Misusing Php 1:18 "Whether in Pretense or Truth, Christ is Proclaimed"

Time and time again, I hear people cite Philippians 1:18 as if it is an "ok" or "thumbs up" for prosperity speakers (I refuse to call them preachers). Indeed, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people use this verse as a sort of loophole for folks like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Rod Parsley, et. al. The conversation usually begins by me expressing disdain for these money-loving t.v. speakers. And as soon as those words have been uttered, people perk up to defend them. Just yesterday a so-called Christian responded to me: "to each his own." Yet, the Jesus and Paul of the New Testament, said nothing of the sort. That is simply more of an American comment than a Christian one.

With their backs against the wall, and no arguments left, these prosperity defenders cite Php 1:18, where the apostle says, "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice." The person throwing this verse out is using it to say: "Yes, but those t.v. speakers, even while being selfish, are still mentioning Christ, so, really you should support them." This,  however, is a complete misreading of the verse (and its surrounding verses). The apostle is not saying that as long as someone mentions Jesus in a sermon where they are promoting a get-rich-quick scheme, then they are okay. That's not the context.

The context is this: Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel. As he sits in prison, some folks are entering the church at Philippi, putting Paul down, trying to create distance between the Philippians and Paul, and casting doubt on him. They are calling his leadership and apostolicity into question. They are essentially kicking him while he's down. So, that's one side of the story: They are putting Paul through the ringer. Certainly, Paul does not like this. On the other side of things, they are preaching about Jesus to the Philippians. Paul is grateful that they are preaching about Jesus.

So, Paul says (Php 12-19): "Now, I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have turned out to be great for the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brothers who have trusted in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word without fear. One the one hand, some among you are preaching Christ out of a place of envy and strife, but on the other and those brothers (both here and there) are doing it from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am indeed appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, hoping to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What about this then? Well, in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this fact, I rejoice, yes, I will rejoice. Because I know that everything happening to me is going to turn out for my deliverance throughout your prayers, and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectations and hopes.  I know that I shall not be put to shame anyone, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body whether by life or by death."

So, is it okay to preach the prosperity message? Is it okay to promote it, as long as we throw a word about Jesus in there every so often? Is it okay to use these verses to sign off on it?  Is that what Paul is saying? No! No! No! and No! In this passage, Paul is upset about the fact that people are trying to cause him trouble while he's locked up. Yet, he is also glad that those among him who have converted are preaching the truth. And regarding those back in Philippi who are casting aspersions on him, well, they may be preaching Christ, and he's grateful for that, but he's not excited or happy about the way they are treating him. But essentially he is saying: "Every time they try to cast doubt on me, it proves that I'm suffering with and in behalf of Christ, which only validates my apostolicity. I don't prefer that they do it this way, but I can't make them stop. So, as long as they're casting doubt on me, I can live with it, especially if they're preaching Christ. If they were to cast doubt on Christ, I wouldn't be able to handle it."

So, attempting to use this passage to validate prosperity speakers is only to make a failed comparison or analogy. In Philippians, Paul is saying that his status as an apostle, while important, is secondary to the preaching of the gospel. He is not saying that as long as those against him mention Jesus' name once in a while, what they are doing is okay. He is saying: "On the one hand, I'm thankful that they are preaching the gospel, but on they other hand, they are envious of me and defaming me for their own personal gains, and this I'm not thankful for." Put differently, Paul is saying: "Dear Philippians, I'm happy that they're preaching, but not happy that beating up on me for their own gains." If we desire to use this passage in an analogous setting we must look elsewhere because, rest assured, the comparison with prosperity speakers is just not there; it falls flat on its face.  And rest assured, also, that we as Christians can indeed call prosperity speakers to the floor, to account, and reprove and rebuke them.  In fact, we are supposed to do this.  We can also do the same with people who try to use this portion of scripture to substantiate or validate what they're saying or doing.

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