Paul's letter to the church at Rome is filled with important truth to ensure that this church is well grounded in solid doctrine. As Paul now draws to a close, he summarizes his motivation for sending this letter and reveals what drives his life of ministry.
- Don't lose sight of key truths that anchor your faith.
- Boast in what Jesus has done in and through you as a testimony to the power and goodness of God.
- Ministry is a lifestyle and it's never done. We should always have ambition to continue to impact the world for Christ.
- Be strengthened and refreshed in community as we ministry one to another.
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As he opened the letter telling them that they had a great reputation and he was thankful for them in his prayers (Romans 1:8-10), he now concludes here affirming them and letting them know that he is satisfied with them. Paul says they have a strong understanding of their faith and they are able to properly instruct others.
Nevertheless, Paul still feels a burden to further strengthen and encourage them and ensure that they continue to grow in their understanding of God's truth, the completeness of the work of Jesus to secure their salvation, and their calling to live sacrificial lives.
He says that the letter was written to include important points that they (we) should never forget. As we grow in knowledge, we can sometimes allow certain truths to overshadow other truths. We can argue semantic nuances and neglect the fundamental truths established by God and the spirit of love behind it. Paul is encouraging the church never to lose sight of the key principles he's highlighted throughout this letter to anchor our faith and instruct our Christian living.
Paul felt great care and responsibility for the spiritual growth of the Gentiles. He had authority and responsibility to be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
"But the Lord said to [Ananias], 'Go, for [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.'" Acts 9:15
In verse 16, Paul invokes a picture of the temple service where the priests would perform their ministry to ensure that God's temple was pure and that worship and the sacrifice was acceptable to God for the covering of the people's sins.
Paul saw his ministry in a similar way. He was attending to the pure truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to ensure that people received the blessing of the sacrifice of Jesus to take away their sins. In response, as the people offered themselves back to The Lord as Living Sacrifices (Romans 12:1), Paul wanted to be certain that their faith was established in truth so that their offerings will be holy and acceptable to God.
Boasting in The Lord
Paul was proud of this ministry. This is a good kind of pride because he recognized the source is from God and the fruit is unto God. In his flesh, and by the world's standards, Paul had much to be proud about. He was from the right family, he had the right education, he had a prominent place in society. But after experiencing Jesus and discovering his true purpose, he regarded all that as nothing (Philippians 3:3-10).
Paul's life went from breathing out murderous threats against Christians (Acts 9:1) to humbly laboring and suffering for Christ. He chose to boast in what Jesus was now accomplishing through him in spite of his past, his personal struggles and his weakness (2 Corinthians 11:16-30).
We can have that same kind of pride. We can boast in our relationship with God and the assurance of our salvation because it was completely a gift of Jesus and nothing of our own effort (Ephesians 2:9). Like Paul, we can boast in the Lord to tell the world how great our God is. Your testimony, your story or redemption and transformation, is a powerful way to share Christ with others. When we are honest about our weakness, then the glory of God's strength is made visible to others (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Then they can have hope and turn to God for strength in their own lives.
Paul was excited to finally be able to come to Rome to visit this church in person. He had long desired to see them and encourage them. Since Paul's primary focus was on taking the good news about Jesus to new places, and since the church at Rome was not started by Paul, it was not as urgent for him to visit. But now that he had much success in Greece and Asia, he planned to finally visit Rome on his way to Spain. Even after three lengthy and difficult missionary journeys, Paul was still ambitious (determined) to preach the gospel of Jesus in new places. Paul was always looking ahead to the next thing.
If anyone deserved to retire and relax looking back at his accomplishments, Paul could claim that right. But his heart was to charge ahead for the glory of God. Similarly, we should recognize that service to Christ is a lifestyle. While we may retire vocationally, we are never done serving the Lord and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) until he calls us home.
The Power of Community
Paul ends this section with a prayer request. Before he could get to Rome, he needed to make a stop in Jerusalem, and he knew there would be hostility when he got there. He asked for the faithful believers to strive with him in prayer. He asked them to intercede on His behalf to God. You'd think that if anyone had a direct hotline to God it was Paul, so why is he asking for the saints in Rome to pray for him?
Paul acknowledged that the believers in Rome were themselves ministers, priests in service to one another, and he's asking for their prayer. He's being vulnerable to show that being in the will of God and serving God doesn't mean that everything is always going to be easy. By inviting them to pray, he's also giving them a chance to partner in his ministry, and to grow in intimacy and fellowship with him. As we are called to be a kingdom of priests, (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6) we all have the opportunity and responsibility to minister to each other as we allow Christ to work in and through us. In that fellowship, we can be refreshed and strengthened and God can be glorified.