Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
A Powerful Gospel
Hopefully to some of us, this passage is vaguely familiar. Remember in Mark, Jesus prophesies that the disciples will face incredible persecution, but that this persecution would allow them to pronounce the gospel to those in worldly authority. I’m sure at that moment, the apostles were pretty skeptical that something as horrid as persecution could have such a vital significance, but what do we find here – Paul testifying to the entire Roman palace guard because he is imprisoned. I think it’s pretty clear that Jesus doesn’t front – he knows what he’s talking about.
The second paragraph is difficult for many of us, myself included. The thought of someone preaching the gospel for selfish or fallen intentions is so distateful, and we suppose that it would be distateful to Paul as well. But it’s not…strangely enough, he kind of shrugs his shoulders about this issue? Why?
I think this points to two important idea – first, every messenger is fallen. There are no perfect pastors, no perfect worship leaders, no perfect missionaries… including myself, first and foremost. But despite this scary thought, we have to keep in mind that even though the messengers are fallen…the message is perfect. And it’s not the messenger that is the focus, but the message that they bear. This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 4, that we are all simple jars of clay that hold a precious treasure inside…
But additionally, we should realize that the gospel is intrinsically powerful. The gospel doesn’t really need us to shine it up and make it gleam. We don’t have to dress it up. All we need to do is present it to others. And even if a person does so for the wrong reasons and the wrong words, the gospel will still accomplish its incredible work, it’s just that amazing. This is what is so beautifully captured in the words of Isaiah 55:11
…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
So don’t be afraid to evangelize because you are not trained, or because you’re not eloquent, or mature enough – the gospel has more than enough power on its own.
1. Have you ever been disappointed in a spiritual authority figure you looked up to? What negative effect did that person have on your life?
2. Based on what we read above, that the message is more important than the messenger, did you learn anything positive from that figure?
3. What are your main reasons for not sharing the gospel with people around you? How does the passage above affect those reasons?
4. Have you ever had an experience where the gospel seemed to have a power of its own, where you didn’t put much effort into sharing or teaching it, but it was very effective nonetheless?