bits from bob....

Paul's Ministry: an Example for Today's Ministers

edited and posted by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

"For my part, I am sure that you yourselves overflow with goodness, abound in knowledge, and are competent to teach one another." (Romans 15:14)

As Paul concludes his letter to the church in Rome, he urges them to live out their faith. He urges them to sacrificial living and worship (chapter 12), moral lives (chapter 13), and accepting relationships (chapter 14). He is especially concerned that they demonstrate forbearance toward one another. Before he launches into several personal explanations, he clinches his point by expressing his confidence in them. Even though he has never been to Rome, he has hopes of visiting them on his way to Spain. He is confident of what he will find when he arrives.

Paul's ministry to the Gentiles he describes as his priestly duty to proclaim the gospel, so that Gentiles also might become sacrificial offerings and holy people. The first goal of preaching the gospel is to present the saving power of Christ. Paul's proclamation of the gospel has had this impact-in fact, based on Romans 16, it is likely that Paul's preaching had been instrumental in the conversion to Christ of several in the Roman church. In our text, Paul mentions three results that come when the gospel is preached and lived out in the church.

In the contemporary church, the convicting power of the gospel must be returned to its biblical role. Gospel preaching not only brings people to Christ so that they become living sacrifices, spiritual worshipers, members of the body of Christ, and holy people indwelt by God's Holy Spirit. Gospel preaching also results in Christians who are filled and overflowing with goodness, abounding in knowledge, and able to instruct and encourage one another. Gospel preaching that accomplishes these three things develops a spiritually mature church.

Unfortunately, many contemporary gospel preachers do not understand the goal of preaching as they stand before the church week after week. Some preachers think preaching is for scolding the church; others fill their sermons with minimum textual study and maximum cultural applications. Some focus sermons on knowledge with little emphasis on goodness or mutual relationships. Some sermons are legalistic in the sense that they are filled with moralizing-you should, must, ought to, need to…. Some preachers seem little interested in focusing on goodness, knowledge, and mutual instruction-thinking that such will jeopardize their job. (In reality, teaching the church to function as it did in the New Testament would allow the preacher to resume the evangelistic task reflected in the New Testament.) Given the simplicity of preaching in the New Testament, it is amazing to consider how many human diversions have developed that can be added to a sermon to distract and derail it.

Every preacher should ask himself what is the goal of his sermon and of his ministry. After 40+ years of church work, I have concluded that Paul's model is not all that bad. If my sermons and ministry help God's people to live lives overflowing with goodness, lives abounding and guided by a mature knowledge of God's will and way in Christ, and lives characterized by the willingness and ability to touch and teach others-I could hardly ask for more.

Preacher, what about your sermon last week? Did it help people recommit to overflowing goodness? Did it share and motivate deep knowledge through the study of Scripture? Did it encourage mutuality and competent teaching?

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Last updated January 1, 2011