Romans 15:14-33: Paul’s Purpose and Motivation
What is your purpose?
What motivates you to accomplish that purpose?
Descriptors: goodness, knowledge, and competence
In the latter half of Romans 15, Paul begins to wrap up his letter. It’s important to recall that Paul did not plant or nurture the church in Rome. He had never met them. So It is interesting that Romans 15:14 – 15 describes the Roman church this way: “you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” What was Paul’s purpose in writing such a deep theological letter to the church in Rome if they were so well equipped?
Nevertheless I have written to you with a certain frankness, to refresh your minds with truths that you already know, by virtue of my commission as Christ’s minister to the Gentiles in the service of the Gospel.Romans 15:15 Phillips
Paul’s Purpose = to remind the church of the fundamentals
Paul reminds the Roman church of fundamental truths. One commentator likens our need for reminders to playing football. Teams like to create special plays, but the real key to winning is executing the fundamentals of the game well. So it is with us. We can dive deeply into unusual or rare theological topics, but we must never lose sight of the basics! Peter also writes about our need for reminders.
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.2 Peter 1:12-16 NIV
Paul’s Motivation = to fulfill his mission to the Gentiles
Paul’s calling was more than just evangelizing the Gentiles by preaching the gospel. He wanted to disciple the Gentiles so that he could present them “mature in Christ” (Col 1:28). Notice the phrases in Romans 1:5 and 15:16:
- Faith that leads to obedience
- Bringing glory to God’s name
- Each one a living sacrifice or acceptable offering to God
Paul uses priestly language, fulfilling the command God spoke through Moses on Mount Sinai.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”Exodus 19:5-6 NIV
Connecting Romans 12:1 – 2 and 15:16
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul urges believers to present themselves a living sacrifice to God, which is our true worship. Then notice in Romans 15:16, the implication is that as we serve God in our priestly roles, we also present others to God as acceptable sacrifices by sharing the gospel and discipling them in the faith.
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 2:5 ESV
Our purpose and motivation
How does this bit of history of Paul’s work apply to us? How are our purpose and motivation similar to Paul’s?
- We are called by God (Eph 4:1, 2 Tim 1:9, Rom 8:28-30, 1 Cor 1:9)
- He prepared good works for us to do (Eph 2:10, Matt 5:16, Titus 3:8, Heb 13:16)
- We are called to proclaim His glory, His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Cor 10:31, 1 Peter 4:11)
- He commissioned us to go, make disciples, teaching them all that He has taught us; we are His ambassadors, with a ministry of reconciliation (Matt 28:18-20, 2 Cor 5:19-20)
Most of us are not called to plant churches as Paul did. Instead, we have gifts meant to build up the body of Christ. And we have testimonies of the goodness of God to share.
Here is a personal paraphrase of Romans 15:16, reminding me I am a person on mission:
Jesus rescued me from the domain of darkness and transferred me to His kingdom of light to do the good works He has prepared for me. He gave me a ministry of reconciliation, sharing the Good News so that my family, friends, and neighbors might walk in the unity of the Spirit, proclaiming the goodness of God together!
Paul intends to go to Rome to greet this church in person, but he doesn’t plan to stay. He is on a mission to Spain, at that time, the western frontier. We know from Acts 28 that Paul goes to Rome, and spends two years there, guarded and proclaiming the gospel. The scripture does not mention his trip to Spain, but there are other ancient texts that suggest he most likely reached Spain before returning to Rome, where he was executed.
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