We are finally nearing the end of the book of Romans. In this final part Paul is explaining once more the reason why he wrote this letter. The reason we touched on in chapter 1 verses 8-15., but here the contents are explained a little more fully and so that the plan will be fulfilled, he requested the people in the Roman Church to support him in prayer. The plan was that the Gospel would be preached to the Gentiles. Paul as a person, who had received grace from the Lord, was appointed as an apostle to the Gentiles and served the Lord fervently. By the help of the Holy Spirit, he continued the work of preaching from Jerusalem to Illyricum. As a result he had fulfilled the duty he had to Eastern half of the Roman world. Next he wanted to go to Spain to preach the Gospel to the rest of the Western half of the Roman world. He told the Roman church about such an evangelistic plan, and he wanted them to pray for that. For Paul the greatest joy was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The surpassing grace was that God was using him for that.
The same is true of us too. We were saved for the purpose that through us God’s work of salvation will be preached to other people, and they will be led to the salvation of Christ. We are to live a life of being like a mirror reflecting God’s glory. We were saved for the purpose. If that is the case, like Paul we want to live preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a surpassing joy.
Today let’s learn three things from Paul’s evangelical spirit.
1. Paul’s commission that he was given was to be a priest of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
2. The power to accomplish the commission is the power of Christ’s signs and miracles, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Paul answered this commission by preaching the Gospel where the Gospel had never been preached which is a spirit of a church planter. Such a passion bore beautiful fruit.
I. Fulfilling the duties of a priest (vs. 14-17)
First please look at verses 14 to 17. Here it tells us that Paul’s commission that he was given was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Here Paul is saying in verse 14, “”I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. “ As Paul says what he is going to say to the Romans, he doesn’t have a blaming attitude or tone of voice, but begins by recognizing them. The most important thing for a person to become stronger is for that person to be recognized. When a person is recognized he splendidly accomplishes everything, and exhibits a spirit of loyalty and a sacrificial heart that goes as far as sacrificing his life. Paul used this principle and began recognizing them. I think that is because Paul wanted them to understand what he is saying. His desire was that the Gospel would be preached. In verse 16 he says, “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.“ The grace that Paul received was being a priest of God and preaching the Good news to the Gentiles. This was so that they “might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. “ (16)
We tend to think that grace is to receive some kind of material blessings, or that where ever you are going that doors will open, but the surpassing grace is to preach by your own lips the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of all the things that we experience in this life the most wonderful grace is to preach the Gospel of Christ. There is no greater grace than to be used by God for this commission.
I Timothy 1:12-16
Paul is thankful to Jesus Christ because Christ considered Paul faithful, appointing Paul to his service. Before he disgraced God, and persecuted the Christians, and lived as an enemy of God. He was the sinner of sinners. He was by the mercy of God forgiven of his sins, and made a preacher of Christ’s Gospel. This was a grace deeper than any words can express. Paul with great emotion makes this confession.
It is a blessing to be used. When we are used by God, we must be thankful. More than being thankful for the many gifts that we are given, it is important that we have joy in the fact that we use what God has given us for God’s glory.
That is because we have been called for this. Please look at verse 16. Here it says, “with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God“. This tells us that the status of a Christian is that of a “priest”.
I Peter 2:9
Here it says, “a royal priesthood”. (I Peter 2:9) God is calling us “a royal priesthood”. (I Peter 2:9) The most important duty of a priest is to offer the sacrifices. The sacrifice to be offered is the Gentiles. If we apply this to ourselves it would be the people that are not saved yet, non Christians. When we worship to bring non Christians and to make them God’s people is to offer sacrifices. To evangelize many souls and bring them before Jesus Christ is the supreme sacrifice, the thing that pleases God the most. If you think about your family, it is easy to understand I think. The family is the happiest when a new baby is born. The church is the same. When a new life is born in the church and that person shares the same faith and the same vision, the church is overflowing in joy. Without this something is missing in the church. No matter how often you meet together and even if you party together, there is no real joy. A priest in this way brings non Christians, makes them the people of God, and offers sacrifices. As a priest of God, we are each called to testify that Jesus Christ is the Savior. This is not just the pastor. The pastor too, the laymen too, all Christians are to do so. All Christians are priests of God, and must fulfill this duty.
When Satan attempts to overthrow the church, the first he aims at is getting only a few people to run around. Only some believers evangelize and he gets them to think that all they have to do is enthusiastically grind their faith. Then he makes those people exhausted, discouraged, and depressed. He makes them think that no matter what they do it won’t do any good; that evangelism in Japan is too difficult. However, this is all wrong. Evangelism isn’t a special work, but all Christians have been given this duty. If a soldier fights all by himself, he won’t win the war. A war is an all-out war. By all who have believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior fighting together are we able to turn away Satan. For the church what is important is not how many people are meeting in the church, but how many people are set on evangelism and are being sent out for that purpose. And we are all God’s priests sent out for that purpose. This was for Paul the thing that he was the most interested in, and it was grace.
What are you interested in? Are you interested in preaching the Gospel? We don’t all live the same life as Paul. However, our God is the same God that Paul believed in and led Paul and gave Paul purpose and vision in his life. If so, we should have the same interest. We should not be unrelated to fulfilling our duties as God’s priest.
II. By the power of the Holy Spirit (vs. 18-19)
Next let’s look at verses 18 and 19.
Here it tells us how Paul was able to accomplish the evangelism of the Gentiles. “what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done-by the power of sign sand miracles through the power of the Spirit.” (18, 19) As a result he began from Jerusalem he was able to go “all the way around to Illyricum” (19) fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Illyricum was a Roman province north of Macedonia which is now present-day Albania and Yugoslavia. It was 1,500 kilometers away from Jerusalem the way the bird flies. He began from Jerusalem and went to such a place fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. If we look at verse 23, we see, “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions”. Therefore, he made plans to go to Spain. At that time Spain was on the Western frontier. In an age where transportation was not developed, it’s amazing that the Gospel was preached that much! Where did that power come from? This was the power of Christ. Christ accomplished this by the words and deeds, and by “signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit”. (19) It was not by the power of Paul. Christ used Paul to accomplish his own works.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8) and you will be able to be the Lord’s powerful witness. Wherever you go, he will give signs and miracles. Where the Gospel is preached, such works occur.
In Acts 13 it is recorded that when Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the Antioch church and crossed over to Cyprus, there was a confrontation with a sorcerer named Elymas. When the proconsul, Sergius Paulus was listening to Paul talk about the Word of God Elymas “opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.” (Acts 13:8) Then Paul full of the Spirit looked straight at Elymas saying, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? …You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” (Acts 13:10, 11) The proconsul who was surprised by this event was amazed and was amazed at the Lord’s powerful teaching so he entered the faith.
At Lystra there was a man who was lame from birth sitting there listening to Paul’s talk. Paul “saw that he had faith to be healed” (Acts 14:9) and said to him, “Stand up on your feet!” (Acts 14:10) and the man jumped up and started walking. The amazed crowds thought that Paul and Barnabas were the gods, Zeus and Hermes and “wanted to offer sacrifices to them”. (Acts 14:13) Paul and Barnabas rushed out and told them to stop doing such a stupid thing. Paul pleaded with them saying, “We are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth.” (Acts 14:15) and some people entered the faith.
On the second missionary trip in Philippi when Paul casted out the demon from the slave girl, her master who had lost all hope of making money brought charges against Paul and Silas and they were put in prison. Even so when Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises in the prison a miracle happened. There was a huge earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken, and all the doors of the prison flew open. The Jailor who saw this thought that the prisoners had escaped. If a prisoner escaped. the life of the guard was demanded. Therefore, he started to kill himself when Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) The jailor rushed to where Paul and Silas were, bowed down trembling and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) The jailor’s whole family was saved.
In the course of time the boat that Paul was in going to Rome in was shipwrecked, but miraculously they were saved. When they arrived on the Island of Malta, “Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (Acts 28:3) Then “Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” (Acts 28:5)
If we look at the Book of Acts, there are lots of such miracles. It is just like what Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18.
It is in places where evangelism is taking place that such powerful acts occur. That is because evangelism is the work of Holy Spirit. This was the power of Paul’s evangelism.
III. The spirit of church planters.
Last let’s finish by looking at the motivational power of the Gentile evangelism. Let’s look at verses 20 to 21.
“To preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (20) was in the Gentile world, but this is one and the same with world evangelism. Also “so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (20) and “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand” (21) refers to church planting. Paul was burning with a vision for world evangelism and church planting. In an age where transportation was undeveloped I am impressed with the huge vision that he had. More amazing is that he actually tried to accomplish it. His spirit of church planting came from seeing things from God’s viewpoint, thinking about what was the will of God, and trying to live by that. It is not a matter of whether he could do it or not. It depended upon what the will of God is. Then if that was the will of God, a passion sprung up that no matter what he needed to accomplish it.
I Timothy 2:4
The will of God is for “all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. (I Timothy 2:4). Also God desires that those who still haven’t heard the Gospel will hear it, and that they will come to know God. Now what God desires of us is that we look at things from God’s eyes and then that we do it.
After the war many missionaries with sweat, tears, and sacrifices spread the Gospel in Japan. When Japan was destroyed by the war, and feeling empty psychologically, many missionaries came to Japan and eagerly spread the Gospel.
The missionary F.B. Soley was a pioneer. He came to Japan in 1948. He stood on the corner of Tokyo which had been burnt down and in English preached the Gospel. While playing the accordion he sang and preached using a translator.
When his work of preaching was finished in Tokyo, he moved next to Wakayama and eagerly started tent evangelism. When questioned why he picked Wakayama, he answered that when he checked into it the two places with the fewest Christians were Tomiyama prefecture and Wakayama prefecture. Missionaries from Canada were going to go to Tomiyama prefecture so he decided to go Wakayama prefecture. What a spirit! After the war evangelism in Japan was done by such missionaries who were overflowing with a spirit of church planting that proclaimed the Gospel
Now the present day has changed. However, no matter how much the age changes, there is a changeless principle. That is the spirit of a church planter. That is a passion to spread the Gospel in a place that the Gospel has not been proclaimed in before. If you look at the situation in Japan it can not be said that it will certainly be easy. However, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Lord, Christ, is with us. Being supported by the power of the Lord let’s accomplish the commission given to us. This passion for saved souls will be the motivational power so we will be able to overcome all difficulties, so that from the center of the world, Rome to the ends of the earth, the Gospel will be proclaimed.