TODAY’S READING: Romans 14–16
Paul presented the law of love in the missionary context of all the Gentiles being saved and glorifying God (Rom. 14:14–23; 15:9). What we eat or don’t eat, what we celebrate or don’t celebrate, what we wear or don’t wear is directly tied to the glory of God among all peoples. Why else did Paul explain living and dying unto the Lord in terms of every tongue confessing, or our confession among the Gentiles, or the Gentiles rejoicing with the people of God, or all the Gentiles praising the Lord, or King Jesus being the hope of all the Gentiles (14:8, 11; 15:9–12)? The God of hope fills us with joy by the power of the Spirit because all peoples have found hope in Christ, because the offering of the Gentiles is acceptable, and because in mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God, the gospel was fully preached from the Middle East (Jerusalem) to Europe (Illyricum) (15:13, 16, 19).
How tragic that the missionary center of Romans has been neglected! We should never be able to read a chapter from this great theological work without seeing how every part of the book drips with God’s passion for all peoples. It is from the book of Romans (v. 20) that missionary Paul most loudly shouted his life purpose: I made it my aim to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named! Paul’s purpose in writing Romans (and the Spirit’s intention in preserving it for us) was to be sure we have a passion for all peoples to be justified by faith. That’s why Paul planned head to Spain (v. 28). If we are to apply the full message of Romans, we must ask ourselves where the gospel has not gone and what we will do about it. Any other application of this book is suspect.
It is evident from the closing chapter of Romans that Paul’s readers were with him in application as well as spirit. Phoebe was part of the church plant in Cenchrea; Aquila and Priscilla were fellow church planters with Paul in Corinth beloved by all the churches of the Gentiles; Epaenetus was firstfruits from Achaia; Mary labored much; Andronicus and Junia went to prison with Paul; Urbanus was a fellow church planter as were Tryphena and Tryphosa; Persis labored much in the Lord; and on and on the missionary list goes. Names and persons now lost to us, all who shared the missionary heart of Paul, all who shared his ambition to keep preaching Christ where Christ had not yet been named.
Paul ends Romans with one last reminder of what the book is all about, what is “now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all the nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith” (16:26). The God who alone is wise, to whom be glory through Jesus Christ forever (v. 27), has commanded that all nations will be obedient to the faith. Amen. So be it. It shall be done. Let’s do it.