Paul the minister to the Gentiles. 15:14-22
From 15:14 to 16:23 Paul deals with a range of personal matters. In our passage for study, 15:14-22, he covers a number of subjects. In verse 14 he expresses his confidence in his readers' goodness, knowledge and ability to instruct others. Then in verses 15-16 he explains the basis of his bold writing: he is a minister (an apostle) of Jesus Christ, with a particular brief to evangelize the Gentiles. He also explains his purpose in writing, namely, to remind the Roman believers of truths they already knew, so that they "might become an offering acceptable to God". Finally, in verses 17-22 he explains his missionary work and outlines his practice of preaching the gospel in areas where Christ has not yet been proclaimed.
v14. Paul's instructions to the libertine and law-bound members of the Roman church have probably touched a raw nerve and so he now affirms the church members.
v15-16. Paul admits that he has taken a liberty with them, although much of what he has said serves only to remind them of what they already know. None-the-less, it is appropriate for him to do this because he has a special ministry to the Gentiles. God has graciously given him the task of making known the gospel to the Gentiles. This important message from God concerns the gift of an eternal right-standing in the sight of God offered to all humanity, and appropriated on the basis of the finished work of Christ. Paul describes his gospel ministry as a "priestly duty" in service to the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to define the divine purpose behind his commission, namely, the gathering of believing Gentiles, sanctified (made wholly acceptable, righteous, perfect, in the sight of God) in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is for this very purpose that Paul writes to the Gentile church in Rome.
v17. Paul is rightly proud of his service to Christ, but he gives God the glory.
v18-19a. God must receive the glory for all that is achieved in Paul's ministry because not only is Paul's service subsidiary to Christ's priestly work, its spiritual achievements are "through the power of the Spirit". The gospel proclaimed in word and sign achieves God's intended end, namely the right-standing of a people before him on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ.
19b-22. Paul's trail-blazing gospel strategy, Jerusalem to Rome and then to the ends of the earth ("Spain"), is well advanced, but as a pioneer preacher, Paul doesn't feel it is his function to build on the work of others. Rome has already been evangelized, but this doesn't mean Paul can't explain his particular understanding of the gospel, a gospel contextualized for Gentile believers. He did, of course, intend to visit Rome, but the pressures of ground-breaking mission work has hindered him so far. He quotes Isaiah 52:12 to support his focus on "those who have not heard".
Boasting in God's work
In our passage for study, Paul happily boasts of the achievements of his ministry, while giving credit where credit is due. Paul is not the savior of the lost, rather, salvation is achieved by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus ministered through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Paul is but an ambassador for Christ, a communicator of the gospel.
When I faced a selection committee for ordination, one of those present asked me, "when was the last time you led someone to the Lord?" I had to admit that I had never led anyone to the Lord. The question bothered me for many years until I concluded that the business of making disciples was something God handled. My responsibility is to see that God's message of salvation in Christ is communicated widely and well.
Jesus instructed his disciples to go into the whole world, proclaiming the good news of God's eternal mercy freely available in Christ. We can easily think that gaining "scalps", building congregational numbers, somehow represents gospel ministry, and this down to our own ingenuity. "Leading the Gentiles to obey God" is God's business, not Paul's. When it come to evangelism, we are but ambassadors for Christ, and in this alone we boast.
1. Why did Paul write to the Romans?
2. Others may expect us to be self-effacing, but we can actually glory in who we are and what we do. Discuss
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