Proclaiming Christ Out of Envy
We can’t help but wonder about those people Paul refers to who proclaim Christ out of “envy and rivalry” (15) and “out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering” (17). Who are they and what’s their problem? Not much information is to be had. It is up to our imagination. And maybe “envy” even from proclaimers of Christ is not hard to imagine, unfortunately.
Here are the conjectures of some commentators:
• “spirit of rivalry and competition,” “competitive preachers, operating out of partisanship (a term common in that day to describe persons hired to do electioneering), hoping both to advance themselves and afflict the confined Paul” (Philippians: Interpretation, Fred Craddock, Louisville: John Knox Press, 1985, p. 25).
• “If we are at Rome, we may be hearing of groups which were well established before Paul arrived, of preachers and teachers who were well highly regarded by the Christians of the city, but who feel that the renown of the great Apostle has put them in the shade. Now they are resolved to show that they can be as bold as he, and as successful in winning converts. Or we may imagine factions such as we know existed in Corinth (I Cor. i. II ff.), and suppose that the admirers of some unknown Apollos are jealous for their learned and eloquent leader. They think that Paul has a similar littleness of mind, and will be irked by their energetic and successful evangelism” (The Epistle to the Philippians: Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, F. W. Beare, San Francisco: Harper & Row, pp. 59-60).
• “Could it be that these were Christians who believed that for an apostle of the cross martyrdom was the true vocation, and were they thus disappointed with Paul ‘for the steps he (had) taken to secure his imminent release’ (Collange)? Or were they Christians with a divine-man theology, who believed that any sign of weakness on Paul’s part, such as imprisonment, showed that he knew nothing of the triumphant power of the Christ he presumed to serve?” (Philippians: Word Biblical Commentary, Gerald F. Hawthorne, Waco: Word Books, 1983, pp. 37-38).
What the Philippians need from Paul is not simply a news report on how he is faring. That would help, of course, because just plain information can be relieving, healing, even redemptive. But for a Christian minister, a missionary, a preacher of the gospel to be arrested, imprisoned, waiting for Roman authorities to decide his fate—that is a condition which demands interpretation. One can be sure the unbelieving community had its own interpretation just as it did for the crucifixion of Jesus. If he were really the son of God, God would have rescued him. So in this case, if Christianity were really of God, if Paul were really of God, these painful and humiliating defeats would not occur. In societies primitive or advanced there is a widespread belief that there is a direct correlation between the kind of person you are and what happens to you. In fact, it is quite popular in some circles to promote faith in God as the key to health and prosperity. Very likely there were some Christians in Philippi who were beginning to wonder if their church was really of God. If preaching the gospel gets you arrested, what will happen to us? Is Paul’s fate to be ours as well? What is the point of being Christian anyway? Yes, Paul needs to interpret his chains. Suffering, injustice, even death can be endured if someone can make sense of it, if it can be shown that some cause, some purpose is served; but there is no pain so sharp as an uninterpreted pain, no tragedy so heavy as one without meaning.
(Philippians: Interpretation, Fred Craddock, Louisville: John Knox Press, 1985, p. 24)
Reading the Scripture
Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:
• Read the scripture as if it were a letter from a dear friend (See the introduction). Place the scripture in an envelope addressed to the class and ask a member to open and read it aloud.
o First Reading: Read it quickly (not so quickly that you can’t understand it) because you can’t wait to hear what Paul has to say.
o Second Reading: Read it very slowly to take in every word.
o Ask the class, “Which parts stood out to you?” Reread those sections as class members name them.
o The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the library and the church office.)
o WatchWord Bible, New Testament on DVD is available in the library. (These videos display and read the text in Contemporary English Version with background pictures, video and sound. Not exactly dramatized or all that exciting, but could be another way to read the text.)
• The Formations Teaching Guide suggests a discussion, “Enemies, Competitors…or Partners?” Consider the churches in our community, “Are we enemies, competitors or partners?” Can we be happy for the success of these churches? See a list of fifty Danville Churches (from Yellow Pages online) at the end of this session.
• Note these examples of churches cooperating:
o Soup’s On Us: Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, First Christian Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Danville.
o Community Thanksgiving Feast
o Brass Band Festival Community Worship Service and Communion
o Unity in the Community services
o Partnership: LABC and Protestant Church in Rabat, Morocco
o Partnership: LABC and Nada Baptist Mission
o LABC and Danville Deaf Baptist Mission sharing space
o Concerts with Gethsemane Baptist Church
o What other examples can you name of churches cooperating?
• Churches Along the Ride and Psalms: This is barely relevant, but I have a sort of blog where I take pictures of churches I see on bike rides and attach a Psalm reading with each church. You mind find it interesting and you will find there some pictures of local churches: http://churchesalongtheride.blogspot.com/
• How does LABC proclaim Christ: Sunday School, Worship, Neighborhood Ministry? What examples can you give? Are there other ways we could proclaim Christ?
• Proclaiming Christ:
o When you think of those unchurched persons who are potential members for your Sunday School class, where are they? If you were to reach out to these people where would you find them? Where do they live (be specific-your class cannot realistically go to every house in Danville)? Where do they work? Where do they conduct their business, shop, and perform their daily tasks? Where to they play? Where do they exercise?
Please ask these questions, write down the answers and return them to me. I would like to share them with the Missions Leadership Team.
o Discuss: What are some specific ways your class could reach out to these people? Plan an outreach project.
• Focus on Stewardship:
o “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa (quoted in The Giving Myths, Stephen McSwain, Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2007, p. 22).
o Remind the class of stewardship dates and emphases (see introduction to this unit).
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.
• For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)
Danville Churches (Online Yellow Pages)
1. Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church- 117 W Main St, Danville, KY 40422
2. Grace PCA Church- 180 Bold Venture, Danville, KY 40422
3. Church Of Christ West End- 3040 Perryville Rd, Danville, KY 40422
4. Centenary United Methodist Church- 1441 Perryville Rd, Danville, KY 40422
5. New Life Ministries- 1231 Lebanon Rd, Danville, KY 40422
6. Our Savior Lutheran Church- 285 N Hill N Dale St, Danville, KY 40422
7. Faith Temple Pentecostal- 205 Otter St, Danville, KY 40422
8. First Church Of God- 3220 Harrodsburg Rd, Danville, KY 40422
9. Immanuel Baptist Church- 1280 Faulkner Ln, Danville, KY 40422
10. Willow Grove Baptist Church- 4306 Stanford Rd, Danville, KY 40422
11. Church of God of America- 326 W Main St, Danville, KY 40422
12. Presbyterian Church-Danville- 500 W Main St, Danville, KY 40422
13. Salvation Army- 519 S 4th St, Danville, KY 40422
14. Church of Christ- 385 E Lexington Ave, Danville, KY 40422
15. Gethsemane Baptist Church- 123 Quisenberry Ave, Danville, KY 40422
16. First Christian Church Disciples Of Christ- 555 E Lexington Ave, Danville, KY 40422
17. Calvary Baptist Church- 401 Waveland Ave, Danville, KY 40422
18. Indian Hills Christian Church- 516 Grabruck St, Danville, KY 40422
19. Danville Seventh Day Adventist- 104 Man O War Dr, Danville, KY 40422
20. Faith Fellowship- HIGHWAY 150 Byp, Danville, KY 40422
21. New Horizons Missionary Baptist Church- 229 Fox Run Trl, Danville, KY 40422
22. Unity Baptist Church- 1300 Hustonville Rd, Danville, KY 40422
23. First Baptist Church- 1570 N Danville Byp, Danville, KY 40422
24. Faith Church- 4070 S Danville Byp, Danville, KY 40422
25. Bluegrass Pike Baptist Church- 1400 Bluegrass Pike, Danville, KY 40422
26. Hedgeville Baptist Church- 4700 Lancaster Rd, Danville, KY 40422
27. Alum Springs 1st Church of God-3758 Alum Springs Rd, Danville, KY 40422
28. Parksville Baptist Church- 6610 Alum Springs Rd, Danville, KY 40422
29. Mitchellsburg Baptist Church- 4060 Mitchellsburg Rd, Danville, KY 40422
30. Second Street Christian Church- S 2nd St & Green St, Danville, KY 40422
31. Sycamore Church of Christ- 457 1/2 High St, Danville, KY 40422
32. Trinity Episcopal Church- 320 W Main St, Danville, KY 40422
33. First Baptist Church- 200 W Walnut St, Danville, KY 40422
34. St James A M E Church- 124 E Walnut St, Danville, KY 40422
35. Lexington Avenue Baptist Church- 339 W Lexington Ave, Danville, KY 40422
36. Danville Church of God- 516 S 4th St, Danville, KY 40422
37. Christ The Head Missionary Church- 845 E Main St, Danville, KY 40422
38. Cornerstone Assembly Of God- 2035 Old Lexington Rd, Danville, KY 40422
39. Stoney Baptist Church- 51 Stony Point Rd, Danville, KY 40422
40. Junction City First Baptist Church- 3860 US Highway 127 S, Danville, KY 40422
41. Burgin Baptist Church- 433 E Main St, Danville, KY 40422
42. Perryville First Christian- 205 E 3rd St, Perryville, KY 40468
43. Crossroads Apostolic Church- 195 Grafton St, Junction City, KY 40440
44. First Christian Church- 596 W Shelby St, Junction City, KY 40440
45. Junction City Wesleyan Church- 4115 White Oak Rd, Junction City, KY 40440
46. South Fork Baptist Church- 4095 Ky Highway 1778, Hustonville, KY 40437
47. Rising Son Christian Church
48. Independent Methodist Church
49. Southland Christian Church
50. CenterPoint Church