The Furtherance of the Gospel

ALL CHRISTIANS WILL doubtless agree that since Pentecost God has been taking out of the Gentiles “a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) These are his church, a company who are to be saved with a heavenly salvation, and, in the resurrection, to “ever be with the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:17) It will be further agreed by most Christians that none will be of this heavenly company, the “church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), who never heard of the only name “under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The terms and conditions of this High Calling are that only those who “suffer with him” shall be “glorified together” with him. (Rom. 8:17) Hence, Paul says, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Cor. 1:21) Again, he says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”—Rom. 10:17

All this being true, it seems at first sight strange that the spread of the Gospel message through the centuries should have met with so many handicaps. The heralds of the glad tidings have had many discouragements. Even the Gospel message has been perverted and the church organization sadly corrupted. It has even been taught that all who fail to become members of the church, the body of Christ, would be eternally lost, and that the present life is the only opportunity to hear, and believe, the message of salvation.

Those who have begun to see something of the Truth as it is in Jesus, know that salvation belongeth unto our God. The successful carrying out of the plan of salvation is his responsibility and that of his well-beloved Son. The gathering of the church, to be followed by the blessing of the world under Messiah’s kingdom, will be accomplished by Divine power—“the government shall be upon his shoulder.”—Isa. 9:6

Realizing this, we are prepared to see that in this age the way to life has been, as the Master declared it would be, a “narrow” way, with a “strait” gate as an entrance to that way. (Matt. 7:14) It is a way to life difficult to walk, and difficult to find and enter; the conditions being adapted to the preparation and testing of a special class for “glory and honour and immortality.”—Rom. 2:7

This is in full accord with the words of the apostle, “The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” (Phil. 1:12) So wrote Paul to his beloved converts at Philippi—who had kept in touch with him all through the years from the day he came to them with the Word of life. What ‘things’ were these? For many years, it would seem, Paul had much liberty to travel from place to place preaching the Lord’s message. These efforts were frequently richly blessed by companies being found ready for the message. The Lord accepted these and brought them into relationship with himself, justifying and bringing them into his family by the begetting of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle experienced much opposition to his work; much sacrifice and suffering and hardship had to be experienced. The way the Lord blessed his labors more than offset the trials of the way. To the Thessalonians he said, “What thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God.”—I Thess. 3:9

How different his circumstances were at the time of his writing the Philippian letter! A prisoner in Rome, daily waiting to be called for trial before the emperor, and always chained to a soldier, he had continual restrictions of liberty. One blessing the Lord still granted him, however, was that his friends could visit him. (Acts 28:30) In addition, some of his guards, who were changed every few hours, manifested an interest and received the Gospel, so that there even came to be saints in “Caesar’s household.”—Phil. 1:13; 4:22

With the eye of faith Paul could see beyond these outwardly unfavorable circumstances, and could say, ‘The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.’ The church in Rome was encouraged by Paul’s faithfulness to greater zeal in the Lord’s service. Thus Paul’s apparently disadvantageous experience had been overruled for his good, and for the furtherance of the Lord’s work.—vss. 13,14

Another seemingly unfavorable incident made to work for the furtherance of the Gospel was the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the Emperor Claudius. An edict forced Aquila and Priscilla to leave their home, and, probably, a prosperous little business of tentmaking. This was doubtless a very trying and, from their standpoint, unfavorable experience, but one which worked out unto the furtherance of the Gospel. Divine providence operating on behalf of Aquila and Priscilla and, overruling an apparent calamity, led them to Corinth. Here they were contacted by the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:1-3), and ere long a consecrated brother and sister were added to the Lord’s family, to whose subsequent benevolent service he gives very high praise.—Rom. 16:3

As we view the records of the apparent adversities, hindrances, and discouragements of those engaged in the Lord’s service throughout the Gospel Age, can we not also see that these experiences have been made by our Lord and Head to work out unto the furtherance of the Gospel? They did not always show visible good results, but surely brought forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness in the Lord’s servants who have been rightly exercised by these apparently unfavorable experiences. The apostle elsewhere expresses the matter, “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”—II Cor. 2:14

The Lord’s Word, through the prophet, contains the same comforting assurance. The “word … that goeth forth out of my mouth: … shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) Even in our own personal difficulties, or discouragements, in connection with the Lord’s work, can we not look back and see how often these things have been for the furtherance of the Gospel?

Our Master, in sending forth his followers for the great work of the age, gave them a cause for confidence. He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” (Matt. 28:18,19) As we carry the glad tidings, how encouraging to realize that the One guiding and directing the work has ‘all power’ in heaven and in earth! No wonder all things can be made to work out unto the furtherance of the Gospel.

Let us never be discouraged, or cast down, at the enemy’s apparent success. Let us, by faith, claim the apostle’s inspired assurance, ‘Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.’

Dawn Bible Students Association
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