Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Missions in Romans

In this letter full of wonderful truths about Jesus Christ, what are the most significant verses for world missions today? (For an explanation of this series, click here.)

My first thought was Romans 15:18-21, "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience — by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God — so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'"

While the above passage is significant, I believe two passages that almost mirror one another are the most important for our understanding and practice of world missions today. These are most critical because they act as bookends to the letter itself. In the introduction and the conclusion of Romans, Paul specifically mentions both "the obedience of faith" and "all nations." See the two passages below:

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be 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 descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ..." Romans 1:1-6 (emphasis mine)

"Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith - to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen." Romans 16:25-27

By bookending this key doctrinal letter with these two passages, the apostle is making it clear to us that the gospel is for the obedience of faith for all nations. Notice that the gospel is not just for all nations. It is not just for faith for all nations. It is for the obedience of faith for all nations.

The acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior requires more than intellectual agreement with a list of doctrinal truths. While these are important, the gospel demands repentance. A life change must occur. While this is brought about by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we must comply by "putting to death the deeds of the body." This message must be heralded to all people groups around the globe.

These verses have much similarity to Matthew 28:19-20, in which Jesus commands his disciples to "make disciples of all nations." One aspect of this is "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." As in the introduction and conclusion to Romans, we see the importance of all nations and obedience.

The initial act of obedience to God is submission to the gospel. This continues through a life of faith and obedience. It is this gospel that frames the epistle to the Romans that we must carry to the uttermost.

Previous posts in this series:
Missions in...
Missions in Matthew
Missions in Mark
Missions in Luke
Missions in John
Missions in Acts


Tim A said...

"set apart for the gospel of God" Rom. 1:1
Is not this phrase, ripped out of the context, one of the most violated phrases to justify a man being set apart from working secular work to only do gospel work?

I remember when my "pastor" used this verse in his testimony. I immediately thought "Now, wait a minute. Paul did not stop being a business man and earning his own living when he left working with the Jews." This does not mean AT ALL what it is spun to say. Second, set apart or aphorizo is a locational separation. Paul is leaving town to go to the gentiles. He specifies that several verses later. This has nothing to do with a man never working a job and only doing Bible things.

I confronted the pastor in a private meeting since I was one of the elders and had an "open door" policy with him. He immediately changed the subject and would not engage is resolving his Biblical error.

I can almost guarantee that when I ask someone to give me scripture to justify them being "called to the gospel ministry", they will bring up this verse. So many have been misled by this.

Eric said...


I suppose it's just another example of the danger of pulling a few words WAY out of context.

Alan Knox said...


I haven't commented yet, but I wanted to let you know that I'm loving this series! Thank you!


Eric said...


Thanks! It's enjoyable to simply think through the books in general along with the specific missions-focused passages. It is fascinating how God shows his desire and plan in various ways in the different books.