Romans 15:14-33

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 21, 2009


We are wrapping up Paul’s letter to the Romans.

:14-21 Paul’s ministry

:14 Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

goodnessagathosune – uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness

Even though there were problems in the church at Rome, there’s a sense in which Paul believed the best about people.

to admonishnoutheteo – to admonish, warn, exhort, literally, “to put in mind”. It’s a word that can describe much of what we would call “counseling”.


You can counsel.

God has given you quite a lot to help others.
I remember seeing studies done on people who were complaining of certain emotional problems and the statistics of recovery for those who used professional counseling as opposed to those who just had some good friends. The rates of recovery were the same.
Now before you go out and start your own counseling clinic, it’s good to realize that there are plenty of situations that can be over our heads.  There’s nothing wrong with encouraging someone to seek good counsel.

But there’s a lot you have to offer:

1. You can listen.
To tell you the truth, most of my “counseling” consists of listening. I have to admit that having the “aura” of being a pastor can make people think you have all the answers, but to tell you the truth, much of what I do is listen.
(James 1:19 NKJV) So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
2. You have God’s Word.
There is incredible wisdom in God’s Word. If you’ll take time to learn it and hide it in your heart, you’ll find that you’ll have lots of very good, practical answers for people in need.
(2 Tim 3:16-17 NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. {17} It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
3. You can relate.
Share what God has done for you. It’s not uncommon for you to find that something you’ve learned in your life will apply to the other person. God will use the things in your life to encourage others.
(2 Cor 1:3-4 NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, {4} who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

When we’ve been comforted by God, we can share that comfort with others.

4. You can pray.
You may not feel like you can find a Bible verse for every situation. You may not even have a clue as to what the person is going through because you’ve lived such a sheltered life.
But you can pray. You can always pray. It’s really not a last resort, it’s our first resort.
(James 5:16 NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

:15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God,

Even though they are well able to counsel and exhort each other, Paul still has a calling he has to follow. He still needs to address some things in Rome.

There are people with the mindset that they don’t need anybody. They would say to Paul, “We are able to counsel ourselves, we don’t need you telling us what to do!”

But these Romans needed Paul to say a few things to them.

:16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Paul uses some interesting language here that paints a specific picture:

ministerleitourgos servant; of the temple; of one busied with holy things; of a priest

ministeringhierourgeo (“temple” + “work”) – (this is the only place this word is found in Scripture) to minister in the manner of a priest

Don’t be thinking “Catholic priest” here. Be thinking Jewish, Levitical priest.

offeringprosphora – the act of offering. In the NT a sacrifice.

But here, the thing that Paul is bringing before the temple of God is not an animal sacrifice, but the bringing of the Gentiles to the Lord.

Paul sees himself in a sense like a priest bringing a sacrifice to God. But the sacrifice that he brings is not a lamb or a goat, it’s the Gentiles.

sanctifiedhagiazo to separate from profane things and dedicate to God; consecrate things to God; to purify

And when you bring a sacrifice, it needs to be “holy”, set apart for God, purified and appropriate to give to God.



That process of being purified and becoming more like Jesus is called “sanctification”.

It’s a lifelong process.
It’s not about cleaning up your life so you can be loved and accepted by God.
Jesus has taken care of our acceptance before God.
But as long as we live in these bodies, God wants to be at work, conforming us to the image of God.
When we first come to God, God loves us just the way we are.
But He also loves us too much to leave us the way we are.

Paul shows us that the sanctification process can involve three things:

1.  By God’s Word
That’s what Paul is writing, God’s Word.
2.  By admonition
(Prov 27:17 NKJV) As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

We need people in our lives who will encourage us in the right direction.  People who will “pull our covers”.

3.  By the Holy Spirit
Sanctification is the process of becoming “holy”.
That’s what the “Holy Spirit” is, holy.
When He is at work in our lives, He wants to make changes, making us more “holy”.

:17 Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God.

Paul is saying that it’s okay to boast about what God has been doing.

:18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient;

Paul will be careful not to boast about the accomplishments he’s done on his own, but only the things that God has done through him.

:19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Paul’s ministry was one that saw miracles. People were healed. Demons were cast out. A boy in Troas was raised from the dead.

In his travels, Paul has gone from the land of Israel, up into modern Syria and Turkey, over into the land of Greece. That’s a lot of travel considering he didn’t have airplanes, trains, or cars.

Show Google Earth video jumping from Jerusalem to Antioch, to Cyprus, to Ephesus, to Philippi, to Thessalonica, to Corinth, to Illyricum

:20 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel,

made it my aimphilotimeomai (“love” + “honor”) – to be ambitious; to strive earnestly, make it one's aim

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel:

(Rom 1:16 NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Instead, Paul considered the preaching of the gospel an honor he would strive for.

 not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation,

There are two ways of building a ministry – you can build it by reaching people for Jesus who are lost or backslidden, or you can steal them from other churches.

Paul chose to do the first.

:21 but as it is written: "To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand."

Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:15.

He has a Scriptural reason for not building on another man’s foundation.

He has a reason to make his aim the reaching of the lost, not the found.


Don’t steal from another’s work

The other churches are not our “competition”. We are all on the same side.
Our goal ought to be to reach the lost for Jesus.
I see this as something to think about inside our church as well.
I love to hear of people wanting to start up new ministries.
But every once in a while someone will want to start up a new ministry that is already being done by someone else.

The new person may not be particularly fond of how the other person is doing it, so they want to venture out on their own.

What is most likely the problem is actually one of pride. Rather than humbling themselves and coming alongside the other person and helping them, they want to be in charge.

David and Absalom – two paths to the throne

The path that David took to become king was one that took time.

Saul was the first king of Israel, but he had a tough time walking with God.  There came a time when God was ready for a new king.

The prophet Samuel was sent by God to pick out the new king, and it was the young shepherd boy David.  But the actual crowning wouldn’t take place for years.

David would go on to kill the giant Goliath and then become one of King Saul’s chief army captains. Saul would become jealous of David.  And David would spend a period of time running for his life.

Twice David found himself in the position of doing something about becoming king by killing Saul.

But both times David chose not to hurt Saul, and instead to put it in God’s hands. He wasn’t going to become king the wrong way.

Eventually the Philistines took care of Saul and David became king in God’s timing, in God’s way.


When David was growing older and older, one of his sons began to wonder when it was going to be time for him to take Dad’s place.

(2 Sam 15:1-6 NKJV) After this it happened that Absalom provided himself with chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. {2} Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, "What city are you from?" And he would say, "Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel." {3} Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you." {4} Moreover Absalom would say, "Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice." {5} And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. {6} In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

This is certainly one way to get into ministry. Cut down the guy ahead of you behind his back. Tell everyone else how you can do it so much better than he can. Steal the hearts of the people.

It worked. Absalom became king. For a few weeks. David fled for his life. But David was supposed to be king. Absalom wasn’t. David gathered an army and defeated him.

Don’t build your ministry by trying to tear others down. Don’t be trying to steal what others have worked hard at.
Let God do the building. Let God put you where you need to be.

:22-33 Plans to visit Rome

:22 For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you.

Every time Paul would think of going to Rome, a new opportunity to preach to an unreached area would crop up.

:23 But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you,

Paul had been in Ephesus for three years, building up a great church and seeing a great work done in the land of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). But trouble eventually developed and Paul had to flee Ephesus for his life.

Paul has now traveled all the way to Corinth, where he is writing this letter to the Romans, and it’s stirring up his old longings to go to Rome.

:24 whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.

SpainShow map.  Before going to Spain, Paul will first make a trip to Jerusalem.

Paul’s plan was to go to Spain, but on the way he would stop at Rome.

Why wasn’t his goal to go to Rome?

The gospel was already being preached in Rome.
He had people he wanted to see and visit with, but his ministry of preaching the gospel would be taking him to Spain.

Paul is thinking that once he’s finished his visit in Rome, perhaps the church there will help support him on his trip to Spain.


Directions and decisions.

I love to take passages like this and examine them to try to get inside of Paul’s head and see how he thought. How did Paul make his decisions in life? Do we see any clues here? Is there anything we can apply to our lives?
1. Scriptural Principles
(Rom 15:21 NKJV)  but as it is written: …
Paul had guiding principles in his life. One of them was to not preach the gospel in a place that already had a church. He wasn’t out to set up rival churches in the same city.
These principles were based on Scripture.

(Psa 119:105 NKJV)  Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

God’s Word can light up the way we are to walk and give us direction.

2. Desires
(Rom 15:23 NKJV)  …having a great desire these many years to come to you,
Paul had a desire to see the folks in Rome, and God used that desire.
(Psa 37:4 NKJV)  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

When I find myself taking delight in the Lord, and He is the One thing that I am seeking, I will find that the Lord will be putting new desires into my heart. They will be His desires.

Have you been delighting yourself in the Lord? Do you have desires in your heart? Are they desires that you are not ashamed of before the Lord? It could be that God has put those desires in your life. It could be that some day He will do something to bring it about.

3. Plans
(Rom 15:24 NKJV)  whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you…
He was making plans to see them. He said “I shall come to you”. He was counting on it.
Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that is we’re going to be really spiritual, then we shouldn’t make any plans and just close our eyes and we’ll somehow magically get to the place we ought to be.
It is spiritual to make plans.

(Prov 16:3 NASB) Commit your works to the LORD, And your plans will be established.

4. Trust
(Rom 15:24 NKJV)  …For I hope to see you …
He was trusting God to help him with his plans.

(Prov 3:5-6 NKJV)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; {6} In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

5. Flexibility
It may not turn out anything like you’re expecting.
Paul will go to Rome, but not exactly the way he was thinking of.
He ended up leaving Corinth (where he was writing to the Romans) and when he got to Jerusalem, he was arrested. He then spent several years in jail and then finally appealed his case to Caesar. He was sent to Rome, all expenses paid, as a prisoner. He got there, but just not quite the way he may have originally expected.
God called me to be a Senior Pastor 35 years ago. At first I really didn’t know how I’d get there, but eventually I decided that after going through seminary, I’d like to be an assistant pastor somewhere, and then become a senior pastor. Along the way, there were several things I definitely did not want to do. One was to work with Children’s Ministry. I carefully avoided taking any classes in Children’s Ministry that I absolutely didn’t have to. I also did not want to be involved in planting a church, starting from scratch. That was too scary. When I left seminary, I didn’t become an assistant pastor, I got a job as a teller-trainee. But I started getting involved, just helping out at Calvary Anaheim. I did eventually become an assistant pastor, but guess what my job was? Children’s Ministry. And yes, I am now a Senior Pastor, but it was only after we planted the church in Fullerton that it happened.

God wants to lead you. He may be giving you desires that will help. But be flexible. It may not happen the way you expect.

:25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.

Paul’s trip to Jerusalem was to help the church that was struggling with a tough economy.

:26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.

contributionkoinonia fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, a collection, a contribution

Paul has been collecting funds from the Gentile churches in Greece and Asia Minor to help the church in Jerusalem. You get glimpses of this same offering in the Corinthian letters as well (which were written while Paul was still in Ephesus):

(1 Cor 16:1 NKJV) Now concerning the collection for the saints…

:27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

made partakerskoinoneo to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner


Spiritual benefit obligates physical support.

Paul is saying that since the Gentiles owe their salvation to the Jerusalem church, they have a debt, an obligation to support them.
I learned about giving when I grew up in the Baptist church.
It is my understanding that a number of years ago, First Baptist Church of Van Nuys decided to kick out all those in the church that spoke in tongues. The following week, Jack Hayford’s church, Church on the Way, doubled in their attendance from 1,000 people to 2,000 people. But their income tripled! You have to hand it to the Baptists, they do teach their people about giving.
It’s sad, but the statistics show that a very, very small portion of the people going to a church do the majority of the giving that supports the church. Some people have the idea that giving to a church is like going to a movie. If they’re entertained, they’ll put a twenty in the offering.
It’s funny how churches try to motivate their people to give:
One Sunday a pastor told his congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns. After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in the offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said he’d like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate. A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in thanksgiving asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, “I’ll take him and him and him.”
How much should you give?
As a young man at the Baptist church I was taught to “tithe”, to give a tenth of my income to the Lord.
Paul taught:

(2 Cor 9:7 NKJV) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

A lot of people choke at the thought of giving God a tenth of their income. But I’ll let you in on a secret, there are more than a few folks in our church who do “tithe”, and they are the ones that keep the doors open and the lights on.  I might let them pick out the “hymns”  J

To be honest, my personal conviction is that the tithe should be the minimum of where our giving starts at, not the top.

Yet ultimately, we need to learn to listen to the Lord and let Him guide us on our giving.

:28 Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.

:29 But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

:30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,

Paul is begging the saints in Rome to be praying for him.

One of the things I experienced on the trip to Hungary and Russia is this same sense of craving for the prayers of the saints.

I heard the same kind of thing from Caleb and Drew.
Pray for those out on the front lines.

:31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

Paul has already been getting this sense that he was going to be in trouble when he got to Judea.

As his trip would progress, there were continual prophesies warning him about the dangers up ahead.

Some feel that Paul was being disobedient to the Lord in ignoring these warnings.  I feel that God was simply warning him to brace him for what was ahead.  I think that Paul had the right attitude when he would say to the Ephesian elders:

(Acts 20:24 NKJV)  "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

my service for Jerusalem – the money that he was bringing to Jerusalem.

:32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Paul’s prayers were answered.

He did come to the saints in Rome.  He just didn’t come the way he thought he would.  He came with an all-expense paid ticket, courtesy of Caesar.