Useful Bible Studies > Philippians Commentary > chapter 1

Christians who act selfishly

Philippians 1:17

When people become Christians, their selfish attitudes should end. Now, instead of their personal ambitions, they should have an attitude of love that causes them to care about other people (1 Corinthians chapter 13). So, they should join with other Christians to declare the gospel, the message about Christ, with sincere attitudes (2 Corinthians 4:2). They should do nothing for selfish reasons.

However, in reality, many Christians are not yet ready for God to change their attitudes so completely (Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:21). They are genuine Christians, who want to serve God loyally but still to achieve their own personal ambitions. They do not understand that their desire for their own ambitions is causing them to act selfishly. However, their efforts to achieve their own desires are hurting and upsetting other Christians. They may be speaking the truth about God’s message, but they are not acting in love.

We perhaps see this most clearly with church leaders. A church leader with strong personal ambitions may declare God’s message in a correct and proper manner. However, he may wrongly try to take Christians away from the churches where God wants them to be. He may try to collect too much money for his work so that Christians give to please him, and not willingly (contrast 2 Corinthians 9:7). That leader may still achieve many things; but he does not show the attitudes that God wants him to have.

As a prisoner, Paul became aware of the activities of such people. They even tried to take advantage of Paul’s difficult situation to increase their own importance. Their actions only increased Paul’s troubles. However, Paul himself had chosen not to follow any selfish ambitions (2:3-4). So he was glad whenever anyone declared the true gospel, whatever their attitudes (1:18). The progress of the gospel brought great joy to him; it was clear evidence that God was working.

Next part: What truly mattered to Paul? (Philippians 1:18)


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© 2020, Keith Simons.