The Important Thing is…

But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.  Philippians 1:18.

What is the the “important thing” according to Paul?

That Christ is preached.

From the very first time I read these words till now I’ve been impressed with the thought that I don’t have to worry about the various denominations, weird doctrines or motivations of those who preach and teach the gospel.  Many of these people Paul spoke of were either for or against him in their presentation.  Almost anyone who knows the NT can attest to the influence of Paul so I’m pretty sure he was a galvanizing figure even in his day.  It isn’t that I don’t care or that I think Paul didn’t care about these crazy offshoot doctrinal rabbit trails kind of people, rather it’s not worth the energy it takes for me to worry about them.  Why?  Jesus predicted this type of craziness and confusion long before it happened—probably didn’t even have to get a prophetic vision or anything, knowing human nature as He did.

So many times I’ve heard other believers complain about this or that religion in either a plaintive voice or in resentment and I have begun to wonder lately to what end?  If the very Cornerstone of  our salvation predicted such things and instructed us not to be alarmed by them, then why bother being more than troubled?  We can’t solve the world nor can we stop the nature of the sin which destroys all it touches.

How often do we believe it’s our duty to police other Christians?

I grew up in a church that was exclusive, narcissistic and wholly taken with its own doctrinal position to the point we weren’t allowed to associate with other “religions” (which meant other Christian denominations oddly enough) because they might pollute our spiritual purity.  I don’t agree with their stance but I don’t consider them non-Christian or heretics exactly just misguided and conceited.  I can judge their attitudes and doctrine as to whether or not they conform to Scripture as I understand it, but I don’t have the right to judge either their salvation or connection to God.  To tell the truth, my current connection to Christ comes through several very godly people within the that church who brought me to the foot of the cross, so I have a hard time condemning anyone who can do that.

That said, churches or people who teach they are the only way to Christ are dangerous and divisive for they seek to kill off any other perspective but their own.  We don’t have to agree with the methods, attitudes or doctrinal urges of another person or organization to accept them as family in Christ.  If there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from this passage and being brought up exclusive, it’s how dangerous and dry the walk with Christ is when we refuse to expose ourselves to the big picture.  It would be like someone preaching that only primary colors are of God, which makes any other color godless and therefore those who use them should be shunned as playing with Satan’s crayons.

Paul makes a pretty bold statement about men he personally disagrees with in doctrine and presentation, he isn’t worried about them.  Yet notice he does see their error and point it out without hesitation.  Again, this is an important part of being solid in the Word.  To be accepting of those who differ from us doesn’t mean we ignore what we consider their mistakes to be nor do we refuse to speak up for fear of causing trouble.  Paul’s struggle for freedom from the law in the church is legendary, causing a big major conference in Jerusalem to determine whether or not he was right.  That should tell you how important he considered this new radical view of God to be.

His detractors were Jewish in origin, mostly, and dead set against the freedom from the law Paul preached as sacrosanct.  These men used his chains as evidence of God’s disfavor instead of recognizing them as a testimony to the gospel’s influence.  The reason he languished in chains awaiting trial came directly from his teaching that the old system of obedience was dead and buried with Christ.  The new way of righteousness came exclusively through Christ’s grace; meaning grace allows for God to live in humans who are bathed in the blood of Jesus.

Here’s another illustration from Paul’s own writings.

In 1 Corinthians 15:29 he makes an odd argument for the resurrection which seems incongruous to his other teachings on the subject of salvation.  Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?  If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? Without missing a beat or arguing the doctrinal accuracy of such a practice Paul moves on to establish his real point, the truth of Jesus’ being alive and well.  We know the Scriptures say …man is destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment… which is as an effective argument against being baptized for the dead as could be given.  Yet nowhere in the rest of his letters does Paul troubleshoot this “erroneous” practice directly.

Does this mean he agreed with them?  Not at all.  But it does speak heavily on the side of tolerance where innocence and love prevail.  Why would Paul tolerate such a “false” practice to continue?  I don’t know, though I can speculate.  May be since these people did it in love and concern for those who died not knowing Jesus, he left them alone, for who knows, God might actually honor their faith.  From what I understand of NT teaching, I doubt it, but I’m not God, nor even a Paul, so I don’t have the authority to draw any conclusions.

What does this have to do with Paul’s statement in our key text?

Merely that quarreling over interpretations of vague Scripture references is useless.  The essential things of God are plain in His Word, those things we are not required to grasp are more obscure—e.g. last day prophecies, for instance.  I trust in God for the things I don’t understand in His Word because of what I do understand in the gospel message.  In other words, the truth I get is so effective and works so well, the other stuff that I struggle to get a handle on is accepted because of what I do know.  I don’t personally practice the law according to the legalistic way I was brought up, because I don’t want to be bound to a dead system.  The freedom here is that Scripture affords us leeway in these things—Paul’s argument for foods and Sabbaths in Romans 14 for example.

Those who teach the Word of God out of false motivations will get their reward on the Day, so they’re not our responsibility or concern.  If confronted by them, we must defend the gospel as we know it, but the moment the discussion goes into semantics or quarrelsome territory, we are told to walk away (read 2 Timothy 2:23).  And this is exactly how Paul could walk away from his detractors and basically ignore them for the most part.  If they preached Jesus crucified, resurrected and as the salvation of all men, he could rejoice; and therefore, so should we.



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2 Responses to “The Important Thing is…”

  1. Jesus Carries Me Says:

    This is good, Jonny. I share your views. Paul also made it clear that those who preach “another” gospel will be eternally condemned, but as long as Christ is preached, we are all happy 🙂

  2. tlc4women Says:

    I agree. What does it serve us when we argue denomination to a world that doesn’t have a clue what we are arguing about? All they see is that we don’t agree even amongst ourselves and it only furthers the chasm.

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