Advancing and defending the Gospel
In the Scripture text that we studied yesterday (Acts 15:35-40) we see the missionary team in Philippi of at least 4 individuals(Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke) make a big deal about the defense and advancement of the Gospel.
In fact those two themes are themes that Paul and Timothy reiterate in the first chapter of their letter to the saints in Philippi almost 10 years later (Philippians 1:5,7,12,16,27-30).
Those two gospel centered decisions that day, had very long lasting implications in that city and church as we will see in our study (April-June, 2014) of Philippians. So much so that we still are talking about those decisions today.
Paul’s decision to challenge the magistrates decision to let them go free, but secretly (Acts 16:37) was not about vindicating Paul and Silas rights as Roman citizens, but an intentional strategy to defend the gospel from further political and religious persecution. The team, and Paul in particular was focused on the progress of the gospel in that city (Philippians 1:25). It made a Spirit empowered decision to challenge the way things are done.
Then after encouraging the saints gathered at Lydia’s house Acts 16:40, the team purposely left Luke, their companion in Philippi to advance the gospel in that city. (Acts 17:1). Take note of the pronouns Luke uses, in that verse.
So what do our decisions communicate to others about the relevance of the gospel in our culture? Do we even consider how our decisions defend and advance the gospel, or are we more preoccupied in how they will affect us personally.
Read the first chapter of Philippians today and see how much Paul is concerned that our manner of life be worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). What are some of the implications of taking his exhortation seriously?
Do our decisions about our relationships (dating, marriage, business, church) communicate to our city that we are more about advancing the gospel than advancing our personal agendas? Am I willing to say both “no” and “yes” in my relationships for the defense of the gospel?
For example, if as confessing Christians, divorce is always a viable option for an unhappy relationship, are we really defending the transforming power of the gospel with our manner of life.
The divorce rate among believers today is not markedly different than the world. A generation of Christians were not consumed, like Paul, with the gospel, and did not consider the implications that their decisions would have on that gospel. A multitude of individual choices created a culture of divorce in the US that does not mirror the power of the gospel.
What about my job and personal advancement? Am I both willing to say “yes” and “no” to employment that neither advances the cause of the gospel or defends it.
For example, does the fact that more and more confessed evangelicals agree to work on Sunday during church, contribute to advancing the exclusive claims of the gospel over our lives? Aren’t we really communicating that going to church is expedient only when it doesn’t conflict with my personal agenda?
A multitude of individual choices in regards to church attendance has created a culture of indifference towards the gathering together of Christ body. We give up the teaching of the word, fellowship and prayer for just about anything that suits our fancy. ( Bad weather, sports, headaches, tiredness, work, play practice, time of service, length of service, preacher, music, you name it). It used to be that your neighbors knew something was different about you, because your car left the same time every Sunday morning and evening.
Next time you make a decision about anything, think and pray : How will my commitment to both the defense and advancement of the gospel influence my choices and how will those choices affect the generation to come?
2 Corinthians 5:13-15
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.