The Furtherance of the Gospel
By: Scott Morton
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
In this epistle to the local assembly at Philippi, the Apostle Paul brings up many things for which he can rejoice and also asks them to rejoice in things. It is sometimes difficult for individuals to picture the issue of suffering or bad circumstances something to rejoice in. however, the Apostle Paul gives the reason right here on why individuals should be able to rejoice in these things. He is saying the things which have happened to him are for the furtherance of the gospel.
There were a lot of things which happened to the Apostle Paul during his ministry. He never had it easy, as some people think the Christian life should be. Paul lists out a number of things which he experiences early in his ministry:
2 Corinthians 11:23-24
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
These are a lot of problems for someone to face. He clearly did not have it easy in the ministry. This list was generated fairly early, as this epistle is one of the earlier ones the Apostle Paul wrote. This means he experienced more problems as his ministry went on. We see him in prison during the time he wrote the epistle we started with (Philippians 1:13). We also see during the ministry in Acts the records of his stoning (Acts 14:19-20) and him being beaten (Acts 16:16-24). For many individuals, they would have given up as these things were occurring, saying it was not worth it. The Apostle Paul does not give up and uses these things as motivation to continue in the ministry.
When the Apostle Paul looks at the ministry, he sees there are some things which need to be addressed related to the things which happen:
2 Corinthians 6:3-10
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:  But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,  In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;  By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,  By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,  By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;  As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;  As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
The Apostle Paul mentions the bad things which happened as a result of the ministry, as well as mentioning the good things. It is clear from his perspective that both groups are going to be part of the ministry during this dispensation. People often think only the good is going to happen when somebody is doing the work of the ministry. The Apostle Paul knew this wasn't the case from his own experience and wants the members of the Body of Christ this is not going to be the case.
He did know that all of the things were going to work out for good (Romans 8:28). This is something we cannot see all the time, especially when we are going through things which we do not feel are going to fall into this category. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks about how these things are going to happen for the furtherance of the gospel. The message for this dispensation can continue to go out in all of these things and should be going out as we experience these problems.
The Apostle Paul experienced many different problems during his time in the ministry. He experienced physical problems, mental problems, and spiritual problems. The physical problems are very clear to see and understand. He lists these out several times and states how he had to deal with these things. They are often easier to see than the other two groups.
The mental problems he experienced did result from his viewpoint on the circumstances he was in. One example of this is found here:
2 Corinthians 2:12-13
Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,  I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.
Paul travels to Troas because an opportunity cam up to preach the gospel. He was carrying out the will of God (1 Timothy 2:4, Ephesians 3:8-9) in attempting to make sure these individuals heard the gospel. He goes there and identifies the problems he faced by stating he had no rest in his spirit. There was a mental discomfort he had because Titus was not there. This would have had an impact on his ministry. A few chapters later Titus is there and you can see the joy the Apostle Paul has when he arrives.
Paul also mentions another way these things affected him mentally:
1 Corinthians 4:10-13
We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;  And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:  Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
The attacks he faced is being reviled and defamed. Most people want others to have some regard for them. They do not want to be in the position the Apostle Paul is saying he was facing here. These types of feelings can cause problems for individuals, especially is they are happening over the long-term. This can manifest itself as a person feeling anxious over things, appearing to be under high levels of stress all the time, or expressing worry about almost everything they are experiencing or could be experiencing at some future point in time.
While it is easier to see the mental things, there were things which took a toll on where he stood in the spirit as well. He saw things that were attempting to destroy his faith, just as they had to many other people. One example is what he writes in the last epistle he wrote:
2 Timothy 4:9-11
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:  For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
Paul speaks here about how there were people who had ministered with him that had walked away from what he had been teaching. They saw the difficulties which were facing them and decided they could no longer deal with them. Their only recourse was to go to an area which had already made the same decision, as they could then be in a place where they loved the present world.
What had to be extremely difficult for the Apostle Paul with this is one of the individuals is Titus. This is the same individual he had all of the mental problems with when he was not with him. This strong defender of the faith had walked away from the truth, which had to have had an impact on the Apostle Paul. This is why he has to keep telling the Body of Christ to stand for the truth and to keep studying the Word. If the needed foundation is not there, then any member of the Body of Christ could end up in the same position as Titus did.
The Apostle Paul faced all sorts of problems, but was able to see he was going to get through them. He lets the Body of Christ know we are going to be able to get through these things as well:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
The Apostle Paul shows how it is the grace if God which is going to be able to get us through these things. God is the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) and our responsibility is to turn things over to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). As this happens, we receive the peace of God which able to keep us in the place we need to be.
When all of these things occur to people, it seems like there would not be a way for the gospel message to be furthered. The gospel message for today is given to us by the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that 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:
It seems to be a strange thing to say this message is going to be going out more because of these things. The Apostle Paul states this because the gospel message should be going out no matter what the circumstances are. We should be able to preach this message in any circumstances. This can be seen in the instructions he gives Timothy about dealing with some of the things going on:
2 Timothy 1:8-12
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:  Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.  For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Paul speaks here about individuals being ashamed of the message. They were seeing what he was going through; including the fact he had been placed into prison and was sentenced to death. Many people did not want to end up like him, which is why he speaks about all who are in Asia turning from him (2 Timothy 1:15) and names individuals who specifically ministered with him (2 Timothy 4:9-10) that turned away from this message as well. This includes Titus, who we had the depression related to him not being there.
It is our responsibility to be standing for this message in any situation we are in. Individuals look at us to see how we handle things in our life. They see if we do the right things and remain faithful when things are good, but also look and see how this goes when things are not going well. If we are ashamed of the things of the gospel message, it will be reflected in what is going on in our life.
The Apostle Paul understood the responsibility that was given unto him. He did not shy away from it and clearly pointed out to individuals what he was supposed to do in his life:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Paul saw the responsibility of making all men see this message. His responsibility fell in line with the will of God (1 Timothy 2:4) and with the responsibility we have as ambassadors who have the message of reconciliation committed to us (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). This would have meant that he would have spread this message no matter what the situation was and no matter what the cost was going to be to him personally.
This is sometimes difficult for a lot of people to do. Some people are naturally shy and do not feel they could actually spread the gospel in this manner. They instead feel that someone who is willing to speak out will be able to do so. The Apostle Paul states it is the responsibility of every member of the Body of Christ to be doing this. Even Paul had some struggles with this:
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
Even the Apostle Paul had to pray for boldness to proclaim this message. This is the individual God had committed this message to. He is asking God to give him the boldness to be able to proclaim this message to other individuals. If he needed to do this, it is more than likely that we would have to be doing the exact same thing and need to pray for this boldness. With this boldness, the message of the grace of God will be able to go out to the whole world.
Paul does indicate in his epistles what the message of this dispensation will do when individuals here it and allow it to apply to their lives:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
The Apostle Paul shows how the message of this dispensation does apply to our lives. It brings salvation to all men, which is extremely important. Once the person does have salvation, the next part is the teaching people how to live their lives according to the doctrine. This is the edification and exhortation which are part of the assembling together of the saints as well. It is clear that this is supposed to be part of who we are as the members of the Body of Christ.
The struggles at times are how a person stays motivated to share the gospel and stand for the truth when things are going bad. Paul experienced a lot of different things and we see he was faithful until the end, as he tells us he finished his course (2 Timothy 4:7). The course has been laid out for us to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1) and we need to be trying to do what we can to follow this course.
The Apostle Paul gives us all of the information we need to do this in his epistles. He explains to us how we are able to get through the difficult times through what God has given to us:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Here the Apostle Paul speaks about the way we are able to get through these things. There is a patience that comes about when we experience tribulation, which then moves to experience, and finally to hope. The hope is the knowledge we are going to get through whatever the situation is. We know this is true because the promise for the Body of Christ is the things we are going through are but for a moment (2 Corinthians 4:17), which is what this life is compared with all of eternity. We know the rewards these things are building for us (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
We also know we have the promise of being able to get through them now. Paul gives us the information we need to be able to deal with the problems today:
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
It is clear that God can provide all comfort to us. We know what we need, as we get the information we need from the Word of God to be able to get through the situations we encounter in life. We are able to get through all of these things and then are able to help others to be able to get through them as well. This help occurs when we are able to share the Word which has provided the comfort to us.
It is sometimes difficult to understand how we are able to get through all of these things, as some things seem to be really bad. Paul tells us we are going to be able to get through all of these things and it is going to work out for us:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
All things work together for good. It doesn't matter if they are things that we think are the good things or not. Everything works out for the members of the Body of Christ and we get the comfort we need. The issue of our prayer life is very important, as we turn everything over to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). The Spirit does intercede for the members of the Body of Christ allowing for the things to work out according to His purpose.
It is clear we will be able to get through these things and should not allow it to have a negative impact on who we are as the members of the Body of Christ. It is sometimes difficult, as we look and feel the things we are facing are unique to us and we are never going to be able to get through them. The Apostle Paul says something which should be very encouraging to us:
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
There is a way for the members of the Body of Christ to be able to bear all of these things. We are given the tools necessary to be able to get through all of the problems we face, which should be the encouragement needed to be able to deal with the problems being experienced.
The one thing people will ask is how do the bad things in our life cause there to be the furtherance of the gospel. It doesn't seem to many people that this would be the case. The Apostle Paul gives a few examples in his epistles on how this happens:
I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:  The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
These two passages show the results of what can happen in any situation. The Apostle Paul was able to preach salvation while in prison and had at least Onesimus receive the gospel. He was OK with this, as he states he was set for the defense of the gospel. Paul knew the risks of preaching this message and was willing to continue.
This is where the furtherance of the gospel comes in. He was willing to keep preaching this message in any situation he was in. this was the demonstration of the Lord Jesus Christ living through him (Galatians 2:20). The message needs to keep going out and this is what the Apostle Paul was doing. His goal always was not his glory, but the glory which is associated with the cross.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.