“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill.”
In Prison Paul had two sorts of opposition, both from without and from within. Antagonism from without came from Roman authorities. Animosity from within came from the church! And this from a church that Paul said their “faith was spoken of throughout the world.”
Beginning at verse 15 and running through verse 17 Paul cataloged incentives for preaching the gospel. Their message was the same (thank God!) but their motive was different.
“Some indeed preach Christ”
They all preached Christ. They were not preaching Moses or Abraham. They were outstanding men of God but they were not Christ. Jesus was more than a man, he was the “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). He stands like a majestic skyscraper over a shack.
“even from envy and strife”
“Envy and strife”—what a blend of motives with which to preach! The word “from” means “because of” (motives). The message was fine but the motive was something else!
Envy is the feeling of disapproval by hearing the successes of others. This term is always used in the negative or evil sense in the New Testament. Some preachers in Rome evidently resented Paul’s success in ministry.
It takes maturity to rejoice in the success of others. Immaturity constantly compares self with others. Juvenile Christians are intimidated by the accomplishments of others.
Envy not only means to desire to have what someone else has but to seek to deprive another person of what they have. In other words, in some way envy seeks to diminish the accomplishments of others. If a church in town is blessed with significant growth, another church may say, “All they are concerned about is numbers.” Envy never builds up; it always lessens the person who exercises it. “Envy is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30); envy will rot the core of our person.
There is a corollary that always comes when people feel diminished by the success of others—strife. Strife is an expression of enmity. These two evils are stitched together in James 3:16: “For where envy and self-seeking [strife] exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” People try to outdo and eclipse others where there is envy in motivation.
Churches are often neutralized because of this deadly combination. Think of a church full of people threatened by everybody else. Strife is inevitable.
“and some also from good will”
“Good will” means a kind purpose. Thank God some in the church at Rome had good motives. The word “from” here also means because of. These people did not have a twisted sense of ill will at Paul’s achievements.
Motivation is crucial because if false motivation drives us, it distorts our maturity.
Paul had no bed of roses in Rome. Small jealousies tried to undermine him. Paul stood independent from these hurts. He did not retaliate with distortions of his own. Are immature motivations distorting your soul and keeping you from being what God wants you to be? Is your motivation to gain approbation from others? In your ministry do you try to impress?