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Philippians 1:15 (NKJV)

15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former b preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.

In the book of Philippians Paul says some preached Christ out of envy so as to add moee afflictions to him.

Was just wondering how the preaching of Christ would add afflictions to his chains

How can one understand the above text?

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  • Paul does sound a tad paranoid!
    – Ruminator
    Apr 15 '18 at 16:38
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In Philippians chapter 1, Paul is addressing the disunity at the church at Philippi. Just like the church at Galatia, there were Jewish believers who wanted to bring the Law of Moses back as a requirement to the believers at Philippi. Paul is speaking to this issue.

14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.

Paul is writing this letter from prison. In verse 14, he says that there a brothers in the Lord that have become more confident in preaching their version of the gospel without fear of correction since they know that Paul is in prison.

Verse 15 lays out a contrast: some preach a message of envy/strife and some preach a message of good will. In verses 15-16, the references to envy/strife/contention/no sincerity is the exact same theme as Paul is addressing in the Book of Galatians. Remember, the entire Book of Galatians deals with the Judaizers wanting to bring the requirement to keep the Law of Moses to the Galatian church. In chapter 5:

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

In Chapter 5, Paul contrasts living by the law and living by faith/grace. He says that living by the law is akin to living in the flesh and living by faith/grace is akin to living in the spirit. He says the two are contrary one to another.

He states that all the law is bound up in the truth “thou shall love the neighbor as thyself” BUT if you “bite and devour on another….”, meaning that if you leave love, ie leave living by mercy/grace through faith and return to the law, you return to a life of strife, contention and envy. He then lists strife and envy as part of the works of the flesh (works of the law) in verses 19-21 and he returns to the idea of contention/strife/envy in verses 25-26:

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Paul brings this same concern over this false message of works by some believers in Philippi, using the same references to envy, strife and contention.

Philippians 1:15-16: 15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

In verse 16 Paul says that the one group of believers preach the Christ of contention and not in sincerity. This is the plain reference to the false gospel of works of the law. Paul then comments that this preaching adds “affliction to my bonds.” , signifying that the preaching of this false message compounds his suffering for now he has mental agony to his physical bondage. The word “affliction” is the Greek word THLIPSIS. This word means to add pressure or suffering due to circumstances, anything that burdens the spirit.

Dealing with this issue of the false gospel of works was a huge point of suffering for Paul for all you have to do is to read his passion in Galatians chapter 1 and his reference to being accursed (twice), as well as Acts 20 where he says that he warns new believers day and night with tears.

Galatians 5:

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Acts 20:

29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

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  • Excellent insight - thanks! +1
    – Ruminator
    Sep 22 '18 at 1:10
  • Excellent explanation!
    – Kevin H
    Sep 22 '18 at 2:19
  • +1 This is one long answer that I didn't mind reading.
    – Tony Chan
    May 12 at 16:22
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If, say, Nelson Mandela being arrested in prison for 37 years, would have said: "Some of my followers fight against apartheid not out of love of universal human values, but out of petty feeling of vengeance, thus adding more years to my prison years!" - this would be a metaphor, for "prison years" in this sentence will already imply not exactly the years Mandela is passing in prison, but generally serve a metaphor for hardship and undesirable condition. Now, this condition is exacerbated when Mandela hears that his cause is grossly misunderstood and interpreted upside down. Thus, he can express it by "adding years to my prison years".

The same with Paul, who metaphorically expresses that his prison affliction is exacerbated by his knowledge that those whom he preached Christ, misunderstood his message and now preach Christ, who came to rise human minds and hearts from transient and perishable to the eternal and imperishable (Matthew 6:18), not only for the sake of transient, but for the sake of the most despicably transient thing - the vainglory and selfish ambition; and how Paul could help not being afflicted by this, when he sees that people poisoned in their spirit through earthly passion of vainglory preach about the Doctor of this passion, and using His name in order to make their passion even more incurable! An evil paradox and oxymoron that rent poor Apostle's heart apart!

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This is good stuff, but, the hitch is that in Galatians he says, “let them be accursed” and in Philippians he says, as long as Christ is preached. So, I don’t think Paul has the same people in mind at all. Yes, he does address the “dogs” in Philippians - but not in Chapter 1. So, my conclusion is these are gospel preachers who are right in their message and wrong in their motives. He seems pretty clear about that. So, then I ask “why” would someone do that? Pride Envy Strife Not love Division

All answered in the text

Bizarre for sure but seems clear

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