POINTERS FROM PAUL’S PATTERN OF MINISTRY.
We have been studying Romans for a number of months now. There are some wonderful things to learn from this letter that Paul, the apostle, wrote to the church in Rome.
- every human being is by nature alienated from God – we are all sinners – 3v23 ‘ .. the wages of sin is death …’ this is the bad news
- the good news is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and died and rose again from the dead thus expressing God love and mercy while at the same time satisfying God’s righteousness and justice. So 3v23 continue ‘.. BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ…’
- this gift of sins forgiven and new spiritual life is received by faith alone – its cannot be earned and it is not deserved – BUT having received it by faith in Christ the repentant sinner stands justified before God.
- this gift of eternal life is available to ALL without distinction – Jews/ Gentiles, slaves/ free, men/ women, rich/ poor …..
- Those who accept this gift from God are called to life differently – to life totally for God and to relate to themselves, to others, to government, to enemies, to fellow-believers in a Christlike manner — thus Chapter 12 begins by calling Christians to be ‘..living sacrifices ..’ and to having a ‘…. renewed mind…’
These are some of the basic themes of Romans – these too, are some of the ABSOLUTES of the Christian faith – by the standards of the Bible one cannot claim to be a Christians and not accept these scriptural truths.
This book of Romans is not a theological research paper – it is a letter!!
- Why did Paul write this letter?
- Why to a church in a city he had never visited?
- Why to a group of people, most of whom he did not know?
This passage 15v14-33 gives us one of the main reason why Paul wrote this letter!
Paul was planning to go to Spain to tell the people there the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul is convinced that if this good news is true – if this is the only way to God – which is what Jesus taught – then is absolutely true!! It is true for EVERYONE and therefore everyone needs to hear it.
Paul understood this truth right from the time of his conversion to Christ. If there is another way to God – if all religions lead to God as some claim then the propagation of the gospel of Christ is a total waste of time and effort.
If, on the other hand, it is true, and you and I claim to be Christians then we must be involved, in some way, in the propagation/ witness / evangelism / missions / or whatever term is used …
Paul writes to the Christians in Rome to encourage them to assist him in his missionary task – and to remind them that they too have responsibility in this venture and not to turn in and become absorbed with internal Church matters.
One of Satan’s most effect tools in hindering the Church in its work it to cause internal division and disunity so that energy and time is focused inward instead of outward. When a church looses its vision for evangelism, which involves both good deeds and verbal witness, it has lost the main purpose for which it exists.
What can we learn from Paul’s ministry that will help us understand our role as Christians in this world?
1. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PRIESTLY.
Romans 15:15-16 15 I have written to you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 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. (NIV)
Paul’s language in these verses is that of the Temple ritual of offerings and sacrifice. Paul has spent much time in this letter showing that both Jews and Gentiles are equally acceptable to God. In the Jewish Temple Gentiles were not allowed into the Temple let alone able to offer sacrifices – BUT the OT clearly foresaw a time when the Gentiles would be accepted as the People of God.
Paul has, in this chapter, quoted from the OT 4x to make his point [vv9,10,11,12]
Here the Gentiles not only bring offering but they themselves have become holy, righteous and acceptable to God — is this not what Isaiah foresaw ….
Isaiah 66:20 20 And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD —
Paul has played a major part in the coming to God of the Gentiles – he sees this as his priestly duty. Paul is overjoyed by the privilege of this ministry that he has been able to do and says 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. (NIV)
Now Paul’s ministry as an Apostle to the gentiles was unique BUT the principle of fulfilling a priestly function is the duty of all believers.
1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Christians are priests before God – Christ is our great High Priest and we are to serve under him. The function of a priest is to act as a go between, as God representative. Christians, both individually and collectively as a church, are God’s representative in the world. And like the OT priests our purpose is to worship God and witness for God is the world – in so doing we glorify Him!!
We are to bear the name of Christ before the world by how we live and what we say – by our good deeds and our witness in the hope that others too will come to know God through Christ.
When people come to Christ through our witness they are our offering to God – it is God’s work and he MUST get the Glory and honour – we are simply him servants!!
To what extent are you and I fulfilling our priestly duty – we will each have different roles but all have a part to play!!
2. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS POWERFUL.
Romans 15:17-19 a 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (NIV)
His was a powerful ministry because it is in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy should be involved in every part of the Christian’s life and experience from the moment of conversion – and was active in bringing to conversion. Anything that is ever going to be accomplished for God by any of us will and must be by the Spirit – Zechariah 4:6 6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
Paul doesn’t boast about his exploits – what he has done – he talks about what Christ has done – we must be constantly on our guard that we do not draw attention to ME instead of to HIM. In church we must be cautious about those who are always seeking to draw attention to what they have done and experienced. The glory belongs to God!!
What does he glory in? That they are happy, self-fulfilled, reached their full potential, never sick, life is comfortable…??? NO!!!! in leading the Gentiles to obey God
OBEDIENCE!! This is the objective of Paul’s ministry – he states this at the beginning of the letter –Romans 1:5 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.
True faith in God results in obedience to God – Life for you at the moment may be comfortable and happy OR difficult and troubled – neither in itself is a sign of God’s pleasure or displeasure — BUT are you obeying God’s word??
Paul has obeyed God’s word – by what I have said and done.
So often we want God to do things through us or in us – we want to see the evidence of God working in our lives – a deeper relationship with him – people coming to God through our witness – BUT I believe that we can’t expect to have these deeper levels of fellowship with God and knowledge of Him IF we are not obeying him in the foundational truth that we already know — As we obey what we know God teaches new things – Is it that maybe we want the meat while refusing to drink the milk??!!
SIGNS AND MIRACLES – by the power of signs and miracles – [and wonders] – Why these signs/miracles? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:12 12 The things that mark an apostle — signs, wonders and miracles — were done among you with great perseverance. (NIV)
There purpose was to authenticate the unique ministry of the apostles. We should not be surprised by that – this was the time when the genuineness and truth of the gospel was being established. As you read through the NT you see that Jesus and then the apostles were the ones who performed the majority of these miracles.
What about today?? Can God perform miracles today??
1) There are two extreme positions that are around – That the age of miracles is past – that it ended with the apostles. Well, it would be wrong to impose limitations are the creator of the universe.
2) That signs/wonders/miracles are everyday occurrences that should be the regular experience of all Christians. Well, even in the Bible miracles were not everyday occurrences. We have clusters of miracles around the times of Moses, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus/the early days of the Apostles. There are others signs and miracles but they are rare. We may read about two on a page BUT must remember that there were often years/decades/even centuries between. Miracles were clearly performed through Paul BUT He himself had a condition that was not healed / he instructs Timothy to 1 Timothy 5:23
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. // When Paul left Miletus Trophimus was ill and had to be left behind [2Tim.4:20]
Not saying that we should not pray and ask God to intervene // we do -the elders have done what James instructs and anointed people with oil and prayer for them to recover [the elders have done that for me!!]
God is sovereign and will do as he pleases BUT it is WRONG to seek miracles to advance one’s own power of fame // it is WRONG to seek miracles for entertainment // or to satisfy one’s curiosity. Much of the modern claim and advertising about signs/wonders is more to do with self-glory than God’s glory. Many of the claims are wild and unsubstantiated.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying God can’t do signs/wonders/miracles. BUT most of the healing claimed today are not the kind we see in NT – people with genetic disorders from birth healed instantaneously [ e.g. someone like Paul De Vere]
God in his grace allows people who are sick to recover with /without medical intervention – often in response to prayer. BUT wild sensational claims leave me very skeptical …..
#ILLUS: Daystar News – from Cornerstone Church at Sandown Park –June 1997 . 4 claims of healing on first two pages – on third page sending medical supplies to children of Chernobyl – Why not send the two pastors who claim to have gifts of healing.
Paul’s ministry was in the power of the spirit and what he offers to God as a result of that power in the salvation of the Gentiles.
I have seen people healed in response to prayers – e.g. a Muslim man a friend and I once prayed for.. But far superior to that was when I saw a man who was an alcoholic on 1-2 bottles of brandy a day and 60 cigarettes for 30 years/ who had lost his job // seeing him come to Christ through reading the scriptures — his drinking and smoking stopped instantly and he never went back. I know it is true for that man was my father – that was a miracle!!
Every time a sinner repents and come to Christ – whether it was a dramatic conversion like my father’s or a slow realisation of God’s truth in Christ – that is the greatest miracle of all.
This is the miracles we should be pursuing with all our energy – the presentation of the gospel to the world so others may experience the miracle of salvation!!!
This was Paul’s passion – This was Christ’s purpose for his death and resurrection!! To this task he commissions his Church.
3. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PIONEERING.
Romans 15:19b-21 …….. So from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 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. 21 Rather, as it is written:
“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.” (NIV)
Paul was a pioneer missionary and evangelist – that is not every Christians gift – but that purpose/that goal to preach the gospel where Christ was not known – must always be the mainstay of the Church’s agenda. Every Christian is called to be part of the gospel task force to take the gospel to the world – some will be in the front line and others in supporting roles. When the church ceases to have as her goal preaching Christ to the world she denies the purpose for her existence!
Ask yourself “How am I contributing to this task?”
Young people as you consider your futures/ careers ask yourself “How best can I prepare to be most effect in Christ’s world wide mission?” Will it be in business? in teaching? medical world? at Home or abroad? as a missionary? church worker? policeman? housewife and mother??
In October an evangelist, Paul Hinton, is coming to spend a week with us – God has gifted him to do this BUT he must have people to speak to – that is our role – laying the ground for his coming – inviting people // friends and family who for Christ’s sake we love and care for in order to bring them to Jesus!!
Paul’s goal was to go to Spain – our goal must always be to go to those who don’t know Christ – across the street or office or the world – different gift and abilities focused on one task
1 Corinthians 3:6-10 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow……. ……..10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. (NIV)
4. PAUL’S MINISTRY WAS PRAYERFUL.
Romans 15:30 30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (NIV)
Whatever our gifts and whatever our practical role in the gospel enterprise we are all called to prayer.
“If we fail to pray, we fail” Prayer is a mystery. But when we pray according to God’s will he answers!
Paul calls the Romans to join in the struggle by pray – pray is not passive – it is not doing nothing – prayer is hard work!!
People sometimes say, “There is nothing I can do except pray!!” Without prayer our efforts are useless! Prayer is not just about God’s work — it is deep involvement in God’s work.
So I ask you — So when the church meets for prayer on Thursday evenings [when not HGs] and on Sunday 10:00am “ARE YOU THERE??!!”
Let me ask you — Do you pray??? When ?? every day?? once a week/month?? only in a crisis??
Think of the Smalls in Paris and Stanfords in Bakina Faso and Alan and Lorraine Knowles in SA – and you may say “I can’t minister in those places!!” YES YOU CAN!!! PRAY!!!
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (NIV)
We don’t need simply too multiple prayers but we need to learn how to pray – like Jacob we need to learn to wrestle with God in prayer.
What should we pray – comes down to one theme — “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” — “Your will be done in my life // in my marriage// in my career// in my church// — and in the life of my spouse, children, family, friends, colleagues, the nation, the world…..”
What is God’s will? That the people of the nations of the world come to know and worship Jesus Christ as Lord!!
To that end we are to be people fulfilling our priestly duty, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who do not yet know Christ, constantly in pray to God that he will work in us and through us.
POINTERS FROM PAUL’S PATTERN OF MINISTRY
1. Paul’s ministry was priestly [v16-17]
- Christians, both individually and collectively, are God’s representatives in this world
2. Paul’s ministry was powerful [v18-19a]
- Christians can fulfil their responsibilities only by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit
3. Paul’s ministry was pioneering [v19b-22]
- Christians have been entrusted with the task of telling the world about Jesus Christ
4. Paul’s ministry was prayerful [v30]
- Christians are instructed to bring everything to God in prayer saying ….. “Your will be done …”