Chapters: Marks of True Spiritual Service, Part 2
In Romans 1:8-16a, the apostle Paul endeavored to open up his heart to the Roman believers. He showed his real motives for serving the Lord Jesus Christ. No greater servant has ever lived than the apostle Paul, other than our Lord Himself. This portion of Scripture forces Christians who read it today to look inside and see what really motivates them for true spiritual service. It was apparently very important for Paul to unbare his heart to the Roman believers because he was preparing by the will of God to come to them. He stopped at the very beginning of this epistle--just after introducing the theme of the gospel of God--to show the Romans how much he really cared for their spiritual growth.
Paul had never been to the Roman church and most of the Christians there had only heard about him. He wanted them to better understand him and his teaching. In verses 8-16, you can see the qualities of Paul's life, the character of his service to Christ, and the motives that moved his heart. In so doing, Christians everywhere can find a pattern for themselves because all Christians are called to serve Christ. The apostle Paul is an exceptional example of what it means to serve Christ.
A. Wrong Motives for Serving the Lord
1. PanicHomeward Bound
Paul wrote to the Romans explaining that his service was not external or legalistic. He served the Lord from the heart.
a) John 4:23-24
Jesus said, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. " You cannot worship God with externals, ritual, or routines. You either worship Him from the heart or you do not worship Him at all.b) Romans 12:1
Paul said, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. "
There is a story of an old missionary who was returning home after many years of sacrificial service in Africa. He was on the same ship with Teddy Roosevelt, who was President at that time. Roosevelt had also been in Africa, for a big game hunt. When the ship docked in New York, great crowds greeted the President, and the press covered it all: The old missionary and his wife walked off the ship unnoticed, and made their way all alone to a cheap hotel for the night before traveling to the west. "It just doesn't seem right," said the missionary to his wife in a rather bitter tone. "We give our lives in Africa to win souls to Christ and when we arrive home, there's no reward or anyone to meet us. The President shoots some animals and gets a royal welcome. " As they were praying before retiring, it seemed that the Lord spoke to them and said, "Do you know why you haven't received your reward yet? Because you're not home. " That is what Paul had in mind in his spiritual service. He didn't want to receive superficial or temporal acclaim. He was willing to wait until he went home--his ultimate home--to receive what God had promised him.
2. PrestigeB. Right Motives for Serving the Lord
a) 1 Corinthians 9:16-173. Pride
Paul said, "Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. "b) 2 Corinthians 4:5
Paul said, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. "c) 1 Corinthians 9:19
Paul said, "Though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant of all. "
4. Peer pressure
It was not Paul's goal to serve the Lord for money.
a) Acts 20:35
Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "I have shown you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. "b) 1 Corinthians 10:24
Paul said, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. "
I. A THANKFUL SPIRIT (v. 8)
II. A CONCERNED SPIRIT (v. 9)
III. A WILLING SPIRIT (v. 10a)
William Carey, the great missionary to India, had a willing spirit. As he was preparing to leave from England, his friends said, "Are you sure you want to go to India?" Going to India in those days was quite dangerous. Carey was alleged to have said, "I will go down [into the pit], if you will hold the rope" (S. Pearce Carey, William Carey [London: The Carey Press, 1923], pp. 117-18). That is a willing spirit!
IV. A SUBMISSIVE SPIRIT (v. 10b)
"By the will of God to come to you. "
A. Paul's Commitment
The apostle Paul did not want to do anything outside the will of God. He began his epistle hoping to visit the Roman Christians if it was God's will, and ended it the same way (Rom. 15:32). Paul's life was regulated by a commitment to the will of God.
B. Paul's Model
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was Paul's ultimate example of one who was committed to do God's will.
1. Matthew 26:39C. Paul's Example
Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. "2. Matthew 6:10
Jesus, showing the disciples how to pray, said, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. "
Paul conformed his life to the will of God. He was utterly concerned with serving Him.
1. Acts 21:13-14Why Pray if God's Going to Do What He Wants to Do Anyway?
Luke recorded this about believers who tried to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem: "Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready, not to be bound only but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he [Paul] would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. " Paul was being told by everyone that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be bound as a prisoner. But Paul lived for the will of God. And his disciples were resigned to the fact that death might be the will of God for him.2. James 4:13-15
James said, "Come now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the next day. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. "
The limiting factor in everyone's decisions should be if it is the will of God. The true servant is totally submissive to God's will. Paul was resigned to God's will and it didn't matter whether it brought him pain or pleasure. That kind of obedience is not fatalism. Rather, it requires the confidence of knowing that God has the best plan for His children.
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse gave a great illustration to convey the relationship between our prayers and God's sovereignty:
We will suppose the case of a man who loves violin music. He has the means to buy for himself a very fine violin, and he also purchases the very best radio obtainable. He builds a library of the great musical scores, so that he is able to take any piece that is announced on the radio, put it on his music stand and play along with the orchestra.
The announcer says that Mr. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra are going to play Beethoven's seventh symphony. The man in his home puts that symphony on his stand and tunes his violin with what he hears coming from the orchestra. The music that comes from the radio we might call foreordained. Ormandy is going to follow the score just as Beethoven wrote it. The man in his living room starts to scratch away at the first violin part. He misses beats, he loses his place and finds it again, he breaks a string, and stops to fix it. The music goes on and on. He finds his place again and plays on after his fashion to the end of the symphony.
The announcer names the next work that is to be played and the fiddler puts that number on his rack. Day after week after month after year, he finds pleasure in scraping his fiddle along with the violins of the great orchestras. Their music is determined in advance. What he must do is to learn to play in their tempo, in their key, and to follow the score as its been written in advance. If he decides that he wants to play Yankee Doodle when the orchestra is in the midst of a Brahms number, there's going to be dissonance and discord in the man's house but not in the Academy of Music. After some years of this the man may be a rather creditable violin player and may have learned to submit himself utterly to the scores that are written and follow the program as played. Harmony and joy come from the submission and cooperation.
So it is with the plan of God. It is rolling toward us unfolding day by day as He has planned it before the foundation of the world. There are those who fight against it and who must ultimately be cast into outer darkness because He will not have in His heaven those who proudly resist Him. This cannot be tolerated any more than the authorities would permit a man to bring his own violin into the Academy of Music and start to play Shostakovich when the program called for Bach. The score of God's plan is set forth in the Bible. In the measure that I learn it, submit myself to it and seek to live in accordance with all that is theirin set forth, I shall find myself in joy and in harmony with God and His plans. If I set myself to fight against it, or disagree with that which comes forth, there can be no peace in my heart and life. If in my heart I seek to play a tune that is not melody the Lord has for me, there will be nothing but dissonance. Prayer is learning to play the same tune that the eternal plan of God calls for and to do that which is in harmony with the will of the Eternal Composer and the Author of all that is true harmony in life and living (Expositions of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], pp. 122-23).
V. A LOVING SPIRIT (v. 11)
"I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established. "
A. Love Involves Giving
The apostle Paul wanted to give the Roman believers a spiritual gift that would establish or strengthen them in their faith. The primary demonstration of love is giving. John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. " True love always gives. Paul wasn't coming to Rome because he wanted to tour the Appian Way or see the Forum and watch chariot races. He wanted to come because he wanted to give.
Many times in my ministry as a pastor, I sometimes say to myself, "I wonder whether any one is really hearing what I'm saying. I wonder if people really appreciate me or the Word of God. " You can very easily fall into a woe-is-me complex. Maybe you've felt the same way in your ministry. If so, you must remember that as long as you look at the ministry you're in as something you give, you will never have that problem. If you look at the ministry as something you get, you will end up with a twisted view of what real ministry is.
1. Colossians 1:27-28C. Love Involves Giving the Word of God
Paul said that "God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. "2. Galatians 4:19
Paul agonized over the spiritual state of those to whom he ministered: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth pangs again until Christ be formed in you. " I cannot totally identify with Paul, but I have experienced severe pains in my stomach with anxiety over the lack of response to the teaching of God's Word. It is as if some people come to church with a thimble's worth of desire for knowledge and spill it on the steps going out!3. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Paul said, "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. " No one is more gentle than a nursing mother with her little baby at her breast. The word translated cherisheth is a very strong term and means "to warm with body heat. " Paul was saying, "We provided you with the warmth of our body, as a mother does for her little baby, and we longed for your presence and fellowship. "4. 2 Corinthians 12:15
Paul wrote, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. " Even if they hated him, he would still love them. The main characteristic of love is unselfish giving.
b). Love Involves Giving a Gift
Since one who loves always seeks the best for what he loves, Paul said he longed to impart some spiritual gift to the Roman believers. He wanted them to receive a charismata, or gift of grace. Because Paul referred to a spiritual gift--the Greek word pneumatikon is used--this grace gift is a gift of the Holy Spirit. 1. Romans 5:15--Paul used the same term to speak of Christ when he said, "Not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many are dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. "2. Romans 11:29
Paul referred to God's blessing of Israel when he said, "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. "3. Romans 12:6
Paul here spoke of the gifts of grace to the body of Christ when he said, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. "
The gifts of God's grace are used to speak of Christ, the general blessings that God gives to His people, and of specific spiritual gifts. How is Paul using it in Romans 1:11? I think he is using it in the largest possible sense. Paul may in effect be saying, "For some of you, I'd like you to receive Christ Himself, for others I'd like you to receive the blessings of God, and for still others, I'd like to minister my spiritual gifts among you. " What Paul wanted to impart to them wasn't physical, but spiritual.
So much preaching today is superficial. Endeavoring to impart spiritual depth into someone's life is a difficult task. You must build on the foundation of the Word of God. There is no point in my doing book reviews or reading emotional stories to my congregation, as some ministers do. That is sheer frivolity. If you love people, you always seek to give them the best you have to offer, and the best thing I can offer is the teaching of the Word of God.
Verse 11 gives us the reason for imparting spiritual gifts: "To the end ye may be established. " The Greek word used for establish is st[ma]eriz[ma]o, which means "to fix," "to confirm," or "to strengthen. " Paul expressed the same thought in another way in Ephesians 4:12: "For the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ. " Paul wanted to use the Word of and the gifts of the Spirit to impart spiritual depth in the lives of the believers.
Is Genuine Love Your Goal?
A girl in our church who was a student at a local university said to me, "I learned a great lesson from one of your sermons on love. I always told myself that I loved the little girls in my fourth-grade Sunday school class. They all have small, frilly dresses and the cutest smiles. I told myself I would never miss my class because I love them so much. " She went on to say, "One Saturday I was attending a football game at my school--something I do every Saturday--and the Lord convicted me about not adequately preparing my Sunday-school lesson. Because I attended the games on Saturday, I was in the habit of running through the lesson early Sunday morning, but it was very shallow and superficial. God pointed out that I didn't really love those girls the way I thought I did because I made no sacrifice in my own life to give them something of eternal value. " She ended our conversation by saying, "So from now on, I will not be attending any more football games until my lesson is completed and I feel I can impart to them something of eternal value. "
VI. A HUMBLE SPIRIT (v. 12)
"That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. "
A. Mutual Benefit
Paul was not coming in as the spiritual expert to dispense information to the Roman believers. He wanted also to be encouraged by their faith. That is a demonstration of his humility.
There are many people who think they have so much to give and nothing to learn. A true servant of God, should never feel superior to others. Paul was saying, "I going to minister to you and impart my spiritual gift, but I know in return that you will minister to me as well. "
John Calvin once wrote, "Note how modestly he expresses what he feels by not refusing to seek strengthening from inexperienced beginners. He means what he says, too, for there is none so void of gifts in the Church of Christ who cannot in some measure contribute to our spiritual progress. Ill will and pride, however, prevent our deriving such benefit from one another" (The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960], p. 24). Paul was eager to learn from inexperienced beginners.
B. Mutual Blessing
New Christians have come to me and said, "I don't know why I'm talking to you. I know there must be important people for you to talk to. I know you must be busy. I'm just a nobody. " They think they have nothing to offer, but according to verse 12, the great apostle Paul himself was willing to learn from the most inexperienced of believers.
I had dinner not long ago with someone who kept saying, "I am so sorry for taking up your time. Your're probably not interested in speaking to me. " I kept saying, "Wait a minute! I appreciate your talking to me. This is building my faith and I'm having a wonderful time. " I don't want people to deny me that privilege!
The humble teacher says, "Let's learn together. "One writer said that humility is that low sweet root from which all heavenly virtues shoot. There are few things worse than a pompous teacher who treats you as if you knew nothing and he knew everything.
1. 1 Peter 5:2-6
Peter directed this comment towards elders: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight of it, not by constraint but willingly; not for filthy lucre but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. In like manner, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to one another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. "2. Philippians 2:3-5
Paul said, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. "
The true servant of God is always thankful. He's always prayerful because he knows that although he can thank God for what has been done, there is still much that needs to be done. And, he's willing to be the solution to the problem if it's God's will. He seeks to give to others, not only for what he can give but also for what he can receive.
Someone once wrote, I gave my service, but with a heavy heart, And with it went but little love or trust: He was my master, I must serve or die, So I gave my service for I must:--is the voice of destiny.
Then, o'er the dreary dulness of my road There came the kindling ray of better thought: I owed my service to a loving God, So I gave my service, for I ought:--is the voice of duty.
And lo! the Master made my service sweet, And, like a ray of glory from above, There came the knowledge that to serve was joy, And so I give my service, for I love:--is the voice of devotion. (Cited in A. Naismith's 1200 Notes Quotes and Anecdotes [Chicago: Moody, 1962], p. 179. )
Focusing on the Facts
1. Why was it important for Paul to reveal his heart to the Roman believers?
2. How did Paul show the Roman Christians that he cared for them?
3. What can Christians gain from reading Romans 1:8-16?
4. The apostle Paul did not want to do anything outside the ______ of God.
5. Who was Paul's model for pursuing the will of God? Support your answer with Scripture.
6. True or False: The limiting factor in everyone's decisions should be if it is the will of God.
7. What is the relationship between a Christian's prayers and God's sovereignty?
8. Why did the apostle Paul want to come to Rome?
9. The primary demonstration of love is _________.
10. What did Paul mean by saying he wanted to impart a spiritual gift to the Roman believers?
11. What is the best thing a pastor can offer his congregation?
12. What was the purpose in imparting spiritual gifts among the church at Rome?
13. How did Paul demonstrate a humble spirit in writing to the believers in Rome?
14. A true servant of God should feel superior to others.
15. What did John Calvin say about learning from others?
16. Summarize what a true servant of God is like.
Pondering the Principles
1. True spiritual service is marked by a submissive spirit. The apostle Paul would not take one step further unless he knew it was the will of God. Is your life marked by a submissive spirit? Do you endeavor to live each day in the perfect will of God? Study the following verses and let them be a model for how you conduct your daily affairs: Acts 18:21, 1 Corinthians 4:19, and James 4:13-15.
2. The true servant of God is marked by a loving spirit. We should seek to give more than receive and build up others in the faith. Paul wanted desperately to exercise his spiritual gifts among the Roman believers. How desperately do you want to use your spiritual gifts to minister to others? Read the following verses and ask God to give you the same desire: 2 Corinthians 9:14, and Philippians 1:8, 2:25- 27, and 4:1.
3. Humility is an important mark of true spiritual service. Humility does not involve thinking lowly about yourself; it is not thinking about yourself at all! Do you possess a humble spirit? Do you become jealous when someone else gets the credit you think you deserve? Do you receive an equal amount of joy when others are blessed. Over the next few days, memorize Philippians 2:3-5 and ask God to make you a humble person.