Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 18, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:12-19. As always, we have a lot to get through so lets get right to work.
As you can see in our text, this section is about the Gospel. As we start today, I thought it would be wise for us to talk briefly about what the Gospel actually is in its purest sense. The Greek word for gospel is euaggelion. This is where we get out word evangelism. Euaggelion is the word chosen by God to describe the proclamation of the blessings found in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is important to understand that gospel is not just the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but it the declaration of it, the telling of it. This is why gospel can also be translated as good news. News is only news when it is communicated. The gospel is telling of who Jesus is and what He did.
So what should be said when proclaiming the Gospel? Here are six points that
In our text we see Paul say in verse 12, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” So the first question is what has happened? If you recall from previous sermons, this letter by Paul is written while he is chained to a Roman guard. Paul is a prisoner. The practice during those times was to rotate guards about every 6 hours. So in one day Paul would have four different men chained to him for an extended period of time. However, the question is how did Paul get there?
To be honest, it is a long story. But it begins in Acts 21 and ends at the end of the Book of Acts. Due to time we cannot read the whole story, but I encourage each of you to read it on your own tonight. Here is the quick overview.
Around the year 58 A.D. Paul was in Jerusalem and he decided to go to the Temple. A group of Jews from Asia stirred up the crowd against Paul and like a wild mob seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple with the intent to kill him. The Roman officials caught wind of this commotion and sent soldiers to calm things down and they took Paul into custody, which most likely saved his life. From there, Paul’s journey to Rome began, but it was not an uneventful one. It was one that lasted for four years. From the point of his arrest to the point he wrote to the Philippians, it is estimated four years had passed.
Can you imagine this? Can you imagine showing up to Church next Sunday and being drug off and eventually sent to a prison 1,400 miles away? And not only was he imprisoned for four year but during his imprisonment 40 Jews took an oath not to eat or drink until one of them had killed Paul. Obviously, they were unsuccessful. In addition during Paul’s journey as a prisoner to Rome he was shipwrecked and they almost perished. After the shipwreck that soldiers plan was to kill all of the prisoners, Paul included. A Centurion intervened and Paul’s life was spared again. They swam to an island called Malta. While at Malta Paul was bitten by a viper, but he did not die or get sick. This caused the locals to think Paul was a god. Eventually, Paul found his way to Rome, where Paul continued to be chained to a guard for the next two years.
This is the “what has happened to me” that Paul is referring to in verse 12. My guess is that this extreme journey was not one that Paul had intricately coordinated and structure. It was not his orchestration. It was something that Paul found himself in the midst of. They question is, was this just bad luck? Was this just a series of unfortunate events? Was this an obstacle that interfered with God’s calling? Was Satan winning? Absolutely not.
This was God’s doing. It was God’s agenda. This was the pathway by which Paul was going to take the gospel to the gentiles. Listen to what Jesus told Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:15.
No matter what Satan throws our way, whether it is an angry mob at work, government oppression, broken down transportation, or unexpected snake bites, we must remember that God is not absent from these things, but he uses them for good, so that people will live by believing in Jesus Christ.
What is interesting about the gospel is that it is not like any other news. It is not like reading the newspaper or watching the local news. The Gospel is not just informative, but it is transformative.
Some of you have heard a statement that is attributed to Sir Francis of Assisi that goes like this, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” First, there is no evidence that Francis ever said this. Second, it is not biblical. The correct statement should be, “Preach the gospel at all times, use the word.”
Just look at our text for today: “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 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 rivalry, 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.”
The gospel must be proclaimed. We must take courage and do what Christ calls us to do, to bear witness of him, to testify of him to preach him, to proclaim him. This is the beginning step of making disciples.
Because Paul had been given the eyes to see the beauty and worth of Jesus. When Paul gazed upon his Christ, everything else looked like garbage. He saw Jesus in his exultation and his humiliation. He saw him as the Lion and the Lamb. He saw him as Sovereign God and obedient servant. He saw him as Savior and His King, who bled and died for him so that he could live with Him for all eternity with fullness of Joy and pleasures forevermore.
Does this describe your heart? Do you rejoice knowing that the name of Jesus is being proclaimed throughout the world? Do you long to hear stories from your fellow Church members of preaching Christ at work? If not, I encourage you to pursue the knowledge that is Jesus.
Many of you may not realize this, but our slogan at Cornerstone Church is “Pursuing, Treasuring and Proclaiming the Glory of God.” Once you are born again, I truly believe this is the everyday sequence of events in your Christian life. We pursue the knowledge of God. We do that in two ways, the Word and the Spirit. This in turn causes us to see the beauty and worth of the Trinity. The more we fall in love with God, the more we tell others about Him.
Imagine if we were a Church of 100 Pauls. There is no reason we can't be. Talk about the gospel advancing. We should be like those who were encouraged to speak Christ more boldly due to Paul's imprisonment. Let's pray that God would make it happen.