When I listen to the radio in my car, I often skip past music that I don’t like.
Some of it I simply don’t understand.
Some of it – based upon my age and upbringing, I would never call it “music.”
It spends far too much time glorifying a lifestyle which is fosters violence and counter cultural behaviors such as street gangs and illicit use of illegal drugs.
Yet even at my age, trying to understand the background of rap music or the anger of a Metallica song can give me helpful clues into the culture around me.
Paul learned how to take the cultural events and ideas of his day and connect them with the message of Jesus so that people of other faiths could understand.
If you have been a Christian for a long time and you are worshiping with others today, you can expect that the message you hear will be one you understand.
But is it a message that will also relate to guests who come for the first time?
In our churches are we speaking the language of the communities around us?
Many churches have become skilled at speaking the language of their culture.
They know that each Wednesday night or Sunday morning some people might show up who won’t understand all of their words, rituals, and ways of worship.
These churches try very hard to reach out, to be welcoming and also inclusive.
If you remember your first experience at being a first-time guest in a church or your own church, or you are a longtime believer, or whether you are a cradle to the grave member, remember that we do not need to understand everything.
We do not really need to know everything there is to know about everyone who is inside. We do not really need to know the denomination on the church sign.
We do not need to “google” the area churches for their consumer ratings.
We need to know if our experience in that Church will reveal God in Christ Jesus.
To know if our experience in that church only reveals the Gospel of our Culture.
There is no mystery in knowing and experiencing what influence culture has had on our church, on the message of Christ which “tickles our funny bones.”
There is always mystery in knowing what God has done, is doing, in the life of His church on a street corner, which is about tickling funny bones everywhere.
What we do understand, is the message of the Gospel of God truth though, is the language of welcome, acceptance, love, and grace but also of repentance.
We are covenanted by God with a holy and sacred obligation to preach the Gospel of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, a sacred duty to share our faith, influence the culture around us, not the other way.
It opens us up to the message from the Word that God wants us to hear today.
Romans 15:17-22Amplified Bible
17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have found [legitimate] reason for boasting in things related [to my service] to God. 18 For I will not [even] presume to speak of anything except what Christ has done through me [as an instrument in His hands], resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles [to the gospel], by word and deed, 19 with the power of signs and wonders, [and all of it] in the power of the Spirit. So [starting] from Jerusalem and as far away as [a]Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel [faithfully preaching the good news] of Christ [where it had not before been preached]. 20 Accordingly I set a goal to preach the gospel, not where Christ’s name was already known, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but [instead I would act on this goal] as it is written [in Scripture],
“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard [of Him] shall understand.”
22 This [goal—my commitment to this principle] is the reason why I have often been prevented from coming to you [in Rome].
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
The problem with many worldly Christians, and perhaps some of you in this blog room, is that to you, your Christianity, your “Christiana-lity” is just such an incredibly intimate and personal thing; you do not ever desire to share it.
You have your ticket to heaven, you have your eternal fire insurance, and frankly, you don’t really care whether anybody else goes to heaven or not.
Sometimes Christians remind me of the lady who was taking a CPR and first aid course with me and several other healthcare professionals several years ago.
In the process of the class, the students were asked to give examples of how they had already been able to use their CPR or first aid training.
One day this young lady said, “I got to use my first aid training the other day. I heard a terrible crash in front of my house. A car had run into my yard, hit a tree, and the car doors had flown open, and there were some injured people on my front lawn. Because I had taken this first aid class, I immediately knew what to do. I sat down and took breaths, put my head between my knees, so I wouldn’t pass out.”
That’s the problem.
With our Christianity, we are like a bunch of people using first aid on ourselves.
When there are hurting people all around us, we are seen or acting like we need to take several deep breaths, then finding any quiet, non-descript place to be alone, tucking our heads between our knees to keep ourselves from fainting.
If your intent is not to faint in public at the slightest possibility of sharing the Gospel, if you’re content to hang on to the gospel and not share it with anybody else, you probably don’t share the zealous missionary heart of the Apostle Paul.
19 with the power of signs and wonders, [and all of it] in the power of the Spirit. So [starting] from Jerusalem and as far away as [a]Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel [faithfully preaching the good news] of Christ [where it had not before been preached]. 20 Accordingly I set a goal to preach the gospel, not where Christ’s name was already known, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but [instead I would act on this goal] as it is written [in Scripture],
“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard [of Him] shall understand.” (Isaiah 52:15)
22 This [goal—my commitment to this principle] is the reason why I have often been prevented from coming to you [in Rome].
Did you notice the three locations there?
Jerusalem was the beginning point of the Christian church.
Then he said, “I preached the gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum.”
Now we would call that modern day Yugoslavia, all the way over to that part of Eastern Europe.
Then Paul says, “I’m probably going to come see you guys in Rome, but it’s only on my way to Spain.”
Had you looked at a map of the civilized world when Paul, in Corinth, wrote these words in about 56 or 57 A.D., you wouldn’t have found Spain on the map, because it was such an utter end-of-the-earth at that time.
In those days, they thought the earth was flat.
If you sailed much past Spain, you were going to drop off the end of the earth.
Paul says, “My heart’s desire is to go where Christ has never been preached, even if I have to go to the very ends of the earth.”
Fully Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ—Romans 15:17-19
“Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So, from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”
What a marvelous thing to be able to exclaim that everywhere you went you fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ without even one ounce of reservation.
What a great feeling to know that your life was given for the good news of Jesus, which has the power to save (Romans 1:16).
This was the theme and mission of Paul’s life.
He boldly taught Christ, faced all opposition to the message and ran the race set before him unto a glorious finish.
What is most amazing about this declaration is that Paul would not boast in anything except what the Lord Jesus accomplished through him.
His mission was to “go to the furthest reaches” to lead the Gentiles to Christ, he was the apostle set apart from his birth for this specific purpose (Romans 1:1).
Nowadays, that might be to go into an inner-city church for the first time to see and experience for yourself whether our prejudices and biases are reality based.
Everywhere, every culture where Paul went people came to the Lord because of the Living Word he taught, the demonstration of power that accompanied him.
The Holy Spirit verified by signs and wonders that he spoke on behalf of God.
Paul was the willing participant and the instrument God used to herald His amazing news to the world.
This is a critically important truth to understand; God confirms his Word by demonstration of power through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus established this truth throughout the gospels. When people cornered him asking if he was the Messiah,
he would answer them like this, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me” (John 10:25).
He never answered them by his own testimony, because the works he did, did all of the testifying to exactly who he was (see John 5:36; John 10:38; Matthew 11:4; John 2:23; Matthew 13:17).
To answer them plainly would not have satisfied Jesus, because the works that Jesus did were the evidence and necessary credentials that he was indeed the Messiah promised and sent by God.
Every miracle, sign and wonder that Jesus preformed was a fulfillment of what the prophets had foretold about the promised Messiah.
They testify that he came on behalf of God.
Even in the Old Testament, the prophet of God demonstrated that he was God’s spokesperson by performing miracles.
Consider Moses as an example; he told Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go and demonstrated his command with the plagues because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart.
When Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go,
Moses parted the Red Sea,
he produced water from a rock, and
he led the Israelites through the desert following the pillar of fire and stood by while God fed them quail and manna for those many years.
This was the proof that Moses spoke on behalf of God alone, because the Lord alone verified His word by these signs and wonders.
Elijah the Prophet had similar experiences.
To prove that He was the prophet of the One and only true God, he challenged the prophets of Baal to a battle.
He drenched the alter in water and asked God to send fire down from heaven to consume the offering.
Immediately fire came down and burned up everything.
He also prayed that it would not rain, and it didn’t for over 3 years.
Then when he prayed again, the heavens opened up and poured down rain upon the earth.
This is the proof of the prophet, the words spoken were confirmed by miracles.
There are countless others who experienced the same verification; Joshua, Abraham, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, just to name a few.
This is a great reminder for today.
Paul experienced many people coming to the Lord by the gospel he preached and the work of the Holy Spirit present to confirm that the Word was true.
We too are ministers of the good news of Christ Jesus.
We should also expect confirmation by the Holy Spirit of the words we speak in preaching the good news of Christ.
It is my hope at the end I will proudly boast of what has been accomplished by Jesus ALONE living through me.
I will always be ready to share the gospel with anyone who has an ear to hear, and I know that Holy Spirit will confirm the word spoken, because the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Apostle Paul’s Ambition to Preach the Gospel Where Christ Was Not Known.
“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. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you” (Romans 15:20-22)
Paul’s desire to share the gospel with people who previously had no knowledge of it, fueled three missionary journeys across the known world at that time.
Everywhere Paul, companions went they faced fiery, fierce, violent persecution because of the good news message of Christ as well as overwhelming response to it.
Paul acted upon the principal of what was written in Isaiah,
“For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15).
His desire was to share Christ where this message was previously unknown so this foundation would not be built upon anything thing else but grace.
Paul’s revelation of grace was unmatched by anyone.
He received it by direct revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12).
He understood the finer points of the Law because of his background as a Pharisee and Jesus showed him how each one was fulfilled and accomplished by His life, death and resurrection on the cross.
Paul understood the complete gospel and the grace of God toward mankind in the person of Jesus Christ, so naturally his desire was to reveal this knowledge to the rest of the world.
It is interesting to think how Paul alone was the apostle to the Gentile nation.
The Jews had the twelve’s apostles specifically set apart to share the good news of Christ with them and show them how he was their promised Messiah.
But Paul was the only one sent for the Gentiles.
He not only wrote most of the New Testament, but the details and accounts of his life and missionary journeys where incredible.
This is because Paul was able to share the good news of Christ Jesus to those who had no preconceived notions about who the Messiah would be.
Most of the time, they didn’t even recognize that one had been promised, let alone identify their need for a Savior.
When he shared the gospel in these areas, Paul didn’t have to combat doctrines or fight against the teachings and traditions of men.
He didn’t have to overcome inflexible ideology and tear down philosophy in order to build on a new foundation of Christ.
What is awesome is that he went to areas that had never heard of Jesus and was able to share the good news on his revelation of grace.
In this sense, the good news was too good to pass up and multitudes believed in Jesus and learned about this amazing grace under the apostle to the Gentiles.
This is an amazing truth, when we open our hearts to the Living Word of God without bringing in traditions, doctrines and preconceived ideas of what it means to follow Christ then we will also get such an indescribably powerful revelation of grace by the Holy Spirit, that our entire lives will be affected.
Not only ours, but those around us will be impacted as well.
So many times, in too many ways, our ‘religion’ gets in the way of relationship.
Search the Gospels, Jesus never spoke well of religion.
He told the disciples: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).
He was speaking against the established system that was corrupt and enslaving the people by rules, regulations and traditions that were meaningless.
These teachings kept them from God and finding true reconciliation with him by faith.
This is why, like Paul, our faith should be built on a revelation of grace through Christ Jesus.
Grace is what combats our meaningless traditions so that our lives stem out of relationship with Christ instead of “our connectional obligation” to religion.
The grace and mercy of Jesus is the cornerstone that holds it all together.
It is a firm foundation that cannot be shaken or removed by persecution or opposition to this message.
I am so thankful for Paul’s revelation of grace and his desire to share this great news to everyone who had an ear to hear it.
I am so thankful he wrote this amazing book of Romans inspired by the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the grace that we were called into through Christ Jesus. And to share our faith and live this grace all the days of our lives.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Mighty God, your Word is living and active. Help me to listen carefully to your voice as you give me wisdom and guide me through life. Your word is a lamp for my feet. When I don’t know where I am going, help me to look to you for understanding and follow the path that you show me. You are a light shining in the darkness. When I don’t know which way to turn, shine the light of your love into every corner of my life. Bring clarity to my thoughts. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.