Summary: We must be open to God’s guidance as we make our personal plans.
A. In considering God’s grace, we have also considered free will and God’s sovereignty.
B. With that in mind, what part does my personal plan play in the story?
C. Should I even make plans or should I simply go with the flow?
D. Or should my plans be made through prayer and the guidance of God’s Spirit?
E. The second is the correct answer as Paul demonstrates in these and other writings.
I. Grace Leads To Pride Over Success In God’s Work (vv. 14-19)
A. As already mentioned, the church in Rome was a diverse lot-Jews and Gentiles, slave and free.
1. Though Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome, he had delayed his visit for a couple of reasons, one of which was that he had heard many good reports about the church and how well they were doing.
2. Paul encouraged and complimented his readers-two things we need to do more of in our interaction with one another.
3. On occasion, complimenting others might give them-as we like to say, the “big head,” but it’s normally better to take a chance rather than withhold the compliments.
4. I’ve never received too many compliments and they certainly encourage us in the task we are carrying out.
5. As we are complimented so we need to compliment, and we need to compliment even if no one is complimenting us.
6. We don’t compliment to get compliments but because it is the right thing to do.
B. Paul mentions their goodness and spiritual maturity.
1. Just as we always need more compliments, so we need more goodness.
2. Kind acts are always in short supply, and there are always opportunities to demonstrate them to others whether we feel they deserve them or not.
3. How wonderful if our reputation in the eyes of others is that we are just full of goodness.
4. How wonderful if that was the reputation of every one of God’s churches.
5. When goodness is prevalent, badness is not. Goodness can overcome evil.
6. He also alludes to their spiritual maturity when he mentions they are able to teach others the things they have been taught.
7. Spiritual immaturity is never a trophy for us to desire.
8. We are expected to grow in grace and knowledge. The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers about this when he scolds them for needing to relearn the elementary aspects of the faith when they should be teachers by now. (Hebrews 5:12ff)
9. Paul’s purpose was simply to remind them by reemphasizing what they already knew.
10. We have heard the saying; “Repetition is the best teacher.” Think how often this is done in school settings, and we also do a tremendous amount in church life as well. But it is commanded and necessary.
11. There is another phrase; “Out of sight, out of mind.”
12. Paul was a special messenger sent by God to them-and all Gentiles, with the message of Jesus Christ.
C. Paul’s pride in his work (vv. 17-19)
1. Paul almost appears to brag in these verses, but a close reading will reveal he is bragging on what God has done through him, not himself.
2. How do we know when we have crossed the line between pride in our accomplishment and pride in God’s accomplishments through us?
3. One way is to consider the question; “Am I just as proud over what God is doing through someone else as what he is doing through me?”
4. Can you be happy when another believer is in the spotlight and you’re not?
5. There is nothing wrong with excitement over what God does through us.
6. He gives talents, gifts and opportunities for us to use, not abuse or hide.
7. When we are faithful, he will be too, and it’s okay to be excited about the results of our joint effort (which by the way is really all of God).
8. Paul was only boasting of what God accomplished through him. God called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and he had obeyed the call.
9. Notice Paul’s witness involved words and lifestyle (v. 18).
10. He witnessed with the spoken message but also in the way he lived before unbelievers.
11. Both are essential and important. The old trite phrase reminds us of that; “Walk the talk.”
12. Because of his obedience, God used him to present the gospel to Gentiles from Jerusalem to Illyricum (a Roman territory between present day Italy and Greece, covering much of the same territory as present day Yugoslavia).
13. We are God’s instruments, and we can thank him for whatever ways he uses us in his service.
14. All our gifts and talents are important. They may seem small to us, but they are important nevertheless. Not everyone will be nationally known for their Christian work, but that’s okay. We don’t have to be.