Today I would like to talk about living for God’s commission. We all have been commissioned by God. We have been commissioned to preach the Gospel. If we forget this commission, then we loose our purpose of living and lack a feeling of joy in living. On the other hand, those who on fire for this commission, and respond by using what they have been given to fulfill the commission, are overflowing with joy.
Today I would like to talk about three things that we can learn from Paul who lived for God’s commission.
1. The church has been given a commission to preach the Gospel of Christ.
2. In order to accomplish this commission, Christians must be united in love.
3. However more than anything what is important for this is prayer.
I. The commission of the church (vs. 22-24)
First please look at verses 22 to 24.
Paul wanted to go to the Roman church many times, but he was never able to do so. That was because the circumstances of evangelism on the Mediterranean Coast at that time didn’t allow it. Until then the churches that were established by the evangelism of Paul had various problems occur. He had to deal with solving the problems.
II Cor. 11:28, 29
Paul had had troubles and struggles, pain and sorrows concerning the church that he couldn’t tell anyone about. He was so busy dealing with such issues, that he was never able to get to Rome.
However, when things settled for the time being, the Gospel mission progressed a lot to the point that Paul could say, “But now that there is no place for me to work in these regions.” (23) Paul is writing this letter from Corinth so “these regions“ are the Mediterranean Coast, the area of Achaia, Macedonia, and Asia. He had evangelized enough to say he had evangelized enough there so next he was going to leave for Rome planning to make it the base for the mission, and go as far West as Spain.
These words are really surprising:
1. that he could say positively that “there is no place for me to work in these regions“. (23) It was because he had zealously preached the Gospel that he could say that. Of course Paul could not have done that all by himself. We must not overlook the fact that he was backed by the whole Gentile church of that time which was aware of the commission of world missions and worked together for its realization. In this way, he was able to spread the Gospel to the whole area without leaving anyplace out.
2. that he was going to leave for Spain and spread the Gospel there. According to the maps of that time, that was the most Western area. In other words, he is saying that he is going to ends of the earth to evangelize. Even though this was the ends of the Roman Empire, Spain, when you think of the transportation system of that age, it would not be exaggerating to say that in the present day world this would be further than the whole world. We respect him for his passion to go that far to spread the Gospel.
He held such a thought because he lived for the commission that God had given him. Jesus’ words of Acts 1:8 captured his heart.
This was the command that Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven. The Apostle Paul holding on tight to these words went to Jerusalem and spread the Gospel. Later he went to Asia and went around as far as Illyricum, present day Yugoslavia. He went that far to spread the Gospel. And that wasn’t the end. Next he thought he would go to where the people of his day imagined was the ends of the earth, in other words, Spain.
Paul gave his whole life so that the vision that the whole world would know the Lord’s glory would be realized. He lived for this vision and died for this vision.
However, this commission is not just for Paul. This commission has been given to the whole church. The commission of the church from the moment the church was born on this earth, has been to preach the Gospel to the whole earth. Therefore, if we loose sight of the commission and do not fulfill this commission, then the church is a useless, and is looses it meaning for existence.
Recently it is said that a lot of people are suffering. This is the result of not knowing their purpose of living. They don’t know for what purpose they exist. Those who have no purpose most live for themselves. They are interested in themselves. Therefore, when things don’t go the way they want them to go, then they are troubled. However, there are more things that don’t go the way you want them to go. In fact, most things are that way. Therefore, instead of living for ourselves, we need to live for the Lord who made us, loves us, and gave his life for us. The Lord wants us to think about what we need to do so we can live for Him. We have been crucified with Christ and died with him. Now we live for God who loved us and gave his life for us. We need to do away with our self that tries to do this and that, and live by the will of God. We shouldn’t live by our own thinking and feelings, but leave all to the will of God, and live by His leading. By this our reason for living is born.
As Christians who have been saved by God, it is necessary to live searching for what we can do. That’s because that’s the reason that we are living. If we know God’s commission and live for it, God’s huge blessings will be overflowing.
II． The unity of love (vs.25-29)
Please look at verses 25 to 29.
Paul who thought of going to Spain to evangelize had one thing that he had to do first. Before going West, he had to East one time. He had to bring the offerings from the Gentile churches to the Jerusalem church. At that time the Jerusalem church was a gathering mainly of Jews that had become Christians. When they became Christians they were persecuted and there were many that lost their jobs so they were forced to have very difficult lives. On top of that the area was hit by a famine so the Christians in the Jerusalem church were very poverty stricken. Therefore Paul appealed to the Gentile churches who were comparatively rich to collect offerings. Then the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia joyfully answered Paul’s appeal. That was because they felt a natural obligation that they should do so. They received a share of spiritual things from the Christians in Jerusalem so they thought it only reasonable that that they bring material goods and look after the Christians in Jerusalem. The principle of sharing our possessions is a principle that the Bible teaches.
This is the meaning of this verse. There is a deep meaning to why Paul who was so on fire to evangelize in Spain would take the time to take the offerings from the Gentile churches to Jerusalem. That was the importance of fellowship with the other Christians. Paul believed that to bring the offerings to the poor Jerusalem brothers and sisters and support them was to partake in the grace of Christian fellowship. He says this in II Cor. chapters 8 and 9. Indeed, their offering was work of the ministry of supplying what was needed, and by doing that the church was able to remain unified. As I mentioned earlier, Paul’s work of missions was not accomplished just by himself. He was certainly backed up by many prayers and the help of the bothers and sisters. Certainly it was because of the unity of the brothers and sisters that the preaching of the Gospel moved forward. For the evangelism of the Gospel the unity of love is always needed.
Therefore, please notice that the Apostle Paul’s evangelism wasn’t just striving to preach the Gospel, but he always kept a close relationship with the center, the Jerusalem church. When his first evangelical trip was over he returned and reported to the Antioch and Jerusalem churches. And while sharing everything that God had done through them, they praised the Lord. The second evangelism trip they did the same. When Paul finished the second evangelical trip also he went to the Jerusalem and Antioch churches and reported. Again when the third evangelical trip was finished in the same way, he returned to the Antioch and Jerusalem churches and reported. Paul’s plan was to go towards Spain, the ends of the world, but at the same time to help out the brothers and sisters in the Jerusalem church. That was to help the Jerusalem church that was suffering from a terrible famine, but by doing so to receive the blessings of fellowship and so that he would be sent out in prayer to evangelize.
III. Please pray (vs. 30-33)
One other thing that is necessary for fulfilling the commission of preaching the Gospel is prayer. In verses 30 to 32 Paul is earnestly asking the Christians in the Roman Church for something. That is to pray for him. He asks them to pray that he would “be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea” (31) and that his “service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there” (31) and that as a result he would be able to go to Rome with joy and meet together with them. That was because Paul himself believed in the power of prayer, and lived by prayer. Therefore, Paul asked, “ join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (30)
To win this struggle, we must pray. That is because the struggle with Satan isn’t a battle that we can win by human knowledge or strength. Without God’s help we definitely can’t win. Therefore, we must pray. Prayer means that we don’t have confidence in our strength, but depend upon God. Then when we pray, God hears our prayers, and works. The power of God that works through prayer is really strong.
Before in the age of Moses, Israel when the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim, Joshua and the men fought the enemy at the bottom of the hill and Moses put his hands up and prayed at the top of the hill. When Moses held up his hands and prayed the Israelites were winning, “but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” (Exodus 17:11) Therefore, in order for Israel to win, Moses had to keep his hands up and pray. His hands grew tired and kept lowering so Aaron held up one hand and Hur held up the other. Because of this Joshua was able to have victory over the Amalekites. God who answered Moses’ prayer had fought with the Amalekites. If we pray to God, God will work and bring victory. If we pray to God, we can fulfill this difficult commission of preaching the Gospel.
Here Paul says, “Join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (30) This is a difficult thing to say. If anything, pastors try not so show their weaknesses. However, here Paul says, “Join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (30) He is asking for prayer. This may have been because he was humble, but more than that it was because he fully aware that it was a spiritual battle. He recognized the situation he was in and what was needed to fulfill the job. More than anything else he knew well that prayer is essential. He felt that as a pastor, and as a spiritual leader he was the most sought out by Satan and without prayer, he could not be victorious.
Satan is out to get the pastor. He knows that if he can knock down the pastor then the sheep will be driven asunder. I think the pastor is under more daily temptation than anyone else. Therefore, we must pray for the pastor that he does not fall into Satan’s schemes. Please pray for me. Also let’s pray for God’s blessings on each one of us. Then let’s pray that the church will fulfill completely the commission we have been given and answer God’s expectations.
Lastly I would like to share a story with you. There were 2 wood cutters. One wood cutter worked earnestly 8 hours straight without even stopping for 1 minute. The other wood cutter worked 8 hours, each hour working for 50min. and then taking a 10 minute break. Which wood cutter do you think cut the most trees? The wood cutter who took the breaks. The wood cutter who had worked earnestly all day with no breaks thought that was strange and asked the other wood cutter why he was able to cut so many trees. The other wood cutter replied that when he took his breaks he sharpened his saw. This is an important answer. This is something that we can say of Christians too. In our lives running hard is important, but we need time to sharpen the saw. For Christians the sharpening the saw time is daily prayer. It is coming before the Lord in worship. It is meeting together weekly in prayer. No matter how busy we are, this time is important. For soldiers of Christ who are demolishing the works of Satan, prayer is an essential spiritual armor. Let’s engrave in our mind that by arming ourselves strongly we can do a huge work, not neglect prayer, and with a burning passion let’s fulfill the commission of preaching.