Summary: As Paul wraps up this letter, he reminds the believers in Rome of what it means to take the gospel to the nations.
Good morning. Please open your Bibles to Romans, chapter 15. I know we are jumping way ahead, and I don’t want you to think I’m giving up on Romans. I also don’t want you to think I am chickening out on dealing with the next part of Romans 1, where Paul deals with the issue of homosexuality. I promise, we are going to deal with that.
But today is the first of our four Great Commission Sundays. Our original plan was to have Steffan Carr from the Bruce Outreach Center as our gues today, to share with us what the Lord is doing in the Appalachian foothills in western Maryland. But Covid happened, and we are going to have to reschedule Steffan for another time.
But I still want to talk about missions. And also, since we are observing communion today, I wanted to spend some time talking about what unites us as a church. What brings us together as a church. Not something that right now is causing division in the church. And for that reason I wanted to jump all the way to the end of Romans, where we see Paul repeating to the church in Rome his reasons for writing them this long letter in the first place. So this morning we are going to look at Romans 15:14-21 together, and I promise we will come back and deal with the tough stuff in Romans 1 next week.
Mark Buxbaum, one of our students, has already read the scripture for us, so let me pray, and we will jump into this together.
Glows and Grows (v. 14-15): Somewhere, I picked up this phrase “glows and grows” whenever I was doing evaluations of our summer staff, or giving a camp pastor feedback on his sermons. I think I must have picked it up from an elementary school teacher somewhere. Because whenever you are giving someone feedback on the job they are doing or the speech they just gave or whatever, you give them glows—the good things they are doing, and grows—the things they need to work on to make them even better.
And so, Like any good teacher, Paul begins with positives when he evaluates the Romans. Look at verse 14:
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
He says, “I am satisfied about you brothers.” This sounds a little surprising coming from Paul. He was so passionate, so driven, so powerful, that you would assume no matter what you did, it would never be enough.
I heard a story once about two of my favorite Christian musicians from back in the day—Steve Camp and Keith Green. Any fans? I know Mark is a huge Keith Green fan. Kristy, you and I have had conversations about Keith. And Steve Camp maybe isn’t as well known, but he wrote some powerful songs as well—“Consider the Cost,” “Run to the Battle,” He Covers Me…” Anyway, when Keith Green was killed in a plane crash in 1982, Steve Camp was one of several Christian musicians who shared their memories of Keith. Steve Camp tells the story of calling Keith Green one day. Keith said, “How’re you doing?” Steve Camp said, “Not so good. I got mugged today. Dude came out of an alley and pulled a knife on me and ran off with my wallet.” Keith Green asked him, “Well, did you tell him about Jesus?”
And Steve was like, “No.. I was too busy getting mugged.” And Keith Green kind of went silent on the other end of the line and said, “Get your priorities straight or get out of the ministry.”
And we just kind of imagine that Paul would have been the same way. So this verse feels strange—“I am satisfied about you.” Well, he doesn’t say, “I’m satisfied with you,” like “good job—you guys are crushing it.” He says, “I’m satisfied that you have what it takes to join me in taking the gospel to the nations.”
I actually think the ESV didn’t do a great job translating this word. The better word might be “convinced” I am convinced that you are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instreuct one another.” It’s the same word Paul uses in Philippians 1:6 when he says, “And I am sure of this,” or “I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” If you want to hang on to the word “satisfied,” then think of a judge in a court case being “satisfied” that the prosecution has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Paul says I am satisfied that you guys in Rome are good people. You are smart people. You are mature enough in the faith that you are able to instruct one another.