Trembling at the threshold of Philippians 1:18

From: Jim Beale (
Date: Wed Aug 27 1997 - 18:03:13 EDT


   (Philippians 1:18, MT)

Although there are no grammatical difficulties with this verse (I
don't think!) perhaps there is a contextual one. I think we've seen
this verse abused in recent days. And I dislike the twisting of
Scripture to any end to which it is not intended, even if that end
is a good one. Exegetical method is more general and hence more
controlling than any particular conclusion.

Acceptance of a method because a true conclusion happens to stand
at the end of it is foolish. Fallacious argument forms such as

   "If a, then b; b, therefore a" (affirming the consequent)

can lead to true conclusions, e.g.,

   "If Milton wrote _Paradise Lost_, then he was a great author;
    Milton was a great author,
    therefore he wrote _Paradise Lost_."

But they aren't guaranteed to do so:

   "If Milton wrote _Hamlet_, then he was a great author;
    Milton was a great author,
    therefore he wrote _Hamlet_."

As I said, the verse seems to present no grammatical difficulties at
all. The contrast between PROFASIS and ALHQEIA seems to indicate
the motives from which the gospel was preached. Even the *briefest*
glance at the context is sufficient to confirm this:

There are those who preach from the motives of envy and strife and
others who preach from goodwill (v. 15). hH EUDOKIA is as clear as
a bell in indicating that the motive of those who preach the gospel
is in view. On the flip side, the intention of the others is to
increase Paul's affliction (v. 16). Some preach in order to cause
injury to Paul; the others love Paul and preach the gospel in order
to carry on his work.

And so, this passage is only talking of the motivation of some small
number of people who were preaching the gospel in Paul's day. If we
generalize the underlying principles involved in the passage, we might
say that even if those who are opposed to the gospel happen to declare
the gospel out of spite, or some other false motive, that does not
negate the power of the gospel.

I have some reason to believe that a professor of history at the
University of Pennsylvania read Jonathan Edwards' sermon, _Sinners in
the Hands of an Angry God_, to his class in order to show how harsh
and disagreeable the preaching of the Puritans was. Nevertheless,
in spite of his *evil* intention, at least one person in the class was
converted to Christianity.

Now, in my opinion, it is exegetically monstrous to view this text
as saying anything about _how_ the gospel ought to be preached. There
is simply no mention of the form in which the gospel should be
presented. We are presented with a historical situation and motives.
>From this logical base, one cannot validly deduce anything concerning
the form in which the message ought to be cast. Therefore, I'd say
that it is an exegetical fallacy (non sequitir) to conclude that
Philippians 1:18 authorizes just any form of the preaching of the
gospel whatever (e.g. spamming).

And I would like to add, by way of a personal note, that I'm quite
evangelical. I'm all for the preaching of the gospel, and the
evangelization of the lost. I think the Scripture is abundantly
clear in commanding all Christians to be salt and light, and to
preach the gospel as we go about our daily lives. I've been known to
step out of my comfort zone and do a bit of door-to-door evangelism.
I just happen to think that there is a right way to do it (always ask
permission) and many wrong ways.

Philippians 1:18 does not justify spamming or hitting people over the
head with a large family Bible or any other form of rude obnoxious non-
Christian behavior. Paul is quite concerned the proper behavior of
Christians that the Word of God may not be blasphemed, that those who
oppose Christianity may have nothing evil to say of Christians (cf.
Titus 2:5,8).

In Christ,
Jim Beale

              The worth and excellence of a soul is to
             be measured by the object of its love.
          ~ Henry Scougal

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