But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry…
Paul says that, in comparison with his great object of preaching the gospel, he did not count even his life to be dear to himself; yet we are sure Paul highly valued life. In another place he said, "To abide in the flesh is more needful for you." According to our text the apostle regarded life as a race which he had to run. Now, the one thought of a runner is how he can most speedily reach the winning post. So all Paul's energies were consecrated to one object — namely, to bear testimony to the gospel of the grace of God; and the life he lived was only valued as a means to that end.
I. WHAT WAS THIS GOSPEL FOR WHICH PAUL WOULD DIE?
1. It is not everything called "gospel" which would produce such enthusiasm, or deserve it. It is not worth while to die for a doctrine which will itself died out. I have lived long enough to see half a dozen new gospels rise, flourish, and decay. I have heard of one improvement upon the old faith and then of another; and philosophical divines are still improving their theology. I should like to ask them whether there is any positive doctrine in the Bible at all; and whether the martyrs were not fools to die for what the advance of thought has cast into disuse.
2. What is this gospel which Paul valued before his own life? That which most forcibly struck the apostle was that it was a message of grace, and of grace alone. In these days that word "grace" is not often heard; we hear of moral duties, and scientific adjustments, and human progress. But grace is the essence of the gospel, the one hope for this fallen world, the sole comfort of saints looking forward for glory.
2. The gospel is the good news of grace.
(1) It is an announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty man on the ground of free favour and pure mercy. There would be no good news in saying that God is just; for that is not news — we know that God is just; and if it were news, yet it would not be good news, for we have all sinned, and upon the ground of justice we must perish. But it is news of the best kind, that the Judge of all is prepared to pardon transgression, and to justify the ungodly. This is a message worth dying for, that through the covenant of grace God can be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. That God is merciful and gracious, and is ready to bless the most unworthy, is a wonderful piece of news, worth a man's spending a hundred lives to tell.
(2) In the gospel there is also revealed a motive for mercy which is in agreement with the grace of God. God, the highest of all intelligences, acts upon the highest reasons. He finds a motive in His own nature and mercy since He could not find it anywhere else. He will deal with guilty men according to the sovereignty of His will, "to the praise of the glory of His grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."(3) In order to the accomplishment of the designs of grace it was necessary further that a gospel message should be issued full of promise, encouragement, and blessing. It speaks on this wise: Sinner, just as you are, return unto the Lord, and He will receive you graciously and love you freely. God hath said, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."(4) That this gospel blessing might come within the reach of men, God's grace has adopted a method suitable to their condition. "How can I be forgiven?" saith one. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." God asks of you no good works, nor good feelings, but that you be willing to accept what He most freely gives. Dost thou say, "But faith itself seems beyond my reach"? Then, in the gospel of the grace of God we are told that even faith is God's gift, and that He works it in men by His Holy Spirit. "But I fear I should go back to sin; for I have no strength by which to keep myself for the future." Hearken! the gospel of the grace of God is this, that He will keep thee to the end. I read in an old book a dream of one who was under concern of soul. He fell asleep and dreamed that he was out in the wilds in a terrible storm. He ran to the first house before him, but was denied admittance. He that dwelt there was named Justice, and he said in angry tones, "Get thee gone — I cannot shelter a traitor to his King and God!" He fled to the next house, the mansion of Truth. Truth said, "Thou art full of falsehood, thou canst not sojourn here." He fled to the home of Peace; but Peace said, "Begone! there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." He could not then tell what to do, for the storm waxed yet more furious: when lo! he saw a portal over which was written "Mercy." "Ay," said he, "this is the place for me, for I am guilty." The door was open and he was welcomed there. To that house come in and be at rest.
II. HOW CAN WE LIVE FOR THIS GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD? If anybody is to live for this gospel —
1. He must have received it from God, and he must have received a call to minister or serve for it, and feel himself under bonds to hold and keep it; not so much because he has chosen it, but because it has chosen him.
2. He must make it known. Wherever Paul went he published the gospel. "Oh," says one, "I cannot make it known; people would pay me no respect." Just what they said about Paul — "his personal presence is weak." "Oh, but I am no speaker." That also is what they said of Paul — "His speech is contemptible." "Oh, but if I were to say anything, I could not adorn it." But Paul says, "We use great plainness of speech."
3. He must testify to the gospel — i.e., bear personal witness to it. Paul was specially qualified to testify, and how sweetly he told out the gospel of the grace of God when he said, "I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering for a pattern," etc. Cannot you tell of your conversion, and let men know how free grace came to you when you looked not for it?
4. Nor would Paul end there; for he would often tell how, when he had been stoned and tried by false brethren, he had been upheld by the grace of God, and also what he had experienced of heavenly joys. My friend, if the gospel has done nothing for you, hold your tongue or speak against it; but if the gospel has done for you what it has done for some of us, tell it wherever you go; and make men know that even if they reject it, it is to you the power of God unto salvation, and will be the same to every man that believeth.
III. WHY WE SHOULD LIVE TO MAKE KNOWN THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Because —
1. It is the only gospel in the world. These mushroom gospels of the hour, which come and go like a penny newspaper, which has its day and then is thrown aside, have no claim on any man's zeal. These changing moons of doctrine are alienating the mass of the people from going to any place of worship at all. Why should they come to hear uncertainties?
2. It is for God's glory. It makes man nobody, but God is all-in-all.
3. Thus you will glorify Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
WEB: But these things don't count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God.