The Advance of the Gospel

June 5, 2016     |     text: Philippians 1:12-18

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About this time last year I preached a three part series titled What is the Gospel? In the final message of that series (May 27, 2015) I said that the Gospel is both our privilege and our obligation. We are privileged to have received it, to have benefited by it, to have been born again. We were dead to sin but now alive to God and this through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also have an obligation to the Gospel because led by the Holy Spirit and having the mind of Christ in us, our desire is for other people to receive it as well. As glad as we were to receive it we should be eager to share it with others. It is a privilege and an obligation and no one understood this better than the Apostle Paul.

Our Wednesday evening Bible study has just begun Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I frequently reference a group of verses in Phil. 2 and good biblical scholarship demands that we study those verses in their proper context. You can’t just pluck a verse of scripture and understand what it means. We must consider not only what the words of that verse say, keeping mind there were no verses or chapters when it was written, but think about who was writing, to whom and why those words were written. We have to know something of the history and culture of the original audience in order to fully understand the original meaning of the scriptures and how they apply to us. So on Wednesday evenings we will study Philippians verse by verse and this morning want to grasp one single thought: Nothing matter more to Paul than preaching the Gospel.

Christ was Preached The ESV labels this passage “The Advance of the Gospel” while the New King James gives it the heading “Christ is Preached.” Paul never talks about the gospel apart from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The two cannot be divorced from one another. He wrote in 1 Corinthians “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2) He explains that he did not come to Corinth with lofty speech and wisdom because he did not want their faith to be in the wisdom of man but in the power of God. Paul knows by the time he writes to the church at Philippi they will have heard of his imprisonment. He assures them that what has happened to him has been for the best. The entire imperial guard has heard the gospel and others preach with more boldness because of Paul’s imprisonment. He goes as far as to say that even if Christ is proclaimed for the wrong reason he has rejoiced and will rejoice because Christ is proclaimed!

Christ Must be Preached Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church in the early days of its history. The church that began in Jerusalem in Acts 2 was just beginning to grow and spread. Those early believers in the resurrection didn’t even know what to call themselves; there are references to the Way being used to describe their beliefs before the term Christian came about. Peter and John stood before the council in Acts 4 and filled with the Holy Spirit proclaimed a lame man was healed by the power of Jesus whom they had crucified. Paul preached before kings and reasoned with the Greek philosophers that Jesus was the messiah. All of these things happened in the early days of the church before their were mission boards and annual conventions. We live in a time when the church is well established. The resurrection isn’t something new that people are hearing about for the first time. Some people don’t want to hear about it anymore. We live in a highly commercialized society where everything is marketed and branded. We can tune in to Christian radio stations, attended Christian retreats, get Christian marital counseling, watch Christian movies, give and receive Christian gifts, wear Christian clothing, etc. We need to be careful – we must be deliberate and intentional – that the church is not just a marketplace for Christian culture. I’m not saying don’t listen to Christian radio or stop going to the Christian bookstore. What I’m saying is that Christianity is a not a commodity that we are dealing. Our friends, family and neighbors need to know that the church isn’t just a place to get CD’s and embroidered Bible covers. How do we do that? We share the gospel. We tell people, in honest and genuine terms, what Jesus has done to change our lives. We can dress church up like it’s cool and try to sell it. You can’t redress Jesus on the cross as anything else. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) Peter wasn’t handing out Chic tracts; Paul didn’t have a website you could visit. None of them had anything with their logo printed on it. Jesus was dead. They buried him in a tomb. Three days later he was alive again. That’s more important, more powerful, more life changing than pizza and basketball on Wednesday night or a three day seminar on principles to build a successful business.

“I decided to know nothing among you except  Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We live in an information age in which we can hold in our hand the combined wisdom of all human history, and we use it to argue with strangers and share funny cat videos. All of the things I listed – the Christian bookstores, and radio stations, online seminars and training conferences – they are resources. They are powerful tools but can only be useful in the hands of people that understand how to use them. The same hammer can be used to build or to destroy. We live in a period of history in which the church is well established. None of us were born in A.D. 30 and there is nothing we can do about that. We must make sure as we continue to build the church that we are constantly returning to the one sure foundation. Jesus said “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” We need to focus. The Donald and the Hillary will distract us. The bathroom debate may not be worthless but it divides our focus and takes time and energy from things that matter a lot more. Hear the Gospel. Share the Gospel. Rejoice that Christ is proclaimed.

Peace and God bless.

About Clark Bunch

Pastor (Unity Baptist) author (God is Near) husband, father, blogger, coffee enthusiast.
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