This verse provided the theme text for RTF, “… but the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9)
Bitter persecution is something almost unknown to Christians in Australia. Yet for many Sections of the Church, it is or has been a reality. Suffering for the sake of the gospel.
Many of us will suffer illness, bereavement, tragedy, family trouble, and anguish. Yes, these things can be very painful. And they have a place in God’s purpose for our lives. However, there is something painful about suffering for the sake of the gospel. It is hard for us to understand. Why does God allow evil men to hinder the work of his gospel through bitter persecution? Yet that was Paul’s experience. And God used it for the sake of the gospel.
In prison, Paul came to see more clearly the power of the gospel. From very early on in his ministry, Paul knew the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul wrote those words many years before he arrived in Rome as a prisoner. His time under house arrest in Rome only conformed his confidence in the power of the gospel. See Phil 1:12-14. His final, harsh imprisonment in Rome deepened this conviction even more. They have chained me. But they can never chain the gospel.
The growth of the house churches in China in recent decades has given us another illustration of that principle. In an article entitled “Success under the Cross” Jonathan Chao lists seven reasons why persecution and suffering have contributed to the growth of the Church in China.
- Persecution deepens a Christian’s spiritual life.
- Persecution can purge the believer of inward sins and confirm his faith in Christ.
- Persecution causes larger house churches to split into smaller ones.
- Persecution forces younger men to take up positions of leadership.
- Persecution forces believers to grow into a close solidarity.
- Persecution has turned the Church into a Church of persistent prayer.
- Testimonies of those who have suffered have become a source of inspiration to others.
God may not be calling us to suffer persecution. As a result, we do not experience the joy of the apostles described in Acts 5:41. However, God does call us to believe and proclaim the powerful and unchainable gospel. The testimony of the Church in China conforms to us the power of the gospel which we have been given. It simply can not be chained.