Consider, for example, the first chapter of Paul's letter from prison to the church at Philippi. Paul writes that although he is "in chains for Christ" (Phil. 1:13), this "has really served to advance the gospel" (Phil. 1:12). Paul contends that the gospel has actually advanced because he is in prison. First, the "whole palace guard" has been exposed to the gospel (Phil. 1:13). If Paul is to be taken literally, there are 9,000 soldiers in the Roman praetorian guard who all "know the circumstances of Paul's imprisonment" (O'Brien 1991, 93). Paul can actually celebrate being behind locked doors because it has provided an open door for 9,000 men to be exposed to the gospel.

Paul also says that the short-comings of the person who is preaching the gospel do not affect its advance. Whether a person preaches out of "envy and rivalry" or "good will" (Phil. 1:15), whether out of "love" (Phil. 1:16) or "selfish ambition" (Phil. 1:17), "whether from false motives or true," it does not matter as long as "Christ is preached" (Phil. 1:17). I find here incredible reassurance of the power of the gospel.. Although we would like to say that we always preach Christ from the purest of motives, if we are completely honest with ourselves we must admit that it is not so. But, when "Christ is preached" his message is stronger than any frailty or insufficiency on the part of the preacher. Although we bear the sword, it is still the Spirit's sword. in evangelism, when the Word is proclaimed, God's Spirit is the one who brings about its effect in the heart of the listener. The Spirit's effectiveness more than overshadows any limitation or ineffectiveness on our part.

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Kelly Malone is a missionary with the International Mission Board (SBC), Academic Dean of the Christian Leadership Training Center, and Editor of Japan Evangelism in Tokyo, Japan.

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References

Azurdia, Arturo G., III. 1998. "Preaching: The Decisive Function," in The Compromised Church, ed. John H. Armstrong. Wheaton: Crossway.

Barrett, C. K. 1973. A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Carson, D. A. 1984. From Triumphalism to Maturity: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Davis, James A. 1984. Wisdom and Spirit: An Investigation of 1 Corinthians 1.18-3.20 against the Background of Jewish Sapiential Traditions in the Greco-Roman Period. New York: University Press of America.

O'Brien, Peter T. 1991. The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Ramm, Bernard. 1959. The Witness of the Spirit: An Essay on the Contemporary Relevance of the Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Stott, John. 1991. The Gospel and the End of Time. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.