For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not worked by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,…
I. LET US ESTIMATE PAUL'S MISSIONARY WORK. Note —
1. The length of time during which it was done. He began very shortly after his conversion, and carried it on till his martyrdom; a period of about thirty years. From those thirty years the time spent in Arabia and. in prison has to be deducted.
2. The helps by which the work was done.
(1) His strong faith that the gospel was the power of God to every one who believed.
(2) His fervent love to Christ.
(3) His great love to mankind.
(4) His good natural capacity and education.
(5) The gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon him so largely.
(6) His companions.
(7) His Roman citizenship.
3. His hindrances.
(1) He was a Jew, and the great contempt in which the Jewish race was held by the Gentiles must have been an immense hindrance to the apostle as he went about preaching salvation through a crucified Jew.
(2) He was by no means a strong man physically. He suffered much through infirmity of the flesh.
(3) His speech was not acceptable to some. Not only did the unconverted Athenians ask, "What will this babbler say?" but there were Christians at Corinth who pronounced his speech "contemptible."(4) His ungenerous critics did acknowledge that his writings were weighty and powerful; but in regard to them he laboured under a very great disadvantage. The art of printing had not been invented, and if he wrote an epistle intended for more Churches than one, well, then, it was slowly passed from one to another. And not only so; those who had the charge of Churches did not always like to read Paul s epistles to the people (1 Thessalonians 10:27). Here in the apostolic age is the germ of the evil practice of withholding the Word of God from the laity.
(5) Travelling in those days was very slow, difficult and dangerous, whether by land or sea.
(6) The apostle chose to labour for his own support at his trade as a tent-maker.
(7) He was hindered by Jews and Judaisers wherever he met with them.
(8) The other apostles were not very much in sympathy with him.
4. The extent of his work. To say nothing of his preaching at Damascus and neighbourhood, from Jerusalem, substantially through Asia Minor together with Macedonia and Achaia, westward to the shores of the Adriatic, the apostle preached the gospel of Christ. "And not only so" he could say, "I have fully preached it." This work was by no means of a superficial character. As to the results, they were various; sometimes very few were converted, sometimes very many. The power of the gospel was acknowledged by enemies of Christ at Thessalonica and Ephesus. Therefore the apostle really did so evangelise that large tract of country, and if the Churches planted in those regions had done their duty, most certainly all the inhabitants would have been brought to Christ.
II. FROM THIS SUMMARY OF THE APOSTLE'S WORK WE MAY LEARN THAT THE EVANGELISATION OF THE WORLD IS REALLY A PRACTICABLE THING. This is not universally acknowledged. Of course, a very large proportion of those who do not believe the gospel, utterly deny it, and there are Christian people who do not seem to be very strongly convinced of it, for if they were, surely they would think of it, pray for it, and give towards it more.
1. Here was a great work done through God's grace by this one man in a space of thirty years. Sixty periods of thirty years have passed by since. Now, supposing that, during these periods, there had been in each — that is in each generation — just one man like Paul, the world would have been more nearly evangelised than it is.
2. Compare — Paul's helps with our own.
3. Whatever Paul's helps might be, his hindrances were greater than ours. Conclusion: Then the evangelisation of the world has not proceeded just because Christians have not done their duty. But for the apathy of our forefathers we should not be held accountable. Let us cheer ourselves with the thought that the work is really practicable. And certainly the results of Christian missionary effort in modern times are such as to encourage the most sanguine hope. The evangelisation of the whole world is quite within the reach of practical religion. It can be done: it ought to be done: let it be done!
(H. Stowell Brown.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,