Summary: By examining Paul’s heart, we see the heart of a missionary.
Today we continue our study in Romans. Let’s read Romans 15:14-33:
14I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18For 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, 19by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”
22This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
30I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:14-33)
Paul’s life is cause for amazement and reflection. In the context of the times in which he lived, his situation appeared absurd.
On the one side was Rome, metropolis of the world, heart of the Roman Empire, insufferably proud on her seven hills, shaking the earth with the march of her fabled legions.
On the other side was this little Jew, with scarred face and battered body, ostensibly impotent amidst such power, armed only with something he called the “good news.” Yet he changed the history of Rome, Western civilization, and indeed our own lives.
Obviously there was something about this little man that set him apart from the rest. What made him different is what makes our text so interesting, because now, having finished explaining the good news of God in his letter to the Romans, Paul tells why he wrote it and how he views his mission. Romans 15:14-33 is an exposition of the anatomy of the greatest missionary heart ever.
Paul’s heart has fascinated even secular minds. Michael Borodin, the American Communist who discipled Ho Chi Minh and Cho En-lai, once was heard to say in a reflective moment, “I used to read the New Testament. Again and again I read it. It is the most wonderful story ever told. That man Paul. He was a real revolutionary. I take my hat off to him.”
Paul must be admired by all. But to the Christian Paul’s heart is even more impressive, for it sets the ideal for the missionary heart, an ideal that perhaps few attain. Nevertheless, it is the sublime example provided for us in the pages of Scripture by the infinite wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
I. Paul’s Liturgical Heart (15:15-16)
Paul’s heart is first a heart that sees its mission as entirely sacred. Here Paul appropriates the vivid imagery of an Old Testament priest ministering at the altar in the Temple. He says in Romans 15:15-16: “But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”