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Intro: Romans 15:15-16 – 15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul declares his intentions in writing boldly to the Christians in Rome – because of the grace of God (God provided the commission and the message) in order to “minister” to them. He is not using the word minister as an ecclesiastic title. The word, though, is descriptive of his work.
Paul uses the word minister twice in this text – different words in the Greek text.
- A minister – leitourgos (li-toorg-os) – a servant or worshipper.
- Ministering the gospel – hierourgeo (hee-er-oorg-eh’-o); to be a temple-worker, i.e. officiate as a priest
Thus Paul described himself as a priest working in the temple. Officiating in the sanctified things that God has chosen and provided. What is he ministering?… the gospel of God.
Connect these last words of the letter with some at the beginning…
Read Romans 1:8-16 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established — 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
In the very first verse of this book, Paul says that he was “set apart (separated) for the gospel” – It’s proclamation was the central purpose of his life. He was as a priest separated to function in God’s behalf.
a) The epistle to the Romans is a comprehensive treatise on the gospel of Christ, almost point by point. In this letter he speaks of sin, the wrath of God, redemption, justification, sanctification, election, and righteousness. Throughout the gospel is his theme. Without it no one can be saved.
b) When we think of the gospel we tend to think only of an evangelistic message about God’s plan to save men. But the gospel is more than a five or six step plan. To Paul, the gospel was God’s complete revelation concerning Christ (notice how he rehearses the life of Jesus in vs. 1-6). The gospel was not just for unbelievers, but was, in Paul’s appraisal, the hope of every person.
c) All preaching and ministry in the first century revolved around the message of the gospel. There were no debates on secular politics, weight-loss programs, self-help groups, or time management seminars. The apostles and the early church were committed to preaching the gospel alone.
I. “I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son” (vs. 9) For Paul preaching the gospel was an act of worship. The word translated “serve” here is latreuo, the same word translated “worship” in Phil. 3:3 – “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit”
A. In other words Paul viewed his preaching as that of a priest before God rendering the sacrifice of holy duty. 1 Cor. 9:16 – “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (NKJ) It was neither casual nor optional.
B. Paul’s burden for the church of Rome was bound up in his desire to serve them through the preaching of the gospel. He desired to impart some spiritual gift to them (v. 11) such as prophecy, that they might be established or grounded through the gospel.
II. “I Am A Debtor…” (vs. 14, 15) He described his burden as a debt – “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” (NKJ) IF God had saved Paul through the gospel, then He was obligated to all men, not just some of his choosing, to teach them the gospel. (Contrary to the new practice of many churches to “target” their message to a select group, as a seller targets his product. – quote George Barna, Ashamed of Gospel, pg. 125). Why do you suppose the modern user-friendly churches are all targeting the young suburban professionals with two incomes?
A. All of those who are saved are under the same obligation as Paul described. To take the gospel, and not a cheap substitute, to those who are lost. In every N.T. description of preaching, the universal nature of the obligation is inherent: The sower must sow his seed on every type of ground; the watchman must warn every citizen; the fisherman broadcasts his net, etc. But Paul intense obligation to preach the gospel did not make him a grudging witness to Christ…
III. “I Am Ready (eager)…” vs. 15 – “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” Paul was eager to preach the gospel wherever and whenever he could. Paul was never ready to accommodate the gospel, but he was always ready to preach it. He was never ready to compromise or tone it down to fit the audience, but he was always ready to preach it just as he received it. And even though he would meet certain opposition and apathy at Rome, he desired and was ready to go there with the gospel.
A. At the end of His life Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) Why could he say that? Not because he converted everyone he talked to, or was success in the eyes of his contemporaries. But because he never allowed himself to be deterred from his calling. He never compromised the message, never sought popularity, never conformed to the world around him.
IV. “I Am Not Ashamed…” vs. 16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” This is the thesis statement of the book of Romans. Paul equates the gospel that he preached to God’s almighty power. He spends the rest of the epistle showing why the gospel is so powerful. Paul is so committed, and so unashamed, of the gospel, that twice in this epistle he calls it “my gospel” (2:16, 16:25) Are you willing to so associate yourself with the message of the gospel?
A. Mockery is a key weapon of Satan. He used it well in the first century, as Christians were looked upon as uneducated, superstitious, and uncultured. (Rumored to be cannibals, because they took the Lord’s supper, and accused of having sexual orgies in their assemblies, and the Pagan accused them of being atheists because they rejected their mythological gods.) Today Christians are called intolerant, homophobic, superstitious, fanatical, hate mongers. Are you ashamed?
B. The gospel is not an inoffensive message. It declares that we are all sinners, and wholly responsible for our own misery. Even our best efforts are not enough to make us worth salvation. If preach it you must speak of sin, guilt, and the need to cleanse the conscience, and reform behavior. But Paul understood all of that. He was not ashamed because he knew the gospel was.
V. The Power of God unto Salvation – The word for power in vs. 16 is dunamis in the Greek. We get our word dynamite from it. (used to remove mountains for roads, and totally transform the landscape). The gospel has the power to transform anyone who believes it – even the hardest heart. Jer. 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” The gospel can actually change men’s hearts.
A. It is a seed that generates new life; 1 Peter 1:23 “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” Paul expresses this power to the Corinthians as well: 1 Cor. 1:18,23-24 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
B. Paul was also affirming in this that the gospel is the only way of salvation. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jn. 14:6) if we abandon the uncompromised preaching of the gospel, we cannot hope to save them spiritually. We may be able to make them more comfortable or entertain them, but we cannot save them.
Conclusion: Have you heard the gospel? Do you believe it? If so, for you it is the power unto your salvation. But you must obey it. Let me read you a portion of the gospel that some find offensive and therefore reject: II Th 1:7-9 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…