, mechanical, and even malevolent.
II. THE DANGER OF ARROGANCE.
1. There are a great many people who say that all Churches must be constituted, work, and believe as their own.
2. Many of us have got beyond that, but how many of us can rejoice in the Church whose services has swallowed up ours. But all that Paul wanted was that work should be done, whoever did it; and even rejoiced that others would have the credit for the work he did. Conclusion: From the beginning until today the power of preaching has been and henceforth mill be, not in ideas but in disposition.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: