Grace For The Journey
Passion. A word that can bring many different ideas to mind. In our society the word “passion” often has either a negative or a sensual connotation, and so one writer quipped that “the end of passion is the beginning of repentance.” But Webster’s dictionary tells us that “passion” can refer to an intense emotion or enthusiasm without regard to the type of emotion or the specific cause of the enthusiasm generating it.
The intensity of the emotions that generate passion can often be very controlling. A Latin proverb warns about this saying, “govern your passions, or they will govern you.” However, whether someone should be concerned about whether their passion governs them depends on the reason for their passion. What is the reason they are either so emotional or enthusiastic? Jesus was always completely in control of Himself, yet the intensity of emotion He experienced as He suffered and died on behalf of our sins has resulted in them being referred to as the “Passion.” A “Passion play” recounts Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
As we continue in our study of Romans 15 this morning, we will see the passion that drove Paul in his commitment to serve our Lord. We will also see how that passion affected his plans for the future. It is my hope that as we study this example we will be challenged to consider our own passions. What makes you passionate? What in your life are you so enthusiastic about that it becomes a controlling factor in how you plan your life? What impacts you so much emotionally that it becomes central in all your thoughts? Paul’s passion for serving Jesus Christ controlled him. Our passion for Jesus Christ should control us too.
We will first look at Romans 15:14-21 to see Paul’s passion, and then vs 22-29 to see how it affected his planning for the future.
Character Of The Romans – Verse 14.
Paul begins in verse 14 by revealing some of the things he was already aware of about their character. Paul was not speculating about them or relying on second-hand information. As we will see when we study Romans 16:1-15, Paul already knew many people that were now living in Rome. Some of these he had very close relationships with due to laboring in ministry alongside them, and in the case of Andronicus and Junias, he had spent time in prison with them for the sake of Christ. Paul specifically states they were, “Full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.”
Filled with goodness is a general commendation of their character and manner of life. Goodness is that which is reflective of the character of God. Goodness is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and this fruit can only exist in believers that are walking in submission to the Holy Spirit. Those who walk in the flesh will bear the fruit of the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). You cannot walk in the Spirit of God and in the flesh at the same time because they are the opposite of each other (Galatians 5:16-17). The Christians at Rome were characterized by being led by the Spirit resulting in their goodness. This trait is demonstrated in the fact that while Paul commonly makes corrections of other churches and / or individuals in other churches in his other Epistles, Paul does not make any corrections or even reference any problems in the church at Rome or among the people there. They were to be commended for their goodness.
Paul also commended them for being “filled with knowledge” in reference to their understanding of the things of God. In Paul’s introduction to this letter to them in Chapter 1, he stated that he desired to come to them in order to impart some spiritual gift in order to help establish them (verse 11) and to obtain some fruit from among them (verse 13) in preaching the Gospel (verse 15). However, Paul did not see this as a one-way street. He also expected to encourage them in their faith and to be encouraged by them in his own faith (verse 12).
Paul recognized that they already were “filled with knowledge.” Much like Peter said in 2 Peter 1:12-14, Paul also was ready to stir them up by way of reminder of things they already knew. They already had a good doctrinal foundation upon which they could build still further.
That doctrinal foundation and moral character also enabled them to help others grow in Christ. They were “able to admonish one another.” To admonish includes the ideas of instructing, teaching, warning, admonishing, and exhorting. It is a word describing the confrontation, both positive and negative, that is to be a normal part of the lives of believers as they interact with one another. It is a comprehensive term for counseling. We, like the Romans, are to be involved in one another’s lives as part of God’s process in helping each of us to become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Paul’s comments in Ephesians 4:12-16 describe this interaction.
Every believer is gifted by God so that the whole body of Christ is built up. We are used in the lives of each other to become mature in Christ resulting in doctrinal and spiritual stability that can withstand the temptations and deceitful schemes of our adversaries. Speaking the truth in love to one another we grow in all aspects into Christ. We need each other, for God uses us in each other’s lives. We spent a lot of time going over these principles in our study of Romans 12:3-21.
We live in a time in which many Christians have fallen into a trap the secular world fell into many years ago of believing that only some specially trained individual with some sort of certification or degree is competent to counsel. That is not true. It is God Himself that equips His people through His Word to counsel one another in how to live. Remember that 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God’s, “Divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.” While training can help us be more effective in counseling, we must be careful that such training is helping us develop greater “wisdom from above” (James 3:15,17) and not the “wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 3:19) which generally gives people excuses for their sins instead of helping them overcome sin by godliness. Psalm 1 is clear that the blessed man is the one that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. You will receive better counsel from a godly Christian farmer from the backwoods than from a PhD psychologist that does not direct you to the Word of God. Who do you seek out for counsel?
Paul’s Purpose In Writing – Verse 15a.
In verse 15 Paul explains why he has written to them as he has, “But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again.” Again, Paul does not give any corrections to the Roman believers, but he does make several bold statements and warnings and reminders to them of things they already knew. It is often on the very things that we know that we do need to be boldly warned. Not because we are failing in doing these things, but so that we would remain steadfast in doctrine and in living in holiness.
Paul wrote boldly on the unrighteousness of all people in chapters 1-3. The immoral unrighteous, the moral unrighteous, and the religious unrighteous. None are righteous, not even one (3:10). He was also bold in his declaration of justification by a gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus to all who believe (3:21-30). Paul boldly warned them to consider themselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God
in Christ Jesus (6:11) and that having a mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God and that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him (8:7,9). Though God had judged Israel and grafted the Gentiles into the “olive tree,” He could also just as easily break them off too (11:17-21). He boldly urged them to present their bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God along with all the ramifications of
being such a living sacrifice in chapters 12-14. Christians are to live with each other in humility while rejoicing over God’s mercy to them in Jesus Christ.
It is the responsibility of every Christian to follow this example as we help one another walk with Christ and mature in Him.
God’s Grace To Paul – Verses 15b-16.
Paul explains the reason for his boldness in verses 15b to 16, “Because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Paul had stated this same truth in his introduction in 1:5. Paul had received from God an apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles. Paul did not earn this. It was given to him by God’s grace. Paul knew from what he had been saved and God’s mercy in doing so. Paul was humbled by God’s love toward him and considered himself “not fit to be called an apostle,” yet, he also knew that he was what he was by God’s grace which did not prove vain (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). This was how God enabled Paul to serve Him, including being bold in his writing.
The particular word here that Paul uses to describe himself as a “minister” was a general term used of public officials. Paul used it earlier in 13:6 to describe rulers as “servants of God.” But the word is often used in the New Testament to describe those who serve God in public worship. Some examples of this include Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist who was involved in priestly service (Luke 1:23); angels who are described as “ministering” spirits (Hebrews 1:7,14); and of Jesus in His role as the eternal High Priest (Hebrews 8:1-2, 6)
Paul was “a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” who was “ministering as a priest the gospel of God.” A priest was someone that stood as mediator between God and man. He declared God to the people and helped men deal with their sin and come to God. Jesus is the perfect priest, but He has given to every believer a priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Every Christian is to declare God to people and bring people to God. Neither we nor Paul receive this priestly office by inheritance from our parents, but rather by the inheritance of faith in Christ as we are adopted into His family.
Paul declared the Gospel to the Gentiles and their response in faith was an offering of worship back to God. That was Paul’s goal. He desired to see the Gentiles become acceptable to God. His declaration of the good news of salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ was used by the Holy Spirit to save Gentiles who were then the “offering” of worship to God, for they were now acceptable to Him being sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit. The greatest worship Paul could give to God was the offering of these Gentile believers. But in all this, Paul was focused on Christ working
Paul’s Passion – Verses 17-21.
Boast In Things Pertaining To God – Verse 17.
Paul says in verse 17, “Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.” From a human standpoint, there was much Paul could have boasted about himself, but Paul clearly understood that anything that he accomplished was simply Christ working through him. In Galatians 2:20 Paul declared his own view of himself as having been crucified with Christ and no longer living, but rather that it was now Christ living in Him. Paul did not take pride in himself. He took pride in His Savior and sought to exalt and glorify Him. Paul expands on this in verses 18,19.
Speak Of What Christ Has Accomplished – Verses 18-19.
These verse state, “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 round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” The Book of Acts records some of the things that God did through Paul. They include . . .
- His bold preaching which brought the Gospel to throughout Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Macedonia, and Greece;
- All the signs of an apostle in the signs and wonders that were also done through his ministry.
- He healed those who were lame (Acts 14:8-10).
- He was stoned and left for dead, but he got up and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).
- He cast out demons (Acts 16:18) and even raised the dead (Acts 210:9-12).
Yet, Paul did not count any of these things as of consequence. As he said in 1 Corinthians 12:9, he would rather boast in his own weaknesses that the power of Christ might dwell within him than to speak of what he had done.
Paul’s passion was Christ’s glory,
And so his boasting would be in
What Christ had accomplished through him.
Consistently Paul would report what
God had “done through him” with
The emphasis on God working
And not on himself.
That was true in his first missions report given at the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:12) and would continue throughout the rest of his life (Acts 21:19). Even in those times he had to defend his apostleship and recount what had occurred in his life, he considered it foolishness (2 Corinthians 11, 12).
It is not what we accomplish that is of any importance, but rather what God accomplishes through us that is important.
That change in focus makes all the
Difference in the world from doing things
In the strength of your flesh and doing them
In the strength of the Spirit of God working through you.
Because Paul’s ministry was done in the Spirit, God enabled him to have a far reaching ministry that stretched from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which is the area of Albania and Serbia. Paul “fully preached the Gospel” in the sense that he declared it throughout the full geographic area God had sent him. But Paul still had other places he desired to go to preach the Gospel.
Aspire To Preach In New Places – Verses 20-21.
These verses say, “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.’” Paul’s desire was to reach new territory. The manner in which God had gifted Paul gave him a pioneer spirit. That would be the mindset of the office of an “evangelist” spoken of in Ephesians 4. There must be those that will begin the work or proclaiming the Gospel and getting things started. But there must also be the work of all the others in the body of Christ including those that do build on the foundations laid by others.
As we have already seen by our study of Romans 12 that it is important that everyone in the body of Christ use their gift in whatever ministry God gives them. God puts all the individual parts together to cause the growth. Paul pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 6:3,4 saying, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
Paul’s passion was to take the Gospel to those who had never heard. What is your passion? What has God placed upon your heart? What are your dreams and desires? Are you fulfilling your part in what God wants to do through you? Too often such desires and dreams are left unfulfilled simply because we either get too caught up in the tyranny of the urgent, or we become complacent. We trade what is best for what is only good. If you are going to fulfill a dream, then there must be a plan, and you must work to reach each goal along the way that marks the steps of the plan. Paul did this and he shared his plans for the future in verses 22-29.
Paul’s Plans – Verses 22-29.
To Go To Rome – Verses 22-23.
Paul had desired to go to Rome for many years, but he had been hindered in doing that because he was so busy fulfilling his purpose of reaching new places ranging from Jerusalem to Illyricum. Rome was a place where the gospel already was proclaimed through the Christians that had moved there. His desire to minister to them had to be kept in the proper priority of what God had placed on Paul’s heart. Paul had now seen that he had fulfilled his purpose in these regions, and so he was now free to go to Rome with the exception of fulfilling his obligation explained in verses 25-28. But Paul’s plan to go to Rome was only a stepping-stone for being able to go to a place in keeping with his priority of going to places where the Gospel had not yet been proclaimed.
To Go to Spain – Verse 24.
Paul wanted to go to Spain. T his country was referred to as Tarshish in the Old Testament. That was the country Jonah was seeking to flee to when God brought a change in his destination via a big fish. It had become an important center of commerce and culture in the Roman empire, yet it was so far removed from the events of Christ’s life in Judea, that they had not yet received a gospel witness. Paul desired for the Roman Christians to help him along in fulfilling his goal of preaching in Spain, but only after he was able to first enjoy their company for a while.
Travel is so quick and easy in our nation that it may be hard for us to grasp how important this help was both to Paul and the church. But imagine going back to a time before there were planes, cars or trains. Traveling took a long time and was not only physically demanding, but also dangerous. Communication was only as fast as someone could travel. Paul would have received needed rest as well as supplies needed to continue the journey, and they would have received from Paul not only the opportunity to sit under his teaching, but also to learn what God was doing in distant lands. The result was that both Paul and the church would rejoice and praise God.
But before Paul could go to Rome and then on to Spain, he had to travel the opposite direction to complete his current ministry obligation to serve the saints in Jerusalem (verse 25).
To Finish Current Ministry – verses 25-28.
In verses 25-27 Paul tells them, “For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain.” We examined the principles of giving a couple of months ago when we looked at the gift of giving in Romans 12:8, so we will not be doing that again here, but this contribution by those from Macedonia and Achaia for the poor in
Jerusalem are the example of this practical means by which Christians show their love to each other. Paul talks about them more in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
There had been animosity between the Jews and Gentiles, but these Gentiles recognized the debt they owed to the Jewish Christians. They were pleased to respond to the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem. It was through Jewish believers that the gospel had come to them and they received a spiritual blessing. They were now seeking to share in fellowship with them from their material blessings. This was a response of love, not compulsion. 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 tell us that the Macedonians begged Paul to participate in this relief effort though they themselves were in poverty.
Paul was now on his way to Jerusalem with this collection. It is important to note that though Paul desired to go to Rome and then on to Spain, he would complete his present obligation first, only after Paul had “finished this task” and “put a seal on this fruit of theirs” would he be able to move on to his next goal.
There are two important character traits shown here by Paul’s example. First, you keep your priorities in order and fulfill present obligations before moving on to something else. A workman that leaves a job undone is worthless and the same is true in ministry. I could tell you lots of stories of people that start out with great vigor and promises only to see them either lack the endurance needed to finish or become side tracked onto
something else and leave the task undone. They prove themselves to be untrustworthy and therefore ineligible for greater responsibility including leadership roles. Paul was trustworthy. He would finish what he started even as he had in mind what he would do next. Prove yourself trustworthy by keeping your word and finish what you start.
The second great character trait Paul demonstrates here is this planning for the future. Paul was always looking farther into the future and planning even as he was completing current ministry. He did not do this in a manner that distracted him from the ministry at hand, but kept him anticipating what God would do with him next. Paul lived in the reality of Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.“
Many of Paul’s plans did not work out the way he had anticipated, but he left that in God’s hands. We can too.
We are to anticipate the future and make plans for what we would like to see accomplished with our lives, but we must leave the actual working out of those plans in God’s hands. There is a comfort and peace that we experience when we daily live in trust of the providence of God to direct us. Depending on the sovereignty of God is not an excuse for failing to plan. Christians are not to be fatalistic. But it is a wonderful comfort to know that He is directing even when things are confusing to us.
To Be A Blessing – Verse 29.
Finally, Paul planned for all of this to be a blessing, “And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” Contrary to current popular theology, the fullness of the blessing of Christ is not materialistic comfort or life without conflict. Paul gives details in 2 Corinthians 11 of many of the things he suffered in serving Christ. Jesus told us to expect to suffer at the hands of the ungodly when we are actively living for Him (Matthew 5:10-12; John 16:33). The blessing here is spiritual in nature and is the fulness of serving God to the maximum of your potential. It is serving God to the best of your ability and knowing that He is using you for His eternal glory. The fruit of this is the ability to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11f). Along with this is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) which the world cannot have or give (John 14:27). This was the manner in which Paul lived, and it was the manner in which he wanted to encourage the Romans to live.
How are you doing in these areas? Are you following Paul’s example even as he followed Christ? Paul had received God’s grace and as a result was living his life in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has gifted each of us differently and given us different ministries, but every Christian is to live in the service of Christ. How well are you doing at that?
Paul was passionate about serving Christ and had very clear desires for fulfilling that passion. What are you passionate about? What are your desires for fulfilling that passion?
Paul also planned for the future even while fulfilling current ministry obligations. How well are you doing at being faithful to fulfill your current ministry obligations? Are you planning for the future and how the Lord might use you in even greater ways than at present? How are you preparing yourself for such future ministry?
And finally, Paul rested in God’s providence to direct him each step even as he planned his way. Are you learning to live in such contentment regardless of circumstances and rest in God’s care for you? If your answer was “no” to any of these questions or you could not answer them, then make plans to find a Christ-loving, Bible-living Christian and let us help show you how you can grow in these areas so that you too will know the fulness of the blessings of Jesus Christ in your life.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”