Paul has accomplished his goal in his letter to the Romans by explaining the essence of the gospel and how one who embraces the gospel can live that out. Now, he bids the Romans farewell by revealing his philosophy of ministry.
In his concluding remarks, he expresses his confidence in their ability to understand the basic truths of the gospel that He has laid out in this epistle. He felt they were mature and able to teach, but it never hurts to be reminded of these basic principles of grace (15:15)! They never grow old and are the foundation of our faith. Romans is a foundational book that never gets old no matter where we are on our journey of faith.
Paul stated that he was a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, fully preaching the gospel of God according to His plan and for His glory, and serving in the power of the Holy Spirit (15:16-24, note the trinity).
Paul specific calling was to preach the gospel where Christ was not yet named (15:20). It is not wrong to build upon another person's foundation (John 4:38; 1 Corinthians 3:10), but continuing to expand the gospel is very high on God's list of priorities (Matthew 24:14; Isaiah 52:15). Paul was so busy with his calling that he had not been able to get to the Romans on his way to Spain, which was the western limit of the empire. He was ready to go there after dropping off a gift from the churches in Asia Minor to the poor in Jerusalem. There is no historical record that says he ever made it to Spain though, even though he wanted to. He did get to Rome, but he arrived as a prisoner (Acts 27-28).
Paul asked for prayer from the Roman Christians because, in delivering the gift from the Gentile Christians to the poor Jerusalem believers, he knew he would encounter hostile Jewish unbelievers (Acts 20:22-23). We know from Acts that he was able to deliver the gift and barely escaped flogging by Roman authorities (Acts 22:25-29).
Romans 16 began his farewell to many people. First was Phoebe, who is believed to be the carrier of the letter to Rome. Then he mentioned an extremely diversified list of 28 individuals (26 by name) with whom he shepherded. I love how relational Paul was! He mentioned women and house churches. I believe these both figured prominently in the early church. The early church valued women, and churches were intimate and relational.
Paul gave a final warning to those who caused dissension through false teaching. These were probably the Judaizers whom I mentioned at the beginning of our study of Romans and had been a problem in other churches (Philippians 3:17-21).
At the end of the letter of Romans, he mentions several saints who were with him in Corinth: Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; 20:4, Phil 2:22; 1 & 2 Timothy), Lucius (perhaps of Acts 13:1); Jason (perhaps of Acts 17:6-9); Sosipater (probably the same as in Acts 20:4); Tertius, who penned the letter and acted as Paul's scribe; Gaius (Acts 19:29;20:4; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 2 John 1; and perhaps in Acts 18:7); Erastus, a Christian public official who has been identified in archaeological ruins in Corinth (perhaps of Acts 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:20); and unknown Quartus, the brother.
His final doxology sums up so much of what we have learned in our reading and studying of Romans and in the Bible Book Club as a whole. The mystery is that God intended for the Gentiles ("all the nations") to come to obedience of the faith too (16:25-26)! Glory to Him forever!!!
Paul's priority was to preach in places where Christ was not yet named. We lead a group of people who want to do just that. It is interesting because I had a friend who recently expressed how much she did not like that. She said, "There is so much they can do right here where we live!" (I cannot wait until we get to this chapter since we are studying Romans together over the next couple of years!)
While I agree there is plenty to do right where we live, we are "building on someone else's foundation." There is nothing wrong with that, but I think that God places a high priority on reaching those who have not yet heard; who do not have anyone who has ever "moved into the neighborhood" and been a living example of the living Christ. My family did that once, and so many of my friends from this people group said they had never met a follower of Jesus, and how pleasantly surprised they were! (Before they met me, they thought all "Christians" dressed immodestly like the women on Baywatch!)
Out of the 6.8 billion people in the world, 2.8 billion are unreached people groups with little or no access to the Gospel. Of those unreached, there are 418 unengaged, unreached people groups with populations of over 40,000, numbering about 130 million people with no Gospel witness. Someone has to make it a priority if they are going to follow Jesus' words:
This gospel of the kingdom
shall be preached in the whole world
as a testimony to all the nations,
and then the end will come.
And I ask you . . .
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,
"How beautiful are the feet of those
who bring good news of good things!"
Did you know that less than 10% of outreach is done among the unreached with an even lower number among the unengaged, unreached?
"Remember you are God's sword,
His instrument -- I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name.
In great measure, according to the purity
and perfection of the instrument, will be the success.
It is not great talent God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.
A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God."
Robert Murray McCheyne
How can you be an "awful weapon in the hand of God" for the unengaged, unreached millions He wants to draw to Himself?
Your first step might be to . . .
Since we are headed into the "lazy days of summer," what about taking just 1 minute a day to pray for an unreached people group as you see the sunshine? Let the shining sun remind you to pray that the SON will shine among the darkness of the unreached?
I like to pray for specific unreached people groups because so few are going to them, and many of them do not have anybody "in the neighborhood" praying "on site with insight"! Your prayers can change that.
Here is a great site to sign up for emails or Apps to help you:
Pray for the Unreached People of the Day
One year, I committed myself to praying for one unreached people group for every mile I "walked for the world." I would receive daily email and send them to my iPod or print them on paper so that I could read them while I walked and prayed, but now they have an App for iPods, iPhones, and Androids that make it even easier!
It was such an enriching experience for me!
Your next step might be to . . .
I know many people going to the unengaged and unreached. If you are looking for someone, contact me, and I can connect you!
Your next step after that might be to . . .
There are many short-term opportunities available for people who want to go to unreached peoples. Contact me!
Maybe God is tugging at your heart to GO and "move into the neighborhood" of one of these groups long term!
Contact me if you need any help on these next steps!
Lord, teach us what You would have us do to be part of Your plan for all the nations. Amen.