The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who life like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Selfish ambition stems from fleshly desires, wrong motives to “earn” our faith or “out-do” each other. This trait is listed amongst other human vices in 2 Corinthians 12:20, Philippians 1:17 and Romans 2:8. Paul instructed the Philippians to “do nothing of selfish ambition” in Philippians 2:3, and James warns against this vice in James 3:14, 16. (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Ambition.) The same Greek word, “erithea,”(Strong’s 2052) is used in those Biblical passages. It is defined as a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit.
Every ambitious act is not rooted in selfishness. Paul says in Romans 15:20, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.”
Paul’s end goal was to honor God, not himself. The New American Standard Bible uses the English word “aspiration” instead of “ambition” in Romans 15:20: “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel…” Aspiration more accurately defines Paul’s aim to share the gospel of Christ. The Greek definition of aspiration is an earnest striving rooted in and motivated by honor and love. (Strongs 5389) One definition of aspiration simply read, “breathing in.” We’re called to share the Gospel as easily and automatically as we breathe. Not just by what we say, but how we live.
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