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Romans 15:14-16â€¦ I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Having not planted the church in Rome, Paul did not want to assume an authority over them that they would not recognize. Thus, he never rebuked them but encouraged them as their mutual brother in Christ. In a somewhat wooing style, Paul tells them that he is â€śsatisfiedâ€ť (lit. persuaded) about who they are, specifically concerning their â€śgoodnessâ€ť â€“ their moral conduct, kindness, and generosity toward others. In addition, their broad understanding of the Christian faith (â€śfilled with all knowledgeâ€ť) equipped them to â€śinstruct one another.â€ť To â€śinstructâ€ť comes from the Greek noutheteō which suggests counsel, exhortation, and advice. Thus, the knowledge that these Roman Christians possessed qualified them to come alongside other Christians who did not possess â€śall knowledgeâ€ť in order to counsel them spiritually. And Paul encouraged this. Having carefully written what he did without suggesting that these Christians were living in sin (as he did with the Corinthians and Galatians), in v. 15 Paul does admit to writing boldly simply to remind his brothers in Christ of their responsibilities as believers. Paul knew that even the most astute Christians like himself needed continual reminders of what they already knew and how they should behave. Of course speaking boldly about these kinds of matters fully characterized Paul. His traveling companion, Luke, spoke of Paul as â€śspeaking out boldly in the name of Jesusâ€ť (Acts 9:27). This was true also in Galatia (13:46; 14:3) and in Ephesus where he reasoned and persuaded others about the kingdom of God (19:8) and everywhere else as well. Paul said that his boldness in speaking was â€śbecause of the graceâ€ť given to him by God (15b). Of course Paul spoke what he did because of Godâ€™s saving grace on his life, but in this context the â€śgrace givenâ€ť to him by God was his apostolic authority and order to proclaim the gospel. Romans was not written as Paulâ€™s personal credo for personal reasons, rather, he viewed himself as â€śa bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,â€ť from whom and for whom he had â€śreceived grace and apostleshipâ€ť (Rom. 1:1, 5). He did consider himself â€śthe least of the apostles,â€ť but â€śby the grace of Godâ€ť Paul said, â€śI am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vainâ€ť (1 Cor. 15:9-10). Godâ€™s grace on Paulâ€™s life, therefore, was that he be a servant (â€śministerâ€ť) of Christ to the Gentiles â€“ and so he did! The church in Rome was made up primarily of Gentiles, and Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (11:13). He called himself a â€śministerâ€ť (Gr. leitourgos) which was a general Greek term used for public officials (cf. 13:6). The NT most often uses it for those who serve God in public worship (Luke 1:23; Phil. 2:17; Heb. 1:7, 14; 8:1-2, 6). Paulâ€™s ministry to Gentiles was in â€śpriestly serviceâ€ť to God. He seems to picture himself as a priest who used the gospel of Jesus Christ as the means by which he offered his Gentile converts as a sacrifice suitable to God. And though Paul offered them to God, it was only through the Holy Spirit that they were â€śsanctified.â€ť
Food for Thought All Christians have been given Godâ€™s grace â€“ grace not simply given for our personal salvation, but like Paul, grace that gives us license to encourage others, instruct them, and remind them of their salvation in Christ alone. You donâ€™t need a counseling degree to instruct, for Paul acknowledged that a full understanding of the gospel was sufficient for that. And you donâ€™t need to worry about repeating what folks already know. Simple reminders can be very convicting! Romans 15:17-21â€¦ In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedienceâ€”by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of Godâ€”so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone elseâ€™s foundation, 21 but as it is written, â€śThose who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.â€ť
Paul recognized that God was working through him, and as he reflected on his ministry â€“ the grace given to him (v. 15) â€“ he would only boast in what God was doing through him. Note that he took no credit for his work but gave it to God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17). As the instrumental paint brush in Michelangeloâ€™s hand could take no credit for the Sistine Chapelâ€™s paintings, neither would Paul take credit as Godâ€™s instrument for work God did through him. Second, Paul stressed that teaching obedience to the Lord was his goal. After all, this was his task as an apostle: â€śwe have received grace and apostleship to bring the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His nameâ€™s sakeâ€ť (Rom. 1:5). Preaching obedience to Christ was integral to his ministry, and he never failed to do it. In Romans 6:17 he said, â€śthough you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.â€ť And in 16:26 he speaks of Christâ€™s being made know to all for â€śobedience of faith.â€ť Third, Paul stresses his own personal integrity as he ministered in â€śword and deed.â€ť Paul was not perfect, but one does not have to be perfect to live oneâ€™s life consistently. The truth is, Paulâ€™s life was totally constant with his message, devoid of hypocrisy or vanity. Though seemingly arrogant, each time he writes with bold confidence he simply writes out of conviction. Fourth, in v. 19 Paulâ€™s ministry was accompanied â€śby the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit.â€ť Like all the apostles Paul had this ability (2 Cor. 12:12), for they worked to validate his ministry. The greatest of signs Paulâ€™s ministry exhibited, however, were the countless conversions of the Gentiles to faith in Christ. Note also, fifthly, that Paul had a meticulous ministry, for he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ â€śfrom Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricumâ€ť â€“ a distance of about 1400 miles! So Paul preached from the far southeast of Jerusalem to Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and even to Illyricum (the region of Bosnia to the former Yugoslavia). Though Acts does not record his going into Illyricum, it is likely that he ventured there during his circuitous trip from Ephesus to Corinth on his third preaching journey (Acts 20:1-2). He could say, thus, at the end of his life: â€śI have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faithâ€ť (2 Tim. 4:7). In v. 20 Paul reveals that it was his goal all along to preach the gospel in places where it had never been preached. As a pioneer evangelist, he planted spiritual seeds and waited for others to water those seeds (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6). Then he justifies his actions by quoting from Isaiah 52:15 ( in the LXX) which not only justifies his decision not to build on anotherâ€™s foundation, it accords with the content of the gospel and the people to whom it will reach, namely the Gentiles.
Food for Thought Can you imagine a Christian, or a church, who boasts only in what Christ is doing through him? One who is not a hypocrite who speaks only of what Christ has done through him in order to simply bring others to obedience to God? One who remains faithful to the end of his life fulfilling his mission without any regrets? Let this be you, and pray fervently for it. Romans 15:22-27â€¦ This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
Paul obviously had a previous plan to come to Rome (v. 22), the capital of the world at that time, and the place where a church had come together apart from his doing (cf. Acts 2:10). But because he was preaching the gospel where it had not been preached (15:20-21) while laying the foundation for new church plants, his visit to Rome was not a top priority. In fact, was â€śhinderedâ€ť from going there. The word literally means to cut into or cut out, and it was used for deep trenches preventing invading armies from advancing. The imperfect tense of the verb indicates continual hindrance, and the passivity of the verb indicates that the cause was from the outside. In short, it was God who had hindered Paul from going there (cf. Acts 16:7). And so it is in ministry. There are many things that ministers could do, but in order to achieve their primary tasks successfully, God often prevents them from doing anything else, including other ministries. Now once Paulâ€™s primary tasks had been accomplished â€“ having preached Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum (15:19) â€“ he had now reached a point where he could travel to Rome (24), but not to retire. Paul saw Rome as a half-way point between Antioch (his home church) and Spain where he hoped to preach Christ. Spain was a major center of trade and culture, and with Paulâ€™s desire to preach Christ where no one else had, Spain was the logical choice â€“ at the edge of the Empire. Later, Clement (circa AD 96), spoke of Paulâ€™s fame saying, â€śto the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before rulers.â€ť While writing from Corinth, it would have been so easy for Paul to travel west to Rome. He was a mere 500 miles away. But he had a previous commitment to travel back to Jerusalem with a â€ścontributionâ€ť to the hurting church there. Contribution translates koinōnia â€“ sharing together (â€śfellowshipâ€ť). In this context the sharing concerns money. At that time, circa AD 58, the Jerusalem church was suffering not only great persecution but also great poverty from a recent famine. While the church continued to grow conditions only worsened, prompting Paul to garner support for the â€śmother-church.â€ť Writing about this in his second letter to Corinth, he rejoiced in the generosity of the churches of Macedonia: â€śIn a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saintsâ€ť (2 Cor. 8:2-4). So, since â€śsalvation is from the Jewsâ€ť (John 4:22; cf. Isa. 2:3), the Gentiles who have come to share in that â€śought also to be of service to them in material blessingsâ€ť (v. 27).
Food for Thought Paul never took the easy route. Wanting to travel to Rome, all he had to do was go west about 500 miles from Corinth, but his priorities dictated that he go 700 miles east to Jerusalem and then the 1300 miles back toward Rome. Thus, he would not let his future ministry plans cause his present ministry to suffer. Keep this in mind the next time you wa