PREACHING THE GOSPEL
AS THE ISSUE OF LIFE IN THE CHURCH
Scripture Reading: Phil. 1:5-7, 18-21, 27; John 15:4-5, 8, 12; 17:21; 2:23—3:3
The book of Philippians shows us that the church in Philippi was a church that always bore the gospel as their responsibility. In the New Testament there are a number of Epistles, but only Philippians deals with the preaching of the gospel in such a clear way. We do not have such a clear mention of the preaching of the gospel in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, or any of the others. What is mentioned in 1 Timothy is not as clear as what is mentioned in Philippians.
In addition, all Bible students agree that the book of Philippians is a book on the experience of Christ. There is not another book that deals as much with the experience of Christ. If we read this book carefully, we will see that the first chapter tells us that Christ is life within us so that we may live by Him and live Him out. The second chapter tells us that Christ is the pattern set up for us. The third chapter tells us that Christ is the mark of the goal, and the fourth chapter tells us that Christ is the secret. Such a short book is very profound and prevailing in the experience of Christ.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL BY THE EXPERIENCE OF CHRIST
Although Philippians is mainly on the experience of Christ, it also deals with the gospel preaching of the church. This shows us that the preaching of the gospel is related to the experience of Christ and is in the experience of Christ. At the beginning of chapter 1 Paul says that the preaching of the gospel is a good work begun by the Lord and that He will complete this work until the day of Christ Jesus (vv. 5-6). At the end of this chapter he speaks of striving together—fighting as one, not individually but shoulder to shoulder—along with the faith of the gospel (v. 27). In verses 18 through 21 Paul says, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truthfulness, Christ is announced; and in this I rejoice; yes, and I will rejoice; for I know that for me this will turn out to salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I will be put to shame, but with all boldness, as always, even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” According to the whole context, the proper way to preach the gospel is to live out Christ and magnify Christ in our body. This is not merely to preach by words, and not even to preach by miracles, but to preach by a life which is Christ Himself.
Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John is on life, while chapter 17 indicates the building. Verses 4 and 5 of chapter 15 say, “Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Verse 8 says, “In this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so you will become My disciples,” and verse 12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another even as I have loved you. In chapter 17, verse 21 speaks of the building: “That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.” Then it speaks of the result, the issue: “That the world may believe that You have sent Me.” Chapter 15 speaks of fruit-bearing through abiding in Christ, and chapter 17 speaks of the world believing through the oneness of the believers. Our oneness in Christ is the strongest testimony. It is through this that the people in the world realize something of the salvation of Christ; then they believe that Christ is the very One sent by God.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL BEING AN ISSUE
OF THE INNER LIFE, NOT OF MIRACLES
The proper way for the church to preach the gospel is the way of life and building. We have to abide in Christ, live with Christ, and live out Christ, and we have to be built up together as one in love. Then we will be prevailing in the preaching of the gospel. What then of miracles? This same book shows us where the miracles are in the preaching of the gospel. Verse 23 of chapter 2 says, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed into His name when they saw the signs which He did.” The miracles seemed to bring many to Christ. Then verses 24 and 25 say, “But Jesus Himself did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” The Lord Jesus would not commit Himself to anyone who came in through the miracles. There is no doubt that the miracles brought a crowd to Jesus, but Jesus did not commit Himself to them.
In the original text of the Scriptures there are no chapters and verses. Therefore, chapter 3 continues chapter 2. Chapter 3 begins, “But there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Him by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (vv. 1-3). It is not a matter of miracles but a matter of being born again. The Lord Jesus would never commit Himself to anyone who came in through the miracles unless that one was born again. In chapter 2 a crowd of people, stirred up and convinced by miracles, came to Jesus, but Jesus would not commit Himself to them. Then between chapters 2 and 3 there is the big word but. “But” there was a man who came to Him to have personal contact.
Even Nicodemus had the wrong concept. He saw the signs that Jesus did, so he thought Jesus must be someone great, a great rabbi. However, the Lord Jesus pointed him to the way of life, indicating to him that what he needed was not a teacher but One who gives life, not one who does miracles but One who regenerates people. It is as if Jesus said, “What you need is not teaching or miracles. What you need is the inner life. You need to be born again.”
We must give up our wrong concept from our background and natural understanding. The preaching of the gospel is a part of the church life. We are the members of the Body of Christ. The Body as a whole is the very vessel to contain the Lord and to express Him. The church’s preaching, therefore, must be the issue of the church life. If we all live by Christ and with Christ, spontaneously we are the living and functioning branches of the great vine tree. He is the vine tree, and we—the members of His Body—are the branches. When we abide in Him and let Him abide in us, spontaneously the issue is that we bear fruit. The bearing of fruit by the branches is the outworking of the inner life, the manifestation, the expression, of the inner life. When we abide in the vine and let the vine abide in us, the life of the vine nourishes us, saturates us, and bears fruit through us. The outward fruit-bearing is the work of the inner life. It is something spontaneous in life, not something in activity or in the so-called power and miracles. The bearing of fruit by the branches is not something miraculous. It is the daily life of the branches. The branches simply abide in the vine and let the vine abide in them. They do not have any special or extraordinary feelings. They just live in that way. Then the life of the vine moves, works, saturates, nourishes, and brings forth fruit.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)