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Paul: Joy in Spite of Detractors



“Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

It is possible to maintain your joy even while dealing with criticisms and irritating distractions.

The dictionary definition of detraction is “the uttering of material (as false or slanderous charges) that is likely to damage the reputation of another.” A detractor wants to undermine and destroy the good name and credibility of another. Great statesmen, such as President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, often have been the targets of contentious political opponents and stinging detractions by the press.

For the church, the most difficult criticism has arisen from within, from false professors who once claimed to support it and its leaders. Paul came to know the disappointment and distress of being torn down when his detractors at Philippi assailed him even while he sat in prison. But he is a model of how one can rise above such pain and discouragement.

Paul’s main detractors (Phil. 1:15) were his fellow preachers who proclaimed the same gospel as he did. They were not at odds with him over doctrine but over personal matters. Paul’s detractors were envious of his ministry gifts and the way God had blessed his efforts with many converts and numerous churches.

Contending with the detractors at Philippi was not a completely new trial for Paul. He had previously learned patience in dealing with the letdowns caused by other supposed supporters (see 2 Tim. 1:15; 4:16). Now his opponents were testing his patience to the extreme as they sought to destroy his credibility with his supporters.

The detractors’ tactics might have unsettled the faith of some in the churches, but not Paul’s confidence. He stood up to all the unpleasantness with joy because, as our verse indicates, he knew the cause of Christ was still being advanced.

Paul’s exemplary behavior under fire provides an obvious lesson for us: no amount of false and unfair criticism should steal our joy in Christ and His gospel. And we can keep rejoicing if we, like Paul, stay devoted to our top priority, proclaiming and glorifying the name of Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that the gospel and its power are strong enough to overcome any amount of jealous detraction. Pray that you would stay focused on gospel priorities.

For Further Study

Read Nehemiah 4—6.

  • How did Nehemiah deal with the detractors to his work?
  • What was the eventual outcome (6:16)?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.