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There is one more aspects of the church’s maturity that Paul wants to address and it is to do with mission. In the second half of chapter 15 Paul affirms once again his calling to be a missionary to the Gentiles. So far this has been in the east of the Roman Empire, but now he knows his calling to the western part of the Empire and to places where the gospel has never been preached. Paul is writing the letter to the Romans while in Corinth and he will leave there to go to Jerusalem to leave with them the collection from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia and then head to Spain. En route he will stop in Rome to visit with the believers there.

His purpose for stopping in Rome is two-fold: (1) to encourage the believers there and (2) to give them opportunity to share in this mission. They may not be able to go to Spain, but they can support Paul through their prayers and giving as he makes the journey and spends time at the ends of the earth of his day.

Paul knows this is part of their ongoing discipleship, but he also knows that the work of the Holy Spirit is essential as they do this together. And so we learn of the need of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we undertake God’s mission in the world. We can see these in three Ps:

  1. Power of the Holy Spirit
  2. Partnership in the gospel
  3. Prayer for all the church

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

The heart of the gospel is knowing that we will be safe on Canaan's side, the promised land, the land that is ours. And so this evening, as we get close to the end of Paul's letter to the Romans, We only have two more passages to consider after this evening, whenever we look at chapter 16. And tonight Paul wants to bring us back to his mission, to that message of the gospel going out so that indeed all anxious fears will be subsided. And that a people of God's choosing will be landed safe on Canaan's side. And it is his mission to the Gentiles. And he's gonna tell us tonight how this ministry will take him to the ends of the known world of his day. And whenever we look back on the history of the church, it is effectively the history of God's mission. Because in his grace, Christ has preserved and grown his church through all ages. And even as we were praying just a moment ago, even today, he's continuing to grow his church through all ages, even through the digital means that we now know. He's been working through the faithfulness and zeal of brothers and sisters of many different stripes and many different generations. But the church has known bloodshed, it's known strife, It knew that in the 16th and the 17th centuries. And by the 18th century, those had largely subsided in our church history with most European countries established in some sense as either being Protestant or Roman Catholic, but faithful Christians. In this time of peace of the church have been scattered to the ends of the earth by the biting winds of persecution and the stage was set for a new evangelistic effort of which today's mission agencies are the closest offspring. One such missionary at the very beginning of all of this was William Carey, born in 1761, who, he was an extraordinarily gifted man, and God achieved remarkable things through him in India. One of his primary achievements was that of translating. He began translating the New Testament into Bengali, and then into Sanskrit. and related languages. And in his lifetime, the mission that he started translated and distributed at least part of the Bible in over 30 languages and dialects. Kerry also had broader influence in Indian society by bringing the values of the gospel to bear on the system that they had, the caste system. And by the middle of the 19th century, there were as many as half a million professing Christians in British India. William Carey had birthed the model of modern missions. And he is quoted as saying how modern missions should happen. It's to, so he says, to know the will of God, we need an open Bible. and an open map. He knew that the mission of God's people was to know scripture and then to proclaim it wherever God would lead. Kerry lived at a time of history, of the great expanse of the British empire, and this allowed him to travel as the map was, was really being written. But Kerry was not the first to practice this. To Kerry, India was the end of the earth, but actually it was the Apostle Paul who demonstrated the need for the church to be engaged in mission. And so we come to the second half of chapter 15 where he makes this very clear. He begins in verse 14 by providing a survey. of what he has written already in Romans and to commend his readers for their faith in Jesus Christ. The Roman church was a growing church. It had both, uh, growing in numbers and it was growing in faith. They were devouring scripture. They were eating it up, but they were also applying it. They weren't simply just sitting and learning. They were actually living it. But Paul has one more challenge for them in verses 15 and 16. And this is what he says. But in some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified, and blessed. Paul here is acknowledging that he has not written exhaustively about every issue that the church needed to hear. Rather, he has proclaimed to them the key issues that they need, that needed to be addressed in the church. He also recognizes that he's spoken boldly to them. Perhaps often wondering if he had overstepped the mark, but he's not pulled punches or dumbed down what he had need to say. Paul, as we've seen, cares about this church and he wants it to grow in maturity and there's still one area for them to grow and it is in partnership Gentiles that he has been called to. Notice in verse 16 Paul refers to his ministry as that of priestly service. Now whenever we think of priestly service in the church, we ultimately have to think of Jesus Christ, our great And his priestly service was self sufficient. He didn't need anyone else. But, but it does require human ambassadors. By grace, Paul serves in this role to the Gentiles. He is willing to go for the sake of Christ in this priestly duty. to the Gentiles. He is Christ's agent, as it were, in, for the proclamation of the gospel and his envisioned goal is the conversion of Gentiles so that they will be acceptable before God, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Now that's a, an interesting wee phrase there, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. I wonder, do you know what sanctified means? Well, let's go to what many of us learned as children, the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It's that concise understanding of what a lot of these terms mean. And even though it's in old English, the question is asked, what is sanctification? And the answer is, first of all, sanctification is the work of God's free grace. They go on to say, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die on the sin. and live unto righteousness. Sanctification comes from the image of the temple, because each day blood would be splattered on the altar, and this would be done to show that there was forgiveness for sin. And so each day we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, not by the blood of a lamb, but the blood that was shed once by the lamb Jesus Christ. And so today we are sanctified not only in the Holy Spirit, but by the Holy Spirit, because sanctification is God's work of free grace. And what that work does is it renews us. And so Paul's desire is to see the lost not only one with the gospel, but renewed after the image of God. To die, to sin, and to live in the right ways of God. And this hasn't changed. Because when we speak of sanctification, this is the work the Holy Spirit does in each of us today. We are renewed daily, because we each daily need to die a little bit more to sin, and we need to live a little bit more each day to the right ways of God, so that through Jesus, we will be accepted by Him. We will be accepted as redeemed. Now, this is important for us to know, because often we think that we can simply say that our coming to faith was at a certain point and a certain time, and we rely on that rather than the work of the Holy Spirit each and every day in our lives. You see, the Gospel grows in us. Yes, it is a message that changes us in the miracle of a moment, but we don't remain stagnant. We have to grow and we must trust in the Holy Spirit to sanctify us every day so that we will die more to sin, or onto sin, and we will live onto righteousness. That we will die, the sin within us will die a little bit more every day, and every day we will grow in our living onto righteousness. And Paul's already written this, about this, in 2 Thessalonians 2, verses 13 to 14. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. You see, what Paul tells us is that in coming to We are sanctified by the Spirit. We believe the truth. And the Spirit renews it in us each day. This is how we are to live. The Gospel, the heart of the Gospel that Paul is talking about throughout this letter, is that we will know it and we will live it. And we will know it daily as we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. And Paul wants to continue talking about the Spirit and our openness to the Spirit and so in verses 17 to 20 Paul is clear of what the method of his mission is. He will proclaim the truth of the gospel and he confirms this in verse 18. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed. In pointing us to word and deed here, Paul is saying that he will live out the gospel so that people will see it grounded in real life. The Gentiles of Paul's day are philosophers. They're worshipers of a pantheon of gods, a whole arena of gods. Gods that you can pick and choose who you want to worship on that day. They're not necessarily realists when it comes to religion, so they need to see the so called philosophy of Paul, or that philosophy as they see it, it has to be grounded in life so that it will actually make sense. And he will proclaim the gospel and he will live the truth. But he is also aware of the work of the Holy Spirit, because he says in verse 19, By the power and signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Eliakim, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. Paul recognizes his testimony of faith. His living out of the gospel will have a part to play, but he will not hinder and indeed he expects the work of the Holy Spirit. That work of the Holy Spirit to convince the heart and the soul of what is this wonderful truth. And so Paul will not only be spirit filled, he will be spirit led. This he will need as he goes to places where the gospel has never been preached. And isn't it wonderful that he wants to go to the unreached, the completely unreached, the new tribes, as it were, that have yet to hear the gospel. He doesn't want to build on someone else's. He wants to be the pioneer, not for his own glory, but for God's glory. And this is the example for us as we engage in proclaiming the good news of the gospel. As we share this good news, and we must be sharing it, We should be open to the Holy Spirit leading us, and not only leading us, but enabling us to speak the truth that needs to be heard. The Apostle Paul, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and many who have stepped out in faith to cross the seas or cross the street have spoken the truth in boldness through the power of the Holy Spirit. And we shouldn't think that the same can't be done through us. It can. God can use us. We don't have to be theologically trained at a seminary or a college. We simply need to know the gospel ourselves to be living it out so that those in this modern age who are more philosophical about religion will see the gospel and life matching up and will see it grounded. and well lived and something that is to be followed. Because Jesus assures us that when we do take this step of faith, led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in John 14 verses 25 to 26, these things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things. You see, we haven't been abandoned. We haven't been left alone. We haven't been pushed out the door and said, There you go. get on with it. God graciously has given us the Holy Spirit and it is the Spirit who enables us and so we should be attentive to the Spirit's work in our lives. And you might ask, well how do we do that? Well I think, I think we know. I think we know when there's been missed opportunity. I think we know when we had the moment to do the right thing and to say the right thing and even put a little word in simply to say I'll be praying for you when someone opens up about something they're facing. That's how the Spirit leads. Opportunities. To live out faith before a watching world. It's not about writing and preaching a sermon. It's about who you will go into work with tomorrow. It's about who you will see in the supermarket queue. Who will you talk to behind the counter? Who will you meet up with for coffee? Who of your family will you meet? who's going through something where you can simply say, I'll pray for you, and you will be surprised what that will do and the reaction that comes. And of course, there may be times when harder words are needed. We need to confront when something is blatantly wrong, but we must back it up with Scripture that, so that we show what our standard is, so that we can point others to the good standard of Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be spirit led in our lives. To be attentive and to be willing to having that open Bible and as it were that map in front of us, wherever God will lead us. Now Paul continues in verse 23 of this passage to speak of his visit to Rome. He wants to get to the imperial city and he's, he sought repeatedly to get to Rome but he's often been hindered because of regions in the east of the Roman empire to which God has preferred to send him. And in saying that he has no longer, has any room for this work means either that he has reached all the areas. that he has intended to meet, that is under the Lord's criteria, or that others have evangelized so many other areas in the east that it's time for him to look to the west, to fresh horizons, so as not to build on someone else's foundation. If and when Paul does reach Rome, it will be en route to Spain. Now, it's not going to Spain for a package holiday, I can tell you that, but Spain was the end of the earth. Whenever Jesus said, go to the ends of the earth, That's exactly what Paul is doing. The earth finished. That's Spain. That was it. You couldn't see land. There was nothing in front of you. And so this was it. To the end of the earth. And as he travels there, yes, he planned to stop in Rome, and when he does, he expects the Roman church to participate in this mission to the Gentiles. In Spain through contribution of money, food, and other necessary assistance as Paul may require. Early missionaries like Paul relied on local and spontaneous assistance since established mission support didn't exist back then. Paul's desires to enjoy the fellowship of the Roman church, but this is not his point of traveling there. According to his plans at this point, he wants to go, yes, to encourage them, but not as they think. to give them a wider perspective that they've yet more to grow in their maturity to encourage him and support him in this mission. But his first step will be to Jerusalem and to bring aid that has been collected for the Jerusalem church. This has been done on Paul's third missionary journey where he started there in Palestine. He made his way across, uh, if you can see it, uh, or sorry, he made his way up through, uh, Syria, the solid line through, uh, Asia Minor. collecting money for the church in Jerusalem. And now he's on his way back. He's writing this letter from Corinth there in Aichea. And so the dotted line then follows him back to Jerusalem where he will bring the money. And this collection has been a process of years to support the harsh social and economic conditions that the believers in Jerusalem have been facing. And the church in Macedonia there, Asia Minor, and at Aichea, that peninsula where Corinth is, have made generous contributions to this appeal. These are churches made up of overwhelmingly Gentile believers. Now they are Gentiles who have received the gospel as a result of the Jews rejection, and Paul's already spoken to that. And because of that rejection, then Paul has been led to an outreach over many years to these Gentiles in this part of the Roman Empire. When they, or what they now offer to the Jerusalem church, is the spiritual blessings they have known. And so they respond with these in material blessings. Do you see how it works? A demonstration of knowing our spiritual blessing overflows in what we can give to the work of the Lord. And these are churches who, as they know the gospel and respond to it, give generously and happily, as verse 27 confirms for us. And so after Paul has taken this gift to Jerusalem, because of the outpouring of gratitude from these Gentile believers, he will then travel on for Spain, stopping in Rome. As I've said, Paul's here in Corinth. There's quite a number of months yet before he'll get there. And as we know from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul travels to Jerusalem in chapter 21, but he's arrested in the temple. And in his trial, Paul appeals to Caesar as a Roman citizen, and he has that right, and he's then transported to Rome in chapter 27. Now, we don't believe he ever made it to Spain, but his heart and calling was for the Gentiles to respond to the Gospel and know an engrafting into the covenant promise of God. Paul did make it to Rome. The church in Rome did have the opportunity to serve him, but they served him as a prisoner under house arrest, not as one who would go further on to Spain. We don't know what happened to Paul, and we think about that whenever we finish, uh, our study in Acts of the Apostles next year from September through to June. But as this chapter finishes, Paul is telling these people he will see them. And he makes one more appeal to these believers, because in verse 30 he asks them, I appeal to you brothers by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf. He asks for their prayers in this mission to the Gentiles so that he can complete his work in Judea and be released to go to the ends of the earth. Paul's, Paul challenges the church in Rome to see his mission as their own mission and to support him in it. And in many ways, that's what's reflected within our Presbyterian system through the United Appeal, because the United Appeal does what no one congregation can do. And so over 500 Presbyterian congregations get to club together, as it were, to give financially and to pray for the mission of the church so that work can be done where not every congregation can work. And he concludes with this by a blessing or a benediction over them in verse 33. This is the fourth of five benedictions in Romans. And Paul says, May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. And Paul in this benediction is demonstrating his concern for every individual in the Roman congregations. He does not regard them as a faceless religious establishment, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, who he one day hopes to visit and to worship with. You see, Paul is the great missionary to the Gentiles, but he loves to worship with God's people. And as he does, he will worship. He will encourage. And he will see grow deeper in maturity. So that's us almost finished Romans to the end of chapter 15. But there's three things I want us to consider as the mission of God's people from this chapter. And the first is the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you see what Paul points us to by his actions in his own life? He wants us to know the Holy Spirit at work. And all too often Presbyterians are accused, or indeed those in the Reformed tradition, are accused of making little of the Holy Spirit, because we apparently don't express the gifts of the Holy Spirit as Pentecostal churches would. Well, I refute that challenge against us. Because, uh, we believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are not three gods, but one. There are not three Christs, but one. There are not three, uh, Holy Spirits, but one. We believe in one Trinity. We believe in the work of that Trinity. None was begotten or formed. They all were and all have been. And it is the Holy Spirit who works in ways that we do not fully understand. But yet the Spirit works. Paul's challenge and question for us this evening is will we be attentive to the Holy Spirit? And again being attentive to the Holy Spirit doesn't mean you have to go to college. Being attentive to the Holy Spirit means that tonight you pay attention to what God's Word says, and tomorrow morning as you wake up, you eagerly expect the Holy Spirit. And so while you're having your breakfast tomorrow morning, while you're on your way to work, I wonder will you understand the power of the Holy Spirit in your day tomorrow? Whatever you will face, Whatever you will listen to, whatever confrontations you will have, will you be attentive to the power of the Holy Spirit who will lead you in His ways? so that you will give a good representation of the gospel that you profess. So I want you to consider, as Paul has taught us, of the power of the Holy Spirit in each of our individual lives. The second thing is the partnership in prayer. Now whenever Paul talks about this partnership, of course he's talking about the great missionary movement that he establishes here, that we now know in the missionary movements of our day. But Paul isn't just talking about that. Notice what he's talking about at the end. He's talking about them praying for each other as well. He recognizes that the church is in partnership together. And so as much as Christ has assured us that the Holy Spirit has been giving us, given to us as the comforter, we also must recognize that each of us here have been given to each other to encourage along the way. We are together partners in Christ. in the gospel. My place of gospel expression is different from yours. But together, because of our unique position of being part of this one congregation, means that we are partners together in the mission. We are partners together in the gospel. But the problem is, half of us don't know what the other half is doing. And why? Because we don't talk to each other about it. So maybe tonight, in preparation for tomorrow, there's a cup of tea and there's a cup of coffee. to stay and to have those conversations that don't simply talk about the weather and football, but that talk about where our workplace gospel partnership will take us tomorrow. So not only may we know the power of the Holy Spirit, but may that we may know we are partners together in the gospel. The last thing then that Paul tells us is prayer for all the church. We must be people who pray. We must be praying for each other. We must be praying for gospel ministry. We must be praying that Christ will be worshipped as Lord of all. I wonder, do we pray for each other? Whoever's sitting behind you tonight, or in front of you, or to your side, will you now, in your mind and in your heart, commit to pray for that person? Because Paul says that there must be prayer for all the church. And by the way, I hope you're impressed that these are all three Ps, because I've told you before, I struggle to get things like this, but it just came to me. Power, partnership, prayer. It's quite easy. Power of the Holy Spirit, partnership in the Gospel, and prayer for all the church. What does the mission of God's people look like? It looks like this. It looks like these three things. As we take the gospel out, knowing we are led by the Spirit, that we are in partnership together so none of us are on our own, and that we each uphold the other in prayer so that we will last and we will be kept until that day when we cross the Jordan and land safe on Canaan's side. We are called to be faithful in our witness because the gospel is great and the gospel is worthy of such a response. Most of us here will not head overseas or go into full time Christian ministry, although it would be great if some here were called that way, but we are called to our family members and our neighbors as William Carey recorded in his journal, I feel that it is good to commit my soul, my body, and my all into the hands of God. Then the world appears little, the promises great and God and all sufficient. What a wonderful perspective from William Carey, who went to the ends of the earth, to India, to proclaim the gospel, knowing that as he committed himself fully into the hands of the Lord, well then the world wasn't so scary. The world seemed that little bit lesser than it used to, and the promises of God greater than it. The gospel is good news and it is our strength because it is the truth. Friends, tonight I urge you to know the gospel deep within and know it as the only truth that can save you and the nations. And as you know, it's truth. Live it out at a hundred miles an hour. ever in the Holy Spirit so that we will be counted faithful in the work God has called us to. As Jesus assures us in Matthew 28 and verse 20, May you know it deep within that teaching them to observe all that have been commanded you and behold I am with you always to the very end of the age. What a promise for the mission of God's people. To know the power of the Holy Spirit, to be in partnership together in the Gospel, and to be in prayer for one another as we undertake this work. Let's pray. Our Father God, we thank you for the heart of the Gospel that challenges us to live well for you. So may we be faithful in it, and may we know it and its strength at work in us, so that we will proclaim it faithfully to others. Help us to be brave. Help us to be confident. Help us to place our whole self, body and soul in your hands so that the world will be less and we will have a greater understanding of your great promises to us. And we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.



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