It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15:20)
As we have been exploring throughout this devotional series, Paul chose to work as a tentmaker in conjunction with his preaching ministry for some very deliberate reasons. Last week, we saw that Paul worked in the marketplace as a means of “becoming all things to all people” and “winning the respect of outsiders.” But why was Paul so eager to win the respect of the lost? In Romans 15:20, Paul alludes to the answer, saying, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” Paul worked as a tentmaker to become all things to all people so that he might increase his opportunities to preach the gospel to those who had yet to hear it.
Paul’s work as a tentmaker would have allowed him to preach the gospel in two powerful ways: through his actions and his words. While the New Testament gives us a tremendous glimpse at Paul’s eloquence and ability to preach the gospel through written and spoken word, one has to imagine that Paul preached an equally powerful sermon by simply living a Christ-transformed life as he worked alongside his fellow tentmakers and tradesmen. As we know from experience, modeling Christ-like character at work is one of the most effective ways to make the gospel winsome to the lost. Paul undoubtedly understood this and leveraged the attention his character would have received to point “outsiders” to the gospel explicitly through words. As the theologian T. G. Soares once pointed out, the New Testament accounts of Paul’s ministry “suggest the constant personal evangelism that Paul must have carried on during his hours of labor with the various fellow-workers with whom he was thrown into companionship.”
So, Paul clearly worked as a means of becoming “all things to all people,” and to preach the gospel in word and deed. But as we will see next week, there is one final reason why Paul chose to work as a tentmaker. As the biblical account of Priscilla and Aquila make clear, Paul also leveraged his vocation to disciple other believers, thus multiplying the spread of the gospel across the world.