Paul’s Preaching Explained to the Romans
Romans 15:15-21 – Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient— 19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, 21 but as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.”
If you ever want to know how Paul preached and the content of his preaching, just look at his writings to the churches. The manner of Paul’s preaching can be seen in his writing. In some points throughout this epistle Paul is bolder. However, compared to 1 Corinthians he does not seem to reprimand and rebuke the Roman brethren.
Preaching to Remind
Much of preaching is reminding. “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:7). Peter wrote, “I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you” (2 Peter 1:12,13). Brethren like all men, can be very forgetful and need constant reminders of the Truth. Learning is reinforced through repetition.
Preaching by Grace
Paul never considered preaching to be a right he had earned from God, but a privileged duty he did not deserve from God. Paul spoke of this in a letter to Timothy: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:12-14).
Preaching to the Gentiles
The reason God showed grace and gave Paul the opportunity to preach is that he would go to the Gentiles with the Gospel. When God was sending Ananias to preach the Gospel plan of salvation to Paul in Damascus, He encouraged him with His Divine plans for Paul, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Paul later wrote to Timothy, “I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Tim. 1:13).
Preaching the Gospel
Paul was persuaded that the power of salvation resided in the Gospel. Therefore, it is the Good News and only the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles or the Jews.
Preaching Brings Sacrifices to God
Note the Greek word for “minister” is leitourgos which refers to a public servant however, “the word is used most often of those who serve god in some form of public worship.” It used the High Priesthood of Christ (Heb. 8:1,2). A preacher is a priest just as all saints are part of a royal priesthood offering acceptable sacrifices to God (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 20:6). The sacrifices Paul is offering up to God are the souls saved through his preaching of the Gospel He has does this in such a way that the Gentiles might be an “acceptable” offering to God. He is confident they will be because they have been made holy or “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
Preaching that Glories in Christ
Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles was successful. Paul was proud to be able to offer up many Gentiles souls in service to God. However, he was not bragging about his accomplishments. In fact, he called himself chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul wrote, “but God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Paul and Barnabas reported to the church at Antioch “all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). They reported to the church at Jerusalem “how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12). In contrast to his accomplishments in ministering to the Gentiles Paul says, “for I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me” (15:18).
Preaching Through Word and Deed
The Gentiles were brought to Christ not only by what Paul as a preacher said, but also by the actions he had done in their presence. Paul lived out his preaching before his audience.
Preaching That is Affirmed by God
The phrase “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” obviously refers to the miracles performed to affirm that the message he preached was the inspired words of God given him by the same Holy Spirit which enabled him to perform these wonders. Paul assured the Corinthian brethren, “truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Cor. 12:12). Preaching today is affirmed by quoting book, chapter, and verse form the Holy Spirit affirmed Scriptures.
When Paul says, “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” it could mean he preached the whole Truth. However, in this context is refers to the geographical area between Jerusalem and Illyricum. Paul preached early on when he was at Jerusalem (Acts 9:28,29). Although the book of Acts does not tell us of when Paul went to Illyricum to preach, there can be no doubt he did. The Roman province of Illyricum was located northwest of Macedonia and is part of modern-day Croatia and Serbia. The distance Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles covers is some 1600 miles. He has filled his commission to this point; however, he has not yet come to Rome.
Preaching to Those Who Have Not Yet Heard
Paul’s purpose was to preach the Gospel to those who had not yet heard the message. The Gospel had already come to Rome and a sound church established. He explains in part why he has not preached in Rome or in some other places. Paul does not want to duplicate the efforts of others who have already preach in an area or planted congregations. “So I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation” (15:20). It is not wrong for a preacher to build upon the work or foundation of another. There are many examples of this in the New Testament. However, Paul wants to take the Gospel to virgin territories. This is why he only wants to visit the church in Rome and why he desires to go on to Spain. To support his decision to preach the Gospel to those who had not yet heard it, Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:15 in verse twenty-one: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.” Paul sees his pioneering among the Gentiles with the Gospel as a fulfillment of this prophecy.
– Daniel R. Vess