It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 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.
What a strange thing for holy apostle Paul to say! How much stranger that even in the first generation of disciples the spirit of dysangelical competition arises, at a time when there are many still alive whose testimony includes knowing Jesus Christ ‘in the flesh.’ This is before the Church had taken on an institutional form. Even ‘imperial church’ is centuries in the future. Human nature, somehow tricked into the sin of betraying one’s teachers instead of remembering them (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14), asserts itself from the very start. Yet Paul, a genuine apostle, ‘called to be’ what he is, says he rejoices, because ‘Christ is preached,’ no matter what the motivation.
Such incredible faith! He doesn’t stop to fill our ears with recrimination. He doesn’t tell us who is teaching what false doctrine or compare ideologies of salvation. He knows that the Message will get through to those who are looking for it, even if the delivery is ‘from false motives or true.’ The seeds of factionalism sown by the enemy of mankind are always taking root in hearts full of envy and rivalry which, despite their flowering piety and religious fragrance, bear hateful fruit, hidden under biblical foliage. It is a dreadful fruit of judgment that is offered, though it seem ‘good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom’
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
What is lacking in those who take it upon themselves to deceive and be deceived regarding divine things is, as the apostles writes, ‘to fear the Lord’—in modern terms, what we mean by ‘awe’—and that permits them to erect religious prisons in which they bind themselves and others. They may call their creations ‘ministries’ or ‘societies.’ They may paper their walls with Hebrew and Greek to affect an air of antiquity and authority, but they ‘take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart,’ and so betray not only their teachers, who themselves are only disciples, but the Teacher Himself.
Like the apostle before he meets the Lord on the Damascus road, they ‘live for themselves’ while persecuting the believers. As Paul is struck blind by the One whom he is, in fact, persecuting, they regard not only Christ, but the faith, and everyone to whom they preach ‘from a worldly point of view.’ Being thus blinded, even speaking the words of holy and divine scripture, they worship the words they speak, not realizing that ‘all this is from God,’ nor knowing that ‘if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ And what is this ‘new creation’? Christ living among us.
Reconciliation—a word and an idea that eludes them who ‘preach Christ out of envy and rivalry’—is the only ‘ministry’ given to the disciples by the Lord. How can that be? We can do only what we see Jesus doing, and He does only what He sees the Father doing, ‘who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.’ How is this ministry expressed? Reconciliation to God in heaven is accomplished by reconciliation to the brethren on earth. ‘Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen’ (1 John 4:20).
Just as the holy apostles, as various as they were in personality, opinion, educational level and social status, worked together as sýnergoi, co-laborers, without dividing themselves or competing against each other, we live with them and with each other the life of the Holy Triad on earth, ‘not counting people’s sins against them,’ but for the sake of divine love ‘convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died,’ being willing to lay down our lives for each other. This is what the Holy Church was, is, and always shall be, everywhere ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ There is no envy or rivalry among us in the Holy Trinity.
So, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4