Gospel Means Go

Romans 15:14-21

March 20, 2011 | Brian Bill

I’ve often wondered why more of us don’t witness like we should.  I came across a survey from across the pond that I’m sure has no correspondence to us Americans but thought I’d share some of the highlights, or lowlights.  According to a study released last month the typical British man will spend 10,500 hours in the pub and 11 years in front of the TV over his lifetime.  He’ll also waste one month looking for socks and learn to cook just four meals before he dies.  The survey also found that modern men also feel guilty about their lazy lifestyles because they will say “sorry” 1.9 million times during their lifetime.  I’m not sure what researchers would find here in our country but this wouldn’t be a good time to take the survey because so many of us are watching “March Madness,” me included.

Last week we learned that God’s promises should cause us to praise Him and today we’re going to discover that God doesn’t want us to live like we don’t care and end up wasting our lives.  Rather, when we get the gospel, we will go with the gospel.  We’ve seen what’s inside the Apostle Paul’s head in the first 15 ½ chapters of Romans and now we’ll see his heart in the remainder of this book.  As we look at Paul’s plan and pattern for ministry in Romans 15:14-21, I want to argue that there are six qualities that we should copy for our own lives.  The outline today is simple as it contains just six words.

1. Compliment. 

Paul was not afraid to be blunt when he had to be but he also knew that words of encouragement provide great motivation.  We see this in Romans 15:14: “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”  By calling them “brothers” he’s focusing on the fact that they are all family.  He then gives them three specific compliments that reveal how he sees these Christians.  He’s for them, not against them.

  • They are full of goodness.  This kind of moral goodness, a Fruit of the Spirit, means that they hated evil and sin and exhibited positive virtues.  In the beginning of our English language, the word “good” carried the same connotation as the name “God.”  In Jewish tradition, the title, “The Good” was actually used for God.  Goodness may appear to be the most obvious fruit but is in fact, often misunderstood and even maligned.  Our culture tends to make fun of those who are “goody-two-shoes” kind of people.  While love, joy, and peace step up to the plate and hit home runs, goodness does its best to just get a single.
  • They are complete in knowledge.  They were not only a people with good hearts; their heads were filled with the right things.  Their doctrine was right on.
  • They are competent to instruct.  This means literally to “place in the mind” and conveys the idea of admonishing, encouraging, advising and even warning people.  Other translations use the word “counsel.”  These believers were doing life together and were able to lead someone away from a false path into a true path using warnings and wisdom from the Word of God.  It’s the idea of having a corrective influence.
If I’m not encouraging you, and you’re not encouraging me, then we will all be more susceptible to sin and instead of moving toward holiness, we’ll become hardened

I’m greatly challenged by Hebrews 3:13 because it links the importance of encouraging others with whether or not they will become hardened by sin: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  Did you catch the word “daily”?  That means we’re to encourage one another at least once a day!  If I’m not encouraging you, and you’re not encouraging me, then we will all be more susceptible to sin and instead of moving toward holiness, we’ll become hardened.

How are you doing in this regard?  Does it kill you to pay someone a compliment?  Look for ways to encourage those around you and try to give one encouraging word to everyone you speak with this week.

2. Remind. 

We all like to discover new insights but the Bible tells us that we not only need what is new, we also need to remember what we already know.  Check out Romans 15:15: “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.”  When teaching or preaching, I try to keep in mind the twin challenges of familiarity and forgetfulness.  Some of us are so familiar with truth that we tune out when we hear something we already know and others of us have forgotten it so we need to hear it again and again.

Paul himself models this in the Book of Romans.  In our passage last week he addressed the topic of Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ.  This is really a repeated thought, said in a slightly different way from the way he presents it in Romans 9-11.  Teachers and preachers must repeat things and yet say them in different ways so as to reinforce the truths that we so readily forget.

Two elderly gentlemen were playing cards one Saturday evening as they had done for the past 35 years.  Max, the older, had been having problems remembering what cards were what, and usually needed help from his wife.  At the end of the card game Ed said to Max, “You did very well tonight. You didn’t need any help at all.  Why is that?”  Max replied, “Why ever since my wife sent me to that memory school, I haven’t had any problems at all.”  His buddy was intrigued and asked, “Memory school?  What memory school?”  Max thought for a moment, “Oh, what’s the name of the red flower with thorns?”  “A rose?”  “Yeah…that’s it!”  Max turned to his wife and mumbled, “Hey, Rose!  What’s the name of that memory school you sent me to?” 

The word “remind” means to “call back to mind” and the Bible is filled with reminders about the importance of remembering.

“Now I would remind you, brothers” (1 Corinthians 15:1).

“For this reason I remind you” (2 Timothy 1:6).

“Remind them of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14).

“Remind them to be submissive” (Titus 3:1).

“I always intend to remind you” (1 Peter 1:12).

“It is only right that I should keep on reminding you as long as I live” (2 Peter 1:13 NLT).

“I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder” (2 Peter 3:1). 

“Now I want to remind you” (Jude 5).

I sometimes hear Christians say that they long for the “meat of the Word.”  Let me remind you of what Hebrews 5:14 says about mature believers: “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  Did you catch that?  It’s essential that we “constantly use” the basics of our faith so that we become an equipped disciple who is growing and faithful.  Do you turn your mind off when you hear things you’ve already heard?  Do you find yourself always wanting that which is new and novel?  Don’t forget to remember what you need to be reminded of.

3. Offer. 

The word “offer” means to bring before.  In verse 16 we see that we’re to offer the people we reach to the Lord: “To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  This is metaphorical language from the Temple sacrificial system where Paul sees his role as that of a priest offering up a sweet salvation sacrifice of the Gentiles to God.  We’re all priests, aren’t we?  That’s what Revelation 1:6 says: “And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.”  

While evangelism shouldn’t be seen as an assault, the phrases “minister” and “priestly duty” reveal the sacred seriousness of what Paul was doing.  He was devoted to the task and proclaimed the gospel with dignity and a sense of awe as he offered up the Gentiles like a priest would present a sacrifice.  This really is in line with other passages from the New Testament which speak of Christ as the final once-for-all sacrifice in Hebrews 7:27, animal sacrifices are replaced by surrendered Christians in Romans 12:1, the praise we offer to God is seen as a sacrifice in Hebrews 13:15, the community of believers are referred to as God’s temple in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and all believers are called priests in 1 Peter 2:5, 9.  But one thing has not changed: to be an “offering acceptable to God” sacrifices must still be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

I love what G. Campbell Morgan has written about this passage: “What a radiant light this sheds on all our evangelistic and pastoral effort!  Every soul won by the preaching of the gospel is not only brought into a place of safety and blessing; he is an offering to God, a gift which gives Him satisfaction, the very offering He is seeking.”  Incidentally, do you see the Trinitarian description in this passage?  Paul is a minister of Jesus Christ, he proclaims the gospel of God and his offering is sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 2:5 says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  Have you offered yourself to Christ as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1)?  If not, why not?  Work this week at seeing those around you as potential sacrifices to the Savior.  It will change the way you look at the lost and it just may give you courage to communicate the gospel with them.

4. Glory. 

All that we do should bring glory to God and not to ourselves.  We see this in verse 17 and the first part of verse 18: “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.  I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…”  This could literally be translated as, “I have boasting in Christ Jesus…”  Paul is the instrument but God is the worker.  It’s as if he’s saying, “If any part of my ministry does not stem from God’s work through me, I don’t even want to talk about it.”  The people God chooses and uses are those who see themselves as instruments, no more and no less.   

It’s time to stop boasting about what we’ve done and instead let’s boast only in what God has done

It’s time to stop boasting about what we’ve done and instead let’s boast only in what God has done.  When someone compliments you this week, give the credit to Christ.  Let’s make Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14 our prayer: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

5. Obey. 

According to the last part of verse 18, Paul’s passion is to lead “…the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.”  Paul was not just looking for converts so he could be applauded but wants to produce Christ-followers who obey.  He’s simply fulfilling the Great Commission as spoken by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Let’s not just get people saved; let’s do all we can to see them sanctified and committed to a life of obedience.  

Let’s see how the importance of obedience is fleshed out in the Book of Romans:

1:5“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”

6:17“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.”

16:26“But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.”

Paul’s impact is through what he declares and through the deeds that he has done: “…by what I have said and done.”  He’s the real deal, not a phony or a fake.  That reminds me of what he wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:8: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

Are people being led to obedience by the way you live and by what comes out of your lips?  Is there an area in your life in which you are not actively obeying God?  Determine to do the right thing no matter how difficult it might be.

6. Proclaim. 

If we go back to verse 16 we see that Paul was all about “proclaiming the gospel of God” and in verses 19-21 we see that he did so with power and by making certain geographical areas a priority.  When we get the gospel, we will go with the gospel.

  • Through God’s power.  Look at verse 19a: “By the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit…”  God promised power to His followers when the Holy Spirit came upon them in Acts 1:8.   The phrase “signs and wonders” occurs especially often in Exodus and in the Book of Acts to show that God is a miracle-working God.  “Signs” are a visible manifestation of an invisible reality that should point us to the Savior.  One of the funniest miracles in the Book of Acts takes place in Acts 20:9-12 where we read of Paul’s long-winded preaching (he’s my hero).  He preached until midnight and a guy named Eutychus who was sitting in a window fell asleep and fell three stories to the ground where he immediately died.  Paul rushed downstairs and miraculously brought him back from the dead.  They all went back upstairs and Paul talked until daylight – I bet no one fell asleep during his sermons again!

Signs and wonders were a sign of apostleship and were needed to confirm and affirm the authenticity of the gospel message in the first century.  We see this in 2 Corinthians 12:12: “The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – were done among you with great perseverance.”  Having said that, we should expect to see the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed as we share the gospel message with others today. 

  • With strategic priority.  We see in verses 19b-20 that Paul was intentional, not indifferent: “…So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.”   If you trace Paul’s travels you can see an arc or half-circle of evangelistic emphasis from Jerusalem in the southeast to the region of Illyricum in the northwest, a span of 1,400 miles.  The word “fully” literally reads, “I have filled full the gospel” and could mean that he preached the full gospel message or preached in the full geographical area.  Paul’s driving ambition was to fully discharge what had been entrusted to him.  Someone has pointed out that the word “news” as in Good News, is made up of the first letters of North, East, West, and South.  We just sang about this in the song “Shout to the North.”
  • With Scriptural precedent.  Paul focused on new frontiers, new foundations and new faces!  As he likes to do, he punches his point home by quoting from the Old Testament, this time from Isaiah 52:15 to show that God’s heart is for those who haven’t heard.  The context here deals with Gentiles.  Check out verse 21: “Rather, as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’”  This is similar to Isaiah 65:1: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.  To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” 

Fleshing This Out in Families

As I look at these six words, it strikes me that these principles totally apply to parenting (and grandparenting).  Let’s take another look at them through the lenses of family life.

1. Compliment. 

While it’s important to discipline and be firm, our children also need encouraging words.  When’s the last time you caught your child doing something right and then paid him or her a compliment?   Do your children know that you’re for them and not against them?  Here are three specific ways we can build into our kids.

  • Help them be filled with goodness.  Focus on their hearts and celebrate a good attitude and a good action when you see it.
  • Help complete their knowledge.  Make sure their heads are filled with the right things.
  • Admonish them to do what’s right.  As parents we must consistently and constantly provide counsel for our kids.  This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament passage where we read that a dad named Eli did not admonish his sons when he knew about the sins they were committing (1 Samuel 2:22-36).  We’re called to reprove firmly but not harshly, and to do so with tears in our eyes.  Paul’s a good model here in Acts 20:31: “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”  

2. Remind. 

Most parents feel like all they’re doing is reminding their children to clean their room, clean up after the dog, or clean up their behavior.  It’s wearisome to have to repeat ourselves, isn’t it?  But that’s part and parcel of parenting.  We also need to be reminding our children of the importance of giving to the Lord, of serving, of reading their Bibles, etc.  They also need to be reminded of God’s forgiveness when they mess up and they need constant reminders of our love.

3. Offer. 

Parents, if we get this one, it will totally transform how we see our roles.  My responsibility is to offer up our daughters to the Lord by interceding for them and by presenting them to Him for His purposes.  They belong to Him, not to me.

4. Glory. 

We must teach our kids that life does not revolve around them.  Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

5. Obey. 

Our children’s primary responsibility is to obey their parents.  Ephesians 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  We need to help them fulfill this obligation.  Note again from verse 18 that Paul’s life and lips matched his message.  That is critical for us as parents.

6. Proclaim. 

We must proclaim the gospel in word and deed to our children as we live out our faith at home.  We must also model the importance of proclaiming the gospel to those who don’t yet know Jesus, and we can do that as families.  One way to do that is by having non-Christians in your home, by supporting missionaries and by responding to tragedies like what has happened in Japan.  

Staying On Mission

This passage clearly captures the mission of Pontiac Bible Church which reads like this: “To connect people to Jesus and equip them to be growing and faithful followers.”  The word “proclaim” has to do with connecting and the equipping part of our ministry follows along with the words: “encourage, remind, offer, glory and obey.”

We’re to reach, preach and teach in order to reach, preach and teach all over again.  Our challenge as a church is to stay on mission.  Paul would connect people to Christ and then would either return to equip them or stay long enough to ensure that they were grounded in the Word.   When we get the gospel, we will go with the gospel.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?