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"Woe is unto me if I preach not
the Gospel."1 Corinthians 9:16 .
WOE is a word not so often used today as formerly. It was a common word in the old English; but there is a meaning attached to it at present, we think, that was not in the original word. Nearly all who read the parable where the Lord speaks of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" seem to have the thought that it means eternal torment. Woe, when used in the Bible, means the same to some minds. So these construe our text to mean, "I shall go to eternal torment if I do not preach the Gospel." This is because of the creeds, traditions and customs that have come down from the Dark Ages, when the people were forbidden the Bible.
We understand the Apostle to mean here: "I should be very unhappy if I could not preach the Gospel; it would be a cause of great distress to me. In view of my former course of persecution, and the Lord's great mercy to me, it would mean a loss of His favor and blessing should I refrain from proclaiming His Message." The context seems to bear out this thought. So it should be a great distress to those to whom the Lord has granted the illumination of His Truth, if the opportunity of preaching this glorious Gospel were taken from them.
From one standpoint, the Apostle's words would apply only to the public ministry of the Word. From another standpoint, any one of God's consecrated people is a minister, ordained to preach; for ordination means commission, right, authorization. This commission to preach the Gospel is mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 61:1-3.) There the Church is brought to our attention through the great Head of the Church, Christ Jesus, who is represented, primarily, as the speaker. We read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the Day of Vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He might be glorified."
Here the commission of the Holy Spirit to Messiah was prophetically announced, long in advance. The Body members of the Messiah, who have received the same anointing through Him, have also received this commission to preach the Gospel. If the disciple of Christ properly appreciates the privilege of being a messenger of God, an ambassador for God, it would be a woe indeed to him if he could not proclaim the Message, to the extent of his ability and opportunity.
There are some who have the thought that there is no way to preach except by a public discourse from the platform. But this seems not to be the Bible thought of preaching. Jesus talked to the people by the seaside, and along the way; sometimes He sat upon the edge of the well and preached the Message of salvation; He preached to His disciples up in the mountain; sometimes He journeyed with them and talked. And so with us. Whatever way or time we may have for preaching the Good Tidings we should use.
The word Gospel means glad tidings, good news. We are to tell the "good tidings of great joy." This may be done in the daily walk of our life, as we meet the butcher, the baker and the grocery man, or our neighbors and friends. It may be done by literature sent through the mails, or by handing out a tract, a book, or by preaching from the platform. All of this is preaching the Gospel, making known the Good Tidings; for preaching means merely to make known, and does not relate to the manner in which the knowledge is imparted.
Many tracts contain no Gospel; they contain tidings of great misery. These we would not wish to circulate; for the more we spread such tidings the less preaching of the Gospel we would do. We are to remember that our Lord Jesus especially identified the Gospel with the Kingdom. Therefore we should preach the Good Tidings, the Gospel of the Kingdom. This has been God's method for gathering the Church, and is to be the witness to the world. We still have the opportunity for making known this good Message of the Kingdom. The Basis of this Gospel is the death of our Lord Jesus Christ as a Sacrifice for sinners, His resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father. Its superstructure is the salvation of the Church and of the world"whosoever will." The blessings of God are all through Christ.
The rich blessings of the Lord for both Church and world are to follow the Second Coming of Jesus. Then the Church is to be glorified and exalted; and the world will enter upon the Era of Blessing God has promised shall come with the full establishment of His Kingdom.
Whoever, therefore, understands this real Gospel, and appreciates his own ordination to preach it, must necessarily feel unhappy if he should be hindered from preaching [R5893 : page 141] it. Some can preach in several ways. Others can preach in nearly every way. Some can preach in very few ways; but all can preach in some way. The more we do, the more happy we should be. So we thank God that we have so many helps in our daybooks, free literature, Bible Concordances, etc. We greatly appreciate all these and are seeking to make good use of them to the blessing of others as well as for our own upbuilding.