“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
As Paul writes this letter of thanks to his brethren in Philippi, he encourages them to be diligent in their Christian walk, and, at the same time, he presents an optimistic slant on his own situation. He doesn’t want them to be discouraged because he is in a Roman prison.
In fact, he explains to them that his imprisonment has been a positive force in spreading the gospel in Rome. Because his own movement is restricted, brethren there have stepped up and have become more courageous and more aggressive in spreading the Word.
It is easy to put a discouraging slant on a negative situation, but Paul here gives us an example of being optimistic in a situation that appears to be bad. Our thoughts usually are that all conditions need to be wonderful if we are to accomplish anything for the Lord. Paul shows the opposite attitude here.
“But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11).
In every age of time, God has always demanded that His followers be honest and forthright. He has never condoned hypocrisy. In this passage, the Apostle Paul is the instrument God uses to confront the Apostle Peter for eating with Gentiles when Jews are not present but separating himself from Gentiles when Jews are present.
Since it has been about ten years since Peter violated Jewish tradition by entering the house of a Gentile—Cornelius—and then offering the gospel to him, Peter’s behavior here is confusing. Paul openly rebukes Peter for his actions.
This passage is only one of several that illustrates the necessity for Christians to be consistent in their behavior and actions at all times and in every kind of situation.
We cannot please God if we are hypocritical—that is, if we act one way when we are with other Christians and another way when we are in the presence of unbelievers.
“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14).
Many times in scripture, the word bitter is associated with food or taste but also many times it is used as a metaphor to describe extreme jealousy. It is used in the latter way here.
Bitterness in the scriptures is symbolic of affliction, misery, servitude, or wickedness or it can mean a harsh and hateful attitude. Envy means jealousy. So “bitter envy” describes one who is jealous of a fellow Christian and has a seriously hateful attitude toward him. This attitude comes from one who is trying to promote himself.
James says don’t boast about such an attitude because when one does so He is “lying against the truth,” meaning he is only deceiving himself about the reality of the situation.
Heeding admonition like that found here will do as much to get one’s heart in the right place as any teaching that can be found in any other scriptures. Bitterness can work to destroy a person’s heart and can cause him to lose focus about what is really important and what is beneficial spiritually.