“Wrestling With Romans”
The Fullness of the Gospel – (Chapter 15 Verses 14-22)
The reporting of the work of God done through his servants is never easy (v18). It is ever a difficulty with missionaries and evangelists, doing it in such a way as to hide oneself, and for the glory to be given to God and to be clearly seen to be his. It is Christ who has accomplished this, says Paul, yes through me his instrument, but his is the power, and his is the glory. The means through which this gospel work among the Gentiles is made plain (v19). He simply in faith, obediently proclaimed the gospel with the gifts and empowering given to him through the medium of the Holy Spirit. And as the word came to people in power and with this demonstration of the Spirit’s presence and power (1Corinthians 2.1-5; 1Thessalonians 1.5), they believed. These signs and wonders pointed to Jesus, the Son of God, the one in whom people must have faith (Acts 4.12), they were worked in connection with the Holy Spirit. In this power the word was growing, multiplying (Acts 6.7; Acts 12.24 Acts 19.20). It was more than just a preacher speaking words, as is so often what we have today, there was power there. And we are reminded, that without the same presence of power, the same Holy Spirit demonstrating his presence, we can accomplish nothing. Paul was totally dependent upon him, and so are we. But when will learn it?
“I have fully proclaimed the gospel”, says Paul (v19). In all its fullness, wherever he went, starting from Jerusalem. There was no dilution, there was no holding back, he preached the full gospel. He was a man who taught others their need to be led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8.14), but first and foremost he was a man led, and directed by the Spirit himself. He and his fellow missionaries, were directed by the Holy Spirit which cities to go to and which ones not too (Acts 11.2; 13.4; 16.6-7; 20.22-23; 21.4). In other words it was a God-directed plan, not just a hit-and-miss squad of loose cannons firing off, here, there, and everywhere, just as they saw fit. Therefore it was successful. Paul was able to kindle many fires, and in many places, and as he left those fires burning behind him, moving on to fresh pastures where Christ had never been preached (v20), those fires continued to burn. And as the wind of the Spirit carried the flames of the gospel throughout Asia Minor, many hearts glowed with the warmth of the Spirit’s fire (v21; 1Thessalonians 5.19) in their hearth. Hence the delay (v22).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)