Faithfulness to Our Calling
In Paul’s day, his “preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” encountered opposition on every hand. For faithfully proclaiming the glorious message which had been committed to his trust, he was constantly made to bear affliction and reproach. In one of his earlier epistles we already find a long list of the perils and persecutions he had by then been called upon to endure (II Cor. 11:23-33) and this opposition, bitter and relentless, continued throughout his ministry. In his last letter, written from prison in Rome, he calls attention to the distinctive character of his message, and adds:
“Wherein I [Paul] suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds…” (2 Tim. 2:7-9).
The almost constant suffering to which the apostle of grace was subjected naturally had its effect upon timid souls. Some, who saw the truth and the glory of his message, lacked the courage to stand with him in making it known. Others, who had started with him were tempted to — and some did — turn back. Of his first appearance before Nero, the Apostle had to say:
“At my first answer no man stood with me [Paul], but all men forsook me: pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (2 Tim. 4:16).
In the light of all this it is not strange that Paul should write to Timothy:
“For God Hath Not Given Us The Spirit Of Fear; But Of Power, And Of Love, And Of A Sound Mind.
“Be Not Thou Therefore Ashamed Of The Testimony Of Our Lord, Nor Of Me [Paul] His Prisoner; But Be Thou Partaker Of The Afflictions Of The Gospel According To The Power Of God” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).
Nor is it strange that in 2 Timothy 2:1-3 the apostle should urge his son in the faith to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” and to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” especially in the light of the fact that he himself needed constant help in this regard. The average Christian would find it hard to imagine Paul ever needing prayer for courage, yet he closes his Ephesian epistle with the request:
“And [pray] for me [Paul], that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
“For which I [Paul] am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19,20).
Oh, that all who have come to see the glory of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) would pray this prayer for boldness!
Some may suppose that it would require little boldness today to proclaim grace in all its purity. Who is ever persecuted now, at least in free, enlightened lands, for preaching God’s grace? Ah, but do not be deceived. Satan was no less active in his opposition to the truth when Constantine exalted the professing Church to prominence than when his predecessors persecuted the Church and sent its members to death by fire and sword. Indeed, the devil was doubtless more successful in Constantine’s day than he had been when persecution raged. And does any believer in the Word of God suppose that Satan has relented in his opposition to the truth today, just because men, at least in this land, are not yet burned at the stake or thrown to the lions? Do not be misled.
Satan’s enmity against God and against His Word continues undiminished. His hatred of “the gospel of the grace of God,” is as bitter, and his opposition to it as determined, as it ever was. But well does he know that the constant discouragements connected with being in the minority often succeed in silencing those who would stand against physical persecution.
Let us, who know and love the truth, determine by God’s grace that nothing shall make us unfaithful to our glorious calling as the “ambassadors for Christ.” That, whatever the cost, we shall faithfully and boldly proclaim to others the unadulterated “gospel of the grace of God,” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery.”