To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. (Philippians 1:15-17 HCSB)
“Why do I defend the faith?”
I encourage all Christian philosophers and apologists to ask themselves this question. It is a question, I admit, with an answer I’ve been ashamed to discover at times. Sometimes, the answer is “I defend the faith because I feel smart doing so” or “I defend the faith because it makes me look good.”
The defense of the faith is not about yourself. The focus is, and should always be, on Christ. Troubles come the way of the defender of the faith. It is not easy to continue to press on towards knowledge and truth. The Christian philosopher faces the scorn of his fellows, and the Christian apologist the ridicule of those who disagree. Yet in such striving, one can rejoice in the salvation of Christ and His glory alone.
It is often too easy to get wrapped up in yourself when you are defending the faith. Look at the people discussing the arguments you make! Look at those who think you are so strong; so faithful; so spiritual! I tell you, Christian brothers and sisters, such glory is nothing to be had in comparison to the glory of Christ crucified.
Further, do we preach the Gospel in such a way as to gainsay others? Paul experienced those who did this very thing; such people are in our midst to this day. Let us not use the Gospel to slander or attack. Rather, let us preach the grace of God.
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 HCSB)
Thus, it is not by ourselves that we spread the Good News. It is God’s work in us, empowering us and enabling us to do His work. We cannot take credit for this, but should always turn our victories back to God. When we are tempted to delight in our own wisdom or knowledge, we must ask for forgiveness and acknowledge that it is from God.
Paul’s warnings ring home to me. I have too often congratulated myself with a successful argument, a sound rebuttal. These things matter not if we do not advance the Kingdom. Let us unite with each other, build each other up, and encourage one another. By doing these things, we can work together, each with his or her strength covering another’s weakness. Let us together hold firmly to the message of life (Phil. 2:16).
Read Philippians 1 and 2. Reflect on Paul’s joy in the spread of the Gospel and his own striving to keep the focus on Christ, not on himself.
Dear Lord God,
Help us to keep our focus always only on you. Please forgive us for the times we struggle and delight in the admiration of others. Forgive us for using your message for our own ends. Help us to forgive others when they stumble, and grant us the grace to lift them up. We work for your glory, oh Lord.
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