(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 11, 2003
Paul’s Passion and Plans
Passion. A word that can bring many different ideas to mind.
In our society the word "passion" often has either a
negative or a sensual connotation, and so one writer quipped that
"the end of passion is the beginning of repentance."
But Webster’s dictionary tells us that
"passion" can refer to an intense emotion or enthusiasm
without regard to the type of emotion or the specific cause of
the enthusiasm generating it.
The intensity of the emotions that generate passion can often
be very controlling. A Latin proverb warns about this saying, "govern
your passions, or they will govern you." However,
whether someone should be concerned about whether their passion
governs them depends on the reason for their passion. What is the
reason they are either so emotional or enthusiastic? Jesus was
always completely in control of Himself, yet the intensity of
emotion He experienced as He suffered and died on behalf of our
sins has resulted in them being referred to as the
"Passion." A "Passion play" recounts
Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
As we continue in our study of Romans 15 this morning, we will
see the passion that drove Paul in his commitment to serve our
Lord. We will also see how that passion affected his plans for
the future. It is my hope that as we study this example we will
be challenged to consider our own passions. What does make you
passionate? What in your life are you so enthusiastic about that
it becomes a controlling factor in how you plan your life? What
impacts you so much emotionally that it becomes central in all
your thoughts? Paul’s passion for serving Jesus Christ
controlled him. Our passion for Jesus Christ should control us
We will first look at Romans 15:14-21 to see Paul’s
passion, and then vs 22-29 to see how it affected his planning
for the future.
22 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. 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, that [my] offering of the Gentiles
might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 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, that I
might not build upon 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."
Character of the Romans (vs. 14)
Paul begins in verse 14 by revealing some of the things he was
already aware of about their character. Paul was not
speculating about them or relying on second hand information. As
we will see when we study Romans 16:1-15, Paul already knew many
people that were now living in Rome. Some of these he had very
close relationships with due to laboring in ministry alongside
them, and in the case of Andronicus and Junias, he had spent time
in prison with them for the sake of Christ. Paul specifically
states they were "full of goodness, filled with all
knowledge, and able also to admonish one another."
Filled with goodness is a general commendation of their
character and manner of life. Goodness is that which is
reflective of the character of God. Goodness is one of the fruit
of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23), and this fruit can only exist in
believers that are walking in submission to the Holy Spirit.
Those who walk in the flesh will bear the fruit of the deeds of
the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). You cannot walk in the Spirit of God
and in the flesh at the same time because they are the opposite
of each other (Gal. 5:16-17). The Christians at Rome were
characterized by being led by the Spirit resulting in their
goodness. This trait is demonstrated in the fact that while Paul
commonly makes corrections of other churches and / or individuals
in other churches in his other Epistles, Paul does not make any
corrections or even reference any problems in the church at Rome
or among the people there. They were to be commended for their
Paul also commended them for being "filled with
knowledge" in reference to their understanding of the
things of God. In Paul’s introduction to this letter to them
in Chapter 1, he stated that he desired to come to them in order
to impart some spiritual gift in order to help establish them
(vs. 11) and to obtain some fruit from among them (vs. 13) in
preaching the gospel (vs. 15). However, Paul did not see this as
a one way street. He also expected to encourage them in their
faith and to be encouraged by them in his own faith (vs. 12).
Paul recognized that they already were "filled with
knowledge." Much like Peter said in 2 Peter 1:12-14,
Paul also was ready to stir them up by way of reminder of things
they already knew. They already had a good doctrinal foundation
upon which they could build still further.
That doctrinal foundation and moral character also enabled
them to help others grow in Christ. They were "able to
admonish one another." To admonish (nouqetew/
the ideas of instructing, teaching, warning, admonishing, and
exhorting. It is a word describing the confrontation, both
positive and negative, that is to be a normal part of the lives
of believers as they interact with one another. It is a
comprehensive term for counseling. We, like the Romans, are to be
involved in one another’s lives as part of God’s
process in helping each of us to become conformed to the image of
His Son (Rom. 8:29). Paul’s comments in Ephesians 4:12-16
describe this interaction.
Every believer is gifted by God so that the whole body of
Christ is built up. We are used in the lives of each other to
become mature in Christ resulting in doctrinal and spiritual
stability that can withstand the temptations and deceitful
schemes of our adversaries. Speaking the truth in love to one
another we grow in all aspects into Christ. We need each other,
for God uses us in each other’s lives. We spent a lot of
time going over these principles in our study of Romans 12:3-21.
We live in a time in which many Christians have fallen into a
trap the secular world fell into many years ago of believing that
only some specially trained individual with some sort of
certification or degree is competent to counsel. That is not
true. It is God Himself that equips His people through His word
to counsel one another in how to live. Remember that 2 Peter 1:3
tells us that God’s "divine power has granted to us
everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true
knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and
excellence." While training can help us be more
effective in counseling, we must be careful that such training is
helping us develop greater "wisdom from above" (James
3:15,17) and not the "wisdom of the world" (1 Cor.
3:19) which generally gives people excuses for their sins instead
of helping them overcome sin by godliness. Psalm 1 is clear that
the blessed man is the one that does not walk in the counsel of
the ungodly. You will receive better counsel from a godly
Christian farmer from the backwoods than from a PhD psychologist
that does not direct you to the Word of God. Who do you seek out
Paul’s purpose in writing (vs. 15)
In verse 15 Paul explains why he has written to them as he
has. But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so
as to remind you again.
Again, Paul does not give any corrections to the Roman
believers, but he does make several bold statements and warnings
and reminders to them of things they already knew. It is often on
the very things that we know that we do need to be boldly warned.
Not because we are failing in doing these things, but so that we
would remain steadfast in doctrine and in living in holiness.
Paul wrote boldly on the unrighteousness of all people in
chapters 1-3. The immoral unrighteous, The moral unrighteous and
the religious unrighteous. None are righteous, not even one
(3:10). He was also bold in his declaration of justification by a
gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in
Christ Jesus to all who believe (3:21-30). Paul boldly warned
them to consider themselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God
in Christ Jesus (6:11) and that having a mind set on the flesh is
hostile toward God and that anyone who does not have the Spirit
of Christ does not belong to Him (8:7,9). Though God had judged
Israel and grafted the Gentiles into the "olive tree,"
He could also just as easily break them off too (11:17-21). He
boldly urged them to present their bodies as living sacrifices
holy and acceptable to God along with all the ramifications of
being such a living sacrifice in chapters 12-14. Christians are
to live with each other in humility while rejoicing over
God’s mercy to them in Jesus Christ.
It is the responsibility of every Christian to follow this
example as we help one another walk with Christ and mature in
God’s grace to Paul (vs. 15b, 16)
Paul explains the reason for his boldness in verses 15 &
because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a
minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest
the gospel of God, that [my] offering of the Gentiles might
become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul had stated this same truth in his introduction in 1:5.
Paul had received from God an apostleship to bring about the
obedience of faith among all the Gentiles. Paul did not earn
this. It was given to him by God’s grace. Paul knew from
what he had been saved and God’s mercy in doing so. Paul was
humbled by God’s love toward him and considered himself
"not fit to be called an apostle," yet, he also knew
that he was what he was by God’s grace which did not prove
vain (1 Cor. 15:9-10). This was how God enabled Paul to serve
Him, including being bold in his writing.
The particular word here that Paul uses to describe himself as
a minister (leitourgoV / leitourgos)
was a general term used of public officials. Paul used it earlier
in 13:6 to describe rulers as "servants of God." But
the word is often used in the New Testament to describe those who
serve God in public worship. Some examples of this include
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist who was involved in
priestly service (Luke 1:23); angels who are described as
"ministering" spirits (Heb. 1:7,14); and of Jesus in
His role as the eternal High Priest (Heb. 8:1,2; 6)
Paul was "a minister of Jesus Christ to the
Gentiles" who was "ministering as a priest the
gospel of God." A priest was someone that stood as
mediator between God and man. He declared God to the people and
helped men deal with their sin and come to God. Jesus is the
perfect priest, but He has given to every believer a priesthood
(1 Peter 2:5,9). Every Christian is to declare God to people and
bring people to God. Neither we nor Paul receive this priestly
office by inheritance from our parents, but rather by the
inheritance of faith in Christ as we are adopted into His family.
Paul declared the gospel to the Gentiles and their response in
faith was an offering of worship back to God. That was
Paul’s goal. He desired to see the Gentiles become
acceptable to God. His declaration of the good news of salvation
from sin through faith in Jesus Christ was used by the Holy
Spirit to save Gentiles who were then the "offering" of
worship to God, for they were now acceptable to Him being
sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit. The greatest worship
Paul could give to God was the offering of these Gentile
believers. But in all this, Paul was focused on Christ working
Paul’s Passion (vs. 17-21)
Boast in things pertaining to God (vs. 17)
Paul says in verse 17, "Therefore in Christ Jesus I
have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God."
From a human standpoint there was much Paul could have boasted
about himself, but Paul clearly understood that anything that he
accomplished was simply Christ working through him. In Gal.2:20
Paul declared his own view of himself as having been crucified
with Christ and no longer living, but rather that it was now
Christ living in Him. Paul did not take pride in himself. He took
pride in His savior and sought to exalt and glorify Him. Paul
expands on this in vs 18,19.
Speak of what Christ has accomplished (vs. 18,19)
"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."
The Book of Acts records some of the things that God did
through Paul. They include not only his bold preaching which
brought the gospel to throughout Asia Minor (modern Turkey),
Macedonia, and Greece, but all the signs of an apostle in the
signs and wonders that were also done through his ministry. He
healed those who were lame (Acts 14:8-10). He was stoned and left
for dead, but he got up and went back into the city (Acts
14:19-20). He cast out demons (Acts 16:18) and even raised the
dead (Acts 20:9-12). Yet, Paul did not count any of these things
as of consequence. As he said in 1 Cor. 12:9, he would rather
boast in his own weaknesses that the power of Christ might dwell
within him than to speak of what he had done.
Paul’s passion was Christ’s glory, and so his
boasting would be in what Christ had accomplished through him.
Consistently Paul would report what God had done through him
with the emphasis on God working and not on himself. That was
true in his first missions report given at the council in
Jerusalem (Acts 15:12) and would continue throughout the rest of
his life (Acts 21:19). Even in those times he had to defend his
apostleship and recount what had occurred in his life, he
considered it foolishness (2 Cor. 11, 12).
It is not what we accomplish that is of any importance, but
rather what God accomplishes through us that is important. That
change in focus makes all the difference in the world from doing
things in the strength of your flesh and doing them in the
strength of the Spirit of God working through you. Because
Paul’s ministry was done in the Spirit, God enabled him to
have a far reaching ministry that stretched from Jerusalem to
Illyricum, which is the area of Albania & Serbia. Paul fully
preached the gospel in the sense that he declared it
throughout the full geographic area God had sent him. But Paul
still had other places he desired to go to preach the gospel.
Aspire to preach in new places (vs. 20, 21)
"And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where
Christ was [already] named, that I might not build upon 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
Paul’s desire was to reach new territory. The manner in
which God had gifted Paul gave him a pioneer spirit. That would
be the mindset of the office of an "evangelist" spoken
of in Ephesians 4. There must be those that will begin the work
or proclaiming the gospel and getting things started. But there
must also be the work of all the others in the body of Christ
including those that do build on the foundations laid by others.
As we have already seen by our study of Romans 12 that it is
important that everyone in the body of Christ use their gift in
whatever ministry God gives them. God puts all the individual
parts together to cause the growth. Paul pointed this out in 1
Cor. 6:3,4 saying, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God
was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor
the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the
Paul’s passion was to take the gospel to those who had
never heard. What is your passion? What has God placed upon your
heart? What are your dreams and desires? Are you fulfilling your
part in what God wants to do through you?
Too often such desires and dreams are left unfulfilled simply
because we either get too caught up in the tyranny of the urgent,
or we become complacent. We trade what is best for what is only
good. If you are going to fulfill a dream, then there must be a
plan, and you must work to reach each goal along the way that
marks the steps of the plan. Paul did this and he shared his
plans for the future in verses 22-29.
Paul’s Plans (vs. 22-29)
22 For this reason I have often been hindered from coming
to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these
regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to
you 24 whenever I go to Spain– for I hope to see you in passing,
and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first
enjoyed your company for a while– 25 but now, I am going to
Jerusalem serving the saints.
To Go to Rome (vs. 22-23)
Paul had desired to go to Rome for many years, but he had been
hindered in doing that because he was so busy fulfilling his
purpose of reaching new places ranging from Jerusalem to
Illyricum. Rome was a place where the gospel already was
proclaimed through the Christians that had moved there. His
desire to minister to them had to be kept in the proper priority
of what God had placed on Paul’s heart. Paul had now seen
that he had fulfilled his purpose in these regions, and so he was
now free to go to Rome with the exception of fulfilling his
obligation explained in verses 25-28. But Paul’s plan to go
to Rome was only a stepping stone for being able to go to a place
in keeping with his priority of going to places where the gospel
had not yet been proclaimed.
To Go to Spain (vs. 24)
Paul wanted to go to Spain. This country was referred to as
Tarshish in the Old Testament. That was the country Jonah was
seeking to flee to when God brought a change in his destination
via a big fish. It had become an important center of commerce and
culture in the Roman empire, yet it was so far removed from the
events of Christ’s life in Judea, that they had not yet
received a gospel witness. Paul desired for the Roman Christians
to help him along in fulfilling his goal of preaching in Spain,
but only after he was able to first enjoy their company for a
Travel is so quick and easy in our nation that it may be hard
for us to grasp how important this help was both to Paul and the
church. But imagine going back to a time before there were
planes, cars or trains. Traveling took a long time and was not
only physically demanding, but also dangerous. Communication was
only as fast as someone could travel. Paul would have received
needed rest as well as supplies needed to continue the journey,
and they would have received from Paul not only the opportunity
to sit under his teaching, but also to learn what God was doing
in distant lands. The result was that both Paul and the church
would rejoice and praise God.
But before Paul could go to Rome and then on to Spain, he had
to travel the opposite direction to complete his current ministry
obligation to serve the saints in Jerusalem (vs. 25).
To Finish Current Ministry (vs. 25-28)
In verses 25-27 Paul tells them 26 For Macedonia and Achaia
have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the
saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased [to do so,] and
they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in
their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them
also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this,
and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way
of you to Spain. We examined the principles of giving a
couple of months ago when we looked at the gift of giving in
Romans 12:8, so we will not be doing that again here, but this
contribution by those from Macedonia and Achaia for the poor in
Jerusalem are the example of this practical means by which
Christians show their love to each other. Paul talks about them
more in 2 Cor. 8 & 9.
There had been animosity between the Jews and Gentiles, but
these Gentiles recognized the debt they owed to the Jewish
Christians. They were pleased to respond to the needs of the poor
saints in Jerusalem. It was through Jewish believers that the
gospel had come to them and they received a spiritual blessing.
They were now seeking to share in fellowship with them from their
material blessings. This was a response of love, not compulsion.
2 Cor. 8:1-4 tell us that the Macedonians begged Paul to
participate in this relief effort though they themselves were in
Paul was now on his way to Jerusalem with this collection. It
is important to note that though Paul desired to go to Rome and
then on to Spain, he would complete his present obligation first.
Only after Paul had finished this task and "put a
seal on this fruit of theirs" would he be able to move
on to his next goal.
There are two important character traits shown here by
Paul’s example. First, you keep your priorities in order and
fulfill present obligations before moving on to something else. A
workman that leaves a job undone is worthless and the same is
true in ministry. I could tell you lots of stories of people that
start out with great vigor and promises only to see them either
lack the endurance needed to finish or become side tracked onto
something else and leave the task undone. They prove themselves
to be untrustworthy and therefore ineligible for greater
responsibility including leadership roles.Paul was trustworthy.
He would finish what he started even as he had in mind what he
would do next. Prove yourself trustworthy by keeping your word
and finish what you start.
The second great character trait Paul demonstrates here is
this planning for the future. Paul was always looking farther
into the future and planning even as he was completing current
ministry. He did not do this in a manner that distracted him from
the ministry at hand, but kept him anticipating what God would do
with him next. Paul lived in the reality of Proverbs 16:9, "The
mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."
Many of Paul’s plans did not work out the way he had
anticipated, but he left that in God’s hands. We can too.
We are to anticipate the future and make plans for what we
would like to see accomplished with our lives, but we must leave
the actual working out of those plans in God’s hands. There
is a comfort and peace that we experience when we daily live in
trust of the providence of God to direct us. Depending on the
sovereignty of God is not an excuse for failing to plan.
Christians are not to be fatalistic. But it is a wonderful
comfort to know that He is directing even when things are
confusing to us.
To be a Blessing (vs.29)
Finally, Paul planned for all of this to be a blessing. "And
I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fulness of the
blessing of Christ."
Contrary to current popular theology, the fulness of the
blessing of Christ is not materialistic comfort or life without
conflict. Paul gives details in 2 Cor. 11 of many of the things
he suffered in serving Christ. Jesus told us to expect to suffer
at the hands of the ungodly when we are actively living for Him
(Matt. 5:10-12; John 16:33). The blessing here is spiritual in
nature and is the fulness of serving God to the maximum of your
potential. It is serving God to the best of your ability and
knowing that He is using you for His eternal glory. The fruit of
this is the ability to be content in all circumstances (Phil.
4:11f). Along with this is a peace that passes all understanding
(Phil. 4:7) which the world cannot have or give (John 14:27).
This was the manner in which Paul lived, and it was the manner in
which he wanted to encourage the Romans to live.
How are you doing in these areas? Are you following
Paul’s example even as he followed Christ? Paul had received
God’s grace and as a result was living his life in the
service of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has gifted each of us
differently and given us different ministries, but every
Christian is to live in the service of Christ. How well are you
doing at that?
Paul was passionate about serving Christ and had very clear
desires for fulfilling that passion. What are you passionate
about? What are your desires for fulfilling that passion?
Paul also planned for the future even while fulfilling current
ministry obligations. How well are you doing at being faithful to
fulfill your current ministry obligations? Are you planning for
the future and how the Lord might use you in even greater ways
than at present? How are you preparing yourself for such future
And finally, Paul rested in God’s providence to direct
him each step even as he planned his way. Are you learning to
live in such contentment regardless of circumstances and rest in
God’s care for you?
If your answer was "no" to any of these questions or
you could not answer them, then make plans to talk with me or one
of our church leaders and let us help you grow in these areas so
that you too will know the fulness of the blessings of Jesus
Christ in your life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * *
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children –
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children : Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "Paul" is mentioned in the sermon 2) Discuss with
your parents what was important in Paul’s life and how he
planned to make sure he did what was important. What is important
in your life and what plans do you have to reach your goals?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is "passion?" What are you passionate about? What
did Paul’ know about the Roman Christians? How did he know
about them? What does it mean to be "full of goodness?"
"Filled with all knowledge?" "To admonish one
another?" In what ways did Paul write boldly to them? Give
some examples. What grace did Paul receive from God? How did that
grace change Paul’s life? In what ways did Paul’
minister as a priest the gospel? If you are a Christian, in what
ways do you fulfill your position as a "priest of God?"
What did Paul find to boast about? In what ways was Paul used by
Christ? Describe some of them. What was Paul’s aspiration?
How did he fulfill those aspirations? How did Paul show
commitment to current responsibilities? What are your
aspirations? How are you planning to fulfill them? How are your
current ministries preparing you for what you would like to do in
the future? What specific goals have you set toward fulfilling
them? Who is encouraging you / keeping you accountable to
reaching those goals? Why did Paul want to go to Spain? What was
hindering Paul from going to Rome? What did he have to do first?
What obligation did the Greeks have toward the Jews? How did they
respond to that obligation? What did Paul expect from those in
Rome once he arrived there? What would they receive from Paul?
Paul did not want to "build on another man’s
foundation." What did he mean by that? Is that something
that should be true of all Christians? Why or why not? What
spiritual gift(s) do you have? How are you using them? What
foundation are you building on?
Paul’s Passion and Plans – Romans 15:14-29
Character of the Romans (vs. 14)
Filled with goodness
Filled with knowledge
Able to admonish one another
Paul’s Purpose in Writing (vs. 15)
God’s Grace to Paul (vs 15b, 16)
Paul’s Passion (vs. 17-21)
To Boast in Things Pertaining to God (vs. 17)
To Speak of what Christ has Accomplished (vs.
To Preach in New Places (vs. 20,21)
Paul’s Plans (vs. 22-29)
To Go to Rome (vs. 22,23)
To Go to Spain (vs. 24)
To Finish Current Ministry (vs. 25-28)
To Be a Blessing (vs. 29)