Today my Dad preached at The Fountain of Grace Church, here’s what he said:
Psalm 107:10-16 “10 Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, 16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Let’s sing together:
Romans 15:14-22 “14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 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. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.”
Let’s pray together:
We have now completed the major doctrinal teachings of the Book of Romans. And what we come to now is an epilogue, where Paul makes 3 comments about the Romans and then 3 comments about his ministry. Then he talks about his future plans, gives some personal greetings, and he closes with a benediction. That’s all that’s left in Romans.
And today we’re going to study Romans 15 verses 14-21 and this passage could be summarized by these three points having to do with the Apostle Paul: 1—Paul the Priest (vs. 16), Paul the Preacher (vss. 17-19) and finally we have Paul the Pioneer (vss. 20-21). Let’s see what we can learn, and what we can apply by studying Paul in these 3 roles.
Now in verse 14 Paul says the following things about the Romans: that they are, 1—full of goodness, 2—filled with all knowledge, and 3—able to admonish one another. Now it would really benefit us to look at these things together this morning.
First, Paul said the Romans were full of goodness. They had high moral character and were living righteously. Shouldn’t this be the aim of every Christian, to have character and conduct that represents Christ? Maybe you’ve heard that Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I don’t like your Christians.” Well this should never be said of us, our character should be such that people see we’re full of goodness. Jesus said to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
But wait a minute, Paul taught in chapter 3 that all people are sinners and fall short of God’s glory; that we’re born in sin and that we practice unrighteousness. So how did these Romans get to be full of goodness? We’re not born that way. Well this is simply part of the great exchange that happened at the cross, where people who were previously full of evil become full of goodness. Picture for a moment, Jesus Christ dying on the cross. What do you see there? You see that God has taken your sin away from you and put it on His Son, that’s why Jesus is dying. He is taking your place, suffering your punishment, making payment for your sin. Your sin is now nailed to a tree and buried in a tomb. And look what He is giving you in its place: His righteousness. This is the great exchange that happens for all believers at the cross. As a believer you are full of goodness because you are full of Christ.
And the believers in Rome genuinely hated evil and loved righteousness, they were full of goodness, and so they showed by their very lives that they were transformed, that their old lives had gone and the new had come.
Question: if people look at our lives, would they see that we are full of goodness? Have we consciously turned away from sin and burned all our bridges to it, and radically amputated all access to it? Can they see that we’re living in the light, that we’re not in bondage to any habitual sin? That we live in truth, in love, in holiness, in purity? The Romans were not perfect in their lives, but they were full of goodness.
But notice also from verse 14 that the Romans were filled with all knowledge. They clearly had a hunger for the truth, they searched it out, they gave themselves to studying, to learning, to gaining knowledge. Maybe they read what God said in Hosea, that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” so they said, “that’s not going to be me” and they set out to learn. Oh what a blessing it is to want to learn.
But what Paul means here is not that the Romans had general knowledge and information about their world that they lived in (that they knew mathematics and science and history, etc.), but that they had the full knowledge of the gospel. They were learned in the gospel. They were doctrinally sound. They saw all the Bible as pointing to Christ, because in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. You see? They were filled with Christ.
They were filled with goodness and knowledge, or virtue and truth. They had “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”. They knew God, they knew His truth, and, by the power of His Spirit, they were committed to living holy lives.
The third thing Paul says about the Romans in verse 14 is that they are able to admonish, or competent to counsel one another. They were qualified by the first two: they full of goodness and full of knowledge, therefore competent to counsel. Paul is talking about the responsibility that every believer has for encouraging and strengthening other believers.
You know what is so sad? Many people today are convinced that competent counseling can only be done by a person who is trained in the principles of secular psychology—despite the fact that the various schools of psychology are at extreme odds with God’s Word and with each other. But this passage tells us exactly what qualifies us to counsel one another: spiritual maturity; that is, being filled with goodness and truth.
So God has set down for us how counseling is to happen: it is to be Christian counseling Christian. If we have a problem in our lives we are supposed to go to a wise and mature brother and sister in the Lord; not someone trained in worldly wisdom but someone who is mature in Christ, and has character, and especially who loves the gospel. They can counsel us, admonish us, instruct us.
So Paul made these three comments about the Romans, now we’ll see him as priest. He says in Romans 15:16 that he was “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.” See how Paul compares himself, in preaching the Gospel, to the priest performing his sacred duty—preparing his sacrifice to be offered, arranging it on the altar, adding the oil, so that the sacrifice would be acceptable to God.
See what is being taught here? It is preaching of the gospel that makes people acceptable to God. If you’re here today and you believe this message that I’m giving you from the Bible, that Christ died in your place and rose for your justification, you are acceptable to God.
Now this is such an important point and I want to illustrate it. If you would, look with me in your Bibles to the Book of 2 Kings, chapter 4. This is a story from the history of the nation of Israel. A story about the prophet Elisha. 2 Kings 4:38-41 38 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men.” 39 One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
Now notice, the stew was not acceptable. There was poison in it, there was death in the pot. It was unacceptable. So what did Elisha do, did he tell the people to start pulling out the poison, just reach in and take out the bad? No, you could never do that, it’s all mixed in together. Instead, Elisha said to put in the flour, the substance. And this flour acted like a sponge, and soaked in all the poison, and left the stew perfectly acceptable. As if this flour took all the poison into itself, and left nothing but pure stew. It took the death to itself and left life for those who ate it.
Now let’s not miss the point. We were all like that stew: born with poisonous sin in our hearts, unacceptable to God. And what did God do? Did He tell us take out all that sin, clean up your life, you better remove lying and lust and greed and selfishness, etc. NO! He sent His Son to die for us, thereby taking all our sin to Himself, and giving us life. Jesus is the substance that makes us acceptable to God.
Now this passage has very practical teaching for us. A family can have sin in it, poison in the pot: father and mother yelling at each other, the kids disobeying, and what needs to be done? Focus on the bad and try to remove it? No, add Christ. Add the substance of the gospel. Fathers add Bible study to your home. Add singing of hymns and worship songs. Bring your family together for prayer. Add Christ and there will be nothing harmful in the pot.
Churches can have sin: gossip, people speaking ill of other people, slandering, backbiting, dissention, division. And what is needed? And what role should the pastor take? Point out everyone’s faults and failures? How about preach the gospel, add the substance of Christ and there will be nothing harmful in the pot.
It is preaching of the gospel that saves people, and sanctifies people, and in the next chapter we’ll see it is preaching of the gospel that stabilizes people (16:25). Do you see how extremely important preaching of the gospel is?
So we’ve seen Paul as the priest, next we see him in the role of preacher. And this is very important: why? Because we’re looking for a preacher for this church. And so I want to give us five features of a faithful preacher. Let’s remember these as we’re looking for a preacher:
First, the preacher should take no credit for himself. Paul says in Romans 15:18 “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” In other words, he was not boasting in what he accomplished, but rather in what Christ accomplished through him. Look for a preacher who has accomplished a lot, but who knows that it was Christ who accomplished all that through him. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” We have no right to take any credit for any spiritual effect that we have had. Paul refused to boast in anything, except his weakness. The preacher should take no credit for himself.
The second feature of a faithful preacher is that he emphasizes obedience. See in verse 18 “…leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.” See the gospel calls people not only to faith in Christ as Savior but to obey Him as Lord. Notice Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” A faithful preacher must call people to, and emphasize the need for, obedience to God.
The third feature of a faithful preacher is personal integrity. Look at the end of verse 18: “by what I have said and done.” Paul led people to obey Christ through both his words and his life. His life was totally consistent with his message, without hypocrisy or self-righteousness. There should be no difference between the message we proclaim and the life we live. A preacher must have integrity. No hidden sins, nothing that could come out and cast shame on the name of Christ or the church.
The fourth feature of a faithful preacher is God’s approval of his ministry. Look at verse 19: “19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” God attested to Paul’s ministry. A preacher ought to have conversions; people who have turned from sin and are now following Christ because of his influence. This is God’s hand of approval on him. We ought to be fruit inspectors when pastors come to us—where are the conversions, the baptisms, the real spiritual influence?
The fifth feature of a faithful preacher is a laser-like focus on the gospel. Notice Romans 15:19 (NIV) “19 …So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” The message should never change, no matter where he preaches. Let’s not be as interested in whether or not he is funny, intense, relevant, significant, but let’s ask ourselves one question: does he preach the gospel? I remind you of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” This is a laser like focus on the gospel. That’s what preachers are supposed to preach.
So Paul was not only in the role of priest, and a preacher of the gospel, but also a pioneer. He says in Romans 15:20 “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” And he quotes Isaiah 52:15: that “those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
So Paul was a partner, a priest a preacher and a pioneer. He was someone who didn’t take credit to himself, someone who emphasized obedience, someone who had personal integrity, someone who had God’s approval on his ministry and who focused squarely on the gospel. May we be the same!
You are Loved!