The Defense of the Gospel!
William Nicholson, 1862
"I am set for the defense of the Gospel." Philippians 1:17
Paul's attachment to Christianity was great. He loved it . . .
as the source of all his spiritual bliss,
as the grand remedy for man's woes,
so as to preach it boldly, to defend it manfully, and to be willing to die for it.
When he wrote this epistle, the Gospel was opposed by Judaizing teachers, who insisted on the necessity of connecting the Mosaic rites with the Christian institutions; and probably they represented Paul, then at Rome, as an enemy to the law and the prophets, and as a very imperfect Christian, because he denounced the doctrine of circumcision.
Some espoused his doctrine and cause, verse 15, others preached Christ of contention, not sincerely, verse 16. As if he had said, "These Judaizing teachers acknowledge Christ as the promised Messiah, and preach him as such — but not sincerely, not chastely, garbling the Gospel; not speaking the whole truth, but just what serves their purpose, and they denounce me as an enemy. But others in their preaching are actuated by love, and co-operate with me, knowing that I have been divinely appointed as a defender of the Gospel."
I. The Cause To Be Defended. "The Gospel."
It is called the Gospel of God, Acts 20:24, because it proceeds from him and manifests his favor.
It is called the Gospel of Christ, Romans 1:16, because he is the immediate Author and the subject of it.
It is called the Gospel of salvation, Ephesians 1:13. It brings the good news that salvation may be obtained, it offers this salvation, it proposes the terms of accepting it, and affords grace to bring men to salvation.
The word Gospel in the original, signifies good news or glad tidings.
1. It is glad tidings to a lost and ruined world. "All have sinned," etc. All are condemned, helpless, ignorant.
2. It is glad tidings of the advent of Christ to become the Savior of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15. He assumed their nature — fulfilled the law — endured its penalty. John 3:14-19; Romans 4:24, 25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.
3. It is the glad tidings of pardon and justification, and all their blissful effects, 1 John 1:7; Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 5:1; 8:1. Thus . . .
the poor captive is delivered,
the prisoner leaves his dungeon,
the debtor is discharged,
the criminal escapes execution —
because the blessed Jesus becomes his substitute.
4. It is the glad tidings of adopting love. The poor outcast is taken into the Divine family — the forlorn and wretched are made sons, etc. John 1:12.
5. It is the glad tidings of triumph over all spiritual foes. Thus Christ on behalf of his people "spoiled principalities and powers," Colossians 2:14, 15. His conquest is the sure pledge that his people shall be "more than conquerors" over every adversary.
6. It is the glad tidings of immortal glory. "Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel." 2 Timothy 1:10.
II. This Gospel Is Sometimes Opposed.
1. It is ever opposed by the carnal mind. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be!" Romans 8:7
2. It is opposed by the self-righteous. Such were the Jews and the Pharisees of old, Romans 10:3, 4. And there are many such opponents now.
3. By Unitarians and Socinians, who reject the divinity of Christ. If Christ is not a Divine Savior, his death has no more merit than that of any martyr.
4. By infidel philosophers, who reject Scriptural revelation altogether. Some who have a little learning — a little acquaintance with science, proudly think themselves superior to the simple truths of the Gospel. Salvation appears to be generally "hidden from the wise and prudent — but revealed unto babes."
At the root of this opposition, may be found ignorance, love of pleasure, bigotry, prejudice, and pride.
Hence the doctrines of the Gospel have been opposed — its ordinances changed — its discipline corrupted, and it has, in many instances, been secularized and made the instrument for procuring honor and wealth.
III. This Gospel Must Be Defended.
1. Not by coercion, attempting to force men to embrace it under pains and penalties. Look at the ancient Crusades, and the bloody deeds of Popery — in the Inquisition, the racks, tortures, fires, etc. etc. The history of the "Man of sin," in his pretended defense of the Gospel, is a history of deeds of blood!
Not by coercion in extorting money for its support from those opposed to it, for "God loves a cheerful giver."
Not by the exercise of the civil power, penal inflictions and extortions, some of which yet disgrace our land.
To all such modes of carnal warfare, Christ was opposed. "My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds!" 2 Corinthians 10:4
(2.) It must be defended as Paul defended it. He is our example.
Christian experience constrained him to defend it. He believed the Gospel "to the saving of the soul."
Christian and consistent conduct emboldened him to defend it. He lived the truths which he believed and taught. 1 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 1:12.
Intimate acquaintance with the Gospel, obtained by reading, study, prayer — and Divine influence qualified him to defend it. Let the Church go and do likewise.
Paul defended it by preaching. So can the Church now by its various officers set for the defense of the Gospel. They are the watchmen on the walls of Zion; the leaders of the people — the ambassadors of Christ. They are "set" for this purpose — not self-appointed, but gifted, qualified, and called to it by the general voice of the Church.
The gospel is to be defended valiantly. Not with timidity. It is the best cause. It is the revealer of Christ and immortality. Do earthly engagements call for enthusiasm? Surely this cause ought to kindle in the mind the most sacred ardor, burning zeal, and fervency. 2 Corinthians 5:13,14.
The gospel is to be defended with cogency of argument. Let the Gospel, the evidences of its truth, and the efficacy of its power, be well understood.
The gospel is to be defended with plainness of speech.
The gospel is to be defended calmly and dispassionately. "A soft answer turns away wrath."
The gospel is to be defended with constant prayer and dependence on the Spirit's teaching.
Finally, all Christians may spread this Gospel — all may defend it.