Saturday, 1 February 2014
But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Romans 15:29
Paul, writing to the Romans under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, stated that he knew that he would come to Rome. It was his hope that he would go on to Spain, but it was imparted knowledge that he would meet with the Roman church and that it would be “in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.”
In the book of Acts, it is exactingly detailed from chapters 21-28 concerning how he finally made it to Rome. He went to Jerusalem as he anticipated and was subsequently arrested. Through a long and weary process, he was eventually taken in chains to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. There, still under guard in a type of house arrest as he awaited trial, this is how the book finishes out –
“Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Acts 28:30, 31
The question is, “How could Paul’s words have been fulfilled?” How could arrest and imprisonment be a “part of the blessing of the gospel of Christ?” The answer is that suffering for the gospel is one of the greatest blessings of all. On several occasions, Paul speaks of the honor of such affliction. In writing to his young protégé Timothy, he gave this note of encouragement –
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… 2 Timothy 1:8
And he wasn’t just writing this as a mark of piety. He himself had suffered greatly for the gospel, including several imprisonments. Two examples of note make a direct connection between his chains and the advancement of the gospel –
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14
“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.” 2 Timothy 2:8, 9
The astonishing thing isn’t that Paul made it to Rome in chains when he was anticipating doing so in the “fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” What is beyond belief is that we would miss the fact that our suffering is often God’s way of being glorified and His way of advancing the gospel. Our suffering for Christ is a grant and an honor, not a mark of despair or disgrace. Should it come, remember the words of Paul to the Philippians –
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Philippians 1:29, 30
How easy it is to forget these things as we sit in latte-filled churches with cozy chairs and noisy bands to drown out the week’s troubles.
The Bible and the gospel message turns the world upside down concerning what is expected and what is just, pure, and noble. The soundness of the Bible is demonstrated in the unexpected. When we ponder the stories that are written in Acts and then compare them to the words of the epistles, we can note how things were anticipated and how they actually occurred. And these two would otherwise be at complete odds with each other unless they occurred by the divine hand of God. As Godet says, “Would a forger of this epistle, in the second century, have drawn a picture of the future so opposite to the way in which things really came to pass?”
Life application: If you are expecting an easy life in Christ, then you probably aren’t expecting to do very much for Christ.
Lord God, I could pray for ease, prosperity, and abundance in my life, or I could pray for You to be glorified through my life. I know that if I pray for the latter, the former probably won’t happen. But guess what Lord… I pray that You be glorified through me above all else. Any blessing I receive, including suffering and chains, will be worth the high calling of Jesus Christ. Amen.