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Philippians 2: “Petty Pastors” (1:12-20)

You would think that all pastors would be the paradigm of emotional maturity. But Paul writes about some pastors that are petty, mean-spirited, and competitive. What can we learn from them?

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Here are my sermon notes. God bless!


  • This is a surprising sermon. I would not have chosen this topic!
  • We’re going to have a lot of fun!
  • We’re also going to see some deep heart-truths, to lead us to deeper maturity in Christ


  • With “now I want you to know,” Paul is signalling to his readers that he is getting to the real reason of his letter
  • Paul informs them that he is in prison
    • We don’t know where he is in prison: either in Rome or in Ephesus
    • Paul has been in prison before, and will be again!
  • Paul wants to let his readers know not to worry, because:

1. The Gospel is being preached all the more because of his imprisonment

2. Paul is expecting to be released, so that he can keep preaching! 

(He’ll talk more about that next week)

  • …in between, we have this interesting discussion of good and bad pastors

(Read text)

Opening Thoughts:

  • First glance, may think, “These are not Christians” 
    • After all, Paul elsewhere talks about false teachers (3:2)
    • …but no. They are “preaching the gospel” (1:15, 1:18)
    • …so who are these people?
  • Two types of people: good and bad examples, but both preaching
    • Works very nicely into a comparison chart

Two Kinds of Ministers

Healthy Pastors

Preach from goodwill

…out of love…

…in truth…

knowing Paul has been appointed to defend the Gospel 

Petty Pastors

Preach from envy & strife

…out of selfish ambition…

…in pretence…

thinking to cause Paul distress,
in his imprisonment

Petty People:

  • We all know people like this, right?
  • They are the ones that make work, family gatherings, etc. so….interesting!

Sometimes, we call them “immature”

…because these attitudes are more common in younger kids

…because most people grow out of it

…(but some do not!)

Sometimes, we call them “insecure”

…because as they mature, most people learn to find their security in:

– Key relationships (family, long-term friends)

– Their faith, worldview, or inner identity

…and learn to take themselves less seriously

– They learn to laugh, lighten up, have fun

– They take failure, and success, with grace

…and stop the silly competitions that are so “childish”

“I got there first! I win! I get to get into the car first! No, I do! I did my job first. No, I did! Cheater! I didn’t cheat, you did!”

…when we grow up, most put these things behind us…but some don’t!

Sometimes we call them “narcisistic” 

…because no matter the subject, it’s all, always all about them!

– “Did you know that Paul has planted a new church?”

– “Big deal! I planted one too.”

– “Did you know that Paul shared the Gospel with the whole Preatorian 


– “Big deal — I’ve shared the gospel to the whole city! 

– “Oh no! Did you hear that Paul was in prison?”

– “Oh, that’s great! Now I’m definitely going to make more converts than 


– “Did you hear anything I just said?”

– “What do you mean? I was listening. I said I was going to plant a church, 

and make more converts than Paul.”

– “But I wasn’t talking about you!”

…somehow, for these sorts of people, it always all ends up being about 


  • …but it’s not this way for all of those preaching the Gospel

Healthy Pastors

…the healthy pastors…

1. Preach from goodwill

  • Able to say, “truly, I wish you well!” (even if they are better than them)
  • (In Romans 12:14: bless those who curse you: “bless and do not curse.” If we bless those who curse us…can we also bless those who are better than us?)

…where does this goodwill come from?

2. …in love…

  • This is “agape” love: others-entered love
  • This is “putting others first” (2:3) as Paul says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;”
  • This is what Paul modelled in a small way in his introduction
  • Paul will talk more fully about this in the heart of his letter, in chapter 2

(these are people that deeply cared about the Gospel)

…they deeply believed that:

  1. The world is lost
  2. Our good works are not good enough
  3. God Himself has made a way of salvation
  4. You can be saved, and have peace with God right. now!

…there is no message bigger than this!

…there is no mission bigger than this!

…there is no motivation bigger than this!

(because if you really believed that Jesus saves, and loved your neighbour, wouldn’t you want to share that good news?”)

…which leads to…

3. …Preaching the Gospel in truth

  • This is sharing the Gospel because they believe that:
    • It is true
    • Paul has been appointed to defend it
    • He can’t now, so others need to step up and carry the torch


…and so we have these two groups of people…

Two Kinds of Ministers

Healthy Pastors

Preach from goodwill

…out of love…

…in truth…

knowing Paul has been appointed to defend the Gospel 

Petty Pastors

Preach from envy & strife

…out of selfish ambition…

…in pretence…

thinking to cause Paul distress,
in his imprisonment

…let’s see what we can learn from this…


  1. This is weird
    1. Pastors should be the most godly, mature people around!
    2. Sadly, sometimes they are not (or sometimes they are, but have bad days)
    3. …and sometimes, they have something to say, even if they are somewhat emotionally immature, or can struggle with narcisim, pride, etc. (as we all do) 
    4. Jesus says in Matthew 23:3, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”
      1. …when someone speaks the truth, listen to that!
      2. …and if their life doesn’t line up, learn to “do as they say, and not as they do” (which is one of the most difficult things you will ever learn to do!)
    5. Application: “Learn, even from hypocrites”
  2. This is supposed to be funny!
    1. These people are being ridiculous!
    2. It is silly to compete about saving souls!
    3. Paul wins anyways! (They are preaching more because of Paul!)
    4. There is a deep irony here:
    5. They are trying to distress Paul, but the more they do, the more he rejoices, because he cares more about people hearing about Jesus than he does about his own fame!
    6. …and so it’s funny!
    7. …and sometimes, that is the best thing to do with immature people
      1. When a child throws a tempter-tantrum, the best thing to do is laugh, ignore them, or leave the room. “Don’t play their game!” 
      2. When an adult throws a tempter tantrum…? 
      3. Laughing in their face is probably not the best strategy, but don’t play their game. Be bigger than that. 
        1. We can get sucked in!
        2. “If I do this, then he will think I’m doing it just to spite him. But if I don’t succeed, then maybe he’ll think I took it easy on him, just to make him feel better. So…what should I do?”
        3. …just do what God is telling you to do! And if someone is bothered by your success, quietly laugh, shake your head, and pray for them. The end.
      4. Laugh at manipulation  
  3. This is completely unnecessary
    1. This section of the letter is meant to communicate that:
      1. Paul is in prison (1:12) and is praying for release (1:19)
      2. Sandwiched in-between is all this….
        1. Humorous information
        2. About people Paul won’t name
        3. Far from Philippi 
        4. Who are doing things that won’t affect them
        5. …why did he do that? 
          1. It wasn’t for no reason, I guarantee that!
          2. Papyrus was expensive, and very time-consuming to write
          3. Every word of this letter was painstakingly:
            1. Thought through
            2. Dictated to a stenographer
            3. Who wrote it onto a wax-tablet
            4. Edited and revised
            5. Painstakingly written onto expensive papyrus
            6. No words were wasted: all words are inspired. Why are they there?
      3. Is this like a father, that tells a tale, then doesn’t tell the moral?
        1. “Oh, is this really a story about how I need to clean my room?”
        2. “Oh, is this really a story about how I shouldn’t scream unless I’m really in trouble?”
        3. …why yes, yes it is!
      4. The real reason that Paul is giving these stories is that he wants to pull the Philippians’ hearts…and our hearts…to consider times when we are like this
        1. Because it is always easier to see the flaws in others
        2. …especially our leaders
        3. …especially our christian leaders
        4. …but that once we see those flaws, we need to turn inwards,
        5. “in what ways am I being immature, narcissistic, self-centered, competitive, easily offended, petty, and mean?”
        6. …and so my last challenge to us is, “Love well,
          1. How do you know when you are loving well?
          2. Are you, “rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping when they weep?” (Romans 12:15)
          3. …and do you consider others as more important than yourself? (Philippians 2:3)

…let us pray…

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