And concerning you, my brothers and sisters, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given to me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and all around as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And in this way I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already known by name, so that I would not build on another person’s foundation; but just as it is written:
“THEY WHO HAVE NOT BEEN TOLD ABOUT HIM WILL SEE,
AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD WILL UNDERSTAND.”
For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you. Romans 15:14-22 (NASB)
Though Paul is confident of the faith of the Romans (v. 14), he has the right as the Apostle to the Gentiles to rebuke and exhort them (vv. 15-16). It is his particular ministry (like a priest) to present a perfect offering to God. Paul has already accomplished some of his gospel ambitions: he has preached in Jerusalem in the land of Israel; north into Antioch in Syria; west into Cyprus, southern and western Turkey and Greece; and then northwest into the Roman province of Illyricum (v. 19). All these travels explain the delay, mentioned at the beginning of the letter, in getting to Rome (v. 22 and 1:13). Paul is not satisfied with what he has already accomplished, however, and always wants to preach in new regions.
We see eight ideas that Paul develops in this section of his letter to the Roman church. These eight ideas are: the church as the people of God (v. 14); education and our responsibility to educate each other (v. 14); the collection of Holy Scriptures (v. 15); to proclaim God’s message in a calling (vv. 15-22); the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (v. 16); the ascension of Jesus Christ (v. 18); the instruments of miracles (vv. 18-19); and the results of evangelism (v. 18).
- The Church as the people of God (v. 14)—In Christ all people are one. No one lords it over others; no one exercises absolute or dictatorial powers. Those who are first in the kingdom of God are those who serve Christ and his church. All are brothers and sisters in Christ because al are indebted to the work of Christ, who created for himself a redeemed people. We can learn from every other Christian.
- Education and our responsibility to educate each other (v. 14)—Christians should be able to teach one another. This practice requires that we be authentic persons whose lives are marked by genuine goodness. It also requires that we have enough understanding of our faith to teach it intelligently. The preparation of Christian teachers should focus on who they are, not just on techniques of instruction.
- The collection of Holy Scriptures (v. 15)—Paul wrote God’s truth under the power God’s grace and direction. Commissioned to be a minister and proclaimer of God’s revelation to the Gentiles, Paul also used letter writing to communicate God’s message. Individual letters written to meet individual church needs became accepted by the churches as authoritative Scripture, inspired by the will and plan of God. Churches then collected other letters of Paul and learned God’s Word from them. Eventually under God’s direction the inspired letters were collected together. The collection process did not include every letter Paul wrote but all those God’s Spirit led to be included as Scripture.
- To proclaim God’s message is a calling (vv. 15-22)—The call to preach is based on God’s grace, not on human merit or achievement. A special task of proclamation is to speak to those who have not heard.
- The transforming power of the Holy Spirit (v. 16)—The Spirit transforms sinners into holy people acceptable to God (Leviticus 11:44). That transforming action is not limited to one race of people with one set of religious traditions and worship rituals. Paul devoted his life to serving Jesus, the High Priest. The only ritual was in proclaiming the gospel and bringing the Gentiles converts to him. The Holy Spirit in the life of these non-Jewish believers showed God accepted Gentile converts without their participation in Jewish temple rituals. Every Christian needs to be made holy by the Spirit and to bring new converts as an offering to God.
- The ascension of Jesus Christ (v. 18)—The ascended Christ expanded the ministry of what he had done while on earth by leading the Gentiles to salvation. Any ministry that a human can accomplish consists of the risen Christ working through that human servant.
- The instruments of Miracles (vv. 18-19)—Paul insisted that his effectiveness as a Christian witness depended not on himself but on Christ. The signs and wonders and the ever-present Spirit of God empowered him for his mission. Miracles are not performed for their own sake. They lead to proclamation and belief.
- The results of evangelism (v. 18)—Evangelism leads people to obedience. Paul would not brag of his accomplishments. He simply obeyed Christ and led others to obey him. Obedience among Christians causes others to obey the gospel and be saved.
Paul ends this section by saying this: “And in this way I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already known by name, so that I would not build on another person’s foundation; but just as it is written: “THEY WHO HAVE NOT BEEN TOLD ABOUT HIM WILL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD WILL UNDERSTAND.”For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you” (15:20-22 NASB).
Paul is telling us that his calling was not to reach those who had already heard the Gospel but to go to those who had not heard never heard the Gospel. That is why he has been so delayed in going to Rome. But as we are going to see tomorrow the reason for the delay no longer exists. Which means that Paul can now go to Rome with a clear conscience.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Jeremiah 49:23-50:46, Titus 1, Psalm 97:1-98:9 and Proverbs 26:13-16
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