Lesson 1: The Ministry of the Gospel

Lesson One: The Ministry of the Gospel

(Chapter One)

God has only one message for a lost and dying world.  That message is the gospel, which has been simply summarized for us in one verse.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:16.  The apostle Paul put it this way: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."  1 Corinthians 15:3, 4.  The gospel is God's promise of eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostles were commanded, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."  Mark 16:15.  The Lord didn't send them forth to teach the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule, but the good news of eternal salvation through faith in the Savior.  This great commission has never been retracted or withdrawn.  No church or believer today is exempt from participation in the ministry of the gospel.

 

THE CONFIRMATION OF THE GOSPEL

The apostle Paul was sent for "the defense (Greek, apologia) and confirmation of the gospel."  Philippians 1:7.  The word "apologetics" comes from the Greek word "apologia."  It doesn't mean to apologize, but rather to defend.  Those who attend Bible college or seminary usually take a course in Christian apologetics, where they learn about Christian evidences used in defending the faith.

Those who share the good news with others should be prepared to defend and confirm the truth of the gospel.  What evidence do we have to support the message that we preach?

Paul makes reference to the Philippians' "fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now."  Philippians 1:5.  There is a "first day" for everyone who is saved.  No one unknowingly or unwillingly slips into salvation.  Some Christians know the exact date and time of their conversion, but not all have this knowledge.  Being raised and growing up in a Christian family has definite advantages.  Some believers have heard about the Lord Jesus from birth all the days of their lives.  They can't remember a time that they didn't trust in Christ as their Savior.  For them the first day isn't clear.  However, those to whom Paul wrote this letter were not raised in Christian homes.

The greatest confirmation of the gospel is a changed life.  God's good work of eternal salvation begins on the inside.  Paul was "confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6.  The Bible calls this work of God "a new creation."  2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15.  No one can argue against a transformed life.

Unbelievers often find fault with believers who testify that they have been saved and are going to heaven.  They are accused of being proud.  Those who don't know the Lord wonder how anyone can have the audacity to think that they are good enough to make such a claim.  What they don't understand is that true Christians realize they aren't saved because they are good.  There is no such boasting.  God gets all the glory, because salvation is the free gift of God's grace.  Paul writes, "You all are partakers with me of grace."  Philippians 1:7.  Any and all, who are saved, are freely saved by grace through faith.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

 

THE CHRIST OF THE GOSPEL

"Christ is preached."  Philippians 1:18.  You cannot preach the gospel of Christ without preaching the Christ of the gospel.  He is the message, the good news.  Christless preaching lacks the convicting, transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Following Jesus' triumphal entry in Jerusalem, some Greeks approached Philip and said, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  John 12:21.  These words should be written in bold print on every pulpit in full view of every preacher.  All preaching should be motivated by this sincere request.  There should be a burning desire to show Jesus to others.

Paul had been imprisoned for preaching Christ.  He wore his chains like a badge of honor.  The gospel was not bound by his chains.  On the contrary, his imprisonment resulted in the furtherance of God's message of light and life even into Caesar's palace, where his chains were recognized as being "in Christ."  Philippians 1:12, 13.

Paul's chains were a source of inspiration and courage to "most of the brethren in the Lord," making them "much more bold to speak the word without fear."  Philippians 1:14.  Their fearlessness was evidence of their salvation, and that from God.  Philippians 1:28.  In Acts 5:40 the apostles were beaten, and commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus.  In the next verse we read, "So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."  The early Christians knew that "it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake."  Philippians 1:29.  When Paul received his call to preach Christ to the Gentiles, he was told that "chains and tribulation" awaited him.  Acts 20:23.

While Paul was inside, others were outside preaching.  Two kinds of preachers filled the air.  There were those who preached "in pretense," and others who preached "in truth."  Paul wrote that "the former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains, but the latter out of love...."  Philippians 1:16, 17.

How did the apostle respond to this preaching?  "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."  Philippians 1:18.  In the ministry of the gospel we lift up Jesus crucified, risen, and exalted.  He is the message.

 

OUR COMMITMENT TO THE GOSPEL

In this first chapter of Philippians we see not only something of Paul's call and confidence, but also we understand something of his commitment to Christ.  "According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:20, 21.  To the elders of the church at Ephesus he said, "But none of these things (chains and tribulations) move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."  Acts 20:24.  Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians, "So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us."  1 Thessalonians 2:8.

Paul expressed his commitment in two ways.  First, those to whom he ministered were dear, or precious to him.  It is important to be doctrinally correct.  However, people want to know how much you care, even more than they care how much you know.  The apostle Paul loved others.

A woman asked the pastor of her church to come to her house and speak to her unbelieving husband about Christ.  The preacher visited the home, and sat down at the dining room table with the husband.  He clearly presented the way of salvation, step by step.  While he talked, the husband glanced out into the kitchen, where he saw his wife with her head bowed.  She was praying.  The husband accepted the Lord as his Savior, but not because the pastor was so clever.  He responded to the love and concern of his wife for him.

Second, Paul did not consider his life dear to himself.  He was willing to spend his life for Jesus.  He was committed to magnify the Lord by life or death.  Chains and tribulation could not extinguish the fire that burned in his heart for Christ.

Do you believe that people are lost and going to hell without Jesus Christ?  Do you believe that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe?  Has the Lord Jesus changed your life?  Is your life a confirmation of the gospel?  Are you committed to the good news ministry?  Christ is preached!  Are you a participant in the ministry of the glorious gospel of God?

 

Lesson 2 - The Mind of Christ

 
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