Advancing the Gospel (Philippians 1:12-18)
Do you know the difference between a fairy tale told in the North and a fairy tale told in the South?
North: A fairy tale begins, “Once upon a time...”
South: A fairy tale begins, “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!”
Well, Paul isn’t telling any fairy tales in our text, but he is saying to us: “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!”
Let me set the stage for you. If you are a first century Christian, and the #1 preacher/church-planter is thrown in prison for preaching the gospel, and will likely loose his head or be fed to the lions, you are probably thinking: GAME OVER! His ministry is over, no more preaching, no more church-planting. The gospel is going to be stopped, its the end of the line. Christians are going to run and hide for fear of loosing their heads. Christ is going to have a very small church.
But in the midst of his imprisonment, Paul writes you a letter and says: “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this.”
1. The Gospel is advancing. (12-13)
Rather than being stopped, the gospel has become known to the whole imperial guard.
2. Christians are emboldened. (14)
Rather than becoming more fearful, they are becoming more bold to share the gospel.
3. Christ is proclaimed. (15-18)
Rather than game over, it’s game on!
And you ask yourself, how can this possibly be?
Advancing the Gospel
Four confidence-building truths we learn from the advance of the gospel during Paul’s imprisonment:
1. God is sovereign.
2. The Gospel is unstoppable.
a. Advancing the gospel is the activity of God.
b. Advancing the gospel is the promise of Christ.
c. Advancing the gospel is the calling of every Christian.
d. Advancing the gospel is the proclamation of Christ.
3. Suffering is inevitable.
If God’s primary purpose on earth is to glorify Himself by advancing the gospel...and advancing the gospel requires that God’s people suffer, then suffering is a good thing. We should not be surprised or discouraged, after all, that is what God did to His Son! Our basic assumption when we suffer is that something is wrong and nothing good will come of it. Paul stands as a testimony against our human logic.
When we experience suffering, it is helpful to remind ourselves of some things:
a. Sometimes suffering comes from our sin.
b. Sometimes suffering comes from persecution.
c. Sometimes suffering comes from the curse on the earth.
d. But our suffering does not come from God. He does not directly cause our suffering. Rather, God ordains it, overworks it, and uses it to accomplish his purpose and advance his gospel!
e. What is MOST IMPORTANT is how we respond to suffering. Because how we respond to suffering speaks volumes about Christ.
4. Christ is worthy.
a. What hinders the gospel? Despair, anger, complaining, fear, compromise. “Christ is not worth THIS!”
b. What advances the gospel? Suffering well and proclaiming Christ in the midst of your suffering with boldness because God is Sovereign, The gospel is unstoppable, Suffering is inevitable, and Christ is Worthy!