Today we come to what to me is an exceedingly interesting and instructive section of the Book of Philippians. Paul has opened the epistle by warmly expressing his love for the believers in the city of Philippi. He has assured them of his unending prayers for their spiritual welfare and progress.
Some of their fears are very similar to the type of fears which we have as well. Paul shows them how to understand and respond properly to opposition in their lives. Paul was well experienced in opposition. He had suffered opposition virtually from the first day of his conversion onward, so he knew what that was like. Paul was well experienced in Rome for the sake of the Gospel, and yet he is not discouraged.
He's not defeated. We see no note of self-pity in the entire epistle, no complaints to God for allowing a servant of his who has served him faithfully to be confined in prison. None of that, but rather rejoicing in God's goodness in his life and confident that God is using his circumstances even now for the glory of Christ and the advancement of his life. This example from the Apostle Paul would be well emulated by us who are the children of the Lord Jesus Christ today. So looking at this section, verses 12 through 18, I see three things. Number one, a surprising declaration. Number two, an encouraging explanation.
Number three, an instructive delineation. A surprising declaration, at least surprising to the common way of thinking. When Paul says in verse 12, but I want you to know, brethren, that the things which have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel. Now we don't know what the Philippians had communicated to him about their concerns for his imprisonment. We can well imagine that their idea was that Paul's imprisonment was a hindrance to the Gospel. They were simply praying fervently for Paul's release. What's going to happen to the cause of the Gospel if the Apostle Paul is no longer able to travel, is no longer able to preach, is no longer able to plant churches as he's been doing so effectively for so many years? What if Paul is executed and his life comes to an end and his powerful ministry comes to an end?
What will happen to the cause of Christ and to the advance of the Gospel? Dear, oh dear God, please, please, please release Paul from prison. They thought, no doubt, that Paul's imprisonment was hindering the Gospel and that Paul's imprisonment was discouraging the Apostle Paul.
And Paul writes to assure them that neither of those things is true. His imprisonment is not hindering the Gospel and he is not discouraged because of these circumstances. What did Paul want them to know? He wanted them to know that his trials furthered the Gospel rather than hindering it. He wanted them to know that God had overruled his trials and the evil that was behind them for good. He wanted them to know that everything is such, so earthbound, that so many times we view the progress of the Gospel in terms of human achievement, human progress, human ability.
May God help us to get out of that mindset. Paul's trial is furthering, not hindering the Gospel of Christ contrary to human reasoning and contrary to the fearful anticipations that we so often have. This is yet another example, of which there are so many, of God overruling evil for good.
He has done it before and he's doing it once again. The Jews, no doubt, intended Paul's imprisonment for evil. They wanted to confine him. They wanted to contain him. They wanted to kill him.
That was their intention. The Romans became the unwilling accomplices of the Jews. They've been kind of tricked into getting Paul into the situation where he is now imprisoned in Rome. But in spite of the evil of the religious Jews and the lack of wisdom of the Roman authorities, nevertheless, God is overruling all of this for good. All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. Like Joseph and his brothers, remember?
How malicious were their thoughts toward Joseph, how much they hated him, how much they wanted to be rid of him, how much some of them wanted to kill him, and others shrinking back from that extreme wanted to get rid of him by selling him into slavery, into Egypt. They meant it all for evil. And then one day when they're down in Egypt getting the food they need to keep from starving to death, Joseph reveals himself to them and he said, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
God overruled your evil for his good purposes. That's the God of the Bible. That's the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's the God that I believe in. That's the God that I serve.
How about you? Is your God able to do that? There's only one true God, of course, but is your concept of God and what you think about when you think of God and the way you relate to God and to the circumstances of life, is it in that fashion that you know that God is able to and does regularly overrule the bad circumstances of life for good purposes of his own? Christ's enemies crucified him out of evil, malicious intent. They thought to destroy him, but God designed all of that.
God allowed that. God utilized all that to accomplish eternal redemption. Christ had to die. He had to die on a cross. He had to die at the hands of sinners. He had to suffer and to rise again from the dead. He had to do that in order to redeem a people unto himself. And so all of the evil which they did turned out to be for eternal good.
Glory, hallelujah, praise the Lord. I think about Martin Luther, who after the trial at Worms, the Diet of Worms, was captured by what turned out to be friends of his, but you couldn't tell that at the time, captured by masked soldiers and taken to a castle and put into hiding and confinement for about a year and a half. Oh, what's going to happen to the Reformation now? The mighty leader of the Reformation is not able to preach.
He's not able to travel. He's not able to rally people to the cause of the Reformation. What in the world is going to happen to this mighty Reformation now?
I'll tell you what's going to happen. Martin Luther is going to translate the scriptures into the German language, and that is going to spread all across Germany and is going to inflame the Reformation to a degree that never would have been possible if he hadn't been forced to be in confinement where he had time and quietness and lack of distraction to translate the scriptures into German. God overruled evil for good. Think about John Bunyan thrown into Bedford jail, this mighty preacher, untrained, uneducated in the ways of the world by any human school, but such a powerful preacher that the great John Owens, who was asked by the king, why do you go hear a tinker preach? And he said, oh, I would give all my education, all my learning if I could just preach like this man, mighty preacher, and thrown into jail for years on end. What's going to happen to the cause of the gospel with that confined preacher? I'll tell you one thing that's going to happen.
He's going to write the Pilgrim's Progress, which is going to become the best-selling book in all the world next to the Bible. Still is, I understand. Amazing. Who could have thought of that but God? Who could have designed that but God? God overrules evil for good.
And here it is again. Paul's in prison in Rome. Oh dear, oh dear, what's going to happen to the cause of the gospel? Paul says, don't you worry.
Don't you worry. God has already planned all of this. He's using it for the advancement of the gospel, not for the containment of the gospel. I want you to know, brethren, that the things which have happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.
What an amazing, amazing reality. And Paul's concern, you see, was not for his own comfort. He would have been more comfortable if he had not been chained to a Roman soldier. That had to be mighty inconvenient.
Just think about that. To spend your whole life 24-7 on one end of a chain that is probably two or three feet long and the other end is chained to a Roman soldier, the soldiers get a break. Every six hours they change soldiers.
Somebody else comes and replaces the one that's there. But no relief for Paul. He gets no break at six hours or any time, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
He was there for at least a couple of years. Paul was uncomfortable. He would have been a whole lot more comfortable out of imprisonment than in imprisonment. But that doesn't bother me at all. He's not saying, oh, isn't this awful? This chain hurts my wrist. I don't have freedom. This is so inconvenient.
This is so hard to live with. I am chained to a soldier. I can hardly even get a good night's rest. Because every time I turn, the chains clank. And every time the soldier moves, the chains clank. And I can't even get a decent night's rest. Oh, this is awful, awful, awful. Pray, pray, pray that God will release me from this. No.
No, not at all. His concern is not for his own comfort. His concern is for the advancement of the gospel. And he says, as I look at what's happening here, I see God's using it for the furtherance of the gospel, not for the hindrance of the gospel. I want you to know that. And Paul's greatest concern is for the cause of Christ and for the advancement of the gospel, not his own comfort. Oh, that we would learn that.
Oh, that I would learn that. Let goods and kindred go. This mortal life also. His body they may kill, but God's truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever and ever and ever.
Praise the Lord. And so Paul's surprising declaration in verse 12 is that his confinement accomplished more than his freedom. But in verses 13 through 15, we have an encouraging explanation as Paul goes on and give some of the details of how this is happening. How is your confinement working out for the advancement of the gospel? And Paul tells us, number one, that his imprisonment spreads the gospel message. Number two, that his imprisonment emboldened the church at Rome. And number three, that Paul's imprisonment multiplied gospel preachers. Three ways that his imprisonment furthered the cause of the gospel. Number one, his imprisonment spread the gospel message.
Verse 13. And so it has become evident to the whole palace guard and to all the rest that my chains are in Christ. Throughout the whole palace guard, the praetorio.
That's a word that sometimes refers to a building, praetorium, a building, a palace, a large government facility. But here it's referring to people, it's referring to the soldiers who are assigned to guard the palace where the emperor resides. And the famous praetorian guard was an elite group of soldiers who were assigned to the city of Rome to, more than anything else, guard the emperor and keep him safe. They were the elite of the elite. They were the Green Berets of the Roman army.
Nine cohorts of them, about 9,000 men on the praetorian guard. And they received double the pay of other soldiers and they had other special benefits. Their barracks weren't rough. Their barracks were nice. They were housed in the hotel, the Roman Hilton. They weren't housed in some old rough barracks.
They had some wonderful privileges because they were the best of the best and they were expected to do their job well. And these were the soldiers that were guarding the apostle Paul. Every six hours another one, every six hours another one.
We don't know exactly how the rotation went, but it could be that he never had the same soldier twice. And instead of looking at it as an inconvenience, Paul said, well, here comes another one. I've got six hours to witness to this guy. He can't go anywhere. I'm not complaining about my confinement. I am amazed and amused at his confinement. He can't go anywhere. He can't stop from listening to the gospel. He's chained to me. He's chained to a gospel messenger. He's got to listen.
He can't walk away. So for six hours Paul witnesses to this man and he goes off duty. And for six more hours Paul witnesses to another man and he goes off duty. And six more hours Paul witnesses to another man and he goes off duty. And another man comes on and Paul says, I've got to get a little bit of sleep here. But before I go to sleep, let me tell you about Jesus Christ.
And when I wake up, if you're still here, I'll tell you more about Jesus Christ. And supposing that he never had the same guard twice, how many guards did he have in the course of a couple of years? It would have eventually numbered into a couple thousand or more of this famous Praetorian guard. And they went back to the barracks and they talked about this strange prisoner who was unlike any prisoner they had ever known before. And it was very evident to them that he was not really a criminal.
He had not broken any Roman law. They became aware that he was there as a prisoner of Jesus Christ and for the cause of the gospel. And some of them believed the gospel and they shared it with others. And so the gospel was spreading throughout the Praetorian guard. And Paul says, and to all the rest, that is the rest of the citizens of Rome, the Praetorian guard had friends and family out in Rome. And they told them what was going on and they were telling others.
And the biggest news of the day throughout the whole city of Rome was this unusual prisoner under Praetorian guard. And they were all hearing about the gospel of Christ because of Paul's imprisonment. The gospel was spreading in a way that if he'd been free, it would not have spread that far. He would have preached, but he wouldn't have reached this many people. He would have witnessed, but he wouldn't have witnessed to this many people.
What an amazing thing it is. He's confined in prison and he reaches more people than he ever has in his freedom. Paul's imprisonment spread the gospel message. But number two, Paul's imprisonment emboldened the church. Verse 14. And most of the brethren of the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Most of the brethren of the Lord have become more bold because of my confidence.
Paul's courage inspired courage in others. You say, well, of course, that's the way it usually happens. Well, not the way it necessarily usually happens.
It's the way it sometimes happens, but sometimes it happens the other way. Look what happened to Paul for preaching the gospel of God, him in prison. I don't want that to happen to me. I'm going to be careful.
I'm going to be quiet. This often has the effect of causing people to be more afraid, more cautious, more careful, more unwilling to proclaim the gospel. But in this case, it had the exact opposite effect. His courage inspired them to greater boldness, greater courage, greater willingness to talk to others about the gospel. Now, how do you explain that effect rather than the other one? And there's only one explanation.
God caused it to happen that way. God stirred up within the members of the church at Rome a courage that they did not have before. They were inspired by the courage of the apostle Paul, and they were now being more courageous than they were before. What will increased opposition produce in the American churches? I hope it'll have this effect. Greater opposition is coming. I pray that it will have this effect.
I fear that it could have the opposite effect, make Christians more fearful, more cowardly, more quiet. I heard, as I was keeping my ear on what was going on in Ukraine this week, and I had more time to do it because I was on vacation, and I heard one report that went something like this. Some Ukrainian soldiers that had, with a small group of men and outmanned and out-weaponed by the Russians, they had somehow defeated a group of Russians, and they said something like this. It's almost like a higher power was helping us.
We really can't explain this. Now, they're not Christians. They don't know God, and yet the only way they can explain the success of what's taking place is that there must be a God who's helping them. And how do you explain this unusual courage among the Ukrainians? You can see what Putin intended for it to do. He intended to roll in there and intimidate them so they'd all lay down their arms and surrender and there would be no opposition. And somehow, inexplainably really, somehow it had the opposite effect.
It has made them bold, made them willing to lay down their lives for their country. God did that. God has a purpose in that. I don't know what God is doing, but God did that, even like he did with the Roman Christians in these days of Paul's imprisonment. God stirred them up to greater courage, so Paul says, My imprisonment has spread the gospel message to the Praetorian Guard and throughout the city of Rome. My imprisonment has emboldened the church.
But what else? Paul says, My imprisonment has multiplied gospel preachers. Verse 15, Some, indeed, preach Christ.
We'll stop there. We'll come back to the rest of that verse later. But some, indeed, preach Christ. And the word preach there is a form of the Greek word karoutso, which, as far as I can tell, is always and only used in the New Testament of a gospel preacher, a public preacher. The ones that are referred to in verse 14 seems to be the members of the church and their boldness now to witness for the gospel. But now Paul seems to be speaking about another category of people, the preachers, the public preachers in the church at Rome, and they are now preaching with greater zeal and greater boldness than ever before. They are proclaiming as a herald.
They are proclaiming publicly as only those who are able to do that and gifted by God to do that are able to do. And so a new wave of public preaching of the gospel has accompanied this new wave of the private witnessing of the gospel, which has accompanied the witnessing of the apostle Paul to the soldiers and by them to others throughout Rome. It is an amazing, amazing declaration of the gospel that's almost saturating the city of Rome, and all because Paul is in prison and couldn't have happened if he had not been in prison. What an amazing God we serve.
But we come now to the third consideration. We've seen first a surprising declaration, and secondly an encouraging explanation, but now thirdly an instructive delineation in verses 15 through 18. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife and some also from goodwill. The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains, but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached, and in this I rejoice and will rejoice. The instructive delineation is that there are two categories of gospel preachers. Yes, there's a new wave of gospel preaching, but it is being carried out by two different categories of gospel preachers, and they publicly seem to be the same, outwardly they seem to be the same, but they actually fit into two very different categories that Paul is aware of and that God is aware of. Some preach with wrong motives and some preach with right motives.
Paul is delineating between those two different groups. Some preach with wrong motives. Some, he tells us in verse 15, preach from envy and strife. They are jealous of Paul, and they are preaching out of strife, that is, out of an opposition born of envy.
What a monster is envy, jealousy, and our English use of those terms isn't virtually synonymous. That's the reason Pilate and others knew that the Jews wanted to crucify Christ. What was their motive? Envy, the Bible tells us that. Several times the opposition that the Apostle Paul had in his ministry is ascribed to the envy of the Jews, who were jealous because he was preaching the gospel and great crowds were gathering to listen to him. Why, they'd been trying to preach Moses for decades and hadn't been able to stir up that kind of interest, and here comes along Paul, and people from all over the city are coming to listen to him. They were envious of that, and so they wanted to get rid of him. Envy and strife motivates some of these preachers. Selfish ambition, not sincerely, we're told in verse 16, is ascribed to some of these selfish ambitions. They evidently endeavor to replace Paul.
They resent his honorable position. The church in Rome was well established when Paul got to Rome. There were undoubtedly a number of preachers that were also well established in Rome and had a certain position of honor and esteem among the church there, and then here comes the Apostle Paul in prison, but nevertheless the Apostle Paul, the one who had written the book of Romans to them, and they'd received that with great profit, the one whose reputation had preceded him, and they knew that he was amazingly successful in evangelism and church planting.
The great Apostle Paul comes to Rome, and suddenly a lot of people are listening to him, paying attention to him, honoring him, and in the minds of some are taking away honor that should belong to them. And they'd like to see Paul quieted so that they can regain a higher position and so that they can enjoy the honor that some are giving to Paul. They're doing this out of selfish ambition, not sincerely. That has to do with the purity of their motives. They're doing it hypocritically. They're preaching Christ, but they're not preaching him with unmixed motives. I'm sure they have some side of them that values the gospel and wants to preach Christ, but it's intermixed with this jealousy, this envy, this self-seeking, this self-centeredness that does not value the gospel the same way that others value it. They are, again, verse 16, supposing to add affliction to my chains, says Paul.
How does that work? Well, Paul's position as an apostle and his success in the work of the gospel caused them pain. It should have caused them joy.
They should have been rejoicing in it, but instead it caused them pain and anguish. I resent the fact that he's more successful than I am. I resent the fact that he has a higher position than I do.
I resent the fact that some people are looking more to him than to me. And they assumed that he was just like them and that their success would cause him pain. Since his success caused them pain, they assumed that their success would cause him pain, and so they doubled their efforts in preaching the gospel. They're preaching zealously.
They're trying to be successful. They're trying to call attention to their gospel preaching. They think that the report of their great preaching is going to reach the ears of the apostle Paul, and he's going to be just as pained by this report of their success as they were by his success. But, of course, they didn't know the heart of the apostle Paul.
Far from it. He was rejoicing in their success. And so they had a zeal for the preaching of the gospel, but it was born out of impure motives. These are preachers of sound doctrine. What they're preaching, the message they're preaching is right on. They're orthodox. They're right.
They're correct. There's nothing wrong with the message that they're preaching, but their hearts are not right with God. God knows that.
Paul knows that. And so some preach with wrong motives, and some preach with right motives. Some preach from good will, verse 15, and you say good will toward what?
Good will toward men, out of concern for their souls, no doubt. But as you think of it all in context, it's clear some are preaching out of good will toward Paul. They don't have animosity and envy and resentment toward Paul, just the opposite. They have good will toward Paul. They appreciate him.
They want to help him in his work. They're thrilled that God has sent such a successful apostle to their city. And so they're preaching from good will toward Paul, and out of love, we read in verse 17 again toward Paul.
Certainly love for Christ, love for his word, love for the souls of men. But in this context, love for Paul. They love him. They love his position. They love his success.
They love what he stands for. They love his ministry. And they are delighted for the opportunity of preaching freely out of prison while Paul is confined in prison, and thereby helping him in his ministry.
Just to be a little helper to the apostle Paul will give them the greatest delight. Their desire is to serve Christ, not themselves. Paul says they're doing this knowing, verse 17, that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. And by the way, in some manuscripts, verses 16 and 17 are reversed.
So if you have a different translation than I do, that may be true in your case, and I may be giving the wrong number of the verses, but the content of the verses is the same. And he says in verse 17, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. Paul says they recognize God's calling upon my life.
They recognize Christ's commission. That Christ has commissioned me to be an apostle. That I am appointed.
They recognize the unusual success that God has given to Paul. I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. I'm appointed for the success of the gospel. I'm appointed for the success of evangelism.
I'm appointed for the successful planting of churches. You look at the descriptions of Paul in the Bible and you say, how does this little, unimpressive man have such an amazing ministry, such amazing fruitfulness? According to his own testimony, he's not much of a preacher. He's not imposing. He's not an impressive personality.
He has health problems that hinder him. And yet, and yet, he is, from all the evidence that we can read, the most successful gospel preacher in the first century. Everywhere he goes, he preaches the gospel and people fall on their faces before God. How do you account for that?
Only one thing. God above is doing that. Almost everywhere he goes, he is able to establish churches and leave a church behind. Some people toil for years, for decades to establish a church and find it a great struggle.
Some give up. But Paul goes and after a short time, he's got a church that he leaves behind. And he does that over and over and over and over again. How do you explain that with such an unimpressive little gnarled up preacher? It's not Paul. It's Christ. It's not Paul. It's God. It's not Paul.
It's the Holy Spirit of God working through him. Don't you understand? And some understand that. They appreciate that I'm appointed for the defense of the gospel. And they wanted to help God's man.
They recognized that he was God's man. And they wanted to serve Christ by serving the Apostle Paul. And so some preach with wrong motives. Some preach with right motives. But what's Paul's response? He says in verse 18, what then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached. And in this, I rejoice.
Yes, and will rejoice. What then? One translation translates that. What does it matter? What does it matter whether they preach Christ out of pure motives or bad motives? Or the translation renders it, what really matters?
What then? What really matters? Does the motive of the preacher really matter?
And we would all say, yes, yes, we tend to say that. That's the most important thing. And Paul says, no, no, that's not the most important thing.
Please learn. Whether in pretense or in truth, whether they're preaching in pretense, that is, they're hiding their selfish ambitions, not letting them be seen. Or in truth, that is preaching from unmixed motives and out of true hearts devotion. The important thing is that Christ is preached. Christ has preached a right. Christ is preached truly. This is a true gospel. This is a right portrayal of Jesus Christ. This is a correct understanding of what Christ did for hell deserving sinners. And they are proclaiming that and people are hearing that and they are being blessed and helped by it. Christ is preached. And Paul says, therefore, I rejoice. The opposite of what these these wrong motive preachers expected.
The opposite of what we might have expected. But I rejoice. And yes, I will rejoice.
I'm determined to rejoice and I will continue to rejoice. Now, I have four lessons from this and I hope I should have time to cover them. So listen up. What do we learn from this?
Number one. The message is more important than the messenger. Paul's response to those who are preaching a wrong message was very different. How many times does Paul roundly condemn those who preach a wrong message? What did he say in Galatians Chapter one?
If anyone, if I or an angel from heaven, an angel preached to you any other gospel than that which has been preached unto you. What? Let him be accursed. Let him be damned. Let him go to hell. That's the language he uses in that situation where a false gospel is being preached. And in case you missed it, he says, I'll say it again. What I said before I say again. If they preach a wrong gospel, let them go to hell.
The more quickly, the better. But here, Paul says, if Christ is preached, I rejoice and will rejoice. Paul's response to false teachers is to condemn them thoroughly. But Paul's response to sound teachers, even if they have unsound motives, is to rejoice. Paul is telling us that if the message is accurate, God will use it for eternal good. People who listen to the message don't know the motives of the person who's preaching. Now, God does, and he'll deal with that.
But they're hearing the message. I may have told you years ago, when I was still in training, I worked as a weekend youth pastor in a church about 80 miles from where I went to school and would go down there every Saturday afternoon and work with the young people and come back Saturday night. And I had done that for a couple of years, and then I had gone to another state for a summer internship, and I hadn't been at that other location long before the phone rang and my dad was on the other end and said, I wanted you to hear it from me first. Preacher So-and-so, the pastor of the church where I'd been ministering, is in jail.
I won't go into all the sorry details. And when I came back from that summer, I went back to the church, and I found broken people, particularly among the youth group. Some of them said, well, I was saved under the preaching of Pastor So-and-so, and now he's turned out to be a scoundrel, a hypocrite.
If you knew what he went to jail for, you'd understand that's the truth. He must not even be a Christian. How could I be saved if I believed in Christ under the ministry of a man like this? And I told them, in essence, what Paul is saying here. It's not the messenger. It's the message. Did you believe the gospel?
If you believe the gospel, you are saved if you are believing the true gospel. It's not the messenger. It's the message. If the message is accurate, God will use it for eternal good. If the message is inaccurate, it will deceive and mislead.
And that must be denounced and condemned. And we tend to do it the other way around. We tend to focus more on the messenger than the message. We tend to focus on the preacher's gifts.
My, how gifted he is, how personable he is, how eloquent he is. For this, this will get closer to home for some of you, we tend to focus on the fitness of the preacher. And we say things like, God can't use you unless you are a clean vessel.
And Paul says, yes he can. Some preach Christ out of envy and strife, not sincerely hoping to add pain to my chains. But nevertheless, Christ is preached and I rejoice and will rejoice. God doesn't need clean vessels. Now, if you are not a clean vessel, don't be looking for any rewards when you get to heaven. In fact, if you're not a clean vessel, you may not be going to heaven. You may be a Judas who was an orthodox preacher.
He preached Christ and went to hell. This idea, and I've heard it all my life and I'm sure I believed it and probably acted upon it, that God can't use you unless you're a clean vessel. Oh, Lord, root out every vestige of sin. We ought to be doing that. We ought to be praying that way. Lord, root out every vestige of sin. I want to be a clean vessel in thy sight. That ought to be our attitude. That ought to be our attitude.
We should not justify or excuse any sin. We want to be a clean vessel in his sight. But this idea that God can only use a clean vessel, don't you see how in a subtle way that really turns things back to the ability of man for ultimate success? God's got to have a certain kind of person if the gospel is going to be successful and it's up to us to make sure that we give God what he needs to make this successful.
It's another, what should I say, another slant on Arminianism. Now I sing with delight how I praise thee, precious Savior, that thy love laid hold on me. Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me that I might thy vessel be.
Channels only, blessed Master. And with all thy quickening power flowing through me, thou canst use me every day and every hour. You've made me a clean vessel in your sight.
But I also, when I sing that, when I pray that, I realize God used Balaam. I don't think he was a very clean vessel. God used Judas. He certainly wasn't a clean vessel. God used these men with their impure motives. They weren't clean vessels and yet they preached the gospel and Paul said, I rejoice and I will rejoice. People are hearing the gospel and are being saved even when it comes from the lips of someone whose motives are not pure. What am I saying? It's the message, not the messenger.
The message is what's most important. I secondly see a lesson here of how to answer false charges. Paul's imprisonment was thought by most people to be because he was a criminal.
What else? Why else would you be in prison? You've broken Roman law. But Paul's, the impression that people had of his imprisonment changed gradually and 180 degrees over time. He said, now they realize that my chains are for Christ, not for being a criminal, not for breaking the law.
My chains are in Christ. Now, how did that change come about in the opinions of people from thinking he was an evil criminal to thinking that he was an ambassador for Christ? You remember on the island of Malta when he was a prisoner and these folks didn't know that he was different from the other prisoners. He was a prisoner and a snake came out and bit him when he was gathering wood and they all watched, expected him to fall down dead because they'd never seen anybody survive a bite by that particular poisonous snake before. Instead, Paul shook the snake off in the fire and went on gathering wood and after a little while they changed their opinion. In fact, they said he must be a god rather than a man. I mean, they went from one extreme to the other. But can you see how his reputation was completely changed, 180?
Similar here. The impressions of why Paul was in prison were gradually reversed, not because Paul went around saying, these are false accusations, these are slanderous accusations, I'm being wrongly accused, I've got to set the record straight. This is a good lesson.
All of us need this. We're all slandered at times. We're all defamed at times. And sometimes we think we've got to try to run around and track down every false rumor and set it straight.
But if after a while you come to the realization that you're not able to do that, now what? You can't track them all down. I mean, who said, this isn't in the Bible, but who said a lie travels around the world while the truth is putting its pants on? I mean, lies go quick. Truth moves slow.
Isn't that the way things are? I'll tell you another little personal story. I've been here in Alamance County not more than a year at the most, too, and I was at Alamance Christian School watching a soccer game and another preacher from the area came up to me and he said, Greg, he said, somebody told me that you were having an affair with someone that's not your wife. And he said, I told him it wasn't true. And I'm standing there thinking, what do I do now? What do I do next? So I asked him for the name and address of the person who told him that and he gave it to me.
And I went, I think, at least three different times and knocked on that door and couldn't get anybody there. And I asked another wise preacher, actually my former pastor from Greenville, South Carolina, I said, Dr. Seitler, what should I do about this? He said, not a thing you can do except just be seen in public with your wife and gradually the slander will die.
The rumor will go away. In other words, just do right, be right, and show by your life that this is not true. Now, what are we talking about? How to answer false charges. Let your life demonstrate that they are false.
You can't correct them all and you'll tie yourself a notch trying to. Just focus on being right, doing right, being godly, and let the rumors die a normal death. People who want to believe them are going to believe them even if you tell them it's not true. And people who want to know the truth are going to recognize the truth in your life and they're going to say that couldn't possibly be true. Here's the third lesson.
I may not get to four. And this is a probably statement. Why some preachers are sidelined, probably. I don't know.
Because this has to do with hearts. But evidently there can be preachers whose hearts are not right with God. I mean, Paul talks about them here and we know that's true. But in most cases only God knows who they are. Now, somehow Paul knew who these were. I don't know whether God told him.
I don't think so. I think they dropped little hints here and there so that he was able to figure out who was who. But there are some who are jealous of the success of others. They minister out of rivalry toward others. They're self-seeking.
They endeavor to undermine the success of others. They do it subtly by innuendo and veiled attack and damaging remarks all the while being careful to keep the pretense of being a godly preacher of sound doctrine. Sometimes we want to know are men like that really saved? And the answer is Paul doesn't say and it doesn't matter.
What difference does that make? That's between them and God. We don't want to sort that out. We just want to make sure that the message is right. But what's most important is the condition of their hearts.
God knows what it is and it very well may be, only God knows, but it very well may be that some preachers who have desired a level of success they've never been able to achieve have not been able to achieve it because God says your heart is envious, your heart is jealous, your heart is self-seeking. I'm not going to elevate that. I'm not going to promote that. I'm not going to honor that. Your message is right, but your heart grieves me.
And I will mention the fourth lesson in closing. How easily deceived is the human heart? Wrong motives are not confined to preachers. They reside in all kinds of Christians. And sometimes we don't know what's in the—in fact, we never really know for sure what's in the hearts of others. And we foolishly try to figure that out.
Well, that person did this. Could they really be saved? What difference does it make? What's important is your heart before God. Are you truly saved? Where's the evidence of your salvation? Where's the fruit of the Spirit coming out of your life? Where is the banishing of envy and jealousy and covetousness and self-seeking?
You need to worry about that one for yourself because God knows all hearts, and God will deal justly with all hearts. God knows how to justly judge Balaam, the false prophet, who preached the truth. God knows how to justly judge Judas, the false apostle who preached the truth. God knows how to deal with these men in Rome, sound gospel preachers whose motives were wrong. God knows how to deal with every one of us according to what's in our hearts. And so what should we do? We should fall on our faces before God and say, Oh Lord, cleanse me, forgive me, save me, keep me, work within my heart to the honor and glory of Christ, shall we pray. Father, take your word and minister to the needs of our hearts, we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-26 23:50:23 / 2023-05-27 00:07:21 / 17