Paul Shares His Ministry and Goals
So: What is Going On with Paul?
© C. O. Bishop, 10/21/17 Cornell Estates 10/22/17
Last week we examined Paul’s prayer-list for the believers at Philippi. Initially, he didn’t say much about his own needs, which is impressive, since he was languishing in a Roman prison. I whine every day to God, asking for my own needs to be met, as well as those of others. Paul was not apparently all that concerned about his own situation, though in some other passages (Ephesians 6:19, 20, for example) he did ask that he would be given the words to speak the message of the Gospel boldly, and in an appropriate way. But here, he only briefly commented on his own plight, and more specifically on the result it was having as regarding the message of the Gospel.
I think we can see a pattern, here: in Ephesians, he asked prayer that he would be bold to speak the message; in Romans 15:20, we see that his whole focus was to take the Gospel where people had not heard it. (Yea, so have I strived to preach the Gospel not where Christ was named…”) And, here in Philippians, his concern over his own imprisonment is regarding how it will affect the spread of the Gospel.
The Result of Paul’s Imprisonment: The Furtherance of the Gospel.
12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
The believers in Philippi already knew that Paul was in prison. But, evidently, the news had spread all over the region, with differing responses among the hearers. In essence, the overall effect of his imprisonment was both local and widespread fame regarding the Gospel. People had heard that he was in prison for the sake of the Gospel. That made them interested to know just what it was he had been preaching. And it also inspired other believers to get outside their comfort zone and re-share that same message on their own.
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
“Waxing confident by my bonds!” What a statement! This, then, is the result of persecution! I have always read that, historically, the persecuted church has always flourished, even if it meant becoming the underground church. One effect of persecution is the purging of the church: those who are just “hangers-on”, and who have never placed their trust in the Gospel, because they have no root, fall away. Jesus predicted precisely this result. He allegorized the hot sun as being the persecution. But to plants with healthy root systems, the hot sun is not as much of a threat: it warms the soil and causes even greater growth. So, in this case, Paul’s imprisonment emboldened the Church.
Preaching for Wrong Motives
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
There was another category, though; one I have a hard time understanding. Paul said that there were people who imagined that they would make his punishment greater if they added to the “damage” by furthering the message of the Gospel. Perhaps there is some obscure facet of Roman law, by which he would be judged more guilty, if the effect of the Gospel was more widespread. So, perhaps they thought they could pile up the punishment against him. It doesn’t seem logical to my Western thoughts, but perhaps that was the case. Paul stated that those individuals thought they would add punishment, or affliction, to the chains he already wore. Paul got a big grin out of that, because they were evidently actually preaching the true Gospel, not some false version of it…and he was delighted that the message was going out, regardless of the motive.
Is it possible for someone to preach Christ out of wrong motives today? Yes, it actually is. I know a young man who was born again, listening to the message preached by a televangelist who is not known for the faithful treatment of God’s Word. He has publically been proven a liar on many occasions, but he continues to preach…why? Because he gets a lot of money sent to him by his followers, in spite of his evil deceit. Somehow my friend was listening with his heart, and God used this false prophet to send a true message. All Glory to God for such miracles!
There was a movie made, years ago, called “Marjoe”…I have been told about it a number of times, but have never seen it. It was about a travelling evangelist (Marjoe Gortner) in the American South, who was only in the ministry for money, and made very little secret of it. But, oddly, he actually did preach the Gospel, at least part of the time, and I had a pastor friend tell me that he knew a man who was saved under that false teacher’s ministry. He heard God’s Word, believed in the shed blood of Jesus, and was saved. Guess what, folks! That is the only way anyone has ever been saved. So the sincerity (or insincerity) in the preacher is not the real issue…it is entirely possible for an unbeliever to lead a lost soul to Christ. God’s Word and the core message of the Gospel is all that saves.
Paul knew that truth, and was pleased that the Gospel was going out. He didn’t worry about the motive. (I would have been quite annoyed by the motive, at least, and suspicious that the message would be corrupted. Evidently he had heard enough to know they were accurately transmitting the message, and simply rejoiced that it was being transmitted.
Now, how will that affect the eternal state of the false teacher who inadvertently led others to Christ? He will simply be eternally responsible for knowing the truth, and failing to believe it.
Preaching for Right Motives
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
18 What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Some of the believers, then, became more confident in their faith, serving God more openly, knowing the risk they took in doing so. They were becoming more active participants in the work of evangelism. They respected, admired and loved Paul, and were driven by his imprisonment to redouble their efforts to be honest workmen for The Lord. They wanted to make the price paid be worth the effort. If Paul had to suffer, they wanted the values he espoused and the message to which he was committed, to be spread across the known world! They were preaching out of Love…specifically, Agape love.
That is the motive we are to have in preaching, as well. We are to preach the Gospel out of Love. Not the love of money, as Marjoe Gortner did, and as many false teachers on the radio and television do today: we are warned against that motive. Our love for Christ, and his love through us, for the unsaved around us, are to be our only motivation in every case.
I never knew the Apostle Paul, so I can’t say I am preaching out of appreciation for Paul’s ministry, much as I may admire him. I teach and preach out of love and obedience to Christ. He changes my heart toward the world around me, as well, because, I can honestly say that, without him, I would find the human race so frustrating and so exasperating, that I would feel just fine about their being headed for an eternity in Hell! That is the character of my old sin nature! “Pull up the ladder: I’m in! Let everyone else be lost!” What an ungrateful response to the Gospel! Doesn’t the recipient of Grace bear the responsibility to share it with others? But, so often, we are quite willing to let everyone else be lost, because they offend us!
I actually had a young man tell me this, before I was a believer: he was a young believer, himself, and did not like me: He said “Chet, as far as I’m concerned, you’re going to Hell, and that is just too bad!” He definitely meant it exactly as it sounds. He apologized for it later, but I remember it clearly today. And I understand how he felt. Only God can change our hearts and make us love the fallen race of man, enough to risk preaching the Gospel, and enough to drop our own comfort and reach out to someone else’s benefit.
What can I do?
- I can make sure I actually understand the Gospel, well enough to share it with others.
- I can pray for the opportunity to share it with others.
- I can actively look for those opportunities to share the Gospel with others.
- I can faithfully step up to the opportunity and make the attempt, praying for the Holy Spirit to lead me as I go.
There is no reason you cannot do this. As believers, we have been given the responsibility of drawing others to saving faith in Jesus’s shed blood at the Cross. We have been given the example of those who did so in the face of persecution. We are under virtually no danger of persecution today, and yet we hesitate. Give this some thought: Ask yourself why you are hesitating. Then, whatever the reason is, compare that with the definite likelihood that your neighbor may spend a Christless Eternity without that one last chance to receive the gift of eternal life. Is it a good trade? Is it really so uncomfortable that you are still unwilling to try?
Lord Jesus, fill our hearts with your great Love for the lost, and help us to cast aside our fears. We fear rejection, so we are willing to let our friends and neighbors be lost. Help us to repent from this sin, and move forward in obedience.