I have a couple of questions that came in last week and I want to address one of them first and then we’ll address the other one by way of review. The first one that came in was a question related to Calvinism. Last week I pointed out some differences between Calvinism, especially more consistent forms of Calvinism such as 4-point which is usually called Modern Calvinism and 5-point Calvinism which is sometimes referred to as Dortian Calvinism. A lot of people just don’t understand Calvinism and they just think that someone who emphasizes the sovereignty of God and election more than they do is a Calvinist or a hyper-Calvinist.
A hyper-Calvinist is actually a technical term for someone who is a high Calvinist who not only believes in the 5 points of Calvinist from the Synod of Dort but they also believe in a supralapsarian Calvinism which is a form of Calvinism that says that God decreed the elect before He decreed that He would even create anyone. One result of that is that hyper-Calvinists do not believe in even doing evangelism because they think that if God wants you to be saved, He will save you without any help from anyone else.
That was a popular position among Calvinists Baptists in the 1800s, when William Carey took the gospel to India and had a tremendous result of people who responded to the gospel. When he came back to England and reported on it, it upset the hierarchy of the Baptist church that was so Calvinistic they told him, “Young man, if God wants those people saved, He’ll do it without your help or mine.” That was their view of election and their view of Calvinism. Not all 5-point Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists. Not all 5-point Calvinists hold to even a strict lordship-type view of perseverance.
One of the key issues in Calvinism isn’t just the extent of the atonement although that’s usually what we talk about. But when you talk about the extent of the atonement, it also presupposes a certain view of election. The question that came in relation to atonement was an assumption that the election either referred to Jesus Christ or Israel. But the term “elect” is a synonym for those who are believers. We don’t know who they are ahead of time so it can only refer to those who have trusted in the Messiah in the Old Testament or the completed work of Jesus, the Messiah, in the church age. The word is used to refer to the elect in the Tribulation, which in Matthew 22 and 24 includes both Jew and Gentile. In Revelation 7 we’re told that there are among those saved and who are martyred and in heaven the elect are those from every tribe and tongue and nation. So the term “elect” in reference to the Tribulation does not describe only the Jews.
In Romans 8:33 Paul says, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” There he’s talking about the church age believer. In Colossians 3:12 Paul says, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and long suffering.” The term “elect” is used as a synonym for anyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I pointed out before for those of you who remember the doctrine of the Magnum bar, an ice cream bar. On the Magnum bar is a Hebrew word. When I asked my guide in Israel what that word meant, he said it meant choice almond. It didn’t mean chosen almonds. There’s an important distinction between that. So the elect is a term that emphasizes the quality of those who are believers because they’re the choice ones of God. They’re the ones who have trusted in Christ as Savior. So that was an answer to the first question.
We’re looking at the conclusion to Romans in Romans 15:14-33. In the last two classes what I’ve done is focus on six different key themes. We’ve worked our way through the first one as of last time. By way of review, the first one is that, like Paul, we should have serving the gospel as the central priority of life. The bottom line here is that when you look in the mirror you should be able to say to yourself, “My highest priority today is to serve the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
You may be going to work in any number of secular companies but the question that’s important is why are you working at that company in an ultimate sense? You’re there for a lot of different reasons but ultimately we are wherever we are in life to serve the gospel. That’s our mission as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I made that point I was talking about the gospel.
I said the gospel means the good news because Paul emphasized that it was the gospel of God. It originated from God and the good news is that Christ has paid the penalty freeing every person from the sin penalty. This means first of all that we’re born spiritually dead. We’re born lacking perfect righteousness. We’re born under the condemnation of Adam’s original sin. When we look at the barrier, which is a doctrine I’ve developed many times, we see that it emphasizes all the different areas of the problem of sin and its manifestations as well as the solution. All of them lead to reconciliation and redemption and all the different salvation words. What I’ve done here is simply boil it down to the three fundamental issues, to get it to its simple core issue. This specifically is to tie it to the issue of the atonement.
The question is that if Christ died for all as a true genuine substitute then why isn’t everyone saved? Why it is that some are lost? That is because Christ’s payment for sin doesn’t save people. It just pays the penalty. There’s more to the problem that just being under the condemnation of Adam’s original sin. We’re born under the penalty of sin because of that condemnation. When we come into the world, we’re spiritually dead and we lack perfect righteousness. Christ solves the fundamental issue for everyone at the cross, every single person.
I had a great illustration that was just sent to me. I’m going to see if I can do justice to it. That is the parable of the landowner, playing off some of the landowner parables in the gospels. The landowner recognizes that his servants, his workers, have been embezzling funds. They’ve not only put themselves into tremendous debt to the landowner where they’re going to have to declare bankruptcy but they don’t have anything left to provide for their own families. What the landowner does is accept repayment of what they owe him and absolves everyone of any more debt but that doesn’t solve the problem that they don’t have anything to feed their families. Their debt has been paid off but they still have a practical problem in that because they have embezzled the money and spent it unwisely they don’t have any food.
The landowner not only pays off their debt but he gives them food. They have to come and accept the food. Now there are among those who work for the landowner some who are arrogant and some who are rebellious and they don’t want to accept any food from him. They’re proud and they’re not going to accept a handout. Now their debt is still paid off but it doesn’t benefit them because they don’t come and accept the gift of food. That’s comparable to the gospel. Christ paid the penalty for everyone so that every unbeliever has his sin paid for but he doesn’t want to accept the positive aspect of the gospel. Unbelievers who are too proud to accept the gift of regeneration, the gift of righteousness, are going to die in their sins.
We’re not condemned for our personal sins. We are condemned for Adam’s original sin but if we continue in sin without trusting in Christ then, as Paul says and Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You will die in your sins.” That phrase is basically an idiom meaning we’re going to die spiritually dead. That’s what we have to understand. Christ paid the penalty for the condemnation but that leaves each of us spiritually dead and lacking righteousness. So at the instance of salvation that’s already paid for. That happened historically when the certificate of debt as Paul puts it in Colossians 3:12-14 is nailed to the cross historically and that paid the penalty but we don’t realize the free gift from God until we trust in Him at which point we receive a new human spirit and the imputation of righteousness and justification. By putting it this way that shows the unlimited dimension of the atonement in that it paid the penalty for all as a true, genuine, actual substitute but it doesn’t save people.
That is an issue among some theologians who say, “Did Christ die to save you or to make you savable?” That’s the wrong question. Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and because the penalty is paid for your sin then the issue is “What must you do to be saved?” So you have to change the question to get it straight. The first issue is whether or not the gospel ministry is your priority in whatever sphere of life you’re in. It can be government. It can be in the court room. It can be the legal profession. It can be a ditch digger. It can be a garbage man, or a sanitation engineer. It can be whatever you do, wherever you’re gifted, wherever God has placed you. He’s placed you there not only to perform the work that you have as part of your responsibilities to your employer but that needs to be understood within a broader context of your spiritual mission from the Lord.
The second thing I pointed out last week is Paul’s commendation of the recipients for their faith, for the faith-rest drill. As I discussed last week the faith-rest drill has three aspects, mixing faith with the promises of God in Hebrews 4:2, understanding the embedded rationales within a promise, Proverbs 3:5-6, and third, reaching a conclusion from that rationale that helps to stabilize your emotions, stabilize your mentality so that you can move forward, move ahead in life. You have to practice this over and over and over again. If you just come along and try to do this when things are nasty, you haven’t practiced this then you’re not going to do well. The only thing that gives you real spiritual success is perfect practice. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Imperfect practice you just learn bad habits.
So we came to Romans 15:14 where Paul commends this because they’re full of goodness, filled with all knowledge as a result of their being filled by means of the Spirit [Ephesians 5:18] and they’re able to admonish one another. We looked at that idiom, “Full of goodness” as a description of their character. That’s the Greek idiom there.
The third point that Paul makes is a reminder in this chapter of what he started with in the first chapter. He is reminding them that he was trying to overcome all obstacles in getting to Rome. In Romans 1:13 Paul says, “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you but was hindered until now that I might have some fruit among you just as among the other Gentiles.” Now Paul wrote Romans on his third missionary journey. How many epistles did Paul write after his first missionary journey? One. After his second missionary journey he wrote two. What were they? 1 and 2 Thessalonians. After his third missionary journey when he’s at Ephesus two years, he wrote three. That’s real easy to remember. He wrote three epistles, I and 2 Corinthians and Romans. So this is before he made his way to Jerusalem. At the close here he emphasizes that he is on his way to Rome but first he has to go to Jerusalem.
He always intended to go to Rome. That was in his plan to go further because as he will state in this chapter, he wanted to go where the gospel had not yet had an impact. He had a true pioneer spirit. By this time it’s roughly the early 60s A.D. and he wants to go places the gospel hadn’t been brought by the other apostles or by other missionaries some of the churches had sent out. He wanted to be in the vanguard and take the gospel where it had not gone. His path was to go to Rome. Rome was only going to be a stopping point, not an end destination. He wanted to come to Rome.
He said he had often wanted to come to Rome but was hindered. It’s interesting to speculate what had hindered Paul. He doesn’t indicate what it is. Is he hindered because God wants him to go to other places? Is he hindered because other spiritual opportunities presented themselves and so he just couldn’t get there yet? I think that’s part of it. There’s not a hint here that this is something negative, that he’s facing some kind of opposition.
We’re reminded that Paul wanted to go to Ephesus earlier as he began his second missionary journey but Ephesus was in the Roman province of Asia, the extreme western part of what is now Turkey and the Holy Spirit prevented him. He had to go around to the east of Asia and finally he came out on the Aegean and crossed over. It was the Lord’s guidance to lead him over to Macedonia to go to Philippi and Thessalonica and down through Greece, down to Acacia. He’s reminding them at the very beginning that he was attempting to come to them but since he can’t get there yet he’s going to give them this basic instruction of the core doctrines of Christianity.
When we come to Romans 15:22 he says, “For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you.” What reason would that be? If you’re looking at your Bibles and you should be, I want to point out to you what he says in Romans 15:20-21, “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel [EUAGGELION] not where Christ was named lest I should build on another man’s foundation but as it is written…” Then he gives us a quote from Isaiah 52:15 where it says, “To whom He was announced shall not see and those who have not heard shall understand.” In the context that’s talking about Gentiles. Then he says for this reason, that is the reason that is stated and emphasized from that quote in Isaiah which is back to the point in Romans 15:16, that he’s a minister to the Gentiles.
Basically what he’s saying is that because he’s had all these opportunities to minister, to serve the Word, to serve the gospel to the Gentiles, he has been hindered in coming. The focal point of this is that he’s been too busy in the ministry that he has before him on his second and third missionary journeys to be able to complete his desire to make it to Rome.
In Romans 15:23 Paul says, “Now no longer having a place in these parts…” This is toward the end of his third missionary journey and he realizes that he’s gone through Asia, Macedonia and Acacia twice. He’s completed the task. The churches are established. He’s leaving Timothy in charge in Ephesus. He has Titus in Crete. He has sent out other helpers to establish churches in these areas so now he can finally leave and come to Rome.
In Romans 15:24 he says, “I have a great desire these many years to come to you whenever I journey to Spain.” So Rome isn’t the end of his destination. He’s really heading to Spain. Rome is just on the way. That’s just a stopover point. He says, “For I hope to see you on my journey and to be helped on my way there by you if first, I may enjoy your company for a while.” So he’s headed to Spain. Church tradition has it that he did make it to Spain between the first and second imprisonments and established the gospel there. There are other legends and stories that he may have made it to Britain, may have made it into Gaul, which is modern France, but there’s no documentation of that so it’s probably just legendary.
The fourth thing we see in the close is that Paul expresses his indebtedness to help all mankind through the preaching of the gospel. What he means by this is that the Lord has given him a mission and that’s his debt. He needs to pay off this debt by completing his mission. We can apply that to each of us in that we have that same kind of indebtedness in terms of fulfilling the mission that God has given each one of us. So he says in Romans 1:14, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” That’s his objective. He’s a debtor because Christ has given him the mission to minister the gospel to the Gentiles as stated in Romans 15:16.
The barbarians were called barbarians by the Greeks who thought they themselves were the height of civilized people and the foreign languages that the non-Greeks spoke sounded to their ears as if someone were just saying, “Barb, barb, barb.” So they called them barbarians. That’s the origin of that term. In Romans 15:27 as Paul concludes it says, “It pleased them indeed and they are their debtors for if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”
Now we have to understand the references there. Who does “them” refer to and to whom does “they” refer to? We have to go back to Romans 15:26 where he says, “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Acacia [the Greek churches]…” Here’s a test on Acts. What were those churches he founded in Macedonia and Acacia? In Macedonia he founded a church in Philippi and in Thessalonica. Then when you move south that’s where you move to Berea which is probably still in Macedonia. Then he came to Athens, which is in Acacia. There were a few believers there. They probably started a church there but he didn’t have great success there. Then he went to Corinth. Corinth was also in Acacia. So he says, “It pleased those from Macedonia [the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Bereans] and Acacia [Athens and Corinth] to make a certain contribution for the poor.”
We’ll see when I go through this a little bit more when I go through this verse by verse that Paul isn’t shy about asking people for money. We live in an era today that is kind of funny for a lot of pastors. On the one hand you have a lot of pastors, a number of churches, that are not only not shy about asking for money, they may take up two or three collections in the course of any Sunday morning if they’re not getting enough money to pay the bills or whatever they think they need they will take up several collections. I’ve even been in churches where they will have the tape recordings of the pastor available at the back door when you go out so you can purchase a copy while you are still revved up as you’ve heard that message that Sunday.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong in and of itself; I think that’s a gray area in Scripture. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 8 or 9 where he talks about the fact that when the other apostles traveled to the churches they took their wives and families with them and expected the churches to completely support them while they were there. He says that’s just fine but he chose not to be a burden to them and he chose to support himself. That’s a personal choice. It comes out of the whole context of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, dealing with doubtful things. There are areas that are not absolutes.
Some people get the idea that if a ministry is really grace-oriented then they’re not going to put a price on tapes or books or things like that. That’s just garbage. There are a lot of stronger words for it but that’s garbage. It stinks. That is the height of arrogant legalism. There have been numerous people who for whatever reason, the only way in which they get money, is through the sale of their books. If you really believe that it is somehow inherently wrong to ask for money for a published book on the Bible or the Bible itself and you have ever paid one penny for the Bible you hold in your hand, then you are one of the grossest forms of hypocrites. You really are if you think it’s wrong to ask for money for a tape or a book and you paid money for your Bible or you’ve ever paid money for a book on the Christian life, then you’re a hypocrite. You’re inconsistent.
I believe that the policy I want to have in Dean Bible Ministries is that we do not put a price on things. When the Spiritual Warfare book was published by a professional publishing house, we had to go along with the way things were done so we had a price on the book. Now we don’t put a price on the book because it is published via God’s grace provision. That’s not an absolute reality in Scripture. It’s not right or wrong. It’s the way the individual ministry chooses to function. I’ve heard people act so arrogantly that one is right and one is wrong and that’s just not true at all. If we had our druthers we’d never charge tuition for going to seminary. We would never charge tuition to go to Camp Arete. You’d never charge tuition to go to any Bible college but the way the world actually works is that God does not provide that way.
The way in which George Mueller functioned and ran his orphanage was that he would not ask anyone for a dime. The way God provided for him is truly miraculous and those are wonderful stories. The Scripture doesn’t mandate that’s the only way to do that. The Apostle Paul didn’t do that. When he traveled around he went to these different churches and told them, “Our brothers in Jerusalem are going through a famine and they’re having a terrible time. When I come I’m going to take up collections so I want you to start setting aside money now on the first day of every week so that when I come, there will be a sizable collection. I’m not going to just hit people up one Sunday with whatever they have in their pocket that day. I want this to be planned.” So giving should be something that’s planned. Giving should be something that’s intentional. There’s nothing wrong with asking for money at a specific time.
There are a lot of people who just become uncomfortable with that. I know a lot of pastors, myself included, who are very uncomfortable getting specific for money because we feel, in one sense, like we’re asking for money for ourselves. That makes us feel a little bit embarrassed and a little bit uncomfortable so a lot of pastors are very uncomfortable about this. We have to recognize that there’s an extreme on one end that wants to take up a collection every three minutes and fleece the sheep every time the sheep show up and then there’s another extreme that says you should never, ever ask for money.
The reality is that there’s a pattern given in the Bible but it’s not a prescriptive pattern. What do I mean by that? Paul doesn’t say, “This is the way I do it. You need to do it exactly the same way.” Paul made it very clear that apostles traveled under different circumstances with different requirements and expectations from each individual church in terms of supporting their families but he took a different approach. One wasn’t right. One wasn’t wrong. They were both valid. So this is what he did. He had asked for support from these churches to make financial contributions to help the saints in Jerusalem. That’s what he’s talking about in Romans 15:27, “It pleased them indeed [the believers in Macedonia and Acacia] and they [Jerusalem believers] are their debtors [to the believers in Greece.]
He explains that by saying, “For if the Greeks had been partakers of their spiritual things…” That goes back to Romans 11 that Gentiles are the wild olive branches that are grafted in to the olive tree that has its roots in the Abrahamic Covenant. He’s recognizing that all Gentiles benefit from God’s covenant to Abraham by virtue of blessing by salvation and so because of that there was a recognition that the Greeks or Gentiles had a responsibility to give financial support to those in Jerusalem who were going through difficult times because of the economic collapse due to the famine. So Paul expressed that indebtedness in all mankind, ultimately through the preaching of the gospel.
The fifth point of similarity between the introduction and the conclusion is that of ministering for reciprocal blessing. In the opening, Romans 1:11-12, Paul said, “For I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift.” That’s interesting because when we think of a spiritual gift we think of pastor-teacher or the gift of evangelism, the gift of giving, the gift of helps, the gift of administration and the gift of service, all the spiritual gifts. What he’s indicating here by the way he’s saying it is that he’s imparting something from his spiritual gift. He is teaching them. He is instructing them. He wants to minister to them spiritually so that they be established. He wants to establish them with a firm foundation.
In Romans 1:12 he says, “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you by your mutual faith.” That statement explains more precisely what he means by the phrase “imparting to you some spiritual gift”. He is encouraging them so they can encourage him. Someone asked me recently, “What do I enjoy the most about teaching?” What I enjoy the most about teaching is watching people get it. Watching the light bulbs go off. Watching when people finally understand the gospel and grace. Watching when people finally understand what the spiritual life is all about. Watching when people start seeing how what they are learning should impact their work life, their home life, and every other issue that they face in life. When all of a sudden they get that living is not about “me”, not about living here and now, not about being a success in my career. It’s not about just having an enjoyable time, making a lot of money, and having a lot of hobbies. It’s about serving the Lord. That’s what gives me a thrill to watch people begin to grow and get excited about the spiritual life and their spiritual growth. That encourages a pastor when he sees that. That’s what Paul is talking about here, how they can be encouraged by their mutual faith when they see those in the congregations get excited and mature and grow and respond to the teaching of the Word.
He says it again in a slightly different way in Romans 15:29, “But I know that when I come to you I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” He’s not talking about a full gospel here. He’s talking about fully experiencing the rich blessing of the ministry of the gospel to a congregation. That’s the same thing that he described in the introduction.
Then the last area of commonality between the introduction and the conclusion is Paul’s emphasis on prayer and for praying for one another. In Romans 1:9-10 we read, “For God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit [spiritually] and the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” We talked about the first part of that verse when we talked about his dedication to the gospel but in the last part he says “without ceasing”. That means something that is continual. It doesn’t mean he walked around everywhere he went with his head bowed and his eyes closed. He wouldn’t have lasted very long. He says that this was something that characterized his life most of the time.
Grammatically Greek has two past tenses, the aorist tense and the imperfect tense. The aorist tense just summarizes something. Say if I’m talking about yesterday and I said I ate yesterday. Now I didn’t eat just one time yesterday. I ate numerous times yesterday. In one sense I ate continuously. I didn’t sit down at the table and never leave. I ate breakfast, then sometimes in the middle of the morning I probably had a light snack. Then at lunch I ate and in the middle of the afternoon I had another light snack. I ate dinner and then I ate again at night. I ate continuously through the day. That doesn’t mean I ate without ever leaving the table.
That’s the idea Paul is communicating here about something we do continuously throughout the day but not every second throughout the day; something that characterizes our life throughout the day. He says he made mention without ceasing of him in his prayers, making requests toward God “if by some means now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” So Paul made it a matter of prayer to come to Rome.
In the last four verses Paul talks about praying for others again. He says, “I beg you brethren through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” We’ll talk about other aspects of that verse but what he’s talking about is that he wants the believers in Rome to pray for him continuously. I hope you pray for me continuously. I know that many people do. I pray for the congregation continuously. This is part of what we need to do. And we need to pray for one another.
In Romans 15:31 he tells them what they should be praying for, a specific prayer request, “That I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.” He’s already thinking about the fact that he’s going to leave and go to Jerusalem and he’s going to meet opposition there. That’s going to be on the way to Rome so he tells the Romans to pray that the opposition will not be serious and that he will be delivered from it. We know that prayer was answered by the intervention of the Romans when there was a riot in the Temple precinct, and then he was taken to Caesarea where he was protected for almost two years before he finally appealed to Caesar and made his way to Rome.
He asked that he be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe and that his service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints. So he’s praying two things, that he’ll be delivered from those who oppose him and that the believers will accept the gifts he’s bringing to them and that they will have a positive time together. The end result in Romans 15:32, “That I may come to you with joy by the will of God and may be refreshed by you.” He saying that if they want him to come to Rome they better pray that everything goes great while he’s in Jerusalem and that he’ll eventually come to Rome and they could enjoy their time together. Paul closes with a benediction, “Now may the God of peace be with you all.” That takes us through to the end of this sort of summary that we’ve been in for the last couple of lessons going through the similarities between the introduction and the conclusion.
I want to go through this rather rapidly now. We’ve hit most of the high points and most of the doctrines. I just haven’t hit every single verse going through Romans 15:14-33 so I want to just kind of pull all these threads together for us so we see how it fits together. As we come to this conclusion he says in Romans 15:14, “I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you are full of goodness, filled with knowledge, and able to admonish one another.” Those are three descriptions of a mature believer.
That first phrase “full of goodness” is an interesting phrase and it emphasizes their character. They are intrinsically good. The word there is AGATHOSUNE and it emphasizes intrinsic goodness. It is comparable or is a counterpoint to righteousness. It’s the application of experiential righteousness to life. They have received the imputation of righteousness but it’s only as we grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and we walk by the Spirit that we have experiential righteousness.
What manifests itself as goodness. We are kind to others. That’s a fruit of the Spirit. When he says they’re filled with all knowledge that’s the same word used in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled by the Spirit. The filling by the Spirit means that the Spirit is the one who is the instrument who fills us with something and what we’re filled with is the Word of God. This is a great passage as a counterpart to Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 that we’re filled with the Word of God as the content by the Holy Spirit and the focus point is on giving us knowledge of God and His Word. The result is that we’re able to admonish one another.
Admonish doesn’t exactly mean to go around correcting everyone and straightening everyone out. In the framework of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ we can help one another. This word NOUTHETEO is a word that comes from the mind, not the emotions. That NOU there is from the Greek word NOUS, which is the word for mind. It has the idea of warning someone or admonishing someone, advising them, correcting them, reminding them, teaching them, and just encouraging them to go forward. It’s a word that covers a range of meanings. It’s not talking about formal instruction like DIDASKO. It’s two people who are friends. “They go out for coffee and one person is having a tough time dealing with a particular situation in his life. The other person says, “Here’s a promise maybe you can claim.” Or maybe they remind them of something they can think about in terms of what the Word of God says. They promise to pray for them and they hope they’ll do x, y, or z as they continue to face this problem. That’s the idea here.
We’re able to do that because the Word of God in is our soul. Otherwise we sit there when someone is going through a tough time and we don’t have a clue what to say because the Word of God isn’t in our soul. We don’t have any verses that we can call to mind. We don’t have any understanding of any Biblical examples that we can encourage them with so you have these three areas in this verse describing a spiritually mature believer.
In Romans 15:15-16 Paul goes on to say, “Nevertheless, brethren, I’ve written more boldly to you on some points.” He has really focused on some key issues knowing they were a problem in the church in Rome because of the fact it’s made up of both Jews and Gentiles and there were some misunderstandings. Part of that had to do with the doubtful things covered in chapters 14 and 15 and others had to do with other issues related to justification and sanctification. So he wrote boldly and confidently in those areas reminding them it was because of the grace of God given to him. He’s really saying that it was because of the grace of God that he might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
That’s his emphasis that God called him to be a minister to the Gentiles. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have any ministry to Jews. Paul always took the gospel first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. His primary target audience was among the Gentiles. It’s not an “either/or”. It’s that his primary target audience was Gentiles whereas many of the other apostles, specifically Peter, took the gospel to the Jews. So he says the purpose God called him to was to be a minister to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
We spent a lot of time going through this verse, emphasizing these words that are not the normal words we would expect Paul to use. Words like when he says minister of Jesus Christ, the word LEITOURGOS which is usually a word that has something to do with a priestly ministry. It reminds us of what he says at the beginning of this section of Romans, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.” This is like a priestly ritual but it’s not ritual; it is offering ourselves to serve the Lord. “Acceptable to God which is our reasonable service.” So he’s emphasizing serving in the gospel is a priestly ministry.
The second word that’s translated ministering in the English is not related to the word translated minister in the beginning; it’s the word HIEROURGEO. The first part of that word is the word for a temple, serving in a temple. What Paul is emphasizing here is that since every one of us is a believer/priest we have a responsibility to serve God in reference to the gospel. Also he uses the term offering, which is PROSPHORA, another term related to ministry in the temple. He’s not talking about ritual or liturgy here. He’s saying this is what the gospel ministry is. This is the role for every single believer and it is pleasant and acceptable to God if we do this.
The last thing he says is that it has been sanctified, set apart, by the Holy Spirit. Again the emphasis as we see all through this section on the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering the believer to serve the Lord. It doesn’t happen just by saying, “I’m going to go do it.” You have to be in right relationship to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s skip on to Romans 15:17-18. He says, “Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things that pertain to God.” There are a lot of things that we’re excited about in life. Every one of us has hobbies. Every one of us has things related to perhaps our work that occupy lots of time or attention as they should because we’re working for someone and we’re serving them. But ultimately that doesn’t matter. When we get together in conversations, our conversation should focus on the Lord. It should focus on the Word. It should focus on things that have eternal values. Not on the trivial things that so often occupy all of our attention and all of our time. That’s what Paul is saying, He says, “I have reason to glory or boast in Christ Jesus, into things that pertain to God.” That’s what we should be talking about. He says it negatively, “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me.” So the focal point is again on that which God is doing in and through us in terms of ministry.
2 Corinthians 12:12 stated very clearly that the signs of an apostle were performed among you with all perseverance. In verse 19 Paul went on to say that he’s going to go to Jerusalem first. Then he’s going round about to Illyricum so he came very close to Illyricum. He went through Macedonia. He took the Word through Thessalonica and Philippi and even into Illyricum. Illyricum went all the way around the north of Italy. Some maps don’t show it that extensive. In terms of the modern countries Illyricum includes the area that used to be Yugoslavia. Now it’s broken up into different countries. In the north it’s Italy. There’s the Adriatic Sea. Up in the north you have Austria and Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. To the west of that you have Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. Then there’s Macedonia. This is the area that Paul is talking about when he talks about the gospel going to Illyricum.
He says he’s completed the gospel. It doesn’t say he’s fully preached the gospel in the Greek. He says he has completely fulfilled the gospel ministry. So he has established churches who have sent out missionaries into Macedonia and Acacia and on into Illyricum so he’s ready to move on into new territory, areas were all dominated by Gentiles, so he quotes a passage from Isaiah 52:15 and 15:21. In that verse he says: “So shall He sprinkle many nations.” The “He” there is the servant of Yahweh. This is the prelude to the great passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. It’s leading up to it. “Behold my servant shall deal prudently. He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you so His visage was marred more than any man.” That’s referring to when Christ was beaten up and hit and tortured before He went to the cross. In Isaiah 52:15 it says, “So shall He [Christ] sprinkle many nations.”
This has to do with salvation being available to all nations—not just to Jews, but to the goy, which is the word for nations there. It’s the same word translated Gentiles. “Kings shall shut their mouths at him for what had not been told them they shall see.” Gentile kings shall hear the gospel. He goes on to say, “And what they had not heard they shall now consider.” Paul is taking that from the Old Testament. We’ve looked at the different ways in which the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament and he’s saying this is what we’re seeing now. It’s an application of that Old Testament passage to what he is doing, taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
Because of that he’s been hindered as we’ve already looked at tonight. “For this reason I’ve been much hindered in coming to you.” Then in Romans 15:22, “But now no longer having a place in these parts and having a great desire to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I will come to you for I hope to see you on my journey and be helped on my way by you if first I may enjoy your company for a while.”
In Romans 15:25 Paul says, “Now I’m going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.” How is he going to minister to the saints? He’s going to bring them financial aid from the churches in Macedonia and Acacia. Romans 15:26, “It pleased those to make a certain contribution to those among the poor of the saints in Jerusalem.” This was one of the great things Paul praised the Macedonians for and the Philippians for because they had given so much to help those in Jerusalem. In fact in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul says, “Moreover brethren we make known to you by the grace of God bestowed on the churches in Macedonia in a great trial of affliction…” So they’re in the midst of suffering and opposition.
We know there was a lot of opposition in Thessalonica to the gospel. “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and deep poverty…” The Macedonians weren’t giving out of their affluence. They were giving out of their empty pockets. They were giving from their poverty, from the little they had. Paul says that in the midst of affliction and hostility they had such joy in the gospel that they gave out of their poverty in the riches of their liberality. 2 Corinthians 8:3 goes on to say, “For I bear witness that according to their ability and yes, beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of ministering to the saints.” So he praises them in 2 Corinthians for their generosity in giving to those in Jerusalem.
In Romans 15:28 Paul says, “Therefore, when I have performed this [taking the financial aid to Jerusalem] and sealed them this fruit…” He refers to this offering as their fruit, the ministry of those in Acacia and Macedonia. “When I have performed this and sealed them this fruit, I shall go by way of Spain and I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” We’ve already talked about that.
He closes in verses 30 down through 33 and we’ve already talked about that as well. “I beg you brethren through the Lord Jesus Christ, through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together [come together and work diligently together]…” The ministry in the local church isn’t 98% the pastor and 2% the deacons and everyone else rides along. It is everyone working together. I think we do a great job here. We can always do better but so many people in this congregation are involved in one way or another helping out in prep school, helping out with planning different functions, praying, and doing different things. That’s how it needs to be in a local church. We always need to work together. It’s part of the ministry of the body of Christ to one another. He specifically calls upon them to pray for him in reference to his trip to Jerusalem that things would go well for him there and eventually he would come and join them in Rome.
He concludes then in Romans 15:22, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” We’ll stop there and next time we’ll come back and look at chapter 16. That’s another one of those chapters that people have difficulty with along with the genealogies. Who in the world are all these people that Paul gives a shout-out to as he goes through the close? It’s a long chapter and we’re used to short statements at the end of some of the other epistles where he says something to someone. But there’s a whole list here and God the Holy Spirit has thought that it’s important for us to have this preserved for our edification in some way so it will be interesting as we go through this last chapter of Romans.