EDITORIAL -- Progress in the Gospel

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

It is impossible for an individual or a congregation to stand still. They must either make progress or go backward. The Bible teaches that progress must be made. Paul was willing to abide in the flesh "for your progress and joy in the faith" (Phil. 1: 25). He taught that even his bonds had resulted in the "progress of the gospel" (Phil. 1: 12).

However, it should be observed that any meaningful progress must be "in the faith." When one goes "onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, (he) hath not God" (2 Jno. 9). A century ago there were those in the church, who later became the Christian Church, who delighted to call themselves the "Progressives." They progressed all right, but their progress was not "in the faith." They went onward, beyond and without the faith. Thus their progression was actually digression.

INDIVIDUALLY. But we are to make progress. The word in these passages translated "progress" originally referred to a pioneer cutting his way through brushwood. Those who have attempted to clear some brushy new ground or to cut a road through brush know something of what was meant by this word. It suggests that the headway made will be slowly made, and will be made with great difficulty. This progress will entail great diligence and hard labor. There is nothing glamorous about the task.

Yet the Christian must make "progress" in the gospel. He must "go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6: 1). He must grow in grace and in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). He must progress in love (Phil. 1:9), in fruitfulness (Phil. 1: 11), and in obedience (Phil. 2:12). Failure to progress is to regress, and to regress will cause spiritual depression. Consequently the Christian must so exert himself "that thy progress may be manifest unto all" (I Tim. 4:15). His progression is not for the purpose of display, but as one grows and improves as

a Christian, it is impossible to hide his progress. "A city set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matt. 5:14).

CONGREGATIONALLY. If all the members make progress in the gospel, it is obvious that the congregation also will progress. When the gospel first began, it was to progress until "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). Jesus declared the gospel should begin in Jerusalem, progress to Judea, then to Samaria, and finally unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).

If this ever is to be accomplished in our time, it will be necessary for each church to assist in pioneering the gospel in new areas. Timothy served with Paul in the "furtherance of the gospel" (Phil. 2:22). The Philippian church had fellowship with Paul "in furtherance of the gospel from the first day" (Phil. 1:5).

So let us all give diligence that we make the kind of progress in the gospel that we ought to be making, and let every church see to it that it furthers the gospel not only locally, but in other places as our ability permits. But all the while, let us be careful that our progress is "in the gospel", not outside and beyond it.

December 16, 1971