In Closing

Romans 15:14-33


Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.  Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace of God given to me, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God.  For I will not dare speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient – in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.  And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written:

“To whom He was not announced, they shall see;
and those who have not heard shall understand.”

Father, thank You for Paul’s aim that he speaks of here, that he would preach the Gospel in places where Your name was not known, where the Gospel had not yet gone. And as we stand here more than 2,000 years later, Lord we do so because he and others like him made it their aim to do that. Lord, would You stir in us, as we consider that pattern, that You would stir in us that we also would endeavor to reach out to those in our neighborhoods, on the campus that we go to school at, Lord in the workplace where we’re at, wherever we are, that we would be compelled to also bring the Gospel to those who don’t know You yet. Whether it be right here in North County or to the uttermost parts, Lord stir our hearts. We thank You that we have been given, by Your grace, we have been given mercy and grace for salvation. And Lord, freely we have received, help us to freely give it out to others. Thank You for this text, Lord we thank You for the fact that You desire through it to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we would be able to show what is Your great glorious will in a lost world. Lord help us to shine as lights in darkness, we pray. We ask this in Jesus’ name, and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”

You can be seated.

As we come now here to the 14th verse of Romans chapter 15, we come to a new section in the book of Romans; in fact it’s the final section of the book of Romans. Chapters 1 through 11 were largely doctrinal, focusing on what you and I are to believe. And then chapters 12 through the beginning of chapter 15 were practical – how we are to live. Of course what we believe informs how we are to live. And so we are to put into practice what we believe.  So beginning in chapter 12, verse 1 through chapter 15, verse 13, that’s the practical section of the book of Romans, dealing with those exhortations about how shall we then live, in light of the Scriptures.

But as we come to chapter 15, verse 14, we come to the personal section of the book of Romans. We have doctrinal, practical, now personal. This is mostly personal, as Paul is beginning his closing remarks; he’s beginning his closing remarks.

Look again at verse 14; he says, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Now why write this? Why encourage the church at Rome, after now already writing some 9,000 words, more than 9,000 words? Now he comes back and he says, “I’m confident of you, my brethren; I’m confident concerning you because you’re filled with all goodness and all knowledge.” What’s the point of this?

Well, in the last three and a half chapters – 12, 13, 14, and the first half of chapter 15 – Paul has spoken more than 40 direct exhortations to the church at Rome, the gathered believers there in the city of Rome, as to how they are to live. And these are very confrontational exhortations, telling them this is what you are to do, this is what you are not to do, this is safe, this is off limits, this is how you are to live. Now many times – how many parents here this morning? Parents lift your hands up high. You know that if you’re speaking exhortatively to your children, it’s probably in response to something they did not do or something they did. You’re correcting bad behavior. So what Paul is doing here is he’s encouraging them by saying, “Listen, I know that you’re full of goodness and you’re filled with all knowledge.” His writing of these exhortations is not to correct bad behavior, as he would have when he wrote to the church at Corinth. His two letters that we have in the New Testament to the church at Corinth, there are lots of exhortations there. And the exhortations to the Corinthians were because of their bad behavior. The church at Rome, that’s not the case. Paul is not writing to them challenging them or chastising them or disciplining them for their bad behavior in Christ. He’s just encouraging their good behavior in Christ. Romans chapter 1, he said there that “your faith is well spoken of throughout the whole world.”

And so now as we come to this section, he says, I know that I’ve just given you a mouthful, an earful of exhortations about how you are to live, and I’m not writing these things because I’m concerned that you’re doing it wrong. Because I’m confident concerning you, my brethren.” Notice, what is the basis of Paul’s confidence in them? Well, the basis was that they were his brethren. Which meant that they were a part of the family of God, they were children of the Most High. The apostle John, in 1 John chapter 3, he says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.” So God, because of His love, He has accepted us into His family. And the way that He made that possible, the way that He made our adoption into His family possible was through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Jesus died in our place so that we could be made accepted in the beloved. And now that we are accepted in Christ, we are a part of the family of God. And even though Paul had never met many of the people that made up the church in Rome, they were his brothers, his sisters. And so he says, “I’m confident concerning you, my brethren.” And he was not confident concerning them because of how great they were, there’s nothing intrinsically wonderful about them, nothing good in them apart from God. His confidence regarding them was not a confidence in the people of Rome that had become followers of Jesus Christ in the church at Rome, his confidence was in the God who was in them.

So he says there, “I’m confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness and filled with all knowledge.” Now this fullness of goodness and this fullness of knowledge that Paul speaks of there, it is goodness because of God’s presence in them, and not goodness because of anything about them apart from God. If there’s anything good in us, it is God. We need to always keep that forefront in our minds. You see because the longer you walk with the Lord, and the further you get away from your BC days, your before Christ days, how many of you remember your BC days? So, if you’re a Christian, you’re living AD, right, and some of you are 30 AD, you’ve been living with Jesus in your life for 30 years. The further you get away from your BC days, something strange begins to happen as you spend all that time interacting with Christians – going to church, spending a lot of time getting to know one another in Christ – you begin to forget how you once were. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, because I think there are some people that would probably like to forget how they once were. The problem is that you start to think that “I’m pretty good.” You fail to recognize that any goodness that you have is goodness that is from God. And Jeremiah made this very, very clear in his prophecy in Jeremiah chapter 17, verse 9, where he said, “The heart of man is desperately wicked.” It’s a good reminder from time to time to realize that that’s who we are. Yes, we’ve been made new creatures in Christ – “If any man is in Christ they are a new creation” – it’s a wonderful thing to be a new creation in Christ, but we recognize that if there is anything good in us, it is God in us. We need to always keep that in mind, always keep that forefront. Romans chapter 3, we read previously in verse 10: “There is none righteous, no not one.” But again, the unfortunate reality is the further we get from our BC days, the longer we are in the AD days, the more we think that “no, that doesn’t really apply to me, that there’s none righteous, no not one.” But if there is anything good in us, it is God in us. We should always boast in Him, and not in us.

Paul was confident concerning the brethren there at Rome, and I think that this confidence that Paul had is one of the reasons why Paul was able, as he did so often in his ministry, to go into a community, into a city, whether it was the city of Philippi or the city of Thessalonica, that he would go into a city, and he would preach the Gospel, and he would be there for a very short period of time. We know that his stay in the city of Thessalonica was just about three Sabbath days, that’s what we’re told in the book of Acts; so he was only there for three weeks. And then after three weeks of preaching the Gospel and seeing people come to faith, Paul departed, not of his own will, he was actually forced to leave by some who were against his ministry, opposing him. So he leaves the city of Thessalonica, but he left with confidence, knowing that God is able to continue the work that was started there. So his confidence in God’s power, in God’s ability was what made it possible for Paul to be able to preach the Gospel, see the seed of the word of God planted, and then to be able to move on and let another person water. He says there in his letter to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” So Paul recognized, throughout his entire ministry, that it was by God’s power and God’s ability that God’s church would grow and be strong. Remember what Jesus said, Matthew chapter 16, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Listen, if Paul the apostle was left to be the one to build the church, if you and I were the ones left to build the church, then it is certain that the gates of hell would prevail against it. But Jesus has said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” So Paul’s confidence was not in the people that made up these churches, but in the Lord that resided in those people.

“I’m confident concerning you, my brethren, that you are also full of goodness and filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another.” So Paul knew that they could teach one another, based on God’s Spirit residing in them, based on the fact that they had the word of God. But at the same time, he recognized that he had a specific call to give forth the word of God to these Gentiles that made up that church. And that’s why we have this letter that we do.

Well Paul continues, verse 15: “Nevertheless;” “even though I know that you’re filled with goodness and filled with all knowledge and able to teach and correct and admonish one another, even though I know that…” “Nevertheless, brethren,” second time; he’s recognizing in the use of the word “brethren” that they are members of the family of God, they have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, as he does. “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points.” Why? Why have “I written to you more boldly on some points?” “…as reminding you…” You see Paul recognized that the things that he was teaching were not necessarily new things. Many of the people who were involved in the church that was there in Rome, many of the people that saw the establishing of the church at Rome were people that Paul had trained, people that Paul had sent to the city of Rome. So he knew that they were already receiving a lot of his teaching that he’s writing to them here in this letter, in this book, the letter to the church at Rome. But he says, “I’m writing this to remind you, to bring this to the front of your minds again because of the grace of God given to me.” So, “I’m writing to you so that you would once again ponder this anew.” Even though it’s not new information, “I want you to think about it afresh.” The apostle Peter would say much the same thing in his second letter, 2 Peter chapter 1, there in verse 12 he says, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, even though you know them and you’re established in the present truth.” So Peter said, “I know you know this, but I’m going to say it again so that you would be built up by reminder to think on these things.” Again, parents, lift your hands. Keep your hands up. Parents, did you only once have to say to your children, see you’re already laughing and I haven’t even gotten to the punch line. Did you only once have to say to your children, “Look both ways before you cross the street?” No. We had to say it over and over. There’s so many things we say over and over and over and over and over again to our children. Right? Why? Because these are important things. And they may look at you and go, “I know!!” You know, like Thumper on Bambi, “If you don’t got nothin’ nice to say…” Right? So it’s just drilled into us over and over and over again, even though we know it and we’re established in the present truth, there are times where it’s important to be reminded it of these things, to be reminded.

You see we may know, as the church at Rome probably did know, that we are to love one another. That’s a reality; that’s one of the core tenets of the Christian faith – to love one another. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” two times in the Gospel of John. So we may know that, but from time to time we may need to be reminded to actually do it, because we recognize that knowing and doing are two completely different things. We may know that there are weaker brothers and sisters within the body of Christ, we may recognize that there are some who are some that are stronger and some that are weaker, but from time to time we need to be reminded to receive those that are weaker in the faith, and to not argue with them, and to bear with their weaknesses for their good and their growth. So even though the church are Rome probably knew this, Paul says it’s good to be reminded. We may know that the Scriptures inform us that all governments are instituted by God, all those powers are put in place by Him, but from time to time we may need to be reminded that we are to be submitted to them even if we don’t agree, to be subject to them.

And so Paul says, “I know you know these things, nevertheless, I’ve been more bold to write them to you again so that you’d be reminded, so that you’d walk in these things.” You see, unfortunately, Christianity sometimes becomes completely a heady faith, especially in the evangelical tradition in the United States of America where we emphasize the study of the Scriptures, we emphasize the importance of the word of God; that we gather together, week by week, and sometimes throughout the week, to study through it. And within Calvary Chapel, the association we’re a part of, we’re known for simply teaching the word of God simply, going book-by-book, and chapter-by-chapter, and verse-by-verse. And sometimes as a result of that, we can get to a point where we just come to church to get more information into our minds, and yet we need to be reminded to apply these things, to do these things. It’s one thing to know it, it’s an entirely different thing to do it.

Now the New Living Translation, it reads, the last words of verse 15, as the beginning of a sentence that ends in verse 16. So the New Living Translation reads like this: “For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus unto you Gentiles. I bring the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.” So Paul says, “By God’s grace, I’m a messenger, a minister of the Gospel unto Gentiles.” He says very much the same thing in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians: “For by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace towards me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of Christ that was in me.” Paul says, “I am a messenger, a minister, an apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one who is sent with a message,” specifically sent to Gentiles, says Acts chapter 9. It’s all by God’s grace. Paul recognized that the church at Rome was filled with goodness and filled with knowledge and able to admonish one another, not because of anything great about them, the individuals themselves, but because of God in them. His power, His ability resident in them made them able to do this. But Paul also recognized that his position, his place as a Gospel preacher, as an apostle was by the grace of God. It wasn’t because of the fact that he went to some Hebrew U there in Jerusalem. It wasn’t because he had paid for some certificate, and got it in mail order, so that entitled him to be these things. He was, by the grace of God, a messenger.

And he says, “I was a messenger to bring the Good News,” the euaggelion in the Greek, it’s the word Gospel. “I bring you the Gospel.” Why? So that I may present you as an acceptable offering to God, sanctified,” says the New King James Version, “holy by the Holy Spirit.” Notice that the Good News, that is the Gospel – the Gospel that Paul preached, the Gospel that we preach – it makes those who receive it acceptable before God by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. This is exceedingly important – the Gospel of God, the word of God, and the Holy Spirit of God make us acceptable before God and holy. Why is this important? Because every religion, every religion flips that around, every religion says, “You, by your good works, by your good deeds make yourself holy so that you can be acceptable to God.” You go study world religions, you take a class at Palomar College on world religions; you study Buddhism, you study Islam, you study Judaism, you go down the list, every single one of them, even some, what are termed Christian traditions, oftentimes put the cart before the horse and say, “You, by your good works, you sanctify yourself, you make yourself holy so that you’re accepted to God.” The Gospel doesn’t say that. You see the Gospel declares that God’s word and the power of His Holy Spirit are at work in us to make us accepted and to sanctify us. “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For,” verse 10 of Ephesians chapter 2 says, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” But again, the world religions, they would flip that, they would say, “You do good works and then you will receive grace for salvation as a payment,” if you will, “and it is by your works.” That’s what the rest of the world religions would say. But not the faith of Christ.

Would you turn in your Bibles to Colossians chapter 2; you’re in Romans, you turn to the right, you’re going to pass 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and then Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and then Colossians. Colossians chapter 2, look at verse 5, Colossians 2, verse 5, Paul says, “For though I am absent in the flesh,” I’m not with you in person is what he literally says, “yet I am with you in spirit, and I’m rejoicing.” Why? “I’m rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” “I’m not there with you, but I’ve heard good things about what’s happening in Colosse.” That’s the church that he wrote this letter to. And he says, “I’m rejoicing because of your good conduct.”

Continuing on, verse 6: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” You see we receive, by grace through faith, Christ Jesus as Lord, and then we are exhorted to “so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” So this is the Gospel truth: we are in Christ, by grace through faith, not because of anything that we have done. But now that we are in Christ, we ought to walk in Him, we ought to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Now notice this warning that Paul gives in verse 8. Colossians chapter 2, verse 8, after he emphasizes this, he says, “Beware,” be warned, “lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” What is he saying? He’s saying, “Don’t allow anyone to cheat you and say, ‘Well I know you put your faith in Jesus, but now you need to do X, Y, and Z. I know you put your faith in Jesus, but that’s not enough, you need to be baptized in this church or in this fashion. You need to partake of this sacrament and in this way.’” This happened for the church at Galatia. When Paul had preached the Gospel on his first missionary journey there in the cities of Listra, Iconium, and Derbe. And after he left, a group of Jewish individuals came in and said, “We know that you believe the Gospel, but now you need to be circumcised, and now you need to keep the Sabbath, and now you need to keep the feast days.” And it wasn’t just the church at Galatia, but the church in Colosse, that Paul was writing these words to. He talks about the vain and empty teaching of some who say, “Taste not, touch not.” You know, “You’re not to go near those things, or that will make you unrighteous, or go near those things, it will make it so that you’re not accepted.” You see every other tradition of man, as it relates to faith, as it relates to religious traditions says you have to do these things to be made accepted before God. Not Christ Jesus. The Gospel says we are “saved by grace through faith, that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” So then it is by God’s power, it is through His Spirit, and by His word that He accomplishes these things that sanctify and make us accepted before Him.

Furthermore, Paul writes, back to Romans chapter 15, verse 17; Romans 15, verse 17. Notice the word “Therefore.” “Therefore” is there for a reason, what he just wrote. “Therefore,” because of this, “I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me.” Notice the double negative in verse 18: “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make Gentiles obedient – in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

The double negative there in verse 18 – obviously a double negative negates it – so when he says, “I will not speak of those things which Christ has not accomplished in me,” what he is saying is “I’m only going to boast in and speak about those things that Christ has accomplished in me. I’m only going to boast about those things.” The New Living Translation says this: “I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me.” So Paul says, “I know that Christ’s power in you makes you full of goodness and full of knowledge, and able to admonish one another. I know that it’s Christ at work in you that has both made you accepted and sanctifies you, make you holy before Him. It’s Christ’s work.” Paul says, “I know that I cannot boast about anything except what Christ has done in me and through me.” God saves, He sanctifies by His power, through His word, by the power of His Holy Spirit. And so we glory in, we rejoice in the fact that He accomplishes good things in us. We boast in that; we glory in that.

You know one of the wonderful things about Pastor Chuck Smith is that any time you would ever hear him speak about the things that God accomplished through his ministry and through the Calvary Chapel movement of churches, he never talked about him, he always spoke in awe and in amazement about, “I’m amazed that God did what He has done.” And I guarantee that the apostle Paul was the same way. I’m absolutely certain that it was the same way. You for the last almost five years, in November of 2008 we began a study in the book of Acts, we’re not done yet. [laughter] I’m much slower than Pastor Chuck; he would have taught Genesis to Revelation during that whole time. But we’ve been going through each of the epistles chronologically with the book of Acts. So we’ve gone through James and Galatians and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and now we’re finishing up the book of Romans. And then after the first of the year we’ll come back to the book of Acts, and we’re going to finish out the book of Acts; no more detours. And in that time, our focus has been primarily upon the apostle Paul. He’s the major player in the early church. And so we’ve seen the work that God did through him in planting churches and performing good works and accomplishing miracles and prophesying, walking through persecution in humility. And yet he says, “I dare not boast in anything except what Christ has done through me.” None of these things that Paul had done were things that he would boast in, because he would say, “No, it’s God who did that; He did this through me.” And if ever we had the opportunity to sit down with the apostle Paul – which in eternity we will be able to sit down with the apostle Paul – you say, “But Paul, your ministry, through your ministry many Gentiles have become obedient to the faith. And not just 2,000 years ago in the city of Corinth or in the city of Ephesus, but 2,000 years later in the city of Escondido; many Gentiles have become obedient to the faith through your ministry.”

And Paul would say, “No, no, no, no, no. Christ has accomplished, through me, this preaching and these good deeds to make Gentiles obedient.”

“Oh, but Paul, you’re so, so humble. But through your ministry many mighty signs and wonders have been done and accomplished.”

And he would say, “Mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of Christ.”

“But Paul, from Jerusalem all the way to modern-day Albania the Gospel was preached through your ministry.”

And he would say, “But by the power of the Spirit of God this has happened.”

So what’s the application for us? If God accomplishes anything through us, it is God who gets the glory. Imagine it like this: Let’s say tomorrow you go in to the doctor for your regular checkup, and the doctor says, “You know I’m a little concerned about some of the blood work that we’re getting back, we want you to go in and have some further tests.” And ultimately by Wednesday you’re getting an MRI, and then by end of the day you sit down with an oncologist, and they say, “I’m really sorry to report to you, but you have a very large tumor in your abdomen. We’re so concerned about this that we’re scheduling you for surgery Friday morning.”

You meet with the surgeon, the surgeon says, “You know, we’re confident that we’re going to be able to get this whole thing out of there. We’ve checked your blood work, there’s no tumor, it hasn’t gone and metastasized anywhere else.”

So you go under surgery Friday morning, and then as you’re coming out, the doctor comes in with a smile on his face and says, “I want to report to you that we got it all. We got it all.”

And there you say, “Doc, is it possible for me to see the scalpel that you used to remove it?”

With a look of shock, he says, “Well, okay. No one’s ever asked that before. It sounds… Well all right, when you recover I’ll show it to you.”

That great. So the following week you sit down with the doctor. “Here’s the scalpel.”

You take it [in your hand]. “Thank you!! Thank you so much for what you did for me!! You saved my life!!”

That would be utter foolishness, because that’s just an instrument, just a tool in the hand of the master. In the same way, you and I are just instruments, just tools in the hand of the Master. And so if God accomplishes anything through you and I, whether it be our salvation, our sanctification, good works that we might perform, the salvation of others through our evangelization of them, it is God who gets the glory. It’s God who ought to be honored.

Paul speaks of his confidence in verse 14: “I am confident concerning you, my brethren” there in Rome. He was confident in Christ’s power to enable him to preach the Gospel and to perform mighty signs and wonders. He was confident in Christ’s power to save and sanctify those who he preached the Gospel to. He was confident in Christ’s power to enable those who receive the Gospel to be obedient to the Gospel.

And so the question comes to us: Where is our confidence? What are we confident in? What are we trusting in? Are we trusting in our own ability? Are we trusting in our own power? Are we trusting in our pastors? Are we trusting in some other leader? If your trust, if your confidence is in anything other than the power of God, it is misplaced faith, it is a false faith. It’s idolatrous to put your trust in any other thing save the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so Paul, knowing God’s power, and being confident of Him, notice he says, “I make it my aim,” verse 20, Romans chapter 15, “And so I have made it my aim…” To do what? “…to preach the gospel.” Why? Because the Gospel is powerful!! “I’ve made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation, as it is written,” from the prophet Isaiah:

‘To whom He,’ the Lord, ‘ was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.’”

And so Paul says, “I’ve made it my goal, I’ve made it my aim to carry the Gospel where the Gospel hasn’t been carried. Therefore, if there is a church in Philippi, I’m not to going to spend much time in Philippi. If there’s a church in Lystra, I’m not going to spend much time in Lystra. Yes, there’s a solid church in Corinth, and even though they want me to come and stay with them, I’m not going to spend much time there.” Why? “Because I’ve made it my aim to preach the Gospel where Christ has not been named.”

Now this is not a teaching that therefore we apply and say, “Churches ought not to be planted in places where the Gospel’s already gone, like throughout Europe, or in other places in the United States.” But it is a teaching that there are those that are called and gifted by God to go to the uttermost parts, where the Gospel has not been taken. And the sad reality is that here in the 21st Century there are still millions upon millions, and even in the billions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus, and never heard the Gospel. And there are people who we would call, in our day, foreign missionaries, we would call them frontier missionaries; they are the ones who go out on the frontier, they do pioneering mission works in places where Christ has not been named. It’s an awesome thing that they do. They are specifically called to it, as was Paul, to be pioneering frontier missionaries.

Now, it would be like this, and for some of you, you’re going to really like this illustration. The United States Marine Corps is an expeditionary force. Any Marines in our room here? Lift them up high. Thank you for your service. Expeditionary force. The Marine Corps is not equipped to go into a place and stay there long term. They go and establish a beachhead, that’s what they do. They’re an expeditionary force. And then the Army comes in and they set up forts, and they get the supply lines; and the Marines say, “All right, we’re going on to the next thing.”

The frontier pioneering missions, like the apostle Paul, it’s like that, an expeditionary force. There are others who follow up, there are others who come in afterwards to establish and maintain the ground, if you will. But Paul was a frontier missionary. So he says, “I’ve made it my aim to preach the gospel where it’s not been preached.”

Look at verse 22: “For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you.” So in chapter 1 of Romans he says, “I long to see you church at Rome. I’ve wanted to come there, but I haven’t come.”

They say, “Well why haven’t you come? You may not really want to come here.”

Here’s the reason. There’s a church in Rome. It’s already there. So, “I haven’t come to you because there wasn’t a church in this area in Albany. And so I focused my attention there. You already have a witness for the Gospel there in Rome. I haven’t come; I’ve been hindered because of this.”

But notice this, verse 23; this is one of the most amazing sections of the Bible, in the New Testament. “But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain,” because there’s no church in Spain yet, “I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.” This is awesome. This statement is amazing to me. Paul says, “Now the Gospel’s been preached in this entire area. I’ve nowhere else from Jerusalem to Albany,” you can look at a map later, “I have nowhere else to go because the Gospel’s been preached in that entire area.” That’s phenomenal. Do you realize we cannot say that about our own community here? Yes, there is much Gospel presence, but there are many people in our own area here who have not heard the truth about who Jesus is. They may have heard something about Him, but they haven’t heard the truth about who He is.

Paul says, “This whole region… I guess the work here is essentially done.” And so he says, “Whenever I journey to Spain, I’m gonna come to you, because there’s no church in Spain, and that’s the next place I’m going.”

“But.” look at verse 25, “But now [I have some other things to take care of] but now I’m going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.” Now interesting, Paul says, “I’m an expeditionary missionary. I go and preach the Gospel to those who have not yet heard.” And yet he says here, “I’m going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.” So it wasn’t below him or beneath him in any way that he would also minister to the saints, but his primary objective was an apostle to those, one who sent to those who have not yet heard. So he says, “I’m going back to Jerusalem.” Notice that Paul is sharing his plans here. Plans are not unspiritual. Plans oftentimes are changed by God, but they’re not unspiritual. 

And so he says, “I’m going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.” Why? “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia,” that would be the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. It was their pleasure “to make a certain contribution,” a financial contribution to “the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are in their debt. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is to also minister to them in material things.” So Paul says, “I’m going to Jerusalem because I’m carrying a financial contribution to the poverty-stricken believers, Jewish believers there in Jerusalem, from the Gentile churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth.” When Paul wrote this he was in the city of Corinth, and he’s just received this financial contribution. Now after this, we’re going to see when we get back to the book of Acts, he’s going to go north to the city of Philippi. He’s going to spend Passover in Philippi, and then he’s going to go east to Jerusalem, so he gets to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Which happens to be the church’s birthday, the day of Pentecost. And on the church’s birthday, he’s bringing a birthday gift, if you will, from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia. He’s saying, “Here’s a financial contribution to you.”

Verse 28: “Therefore, when I have performed this,” when I’m done bringing this gift, “and have sealed to them this fruit.” Notice he says in God’s economy, it is a fruitful thing for the churches of Macedonia and Achaia to give to the saints at Jerusalem; God rewards that. So, I “have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by your way to Spain. But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” He says, “If I make it to Rome, it’s gonna be by God’s will, by His blessing.”

Now notice this, verse 30: “Now I beg you.” He has a petition for the church at Rome. He’s just shared with them his plans – “I’m here in Corinth, I’ve received a financial contribution from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia. I’m going back to Jerusalem and give it to them. I have a request for you. I’m planning on coming to you, but here’s my petition.” “I beg you, brethren,” third time he uses that, “through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” The word “strive” there literally means agonize. He says, “I’m begging you that you would agonize with me in prayers for me – pray for me!” Good exhortation to pray for your pastors. 

“I beg you to pray for me.” Why? Three reasons – look at verse 31: “that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.” First reason – deliverance from those who do not believe. You say, “That’s an interesting prayer. Why would Paul pray this?”

At the moment that Paul was writing these words from the city of Corinth there was a group of men, Jewish men, that had traveled all the way from Jerusalem to Corinth, they were called the Sicarii, which means The Dagger Men. And they were Jewish assassins. And their common practice was to come up behind a person in the marketplace, and they would wear their flowing robes, and they would take out a dagger, and they would stab that person in the back and leave them for dead. And they had been dispatched from Jerusalem to kill the apostle Paul. So much of a concern was this that when Paul leaves Corinth, they go through this whole clandestine shenanigan to get him out of there safely. And they put a guy in clothing, covered up, that these Sicarii thought was Paul. And all of Paul’s entourage gets on a boat with him, and so the Sicarii get on with him, and they go out to sea going back to Jerusalem, but Paul goes another way. It’s like 007, First Century style. [laughter] So he says, “Pray that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.

Number two – “that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” Why is he saying this? There were those Christians in Jerusalem that were very concerned about the ministry of the apostle Paul. They were questioning what he was doing and preaching among the Gentiles. So he says, “Pray that they will accept the work that I’m doing there.”

Thirdly – “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Now this letter could essentially end there; we’ll see next week, as we start chapter 16, that Paul finishes with a salutation to all those in Rome who he knew. And it’s a very important study that we’ll look at. But what we see here, in this passage, is very clear – the work of God is God’s work. The work for salvation, the work for sanctification, the work for evangelism, it’s God’s work, and He gets the glory. And if Paul were here today he would most certainly say the churches at Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Laodicea, Philadelphia, all of those churches were not churches that were called The First Church of Paul. He would say that was the work of God, and God gets the glory. And any good that comes from your life or mine is that God would get the glory. Amen?

Would you stand with me?

Father, we pray to that end, that You would get the glory, that our lives would be so glorious to You and for Your name that people would see You in us. God, make us reflections, make us displays of Your glory in a world that is so desperately in need of light in darkness. God, prepare us as we go from this place to be like an expeditionary force, carrying the Gospel to those who have not yet heard. It may be, as we stand here today, that this for you is the first time that you’ve heard or comprehended or understood the Gospel of grace, that salvation is not about anything that you could do or have done, but that we’re made accepted by grace through putting our trust in God for salvation. If you would like to receive that salvation in Christ today, we want to give you an opportunity…