Romans 15&16: My Gospel
Some of us who may have developed an image of the Apostle Paul as this lonely, driven evangelist may be surprised as we close his letter to the church in Rome just what a people person, Paul was. Paul realized in spite of his abilities, intelligence and gifts- he was not to think of himself more highly than others. Paul realized the church was the body of Christ and no one possessed all the gifts and thus we needed each other.
Paul understood a partnership among believers was necessary. In business, it is often stated that the hardest ship to keep afloat is a partner-ship. Although there is truth in this statement, it does not mean partnerships are not necessary. Paul realized this and everywhere he went he sought out partnerships for he knew people need people.
In his letter here in Romans 15, we find the key to successful partnerships: corresponding competence; mutual trust; and a shared vision. You will find these three factors in well run businesses, and successful companies. Notice what Paul writes here: I myself am convinced, my, brother, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. ( Romans 15: 14)
His reference to being full of goodness is a reference to their morality. We cannot trust others who are immoral. But this goodness also refers to the fact that Paul knew they were willing to help others, to bear one anothers burdens. This is practical goodness that manifests itself in the willingness to help others. It is practical goodness that mows the widows yard. It is practical goodness that helps feed the hungry, provide clothing and most of all hope for the hopeless.
Paul says you are complete in knowledge. These are those who have studied the Word of God and learned through study, application and experience the truths that transform. Paul trained trainers, he taught others to teach. All of us are to have made ourselves familiar with the doctrines of faith.
Paul says you are then equipped to teach and instruct one another, or as the KJV states to admonish one another. The Christian life is a race to be run, a battle to be fought. We are in a battle and we each have a role to play for which the Lord has equipped us.
Paul never stopped dreaming about the future; planning mission trips to places he had not been before. When it comes to the work of the Lord, we are never to retire. We may slow down, we may have to curtail certain activities as we age, but we must never stop proclaiming the good news. We never want our memories of the past to be greater than our dreams for the future.
Take note of Pauls prayer at the end of Romans 15. Here we see how specific Paul is in his prayer requests and how important the prayers of others were to him as he urged them to join with him in his struggle by praying to God for him. Paul prayed specifically for safety, to be rescued from the unbelievers in Jerusalem. He also prayed for the success of his ministry that his service in Jerusalem would be accepted. He also prayed for Gods will to be done that he might come to them, the church in Rome.
Now let me tell you how each of us as believers and members of the body of Christ are like the Apostle Paul:
Each believer is a living part of the body of Christ. Each one of us has a spiritual function to perform. To perform this function, each one of us has received a spiritual gift. For it is God who has worked in you, to will and to act according to His good purpose. (Phil 2:13) God works in us both a desire to do his will and the power to do his will. These functions to be performed are for the building up of the body, the church, so that we grow up and become mature in our faith.
What is necessary?
- Know your gift
- Honest evaluation of self
- Faithful cooperation
- Loving participation
You know what else is necessary? Dreams. Not just little dreams, goals we see we can accomplish in our own abilities and strength .no, we need Big Dreams. Why? Because we serve a Big God.
We must believe God is who He says He is .
We must believe God can do what He says He can do. And what He has told us is- nothing is impossible for God. We are also told we can do nothing apart from God.
We must believe we are who He says we are.
We must believe we can do what He says we can do. For we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
And last, but not least, the Word of God must be alive and active in our lives.
Now, you might be thinking, we must be realistic and practical. And we must be realistic and practical from this standpoint- when we decided to dream big, to have a vision that God can do what He says He can do and wants to do great and mighty things- we must be practical in our expectations of hardships, trials, tribulations and hindrances. In fact, these actually reveal we are on the right path. Peter said you should consider fiery trials as ordinary
A few years ago, I became convinced I wanted to write my story and have it published to leave behind me. I submitted outlines, sometimes a complete work to several publishers including: Focus on the Family, Billy Graham association, and Lifeway. At Lifeway, I actually talked with an editor, who told me as far as my story being published by someone like Lifeway or Thomas Nelson, it would not happen because they had authors with name recognition and ministries that would assure them of sales and profitability.
But do you know how one deals with hindrances, hardships and setbacks?- with sustained hope. I still plan to leave a published work behind me in some form or fashion. My dream has not died.
Want to hear from Paul about keeping on? Do you want to hear a how a setback is a setup for a comeback? Listen to his story: Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from countrymen, in danger from Gentiles ,in danger in the country, at sea, and from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I have been cold and naked. (2 Cor. 11) And yet Paul kept on didnt he?
You know who else did not give up? Our Lord Jesus. And we He saw in full- just how much it would cost, He still went the final mile between me and heaven so I would not be lost! Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ( Hebrews 12)
One of the essential ingredients to sustained hope is realizing the source of your hope is God, the God of all Hope. But one of the other essential ingredients of hope is enthusiasm- a passion that ignites. Knowledge and skills without passion comes across as cold and mechanical. Add passion to knowledge and skills and it ignites something that causes our hearts to burn within us.
Nothing great is ever accomplished without: a vision, a dream accompanied by enthusiasm and passion.
And nothing is accomplished in the church without the help of others. So it should not come as a surprise, that the Apostle Paul was not just a soul-winner, he was a friend maker. Life- long friends that he stayed in touch with in a time and place when staying in touch with distant friends took an effort. ( How many times have you thought of someone and thought I need to go see them or call them or drop them a note, but failed to do so? I was prompted to go see the mother of one of my childhood friends, and also a close friend of my mother. I did and we had a wonderful visit and she passed away a few months later. I was also prompted to go see my mothers next door neighbor, Rebecca Buford. But I procrastinated, and one day my sister called me and told me Rebecca had passed away. )
Paul sends greetings to 35 people by name as well as some home churches. Paul has a word of encouragement and praise for each one. I would not be surprised, if Paul did not have a book with a list of names for which he prayed for continually.
Notice Paul does not lump them all together as my brothers and sisters in Christ, he calls them by name. Listen to Jesus description of Himself as the Good Shepherd: He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ( John 10) Love delights to single out the object of its love by name. Does it not thrill you to know that the Lord Jesus knows your name?
Paul loved people. Some of the names he wrote , we recognize. Others were never mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures. These people may have been custodians, cooks, servants serving in the less noticeable, but still important functions that allow ministries to flourish and run smoothly. In our churches today these could be those who work behind the scenes from workers in the nursery, to secretaries who perform necessary clerical duties to those who open the doors.
Any parent always cautions a child what to look out for in the way of danger. Wear your seat belt, dont speed, dont text. We also from early on try to make sure of who they associate with as we know others can lead them astray and get them in trouble.
In this last section of his closing remarks, Paul tells them to watch out for false teachers. The KJV, says to mark them which cause division and put obstacles and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them. Identify them and avoid them and have nothing to do with them.
Paul then closes this magnificent letter with following benediction:
Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and to the proclamation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him- to the only wise God be glory forever though Jesus Christ! Amen.
Paul uses the word establish here in closing as he did in the beginning. The KJV states in Romans 1:11: For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established. It was Paul also who would write Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ( Phil 1:6) What God establishes- He completes. What He starts He will finish. Paul refers to this as my gospel. What does this mean? I believe it carries two meanings: one,it was the gospel given to him by revelation by Christ Jesus, not taught to him by men; but also it is his gospel in as it becomes our gospel when we believe it in our hearts and confess it with our mouths. It is my gospel, in that I have believed it, received it and by grace through faith I am saved. It is in this sense, the personal gospel, the personal good news for each individual believer, that you are now in the family of God- saved to new life sublime. It is my gospel in the sense that it is the most precious possession I have. And it can never be taken away from me.
The mystery to which Paul refers is the mystery of the church, the body of Christ where Jew and Gentile are joined in the body and there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male nor female, but on in Christ. (See Ephesians 3)
The Church, the body of Christ may appear to be weak, feeble and frail, but the One who holds us together is Omnipotent. Whatever else may fail, His Church will not.
So Paul ends this marvelous work by calling attention to what is worthy of our attention- the wisdom of God.
The Bible is Gods story. It tells us: In the beginning God.. and with those four words the story starts. A story of creation in all its splendor. The creation of the stars, the sun, the moon, the oceans the mountains, the universe with all its wonders. The human body with all its complexity and all its parts all came into being by an All Wise, All Powerful God. Creation is the work of the mind and hand of God.
And as we consider this wisdom we also realize the Bible is Gods message to us.
Do you know what is the greatest discovery of the Bible?
God is real and wants to have a personal relationship with you.
He created you for a purpose and until you know Him , you will not discover your purpose. He offers not only life after death, He offers life in the here and now that can have meaning and purpose.
The same power that created the sun which is so large it could contain more than one million of our earths, this same power has done something for you and me as believers:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.: ( 2 Peter 1)
You and I were planned for Gods pleasure and we bring Him pleasure and experience it ourselves, when we worship Him.
You and I were formed for family. This is what fellowship is to be about.
You and I were created to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is the essence of discipleship.
You and I were shaped for service. Gifted, indwelt and empowered for a ministry.
You and I were made for a mission. Our mission it the Great Commission- evangelism.
This is the purpose of life: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. We begin to experience these when the Gospel becomes my Gospel.
Is the Gospel your gospel?