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How powerful is the Gospel? The short, often misunderstood passage of Philippians 1:12-18 gives us a real glimpse. Never underestimate the simple proclamation that Christ has been crucified for sinners. Even in the hands of the enemies of the Cross, the Gospel cannot be de-fanged.
More on that today on Through the Word in 2020. I’m your host, Reid Ferguson.
Along with the passage already noted, our reading today includes 1 Chronicles 5:23–7:13 and Luke 3:23–4:13. But as already noted I want us to think a bit on Paul’s statement in vs. 18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Note first that the power of the Gospel is not dependent upon the character of the one who delivers it – but upon the God whose unfailing promise is bound up in it. It is true – Jesus saves sinners, whether a righteous man gives the Gospel, or a most far-gone profligate does. The power rests in the Gospel itself.
But note, this passage is not condoning those who preach the Gospel falsely or out of evil motives. That is sometimes the way this passage is read. But that isn’t really Paul’s point.
Yes, Paul can delight that the Gospel gets preached regardless, but this is in no way an endorsement of such misuse. Nor that we should ignore those who claim to be servants of Christ who nevertheless preach the Gospel, but whose lives openly contradict it. So we read in Titus 1:16 –
Such are to be exposed and soundly rebuked.
Because God CAN use cancer to bring one to himself, is not a tacit endorsement that therefore all cancer is good and is to be celebrated. Such confusion leads to all manner of falsehoods and poor judgments. This passage does not teach that we should simply ignore wicked men in their wickedness because the Gospel somehow still gets preached.
If that’s so, then what IS this passage about?
Those “preaching” the Gospel out of envy and rivalry here are not pretend gospelers, not charlatans, but those who in the process of persecuting Paul must articulate what it is in his message they object to. They are either Jewish persecutors trying to divert people away from the Gospel, or Gentile persecutors, trying to bring people back to their false gods. In the process, they must declare that Paul preaches a salvation by Christ alone through faith alone. They must point out he preaches a Christ crucified for sins – and these things in opposition to their own views. These are not pretenders, they are persecutors.
And so great is our God, He can use both the persecutors and the pretenders in getting the message of this glorious Gospel preached.
Take heart Christian – one way or another – the Gospel WILL prevail.
It isn’t the message bearer, nor the intent of the messenger’s heart and mind that give the Gospel its power. Its power is its own.
What a comfort then to us in our sometimes very feeble attempts at sharing the Gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The effectiveness of the message is not dependent upon us – the message itself – by the agency of the Holy Spirit – is sufficient to save the lost.
Sow the Word. And let the Lord bring forth the harvest.
God bless. And God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.