The Glorious Gospel Worthy of Our Suffering

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but suffer together in the Gospel by the power of God, the one having saved us and having called us to a holy calling, not by our works, but by His own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (a personal translation of 2 Timothy 1:8,9 from the Greek text)

The Apostle Paul’s understanding of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of most of what we refer to as the visible church in our time is quite different. I’m not talking about Reformed Theology as opposed to Arminianism or Semi-Pelagianism or even Pelagianism here. No, I am talking about the Good News itself and its impact on the believer and all those whom God touches through it as it preached and shared by obedient disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, the real, un-doctored Gospel must contain the offense of the Cross. It must be offensive in that it addresses the fact that each and every one of us is hopelessly lost and and on our way to an eternity separated from God in judgment because we are sinners who can do nothing to save ourselves from God’s Wrath which must come upon on all sin with no exceptions. That is why the Gospel is “Good News” and glorious my brethren. 

In 2 Timothy 1:8,9, which I placed at the top of this post, the word “ashamed” translates ἐπαισχυνθῇς which is an interesting verb from of ἐπαισχύνομαι or epaischunomai, “to feel shame for something, or to be ashamed.” This verb form is aorist tense, subjunctive mood, but it is “used as an imperative.” What this means is that it usually forbids an action which is not in progress, and thus commands that it not be started. That is exactly what Paul is doing here isn’t it? The verb ἐπαισχύνομαι carries with it the idea of embarrassment and fear of ridicule because one’s actions or beliefs. It usually is not used of being ashamed of the wrong things one has done, but in the context of how Paul used it here.

Instead of being ashamed of the gospel and those who are suffering for its sake, what are we to do? The words “suffer together” translate συγκακοπάθησον the aorist tense, imperative mood, active voice form of συγκακοπαθέω or sugkakopatheō, “to suffer hardship in company with: – be partaker of afflictions.” This verb form is a command. We are to suffer together in the Gospel by the power of God. I submit that when these parameters are removed, when the suffering is alleviated by removing the offense or by softening the message or by preaching something else, et cetera, then we are being ashamed of the Gospel.

How were we saved? Was according to our works? No, it was by God’s own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the the ages began. How dare we attempt to change this glorious Gospel in any way by “contextualizing” it, thereby robbing it of its power. Here are vv19-12 from the ESV.

and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:8-12 ESV)

This is the gospel message that we guard and must never compromise in any way and that includes contextualization. When I say “contextualization” I am talking about changing it so that the hard edges the sharp offense is removed in an attempt to reach a certain group of people. However that is an exercise in unbelief. We must remain faithful to the one and only Gospel message given to us by God even if it is offensive and causes some people to become quite angry and want to kill us. It does not matter because that is that “suffering” thing that Paul was talking about. God will even use that to reach those whom He is preparing to reach with the Good News.

On the other hand, some say that “contextualization” includes translation into another language. Uh, no, that is not what I’m talking about. Every culture has the concept of what sin is and and when we point out that all men are sinners and are going to be judged by God who is Holy, Righteous, and Just and must judge all sin, but there is is Good News and there is a Saviour name Jesus Christ who has paid the price for all who believe and turn to Him in repentance as Lord and Saviour, well, that has worked in every culture with no exceptions so these people who say we must change the message in order to reach certain groups of people are pushing a man-centered message, not a message from God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “The Glorious Gospel Worthy of Our Suffering

  1. Oh, Mike. Please continue to write on this and expand this message. Even solid churches desperately need to hear this and respond. I have been looking on and off for a church for 4 years. In the meantime I drive 45 minutes to a church that has been solid over the years. But right now it is such a sleepy church. Many of the people have been coming to this church for many decades. The people are comfortable and sleepy. The preaching is sleepy. Yesterday we sang sleepy Christmas songs, sung almost like lullabies. The people are spiritually comfy, and those who preach are too and they don’t want to rock the boat with an offensive gospel (or don’t have the capacity to). Their gospel begins like this: “if you are here without Christ”
    Hunh? What does this sound like to pagan ears? Once upon a time I would have thought to myself, was I supposed to bring a statue of Jesus or something?

    Then it continues, “He will save you.”
    Save me from what? asks the pagan

    “So come to Him and ask Him to save you. ”

    See what I mean? No power. No biblical language or explanation for the person who doesn’t have a clue of what you are telling them. No warnings. What ever happened to warnings for the spiritually sleepy and the unsaved?

    I visited another church recently that is closer to me. They offer a biblical counseling program that is free, which is wonderful. What was not wonderful is the preaching is just like a counseling session. There was NO gospel. Just a nice guy, coming alongside with some scriptural advice.

    I just want to weep, Mike.

  2. That’s right Julie, the hard edges have been rubbed off. No one wants to offend. No one wants to be awakened. No one wants to step out carrying that cross and following Christ… hence, we are in the judgment of sleepiness and shallowness.. Yes, it just makes me want to weep…

  3. I was reading this morning a sermon by Robert M’Cheyne and he spoke about how the pagan hates God. That from birth we are all opposed to God and would destroy Him if we had the capacity to do so. Which is why Jesus was put to death, when He willingly gave Himself over to human hands. They did what they wished with Him. And all were implicated in His death, for the Gentile and the Jew (representing all of mankind) worked together to put Him to death.

    I had to think back over my life before God saved me and confess that I hated God back then. I was born in opposition to Him. Every inclination of my heart was to sin. That is hard to think of oneself as a child and having that kind of heart but M’Cheyne is right, the Bible says that about us.We desperately need to hear and face the bad news because otherwise we have no good news – no Gospel! Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but Sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32

    And believers need the true gospel too! This gospel does not just save, it sanctifies us. We need this good news and all the implications of it for our lives today, now. It is what keeps us going in the midst of difficulties and our own coldness.

  4. Hi Mike,

    “God will even use that to reach those whom He is preparing to reach with the good news.”

    That really encourages me. Thank you! Things haven’t gone very positively when witnessing to my brother and sister in law, or when trying to explain the scriptures that the word/faith preachers take out of context to my mother in law, but if I remember that the anger expressed back to me may be used by God to prepare their hearts for the truth…that’s worth the ridicule and rejection, isn’t it. I think sometimes I tend to look at the outward expression of anger, insults, rejection…whatever it may be, and think they are rejecting what I am saying. God could be using that very anger and animosity to awaken their heart!

    God bless, Mike.

  5. Diane, taking up that cross is costly, but think of Paul and Silas as they celebrated withe the Philippian jailor who earlier had put them in stocks, but when God intervened, the Gospel was used by Him to save the souls of him and his whole family.

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