Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PRISON-PROMPTED PREACHING”

Philippians 1.15-18

I have a question for you of you who are saved. How long did it take after you were saved before you discovered that the Christian life is not exactly heaven, and was not even the millennium for that matter? Did it take a day, a week, a month? It usually takes between a day and a week for the baby Christian to discover that being on your way to heaven is not quite the same thing as being in heaven. Not only do saved people still have to contend with unsaved people all around them, but you also have to deal with other Christians, and with yourself. Let me briefly explain the situation. Romans 5.1 shows us that when a sinner comes to Jesus by faith, you are justified and have peace with God. Understand, however, that justification speaks not of what is done to you, but what is done for you. In one respect, a saved person like you is just like the unsaved person you used to be, except that you have been declared just in the sight of God through faith in Christ. The unsaved person has not been declared by God to be just in the sight of God. Therefore, being justified by faith in Jesus Christ, you have a standing before God that is not necessarily matched by the experiences of your life. In other words, you stand before God acquitted of all charges even though you actually did everything you were accused of. You actually are the sinner God said you were, but you have been declared just in the sight of God because the Lord Jesus Christ paid your sin debt for you.

Here you are, therefore, a newly saved person with a redeemed soul and a spirit made alive. However, you still have a sinful nature and you live inside an unredeemed and unredeemable physical body that has been well trained to commit all manner of sin, and has never experienced personal holiness or right doing. Do you realize what that means? It means that although you have the standing before God of a saint, you have never yet lived like one or had the experiences of one. What you need is to become what God has already declared you to be, and that is just what God works to do in your life throughout the course of your Christian experience. That is why Simon Peter closed off his second epistle with these words, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”[1] What this all means is that not only will you have to contend with the sins of unsaved people during the course of your Christian life, but also the sins of other Christians, and even your own sins. Faithful attendance at church, by the way, is absolutely critical if you want to successfully deal with these things I have described.

Before you get too caught up in feeling sorry for yourself because people sin against you, even Christian brothers and sisters, consider what Paul went through. For doing right, for preaching Christ, he was arrested, detained for several years, and now finds himself transported to Rome and awaiting trial while in chains. Surprisingly, Paul’s detention did not restrict the advance of the gospel message, as we saw last week, but created amazing inroads within Rome’s Praetorian Guards, and resulted in the Christians in Rome picking up the slack and forging ahead in getting the Word of God out. That is wonderful and exciting news. However, that is not all. Wait until you hear how the gospel was sent forth, and by whom. Please turn to Philippians 1.15. Stand and read along with me while I read aloud:

15     Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

16     The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

17     But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

18     What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached . . . .

The Apostle Paul now passes from informing the Philippians of the impact of his imprisonment on the advance of the gospel to informing the Philippians of the impact of his imprisonment on the preaching of the gospel. Are not his statements rather surprising to the new Christians among us?

Paul tells us three things:

First, WE ARE TOLD ABOUT THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO PREACHED THE GOSPEL

In verse 14, Paul informs his readers that because of his imprisonment “many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much bolder to speak the word without fear.” That is wonderful. However, to the immature and inexperienced Christian, verse 15 comes as a real jolt: “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will.”

Some men of God in Rome were actually preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ from envy and strife. Envy is a very serious sin, quite opposite Christian contentment. It refers to seeing someone else’s situation and being resentful for any perceived advantage they might have, such as recognition, position, or favor. Strife refers to being contentious and divisive. How Paul found out about these matters, we are not told. However, he asserts that some of those who rose to the occasion and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ while he was in prison did so because of sin in their hearts. Think of it. Envious of Paul and his position or his standing among other Christians, and apparently unconcerned about maintaining solidarity among Christians in a spirit of unity, these unnamed men nevertheless preached the gospel. Incredible.

Others, and we sincerely hope it was the greater majority of those preaching the gospel, were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ from good will. Good will, here, refers to good will toward Paul. In other words, they felt kindly toward Paul, convinced he was a good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing in what Paul says that would indicate that preachers on either side of this issue were consciously opposed to the gospel, or had any desire to demean the Savior in any way. There was just a strong difference of opinion concerning Paul and the impact he would have on their labors in and around Rome. This reminds me a bit of the problem that existed in the Corinth church. Perhaps you remember the Corinthians saying, “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Christ.” In Corinth, it was church members lining up behind their favorite preacher, supposing that Paul, Apollos, and Simon Peter were not in wholehearted agreement with each other. In Rome, it seems to have been some preachers who were siding either with or against Paul. Why did they do that? No one knows, for sure. Perhaps some were of the opinion Paul should not have gotten himself arrested, or should not be in Rome. Perhaps they thought Paul should not have appealed to Caesar, but should have trusted God and taken his lumps in Caesaria. Who knows what caused the rift? All we know for sure is that some of those who preached the gospel had some serious heart trouble. However, this should be no surprise, since Christians, even the best of us, are still sinners.

Second, WE ARE TOLD OF THE MOTIVES OF THOSE WHO PREACHED THE GOSPEL

Verse 16 tells us of those who preached from motives that were less than pure: “The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds.” Do not think this does not happen, because it does. Paul was in prison, awaiting a hearing before Caesar, and some preachers are preaching Christ as though they and Paul are not on the same side, wanting nothing more than to see things go worse for Paul than they were already going. However, note something often overlooked, but of critical importance here. According to verses 15 and 16, these guys are preaching Christ. At odds with Paul though they may be, for whatever reason, Paul is convinced that these men are still preaching the unadulterated truth. If they were not preaching the truth, Paul would say about them what he said about those in Galatia who had preached error, Galatians 1.6-9:

6      I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

7      Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

8      But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9      As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Though they apparently wanted to advance the cause of Christ, and saw Paul’s imprisonment as an open door of opportunity to accomplish that objective, they wanted nothing good for Paul personally. So you see, personality conflicts are a part of life, even for preachers of the gospel. It is not right. God is not pleased with it. However, it is a fact of life when you are dealing with sinful men.

Verse 17, on the other hand, tells us of those who preached from better motives: “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.” It sure is nice to know that some of those preachers in Rome were preaching for the right reasons. Amen? They saw the big picture and realized what Paul was in prison for, to defend the gospel at the highest levels of the empire. Because of their understanding and their love for Paul, they did not fault what he was doing, but stood by him through thick and thin. These are the ones, by the way, who are the real encouragers to a point man like Paul, who was laying it on the line for the gospel. Praise God for men like these.

Finally, WE SEE THE RESULTS OF THE PREACHER’S EFFORTS

Verse 18 begins, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached.”

Consider Paul’s realization through all of this. Paul sees clearly through this maze of difficulty he is going through as he writes. Never taking his eyes off of the big picture, Paul realizes that regardless of the motives and the heart condition of these various preachers, it could not be denied that Christ was being preached, and not in a compromising or incorrect way, aside from the heart motives of some. Those guys, on both sides of the situation, were accomplishing Paul’s mission of getting the gospel out in a clear and concise manner.

What was Paul’s response to all of this? Verse 18 concludes, “and I therein do rejoice.” Paul does not seem to care much for who is getting the message out, so long as it is getting out. It did not have to be him preaching it for him to be happy. He did not have to get personal credit for it. Thus, Paul’s concern is not Paul, as opposed to some of the preachers who were envious of him and his position. All Paul cared about was getting out the gospel.

Two thoughts at this point: First, what is your concern? Does your concern lie in getting the gospel out, or does it lie in you getting the gospel out? Most of the time, it is not going to get out unless you get it out. Paul realized that and it drove him to be the servant of God that he was. However, when he found that he could not do limelight work anymore, but could only serve God in the shadows of prison, he was delighted to see others step forward to do the job, even if those who stepped forward did not like him. At least the work was getting done. That was Paul’s delight, and that ought to be your delight and mine, doing what is necessary to get the gospel out. Second, something for you to seriously think about. Paul faced a number of adversaries during the course of his ministry, and he never before rejoiced that they were preaching the gospel. The difference in this letter is that those who did not like him in Rome are genuinely saved preachers, who did preach the gospel straight and true, but who just did not like Paul. That was fine with Paul. Such a thing was a minor concern of his so long as those preachers faithfully declared the gospel. However, such was not the case with those he had previously written about, and such is frequently not the case these days.

As was the case in Galatia in Paul’s day, we are seeing in our day the preaching of another gospel, the exaltation of another christ, and the result is not good. The clash these days is not so much one of personality, but core doctrines of the Bible. Therefore, we usually do not and cannot rejoice over the Word getting out over Christian radio and television and through various crusades. Why not? Because, unlike those Paul wrote about from a Roman jail, so many today are not preaching Christ and the gospel faithfully. Therefore, we oppose them and refute them at every opportunity, while we strive to get the true gospel out.

SERMON:

You know, of course, that people will listen to a strong message of deliverance, delivered by a strong spokesman, and will respond with strong faith, zeal and commitment. Communists all over the world responded to the strong message of deliverance from the oppression of the capitalists and ultimate class utopia that was preached by Karl Marx, then by Lenin, and then by Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro, and now Hugo Chavez. And they responded with faith, commitment and zeal. Muslims all over the world are responding to the strong message of deliverance of the Islam that was proclaimed by Mohammed, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and others. And they are responding with faith, commitment and zeal. Environmentalists all over the world are responding to the strong message of environmentalism and deliverance from the plague of technological destruction of the ecosystems and the rain forests that are proclaimed by the Sierra Club, Green Peace and others. And they are responding with faith, commitment and zeal. There are certain common features associated with anything that has some semblance of an appeal to the transcendent, the cause that is bigger than any single person. In addition to the examples I have already mentioned, there are the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Moonies, Scientology, and the various militia groups that worship the United States as they imagine it to have once been.

I could go on and on and list the many, many counterfeit appeals to your time, attention and sense of the transcendent. I just do not have that kind of time. I will say that despite the certain common features all of these concerns and movements may have, there is one thing they do not have. They do not have the saving gospel message. When these various isms and groups stand and declare their mission and spew forth their message, there will be people who respond and become committed adherents and followers. They will devote time, energy, and resources to their new interest, but they will not be forgiven their sins, they will not be given eternal life, they will not be made new creatures, and they will not escape the wrath of God and go to heaven when they die. That only occurs when the gospel is preached and sinners respond in faith believing by trusting Jesus.

No wonder Paul rejoiced. No wonder he was excited, despite his own imprisonment. He had a message to tell sinners of God’s redeeming love. He had a story to proclaim of a Savior who had come to seek and to save that which was lost. So, despite being in jail and handcuffed, he was thrilled and excited at the thought of the gospel which he preached, which he was willing to die for, actually being spread far and wide. All this because Paul knew that when the gospel is preached, when the genuine gospel is preached, when the gospel is preached correctly and truthfully, some of those who hear that message are going to be saved. Will you be one who hears the gospel and is saved? You know that most who hear the gospel are not saved, do you not? You know that most who hear the gospel will respond to the gospel in some fashion short of coming to Jesus by faith, and will then eventually die and go to Hell, don’t you? You realize that, don’t you? However, some who hear the gospel are saved, really saved.

Will you be one who is saved?

WHY DO YOU NEED TO HEAR THE GOSPEL?

You need to hear the gospel because of your sin. Away with these arrogant moralists who reserve to themselves the right to decide what is right and what is wrong, taking no account of the holiness of God. By what right does anyone decide what is right or what is wrong when God has already spoken? Listen to Romans 5.12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” That verse explains why you and I are the way you and I are spiritually. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they were plunged into sinfulness from which no man can get himself out of. So contaminating is this spiritual defilement called sin that its effects are passed on from father to child, generation after generation after generation. The result is, you and I are sinful in our nature. As a matter of fact, you are so sinful in your nature that you sin both consciously and unconsciously. Sin is so much a part of you that you are oblivious to the fact that each and every time you sin you are sinning against God. Everyone knows we do wrong things, but how much do we realize that the wrong things done are ultimately wrongs done to God? Therefore, when you lie to your mother, when you cheat on your tax returns, when you steal time from your boss, when you mentally fornicate while watching MTV or HBO, you are committing that sin against God and His holy government. Such sins are so grievous to Him that He writes those sins down to hold against you someday.[2]

You also need to hear the gospel because of your sentence. God, Who is holy, has decreed that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”[3] Have you ever sinned? Sure you have. Was it a long time ago? Still, you have sinned. For that reason you must surely die. God has thus decreed. Not my opinion, but God’s declaration. You may even think you are not as bad a sinner as some other people you know. They are far worse sinners than you are. That may be, but God has judged and found the whole world guilty, according to Romans 3.19. Perhaps you have not committed fornication, or adultery. Maybe you have never gotten drunk. You have never extorted from anyone. However, you have lied. You have taken things not yours. You have failed to love and honor God as He has commanded. In other words, you have sinned. Therefore, you are just as dead in trespasses and sins as the worst sinner who has ever lived, and God’s sentence has been pronounced. Yes, you need to hear the gospel. Apart from the gospel you are condemned to Hell for your sins.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO HEAR? THE GOSPEL

My friend, you first need to hear the gospel because of the power of it. In Romans 1.16, the Apostle Paul declared that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. In other words, God brings to bear His infinite power to save a soul whenever a sinner comes to Jesus Christ by faith in response to the gospel message being preached.

My friend, you next need to hear the gospel because of the protection of it, as we once more consider Galatians 1.6-9:

6      I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

7      Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

8      But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9      As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Do you see how Paul sought to protect the gospel message from distortion and error by condemning anyone who does not preach it faithfully and truly? Why is that? It is because the gospel that has been altered is no longer the gospel. The message which has been changed is no longer the message. Sadly, however, most of what passes for gospel preaching in the world today is not the gospel that Paul preached, but is another gospel, which is not another. Being wrong, the so-called gospel that is preached in most churches these days does not bring the infinite power of God to save to bear. My friend, you need to hear the gospel.

Thirdly, my friend, you need to hear the gospel because of the precision of it. First Corinthians 15.1-4, Paul sets forth the gospel:

1      Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2      By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3      For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4      And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Consider verses 3 and 4. Christ, the Messiah, died for your sins, in place of you for your sins. This was according to the scriptures, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. Substitutionary sacrifice. Shedding of blood. Then He was buried and rose the third day according to the scriptures. There you sit, a sinner condemned in the sight of God and unable to do anything about it because you are spiritually dead and impotent. There is also the gospel that brings all of God’s power to bear to save sinners. It is a message that must be protected and kept pure because it is a message that is specific and precise. Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross for your sins. He shed His precious blood to wash away your sins. Then, after He had been buried for three days and nights, He arose from the dead in supreme victory over sin, death, Hell, and the grave. This same Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, ready to save you.

WHAT, NOW, DO YOU NEED TO DO?

Knowing that your righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the sight of God, and knowing that it is not by works of righteousness which we have done which culminates in a sinner’s salvation, Titus 3.5, the question remains: What must be done to be saved? What do you do? Something has to happen for you to be saved from your sins; otherwise, you will die in your sins and suffer the torments of Hell, just like every other sinner. So, what is needful? What is needful is for you to come to the Savior, to trust him in a personal way, to place your faith in Him.

I read a Roman soldier’s question and the answer of Paul and Silas, in Acts 16.27-31:

27     And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

28     But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

29     Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30     And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31     And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Does this all sound too simple? It is too simple. It is so simple it sounds foolish to most people. Most people think, “Surely, you have to do something.” No. The essence of the gospel, which means “good news,” is that there is One Who has done for you everything that needs to be done, there is One Who has done for you what you cannot do for yourself. He has shed His blood and paid the price for your sin. To receive the salvation from sins which He offers, you must simply come to Him by faith and He will save you. Is that not “good news?” I urge you, as the Philippian jailor was urged, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.



[1] 2 Peter 3.18

[2] Revelation 20.12

[3] Ezekiel 18.4, 20



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org