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Paul the Minister to the Gentiles May 21, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 15:14-22.

Summary: Paul begins by stating that he, in and of himself, knows that the Roman Christians are full of kind and conciliatory feelings, and they are so well-taught in this regard that they can teach and correct each other. He then humbly notes that he has been a bit too bold in his previous exhortations and instructions – yet he was qualified to remind them of these truths as he had been divinely appointed as an apostle. In fact, he is a priest – figuratively speaking – with respect to the Gospel, since his mission is to present the Gentiles as an acceptable sacrifice to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Given this fact, all of Paul’s preaching and success in spreading the Gospel was meant to bring glory to Christ Jesus. Paul would not glory in himself based on his leading the Gentiles to obey God with their thoughts and actions through 1) his preaching of the Gospel and 2) his performing any miracles to support the truth of his preaching; he would only glory in Christ and His working through him to produce those victories. Indeed, over the course of his ministry Paul performed countless miracles to 1) display God’s power and 2) prove the truth of the Gospel, and when combined with his preaching they produced a saving belief in the minds of those who witnessed them – by the power of the Holy Spirit; his ministry work was performed over a large area that was centered on Jerusalem, and he thoroughly accomplished God’s mission for him to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. In fact, Paul earnestly pursued the goal of serving God as an apostle, and not as a pastor. He acted in accordance with the prediction in Isaiah that those who had never heard the Gospel would have their eyes opened and their minds enlightened. In many instances this had actually prevented him from coming to Rome, since he knew that the Gospel had already been preached there; he needed to preach the Gospel if he was among those who had never heard it.

Thoughts: In verse 19, Paul notes that he has preached the Gospel message “from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum.” Hodge comments on this as follows:

Jerusalem was the center around which Paul carried out his labors. He had successfully preached the Gospel throughout a most extensive region…The apostle had preached in this wide circuit, founding churches and advancing the Redeemer’s kingdom with such evidence of the divine cooperation that there was no doubt that he was a divinely appointed minister of Christ.

I searched for, and found, a map of Illyricum to get a sense of the extent of Paul’s ministry work. Now the region “from Jerusalem…to Illyricum” includes locations such as Corinth, Thessalonica and Ephesus; if Paul’s ministry had spanned a smaller area, how many epistles would he have written? Honestly, it is quite amazing how many people Paul impacted in a positive way over the course of his Christian walk. He contended with false teachers, unbelieving Jews and Greeks, and all sorts of other hardships – yet he never lost sight of his mission as an apostle. Today all Christians can be thankful that God worked through Paul in such an awesome way to build up the early church.

In verses 20-21, it is clear that Paul was intent on fulfilling a prediction in Isaiah that the Gospel would be preached to those who had never heard it – and that at least some of those who heard it would accept it. When reading this I thought about the blessings and challenges of being an apostle (or missionary) as opposed to being a pastor, particularly in terms of saving the unsaved. In general, an apostle (or missionary) experiences the thrill and excitement of spreading the Gospel to an “unreached people group.” This thrill and excitement is inevitably accompanied by the element of the unknown; how will these unreached people respond to the Gospel? Will they respond with violence, hatred, indifference, curiosity, or even enthusiasm? As for a pastor, the unsaved people who they interact with in their communities will probably 1) have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the Gospel message and 2) have developed a tried-and-true rationale for denying its truth in their lives. If they hear the Gospel message from this pastor, they are unlikely to respond with violence or even outright hatred. Now it should be noted that in general, pastors will not experience the thrill and excitement of “pushing the boundaries of the Gospel;” as noted above.

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