Philippians 1.15-18 – Acceptable Ambition

Our Christian life is often full of paradoxes and opposites, isn’t it? We are already saved, but not yet fully saved. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but now that you are, work hard to show it. If you want to be first, be last. You get the picture…

If I said that it is ok to have ambition in your Christian life, some might disavow that as a paradox and claim that a very passive, pious life is what we need, not ambition, you heathen. Here in vv.15-18, Paul shows us what kind of ambition is ok, and what kind is not. 

He writes that some preach Christ from envy and rivalry. Preaching, teaching, or ministering out of a sense of competition with your fellow believers is, simply, not ok. Paul goes on to say that this is really out of selfish ambition. This kind of ambition, this inter-ministerial competition to have the biggest church, the best selling book, the most followed social media accounts, is not ok. 

It is perfectly acceptable, and I would suggest encourage-able, to want to be the best you can for the Lord. It is perfectly acceptable to want to give excellence to your Saviour in all you do, to represent Him well, and to strive to put the grace of God in you to work as much as you can. This kind of ambition is good, competing with others is not. The difference, when we see them together, is stark;

  • I want to preach to more people than [that guy].
  • I want to preach Jesus to as many people as the Lord gives me.
  • I want to have more Instagram followers than [that guy].
  • I want to use social media to witness to others and show people a life lived for Christ.
  • I want to write a book that is a best-seller so I become known, rich, and ‘famous’.
  • The Lord has put it on my heart to share [this idea] so I am going to do it whether two people or two million people read it.

Today I would encourage you to pause and ponder what you are doing for the Lord, and then take a moment and honestly look at your motivation for doing so; is it out of selfish ambition, or acceptable ambition?

2 Timothy 2.14 – Nobody Cares What You Think

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

Paul continues his instruction and encouragement to Pastor Timothy by telling him, basically, that you need to keep the main thing as the main thing.

He writes that Timothy is to remind them of these thingsthese being the core tenets of the Gospel in vv.8-13.

When the church gathers, when God’s people assemble together, it is the Word of God that must be first and foremost. The Gospel message of reconciliation to God through remission of sins through faith in Jesus must be present above and beyond everything else. These things must be more important than quarrelling about words, which Paul says is good for nothing and eventually leads to ruining the hearers.

Just pause and think – when you go to church, what do you want to hear?

You don’t want to hear a guy stand up and tell you everything he thinks about how you should live.

You don’t want to hear someone read the Bible then proceed to tell you everything they think about it.

You don’t want to be entertained but not equipped for life.

You want to go to church and be filled and fed by the Word of God.

You want to go to church and leave just a little bit firmer in your faith.

The truth of Jesus and the Word of God must be central for this to happen.

Romans 10.17 tells us that faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ. Here preached word means what it says, the preached word about and of God, of His Christ Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit.

So, Pastor, growth-group leader, kids church teacher, counsellor, Christian, nobody is that interested in what you think on any given subject. Perhaps, maybe, sometimes, people might ask for your opinions about secondary things. However, first and foremost, where you have the profound privilege of speaking into people’s lives, do so with these things, do so with the Gospel, do so with the Word of God. 

1 Timothy 5.21-25 – Personal Reminders

21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

First and foremost Timothy as the leader of the local church, and we all by extension, must seek to serve and please God and…Christ Jesus. The leadership of a local church, as the Christian life in general, is to be lived in worship, reverence, and obedience to the Lord. Serving Him first, we show no prejudice and partiality.

I read something that said that in church, everyone should be treated as they will be before Christ.

Paul then gives more instructions about church leading; ordinations and the conduct of the minister in v.22, and then some personal advice to Timothy to care for his health so that he is able to fulfil his ministry (v.23). Evidently, Paul had no promoting to declare miraculous healing over Timothy, rather he told the young leader to take advantage of the natural remedies and medicines on offer – more on this below

Paul is evidently concerned with the conduct of Timothy as vv.24-25 show, and we must all remember that whatever we do, be it good or bad, nothing is hidden from our Father in heaven (Hebrews 4.13).

This is why we must remember we are serving Him first (v.21), that our conduct matters (v.22), that we must take care of ourselves and the bodies God has given us (v.23), and so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31).



David Guzik writes on v.23,

Timothy was probably abstaining from alcohol for the sake of setting a good example. However, this abstinence was hurting his health – wine was safer to drink than water. So, Paul told Timothy that it wasn’t wise to sacrifice his health for the sake of this abstinence – he would do more good for the Jesus and His kingdom by taking care of his body in this circumstance.

“Paul is simply saying that there is no good in an asceticism which does the body more harm than good.” (Barclay)

If it is God’s will for all to be healed right now, then Paul (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him) here led Timothy into sin – calling him to look to a natural remedy instead of a divine healing. God uses natural remedies and the work of doctors in healing, as well as the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit – they don’t contradict one another.