Scripture reading: Romans 15:14-21
Sermon Title: Principles of Ministry
Sermon Text: Romans 15:14-16
Key verse: Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
1-We minister to good people
2-We minister because of grace
3-We minister Christ
4-We minister as priests
5-We minister to please God
6-We minister with God
We’ve reached the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The closing in Romans includes the typical elements of Paul’s letter conclusions:
Upcoming travel plans (15:14-29), request for prayer (15:30-32), wish for peace (15:33), exhortation to greet one another (16:3-15), holy kiss (16:16), final warning (16:17-19), concluding grace (16:20b), greetings from associates (16:16b, 21-23), and a doxology (16:25-27).
This is the longest closing of all of his letters. The information in the closing, because it is God’s Word, is instructive and profitable for us to consider. We will look at verses 14-16 which give us a glimpse into Paul’s ministry. Our goal is to look at Paul’s ministry and see what we may learn and apply to our personal and church ministry as ambassadors of Christ.
The MAIN IDEA of the message is this; Paul’s example reveals six principles to guide our ministry toward one another.
The first principle is this;
Romans 15:1414 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Paul has given some harsh criticism about the way people have been treating one another in the church. It seems Paul is desiring to encourage the church after correcting them.
Paul states he personally is convinced the people of the Roman church are filled with goodness. He began the letter by telling them, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world (1:8).” Paul has confidence they are saved by faith and he is thankful for their testimony. Here, he is reminding the Romans he has confidence in them and they are filled with goodness.
The goodness Paul is speaking of is the goodness that comes from God. Paul is writing that nobody in the flesh does good, but only those who are walking according to the Spirit of God. He is expressing his confidence that, even though there was need to rebuke them, God is at work in them and they are children of God: saints in Christ Jesus.
Paul also tells the Romans they are filled with knowledge and with that knowledge they are able to admonish one another. In other words, he is letting them know he believes they are able to lead and disciple one another.
Paul believed the church in Rome consisted of good people because Paul had confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s children.
As we apply this principle, let’s keep in mind this passage is speaking about people in the church. Outside the church, we may not always be ministering to good people. I am not saying all people are evil outside the church. What I am saying is that we may be presented with opportunities to minister outside the church to people who cannot be trusted. I’ve witnessed to people I definitely would not want my daughter to marry. Without Christ, they will remain as people who are not good, but we still are to minister the gospel to them anyhow.
Paul is talking about the people at the church in Rome. This passage is talking about people Inside the church, God’s elect. As we minister truth, we must keep in mind that we minister to good people.
We are very fortunate that our church is filled with good people. Good people make ministry a joy because they are willing to grow and understand the word of God.
Can ministry be frustrating and aggravating at times? Absolutely. However, the good far outweighs the difficult times.
The good people in the church will bring you meals when your family is in need or they will visit you in the hospital. The good people in the church will pray for you. They will give to the benevolent fund so you will have money for your heating bills or other unexpected needs.
The people in the church will help you move or send you a card when you need encouragement. God’s people are amazing people; they are good people. They are willing to give you advice whether you want it or not, because they care.
Ministry is enjoyable because people are good. I think of my time here at CCC. I know I have my faults, I can say and do stupid things. But the people here are gracious and generous. I can be myself and know that if I give it my best, people will be forgiving and loving. It is very comforting to minister to good people.
It is always helpful to keep in mind that when we minister truth in the church, we do so with good people.
The second principle to guide our ministry toward one another is this:
Romans 15:15 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God,
It takes no boldness to proclaim the statement, “it is cold outside.” It does take boldness to proclaim something people may be offended by.
FYI: When I say speak boldly, I am not saying to be loud, callous, or unkind in the manner in which we speak. It is totally possible to be bold, but to speak with a whisper or with gentleness and love.
What are some things Paul said boldly?
There are many things Paul said which ruffled feathers. In speaking boldly, he wasn’t afraid to remind them of what they already knew.
The reason Paul gives for speaking boldly is because of the grace given to him from God.
If we look through Acts and Paul’s letters and look at the use of the word grace, we will find there are two ways the word grace is used.
There is grace for the forgiveness of sins. We receive salvation not because we deserve it, but because of God’s grace.
The second way the word is used is when talking about ministry. When people were commissioned for the work of the ministry, the church would commend them to the grace of God. In other words, they would say, I leave you in the hands of God’s grace. We commit you to the care of God’s grace. We trust the working and ministry of God’s grace to provide, protect, and lead you. Those who were sent went forth for the purpose of God’s grace.
Acts 14:26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.
Acts 15:40 Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
When Paul left Ephesus he spoke this to the church elders:
Acts 20:32 I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
There are more examples relating grace to ministry.
The bottom line is Paul was saved by grace and he ministered according to God’s grace. God’s grace provides everything needed for ministry. God’s grace is all encompassing. It provides wisdom for admonishing those who need to be admonished and it provides compassion for loving those who are difficult to love.
Paul was not writing because of his authority, or because of duty, but because of grace. His ministry existed because of God’s grace.
In other words, don’t be timid about ministry. We minister because of grace.
We do not deserve salvation nor do we deserve to minister the glories of the gospel. We did nothing to earn it, but it is because of God’s favor that we speak the words of truth to one another.
Ministry is a gift all of us have received when we received salvation by grace. Grace is the doorway to receive all the blessings of God. We gain our introduction to faith through grace (Romans 5:2). Grace sufficiently fills in all we lack as created beings.
Paul begins Romans by saying he is not ashamed of the gospel. He is bold with the gospel. He knows the blessings of God are only received by believing the gospel, so he is bold in all of what he writes.
Like Paul, we should not be ashamed to proclaim truth. We need to speak boldly because people need to hear the truth.
Sometimes in the ministry of grace there is resistance. At times it is a challenge to preach what Paul boldly proclaims. People are offended. There were some in the Roman church who were offended by some of Paul’s letter, and some in our church as well.
What should Paul do? Not be bold so as not to offend people? Grace is good medicine, but people don’t always want medicine.
Should Romans be preached or taught in a way that says, “this only applies to the Roman church” as though nobody in our church needs to hear the truth? Do we skip over verses because someone might be offended?
What about outside the church? Are we called to be bold with our friends and speak the truth, or are we to have the attitude of “live and let live”? (Again, when I say bold, I am not saying be brash or inconsiderate.)
Have you noticed that most people are not very good at taking correction? Does that mean we should stay silent? Or, do we recognize that the truth of grace is the only way to find fulfillment: “joy and peace in believing”?
Paul wrote the letter boldly to help the Christians in Rome grow in accordance to God’s grace.
None of us are complete. It is our role, all of us, to understand the Bible and proclaim what God says. We need to be bold in speaking the truth because it is the only means to grace.
Of all things in this world, we should show the most boldness in talking about God’s goodness and mercy and His call to holiness. There is no greater proclamation and no greater truth which will bring greater joy.
Whenever we minister, we may minister with confidence knowing the saints of God will hear His voice and respond. Be bold with truth. The words of grace always bring forth fruit. We need not be shy about God’s grace.
The third principle we may apply is:
Romans 15:15-16 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles
Paul’s objective was to minister Jesus Christ, a person, to the Gentiles. Everything about his ministry was centered around knowing Christ and making Him known.
Paul’s desire is for his disciples to:
Paul’s ministry was to bring Christ to a lost world.
Christ alone. There is no greater focus for our ministry. Christ must be the center of our ministry.
Ministry may be easily distracted away from Christ.
Be warned of a danger among mankind who resists Christ. People who don’t know Jesus as their Savior and who don’t appreciate the Gospel often very much appreciate compassion ministries. The unspiritual man will applaud the building of a school, orphanage, or soup kitchen, but not the building of a church. The unspiritual man will always see teaching, feeding, medical aid, or assistance to the poor as a higher calling than the ministry of the Gospel.
Those who don’t know Christ will be our biggest critic when the Gospel is brought forth. Nobody enjoys criticism. In response, our tendency will be to tone down the ministry of preaching Christ so others will accept us.
We need to preach Christ alone! And, as we preach Christ, we must make sure we understand the sufficiency of Christ and the work of the cross.
Think of how ministering the sufficiency of Christ impacts our ministry.
Think about how everything revolves around Christ. When we are to think about forgiveness, we are to think of how Christ forgave us. When we are to think about love, the sacrificial love of Christ becomes our example. When we seek rest, we are to be yoked to Christ.
We must endeavor to have our ministry centered upon Christ.
We minister to good people, we minister because of grace, and we minister Christ.
The fourth principle is this:
Romans 15:15-16 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God,
Priests are mediators between God and man. As a minister of the gospel, Paul is a mediator, a messenger, between God and man.
In all of Paul’s letters, this is the only time he uses the word priest.
Though this is the only time Paul uses the word priest, it is not the only time he uses words associated with priestly duties. Paul frequently talks of offerings and sacrifices in the Christian life.
What makes Paul’s designation interesting is what we may infer from his use of the word. Religion in the Old Testament was centered around the ministry of the priests. They were appointed to perform the temple rituals.
The Old Testament Levitical Priesthood is obsolete. Our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, made the final sacrifice on the cross. Because of His sacrifice on the cross, there remains no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18).
We have a new covenant and new priests. In the Old Covenant, qualifications limited who could minister as a priest. In the New Covenant, every Christian is a priest. Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, and not Levi, so he did not qualify to be a priest in the Old Covenant. But, with the New Covenant, Paul like every believer, is a priest. Ministry no longer only takes place in the temple by professional priests, but ministry takes place everywhere by all believers.
The Old Testament priests brought people into a right relationship with God through sacrifices. New Testament priests bring people into a right relationship with God through the sacrifice of Christ.
Paul ministered the gospel to Gentiles, and as they were saved, they became an offering to God.
Welcome to the priesthood.
We are a holy priesthood, set apart by God to proclaim His goodness (1 Peter 2:4-10). We offer up the sacrifice of our lips, giving thanks to God (Hebrews 13:15). We proclaim the atoning sacrifice for sins made by Jesus Christ.
Proclaiming the gospel is not the only way we minister as priests. The New Testament is filled with offerings and sacrifices. We offer the sacrifice of praise when we come together and worship. When we are walking in love, it is a pleasing fragrant aroma offering to God (Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 13:16).
Our spiritual worship is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), pouring out our lives as a drink offering (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6).
When we help others with shoveling, cleaning, discipleship, helping move, baby-sitting, nursing, laundering, witnessing, cooking, and so forth, we are performing priestly duties; demonstrating a heart of gratitude (Hebrews 12:28).
One of the functions of the priests in the Old Covenant was to continually keep the altar of incense burning in the Holy Place. Incense aroma is pleasing to God. Scripture describes our prayers as an offering of incense before God’s throne (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).
Think of yourself as a priest. When you pray, you are like Zacharias, a priest offering incense in the temple. When you show mercy, know that act is more acceptable to God than the offerings made in the temple courtyard.
At Wal-Mart, the hospital, the voting booth, or in your home, you are a priest of the Living God, inviting and showing the way for people to enter the holy of holies of the Temple.
Paul ministered as a priest and we minister as a priest. Picture ourselves in that way. As we read the Old Testament and read about priests, think of how those guys are just like us. Think of how we are called and set apart by God just as they were called and set apart by God.
The fifth principle in Paul’s example we may use to guide our ministry toward one another is
Romans 15:16 a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable
There are offerings which are not acceptable to God. Those offerings are done when the heart is not right before God. A sacrifice made on the altar by a person lacking in mercy and compassion was unacceptable. Sacrifices not obeying the commands of Scripture were not acceptable.
Isaiah 66 says if the person making the offering does not have a heart which is humble and contrite in spirit and if the person does not tremble at God’s word, then the offering is not acceptable to God.
Paul taught that what is and what is not acceptable to God. He proclaimed that, for the forgiveness of sins, God will only accept the sacrifice made by the High Priest, Jesus. Those who believe in Christ’s offering, through faith, are pleasing to God.
Paul also taught those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8). When we present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, this is acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). When we walk in the light and not darkness, this is pleasing and acceptable to God (Ephesians 5:10).
When Gentiles put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, this is pleasing to God.
Ministry involves knowing what pleases God.
The letter to the Thessalonians says, “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others.”
Paul was gentle and good to the church in Thessalonica. He laid down his life for those people. However, as he says, he didn’t go to tickle their ears or to please people. Paul spoke boldly to please God.
Our ministry is not to please men but to please God. Preaching a different Gospel is not acceptable to God. We have a choice: preach the gospel and please God or preach what pleases men and what men want to hear.
As we share truth, we must always ask, am I speaking words to please God or am I trying to gain friends and popularity? Of course we must be kind, loving and gentle as we minister, but ultimately, we minister to please God, not to tickle the ears of men.
We minister to good people, we minister because of grace, we minister Christ, and we minister as priests desiring to please God. The sixth principle to guide our ministry is this:
Romans 15:16 … ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul is not merely aiming for converts; he is aiming for people to be sanctified. The only acceptable sacrifice is one which is clean and purified.
In the Mosaic Covenant, when the priests made a sacrifice and an offering to God, in order for that sacrifice to be acceptable the priests washed clean their robes and their body, the sacrifice was cleansed, and the utensils used were cleansed. When everything was cleansed, it was deemed as being holy. God does not accept sacrifices which are unclean or unholy. That which was cleansed and set aside for service for God, was said to be sanctified. Only holy priests, holy utensils, and holy offerings were acceptable.
Sanctification in the New Testament, the New Covenant, is a call to obedience. To be considered sanctified, or holy, one must be free from sin. Sin is disobedience and therefore unholy.
In verse 18, Paul says he strove to obtain obedience of the Gentiles in word and deed.
This is in keeping with the Great Commission. Jesus said all authority has been given to Him and He calls His disciples to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded.
The Holy Spirit works in cooperation with the Word of God. When we live by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh. When the Holy Spirit is within us, He produces the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All these are in obedience to the commands of God.
Paul ministers the Gospel and the Holy Spirit sanctifies the offering of ministry. Paul’s ministry was always accompanied by God through the ministry of God’s Spirit.
We may be encouraged and take heart in knowing we do not minister alone. It is not our job to make people holy and clean their hearts. We present the Gospel and then we need to put our faith and trust in Him, the Holy Spirit, to complete the work and sanctify people.
We need to fulfill our responsibility to pray and encourage others to be sanctified. We need to present the Word of God to people so they have clear instruction. However, as the saying goes, we lead the horse to the water, but we cannot make it drink.
We are unable to sanctify others. We cannot, as much as we would like, make our children holy. We cannot make our spouse holy. We cannot make our pastor holy. Only the power of the Holy Spirit sanctifies.
We can take heart in knowing that the same Holy Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is at work within us, all believers, to bring us to holiness. As Ephesians 3:20 teaches, God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think and He is able to do this according to the power working within us.
We do not minister alone. We minister with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What a great ministry we have. God has granted for us to minister to good people. He gave us ministry because of His wonderful and amazing grace. We have the privilege of ministering Christ, God’s beloved Son. Only Christ is able to meet the deepest needs of people. We minister as priests, called by God to help people see there is sacrifice for sins and they may enter into the holy of holies with us. We minister the gospel and the fruit of the gospel is pleasing and acceptable to God. He, along with all of heaven, rejoices when a sinner is saved. And we do not minister alone; God’s Holy Spirit accompanies us and works with us to sanctify and cleanse those whom we bring to Christ.
Rejoice priests of the living God. Rejoice in the grace of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
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.