A Proud Work for God


Sermon Text: Romans 15:14-21
Sermon Series: “Romans Chapters 9-16”

Main Points:
I. Paul’s ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles
II. Your work as offering souls to God
III. Your work through word and deed
IV. Your work as pioneering with Jesus

This passage we’ve just read is the beginning of the closing of this apostle’s letter to the church in Rome. What I mean is that from Rom. 15:14, the Apostle Paul begins to end his letter to the Christians at Rome. In this last part of his letter, he gives a brief summary of his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles – that is, in today’s text passage – and shares his plan to visit Spain in the next half of ch. 15. Then, he greets some men and women of faith in the church at Rome before praising God finally at the very end.

Some people read the passage we’ve read and will consider this morning, and might doubt the purpose of its inclusion in the epistle because they see this section no more than Paul’s personal remarks. But if they believe what the Bible says is true and remember 2 Tim. 3:16 that says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” they would stop doubting and seek God’s intention of including these words for us. I believe that all who are here this morning are eager to hear the message of God and know what to do with it – that is, to rejoice in His word and apply it in wilful obedience.

So, let us, first of all, think about the apostle’s summary of his gospel ministry, then, see what message God speaks to us through this outline of Paul’s works.

As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul has served the Lord for ten years during which he had three missionary trips, planting and building churches up in the area that covers Asia Minor, Macedonia and Achaia – that is, present time Turkey, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece. Later, he’ll visit Rome as a prisoner of the Roman emperor and strengthen the church in Rome. But at the time of writing this letter, he is a few years prior to being a prisoner at Rome.

He sums up his gospel ministry in these terms, that is, firstly, he has brought many souls – especially, the souls of the Gentiles – to the Lord, and his works of evangelism has been like carrying out a priestly duty before God. What he means is that when he preaches Jesus and converts give their lives to Jesus in repentance and faith, it is like offering them to God as acceptable sacrifices. Seeing them being cleansed of their sins and sanctified through the blood of Jesus has been to Paul’s heart and soul a great privilege and joy before God. Every time he sees converts making their confession of faith, it makes him feel like an OT priest presenting a genuine and spotless sacrifice to God, thus, witnessing God’s people being under God’s grace and reconciled to God.

At the same time, he describes his gospel ministry as a powerful hand of the Spirit working in the lives of people. In vs. 18-19, Paul talks about God in His Spirit working powerfully and bringing the Gentiles to obedience. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he says that he has fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. His ministry has been the Spirit’s power manifested through him.

So, his ministry has been a priestly service as well as manifestation of the Spirit’s power. But that’s not all; there’s the third part in this summary of his ministry. That is, he has been a pioneer for Christ. He has travelled throughout that vast region, visiting various places to plant and strengthening churches. But when he sees another gospel worker labouring at a place, he turns toward other places where no one has preached the gospel. Telling us about his being a pioneer for Christ, he quotes a verse from Isa. 52 which we’ve read earlier this morning, and says this: “Those who have never been told of Him [i.e., Christ Jesus] will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Hearing this, we almost sense his excitement in pioneering Gentile cities and towns and delivering the name Jesus and His saving grace. This is a short but rich summary of Paul’s ministry.

Then what? What does this summary mean to us and what does God want us to hear? This is the gist; this is the essence of including this section to this amazing letter to Romans.

The main idea is that, like Paul, every believer works for Christ Jesus, and our work for Him, the Lord, has three important aspects. Firstly, our work for Christ is a priestly duty carried out to God. Secondly, our work is done through verbal and visual testimony. And the third and last is that our work is the work of a pioneer with and for Christ. And let’s consider in what way and nature we do work for Jesus.

Paul evangelised the Gentiles and brought many souls to Christ. And he described his work in terms of the duty of OT priesthood. Is that because Paul was special as Jesus’ apostle? Is he telling us that none of us can repeat what he did because none of us is an apostle? No! He’s not telling us that his work was unique that no one would repeat. Instead, he points out to us in this summary of his gospel ministry that it is God who enabled him to accomplish what he did. He was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, so he has gone out to tell the Gentiles the name and grace of Jesus Christ. Thus, many have converted, and seeing those converts, Paul feels that he was like an OT priest presenting to God offerings that were cleansed and sanctified by God.

This means that all of us – like Paul – who believe and serve God in the name of Jesus are, in fact, doing the same work as Paul did in terms of its nature. You and I are doing the work of offering souls to God as acceptable and pleasing sacrifice to God. And God enables us for this work.

Hearing this, some of you might wonder whether you’ve been doing any evangelistic work recently. You might say in your heart, ‘I haven’t done anything that might be called as a work of evangelism; I haven’t even spoken to my unbelieving brother this week and encouraged him to come to church.’ Well, fellow workers of the gospel, the work Paul did and we also do even now is not exclusively any evangelistic activity carried out on a street or at a marketplace. This work is not exclusively reserved for a specific group of people or evangelists. This work includes what you and I do every day. This work includes what we are doing at this very moment, that is, worshipping God in the name of Jesus Christ. This work includes your praise made to God, glorifying His marvellous deeds done to you and us all through the blood of Jesus. This work includes your prayer and listening to His word, paying all your attention, and taking what you hear to your heart, reaffirming your commitment to the Lord’s grace and His righteous commands. Your act of worship is a way of offering souls to God as much as any evangelistic activities.

John Stott was a godly Christian and biblical scholar, and he explains how Christian’s worship is inseparably connected to witnessing. He says, ‘when we worship God, glorying in His holy name, we are driven out to proclaim His name to the world. And when through our witness people are brought to Christ, we then offer them to God. Further, they themselves join in [God’s] worship, until they too go out to witness. Thus worship leads to witness, and witness to worship.’

Any visitor joins us in a worship and sees you and me and hears what we sing and pay attention to. Most of all, he/she realises to whom we bow and for what we are grateful, then, in whom we hope and rejoice. Seeing and hearing and realising the truth of Christian worship, innumerable people have committed their lives to Jesus – and that includes you and me. In this sense, even our worship is an act of offering souls to God.

It is also true with Paul as he must’ve participated in numerous worship services in various churches. In every worship service he attended, people would’ve seen and heard and noticed his deep love for and true commitment to the Lord Jesus. So, not only preaching of the word, but also his praise and prayer would’ve brought many to Jesus and strengthened many others in faith. Converting the Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16 is clear evidence.

In fact, this leads us to the second aspect of our work for Jesus. That is, we work for Christ through verbal and visual testimony. What we say and do, in other words, are our works for the Lord.

Paul says in v. 18 this, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience – by word and deed.” Paul is saying here that he would never glorify himself by boasting of anything God hasn’t done through him. Instead, he desires to speak only about what Christ has accomplished through him and that is ‘by word and deed.’

This is truly interesting. Christ has accomplished His plan through Paul’s word and deed. Not by thunders and lightening, nor by pillars of fire or cloud, but by word and deed. As you recall, Israel was not saved by walking on the dry seabed but by hearing the word delivered to their ears by Moses. Israel was not spared by dancing around the golden cow nor by wailing in pain of death due to fiery serpents, but by, in faith, looking at the bronze serpent raised by Moses and this also was done in obedience to God’s word. God’s work accomplished through Paul and you and me is by word and deed.

Paul knew this well. So he clearly states here in v. 18 that he would never venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through him. In fact, by word and deed is the most effective way of bringing unbelievers to Christ. Hear what 1 Cor. 1:21 testifies: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” Paul means that preaching is folly to the eyes of the world, but in preaching the wisdom of God works effectively and powerfully.

In addition to word, our deed also presents Christ. I want you to open your Bible to 2 Cor. 3 and hear what v. 2 points out to us. What this verse tells us is stunning. The Apostle Paul, mentioning those Christians at Corinth, says this: “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.” As were those Corinthian Christians, you and I too are letters of the same kind, that is, of the recommendation of Christ to the unbelieving eyes and hearts of this world. What you say and do, what I say and do, are our works for Christ.

Then, lastly, your work is a work of pioneer and you do this with Jesus. When you think of your unbelieving family member, when you begin your conversation with any unbeliever, your work is a work of a pioneer for Jesus and that together with Him the Lord. Every unbeliever we encounter, every new convert we welcome and share fellowship with, they are new frontiers for Christ. You need to realise that.

Paul always fixed his eyes on a place where Christ hadn’t been preached and, delivering the Saviour’s gospel to them was his great joy. But, not all of us need to follow Paul in literal sense because we’re always engaged in facing the frontiers for the gospel and delivering Christ to whom the gospel isn’t yet reached. Many of them might’ve heard of Jesus but His gospel has not yet sprouted from their unbelieving heart. So when you witness Jesus to any of them either by word or deed, you’re reaching out to a frontier for the gospel and you’re not alone in doing it. As Paul was never alone in his witnessing Christ, you’re not alone but with Christ Jesus. So, rejoice in the Lord as Paul did. No wonder why the apostle says in v. 20 that doing so is his ‘ambition’!

In conclusion, what we do, following the Apostle Paul, is a proud work for Christ. What you do in the name of Jesus Christ is a powerful work of Jesus. Through your word and deed, He works and achieves His good and gracious plan and brings His elect to Himself. You and I are invited as co-workers of Christ the Lord in this. What a proud work we’re called to! What a joy it is to work alongside Him to whom we bow and worship and glory!

So, the challenge for us is to be truly devoted in worship services, truly sincere in our words and deeds, and truly joyful in our proud work for Jesus. ***

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