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nChrist
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« on: June 18, 2007, 10:05:35 PM »

The Victory of the Gospel

By Paul M. Sadler


"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Phil. 1:12).

There is probably no other subject that brings more joy to the believer than the gospel. The word itself is music to our ears. What lofty victories have been won through the centuries as the good news of Christ and Him crucified made inroads into the affairs of men. But who will deny that the measure of our resolve to win lost souls to Christ is not always what it should be, especially when we consider Paul, who turned the world upside down. More often than not, we have a defeatist attitude when it comes to evangelism.

A lesson from ancient history may give us some help in this regard. You will recall when Daniel unfolded the progressive revelation regarding the "times of the Gentiles," he likened the "third world empire" to a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings. If you picture a leopard in your mind's eye for a moment, you have probably envisioned the swiftness of a large cat sweeping across the plain in pursuit of its prey. Put four wings on his back and he is portrayed as striking with lightning speed.

As history bears out, this is a remarkably accurate description of Alexander the Great who was the mastermind behind the Grecian Empire. It is said that he would have his armies march for days on end simply to surprise the enemy. Interestingly, as Alexander was marching on Persia, it looked as if the great empire was about to crumble, as it later did before his armies. There was a critical moment, however, which nearly resulted in disaster. The army had taken spoils of silver, gold, and other treasures in such quantities that the soldiers were literally weighed down with them. Alexander gathered all the treasures together in one great pile and set them on fire.

The soldiers were furious, but it was not long before they realized the wisdom of their leader. It was as if wings had been given to them - they walked lightly again. The campaign proceeded to victory. [1]

Brethren, if we expect to have victory in our proclamation of the gospel, we must first relieve ourselves of the things of this world. They will weigh us down. A good soldier of Jesus Christ must never entangle "himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (II Tim. 2:4). Armed with this truth, we must also follow Paul who is the divine example today of how to properly evangelize the lost to Christ.

THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD

The saints at Philippi and the Apostle Paul had a very close relationship in Christ. When they learned he had been imprisoned in Rome, they were naturally concerned for his well-being. Apparently, word had reached the apostle that they were devastated by the news, which prompted him to respond to their concern for him.

You see, Paul was a firm believer in the providence of God. Providence is "God's faithful and effective care and guidance of everything which He has made." Things simply don't happen by chance, God is working through us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13 cf. II Tim. 1:9). He has a plan and purpose for our lives and ministries. While this runs contrary to self, which desires to be in control of every situation, the apostle's response to such unsound reasoning was: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).

The providence of God is clearly seen in both the early and latter ministries of the apostle as he sought to evangelize the lost to Christ. During the course of Paul's second apostolic journey, Paul and Silas attempted to advance the gospel eastward into Asia, but were forbidden by the Holy Spirit. As they moved westward to Mysia, they tried to go north to Bithynia, but again were prohibited by the Spirit. Finally, after arriving at Troas, the apostle received the vision of a man praying: "Come over into Macedonia, and help us."
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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2007, 10:08:38 PM »

The Victory of the Gospel

By Paul M. Sadler

There was no question in Paul's mind that this was the Lord's leading, for Luke records, "immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them" (Acts 16:6-12). God indeed was pointing the way, for the farther west the gospel of the grace of God spread, the warmer its reception. Simply because we are living in the administration of Grace does not mean that God is out of touch with His creation or the Church, the Body of Christ. He is still sovereign! (I Tim. 1:17 cf. 6:15,16).

Years later, it must have seemed as though everything was collapsing around the apostle when he was unjustly jailed in Caesarea. He suffered through one miscarriage of justice after another before appealing to Caesar, which narrowly spared his life. Then, on the way to Rome, he endured a catastrophic shipwreck that landed him on a pagan island where he was bitten by a venomous snake. Upon arriving in Rome, he faced a number of false charges, each of which carried serious consequences. But Paul realized that all these things were according to God's plan and purpose.

Here we are given some insight into Paul's manner of life, specifically in regard to his attitude in times of adversity. How would you have responded if placed in a similar set of circumstances? There are usually one of two responses at such times: "Lord, after all these years of faithful service, why have you forsaken me? Why me? It's just not fair!!" Or, "What is God teaching me through these distressing circumstances? How can I glorify Him?" Paul's approach was the latter. He looked upon times of adversity as opportunities to share the gospel. In other words, he had a new audience that he would not have had otherwise.

What appeared to be setbacks, humanly speaking, providentially resulted in the furtherance of the gospel. The term "furtherance" here has the idea to "cut beforehand" in the original language. We might liken it to the advance team who clears the way over a mountain pass so a road can be built. The things that had happened to the apostle gave him access to Rome's seat of power. It was a groundbreaking effort that prepared the way for others to follow. Think of it, Paul had admittance to Caesar's household, at Rome's expense! Amazing!

As a result, Paul adds that his "bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places." The palace here is the Greek praitorion, which in this context is not merely a reference to a place, but a brigade - the imperial guard. This was an elite group of soldiers who were highly trained to protect the royal household. They were the cream of the crop! The Secret Service Agents who protect the President of the United States would be comparable to this select unit.

Julius, the centurion who escorted the apostle to Rome, was a member of this special force called Augustus' Band (Acts 27:1). Although Paul was the prisoner, Julius and the others of this inner-circle were a captive audience as they heard again and again how Christ had died for their sins. At first they most likely concluded that Paul was mad. But as they beheld the sincerity of his love for lost souls, and the passion with which he proclaimed the Cross, the gospel gradually chipped away at their stony hearts of flesh. Victory! A number of this elite unit came to a knowledge of the truth and were saved (Acts 27:1,3,43; 28:16 cf. Phil. 1:13; 4:22).

Rome could bind the apostle, but it could not bind the Word of God! Its greatest hindrance is often the child of God who is reluctant to speak due to the fear of men. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2007, 10:10:07 PM »

The Victory of the Gospel

By Paul M. Sadler

FRIENDLY FIRE

The one regret the apostle had was the sad reality that only many, not all, of the saints at Rome were zealously evangelizing the lost to Christ. As some of these dear saints beheld Paul staring into the face of death, while maintaining a clear Christian testimony, they were emboldened by his courageous stand. Persecution is often the torch that sets souls on fire for the things of the Lord. In 1934 when Pastor Stam's older brother, John, and his wife, Betty, suffered martyrdom at the hands of the communist Chinese, hundreds of couples were compelled to train for the mission field. In John and Betty's absence, they took up the torch and carried the gospel around the world. As it has been said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

While there were those at Rome who highly esteemed Paul's apostleship and message, others were envious of his fruitful ministry. Envy is the feeling of displeasure produced by observing the advantage or prosperity of others. [2] You will recall the heartache this sin caused when Joseph's brethren became envious of him. Jacob loved Joseph more than the others because he was the son of his old age. But Jacob's partiality in no way justified the sin of his sons. Further, it was obvious that a special blessing had been conveyed upon Joseph, which should have been received with thanksgiving by the other family members. Instead they resented him.

The trail of envy is always littered with lies, even if it's only lying to one's self that they are more deserving. Those who entangle themselves in this web of deception, as Joseph's brethren did, desire the spotlight to shine on them. So after they cast Joseph into a pit, they decided among themselves to sell him to the Ishmaelites. But, to their surprise, when they returned to the pit, Joseph was gone. Interestingly, even though it was the Midianite merchantmen who actually sold Joseph into Egypt, God held Joseph's brethren accountable for the evil deed (Gen. 37:28,36 cf. Acts 7:9). Joseph adds, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen. 50:20).

The Apostle Paul experienced a similar attack from an unlikely source. Some of the brethren who should have been standing in defense of Paul's ministry became envious of him and sought to add affliction to his bonds. This had to be a bitter pill to swallow. We expect the enemies of the Cross to oppose us; it's part of the territory. When the alarm reverberates through the Church in the day of battle, we stand foot to foot, toe to toe, wielding the sword of the Spirit against these workers of iniquity. As we fight the good fight of the faith, whenever Satan brings railing accusations against us for the preaching of the gospel, we endure it for the cause of Christ.

As we proceed, Paul shows us how to attain victory in spite of opposition. First, we must distinguish between taking a stand against unsound teaching, and tolerance with those whose motives are not always what they should be.

For example, when the Judaizers sought to corrupt the gospel at Galatia, the apostle rolled out the 16-inch guns: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).

Since the gospel Paul preached was the one and only way of salvation, he pronounces anathema upon anyone who states otherwise. The word "accursed," Greek anathema, also appears in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. "The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire... Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed [Gr. anathema] thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed [Gr. anathema] thing" (Deut. 7:25,26).

In the eyes of the Lord, idols of gold and silver were an accursed thing. They brought the disfavor of God. Thus, Israel was to have nothing to do with them. In like manner, those who corrupt the gospel that Paul taught are also said to be accursed. That is, they are to be avoided.
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2007, 10:11:15 PM »

The Victory of the Gospel

By Paul M. Sadler

On the other side of the coin, Paul exercised a spirit of tolerance with those whose motives were questionable at times, for he knew the Lord would judge them at that day. This didn't mean he agreed with their actions or their philosophy that the end justifies the means. But he could say with a clear conscience, "What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Phil. 1:18).

You see Paul didn't try to conform everyone into his image or his way of doing things. Rather he desired, as we should, that others be conformed to the image of Christ. We sometimes become so rigid that we frustrate the grace of God. But grace more than compensates for our shortcomings. It gives liberty in Christ.

What about you, dear reader, have you experienced the victory of the gospel in your life? If not, remember and remember well the apostle's words, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. 13:11).

Endnotes

1. Encyclopedia of 7000 Illustrations, Assurance Publishers, Paul Lee Tan, pg. 836.

2. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, World Bible Publishers, W.E. Vine, Vol. 2, pg. 37.
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