George Walker - For the Gospel's Sake - Fermanagh, Ireland Convention - 1955

I have been reading Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians. I have received great help from these two letters. One statement in II Corinthians 2 says, “Now thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ and maketh manifest the savour of Hhis knowledge by us in every place.” Verses 15-16, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish. To the one, we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other, the savour of life unto life, and who is sufficient for these things.”

 

I liked these two words in verse 15, “unto God.” We are unto three different things. First we are unto God, then unto them that are saved and then unto people that perish. If I am going to be anything to other people, to my brethren and the world, I have to begin at the beginning, and ask myself, “What am I to God?” It might not be in you and me to be much to other people from our lack of human ability but we could all be a great deal unto God. The old hymn says, “God in Heaven hath a treasure... God hath here on earth a treasure, Christ revealed in saints below.”  Every individual human being with Christ in them is unto God a sweet savour.

 

In Genesis when Noah came out of the Ark, he took the clean beasts and offered a whole burnt offering and God smelled a sweet savour. The whole burnt offering always was a sweet savour. Before the flood, God smelled a savour from this earth but it was a stink in His nostrils. The earth was evil continually. They thought of nothing else but eating and drinking, buying and selling with no place for God. The earth was a mass of selfishness but God saw one man who sent off a sweet savour to God even before the flood. This sweet savour is often mentioned in the Bible when there was a whole burnt offering. I could be something unto God. I could have in my heart thoughts and desires that I could be a sweet savour.

 

In the human family, people don’t measure their nearest relatives by the amount of work they get out of them. Does He see Christ in me? God looked down on Jesus and said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Some of the truest and most sincere people worry themselves unnecessarily because they cannot influence their neighbours more. How many of Noah’s neighbours got saved? He saved himself and his household. If I am not much to God, I am not much to anyone else. I may be full of activity but what am I to God?

 

The Revised version puts it, “Now thanks be to God which always leads us in triumph.” That would be a triumphal march. It is possible that when Paul wrote this, he had in mind a certain custom the Romans had that when they fought battles with their enemies and captured the leader of their enemies, they brought him back to Rome and they would have a triumphal march through the streets, the king or general they had captured at the top of it, showing, “He is in our possession.”

 

Paul says, “I was one who persecuted the church. I hated the name of Jesus but He captured me, He conquered me, and He is showing forth to others His victory.” It is one thing to be a slave by compulsion and a different one to be one by love. They glory in it, “That person conquered me by love. He is leading me about now to show to others what He could do.” At the head of the procession, Paul was completely under the control of Jesus.Paul was telling them about one thing that is a great comfort to him now. In this chapter I read from he says, “I wrote to you a letter and I wrote it out of great anguish of heart.” Many of these people were a heartbreak to him. He said in chapter 1:12, The answer of my conscience is this, 'that in simplicity and godly sincerity I preached amongst you.'” In other words, “I did not try to impress my personality on you.” When God’s servants leave out this, there is the possibility of people getting saved.

 

There is the danger that I would preach to unsaved people and make it clear to their head and so the faith would stand in the wisdom of men. There was nothing of Christ living in their heart that had the manifestation of Christ. All my plans are not made after the flesh, they are made in Christ. Paul says, “My only ambition was to get you taken up with Christ and Him only. It is proof that you are carnal when some say, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos.’ ” Paul could say, “I know I am a savour of death unto death to those that perish, a savour of life unto life to those who are getting saved.”

 

Ephesians 1:9-23, “And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be a partaker thereof with you.” I suppose the people who are most unhappy are those that are doing most for their own sake. There is even an amount of human blessing for doing something for others. To Paul the greatest joy of his life was the love of the Gospel. When you would be in doubt about what you should do, just ask the Lord about what is best for the Gospel’s sake.

 

In the eighth and ninth chapters, we see some of the things Paul was doing for the Gospel’s sake. Perhaps these Corinthians were a bit more heady than hearty. There was a contrast between them and the Philippians. With the latter, God had begun to do a work in their hearts. The Corinthians wanted to get the theory make a great speech. Paul says, “I will not measure you by your speech but by the power.” That is power to get the victory over my own human nature over things I was born with that would make me destroy the Gospel. Power makes people different from what they would be naturally.

 

There was a controversial question to those Corinthians about whether or not they should eat meat. The heathen had a custom when killing an animal, to offer it to one of their gods. Some of the Corinthians had been brought up that way and they thought, “If we eat that meat as we used to, will we be doing as we once did?” It is not hard to start strife. Some were Jews and some Gentiles. The Jew, he ate the meat, but it caused the Gentile to stumble. Paul said that to eat meat would not affect him the least because to him the idol was nothing but a piece of stick but he said that he could see how these others brought up differently from him could stumble at it. But Paul said, “I will not eat that meat because of causing my Brother or Sister to stumble.”

 

It is easier to do some things than to give up our own will, and to follow the things that make for peace, it calls for dying, killing the self-will. There is a quotation, “It takes a heap of living to make a home.” But it takes a heap of dying to keep peace in the home and in the little church. We can bring in strife and confusion into the little church, but woe betide the one that does it. God pity the person that brings in strife. “Death working in me that I might work in you.” The success of my life won’t be the fine sermons I could preach, but how much of death I have let work in me. For a piece of that meat, you would offend or cause to stumble the Brother for whom Christ died.

 

Paul writing to the Ephesians said, “You be careful about these sheep. I know men will rise up who are not putting to death the things in them. Because it is the church of God and He gave His own blood for it.” As I have looked at my Brothers and Sisters, we may not be all we ought to be, but we can all say, “Christ died for me.”One of the things that brought terrible persecution to the early Christians was because they would insist on saying that there is only one God. I Corinthians 8:5, “For there is no other God but one, though there be that are called gods (as by gods many and lords many).” Verse 6, “But to us there is but one God.” The emperor in those days put the title on his coins that he was lord and saviour and Paul was courageous enough to come out and say there is but one God, even though they would take his head off for it. These early Christians lost their jobs if they worked for the government but they would still maintain that there was only one God.

 

There is a way in which we could err if we just have the theory in our hand but not the Christ in our heart. Chapter 9:14, “They that preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.” That is God’s way of helping them to keep right, and it does not fail. We know what the Gospel produces, as Paul said, “When I came amongst you, I could have taken for my needs but I didn’t do it.” Why? It was for the Gospel’s sake. “For the Gospel’s sake I denied myself.” “I am all things to all men. When I am among the Jews I keep the Jewish law. I am made all things to all men that by any means I may save some. I want nothing out of it for myself.”

 

In the last verse of the tenth chapter Paul says, “Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all unto the glory of God .... giving none offence either to the Jews or to the Gentiles .... even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many that they may be saved...” Paul was trying to win them saying, “I am telling you what to do in your homes, that you will be controlled with the same spirit that controls me. Give no offence to the Jews, to the Gentiles or to the church of God.”

 

Two truths are very clear in my mind. One is that the greatest compensation, the greatest rewards in eternity will come by the sacrifice we make for the Gospel’s sake. There is nothing that will bring greater compensation. The reward even before you get to Heaven will be, “What did I do for the Gospel’s sake?” It is a labour of love. And the most awful punishment before you even get into eternity at all, would be if you cared nothing that you brought in bad feeling, strife and things like that. If I am right I don’t need anyone to fight for me. How much does the Gospel grip our hearts? This love moves us, constrains us, keeps us from hindering others. Would it not be a terrible testimony that wherever you went, you were doing evil?