Paul the Minister to the Gentiles, Rom. 15:14-22
The tension between Jew and Gentile was at least on par with any ethnic struggle today. At the end of Paul’s discourse on the weak and the strong, Paul used several Old Testament references regarding the Gentiles, showing that Gentiles were always in God’s greater plan. Weak and strong must accept one another. Jew and Gentile must accept one another. We must all accept one another. Accept in the sense that everyone is a human being created in the image of God, and everyone is subject to the gospel call. Paul is not saying we should approve the sinful lifestyle of the world. But all who are saved are equally saved.
Paul states in today’s text that he has written the Romans “quite boldly on some points” (15:15). Boldly indeed. The Bible is not a book of suggestions. It is God’s will for our lives, instruction regarding the salvation of our souls.
The apostle states that God charged him to be “a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles” (15:16). When Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, he told Paul that he would be sent to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 26:17). In the Galatian letter, Paul wrote, “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:8). This did not restrict either apostle’s efforts to only one portion of the world’s population. Although Peter introduced the gospel to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), his primary effort was among the Jewish people. Paul was sent to the lands of the Gentiles, but he started in the synagogue whenever he could. We must preach to all who will listen and accept all who obey.
Paul calls his ministry “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God” (15:16). This language is used to tell the Jews that the Gentiles are also an acceptable offering to God. As explained to the household of Cornelius, God accepts all who fear him and do right (Acts 10;34-35). There is no designated priesthood in the church. The priesthood of every believer is emphasized by Peter. We are “a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). As believers we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (12:2), and our confession of Jesus and our generous deeds constitute “a sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15-16). There is no clergy and laity in the church. Such distinctions are traditions of men which unduly elevate some above others. This preacher again reminds readers—I am not the pastor of the church, and titles such as “reverend” are not appropriate for me.
The genuine humility of Paul is clear when he writes, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (15:18). He had preached widely; he had worked miracles through the Spirit. He had fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ to both Jew and Gentile. Paul had made it his aim to preach the gospel where Christ was not already known. Instead of a totally inward focus, preaching to those who had heard repeatedly, Paul worked to give everyone a chance to hear. This principle should also guide us.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.