Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-6105
» Get directions

PENTECOST 16 – September 24, 2017 – Phil. 1:12-14 “TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the first verses of the Epistle Lesson, from Philippians 1.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • We are all familiar with the phenomena of “unintended consequences.” It often happens that we set out with the best of intentions, hoping to remedy some problem, only to find that our remedy creates more and greater problems than we have resolved.  It is quite disheartening!  But we suffer this because of our fallibility and lack of omniscience.
  • Perhaps less frequently we are also aware that very negative experiences often lead to blessings that are greater than the painful things we have to endure. The pain and cost of a surgery leads to greater health and vitality.  The pain of self-denial, discipline, and saving leads to the accomplishment of greater financial security.  And there are times when trials and tragedy bring us new and deeper friendships and lessons learned that bless us for many years.
  • But God’s Word assures us that there is One Person Who is never surprised at how things turn out, and Who is always able to work things for greater good – and that is God. In our text Paul describes how his very negative personal experiences were benefiting the spread of the Gospel, and the Kingdom of God.  This is a direct application of the principle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans, that:  “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  [Rom. 8:28] 
  • We want the Gospel to succeed and to spread. We know what God has given us in Christ, so of course we would want others to have these spectacular blessings – forgiveness, peace with God, comfort and security for this life, and eternal life in heaven! 
  • So we engage in thinking, and perhaps plotting, as to how “TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.” Sometimes our thinking is insufficient – and what we do seems to have adverse unintended consequences.  At other times, we grieve and suffer anxiety at what appear to be serious setbacks to “THE ADVANCE OF THE GOSPEL,” but then we are able to see that God is still working all things together for our good and the benefit of His kingdom.  Sometimes, however, the troubles and suffering remain painful – just like Paul’s imprisonment. 
  • But it is no different for us – we who are God’s children today – than it has always been. And this is the important thing for us to consider and learn today!   First, that:

 

I.  How The Gospel Is Advanced In The World Is Often Counter-Intuitive

 

Text:  “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

 

Statement:  One would think that the arrest and imprisonment of an important spokesman for Christ could only tarnish the whole movement, and cause disgrace for the church.  Oddly, it had the opposite effect.  First, when others became aware of the basis for Paul’s arrest, they were curious as to the cause.  What was so dastardly and evil about Christ, and the preaching of Christ?  Paul was given opportunity to speak to them about Christ, to share the Gospel.  His arrest – because of his principles and his devotion to Jesus – was quite impressive, a witness to Christ’s love and power.

 

Application:  We often fear that being bold and outward in our Christianity will only decrease the force and advance of the Gospel.  We are well aware of the horrific opposition that many people have toward Christianity and the church.  We know the false and defamatory opinions that many have about us.  But if we do not speak up, and demonstrate that we are not “hypocrites,” that we are not a bunch of “better than thou people,” that we are not “self-righteous,” that we really do care about others, love others, and are willing to serve others in the Name of Christ, how will our adversaries even know what the Gospel is?  How will they know Who Jesus really is? 

 

Transition:  So we need to think about and remember that:

 

II.  Our Troubles And Vulnerabilities Give Us Opportunity To Demonstrate Our Faith In God, Bearing Witness To His Goodness And Power

 

Text:  “Do not be frightened in anything by your opponents.  This a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ that you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

 

Statement:  This does not mean that things are going to get better for us, that our “opponents” will leave us alone.  Sometimes they will double down on their wrath and hatred – because they know this is “a sign of their destruction” and of your blessedness and goodness.  But this is a witness that is noticed by some whose hearts may yet be changed.  And so what appears to be very negative, hurtful, and harmful to the Gospel is actually something by which “THE GOSPEL IS ADVANCED.”

 

Application:  We do not have to know and understand the exact dynamic and effect that our witness is making.  That is known only to God.  But He has promised to work all things together for our great good, and to “ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.”  His purposes are always fulfilled, ultimately, in the grand scheme of His plan, in accord with His great love for us. 

 

Transition:  And while we may be involved in deep personal pain and disruption of our lives, the fact is that:

 

III.  Our Example Of Faith In The Midst Of Trials Encourages And Emboldens Others In Their Witness To The Gospel

 

Text:  “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.”

 

Statement:   I’m sure that Paul wished nothing more than to be free, free to preach and promote the Gospel without restrictions of his personal physical freedom.  However, there was probably nothing more heartening to him in prison to hear that bold proclaimers of the Word had multiplied and intensified because of his imprisonment. 

 

Application:  Often we feel that unless we are the ones doing something, and doing what we specifically feel like doing, that we are failing.  Actually, God can use all of us, and all of our circumstances, to provide opportunity and encouragement to others.  We need to remember that He DOES work all things together for our good and blessedness, and for the spread of the Gospel.  Like Paul, we need to accept that even though things are not working out as we planned, or as we might like, this is no deterrent to God working good and ADVANCING THE GOSPEL.

 

Conclusion:  So, when we plan and act but reap negative unintended consequences, this is no reason to despair!  God is still in control and using us “TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.”  Likewise, when it seems like there is nothing we can do in the face of negative and desperate circumstances, this is no reason for us to despair.  God is surely and certainly working other angles and other dynamics to bless us and “TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.” 

 

Ultimately, God would have us heed the apostle’s advice and “not be frightened” by anything we experience, no matter how painful or how depressing.  Many times God tells His people:  “Do not fear.”  This is true for our personal lives, and it is also true for the life of the church!  Regardless of what happens – to us personally or corporately – God is working “TO ADVANCE THE GOSPEL.”  

 

If we do not see and understand how is He accomplishing this here and now, we surely will in the end, when we and many others will be rejoicing in God’s eternal life.  So let us take courage and hope, and continue living for “THE ADVANCE OF THE GOSPEL.”  God grant it to each of us, Amen!

 

Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.