Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday, December 24th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Timothy
Today's scripture focus is Romans 15:14-16

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offeringacceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

MacArthur's introduction to this passage....

verses 14 to 21 is in defense of Paul's boldness. The whole section is written to defend the way in which he spoke to the Romans. You see, he had never been to that church. He did not found that church. He never pastored that church. He did not personally know that church or fellowship with that church. And yet, throughout this tremendous epistle he had spoken to them with great boldness. Very forthrightly, shoulder to shoulder, nose to nose, he had confronted them on some very crucial issues, not the least of which was the matter of the stronger and the weaker in chapters 14 and 15. But he had been very bold in speaking to them and his boldness needs an explanation. How can one whom they have never met who has not founded that church nor pastored that church be so bold with them?
And so he writes this brief section in his epilogue to the great treatise in the epistle which ended in verse 13 and his intent in this section from verses 14 to 21 is to justify his boldness. And it becomes, I believe in my own thinking, a justification for the boldness of anyone who speaks on behalf of the eternal God....

The body of the letter is over. It ran from chapter 1 verse 18, after the 17-verse introduction, beginning in verse 18 clear through verse 13 of chapter 15 which we concluded last week. That's the main body which is a beautiful description of salvation by grace through faith with all of its implications. Now in this concluding section, having given them his theology, he gives them his heart. Having described to them his doctrine, he gives them his own soul. Having told them what he believes to be the truth of God, he now tells them some of his own ministry perceptions. 

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Here Paul basically reassures them that his epistle was not written to them because he thought they were the lowest of the low.  No, Paul knows that they are genuine believers and he has written this letter to encourage them and strengthen them.

When people ask me to whom I preach I always say I preach to the most committed people in the congregation. I'm not interested in scolding the marginal people, I think the Spirit of God will work in their hearts. I am interested in feeding and strengthening and encouraging those who are already committed to the truth of God because they're the strength of the church. And when someone is confronted with the truth, it is not the reflection of a low estimate, it is the reflection, as in the case of Paul, of an estimate that says I know your character and virtue is such that you will take what I say and apply it to the glory of God in your own blessing. 

The Roman church appears to have been a healthy one.  There was no particular sin issue that Paul needed to address, like he did with the Corinthians and Galatians.  On the contrary, he commends the church strongly here.

They are full of goodness - they are rich in moral character, in the fruit of the spirit, they hate sin and love righteousness.  This doesn't mean they were perfect, they were not  And they still needed Paul's boldness and convicting challenges in order to strengthen their sincere faith.  In other words - they were already a great church and Paul's prayer was for them to be an even greater one.

They are complete in knowledge - they are doctrinally and theologically sound.

They are competent to instruct one another - in other words, because of their moral character and because of their sound doctrine, they are competent to hold each other accountable and admonish one another.  You don't need a degree to be qualified to counsel someone - you need moral character and sound doctrine - and that is just as true today.

If they were such a great church, why did Paul write them?

15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again
Paul wasn't telling them anything new, he was reminding them of truths they already knew.  There is always room for growth.  They is always room for improvement.  None of us have "arrived" spiritually.  We have never become the best that we could possibly be.  We can all use godly reminders.

We do, after all, tend to forget things.  In fact, if we went back and re-read Romans 1, I bet we'd all have forgotten some of the interpretation and things we learnt in our study on Romans - and we just did it!  We forget.  We need to be reminded.

And often the best way to be reminded is to hear the same truth presented in a slightly different way.  When we hear the exact same thing word for word, we tend to think "Oh, I already know that" and tune out.  But when we hear it in a fresh way, we are reminded and perhaps even understand it more deeply.  And that is Paul's intent.

But even more than that...
because of the grace God gave me

Basically, he wrote to the Romans because God told him to.  As MacArthur put it, Paul was given the grace of a divine mandate to proclaim the truth.

This was the cause of his ministry. I have spoken to you more boldly than you might have expected me to speak, I have spoken to you more directly than you might have anticipated I should speak, and the reason I've done that is because there's a grace of God that infuses my life that compels me to speak the way I speak....

so should any believer with whatever his or her spiritual gift might be understand that same compulsion. For all of us have been given gifts from the Spirit of God which the Spirit of God by grace compels to be used. And a committed Christian understands that duty.

16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offeringacceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

First of all, all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9, Revelation 20:6) - we don't have to go through any person to get to God.  Jesus has made that possible for us and done away with the need for the OT priesthood.  But Paul uses this as an illustration for what he is doing.

He is pictured here as a priest serving Jesus Christ in the gospel of God...And he stands before the altar of God and he has in his hands an offering. And look what the offering is. The offering is the Gentiles. Marvelous. The offering is the Gentiles. What Gentiles? The Gentiles who have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit and been made acceptable to God, saved Gentiles. Now when Paul was called into the ministry, he was told he was going to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. He went out and won Gentiles to Christ. Saved Gentiles then, in a sense, Paul has collected in his ministry and like a priest he offers them to God. They are his act of personal worship. Beautiful picture...beautiful picture. How different from the Levitical function in the old covenant. His priestly service to God is the offering up of the Gentiles. That is to say that you and I as priests offer God an offering and a most fitting and beautiful offering would be to offer to God the souls of those that we have led to Jesus Christ. You see? That's the picture....
the offering up of the Gentiles is acceptable because they've been sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Acceptable means well pleasing, truly saved. These are truly saved Gentiles. They are acceptable to God because they've been sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament no sacrifice could be offered to God until it had been properly cleansed...properly purified. And no sacrifice can be offered to God, no offering can be offered to Him now unless it's acceptable. And how is it acceptable? Only when it's cleansed. You can't offer to God unregenerate Gentiles or unregenerate Jews. You offer to God those that are acceptable because they've been cleansed by the washing of the water through the Word and the agency of the Holy Spirit....

as a priest he presents his offering to God, a spotless sanctified group of Gentiles washed in the water of regeneration, cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ through saving faith. And this, beloved, this is the only priesthood there is in the new covenant. It's the priesthood of Christian ministry. Not to offer atonement for sin but by preaching the gospel of God to unsaved people, winning them to Christ, we then offer them back to Him as an acceptable offering....

what are you offering God? Do you have any such spiritual sacrifice to hold up to His altar? 


Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 15:17-22
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Peter, Jude