“And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written:
“To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.”
For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you.”
The Apostle Paul lived for the love of the honor of introducing Christ to those who have never heard of Him. As Christians, we are to live for the same honor, though we may have a different calling than that of an Apostle. There were no apostles at Philippi, yet that church supported Paul strongly in his work in the regions beyond. They were partakers with Paul of grace in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (Phil. 1:7). They were anxious to know if his trials had turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Phil. 1:12). They sent support to help him in his labor of making Christ known where he had not been known (Phil. 4:15-16). They prayed for Paul and for the gospel to go forth through his labor (1:19).
As Christians we know, and we are rightly reminded by our Pastors, that the advancement of the gospel will cost us. It will cost us in our time, our energy, our prayers, and our resources. But it does not feel like a sacrifice to the one who sees it as an honor to make Jesus known. Today I want to talk about another aspect of the cost of making Jesus known where He is not known. It is perhaps one of the most difficult costs for us in the West to bear. It is found within our very text of Paul’s great ambition to make Christ known where He is not.
Notice again what the text says…
“And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.” For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you.”
The desire to make Christ known where he was not known kept Paul from ministering to established churches. Because he persevered and pioneered into regions where Christ was unknown Paul was hindered from coming and ministering to the church in Rome.
The ministry of the unreached kept him from ministering to the reached.
One of the biggest justifications given today for not focusing the work of the church on the unreached areas of the world is not one of time, nor of money, it is of need. “There is so much need at home,” “the need here is so great,” is often the reason for focusing resources at home—within the borders of the gospel. Such was not the thinking of the apostle. The need has always been great at home.
In our text, Paul does not divide the world into areas of need. He divides the world into two peoples—the reached and the unreached. Those who have heard and those who have not heard. Those who live within the borders of the gospel, and those who live outside the borders of the gospel. Those within reach of Christ and those out of reach. Need will always be great in any area.
Paul’s love of the honor of making Christ known where He was not known had serious implications for the church in Rome. They were the church in the capital of the empire that ruled the world. What a sphere of influence! Diplomats, servants, travelers, merchants, and leaders from all over the world were in and out of Rome continuously. Public policy was made and influenced in Rome.
Yet the church had never had a visit from the apostle to the Gentiles. They had missed out on an apostolic ministry. They had never heard Paul teach. Most of them had never met him. They had not partaken of his ministry. Perhaps the most brilliant theological mind and greatest Pastoral heart in history was kept from ministering to the church because of the ministry to the unreached.
That is the lesson we must come to terms with if we are to seriously engage in getting the gospel to those who have not heard: The ministry of the unreached will keep us from ministering to the reached. Our greatest hearts and brightest minds may have little ministry in regions where Christ is known. At a minimum, like Paul, their ministry may be hindered. Hindered not by Satan, but by God Himself who will keep them at their labor in far fields. There will be ministries that could easily be justified that the church may lack because its workers labor in other fields.
If we want to make Christ known, then we will miss out on being ministered to by some amazing men and women of God. Their ministry among us will be hindered. I would love for Paul to show up at our church. I have so many questions as a Pastor I would like to ask him; so many complexities I could use his advice on; so much wisdom I need from an aged apostle. But it is for good reason that the apostle could so comfortably and matter-of-factly not minister to a church already established…
The church has Jesus, the unreached do not. One greater than Paul is always with me to give me wisdom, answer my questions, and strengthen my hands. But the unreached do not know Him yet. They are without Christ. When we trust in God to lead us, when we know He is with us, when we abide in the fact that we are members of His body, that we are His sanctuary, that we belong to Him and He will therefore care for us, that we are His very bride—when we trust in that—it changes everything. Now we are a people not alone. Now we are a people with need yes, but with a God who promises to meet all our need (Phil. 4:19).
If as a church we are truly trusting in that truth, can we honestly withhold anything from those who are without simple access to Christ and the salvation found only in Him?