Updated: May 11, 2020
How can we catch the apostle Paul’s vision and ambition to preach the gospel in unreached people groups? (Romans 15:20-21)
By owning Paul’s four motivations:
This is Part 4:
20 And thus I aspired ( or have had as my ambition) to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written,
“They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand.” Romans 15:20-21
Review of the first motivation:
1. The Lost Condition of man without Christ. Romans 15:20 – “Where Christ is not named”. Acts 4:12 says, “there is no other name” other than Jesus Christ, who is the one person who can save us from out sins. John 3:18 says that they are already condemned because they have not believed in the name of the only unique Son of God.” Romans 10:13-15 says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The lost condition of mankind, that all people are dead in their sins and under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3; John 3:36) should be one of your motivations for sharing your faith and gaining Paul’s godly ambition of missions to unreached people groups.
Jesus spoke of hell being a place “. . . hell; where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:47-48, quoting from Isaiah 66:24
The next three motivations:
The Lack of gospel availability in many areas of the world. The Muslim World for example. The lack of gospel availability in people groups, nations, ethno-linguistic peoples in creative access countries, in the Muslim World, Hindu World, Buddhist World, tribal areas, secular areas, and China. The apostle tells us why, “So that I won’t build on another man’s foundation”. Why go to new areas and new unreached peoples? Paul tells us – So that there will not be unnecessary duplication; or sinful competition. Go where no one else is doing the task of reaching unreached people groups in creative access areas. Are you willing to take on the vision and ambition of Paul? Do you have an internal burning / burning desire for church-planting missions among an unreached people group? Talk to your elders/pastors/leaders/missions committee and share with them – see Acts 13:1-4. Read David Meade’s book “From Here to There”.
The Light of the Old Testament Scriptures. Romans 15:21 – “Just as it is written” from Isaiah 52:15. Isaiah 52:13-15 is really the introduction to Isaiah chapter 53. The mission of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53 is not complete until the gospel goes forth in power into all nations in the planting of biblical churches. Colossians 1:24 — this is what Paul is referring to as “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. There is nothing lacking in the power or purpose of the atonement. What is lacking is the presentation and preaching of that message among all nations. And that preaching and presentation brings great suffering and persecution. Paul says that his sufferings are filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Missionaries and others who witness and live godly lives for Christ who suffer persecution are the ones who are filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. John Piper has written a book about missions and suffering, on the lives of William Tyndale, John Patton, and Adoniram Judson, the title based on Colossians 1:24, Filling up the Afflictions of Christ
The glory of God — the highest motivation; the glory of God. Romans 15:8-9, “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” There he goes again, quoting the Old Testament! Romans 15:16 “that the Gentiles might become an offering to God”– for His Glory and Worship. Live for the glory of God – I Corinthians 10:31-33
Paul ends his great epistle with a another doxology to the glory of God, Romans16:25-27-
“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
Do you live for God’s glory? “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” John Piper
Are you satisfied with the Triune God of the Bible and His glory and honor being spread among the nations?
So, what is your ambition? Is it to glorify God by sharing His gospel with your neighbors, friends, and among the nations? And does your church have that ambition by sending missionaries, and/or help send missionaries out to spread His fame among the nations? That is the basic idea behind the word “Propempo” προπεμπω = “to send out fully equipped”, “to send forth”. (used in Romans 15:24 – “help me”, or “send me out fully equipped” to Spain, the frontier area of the days of the Apostle Paul – “the end of the Roman Empire”, “the frontiers of the known Roman Empire world”. 3 John 6, and see context of verses 7-8 also.
6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. [unbelievers, pagans] 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. 3 John 6-8
Also: Acts 15:3: Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13.
“Earnestly desire the greater gifts . . . I Corinthians 12:31 “first apostles’ . . . What is he saying? Since there are no more apostles today as in the first century, what is the application here to today? Can we earnest desire to be a missionary, an “apostle of the churches” ? Earnestly desire the greater gifts, the gifts that spread the kingdom of God into areas where the gospel has not yet come. Frontier area church-planting sent ones; let me be clear – there are no more apostles today! I am not suggesting being an apostle like the apostle Paul or apostle Peter, or James or John – let me be clear, the office of apostle is closed and there are not more apostles since the apostle John died around 99 AD. But there are “apostles of the churches” (Philippians 2:25; 2 Corinthians 8:23) = “sent ones”, “missionaries” (The English word “missionary” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word, “apostle”, “one who is sent out with a purpose”. )
John Piper points out the difference between “the apostles of Christ” (the apostles sent out by Christ – the 12 disciples, Paul and his missionary team, Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14), James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19 , 1 Corinthians 15:7) – that office ceased with the death of John, the last apostle) vs. “the apostles of the churches” (missionaries) – see Philippians 2:25 and 2 Corinthians 8:23
See also the argument of Sam Waldron for the cessation of the miraculous sign gifts in his debate with Michael Brown. The “Cascade argument” for the ceasing of the miraculous revelatory gifts.
Background of the book of Romans:
Seems to be some tension between the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians ( Romans and Greeks). (especially seen in chapters 14-15)
Romans 1:16 “to the Jew first, then also to the Greek”
Romans 3:1ff “What advantage has the Jew?
Romans 14-15 “Accept one another, weaker brother, eating, drinking, circumcision, freedom, liberty, love
The missionary vision of extending the gospel to the unreached nations is one of the keys in the book of Romans to deal with ethnic tensions in the church. The missions vision kills a thousands sins! It kills pride, kills racial prejudice, kills moral impurity because if you are serious about sharing your faith, and you are doing it, sooner or later other people are going to point out your weaknesses and sins and faults and it keeps you accountable. God deliberately sends trials to humble us and sanctify us and cause us to grow in holiness.
Overview of missions vision in Romans:
Romans 1:5 – “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations”
Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel . . . ”
Romans 10:13-15 – “how can they hear without a preacher?” “and how can they preach unless they are sent?” (local churches must send missionaries)
Romans 11:11-15, 25-26 – the apostle Paul magnifies his ministry to the nations so that the Jews would become jealous and turn back to their Lord.
Romans 15:1-33 – so many quotes from the 3 different sections of the OT concerning God’s plan and desire for the nations.
Romans 16:25-27 – Glory to the only wise God! – the great mystery is now revealed and the spreading of God’s redemption is still going on today into all the nations.
Do you see the key to solving the ongoing tension between Jew and Gentile is Missionary outreach and overcoming ethnic barriers? (see Ephesians 2:11-22)
What is the key to dealing with the tensions between Jew and Arab in the Middle east? Politics? War? Or Biblical Missions, love, evangelism, and a Readiness to suffer?
We who believe in total Depravity of all men everywhere ought to be the most evangelistic. We who believe in the doctrines of Grace ought to be the most evangelistic. (see 2 Timothy 2:10 – “I do all things for the sake of the elect, in order that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”) They have to hear the gospel. (Romans 10:13-15) They are not saved yet. We have to go and love and learn and teach and preach and suffer and be with people in disciplining and authentic relationships. Some of us are lazy and don’t live up to what we say believe, in that we sit back passively and wait for some external “sign” that some person or group is being acted upon by God until we talk to them about the Lord and the gospel. This is not right. Christ commanded us to go and preach the gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21)
We believe in Christ’s particular and powerful and effective atonement of turning back and quenching God’s Just Wrath against the sin of those He has chosen and elected (everyone who will ever believe in Christ); among all nations (Rev. 5:9; 7:9) but God also has ordained the means by which lost people hear about this good news. Romans 10:13-15. The means are things like going, preaching, sharing, teaching, learning language and culture, suffering, being patient, loving people in authentic friendships.