Sermon Title: The Apostolic Ministry of Paul
Sermon Text: Romans 15:17-21
Key verse: Romans 15:17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.
The Claim of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
The Aim of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
The Fame of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
The Frame of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
So What: Five ways our ministry is the same as the Apostle Paul’s
This manuscript is provided as a courtesy. It is not followed word for word during the message. This document is not developed for publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proof read. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipling people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
We continue looking at the closing remarks of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In our passage this week, Paul gives us a view into his ministry. Paul tells of the effectiveness of his ministry, its aim, the power accompanying his ministry, and the reasoning behind his choosing of the people and places he served.
Romans 15:17-21 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written, “They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand.”
We will first seek to understand Paul’s ministry. Afterwards, we will see ways in which our ministry is the same as the Apostle Paul’s.
Let’s first look at Paul’s ministry. I have broken the text into four subjects.
The first is…
The claim of Paul’s Apostolic ministry is that, all which Paul did, Christ accomplished through him.
Romans 15:17-18 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me,
Paul claims he will not speak of things which he did in his own strength or cleverness. He will not speak of what he accomplished, but will only speak of what Christ accomplished through him. When Paul speaks of ministry accomplishment, he wants us to know that it is not of his doing. All which is done by the Apostle Paul is done by Christ working in him
At the time of Paul’s conversion, the Lord told Ananias that Saul, whom we now know as Paul, was to be “a chosen instrument” of the Lord’s. God chose Paul to be an implement: a tool, a vessel, which God could use to accomplish His will. God is the potter and we are the clay.
Paul’s choice of words reflects this truth. He says he will only speak of what Christ accomplishes through him. Jesus used Paul’s hands, feet, mouth, heart, and mind as His own.
The shovel has no reason to brag about the hole which is dug, just as the pot on the stove doesn’t brag about the food prepared in it. This is Paul’s posture as he reflects upon all he has done for the Kingdom of God.
Paul knows his role as an Apostle is to be an instrument for the Lord’s purpose. Paul’s life belonged to Christ. Paul does not brag about the thousands of converts, the many churches he planted, nor the knowledge and wisdom of his letters.
There is much Paul could speak of regarding his ministry. The work of the Apostle Paul stands out in church history. Paul has much he could boast about. His ministry is truly amazing and, as he says, he found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. Paul says he may only boast because he is in Christ and Christ accomplished it all.
Paul condemns bragging in one’s own achievements, and his condemnation of bragging is based on what is taught in Jeremiah 9:23, which Paul quotes in his letter to the Corinthians.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 23Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.
If Paul’s ministry resulted in any success in the lives of his converts and in the churches, it is because the Lord delighted in exercising lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.
Ministry success is entirely the fruit of divine enablement of the Trinity, Who sets about working salvation in the hearts of God’s elect.
The claim of Paul’s Apostolic ministry is that all he did was accomplished by Christ working through him.
The next subject we see in Paul’s telling of his ministry is this:
What is it Paul aims for and what is he seeking to accomplish? What is his goal?
The aim of Paul’s Apostolic ministry is to bring about obedience.
Romans 15:18b resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,
As we look at this aim of Paul, we keep in mind the previous truth and recognize that Paul is an instrument used by Christ to accomplish His work. Therefore, we acknowledge the aim of Paul’s ministry is really Christ’s aim as he works through Paul.
Jesus’ aim is to bring about the obedience of mankind by restoring lost souls who have fallen away from God in rebellion and disobedience. The Gospel establishes Jesus as Lord.
The problem with mankind is the unsaved person does not submit to Jesus as Lord. Instead, mankind answers to its own self. People obey their own deceitful hearts and turn to their own evil ways. Instead of obeying God, people are selfish, deceitful, immoral, and a host of other things which we will just label as being ungodly (an appropriate word to describe disobedience).
The Gospel is a message that proclaims disobedience to God is sin and will be punished eternally. The Gospel proclaims salvation is in Christ. Jesus will give those who trust Him a new heart and a renewed mind.
Paul’s ministry aim in preaching the Gospel is to bring about obedience, as Paul says, in word and deed.
Word and deed is a common phrase of Paul’s time. In our day we say things like, “walk the talk” or “practice what you preach.” Those who are obedient in word and deed don’t just say, “yes Lord” but they also do what the Lord commands.
The aim of Paul’s ministry is nothing short of obedience. This is how Paul knew his ministry is that which the Lord accomplishes. Only the Lord accomplishes obedience in the hearts of men.
The third subject of Paul’s ministry he tells us of is
Paul’s ministry was widespread and well known.
Romans 15:19 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit;
In the Power of signs and wonders
“Signs and wonders” is the standard phraseology used in Scripture to describe miracles. We can break it down into three aspects. First, the power of the miracles. The character of the miracles is that they are powerful. They are very useful in authenticating the ministry. Secondly, the miracles are signs. Signs point to a direction. They point to God as the only possible explanation behind the phenomena. The miracles are signs that God is working and therefore, the message of the Gospel is from God. Thirdly, the miracles are wonders. They are truly wonderful to behold. The intended effect on those who behold the miracles is that they become filled with wonder and amazement.
Seven times the book of Acts records miracles during Paul’s ministry. Paul healed people of diseases and sicknesses. Paul cast out evil spirits. An earthquake opened his prison door in Philippi. Eutychus fell out of the third story window and died and Paul revived him. Paul was bitten by a venomous viper and just shook the snake off his hand and was unaffected. (Acts 14:8-10; Acts 16:16-18; Acts 16:25-26; Acts 19:11-12; Acts 20:9-12; Acts 28:3-6; Acts 28:7-9).
Paul was an Apostle. In the time of the early church, Apostles were recognized because their ministries were accompanied by signs and wonders. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he used as a defense of his apostleship the fact that his ministry was accompanied by signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 12:11-12). The miracles authenticated his apostleship.
I will not say God is no longer able to do signs and wonders, but we do see in the years after the first century there were no longer signs and wonders accompanying the Gospel. I will say the miracles we hear of today are done by those with a false Gospel, and who certainly do not qualify as apostles.
With the Power of the Spirit
Paul says his ministry is accompanied by the power of the Spirit. The spread of the Gospel is always accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
As we read in the book of Acts and the Gospel is preached we find there is frequent mention of the Holy Spirit empowering the message. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit brings about abundant grace upon the listeners and empowers those who preach wit boldness and authority.
The power of the Spirit of God accompanies the preaching of God’s word and He works in the speaker and in the hearer to bring about obedience.
Where the Spirit Led
Romans 15:19 … so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Paul’s ministry was very widespread. I found a blog which used a tool by Stanford University called ORBIS. ORBIS allows for the calculation of the time and cost required to travel by road or ship around the Roman world in A.D. 200. It even takes into account the ancient sea routes based on historical sources.
The Apostle Paul went on three missionary journeys traveling around much of Asia Minor and Greece. He finished his journey with his trip to Rome. The blog calculated how long all of Paul’s journeys would have taken in travel time (excluding time spent at each destination) and how much each journey would have cost.
Here are the numbers: Paul traveled a total of 10,282 miles (6371 by foot, which is from here to California and back twice or over 12,750,00 steps for us Fitbit wearers.), he was on the road or in a ship for around 281 days, and the traveling cost per person is estimated at $6,300 (not including meals on the road). In all, Paul visited over 50 cities.
Paul’s apostolic ministry was famous because God made it famous. God granted miracles and His Holy Spirt power to Paul as he visited many of the major cities of the Roman Empire.
Paul’s Apostolic ministry has fame.
The fourth subject we see in this text is:
I say “frame” of Paul’s ministry because parameters didn’t fit as well with claim, aim, and fame.
Paul had a very specific frame which served to specify his ministry calling.
Romans 15:20-21 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written, “They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand.”
Apostolic ministry is a specific ministry of going to places and to people where the Gospel has not yet been preached. This was Paul’s frame of ministry, the boundary he worked within.
He knew the historical significance of his own ministry and was confident in his calling. On the day He sent Ananias to open Paul’s eyes, the Lord said Paul would be a chosen instrument to bear Christ’s name before the Gentiles. Paul referred to himself as the Apostle to the Gentiles. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul says God’s grace was given to him that he would be able to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).
Paul quotes Isaiah 52:15, and uses this text to justify his ministry of not building on another’s foundation, but of being a pioneer minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles in the populous and influential cities of the Roman Empire.
Paul worked very hard and planted churches widely enough and deeply enough to ensure Christ’s ministry would expand as it should.
Nobody in history was like Paul. As we read the Bible we see many unique people who served as instruments for God’s purpose of salvation: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Job, Moses, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, King David, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Mary the mother of Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, and the Apostle Paul.
They all boasted in God, they all served in ministry for the aim of bringing about obedience of God’s people, they all were empowered by the Holy Spirit, and they all achieved fame for their ministries.
What a joy to learn of these servants of God.
It is helpful to know how our ministry is the same as the Apostle Paul’s because it gives us encouragement, motivation, and guidance as we go about bringing the gospel within our areas of influence.
Take heart in knowing there are five ways our ministry is the same.
All the success taking place in our ministry is because the Lord is working within us. We are in Christ as Paul was in Christ, for we are God’s workmanship. Our personhood is crafted and designed by God. He has set us in Christ Jesus for good works, and these works are prepared by God beforehand. As we set about our ministry, we walk in the works which God made beforehand.
We may not boast in any converts nor may we boast in the ministries of our church. All the success accomplished here is because of Christ accomplishing His will.
It is a joy and a relief to know our success is in the Lord’s hands. This does not mean, of course, that we are to be lazy, careless, or inattentive in our ministry. The Lord speaks against this. We are to diligently work hard, like Paul worked, and trust in the Lord to bring about success.
Christ’s goal is still obedience in word and deed. When we call people to obedience it is Christ working in us.
The primary goal of us being in Christ, God’s “end game”, is to present us before His throne holy, blameless, and above reproach. Without holiness, no one will see God. God is a thrice-holy God.
Those who are led by the Spirit are putting to death the deeds of the body; these are sons of God.
The deeds of the body are the sins we all know are wrong for us to commit. The Apostle Paul says the deeds of the flesh are evident. You know it when you see it. It is our ministry, when we see these deeds taking place in those who profess Christ, to call those people to obedience.
We are to present ourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and present our body, our hands and feet and all the members of our body, as instruments of obedience to God (Romans 6:13).
The entire emphasis of Romans 6 and 7 is we have been joined to Christ and sin is no longer our master.
We obey a new master.
Paul clearly taught in Romans 8 that every believer in Christ is indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
We do not get part of the Holy Spirit, but all of Him.
When the all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, eternal, God of the Universe, the God who gives life to a dead corpse and raises him from the tomb —when THAT GOD is in somebody, that person cannot help but be changed.
When the Holy Spirit takes residence in our life, He will be evident. He is the Agent for giving new life and new desires. He empowers us to bear good fruit.
Therefore, when we proclaim the Gospel, we may do so with boldness and with power. Our message does not go forth in weakness. We may confidently proclaim the truth knowing it is backed with the power of raising the spiritually dead to be spiritually alive.
In planting churches, Paul referred to himself, in his letter to the church at Corinth, as a wise master builder who lays foundations upon which others may build (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). In the same letter, he uses another metaphor saying he planted and Apollos watered.
It was Paul’s concern some might view his ministry as a church planter as a greater and more important ministry than that of the one who builds upon the foundation. To make sure people in Corinth understood there was no difference between church planter and church pastor, he wrote these words;
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
With God’s building, there is one who lays the foundation and another who builds. With God’s field, there is one who plants and another who waters.
Paul has his place in history, planting churches in 50 cities of the ancient world. His work as a church planter is essential, but, he says Apollos’ work as a church waterer is just as important. They are fellow workers.
We need church planters to go and lay foundations, and we need church builders to build upon the foundation.
There is always a need for planters and waterers and for those laying a foundation and building upon the foundation. All are God’s fellow workers working in God’s field and God’s building.
If you feel a calling on your life to be a church planter, let us know and we would have great joy in sending you. If you feel a calling on your life to be a waterer of God’s field, let us know and you can work here or we can help you find a place where you may work.
Our mission is the same as Paul; and all others who have gone before us. God’s work does not end until Christ comes back again. Until His return, God intends for every person in every town and of every tribe and every tongue to hear the truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all.
Romans 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
Our mission is the same as Paul’s.
Our message is the same. We bring good news of good things.
Listen to Paul’s message:
Romans 10:9-11, “9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Romans 10:13 “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul’s written letter, inspired by the Holy Spirt, are the words we use as well. Our message is the same.
As we go about sharing with others our hope in Christ, know we have the same words of life the Apostle Paul spoke almost two thousand years ago.
Are we able to obtain such a great ministry as Paul? No we may not be. But God hasn’t called us to be Paul of Tarsus. God hasn’t called us to be Elizabeth Elliot, or John Bunyan, King David or any other person. God has called you to be you and me to be me.
God has given us the same message with the same aim and same power of the Holy Spirit. It seems the only area we control is our willingness to be used as a servant of Christ.
Let’s pray that God gives us a willing heart so we may have the same boast as Paul, “In Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting. He is working wonders in things pertaining to God. However, I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. It is all Him. To Christ be the glory forever and ever.”
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The claim of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
- What is the claim of Paul’s ministry? Do we find ourselves taking credit for ministry success when we shouldn’t? If Jesus does everything, what do we do?
The aim of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
- What is the aim of Paul’s ministry? What is the relationship between faith and obedience? Can we have one without the other? Why or why not? What Bible passage(s) would you use to support your answer?
The fame of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
- What is the purpose of signs and wonders? What are we to think when people in our age claim to have a miracle ministry? What does Paul mean when he says he preached “in the power of the Spirit”? Share how you find encouragement in Paul’s travels.
The frame of Paul’s Apostolic Ministry
- Paul only preached the gospel in areas where it had not yet been preached. Why did he do this?
Our ministry is the same as Paul’s Ministry
- How is our ministry the same as Paul’s? In what ways does our ministry different? How might this be an encouragement or give direction?