Why would Paul rejoice over Christ being preached in pretence?

The passage under consideration is Philippians 1:15-18:

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

At the time of this writing, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Evidentially, some individuals were interested in amplifying the suffering of the imprisoned apostle.  They had discovered that, through the preaching of the Gospel, they could accomplish such evil. The challenging aspect of Paul’s statement is that regardless of the insincere actions of some, “Christ is preached and therein I do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice” (vs. 18).

How could Paul be joyous when some were using the Gospel to accomplish insincere purposes? Today, much of the preaching in the religious world is done without sincerity. Should Christians rejoice over such preaching?

In order to understand what Paul is saying, we need to understand the context of his statement. There is no indictment against the message that these suspicious individuals preached; rather, the problem is with the motive that drove them to preach so ardently. Paul says that they “Preached Christ” (vs. 15). Indeed, the message, as far as we can tell, was just as if Paul were preaching it himself. Otherwise, Paul would have found no joy at all in the proclamation that was being made by them (Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-9; Philippians 3:1-3, 17-19; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).

These individuals were preaching Christ, but the overriding motive for doing so was to gain an advantage over Paul and to cause him grief. The text says that they did it out of “envy” and “strife.” It seems as thou they were envious of the perceived acclaim that Paul received as a preacher of the Gospel, though Paul sought no personal recognition and glory (Galatians 6:14). Furthermore, they did it “of contention, not sincerely.” The word for contention carries the idea of “electioneering or intriguing for office…a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts.” Though they were not seeking a political office, they obviously were looking to advance themselves beyond the notoriety of the apostle Paul.

Why then would Paul rejoice in light of the insincere actions and potential successes of these antagonistic individuals? If Paul were interested in promoting himself, then he would have found no joy in such treatment. However, the apostle was not seeking to advance himself. On the contrary, Paul was willing to suffer wrong for the Gospel’s sake. Paul’s spirit of self-sacrifice is seen in such passages as 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and Galatians 2:20:

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

We can therefore conclude that since Paul was concerned solely with the spread of the Gospel, he found an occasion to rejoice anytime the Gospel was preached, even when it was at his own personal expense. We would all do well to have the same spirit, even that of John the Baptizer who said of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).