Thursday, June 27, 2024

Boldness in Evangelism (Phil. 1:14)

Bible study requires us to look for things that are repeated. As a teacher, I know the power of repetition. It's as if I really want people to catch on to what I'm saying. I'll repeat things over and over again because repetition reinforces the message. 

Have you ever noticed how often Scripture uses repetition? Here's an example I accidentally stumbled upon this morning. I was reading Phil. 1:1-14 when I saw how Paul repeated the word "all." 

That's a lot of emphasis. You get the impression that he wanted his readers (and us) to pay attention to something. Look at how important that little adjective "all" is:

  • all the saints (verse 1)
  • all my remembrance of you (verse 3)
  • every prayer of mine (verse 4)
  • for you all (verse 4)
  • about all of you (verse 7)
  • you are all partakers with me of grace (verse 7)
  • I yearn for you all (verse 8)
  • all discernment (verse 9)
  • the whole imperial guard (verse 13)
  • to all the rest (verse 13)

That's why, when I came to verse 14, I was a bit taken aback to read, not "all," but "most." Writes Paul, "Everyone around here, including all the soldiers over at the barracks, knows that I'm in prison because I am a Christian. And because of my chains, most of the Christians here seem to have lost their fear and have become more and more bold in telling others about Christ." 

Notice that he doesn't say "All of the Christians.' He says "Most of the Christians." The majority, yes, but not ALL. There were exceptions. Some held back. Some remained fearful. Some were still intimidated. 

What's the lesson here? I honestly don't know. Maybe Paul's words are a reminder that the work of evangelism oftentimes requires courage and personal risk. "Why, if I do this, I could be thrown in jail like Paul!" We read later in the same letter that Epaphroditus's ministry to Paul was almost at the expense of his own life. He had hazarded everything in order to fulfill his commission. In our work in Ethiopia, an Ethiopian colleague of mine was murdered in his sleep for serving as one of my translators. James was only 24 when he was killed. He knew the risk and was fully prepared to meet it. Little wonder that Paul tells us to "continue to hold such people in esteem" (2:29). 

When I think of men like Paul, Epaphroditus, and James, I think of such old-fashioned words as guts, fortitude, and strength of character. These men didn't run and hide. They stood. And the Lord stood right beside them.

To which group do you belong? Do I belong? To those who became bold and spoke up? Or to those who remained afraid?