Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Paul's Obsession with The Gospel

By Dennis Pollock


The apostle Paul loved the gospel. He spoke of it again and again. Many might suppose that when writing to Christians there would be little need for speaking of the gospel. After all, your recipients would presumably already be saved, and there would be no point in trying to "re-save" them. Yet Paul could not help himself. Even though his epistles were all written to believers in various churches, he spoke of the gospel again and again and made constant references to the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


In the ninth chapter of 1st Corinthians, we have a perfect example of Paul's fondness for using the phrase "the gospel." In fact, in this single chapter, he uses this phrase eight different times. We'll take a brief look at some of these verses, but before we do, we need to establish what Paul meant by "the gospel." Technically the word gospel means "good news."  But Paul is not merely talking about any kind of good news, such as winning the lottery, finding a bag of money, or getting a free vacation. When he says "the gospel" Paul is talking about the message of Jesus Christ: who He is, what He did, His death, His resurrection, and His offer of forgiveness and eternal life to all who trust in Him. In short, the gospel is all about Jesus, which is why he often calls it "the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."


Paul saw this good news about Jesus as a message that God had specifically entrusted to him. In writing to Timothy, he spoke of: "the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust." Paul believed God had entrusted him with the message of salvation through Jesus, with the expectation that he, Paul, would share it far and wide with as many as possible. And Paul had configured his life around this goal. He lived as a single man, refused any kind of secular career, and endured many beatings and persecutions in fulfilling his commission to share the gospel with the world.


Getting back to 1st Corinthians 9, let us now look at some of Paul's references to the gospel. In the early part of the chapter, Paul discusses his own refusal to take a salary as other ministers did. Paul did not refuse gifts, but he never took a regular salary. When he ran low on money, he would stop his evangelism and preaching, make a tent or two, sell them, and then continue on with his ministry. As gifted as Paul was, we might suppose that it would have been a far more efficient use of his time to be paid for his ministry and leave off the tent-making. But Paul did not see it that way and declared:


If others are partakers of this right over you (the right to receive financial compensation), are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:12)


Paul felt that by paying his own way and receiving occasional freewill gifts, there was an unobstructed highway for the gospel of Christ to move forward. And he felt that to occasionally halt his preaching and spend some time making tents was a small price to pay for that highway to remain open. Indeed he seems to imply that he made other sacrifices as well, for the sake of the gospel, and that he was willing to "endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ." Whatever he did or did not do, the one thing he would never be guilty of was hindering the gospel. That took priority over all things, his comfort, his work, his friends, his travels, his sufferings, and his pleasures. The gospel, and Jesus whom the gospel represents, must be given priority. And Paul clearly took the gospel very, very seriously.


A few verses later Paul writes:


For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:15)


Paul saw himself not only as entrusted with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, but he even felt that this preaching of the gospel was such a strict command from God, that he really had no choice in the matter. He must preach the gospel. This is what he was made for; this is a major reason for which Christ had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul felt he had no reason to boast in all his preaching and journeying and planting churches – he would face serious chastening from the Lord if he did not do this.


Fishermen fish, hunters hunt, teachers teach, plumbers plumb, and Paul went around sharing Jesus, preaching Jesus, and having Bible studies that focused on Jesus. He shared Jesus one-on-one, spoke to small groups, and he preached before large congregations. He preached Christ as a free man and he shared Christ as a prisoner. He not only used the spoken word to communicate Jesus, but he also made good use of the written word and used his amazing skills and anointing as a wordsmith to help men and women discover who Jesus was.


Later in the chapter, Paul writes:


I have become all things to all men, that I might, by all means, save some. Now, this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

When Paul went among the Gentiles, he shed his Jewishness temporarily, and lived and acted like a Gentile. When he was among observant Jews, he would be as Jewish as any of them. Paul did not see this as hypocrisy. His reason was that he was willing to do whatever it takes and act in whatever manner necessary to remove every possible stumbling block from men and women so they might be open to the Christ he proclaimed. He summed up his motivation for his behaving like a chameleon with these words: "This I do for the gospel's sake." The gospel of Jesus Christ, that soul-saving, eternal, life-granting message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus must go forth from his mouth unhindered. And Paul was willing to do whatever it took to make sure this happened.


Most Christians in the early season of their new birth, have a pure and passionate love for Jesus, and will always instinctively focus on Him. Sadly, for many, a distraction or several distractions develop over the course of the years. This may be true even for pastors and ministers. They get caught up in pursuits of different kinds that appeal to them, and after a time, their love for and devotion to Jesus wanes significantly. In most cases, they do not turn their back on Jesus and reject Him outright. But, to use Jesus' own words, "They have left their first love."


Many ministers today emphasize principles over Jesus. They preach on the 12 principles of overcoming addictions and somehow forget to mention Jesus, the 7 principles of a good marriage, the 5 principles of prosperity and success, or the 10 principles of great leadership. Principles can be valuable, but they can never replace a steadfast focus of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To assume that we can achieve spiritual success in life simply by following principles A, B, C, and D, without prayer, without faith in Jesus, and without dependence on Jesus is not only completely foolish, but it is also an insult to the Spirit of grace. Paul declares that those who go back to achieving success in life through keeping all God's rules and principles have actually brought themselves under a curse, rather than receiving a blessing.


This never happened with Paul. When you read his second letter to Timothy, written, most believe, shortly before he was martyred, his love for Jesus burned as brightly and hotly as ever. Probably more so. Paul kept on point throughout his younger years, even to his final years, when he referred to himself as "Paul, the aged."


None of us will have the amazing apostolic ministry that Paul had, but we can all focus on the same Jesus who was the object of Paul's fixation. Reading Paul's epistles consistently will help a great deal. His attitudes will become our attitudes and his convictions, our convictions. And of course, we must be faithful to read the four gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John again and again, and to drink deeply from the wells of the Holy Spirit-inspired record of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. As we do this and walk with Jesus, fellowship with Jesus, and depend on Jesus, we will find that the gospel will become to us what it was to Paul: "the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust."


This gospel is so powerful and so necessary that we play an indispensable role in the salvation of men and women. All Christians know and understand that the Holy Spirit is all-powerful. He is God and nothing is too difficult for Him. Still, the Holy Spirit cannot, or perhaps I should say will not convert a single soul without the participation of us, the Christians. When an angel appeared to Cornelius, he told him to send for Peter who would tell him words by which he could be saved. But why must Cornelius send for Peter? Why couldn't the Holy Spirit simply save Cornelius right then and there? Why involve a flawed human in the process?


The answer is that this is the way God always works. He works through a message called "the gospel of Jesus Christ," and He requires His children to speak it out, write it, sing it, or make YouTube videos about it. Somehow, we must get involved, and we had better love and know the gospel because without sharing the message of Jesus, all our talking and all our urging and persuading will be in vain. The gospel message is dynamite and when we speak it and the Holy Spirit empowers the message, lives are transformed, and eternal life is bestowed upon those who receive this glorious gospel.




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