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Basic Bible: Ministry to Unbelievers

Romans 15:15-27

In the text before us, Paul comments upon the things which he has written in this epistle. In verse 15, the apostle states that he has written boldly. Paul’s words suggest that he may have written more boldly in this epistle than the manner in which he wrote in his previous epistles.

Romans reads differently than Paul’s epistles to believers at Corinth or Galatia or Ephesus and elsewhere. In Romans, Paul cites passages from the books of Moses, the Psalms, and from the prophets more than fifty times, twice the total of all passages cited in his other epistles combined. In verse 14, the apostle makes it clear that his boldness was not triggered by any lack of goodness or knowledge on the part of the Romans. Paul’s reason for boldness is not to correct. His boldness stems from the grace which God has given him. His boldness is linked to his having been chosen by God to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul states that his boldness is because of the grace which God has given to him. God revealed to Paul that he was chosen to be the minister of Jesus Christ to bring good news (the gospel of God) to the Gentiles such that “the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (v. 16).

The offering up of the Gentiles is the offering up of spiritual sacrifices to God by the Gentiles which sacrifices are holy and acceptable (see I Pet. 2:5, Rom. 12:2). Neither Jew nor Gentile possesses the capacity to manufacture anything that is holy and acceptable. No man, Paul included, possesses this ability. Paul’s role was to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles such that they might hear, believe and receive. Upon believing, one receives the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) who acts as an intercessor of prayers. The Holy Spirit helps believers overcome our failings by interpreting our innermost feelings (Rom. 8:26). God the Father sees only that which the Holy Spirit has filtered — that which is holy and acceptable.

Awareness of God’s grace was given to Paul by revelation from God such that His purposes might be realized. It is and was by revelation that Paul was given the understanding necessary to expound upon that which is recorded in the books of Moses and the Psalms and upon the words of the prophets. Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets, all proclaim the coming of a time in which God shall establish a new relationship with a people who are not a people. The Gentiles are that people.

In verses 17, Paul states that he has cause to glory through Jesus Christ in “those things which pertain to God.” Those things which pertain to God most certainly include the fulfillment of that which Moses and the prophets spoke. Paul was the chosen vessel to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul does not glory in that which he has done. He glories in that which Christ has done by him (v. 18). Paul is glorying in the work of God the Son.

Paul states that his ministry was powered by “mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (v. 19). Paul’s boldness in writing that which he wrote is, likewise, powered by the Holy Spirit. It is not by coincidence that Paul links his boldness in writing to his preaching of the gospel in places where it had never before been preached (v. 20-21). Paul’s epistle and the grace which he received work together for God’s purposes.

In verse 23, Paul states that he has no more place in these parts. These parts consist of the region extending from Jerusalem to Illyricum (see v. 19). Paul’s presence is no longer needed there because the people who were no people from Jerusalem to Illyricum had heard and received understanding (see v. 21).

Paul states his great longstanding desire to visit them (v. 23) and to be “brought on my way thitherward by you” (v. 24). Thitherward is Spain, Paul’s destination after visiting Rome. Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to ask believers in Rome assist in bringing the gospel to Spain.

Paul states that he must first go to Jerusalem to deliver a donation which will be used to meet the material needs of the saints there (v. 25-27). The Gentile believers in Macedonia and Achaia were moved to send a monetary gift which was designated to meeting a material need. Paul states that believers, once empowered by the Holy Spirit to offer up acceptable spiritual gifts, are also obligated to provide for the material needs of other believers.

The epistle to the Romans is for believers in every place and of every era. All believers are to assist in bringing the gospel to people who are no people such that they, too, may offer up that which is holy and acceptable. It is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).

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