What To Expect From A Minister
Every now and then we need to be reminded of what is most important. Paul does that for us in Romans 15:14-24. I invite you to pause for a moment and click the previous link to read the passage before diving into this article.
Though Paul had not yet even visited their church, he had written this letter boldly so as to remind the believers in Rome about important matters in the Christian faith. We all need reminding from time to time, don’t we? I know I do.
Paul goes on to describe how God had made him a minister or servant to the Gentiles. He saw himself as a priest (the word he used here would evoke, in the minds of his Jewish readers, a Jewish priest in the Temple). A priest who was offering a gift before God. And to Paul, the Gentiles were like a gift, “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” and therefore made favorable to God.
In a close reading of this passage, you will discover that Paul is laying out what we should expect in a minister. Let me remind you that we are all ministers. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been made a minister of reconciliation, bringing the gospel to people and people to Jesus. Paul says, “Here’s a little of my calling and you should see yourself in me.”
In Romans 15:14-16 we see two aspects of being a minister: encouraging and reminding. Here’s a third: a good minister glories in God and God’s work. Paul said, “I’m the instrument but God did all the work.” It’s not for us to boast about what we’ve done; instead, we’re to boast only in what God has done. Let’s make Paul’s statement to the Galatians our prayer: “…may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Galatians 6:14.
Paul also points out that good ministers, by their words and actions, declare, propound, and proclaim the Christian message. He said, “I preached the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum, (pronounced “il-RIK-um”) and he had established Christian churches in those communities. I find it amazing that Illyricum includes parts of present-day Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia. Paul certainly got around – maybe more than we thought!
While he went hither-and-yon, Paul wasn’t worried about defending God, Jesus, or the Bible to those with whom he shared the glorious gospel. I like what C.H. Spurgeon said when he was once asked how to defend the Bible. “You defend the Bible just as you would a roaring lion. You just open the cage and let it out!”
We see in verses 20-22, Paul preached where no one had heard before, therefore, he wasn’t building on the foundations of others. The foundation of the gospel had been laid, and others could continue building on that foundation. Therefore, Paul was now free to fulfil his long-standing desire to visit Rome and the western part of the Empire - Spain.
He long desired to go to Spain (vs. 23-24), but his plans had often been thwarted. God's purposes frequently take precedence over our life plans. There is much to be gained from how God led Paul. It reveals how He leads us. We all could use some assistance when faced with crucial choices and unforeseen circumstances.
Our plans are often hindered. Delayed, Stopped. Kept from. Sound familiar? Every way he turned his path to Spain and Rome was hindered. What hinders plans in a believer’s life sometimes? Here are a few possibilities: the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-8), Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18), other people (Galatians 5:7), my own lack of faith, shrapnel from living in a fallen world, Godly priorities.
Our places of ministry and living will sometimes change. Paul sensed that he had completed the task that he was given to do. That doesn’t mean that everyone in that region had heard the gospel but he had established reproducing churches and had equipped them to finish the task.
Sometimes you and I might sense that there is still a place for us to do “work in these regions” but when God makes it clear that that His purpose and call for you has been accomplished in a certain area, it’s then time to move to the next ministry assignment. In the meantime, however, let’s bloom where we’re planted. Stay where you are and complete the job God has called you to do.
Paul closes this section with a fervent appeal for prayer. Throughout his writing, there was a strong sense of Paul placing his life and ministry in the Hands of the God of Hope. So, like Paul, let’s ask ourselves…
Who can I encourage and compliment?
For whom can I pray?
Who needs to hear the gospel through me this week?
For what can I specifically give God glory?