September 11, 2022

Bringing the Gospel of Christ to the Incarcerated

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

Paul and Onesimus

“I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels” (Philemon 1:10-12).

While the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the preaching of the Gospel, he met Onesimus, who was not a Christian then. Though it is not stated how Onesimus met Paul, who was languishing in prison, Paul did state that he converted Onesimus to Christ while he was in chains – “…Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds” (v. 10). Onesimus was a runaway slave. His master, Philemon, was a wealthy man from Colossae who became a devout Christian (cf. Colossians 4:9). It seems likely from Paul’s statement in v. 18 that Onesimus took money or possessions from Philemon and fled - “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account” (v. 18). 

Onesimus escaped from Colossae to Rome (which had taken him a distance that was well over 2,100 km) with the hope of not being recognised and caught. He would have been hoping to hide himself in the multitudes that thronged that city. In the Roman world of Paul’s day, fugitive slaves would flee abroad to large cities and be absorbed into the workforce or attempt to disappear into the subculture of the cities or join groups of robbers. Somehow, Onesimus’ plight put him in contact with Paul, perhaps as a fellow prisoner. Paul took this providentially arranged opportunity to preach the Gospel of Christ to Onesimus, which led to his conversion.

Whenever God provides opportunities to preach the Gospel to those behind bars, we must not miss them. It was also our Lord Jesus’ mission to minister the Gospel to those who were locked up in their sins, crimes and troubles – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1). 

As Charles Wesley expressed it in his magnificent hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues”,

“He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free.”

Let us avail ourselves to the preaching of the Gospel to the prisoners, and those who are lost in addictions and the vicious cycle of sinful habits and their brutal consequences. Pray for The Gethsemane Care Ministry and Gethsemane Prison Ministry, and participate in them.  

Our Preachers and Prison Ministry

During the TGCM Anniversary Thanksgiving Service on Aug 9th, 2022, Pr Jeremiah Sim presented a report on Gethsemane Prison Ministry. The following is an extract from that report:

In the year 2010, some brethren of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church (GBPC) were moved in their hearts to reach out to the inmates of Changi Prison with the Gospel message. With the encouragement and support of GBPC’s leadership, our preachers, as well as some brethren from our church and our affiliated churches, endeavoured to bring the precious Gospel truth to the prisoners, praying that they would come to Jesus Christ for their salvation. 

While engaging in the prison ministry, we face tough challenges from (i) hardcore criminals who disrupt the classes with their loud conversations, argumentative questions, distracting conduct and gangsterism; (ii) professing Christians who are repeat offenders, having not fully given up their vices and crimes; and (iii) prisoners with personal issues (physical, mental, emotional problems), family issues, mutual disputes /conflicts, etc.

It is solely by God’s abundant grace which worketh in us that we are able to do this work for His glory. We earnestly thank the Lord for granting us the grace, strength, wisdom, patience and boldness, not only to face all the difficulties and challenges, but also to extend our hands with love and compassion to care for their souls.

Gethsemane Prison Ministry is an enormous opportunity to bring the Good News to the prisoners. We praise God for His grace upon us, as we minister and attend to them with much patience and love. We covet your earnest prayers for our prison ministry, particularly for those brethren who are entering the prison to minister the Gospel to the inmates. Pray also for more labourers to serve in this ministry.

Pr Jeremiah, Pr Daniel and Pr Kelvin make weekly visits to Changi Prison to minister the Word; and they are joined by several brethren from our church (Dn Ah Sang, Bro Kenneth, Bro Cayson, Bro David) and sister churches (Bro Samuel Goh, Pr William Goh, Bro Yong). We also thank God for two sisters from True Life B-P Church (Sis Joycelyn and Sis Katherine), who regularly visit the prison for women with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Welcoming ex-prisoners into our church

Scripture teaches the church to be always welcoming of those who come with sincere hearts of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted Philemon to receive Onesimus back to fellowship. Paul wrote, “whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels” (Philemon 1:12). The church today must continue to welcome prisoners who come to faith in Christ. Through the church, may they experience God’s restoring love and forgiveness. 

We thank God for the joy and privilege of receiving several ex-prisoners, who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to the membership and fellowship of our church. Some of them even serve in our church as full-time staff. 

It is also my personal joy that, on a few occasions, the Lord had given me the opportunity to minister His Word to ex-prisoners. One of them, whom I visited in Queenstown Prison (before its closure), came to our church upon his release and worshipped the Lord for a few Sundays. Not too long after that, he went back to the world, entangling himself in a life of sin. However, he was struck with a sudden health emergency. I was given an opportunity to minister to him. He did indicate his repentance and renewed his faith before I left his hospital bed. Soon after that, the same day, he passed away.

In 2016, the Lord enabled me to minister to another young man in Changi Prison. I thank the Lord that eventually he came to our church, and now he worships the Lord with his family in our church. There are others also from similar background who presently worship regularly with us. Let us welcome them and encourage them to grow in the wisdom of His Word. May every one of us rejoice that God has commissioned us to a great ministry of liberty and restoration.

A Report of Special Blessing of BWTV

Dear Pastor Koshy,

Last Saturday, I let the children in Anda and Candijay (two outstations of Gethsemane B-P Mission Church, Bohol) watch the Bible Witness Web TV. Praise God for the edifying spiritual songs and sound biblical teachings about the Bible. I praise God for enabling me to translate the lessons into Cebuano. The children had a fruitful time answering the activity sheets I printed out for them from God willing, every Saturday, I will let the children watch the programme on Bible Witness TV. May the Lord help the children to learn and remember many precious lessons from the Bible. All glory to God. I’m sending you some photos of the children in Anda and Candijay.

—Pr Edsel Locot

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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SingPost Centre
Level 5 Auditorium
10 Eunos Road 8, Singapore 408600
(next to Paya Lebar MRT station)
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Gethsemane Media Centre
33 Ubi Crescent
Singapore 408584
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