Now, the thing to know before you read this sermon, is that my dad, as well as another person, are only temporary pastors at The Fountain of Grace. Currently, they’re looking for a permanent one, which somewhat influences this particular sermon. — That aside, this is what my dad preached today:
Psalm 107:17-22 17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.
Romans 15:23-33 23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. 30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Let’s pray together:
Well we’re concluding our study of the Book of Romans, today we’ll finish chapter 15, and then in the first two weeks of June, Lord willing we’ll complete chapter 16. And last week and this week we’re looking at the characteristics of a faithful preacher. But please remember, that these apply to all of us. Because all Christians are ministers of the New Covenant, so these traits apply to you and to me today, not just to preachers. From last week, a faithful preacher does not take credit to himself (vs. 18), he emphasizes obedience (vs. 18), he has personal integrity (vs. 18), he has divine approval for his ministry (vs. 19), and he has a laser like focus on the gospel (vss. 19-20).
This week the Bible adds to that list as we consider the ministry of the Apostle Paul. And let’s look at this passage under two headings: #1—Paul’s plans for ministry, and #2—Paul’s plea for prayer. So let’s look first at Paul’s plans for ministry and we’ll see more characteristics of a faithful preacher.
First, Paul did a thorough job. We saw that in verse 19 where he said “from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” He didn’t just say “I preached the gospel” but rather I fully preached the gospel. He preached it everywhere. And now in vs. 23 he says there is no place for him to work, and what he means is that he has preached everywhere, and no place remained unreached for the gospel. In Colossians 1:23 he says that the gospel “was preached to every creature under heaven.” Paul went to so many places, but wherever he was, there was a thoroughness to his work, he left nothing undone in the region where he was ministering and he could say “there’s no longer any work for me here.” One of the characteristics needed for blessing in ministry, or even in our jobs, is to be thorough and to finish the work God calls us to do.
And notice in vs. 24 that Paul’s plans for ministry were to go to Spain. He said, “I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.” We don’t know if he ever made it to Spain, but he made plans to go. Paul probably would be considered an evangelist because he went to this place and stayed awhile and then passed through that place. These words characterized Paul, “passing through” and “for awhile.” Which brings us to our second point.
Second, Paul evangelized. Just in the past two weeks we’ve seen Paul ministering in Jerusalem and Illyricum (this is the country that used to be called Yugoslavia), Macedonia and Achaia, his plans now were to go to Spain via Rome, but first he was headed to Jerusalem again. And he preached the gospel everywhere. He wanted to reach people everywhere. He had a world-wide vision. He knew what Psalm 22 verse 27 says “All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. Paul had a vision of every knee bowing before the Lord, and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord, so he went here and he went there always preaching the good news of what Jesus did for them when He died and rose again.
A faithful preacher absolutely must have a heart for evangelism. He must crave to get the Word of God out far and wide through all available means. He must feel that it’s not right to keep such good news to ourselves. The need is too great and the news is too good. It’s not right to keep it to ourselves.
To illustrate this point, I invite you turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Kings chapter 7 and let’s just look at a story in the Bible. This chapter starts by showing us there is a famine in the land, and the nation of Israel is in great need because there’s no food. But Elisha the prophet has some good news. He says in verse 1, “Hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” In other words, food would be plentiful. There would be an abundance, tomorrow. What good news.
But some people just find it hard to believe good news. And in verse 2 “an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, “Look, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” He didn’t believe it was possible. How could we go from famine today to plenty tomorrow? He didn’t know the power of God. And so Elisha says “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” There is a danger in unbelief, that you might see your friends or family enjoying the gospel, becoming saved, but because of unbelief you don’t get the benefits.
Well how did God bring this about? You have to admit this has got to be a miracle. Watch what God does. Notice verse 3: “3 Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate;” They were at the gate because they weren’t welcome in the city. Lepers were outcasts, unclean, and couldn’t live with the people. They were despised by others. “and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.” 5 And they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there. 6 For the LORD had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses–the noise of a great army; so they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us!” 7 Therefore they arose and fled at twilight, and left the camp intact–their tents, their horses, and their donkeys–and they fled for their lives. God is able to change everything. He made the Syrians here noises and run for their lives and these lepers, who had given themselves up to die, are about to sit down to a feast and find treasure. Let’s learn something: God is able to work everything out for good for His people.
8 And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it. Isn’t it amazing that God chose lepers to discover the food and the gold and the clothing? Those who were despised by others became the recipients of all of God’s blessing. They had abundance where others were in famine. God chooses the weak, lowly, miserable and despised.
Jesus said to some very religious people of his day, “prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of you.” It’s sinners who find riches and treasure and food and the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I could I would just invite you to come to the cross as a leper: impure, unclean, and there find forgiveness of your sins and cleansing, and healing and new life. Feed on your acceptance, put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness; right there at the cross receive your Treasure; one blessing after another, grace upon grace.
But we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves. That would be wrong. The gospel is a day of good news and we shouldn’t be silent. Notice verse 9 “Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” See there is a danger in keeping the good news for ourselves.
Every church needs to have Sunday night evangelistic preaching. This is just taking the Scriptures and explaining clearly what God requires of people. That’s evangelistic preaching. Remember, 1 Corinthians 1:21 says that it is by the “foolishness of preaching that God saves those who believe”.
There is a danger that churches face when they keep the good news to themselves and they don’t focus on outreach. Remember, the very nature of the kingdom of God is to spread and grow. Jesus described it as yeast that makes bread grow and rise. Yes, keep our small groups, for sure, but please, look for ways to get evangelistic preaching going. That’s critical. We should do what they did in vs. 11: “The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.”
When you think about Romans 15, think about Paul going all over the world shouting the good news, spreading the gospel, fulfilling the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations. And remember these words, “this is a day of good news…let us go and tell.”
So back in Romans 15, we’ve seen that Paul was thorough, and Paul was evangelistic. Thirdly, Paul is compassionate. In verses 25-28, he explains that he is taking a gift to the church in Jerusalem that was poor, and Paul wanted to meet the physical needs of that church.
Now by the way, it was Paul who persecuted that church, he was taking part in their deaths. And now he wants to bring them a blessing. When someone repents they want to make right their previous wrongs if possible. Paul wanted to help out the poor.
Again, this is just the character of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. Think of Jesus taking off His royal robes, left all the riches of heaven behind, coming to the cross, pouring out His life for you, to make you rich in grace, to open up heaven to you, if you’ll just repent and believe. And Paul is likewise concerned about the poor. He’s compassionate. A preacher must be concerned about the needs of people.
And in vs. 26 it was two Gentiles churches, Macedonia, and Achaia had heard about the poverty of the Jerusalem church and so gave Paul a financial gift to take to them. And Paul said they did this because they had benefitted from the Jews spiritually. In other words, as Jesus said, “salvation is from the Jews”; they had the Word of God that told of the coming Messiah that would save the Gentiles. So the Gentiles benefitted spiritually from the Jews, and so they had an obligation to support the Jews financially. There’s an important principle here: whoever we benefit from spiritually, we need to support financially. So Paul’s plans were to go to Jerusalem to deliver this gift, which would foster good will between Jew and Gentile. That was his plans for ministry.
As we’re talking about Paul’s plans for ministry, I want us to notice point number 4. Paul was bold. Notice verse 25: “Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there.” Where do we see Paul’s boldness here? Remember, the unbelievers in Jerusalem wanted to take his life. In vs. 31 Paul wanted the Romans to pray that he would be rescued from the unbelievers there. The Jews there would make a starvation pact to not eat anything until Paul was dead. And he knew they were after him. Yet he resolved to walk right in to that death trap to minister. What boldness. What courage. He didn’t fear man.
One of the characteristics of a faithful preacher is boldness and courage. He should not be timid, scared, or have the fear of man. Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” True gospel preaching will astonish somebody. That word can be translated either “shock” or “awe”. And they ought to be able to trace it to the fact that we’ve been spending time with Jesus.
You see boldness characterized Jesus, too. Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem.” He marched right into the death trap, boldly, and with great courage. He was determined to go straight to the cross and to suffer and die to pay for your sin and to purchase your eternal life. And so His followers who spend time with Him and get to know Him become bold. It says of Paul in Acts 28:31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had been with Jesus. He’s bold. Proverbs 28:1 “the righteous are bold as a lion.” We have courage and bravery and audacity. When one of my daughter’s was young she drew a picture of a lion, but it had no hair. I said what’s that? And she said, the Bible says the righteous are bald as a lion. I had to explain that it was bold, not bald.
Look with me for a moment at the book of 1 Samuel. Look at chapter 17. Goliath is taunting Israel, and all Israel’s fighting men are terrified. Notice verse 10: 1 Samuel 17:10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” Notice what that did to the Israelites in vs. 11: 1 Samuel 17:11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. They were shaking in their army boots. But David gets word of this giant who was mocking God and taunting his armies. And notice what David does in verse 48: When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” He was bold. He was unafraid. No timidity. He ran to the battle. Jesus ran to the cross, that great battle where he destroyed the giant Satan and won the victory for us. And Paul is running to the battle. A preacher must be gentle and humble, yes, but also fearless, courageous, unafraid.
Then he says in 28: Romans 15:28-29 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
Point number 6 is that Paul operated in the blessing of the gospel of Christ. He didn’t come in his own strength and gifts and abilities, no but in the blessing of Christ. I remember hearing from Alistair Begg that sometimes it’s better for a preacher not to be too gifted, so that everyone can see that he’s operating in the blessing of Christ.
That’s Paul’s plans for ministry, and we finish with Paul’s plea for prayer. Notice vs. 30:
Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
Point number 7 is that Paul was dependent on prayer. Paul struggled in prayer. The word means to agonize. Paul agonized in prayer, he wrestled in prayer. The mental picture we have here is Jacob wrestling with God all night, and Jesus sweating drops of blood as He prayed in the garden. Paul wrestled with God in prayer and asked the Romans to join him.
Faithful preachers are first of all faithful prayers. Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
And he wanted prayer for 2 specific things: Vs. 31 he wanted to be delivered from unbelievers, and for his ministry to be acceptable to the believers. Paul was thorough, evangelistic, compassionate, bold, operated in the blessing of Christ and was dependent on prayer.
You are Loved!