John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 1:16 - 1:16

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - Philippians 1:16 - 1:16


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16Some, I say, from contention. Here we have a lengthened detail, in which he explains more fully the foregoing statement; for he repeats that there are two classes of men that are stirred up by his bonds to preach Christ — the one influenced by contention, that is, by depraved affection — the other by pious zeal, as being desirous to maintain along with him the defense of the gospel. The former, he says, do not preach Christ purely, because it was not a right zeal. (68) For the term does not apply to doctrine, because it is possible that the man who teaches most purely, may, nevertheless, not be of a sincere mind. (69) Now, that this impurity was in the mind, and did not shew itself in doctrine, may be inferred from the context. Paul assuredly would have felt no pleasure in seeing the gospel corrupted; yet he declares that he rejoices in the preaching of those persons, while it was not simple or sincere.

It is asked, however, how such preaching could be injurious to him? I answer, that many occasions are unknown to us, inasmuch as we are not acquainted with the circumstances of the times. It is asked farther, “ the gospel cannot be preached but by those that understand it, what motive induced those persons to persecute the doctrine of which they approved?” I answer, that ambition is blind, nay, it is a furious beast. Hence it is not to be wondered if false brethren snatch a weapon from the gospel for harassing good and pious pastors. (70) Paul, assuredly, says nothing here (71) of which I have not myself had experience. For there are living at this very day those who have preached the gospel with no other design, than that they might gratify the rage of the wicked by persecuting pious pastors. As to Paul’ enemies, it is of importance to observe, if they were Jews, how mad their hatred was, so as even to forget on what account they hated him. For while they made it their aim to destroy him, they exerted themselves to promote the gospel, on account of which they were hostile to him; but they imagined, no doubt, that the cause of Christ would stand or fall (72) in the person of one individual. If, however, there were envious persons, (73) who were thus hurried away by ambition, we ought to acknowledge the wonderful goodness of God, who, notwithstanding, gave such a prosperous issue to their depraved affections.



(68) “Pource que leur zele n’ pas pur;” — “ their zeal was not pure.”

(69) “Il se pent bien faire, que celuy qui enseignera vne doctrine pure et saine, aura toutesfois vne mauvaise affection;” — “ may quite well happen, that the man who teaches pure and sound doctrine, will have, nevertheless, an evil disposition.”

(70) “Certes le sainct Apostre ne dit rien yci;” — “ the holy Apostle says nothing here.”

(71) “Il ne se faut esbahir si les faux-freres prenent occasion de l’ et s’ s’ forgent des bastons pour tormenter les bons et fideles pasteurs;” — “ ought not to appear surprising, if false brethren take occasion from the gospel, and contrive weapons for themselves for torturing good and faithful pastors.”

(72) “Mais voyla: il leur sembloit que la doctrine consistoit ou tomboit bas;” — “ mark! it seemed to them that doctrine stood or fell.”

(73) “Que si c’ d’ que Juifs, ascauoir quelques enuieux de Sainct Paul;” — “ if there were other than Jews — some that were envious of St. Paul.”