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Sunday, February 14, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "Gospel Full"

“Gospel Full”
All Roads Lead to Romans
February 14, 2016 :: Romans 15:14-23 

This passage of Romans is what I tend to call “the first ending of Romans.” So, we’ve reached the beginning of the end. Next week, we’ll look at Romans 16 which is the second and extended ending of the book.

But you really get the feeling when you’re reading Romans 15:13-33, that Paul is landing the plane.

And the main reason is that in this section, Paul begins to circle back where he began the letter and tell them about his future plans for ministry. It’s the kind of thing you say to someone as you are rounding off your conversation and talking about the next steps.

Paul has finished applying the gospel to the unity problem that the church was experiencing between the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles Christians at Rome, and now he’s going to explain what he’s going to do next which includes plans for a personal visit to this Roman church.

I’ve entitled this message “Gospel Full” because four different times in this short passage Paul emphasizes the word “full.” Even in the Greek, there is one root word that we tend to translate “full,” and it appears in four different places in these few verses.

Because of the gospel that Paul has been teaching them in the book of Romans, the Christians at Rome are not lacking in anything essential or important. They are full. They have abundance. Paul prays for abundance for them and assures them of the fullness of God’s blessings because of the gospel.

So I call that “Gospel Fullness.”

Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have everything we need and will have everything that we need forever and we should fully share that gospel with everyone else who needs to hear it.

That’s what we’re going to see today as we read Romans 15:13-33.

How the Roman Christians were “Gospel Full.”

And I think that’s great place for us to be on Celebration Sunday 2016 as we celebrate 124 years of God’s Faithfulness to Lanse Evangelical Free Church.

Gospel is our middle name. Evangelical means “centered on the gospel.” And because we believe the same gospel that Paul was sharing with the Romans, we experience the same gospel fullness that they did.  124 years of gospel fullness for Lanse Evangelical Free Church.

Let’s start right where we left off last week. Romans 15:13 is a prayer wish of Paul for the Roman church. This is what Paul prays for them, and it’s what we are memorizing together.

Last week, we emphasized that it was a prayer for all of the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile Christians. But today, I want to focus on the result of the prayer. What Paul prays that they would receive. V.13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

First gospel fullness:

#1. FULL OF JOY, PEACE, AND HOPE.

It’s a prayer.

Paul prays that the God of hope, a God who he says I characterized by hope would FILL the believers at Rome with ALL joy and peace as they trust in Him.

That’s a big prayer!

Have you prayed for joy and peace this week? I know I have.

Paul prays that these believers would be filled with both of them.

And he says that the joy and peace come AS THEY TRUST in the God of hope.

We get more and more filled with joy and peace as we put our faith in our Lord.

And in His gospel. In His good news.

And Paul says that he prays that they would be so full of this joy and peace that they would overflow with hope.

Joy, peace, and overflowing hope.

Sound good?

That’s what I want for Lanse Free Church. And it’s bound up in the gospel.

And it’s given to us as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

May the Holy Spirit do that to us. He has given us so many gifts over the last 124 years. It has not always been easy. Those of you have who have been here a long time know that just because you have the gospel doesn’t mean that life is easy. In fact, if you have the gospel, Jesus says that life will be hard.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” Jesus said that and He said that so that in Him we might have...peace, which gives us joy, which gives us hope (Romans 15:13).

Let’s memorize this new verse together and every time we say it, let’s make it our prayer.

Now, in verse 14, Paul tells them that he has confidence in them. It’s a little surprising. Look at verse 14.

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

Paul has not written this letter because he thinks that they are all messed up over there at Rome.

He has had some important things to teach them, but they were not different from what they had already learned. These folks at Rome already had the gospel.

Even though Paul had never visited them yet!

But he knows enough about them to know that they had the gospel right and that because of that they were good.

In fact they were:

#2. FULL OF GOODNESS AND COMPETENCE TO DO MINISTRY.

You see that word “full” in verse 14?

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

Now that doesn’t mean that they had all of the goodness that someone could ever want.

Just like it says that they are complete in knowledge. Well, obviously they didn’t know everything. Here is Paul telling them things!

But they had what was essential. They didn’t have an insufficient amount of goodness and knowledge. They were full of goodness and knowledge.

They had the gospel! And they had it right.

And that’s the basic requirement for doing ministry.

Raise your hand if you are competent to do ministry.

Every Christian should raise their hand. Every Christian who has the gospel has what it takes to do ministry.

Not to do every ministry. Nobody but Jesus is competent to do every ministry!

But the gospel qualifies us to minister to others.

If you have the gospel, then God is calling you to serve others with it.

In fact, Paul says that they are competent to “instruct one another.” Or to counsel one another. Or to admonish one another.

If you understand the gospel, then that qualifies you to use the gospel in personal ministry with another believer.

We need each other.

I may be the twenty third or whatever pastor of Lanse Free Church.

But I am not the minister of this congregation. We are all the ministers of this congregation.

You have what it takes to minister here.

Find out what your gifts are and get busy doing it.

I love how many people are involved in active ministry at Lanse Free Church. Some churches have an 80/20 rule. Have you heard of that?

80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people?

But that’s not the percentages here. Here people get involved with the Wild Game Dinner, with the Celebration Choir, with the Greeting Ministry, with Kids for Christ and ABC Kids, with the Youth Group, with whatever needs done.

And outside of those programs, we also minister the gospel to each other in person. Admonishing, counseling, encouraging one another.

You know who was great at that? Blair Murray was.

Blair never went to seminary. He was never formally ordained into the pastoral ministry. But he understood verse 14. He had gospel fullness.

Blair knew that he had the gospel and that meant that he had what it took to minister to others. And he did to his last day.

And I say verse 14 over you, church.

“I [Pastor Matt] am convinced, [Lanse Free Church], that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

So let’s continue to do it.

Now, Paul has said this, I think to indicate he has no doubts about them as a church even if they are not perfect and definitely need a deeper understanding of the gospel and how it applies to the conflicts within them. He says, verse 15:

“I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Paul is saying that he’s been kind of strong with them, I think especially in these last couple of chapters, because they need to hear it. And he’s the guy to do it because he’s been called to be the apostle that really opens up the gospel to the Gentiles.

And there were a lot of Gentile Christians at Rome!

So Paul has a better handle on this than anyone else at this point in church history. He’s taking the gospel to the non-Jews.

And he says that it’s like a priestly ministry. He’s like one of the Old Testament Aaronic priests, and the offering he’s bringing is the Gentiles. Christian Gentiles who have believed the gospel and are set apart by the Holy Spirit. Now they worship the Lord through Jesus the Messiah!

Gentiles! Who would have guessed?!

That’s Paul’s calling.

This might sound a little familiar. He said this sort of thing in his greeting, back in chapter one.

It’s another sign that the letter is coming full circle to a close.

Paul has been called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and that’s why he’s writing.

And it’s really exciting. But he isn’t prideful. He glories not in himself but in Jesus. V.17

“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.”

I think that’s another verse for us today on Celebration Sunday. It would be easy to pat ourselves on the back for being such a great church.

“Those are great people up there!”
“We sure are!”

And I am proud of you. You are full of goodness and competence to do ministry.

But you get it from the gospel. You get it from Jesus.

“Therefore [Lanse Free Church glories] in Christ Jesus in [our] service to God.”

We don’t take the credit. We give the glory where it’s due. V.18

“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.”

Paul doesn’t brag on himself and his accomplishments.

He brags on Jesus. It was Jesus who led those Gentiles to faith in Christ through Paul’s preaching of the gospel. It was Jesus through His Spirit that did the miracles that attested to the truth of the gospel.

It was Jesus who had accomplished these things through Paul, and so Paul bragged on Him.

That’s what we’re doing today, too. We’re bragging on Jesus.

We celebrate 124 years of Christ’s accomplishments at Lanse Free Church. Of the gospel fullness that Jesus has given to us.

Now there in verse 19, Paul said something that was pretty surprising, I think.

Did you see that word “full” again? V.19

“So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

Literally, “I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ.”

#3. FULLY PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL.

Paul is saying that his mission has been accomplished.

From the starting point of Jerusalem in Israel to the ending point of modern day Albania, Paul said that his gospel mission was completed, fulfilled.

That’s somewhat surprising because I’m sure he would agree that there was still plenty of ministry left to do in those areas.

They weren’t all Christians there yet! And not every single person from Jerusalem to Illyricum had heard about Jesus yet.

But for Paul, his mission was accomplished. The gospel had taken root there. There was a certainly level of gospel saturation because he’d planted gospel-proclaiming churches.

The gospel was fully proclaimed.

And now it was time for him to move on.

Here’s why. Paul was specifically called to be a pioneering church planting missionary. V.20

“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.”

Paul hasn’t made it yet to Rome because he’s had too much work to do in reaching people who have never heard the name of Christ.

He knows that other people will come after him and build on his gospel foundation. But he is called to break new ground.

It is said that some of the pioneers here in America would pull up stakes and move whenever they could start to see the smoke from their neighbor’s cabins.

It was time for them to head West. To virgin territory.

That was Paul with the gospel. Not everybody has that calling. Some are called to stay behind and build on the previous foundation.

That’s me. I know that I’m called to stand on the gospel foundation of those old Swedes who brought the gospel here to Lanse and started this work.

But there are also plenty of people who don’t yet know Jesus as their Lord Savior in the world and in our community, so we need to stay committed to fully proclaiming the gospel to the world and to our community.

The author John Piper has said that missions exists because worship does not.

In other words, as long as there are people who don’t have the gospel, we have a mission to take it to them.

That’s gospel fullness. We should be so full of the gospel that we want to fully proclaim it to the world. And to our neighbors.

Not just to those folks in Oaxaca. Not just to those people living in the mountains that John and Roper are probably with right now.

But to the people in Lanse and Winburne and Grassflast and Kylertown and Drifting, and Hawk Run and Morrisdale and Allport and Graham Township and Forest and Clearfield and Philipsburg and West Decatur.

We aren’t done yet.

We’ve got some full proclaiming to do!

You know one way we do that is by supporting missionaries. This is one of the key passages in the New Testament for teaching on missionary support. Paul says that he’s planning to visit them and one of the reasons was to pass the plate so that he could go even further into enemy territory with the gospel. V.23

“But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”

Get ready; Paul’s coming!

Paul tells them about his plans. He’s hoping to go to Spain with the gospel. And Italy is on the way to Spain. So, he’s planning to make a stopover and encourage them there at Rome and share with some spiritual gifts. And also to ask for money so that he could go on to Rome.

Do you ever think it’s weird for a missionary to ask for money?

Heather and sister and brother-in-law are missionaries now to Germany and last year was a key year for their fundraising.

It’s not always easy to ask people to give you money if you’re a missionary.

“Hey, give me money! I’m on a mission for God.”

But here’s Paul doing just that. It’s not a demand. He’s not coming to tax them a certain amount, but he is thinking that they will want to help him get to Spain with the gospel.

They received the gospel, and now they’re going to give it away.

Missionary support is that important.  I love that our church supports so many missionaries. I love that the back wall is full of gospel proclaiming partners in ministry. And this church has done that for 124 years. I’ve read the history. It was very soon after our church was founded that we began to send money and missionaries with Frederick Franson, a Swedish church leader who was sending missionaries to China.

That’s what we are all about. Gospel fullness means fully proclaiming the gospel in the whole world. Sending the gospel to those who need it most.

But Paul says that before he makes it to Spain or even Rome, he has another place to stop first. V.25

“Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia [in Greece] were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

He can’t help it, can he?

He’s got to bring in the Jews and the Gentiles again. I think he’s making another subtle point about how they ought to be unified!

The Gentile Christians in Macedonia and Achaia have taken up an offering to help the financially challenged Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem.

We read about this special compassion offering in Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians.

The Gentile Christians owed so much to the Jewish Christians because they had launched the gospel and even helped to launch Paul. They had paid it forward. And now the Gentile Christians were paying it back.

Here’s another place where I’m proud of this church. You are compassionate and give help to people who need it.

Not just the gospel, though that’s the most important gift. But also material blessings to the poor and the needy.

And Paul is doing that, too. He’s headed to Jerusalem first with this gift. V.28

“So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.”

That’s our fourth and last gospel fullness for today. And it’s everything!

#4. FULL OF THE BLESSING OF CHRIST.

Paul believes that when he comes to Rome, it will be good for all of them.

He believes that God has only good things in store.

That they will share the gospel with one another and revel in it together.

That they will experience the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

I don’t know all of what that means, but it sure sounds good.

And Paul is sure that’s coming.

I think it basically means that Jesus is full of good things and that through His gospel we have everything good.

And we will enjoy it together forever.

Now, that doesn’t mean that it will come easily.

It will come through trials and tribulations and trouble.

And that’s why we need to pray. Paul calls on them to pray for him. V.30

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Paul clearly knows that he’s headed into trouble.

He calls up on them to pray by the name of Jesus and the love of the Spirit–those are big things to call on! And he asks that they pray for him to be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that the believers would affirm his ministry there.

And then that Paul would make it safely to visit them in Rome.

How did God answer those prayers?

Anybody know?

He said, “Yes.” But he gave Paul a crazy path to getting there.

Read the end of the book of Acts to get the full story.

But it included arrests, imprisonments, preaching before rulers, a journey on the Mediterranean like those Syrian immigrants are doing every day on those little boats.

And a shipwreck. And a snake bite.

God said yes to this prayer for the full blessing of Christ to be experienced by Paul and the Roman church.

But it was through the fire.

So the lesson for us, I think. Is that we need to pray for gospel fullness, as well.

But to not think that means it will be an easy road to travel.

If the Lord tarries, I pray that our church would stay faithful for the next 124 years.

That we would trust in Jesus for joy, peace, and overflowing hope.

That we would know ourselves to be full of goodness and competent for gospel ministry.

And that we would fully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to our community and to our needy world.

But if we do, it won’t be easy. There will be trouble, trials, and tribulation. The devil will not be happy that we are doing this.

But we can rest assured that because we have Jesus. Because we have His gospel, we have everything.

We are full. We are full of the blessing of Christ.

****

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore
25. How to Think of Yourself
26. A Transformed People (Part One)
27. A Transformed People (Part Two)
28. A Transformed People (Part Three)
30. A Transformed People (Part Four)
31. God's Servants
32. What Time Is It?
33. Returning to Romans
34. Striving for Unity (Part One)
35. Striving for Unity (Part Two)
36. Striving for Unity (Part Three)

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