Updated: May 11
We continue with our study of Romans 15:20-24, the name of our mission, “Propempo” and the apostle Paul’s missionary vision and goal; his ambition.
20 And thus I aspired to [or have 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.” [quoting the last 2 lines of Isaiah 52:15]22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you;23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while—Romans 15:20-24
So, he is talking about taking the gospel where it has not gone before. (verse 20) The great apostle says he needs help from a local church. (verse 24) The local church is to be a sending church. “how can they preach unless they are sent? (see Romans 10:13-15) Paul and his apostolic team were sent out from a local church in Antioch. (Acts 13:1-4) They first submitted to leadership and taught in the local church and were accountable and involved in the local church. (Acts 11:26) How about you? Are you even a member of a Biblical sound local church? Are you committed to your local church? Christ loved the Church, the body of Christ, the true believers, the elect, spread throughout time and nations and cultures and died for her. (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 5:9; Acts 20:28) The local church is dear to God, and local churches are His instruments of being salt and light in the world. (Revelation chapters 2-3) The Apostle Paul is asking the local church in Rome to help him on his way to Spain, the frontiers. (Romans 15:24) That has been our vision and desire for many years. We have spent the last 25 years ministering among a people group who did not have much gospel light for centuries. And 10 years before that reaching out to Muslims in the USA.
Paul calls this vision and desire, to go to Spain, where Christ is not named, an “ambition” in Romans 15, verse 20. He says, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” And in Verse 21, Paul backs up his godly ambition with an Old Testament quote, from Isaiah 52:15, “Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”
What is your ambition in Life? What is your churches’ ambition? Does your church even have an ambition? An ambition to reach an unreached people group?
Another Greek word!? Come on, Ken!
Usually, we think of “ambition” in completely negative terms, like power hungry business Executives and ego seeking politicians. Like the lawyer character in the John Grisham novel, The Firm, played by Tom Cruise in the movie based on that book. Pride, power, money, wealth, controlling people, influence, — these are concepts that come to our mind when we think of “ambition”. And the New Testament uses a different Greek word for that selfish ambition in Philippians 2:3 and James 3:14 and 16. The English word, “ambition” comes from the idea of “canvassing for a promotion”. (From J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, page 14) But the Bible says there are also godly ambitions. (2 Cor. 5:9; Romans 15:20; 1 Thess. 4:11) Pleasing God in our lives; and working hard and earning a living and not being a busybody, which is what the Thessalonians were doing. The Greek word for “ambition” φιλοτιμέομαι (philotimeomai) in Romans 15:20, our text, comes from two other Greek words, “love” (phileo) and “honor” ( timae ). The love of honor or the intense desire to see true honor exalted. A godly ambition is the intense desire for God to be honored and glorified in this world.
The word is used three times in the New Testament: 1. 2 Corinthians 5:9 “Thus we have as our ambition, to be pleasing to Him” 2. I Thessalonians 4:11 “make it your ambition to live a quiet live and to mind your own business and work with you hands . . . “ 3. Romans 15:20, our text before us. “I have always had as my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ is named, so that I might not build upon another man’s foundation.”
Have you considered the ambition of being a church-planting missionary?
“Thus I have as my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ is named, in order that I might not build on another man’s foundation . . . “
Have you or your church as a whole, considered Paul’s ambition in life to be a pioneer church planting missionary where the gospel is not known?
All true Christians should have the apostolic vision and ambition without necessarily being the ones who are called to do the church-planting task. The great commission was given to the disciples as a group. (Matthew 28:18-20) The vision and goal is for the whole church. You can go, pray, equip others, or give and send others to go. We should all find our satisfaction and joy in Christ and His glory being spread to un-reached people groups.
There are no more Apostles today, as one of the qualifications for an Apostle was to have seen the risen Lord. (see Acts 1:21-22; I Cor. 9:1) The office of Apostle closed with the death of the last Apostle. The word “apostle” means “sent one” and our English word, “missionary” comes from the Latin translation of the concept of an “apostle”. There are no more apostles of Christ today; that office ceased when the last apostle died, at the end of the first century, and the canon of Scripture was completed; but there are “apostles” (missionaries) of the churches” (Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23) But an application of “desiring the greater gifts” is desiring to be a missionary – the gifting and vision of “missionary” (being sent out on a mission) still exists today in the tasks of extending the gospel into new peoples and areas, in church-planting, in the pioneer, frontier missionary.
How do we gain Paul’s vision of seeing the gospel spread to all nations? How do we join other churches in helping them send out other missionaries?
In the next blog entry, we will seek to answer that question by noticing the Apostle Paul’s four motivations in the Romans 15 passage.