Ready to Preach The Gospel
The Proof of The Gospel
What does it take to be ready to preach the gospel? The gospel of Jesus Christ found itself already having impact throughout the known world, who did it take to get there?
The Romans were a proof of the effectiveness of the gospel, from it came hope for the entire world, what will it take for you to preach it?
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.Romans 1:8
The timeframe for this letter finds itself placed historically between Pauls desire to come to Rome (v13) and his departure from Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem (See Romans 15:25-26 & Acts 19:21).
It would be his last missionary journey and his days would be concluded in Rome.
Paul did not find himself in Rome voluntarily. The missionary journey he undertook to Rome was one that was ordained by God alone.
Paul was charged with blasphemy by the Jews of Jerusalem, bound in chains, appeared before Festus in Caesarea.
see Acts 25:7-12
As a free born Roman citizen, the apostle Paul was entitled to a fair trial under Caesar.
His journey to Rome was met with peril with yet another ship taken by the storm, yet he did indeed make his way to Rome.
Other than the 2ndLetter to Timothy, the last four chapters in the book of Acts is the last we hear of Paul in the Biblical record historically.
Tradition tells that he had suffered martyrdom at the hands of Nero by decapitation. Nero died by 68 ad and Pauls 2ndletter to Timothy was just before his death (see 2 Tim 4:6).
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
My reason for providing to you the historical parameter of Pauls death is that you might know the incredible distribution of the fruit of the Gospelin such a short amount of time historically.
Paul makes the claim respecting the proof of the Gospelthat its witness was seen by the known world several years prior to his death in Rome.
But there is another Biblical and historical witness of the proof of the prosperity of the Gospel turn with me to Acts 17:6-7
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king,oneJesus.
Many years earlier, the witness of those who fought against the Gospel of Christ proved the prosperity of the preaching of the Gospelas that which “turned the world upside down”.
These Romans addressed in this letter did not hear the Gospel through Paul.
(Pauls first missionary journey was quite local, extending only to Asia Minor, his second and third journeys where in a circuit to Athens. Pauls journey to Rome was as a prisoner as stated.)
Yet, their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world, their faith and the living out of their faith, was a proof of the Gospel.
Cornelius Tacitus is a source outside the Bible that was a witness to the proof of the Gospelin the first century AD. In his writing he explained the blame against Chrsitians by Nero for the burning of Rome.
Tacitus was no friend of the Christians, yet he witnesses both their prevalence and their persecution.
He wrote The Annals of Tacitus between 62 and 65 AD, when Paul the apostle was still alive, saying;
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
It was Pliny the Younger writing to emperor Trajan several decades later, enquiring of what to do with these Christians saying;
They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a god, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. From this custom, however, they desisted after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your commands, I forbade the meeting of any assemblies.
The proof of the Gospel went through all the known world just on thirty years after the resurrection of Christ.
How could this happen so quickly? The answer was given us in Romans 1:4 because Jesus was“…declaredto bethe Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”
The example of the first point is to note of certainty that the Faith of Those is Rome was indeed a Proof of the Gospel of Christ to all the world, even to those who stood against Christ.
Their faith was the first instant that made them Ready to Preach the Gospel. Their faith was a witness to others of the Gospel, they lived as proof of the Gospel.
Might we be encouraged to live as a proof of the Gospel, that our faith may be even spoken of!
The Petition for the Gospel
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Paul here makes petition for the Gospel of Christ and does so without ceasing. His request is not a grand one, but simply that his journey to them might be a prosperous one.
It is of interest to note that the prosperity sought for by Paul is nothing like that sought for by many of todays Christians. Pauls journey to them was prosperous, but not in the way many think of prosperity today,we will consider that in the next point.
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
His petition to the Lord was for the establishment of the brethren.
When each of us come together as peculiar people of Christ, we find ourselves loving to talk of the Lord, things of Jesus rejoice our hearts, it establishes us in the truth of the Gospel, it strengthens our faith, and even at times it shames us to live for the Lord.
Many years ago, I had not long come out of a local Laodicean Church, and I attended a meeting of Baptist Men, a camp in Alexandra for the men of the Churches.
The hymns were the most wonderful thing in the world to hear. It sounded like the song of a hundred deep waterssinging the praises of God and I wondered if heaven would be this way?
Anyhow, many young men took to preach the word of God, they quoted the Bible without notes, without tuning a page in the book of books, the scriptures seemed written in their hearts and came out of their lips.
I left the meeting deeply ashamed. Twelve years I have been a Christian and could not think of a single text committed to the memory of my heart.
Beloved, we need to be motivated by each other, we need to petition the Lord for the Gospel to continue to change our hearts and lives that, when we come together we might impart onto one another some spiritual gift that we might be established.
Pray for each other, pray for each Sunday that, coming together we might have a blessing to give to others and that they might give to us, to establish us in the faith we share.
12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
The clarification of the “spiritual gift” Paul desires to impart is explained here.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
Every brother and sister in the Lord has a comforting account of their faith. Stories we share with one another that testifies to each other of the things of the Lord that occur within our day to day lives.
We don’t see it often enough, we don’t recognise the work the Lord is doing each day, we too often live by sight and not by faith. We don’t see the serendipitous events that bring two things together just right, and we don’t see it because we don’t spend enough time reflecting upon it daily.
We often don’t pray long enoughto recall to mind the wonderful dealings of God.
In the days before the Time Vaporiser (TV), and before smaller versions of the same amusements and the plethora of circus treats we waste our time with these days, Christians would spend their days reflecting and speaking to one another of the wonderful things the Lord has done to bring about good things from bad,
to lead one to the saving knowledge of Christ,
to reflect on the days outcomes and how the Lord worked in some of the most insignificant things in their day to day lives.
They would talk of their testimony of the Lords dealings with them.
They spoke of their troubles and of his rebukes,
they spoke of their joys and his blessings,
they spoke of their occasions for the Gospel and they would pray together.
They would make request as Paul did, for a prosperous work to be done within the Churchthat we may be established and comforted in our mutual faith.
Beloved that faith we share, those accounts in our lives we tell of the dealings of the Lord, each small thing we encourage each other with, makes us Ready to Preach the Gospel.
When our faith grows, the witness of our faith follows quickly on its tail, the world around us begins to seethe proof of the Gospelin our lives.
I speak often to people just in the normal day to day living. If I am buying some items, it does not take long to share some small words of hope.
The people of the world see that things are not well, the older ones are beginning to see that things are not getting better as they once believed, but worse.
Young people living without hope and confusion being the standard fair of the day.
The only way people are working to numb the pain of this reality is through entertainments of all kinds, movies, music, sports and leisure. But none have an answer.
The wicked shall do wickedly and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand (Dan 12:10)
Its these wise we seek each day to share of the hope in Christ. Petition the Lord for the Gospel, pray without ceasing that your journey is a prosperous one, and share that account when we come together that each of us might be established and made ready to preach the Gospel.
The Prosperity of the Gospel
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
Paul made his request for a prosperous journey.
His purpose was to come to them, but the Lord led elsewhere. The prosperity he truly sought after was fruit among the gentilesand God certainly prospered his journey, but not anything like he might have expected.
He was taken to Rome in chains, bound for the sake of the resurrection of Christ and the hope of Israel.
Acts 28:30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
We understand that it was during these two years that his time was spent under house arrest until he was brought before Nero and finally departed to be with Christ.
The fruit he gained was wonderful. His journey prospered many, being poor he did indeed make many rich.
The prosperity of the Biblical Christian is one founded upon the entire nature of the Gospel. Like Paul, our prosperity is invested sacrificially.
I’ll explain that in a moment, but first consider, we gain the eternal when we are willing to forsake the temporal, it is the exact opposite of how the world lives.
Jesus made clear that “he that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt 10:39).
The Gospel teaches us that this is exactly what Jesus came to do. Jesus did not come to live a long temporal and prosperous life, he came to be a sacrificethat we might have life.
In John 10:10 he says “I am come that they might have life, and that they might haveitmore abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his lifefor the sheep.”
The entire message of the Gospel is one of the ultimate sacrifice given which gained the ultimate riches to all who believe in that sacrifice of Christ for them.
In believing the Gospel we have gained everlasting life and all that we are willing to lose for the sake of the Gospel here and now, we will gain for all eternity. Our prosperity is invested sacrificially.
Consider Pauls words in our text, read it with me in verse 14
14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
Notice, he is debtor not creditor. He has not given to them for them to repay. The Gospel he has gained eternally he sees himself as owing to all he might preach the Gospel to.
Freely he has received, freely he gives.
In our lives we are to let nothing hinder the Gospel of Christ and all we do and all manner of life we live, we do so sacrificially having Jesus Christ as our example.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Allow scripture to explain a little clearer;
Turn to Luke 6:32-36
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lendto themof whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful andtothe evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
When Christians live sacrificially they live prosperously.
They transfer to eternity a gain that was a loss temporally. In other words, all they give for the sake of the Gospel of Christ in this life, whether it is to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, lend that which can never be repaid, doing good yet expecting no temporary benefit from it, they will gain an eternal prosperity that cannot even be comprehendedof the unsearchable riches of Christ.
As a living sacrifice unto God, the unsearchable riches of Christ is exactly what we preach. The prosperity we are to seek after is that found in the entire nature of the Gospel. All our effort in life should be to this end for the fruit of eternal life in many.
I love how the Lord uses Planting and Watering as a picture of the Gospel, but I want to share with you that, as in our passage in Luke we just read, the Gospel is not limited to telling people about Jesus.
Every way we live our lives; our grace, kindness, and treatment of others, both plants and waters seed for the fruit that will come.
I have just begun to nurture my garden. The incident I had in October has provided opportunity and the garden is getting well fed. There is a sacrifice of resources needed to gain the fruit of the garden; Time, effort, water and other resources are used up for the work.
Some things that are done don’t seem to be directly related to growing fruit and vegetables.
Pulling weeds for example.
But isn’t the preparation of the ground important for sowing the seed?
Are there some that you can do good to, never hoping for a return, that may in due time, see the hope you have in Christ and ask it of you?
Are there some who are unlovable that you can love?
Some who are impoverished that you can feed or lend a hand to?
I am better now, but I have come to see how difficult life is when you are physically restricted. Are there some people you might help that can provide opportunity for them to one day share in the “unsearchable riches of Christ”?
I’m building up a compost bin and worm farm in the hope of supercharging some future fruit and veg not yet planted. Again, it’s not directly related to growing fruit and vegetables as they might grow without it, but….
Do you ever think to pray earnestly for the souls of people you speak to?
Do you fast for those affected by another spirit?
Do you prepare the way for the Gospel that it might have better opportunity?
I have hard clay soil in my yard because water seems to just run off it rather than sink in deep, so I need to dig it up a bit and turn it.
Do you spend time desiring the Lord change you, digging up your own fallow ground?
Has your heart been softened and prepared to love and care for others more than yourself?
Do you love to esteem yourself or others first?
Do the cares of this world choke the word and make you unfruitful?
The Prosperity of the Gospel begins when it is first invested sacrificially.
When we live our lives as a living sacrifice unto God (Romans 12), when we are willing to think of ourselves as being unprofitable servants, doing only that which was our duty to doas debtors to the world around us, then is our reward great in heaven as many have gained eternal life for the proof of the Gospel in us.
Prepared to Preach the Gospel
15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Unique among Christians was the work of God in Pauls life to prepare him for the ministry of Christ.
In Acts Chapter 9 God had commanded Ananias to go to one Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the apostle, and to put hands on him that he might receive his sight. Ananias was reluctant having heard of the persecutions that Saul did to believers, but the Lord said;
“.. Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:” (Acts 9:15)
The work God had done in the life of Paul to make him ‘ready to preach the gospel’ was great and it was unique to Paul. But so is the work God is doing in your lifeto make you ready to preach the gospel.
Your testimony is your own, perhaps similar enough to some that they may be encouraged in their walk, but it is unique enough to be that shared by no-one. Paul was a persecutor of Christians, he was zealously affected but not well, until God had intervened and worked in his life to prepare him to become a ‘chosen vessel unto’ God.
That is you; unique among us all, unique in life, unique in testimony, unique in experience and unique in the lives of the people you meet and affect. In Gods eyes you are always at the right place and at the right time to bring eternal life to someone.
Like Esther, for some soul who desperately needs to know of the hope that is in you, you are come to them for such a time as this. No one else can do what you have been prepared by the Lord to do.
Yet for each one of us there also seems to be prerequisites that are characteristic to all.
In this passage it is those three items that seem to be presented to us;
- Our passage here in Romans tells of the Faith of the Romans that was evident to all the world, they were living proof of the Gospel.You cannot be made ready to preach the Gospel without faith in the Gospel.If you are born again you are the Proof of the Gospel to all people.
- Prayer and fellowship:
- You cannot be ready to preach the Gospel without having petitioned the Lord For the Gospel. He is the Lord of the harvest, and he alone is the one that makes the increase. In my garden, all I can do is plant and water.
- Part of the preparation in our lives is also fellowship together. Pauls desire was to impart the spiritual gift that brings comfort that both the mutual faith of one another benefits one anotherfor the preparation of the work of the Gospel to others. Its why we come together.
- I am just new to gardening and growing things, but I cannot think of a single plant that is designed to bare only one item. I searched it online and all I can find is references to unproductive plants. I do honestly believe it was God that planted this church, the fruit within it will provide seed that will one day be a harvest for the Lord.
- Therefore, we come together to nurture one another for the harvest to come.
- The third prerequisite we see in the passage relates to the prosperity of the Gospel. Knowing that our gain in the gospel is infinite, that no treasure on earth can compare with all we have gained through Christ and that now we are become debtors to all those around us, we owe to them what we have gained. Freely did we gain everlasting life, freely do we give the opportunity of it to all people.
All have sinned and are come short of the glory of God, there are none righteous no not one.
The fall of man by the prime representative of mankind, the first man Adam, had passed on that fallen nature to all of mankind.
You and I were born with a sin nature. God’s ten commandments are a representative of Gods nature, our inability to obey them should recognise in each one of us that we have no place with God, not now nor for eternity.
According to the Bible, without the intervention of God, without the truth of the resurrection of Christ, every man and woman on earth would remain lost and, at death, would inherited damnation with the first fallen creature originally named Lucifer but today called Satan. He went from Light Bearer to Deceiver.
It is incredible to note that we alone have the opportunity of death,we alone are able to make the choice in life to repent and turn to God.
But without the penalty of sin paid for and dealt with, we cannot have that freedom. Our sin has a cost that needs to be paid, without that payment there is no way of returning to God.
Jesus is the way, he is the truth and he is the life. God sent forth his son to be the ransom of sin for all who will accept what he has done for us, as a gift.
This is the Gospel,
This is life everlasting,
Jesus Christ is the only hope for mankind.
YOU ARE MADE READY TO PREACH THE GOSPEL.
It was the last commandment to all believers, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” Mrk 16:15
You are ready!
Tacitus, The Annals and The Histories, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, Great Books of the Western World, Second Edition., (Chicago; Auckland; Geneva; London; Madrid; Manila; Paris; Rome; Seoul; Sydney; Tokyo; Toronto: Robert P. Gwinn; Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1990), 14:168.
Pliny the Younger, The Harvard Classics 9: Letters and Treatises of Cicero and Pliny, 1909, 427.