About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 15:14 - 22

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Paul, The Minister To The Gentiles  (ch.15:14 22)

 

Verse 14 begins with the words "I myself".  The word "myself" really doesn't have to be in this sentence but Paul puts it there, most likely to emphasize the point he is about to make.  He is about to say that he is convinced that the Roman Christians are competent to instruct one another.  When speaking of the Roman Christians he uses the same emphasis that he used for himself.  He says, "You yourselves" are competent.  He is stressing the point that these people were well capable of instructing one another the things they needed to know.  Paul says this even though, for one reason or another, he had to instruct them on some very basic issues, which by the way, I feel is lacking in our modern church.   

 

A clarifying statement needs to be made about the word "instruct" here.  The Greek word translated as "instruct" in English is "noutheteo".  This word suggests more of an admonition than a teaching session.  It most likely involves some kind of teaching, but the primary motive is to admonish one another to stay on the right track.  Therefore, Paul might well not have teaching on the truths of Scripture in mind.  Some translations translate "noutheteo" as counsel, and that is probably a better translation than the English word "instruct".             

 

All this shows you the importance of horizontal relationships in the Body of Christ.  I don't believe Paul is saying the Roman church leaders weren't capable of teaching.  I believe he was saying that the ordinary Christian was capable of instructing other ordinary Christians.  This is the way it should be in the Body of Christ but often isn't this way.  We, more often than not, emphasize leadership's ability to teach when in fact leadership should be training their people to teach.  I once had a pastor friend tell me that his job was to teach his way out of his job of pastoring, meaning, he should train the people sufficiently that they did not need him any longer.  They then could go forth and train others as they themselves were trained.  The modern church keeps its people down by not training them sufficiently enough to train others.  This keeps the attention on the local pastor, which should not be the case.

 

Paul tells these people that they are full of goodness.  Is he simply saying this to build them up or does he really mean it.  I know of some who will say positive things about you or someone else.  They don't really believe what they are saying.  They only say them to make you feel good or to boost self confidence in you.  I don't think  Paul was that kind of person.  He appears to me to be a pretty straight forward man.  He says what he believes and he believes what he says.  These Roman Christians did have a good measure of goodness in their lives and they were indeed competent to instruct others.   

 

In verses 15 Paul says that he has spoken to these Roman believers quite boldly.  I think that backs up my.  Paul speaks in a straight forward fashion.  He says what he believes and he believes what he says.                 

 

Paul says that these people have knowledge.  He is either talking about Scriptural knowledge or knowledge in general.  From the commentaries which I've read it seems the general consensus is knowledge in general.  Those living in Rome were traditionally well educated in Roman and Greek knowledge.   

 

In verses 15 and 16 as Paul begins to end his letter to the Romans.  He re-asserts his ministry to the Gentiles.  His motivation and inward drive was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles "so that they might become an offering acceptable to God."  Paul is bringing back a memory from the Old Testament by using the word "offering", yet the offering to God is not a lamb.  The offering is a great nation of people consisting of Gentile Christians.  As Romans 12:1 so clearly states; the New Testament offering is a living person, not a dead animal. 

 

We also see the word "priestly" in verse 16, another Old Testament word.  This tells us the "priestly" nature of those who are committed and called to preach the gospel of Jesus, which in one sense of the word is all of us. We all represent Jesus to those we are preaching to.  On the other hand, some might suggest that the apostle is a priest by what Paul says here, and I can understand that.  In one sense of the word we are all priests, but in another sense of the word the apostolic calling is a ministry until itself.   When I say that, I am not suggesting that Paul's apostolic calling that he equates to be priestly is anything like the Catholic idea of the priesthood.         

 

Also in verse 16 Paul speaks of the "grace" God has given to him to be a minister of Christ.  The most common definition of the word "grace" is God's divine unmerited favour.  If this is the definition that we should apply to this verse then Paul is saying that God's demonstration of unmerited favour has given him the ability to be a minister of Christ.  I personally don't see that definition fitting here. 

 

There is another definition of the word "grace" that I believe we see in the New Testament that is determined by the context in which it is used.  I believe that definition fits here.  Grace is also God's divine ability given to us to accomplish His will in our lives. Paul was given grace, that is, God's divine ability to be a minister of Christ.  Without God's divine ability one cannot be a true minister of Christ.  He may hold an office of a minister but he is not one in the true New Testament sense. It is thus clear to me that many men and women today who hold the office of minister has never been called by God to be a minister.

 

The word "minister" that the NIV uses is translated from the Greek word "leitourgos".  It was used in common Greek to express a public servant.  A minister in New Testament terms is first and foremost a servant.              

 

In verse 16 Paul speaks of the Gentiles being "an offering to God".  Again, the word "offering" comes from Paul's Jewish heritage.  Instead of people giving offerings to God, Paul is now saying that people themselves, and here Gentile people, are the offerings.  To suggest that Gentiles can offering themselves to God was a tough things for Jewish believers to get their heads around.  This should remind us of Romans 12:1 where Paul says that we as people are to offer all of who we are to God as an offering.  We tend to offer God lots of things, money included, but, first and foremost we should offer ourselves as an offering.

 

In verse 17 Paul speaks of his service to God.  In his service, he says that he glories in Christ Jesus.  This simply means that He will speak of, up lift, and promote Jesus to everyone he comes in contact with.  He feels that is his calling from God, a service he must perform.  Again, the word service speaks of being a servant, and we certainly know that Paul viewed himself as a servant, or a slave of God.  If Paul had any success in his calling, and he certainly did, he would not take the glory or credit.  It all belonged to Jesus.

 

In verse 18 Paul states that he will not speak of anything else, other than what God has done through him.  He could speak about all sorts of things if he wanted.  Paul was quite educated.  He could most likely out debate anyone.  He used to be a prominent Pharisee, but all that he counted as nothing.  So he spoke only of Jesus and how Jesus used him to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  Paul on many occasions had to defend himself before his fellow Jews for bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.  The biggest problem the early church had was the gospel being presented to the Gentiles.  Many Jews wanted Gentile believers to become Jews in order to become Christians.  Paul said that was not the gospel of Christ.  Paul would never think of promoting his own accomplishments.  Too bad preachers wouldn't fall in Paul's footsteps in this respect today.       

 

In verse 19 we see that Paul was used by the Lord by performing miracles and miraculous signs.  This was one mark of a real apostle.  Jesus told the twelve in the last few verses of Mark that they would preach the good news, and that He would work through them by performing miracles that would be signs to encourage people to believe.  The miracles that Jesus performed were signs that God the Father had sent Him.  The miracles Jesus' followers performed were also signs to prove that Jesus had sent them.  Paul was truly sent by Jesus.  The miracles he performed prove that. 

 

In verse 20 we see the heart of Paul.  He wanted to preach the gospel where no other man had preached.  He wanted to get the message out to those who had never heard.  This shows us the necessity of preaching the gospel to those who know it not.  Paul did not want to build on another man's work.  He did not want to go into a city and preach where someone else had already preached and begin a work of God where a work of God had already begun.  He did not want to bring confusion to anyone by speaking where another man had already preached.  This is not the case in today's ecclesiastical world.  Christians are constantly building church communities where church communities already exist, and, what they are building are seldom any different that then the existing church communities 

 

In verse 21 Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:15 in his defense.  Isaiah speaks of those who had never seen, will see, and those who had never heard, will hear.  Paul believes that he is fulfilling Old Testament prophecy by preaching the gospel to the Gentile world, and so he was. 

 

In verse 22 Paul closes this section by saying that "this is why I have often been hindered in coming to you."  Paul wanted to preach the gospel so bad to those who had never heard that he laid aside his own desires, as strong as they were.  He really wanted to visit the Roman believers in Christ, but he was often hindered from doing so.  If you read the book of Acts you will note that on a few stated times Paul was told to change the direction of his travel's by the Holy Spirit. 

 

When Paul says "this is why I have been hindered from coming to you" it is in context with the quote from Isaiah.  Rome had already been evangelized when Paul wrote this letter.  Some say Peter had already led many Romans to Jesus and therefore, it appears to be God's will for Paul that he preach in other localities where they had never heard the gospel.         

 

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Previous Section - Chapter 14 and 15:1 - 13

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