Evidences of a Truly Caring Heart – Romans 1:8-15
Pastor Mark Hardy November 13, 2011
In 1920 a young man named Oswald Smith was standing before an examining board for selecting missionaries. More than anything else he wanted to be a missionary. In addition to all of his planning and preparing, he often prayed, “Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me.” Now, at last, he believed his prayer would be answered. But the examining board turned him down because he did not meet their qualifications.
What do you do when your plans don’t work out and God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you desire? You continue to trust the Lord! As Oswald kept praying, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would plant a church that would send out missionaries. So that is what he did. In 1928 Oswald planted The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada, and for 30 years he developed it into one of the greatest missionary churches of that time. Today this church currently supports 153 nationals and over 300 missionaries around the world.
How are we to handle the disappointment of our plans? This is one of the things we will be looking at this morning. As we continue on in our study of Romans, we now come to 1:8-15. In this passage we will see that although Paul did not personally found or even visit the church at Rome, the love of Christ still moved him to deeply care for the Roman believers. Turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 1.
In Romans 1:8-15 we see five evidences of a truly caring heart for others spiritual welfare that every believer should manifest.
The first evidence is:
I. Thanksgiving to God for Faithful Believers
A. Look at v. 8: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
1. Paul thanks God for what He has done among the Romans. Now the word “First” (proton) doesn’t imply a “second,” but simply shows that thanksgiving to God for other believers is a first priority in Paul’s heart.
2. Throughout Paul’s letters his pattern is always to thank God for the grace He has bestowed upon churches and individuals (1 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3-4; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philem. 4-5). The only exception was the Galatians who had defected from the true gospel of grace to a works system of righteousness.
3. Notice that Paul’s thanksgiving reveals his personal relationship with God, “I thank my God.” It is as if Paul is saying, “I am His and He is mine.”
4. What a privilege we as believers have as children of God to call the Almighty God of the universe, “my God.” Romans 8:15 says that we can even cry out to Him saying, “Abba! Father!”
5. But notice that since it is only “through Jesus Christ” that blessings can be received, it is only “through Jesus Christ” that thanksgiving must be returned. Jesus Christ alone is our great High Priest who has made access to the Father possible.
6. Describing His death, Matthew 27:50-51 states, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” At that moment the tearing of the massive curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary “from top to bottom” showed that no man had done this, God did it.
7. This signified that the way into God’s presence was now open to all through Jesus Christ alone (Heb. 10:19-22). First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
8. And Jesus Himself declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (Heb. 4:16; 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:5)
9. So here in v. 8 Paul “thanks his God through Jesus Christ” for “all” the believers in the church at Rome.
B. And his specific reason for his thanksgiving is that their “…faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
1. Concerning their faith, Douglas Moo correct states, “Nothing is implied in this about their faith being particularly strong; the very fact of their faith is sufficient reason for giving thanks to God, the author of faith.”
2. Now “the whole world” in which their faith is being “proclaimed throughout” is a reference to the entire Roman Empire, which was the known civilized world during the apostolic age (Lk. 2:1).
3. Since at that time “all roads led to Rome,” it is no wonder that everywhere Paul went he heard about God’s grace at work in the capital city where people had bowed their knees and worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The second evidence of a truly caring heart is:
II. Praying to God for Other’s Needs
A. Look at vv. 9-10: For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the
preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how
unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
1. Before Paul tells them that he is praying for them, he briefly states his God-given ministry. The word “serve” (latreuo) here refers to the function of a priest in the temple and is also used for “worship” (Phil. 3:3; 2 Tim. 1:3).
2. In other words, Paul’s service and worship were inseparably connected—his service was an act of worship, and his worship was an act of service. The same is true for us!
3. Therefore, Paul says, “I serve and worship God in my spirit,” which means “with his whole heart.” And he did so “…in the preaching of the gospel of His Son.”
4. The “gospel of God” (v. 1), which originated from Him, is here described as the “gospel of His Son” because Jesus Christ is its substance. But also integral to Paul’s worshipful service to God was his intercessory prayer on the behalf of other believers (Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philem. 1:4).
B. In these two verses we see how Paul inseparably connects his ministry of preaching and prayer. He models for us five aspects of what true prayer should look like in our lives:
1. First, true prayer is sincere. Paul says, “For God…is my witness…”
• Since the Roman believers had only known about the prominent apostle from what they had heard and had never met him personally, Paul knows that his claim to be “praying for them” may seem difficult to believe. So by stating, “God is my witness,” he makes a serious oath.
• He appeals to the omniscient (all-knowing) God, who alone knows the reality and sincerity of Paul’s prayers for them, to testify on his behalf. He wants them to know that he meant what he said.
• He is sincere and genuine; he is not merely stating some pious platitude or Christian cliché. Likewise, whenever you or I tell someone “I’ll pray for you,” we need to make sure that we do what we say!
2. Second, true prayer is constant. Paul says, “…unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request.”
• The words “unceasingly” and “always” show that Paul constantly included the Roman believers in his prayers. He never took them off his prayer list.
3. Third, true prayer is personal. Paul says, “I make mention of you.”
• He always prayed for particular churches and individuals by name.
4. Fourth, true prayer is specific. Notice that Paul asked that “I may succeed in coming to you.”
• Here he prays for traveling mercies. There is no detail in life that is so trivial that we cannot make it a matter of specific prayer.
• The word “succeed” (euodothasomai) here means to have a prosperous journey. Paul was about to leave Corinth for Jerusalem to deliver the special offering from the Gentile churches for the poor Jewish saints.
• From Jerusalem he then planned to visit Rome before going on to Spain. But it is significant that the word “succeed” is in the passive voice in the Greek, meaning that none of his travel plans could be accomplished unless God permitted them to happen.
• The sovereign providence of God that is implicit in the passive form of the word “succeed,” is explicitly reinforced in the phrase “by the will of God.”
5. Fifth, true prayer is submissive. Paul says, “…if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.”
• Although Paul deeply desired to be with them, he never presumed to know what God’s will was or demanded his will from God. Instead, he humbly submitted his will to God’s will—“…if perhaps now at last by the will of God.”
• God’s will in all of this was much different than what Paul would have planned. In Acts 21-28 we see that while in Jerusalem the Jews wanted to kill Paul.
• He was arrested in the temple, falsely accused by the Jewish authorities, and after various court appearances he was finally sent as a prisoner to Rome to be tried before Caesar, but not before the ship he was traveling on was shipwrecked.
• Have you ever noticed that God’s will for our lives includes suffering? This is because God is more concerned about our Christlike character than He is our earthly comfort.
• Eventually Paul did arrive in Rome where he stayed two years under house arrest chained around the clock to a Roman soldier. But because Paul was always humbly submissive to the will of God this kept him from getting angry at God for what He allowed him to go through or getting depressed and just giving up on serving the Lord.
6. Prayer is truly the greatest ministry that we as believers have the privilege of rendering to God and His church. It is not only to be the priority of the Elders, along with the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4), but also it is the ministry that can be done by any believer, especially when age, illness, or even imprisonment limits us from serving in other areas (Lk. 2:36-38).
7. Never forget that we truly care for others spiritual welfare when we are faithful to pray for them.
8. The third evidence of a truly caring heart is:
III. Longing for Others to grow Spiritually
A. Look at v. 11: For I long to see you… (Stop there)
1. Paul tells the Roman believers that he continuous “longs” (epipotho—present tense) or desires to see them and be with them. The love of God, which had been poured out within his heart by the Holy Spirit (5:5), literally made him homesick for these fellow believers that he had never met. (1 Jn. 3:14)
2. With these strong words of love for them, Paul gives three reasons for his continual longing to visit them. The first reason is that Paul desired to strengthen their faith.
3. He goes on to say in v. 11, “…so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.” The “spiritual gift” (charisma) that Paul is talking about here cannot be the gift that every believer receives at the moment of salvation because these gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit not men (Rom. 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:9-10, 28-30; Eph. 4:11; and 1 Pet. 4:10).
4. I believe C.E.B Cranfield is right when he states that “…it is probably better to take the word here in a more general sense as denoting a blessing or benefit to be bestowed on the Christians in Rome by God through Paul’s presence. There is an intentional indefiniteness due to the fact that he has not yet learned by personal encounter what blessing they particularly stand in need of.” (Cranfield pg. 79)
5. Notice the purpose of this blessing or benefit was that they “may be established.” The word “established” (sterichthenai) speaks of solidifying, stabilizing, and strengthening believers in their faith.
6. In other words, it refers to spiritual growth toward maturity in Christ. And again the fact that the word “established” is in passive voice shows that God alone causes spiritual growth to happen in our lives.
7. It was this spiritual growth and maturity that Paul was intent on seeing take place in every believer’s life. He states in Ephesians 4:13, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
8. And in Colossians 1:28 he says that his passion was to “…present every man complete in Christ.”
B. The second reason is that Paul desired to be encouraged by them. Look at v. 12: That is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
1. No sooner had he said these words that he seems to sense their inappropriate one-sidedness, as if only he has everything to give and nothing to receive. So he immediately states, “That is, that I may be encouraged together with you…”
2. Notice that this mutual encouragement happens by each other’s faith, “both yours and mine.” Even the great apostle Paul never thought of himself as above being spiritually edified by other believers.
3. John Calvin said it well, “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.” (Mac pg. 44)
4. Beloved, we all need each other! Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
5. This interdependence upon one another’s spiritual giftedness is how Christ has designed His church to function. There is a contribution that every one of us as believers are to make to the church family as we minister our gift.
6. No one is excluded! It is beautiful when this happens, for Ephesians 4:16 says that “…the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
7. But when believers choose to not minister their gifts, it is to that degree that the body lacks and fails to grow in the way God designed.
C. The third reason is that Paul desired some fruit in Rome. Look at v. 13: I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
1. Calling them “brethren” (adelphoi), a term of endearment and loving affection for fellow members of God’s family, Paul wanted them to understand that he had often made definite plans to visit them, but he was “prevented” (ekolothen) or hindered from doing so.
2. He hadn’t neglected them, for they had never been out of his praise, his prayers, or his plans. There is nothing wrong with making plans.
3. However, Proverbs 16:9 clearly states that, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” And that was Paul’s point!
4. The only reason Paul had not come sooner to them was because “by the will of God” He sovereignly “prevented” him because God had a different plan for him at the time.
5. In this case, Paul was hindered because of his other missionary work in Asia Minor and Greece that God had him doing (15:22). Yes Paul made his plans, but he handled the disappointment of his plans by holding them with open hands in humble submission to the sovereign will of God.
6. Is that how you look at the hindrances in your life? Alva J. McClain said, “Hindrances are not always an evidence that our purposes are wrong. Too often we purpose to do something that we think is according to the divine will, and when we start to do it, a hindrance comes up (or two or three). Immediately, with unseeming haste, we decide that this is not God’s will for us, and so we abandon it. But our purpose may be exactly according to the divine will, only perhaps we are trying to carry it out at the wrong time, and the very hindrance that appears as an obstacle in our path may be a divine testing of our purpose, as well as the assurance that it will be carried out at God’s appointed time.” (McClain pg. 51)
7. So Paul’s plan to go to Rome was indeed God’s will, but when he got there was an issue of God’s way and time. But he wanted to go there, “…so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.”
8. The word “fruit” (karpon) here is used not of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), but the fruit of both new converts and strengthening believers. The apostle to the Gentiles longed to be used of God to obtain some spiritual fruit in the capital city, as he did elsewhere throughout the Gentile world.
9. Now since only the Holy Spirit can produce fruit in people’s lives, if we truly care for others spiritual welfare we too will long for the Spirit to work through our lives to help others grow spiritually.
10. The fourth evidence of a truly caring heart is:
IV. Feeling an Obligation to all People
A. Look at v. 14: I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
1. The word “obligation” (opheiletes) here refers to a debt. Paul felt an obligation or indebtedness to the entire world to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”
3. But Paul isn’t the only one who has this obligation. Leon Morris accurately states, “The gospel imposes a debt on all those who receive it, a debt which calls for repayment by passing the gospel on to someone else.”
4. Beloved, all believers are obligated to share the gospel. Jesus said in His Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 that we are to “…make disciples of all the nations.”
B. Notice how Paul describes the entire Gentile world that he was obligated to, “…both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”
1. The Greeks and barbarians and the wise and foolish seem to be parallel phrases. The “Greeks” (Ellesin) were considered “wise” (sophois) because they spoke the Greek language and had assimilated the Greek culture, which the Romans embraced in forming their own Greco-Roman world.
2. And they called all of the non-Greeks “barbarians” (barbarois), a word which imitated the unintelligible sound of foreign languages (bar, bar, bar—onomatopoeic). The Greeks considered these foreigners “foolish” (anoetois) or uncivilized and uneducated because they neither spoke the Greek language nor adopted the Greek culture as their own.
3. But Paul was no respecter of persons. He felt an obligation to all people, regardless of their nationality, their cultural background, or their level of education.
4. Likewise, when we truly care for others spiritual welfare we too will feel an obligation to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ with all people.
5. The fifth evidence of a truly caring heart is:
V. Having an Eagerness to share Christ
A. Look at v. 15: So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
1. Paul not only felt obligated and indebted to share the gospel with a lost and dying world, including Rome, but he also was eager (prothumon) and ready to do so. How encouraging, for what if he wasn’t?
2. If he wasn’t eager, then during his two year imprisonment in Rome under house arrest he would have been sitting around bitter at God and full of self-pity instead of writing what is known as the prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon), and witnessing to everyone who came to see him, including all of the Roman soldiers who happened to be chained to him.
3. But because of his eagerness, we are told in Philippians that the gospel of Christ went out “throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else (1:13) and even into Caesars household (4:22). What a testimony!
4. And since the words “you also” refer to the Roman believers themselves, for Paul to “preach the gospel” to them refers to the ongoing work of teaching and discipleship that builds on initial evangelism. When we truly care about others spiritual welfare then we will be eager to share Christ, whether it is for their salvation or for their spiritual growth.
In closing, these five evidences from the example of Paul are God’s way of showing us whether we truly care for others spiritual welfare. May we all, like Paul, allow the love of Christ to so flow through us that these will be manifested in our daily lives to the glory of God.