Thursday, March 6, 2014

Boasting in God’s Good Work (Romans 15:14-17)

“And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.” (Romans 15:14-17, NASB95)

Romans is a letter written to both Gentiles (who likely comprised the greater number) and Jews in Rome. Paul spent a great deal of time developing a sound theology for them in the first 8 chapters leading to a consideration of God’s specific faithfulness to the Jews in chapters 9-11. I could imagine with the Gentile church growing so quickly it could have been intimidating to Jewish believers who knew themselves to be the people of the promise. Paul made sure that in writing this letter that he dealt with those coming from both backgrounds. And as he moved into the issues of walking with each other in the church in chapters 12 and following he made sure that he dealt with how these two groups of people, who for so long had nothing to do with each other, now mixed as one in Christ.

In verses 14 through 16 Paul begins to transition to wrapping up his letter, and in so doing he made sure to let these believers know that this letter was not intended to be one of harsh condemnation, but rather of encouragement and some correction as he had been instructing his readers to do in relating to one another. Paul makes sure to encourage his readers. He let them know that he had no doubts about the goodness in them and that they were filled with knowledge and how to use that knowledge when it came to helping grow each other in Christ. He specifically mentioned their ability to admonish one another, which is a proper part of body life as we see from 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95)

While the words here are reproving and correcting they have the idea of showing where someone is off track and also showing them how to get back on track. Admonishing might also carry with it a somewhat more stern approach to this process. Admonishing has to do with warning or exhorting to live correctly. It is a pleading that stems from having an understanding of truth which both points to that which needs to be set aside or put off and that which needs to be put in place or put on. In 1 Corinthians 4:14 Paul, in writing to the Corinthian believers, unlike the Romans believers, had to be more firm in his instruction in order to correct several real and pressing issues that were going on. “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” (1 Corinthians 4:14, NASB95) In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul urges his readers to, “… admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NASB95)

But Paul felt no real need to do this with the Roman believers because they seemed to have this pretty well under control, though it is likely that they might have been a bit excessive. This may be evident due to the amount of time he spent discussing not judging one another, but accepting each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul let them know that his boldness in this was intended as an exhortation by way of reminder for them. In this regard it might have been a letter of fine encouragement and fine tuning as opposed to one of correction.

And the authority that he wrote to them under was not because he had been instrumental in starting the church in Rome, but because he had been appointed as an apostle by Christ as was stated in the first few verses of Romans and was reaffirmed here in today’s verse, where he specifically mentions his call to ministry to the Gentiles.

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1–7, NASB95)

The Roman believers were under his charge, and he was taking his responsibility to help them in their growth (sanctification) seriously. As we are called to give ourselves back to God in service as a living sacrifice, Paul viewed his ministry to the Gentiles his offering to God. And his prayer was that this sacrifice would prove to be pleasing to God as a pure, holy, and set apart work of His Spirit.

In verse 17 Paul gives credit where it belongs when he said that he had indeed found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. Paul would not boast in what he had done as he knew that it was God. It was God who was working through him and all of the believers to whom he was writing to accomplish His good work, and in that he could step back and boast in what God had done. The word “boast” here in Romans 15:17 is translated as “proud” in some other translations, and it has the meaning of rejoicing or glorifying. Paul was proud of His God and what He had done in and through him and them, and he was ready to proclaim this to others. He was going to rejoice in God’s work and give all of the glory to Him.

The writer of Hebrews wrapped up his letter primarily to Jewish believes with these words pointing to God as the author of the work, “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21, NASB95)

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