Romans Chapter 15
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Here we are again on the Ministerial Alliance program, moving on through a survey of Paulís letter to the Roman church. Iím in chapter 15 and after discussing some heavy duty theology in his letter up to this point, Paulís now going to switch gears a little bit. Before beginning todayís message, though, I will ask God to open your ears and open your hearts and shine the truth that is Jesus Christ into them, to His glory, amen.
Alrightythen, hereís todayís text:
Romans 15:14-21 Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (15) Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, (16) that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (17) Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. (18) For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient (19) in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (20) And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation, (21) but as it is written: "TO WHOM HE WAS NOT ANNOUNCED, THEY SHALL SEE; AND THOSE WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND."
Remember, that Paul is writing a letter and that letter is to a church. While we often read this letter today and study the theology presented within, Paul is writing it to a church that already knows much of what heís writing about and Paul is confident that they understand the gospel. Nevertheless, Paul says "I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding youÖ." Paulís bold points are many, but among the sections of Romans, certainly chapters 8 and 9 are bold. If you recall, Chapter 8 contains this passage:
Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
And in Romans 9, Paul discusses Godís election and says things like this:
Romans 9:15-16 For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE COMPASSION." (16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
Romans 9:21-24 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (22) What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, (23) and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Whenever the topic of manís will and the range of his choices come up, those are the passages that I bring up and I bring them up again and again and again, as often as needed. Even the topic of the gospel itself is something that needs to be brought up repeatedly, as many times as necessary, although usually no more than 2-3 times a sermon! Non-believers often get critical of this, saying "Oh, itís just the same olí same ol, over and over again." WellÖyeah? If you can get just a tiny glimpse of Godís grace and mercy, youíll see that itís a topic worthy of endless repeating. Iím reminded of the line in the hymn "There Is a Fountain":
Eíer since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
William Cowper, the author of this hymn well understood the importance of Godís grace when he wrote "redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die." And Paul, likewise, wrote his letter to the Romans and had no problem with boldly reminding them of some things which theyíd already heard. How can we, then, object to hearing the gospel message again? It is, after all, a life-saving message, one that is capable of snatching those bound for hell from the flames and planting their feet on solid rock instead of shifting sands. I would think that a saved person could never tire of hearing of Godís grace and mercy as shown through Jesus Christ.
After proclaiming the fact thatís he repeating a few things, Paul declares why itís taken him so long to get to Rome:
Romans 15:20-21 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation, (21) but as it is written: "TO WHOM HE WAS NOT ANNOUNCED, THEY SHALL SEE; AND THOSE WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND."
His aim is take the gospel to new places. Thatís not necessarily the aim of every minster, though. Some ministers are intended to go to new places and plant new seeds, others are intended to water seeds, others are intended to cultivate them to maturity. Paul himself discussed this in:
1 Corinthians 3:6-10 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (8) Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. (9) For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. (10) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
I have noticed that my own ministry, such as it may be, seems to be one of teaching and building up of existing believers. Time after time, Iíve found myself in a situation where Iím teaching and strengthening people who are already believers. I canít name a single person who has come to Christ because of my preaching or teaching, but I can name several who have grown or been strengthened in their faith because of the gifts that God has granted me. Make no mistake to what Iím saying here- it wasnít me that caused their growth but "God who gives the increase." All Iíve done is speak the words given to me and teach with the gifts Iíve been given. The point is, though, that my role seems to be to water seeds that have already been planted. Paulís role was to plant seeds.
Paul then describes his journeys and describes a little bit about the help heís received along the way:
Romans 15:23-28 But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, (24) whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. 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. (25) But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. (26) For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. (27) 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. (28) Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.
There are at least two important things to see in this passage. First, Paulís description gives a good historical basis. We can link his journeys here with the other epistles, including the book of Acts, to make a map and timeline which helps us see how the New Testament locks together. Secondly we can see the Jewish believers helping to support Paulís missionary journeys among the Gentiles. Heís asking the Roman believers to help him when he says "ÖI hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by youÖ" Those in other places helped him already, for he says "Öit pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poorÖ"
I know we get tired of being constantly bombarded by pleas for money and assistance, but itís important to help missionaries and those seeking to spread the gospel. Help doesnít have to always be financial either. Sometimes gifts of food, shelter, clothing, and water are every bit as necessary. And while prayer is important, itís equally important to back prayer up with material things. As James says:
James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
John says the same thing:
1 John 3:17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
Therefore, help missionaries and your fellow Christians when you can, never forgetting that God has provided the means by which you may help others. Hereís what Paul said in:
2 Corinthians 9:5-8 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. (6) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
And so from this passage we draw these things- a historical account of Paulís journeys and the Christ-likeness of helping one another, including missionaries in their journeys. Paul, of course, never forgets the purpose of his traveling:
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.
There were, back again to the things of which we need to be reminded- the blessing of the gospel of Christ. I pray that you have that blessing applied to your life and I pray that if it is not yet applied, that it will be so that you, too, can enjoy freedom in the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
Romans 15, part 3
Romans 15, part 5