UNVEILING BIBLICAL SECRECTS
Reaching Unreached People Groups
ROMANS: A Missionary's Heart
The apostle Paul was a missionary. His message to the church at Rome was a missionary challenge, and his desire to minister in Spain was an expression of his heart to walk in full obedience to the Great Commission.
The Book of Romans is bound together with a call to the nations. At the beginning Paul wrote: "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles" (Romans 1:5). He closes with Romans 16:26: "So that all nations might believe and obey him."
It is apparent that Paul wrote to the Roman believers with the intent of convincing them to partner with him in leading a church planting team to Spain. To accomplish his objective, he laid out a theological treatise that left them with only one option - to become his sending base for reaching Western Europe.
Paul opens his letter by describing himself as "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1). He identifies himself as a servant, a person who has a master and seeks to obey all His commands. His attitude was like that of King David of whom he wrote in Acts 13:22: "I (God) have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do."
Called to be an apostle, Paul knew that he was authorized by the Lord to pioneer a church planting movement to the Gentile world. Interestingly, Paul never verbally acknowledges accountability to his sending church at Antioch or to the mother church at Jerusalem. He was engaged in frontier ministry because it was God’s will, and that calling kept him going back again and again. However, in practice he was answerable to the brethren: his team, his home church and his headquarters.
The Holy Spirit placed His hand upon Paul, set him apart and gave him a specific assignment to present God's good news to the Gentile world. Paul had a divine destiny and a work for which the Lord had uniquely prepared him. He was embarking on a high-risk adventure that would require a lifetime commitment.
Primary Secret - Jesus Is Alive
The Holy Scriptures preserved a promise God made through His prophets in regard to His Son. Jesus was to be a God-Man as the apostle John states in John 1:1-14 and Paul articulates in Philippians 2:6-11. As part of his prelude in Romans 1, Paul drops the veil and reveals the primary biblical secret for reaching unreached people groups: "Who (Jesus) through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4).
Proving, substantiating and verifying that Jesus rose from the dead and lives today is the keystone for leading unreached people groups to saving faith in Christ.
The truth of Christ’s resurrection is realized when it is declared "with power." A great illustration of truth and power working in tandem is the healing of the lame man at the gate Beautiful. Peter told the Sanhedrin: "It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed"
Presenting Jesus’ resurrection in the context of the supernatural will prepare the minds and hearts of unreached people for an introduction to the living Christ and a recognition that He is the Son of God. An anointed declaration of this truth, coupled with the miraculous, is essential in bringing a person to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. However, keep in mind that declaration and power are external. A seeker must internalize what he has seen and heard. From within his inmost being faith arises, allowing him to bow in awe and submission to Jesus, the Son of God.
The internal aspect of recognizing Jesus as God is strictly the Lord's domain. Paul is clear on this matter, stating that it is "through the Spirit of holiness" that one recognizes Jesus to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Jesus further clarifies this fact when He talked with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi. After Peter's pronouncement of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus says, "This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:16-17).
The comments of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate underscore the impact of the resurrection message on a resistant society, "So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first" (Matthew 27:64).
The equation revealing the primary biblical secret for reaching the unreached is this:
Declaration of Jesus' resurrection + Supernatural power + Holy Spirit illumination = Believing Jesus is the Son of God.
Adequately Prepared Workers
The focus of Paul's assignment was "to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5). Unreached people groups are included in the phrase "all the Gentiles." The word "calling" speaks of bringing people to repentance and faith in Christ. The word "obedience" refers to discipleship.
Paul speaks of this again in Romans 16:26: "So that all nations might believe and obey him." Jesus himself was clear about the need to "make disciples" in Matthew 28:20: "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
Reaching unreached people groups and planting a church among them is a huge task.A biblical precedent for fulfilling God's sovereign purpose is adequately prepared workers. Paul and his team were prepared through the gifts Christ gave them. Paul pointed out how they had "received grace and apostleship" in order to be up to their assigned undertaking (Romans 1:5).
Grace is unmerited favor. Certainly God's smile of blessing and approval upon every facet of His workers' lives and ministries is a necessity. However, the grace of which Paul speaks goes beyond this to include allowing God to shape our lives into His image for the work He has planned for us. Paul wrote: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works" (Ephesians 2:10). We are divinely designed and destined to be an expression of Jesus Christ to all unreached people groups.
Apostleship was viewed by Paul as a gifting for a believer rather than a title for a recognized office. His position on the spiritual gift of apostleship as set forth in Ephesians 4:11 was that apostles were selected believers given to the church for a particular task. This concept is fleshed out in his own ministry and teaching.
Jesus established the model for apostleship when He selected the disciples. He designated apostles whom He wanted (Mark 3:13). Paul recognized this fact and reflected it in His use of words like "chosen" (Acts 1:2) and "called" (1 Corinthians 1:1).
The record of Jesus’ appointment of the twelve apostles sculpts the purpose for their selection. "He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out" (Mark 3:14).
The most important mark of apostleship is a passionate desire to be in the presence of Jesus Christ and putting Him first in every phase of life. We see the newly appointed apostles enjoying His presence (Mark 3:14) and reporting to Him all they had done and taught (Mark 6:30). Paul's ardor for being in Jesus’ presence is expressed in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ."
Being "all for Jesus" is the essence of apostleship.The gift of apostleship is exhibited in a believer's pursuit of Jesus Christ's tailor-made plan for his life and reveling in His presence.
An apostolic ministry is characterized by the authoritative action of one sent out with a commission. Jesus "gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (Matthew 10:1). Apostleship is a focused ministry. Peter was an apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:8) and Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Teaching is a major part of the assignment: "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching" (Acts 2:42). Converts are the fruit: "You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 9:3).
Believers with the gift of apostleship are sent ones, but they do not go alone! "The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it" (Mark 16:20). Today the Lord is sending out apostles to tell all people everywhere the great things God has done for them. The urgent task of making disciples for Christ among unreached people groups is being carried out by individuals who have received the gift of apostleship.
Paul was set apart for ministry to the Gentiles at the time of his conversion. He fixed his eyes on that goal and never lost sight of it. Understanding his call gave him purpose and a sense of divine destiny. He spoke often of his call as an apostle to the Gentiles. God's call gave him authority to "step outside the box" and move among the Gentiles with the approval of the Jewish church.
Undeterred, Paul referred to his apostolic calling to the Gentiles in the presence of church leaders, government officials and in Jewish synagogues. In Romans 11:13 he stated, "Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry." Especially when he was with the Jews, his own people, he placed great stress on his calling to the Gentiles. Why?
He reveals his strategy in the following verse: "In the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them" (Romans 11:14). He relentlessly reminded the Jews of God's blessing upon the Gentiles—many being saved, the miraculous a common occurrence, a genuine hunger for God's Word, churches established and the kingdom of God advanced—in the hope that they too would hunger after God.
Envy is a desire for another's advantages. To the best of his ability, Paul endeavored to make the Jews want what the Gentiles had. He hoped they would realize what they were missing and want to get in on the move of God taking place in the Gentile Christian community.
"Arousing envy" appears to be a useful tool in Paul's strategic tool chest. When presenting the gospel to his Jewish brothers, he recounted testimonies identifying God's hand of blessing upon Gentiles in order to see some of his own people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. As envy turned to desire, their hearts longed and craved for the Messiah. A resistant people yielded when they saw and understood the benefits of serving Christ.
Paul's practice was to develop theology when addressing a current need or pursuing a particular strategy. He was convinced that people are motivated to action by what they believe. With this perspective he wrote the Book of Romans. The letter is filled with more than great theology; it is theology with a purpose.
Paul's intent on writing to the church at Rome, a church he had never visited, was to prepare them to respond favorably to his request. His need and expectation of the believers there is expressed in Romans 15:15,24: "I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again...when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there."
Paul had a very focused assignment: proclaiming good news to the Gentiles. The Antioch church had sponsored him on his missionary journeys across Asia Minor. The congregation at Antioch was his sending base and provided spiritual accountability, team members, funding and prayer support. Now Paul was targeting Spain. Just as Antioch was the threshold to Asia Minor, so he envisioned Rome as the gateway to Western Europe. To reach it he needed a new sending base. He sought the Roman church's full confidence—a confidence that would propel him on his way with a team, money and prayer support.
The theology of Romans deals with the sinfulness of mankind, the amazing grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to keep the believer true to his faith in Christ. To convince the Roman church to partner with him, Paul reminds them that salvation is available to all who call on the name of the Lord and that people need to hear the gospel in order to believe.
Paul wanted the Roman church to become his new sending base and launch him and his team into a church planting effort in Spain. He recognized that until the Roman church was convinced theologically, they would lack the vision needed to reach into Western Europe. Effective strategy necessitates good, clear theology so that an adequate launching pad can be prepared.
Biblically Spawned Ministry
Paul understood his calling and his objective: to preach the gospel among Gentiles who had never heard the good news and to disciple converts into a worshipping body of believers. He was confident that his ministry had been spawned by the Holy Spirit out of biblical truth. He was firm in his belief that the Lord was the One who brought individuals to salvation and nurtured their spiritual lives, and he was equally unwavering about his own effectiveness in the ministry. He declared this in Romans 16:25: "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ." Such deep assurance made it possible for him to say, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).
How could Paul be so sure concerning the source of his success and thoroughly convinced about the authenticity of his ministry? His rationale is given in Romans 16:25-26: "According to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings."
Paul wisely avoided developing a ministry based on personal revelation, his years of experience or current trends. The revelation of truth through the prophetic writings gave him the assurance that he was on the right track. The basis for his confidence in the validity of his ministry was its link to Scripture.
1. How can a believer prove to a resistant people group that Jesus is alive?
2. How does an individual or church planting team identify the gift of apostleship in ministry?
3. What benefits of serving Jesus might arouse envy in an individual and bring him to faith in Christ?
4. Have you made an attempt to lay a theological base to motivate believers or churches to join you in reaching the unreached? If so, how was it presented? Has it resulted in prayer and financial support? Have believers responded with a commitment to join you in active ministry?
5. Is your confidence in God and your ministry linked to Scripture? In what way does the Bible provide motivation, guidance and parameters for your ministry?