Summary: By any standard of measurement, the Apostle Paul was a great man. If you just consider the influence of his life upon history, even upon his own generation, you are confronted with his greatness.
The Spirit of Greatness Romans 1:8-16
Romans Series (Part 2)
Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
The salutation in a Pauline letter is normally followed by a paragraph or so in which the apostle felicitates his readers, expresses his obligation to them, and shares his gratitude for them.
This is true in Romans, though he waits until the eighth verse to do this. We need to remember that only letter not to contain any expression of gratitude is Galatians; in that case the apostle is apparently in no mood for thanksgiving and plunges directly into the discussion of the urgent and disturbing occasion of that letter.
With that in mind… Take Your Bibles Please…
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:8-16 ESV).
The style of this text is very personal. In fact very little is given to strict thanksgiving; most of it is a very personal reference to Paul’s love and joy in them. Having introduced himself in verses 1-7, as well as naming his theme, Paul uses this passage as an opportunity to verbalize his purpose, as well as an expression of his gratitude for the Roman Christians. It was the news of the high and renowned quality of their faith that called forth Paul’s thanksgiving. He assures them of a place in his prayers. This was a vital part of Paul’s life.
By any standard of measurement, the Apostle Paul was a great man. If you just consider the influence of his life upon history, even upon his own generation, you are confronted with his greatness. In terms of achievement, no man has ever more approximated what it means to be a genuine Christian. His life was filled with a true spiritual greatness. In the New Testament you cannot miss this declaration, Luke is clear in the Book of Acts in asserting Paul’s faithfulness.
In our text today, Paul writes in an attempt to establish rapport with the Roman Christians. Since he was not personally acquainted with them, nor they with him, he wanted to establish a rapport so he could communicate to them the things God had put in his heart. In these personal things, his spirit, his true inner self breaks through. You get insight into what made Paul the kind of achiever he was for God in his day. These things that marked the inner spirit of Paul could well be our inner spirits. It is surely true that our outward achievement will reach greatness only when we know greatness of spirit.
There are seven things that marked the inner spirit of the Apostle Paul. Each of them is significant in understanding the “spirit of greatness.”
Greatness of Life Is Marked by a Spirit of Gratitude (v. 8).
1. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you… gratitude was first in the heart of Paul. His gratitude is neither vague nor general, because it is explicitly directed toward God. Whenever news came to Paul of the beginning of a new church, or the winning of a new convert, regardless of where it was in the world, his spirit would be one of gratide toward God. Though he did not know the Roman believers personally, he was still thanking God for their faith.
2. Because your faith is proclaimed in all the world… Paul was especially thankful for the witness their faith had become in the world. The presence of a Christian group in the imperial city of the Roman Empire must have been news in the ancient world.
Little men, men who do not have a spirit of greatness, are not able to rejoice over things in which they have no part. Their spirit of gratitude is limited to the things that fall upon their lives or upon the lives of others through them. No such littleness can ever be found in the spirit of Paul. He gratefully acknowledged the work of God, evidence of the gracious hand of God, in every conversion to the name of Jesus Christ. The only competitor for this great man was the forces of evil that were at work in the world.