In Pretense or Truth?


You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Just keep the main thing the main thing.” We all struggle with doing this, especially when trying to keep our focus on God and his plan rather than on ourselves. In the passage today, the apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of how the goodness of outward actions doesn’t always equate to purity of inward intentions.

  • What motivates you, especially in terms of your relationship with God?


12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 15-18a.)

  1. In verses 15-18, Paul spoke about fellow believers in Christ who were publicly sharing the gospel in Rome. Write down all the contrasting words/phrases he used to describe these two groups of people.
  2. As Paul pointed out in verse 18, God’s truth remained God’s truth regardless of the motivation behind the proclamation; however, the apostle did make distinct observations about the intentions of the heart. Honestly consider what motivates you to share your Christian faith with others. Are there areas of your life where you are using “Jesus speak” or claiming faith in Christ to further your own agenda? How have your attempts to make yourself look better come at the detriment of someone else?
  3. What conscious decision did Paul make in the way he responded to those people trying to harm him? What was the cause of his joy? What can we learn from his example?


Paul’s imprisonment emboldened Roman Christians to share the good news, but some of these believers preached the gospel with the intent of bringing attention to themselves. In their efforts to one-up Paul, they lost sight of the most important thing. While we’d like to think ourselves above this kind of posturing, we must consider this sobering question: How have we shared God’s truth with others in an effort to appear more righteous…more Christian?

  • Ask God to show you the true intent of your heart toward him and his kingdom.
  • Confess ways in which you serve your own interests with Jesus’ name on your lips.
  • Praise God that the gospel is always true, impactful, and life changing in spite of us.