Send the Light

Explore the Bible Series

February 19, 2006

 

Background Passage: Romans 15:14-33

Lesson Passage: Romans 15:14-20; 22-25; 28-32

 

Introduction: Having completed the substance of his apostolic message to the Romans, the Apostle Paul concluded this epistle with a warm personal message (Romans 15:14-16:27).  Paul never drew an artificial distinction between doctrinal precision and warm pastoral concern for others: indeed, his deep love for these believers gave him greater liberty in proclaiming the gospel with bold straightforwardness (See Romans 15:15).   

 

Vaughan and Corley divide this portion of Romans into three sections.

1.      (15:14-33): A narrative of the apostolic mission

2.      (16:1-23): Personal greetings to Roman Christians

3.      (16:24-27): A final doxology of praise to God

 

This lesson focuses on the first of these divisions: Paul’s summary of the apostolic mission.  The text clearly outlines the apostles plans for future evangelistic work in Spain, and, on his way to the Iberian Peninsula, he hoped to visit with the believers in Rome. It is unknown whether Paul ever traveled to Spain, but he did come to Rome as a prisoner of the Roman authorities (See Acts 28:16-31).  Some believe that the great missionary journeyed to Spain after his initial Roman imprisonment, but the Scriptures give no affirmation of this conjecture. Some information from the Church Father, Clement of Rome, indicates that Paul may have fulfilled his desire to preach in Spain.

 

James 4:13-17 warns believers about the dangers of sinful presumption concerning the future; however, we see, in Paul’s experience, the wisdom of humble planning for effective service for Christ.  The apostle’s hopes of evangelizing in Spain did not violate the principle in the Epistle of James; rather, his strategy simply reflected the underlying convictions of the apostle concerning his calling as a missionary.  He sought to preach the gospel where man had evangelized before (See 15:20).  The Spanish priority, therefore, was merely the logical extension of principles that had governed the apostle’s work from the outset.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                    Paul’s Purpose for Writing the Epistle to the Romans (15:14-21)

A.     Paul’s confidence in the Roman Christians (v. 14): The tactful, compassionate apostle highlighted three reasons for his appreciation for these believers.

1.      “you yourselves are full of goodness”: “’Goodness’ is that virtue opposed to all that is mean and evil and includes uprightness, kindness, and beneficence of heart and life” (Murray). 

2.      “filled with all knowledge”: They possessed a thorough knowledge of the things of God and maintained a teachable spirit to learn more.

3.      “and able also to admonish one another”: They valued appropriate correction and instruction.  This third quality, of course, strengthened the other two characteristics.  Because they gave and received godly admonition, they continued to grow in goodness and knowledge. These three characteristics are inextricably bound together.

B.     Paul’s priestly work among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16):  The apostle returned to the priestly theme of Romans 12:1-2.  He envisioned himself as one who made sacred offerings to the Lord, and his particular function centered on offering his labors among the Gentiles an offering to the Lord. His entire life focused on bringing an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, an offering sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

C.     Paul’s reason for boasting (vv. 17-21)

1.      He boasted only in what Christ had accomplished through him (vv. 17-18): Paul humbly acknowledged that his boasting must focus on the gracious work of Christ. This work, accomplished through Christ’s commission and power, resulted in the obedience of many Gentile believers.

2.      The work of the ministry proceeded through powerful signs and wonders and the bold proclamation of the gospel (v. 19).  “Signs and wonders” refer to the miraculous deeds that attended apostolic labors.  These glorious works attended the preaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. The efficacy of these miracles did not rest in Paul’s personality or presence; rather, these wondrous things occurred as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul marveled that he had evangelized in an extensive area: from Jerusalem to Illyricum (district to the west of Macedonia). 

3.      Paul hoped to expand the geographical scope of his preaching by traveling to Spain (vv. 20-21):  He did not want to preach where other men had evangelized; instead, he hoped to continue working in unreached areas. 

 

II.                 Paul’s Plans for Future Work (15:22-29): Paul outlined three objectives he wanted to accomplish.

A.     A visit with the Romans (vv. 22-23 and 28-29):  On his way to the West, Paul hoped to visit with the Romans.  He made clear that he had long desired to meet the Roman Christians, but providence had prevented him from doing so. 

B.     A missionary journey to Spain (v. 24):  Paul labored for years to bring the gospel to unevangelized areas of the East.  By the time he wrote the Book of Romans the good news had reached most of the eastern region; therefore, the apostle’s desires focused on preaching in the western Mediterranean.

C.     A benevolent mission to Jerusalem (vv. 25-27): The saints in Jerusalem apparently suffered from some significant hardship, and Paul determined that he would take a gift from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, an offering these Gentile believers owed to their Jewish brothers and sisters (See v. 27).

 

III.               Paul’s Plea for Earnest Prayer (15:30-33): “…strive together with me in your prayers (v. 30).  The apostle makes urges three petitions for their prayers.

A.     “…That I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea.”  Paul may have already had some insight into the suffering that awaited him in Jerusalem.  Later, the Holy Spirit would clearly reveal to Paul the hardship he would encounter (See Acts 21:8-14).

B.     “…that my service for Jerusalem may be proved acceptable to the saints.”

C.     “..that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find rest in your company.”  Paul restated the hope he expressed in verse twenty-four.  

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      How should Christians strategize to evangelize the world without lapsing into sinful presumption about the future?  What principles should guide our planning?

2.      What do these verses teach Christians about their responsibilities to the poor, especially to those who suffer in the household of faith? 

3.      Paul was a single-minded man.  What priorities did he set in life?  How did those priorities shape his decision-making processes?  How do the cluttered lives of many Christians contribute to confusion and discord?