The four accounts of the Great Commission, as well as passages like Hebreus 5.12, have often been used, properly, to show the necessity of the mission of God being fulfilled by the whole people of God. The whole church to the whole world, so to speak. Another text not so widely recognized that buttresses the task of proclaiming the gospel to all by all the saints is in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1.14 ESV.
Paul here takes it for granted that all the saints ought to be engaged in the same task as he is. He recognizes God’s providence in that his imprisonment had several positive effects: Not only did the whole guard of the emperor’s palace hear the gospel, but Christians in general were emboldened by his unceasing dedication to the gospel.
This verse in its context has much to say to God’s church today.
First, the church today has fully adopted the denominational culture of having clergy. We have different terms for it, but it exists. Observers have long commented on it. Preachers speak from the pulpits about the need for everyone to be involved in the work, but often they themselves are reinforcing that behavior by being the go-to, do-all people in the church. Our text above, together with the whole of the New Testament teaching, severs this evil at the root.
Second, Paul shows that what humans regard as bad and unfortunate events are often those moments when God does his best work. The apostle refused to throw up his hands in prison and whine that he was limited in his movements and therefore could not do his work. He made sure that all the saints saw it, too. If he, inside the prison, could rejoice in God’s work, they, too, ought to do the same.
Third, not everyone will fulfill the mission of God, for fear. But a glorious thing it is when “most of the brothers” are motivated in the Lord to speak the Word of salvation. What a contrast to the modern lament that 10% of the church do 90% of the work! If it is true, and one can point to evidence that it is, then major changes must be made, beginning with repentance and discipline in the body of Christ. May the shepherds of God’s flock have the same boldness, without fear, to do their work.
Sometimes, we don’t see pointers toward the will of God that determines that the whole church proclaim the whole gospel to the whole world. But it is there. Let us read the New Testament with discerning eyes and willing hearts, so that everyone may have the chance to be saved that was given to us.