I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” – Romans 15:14-21 ESV
As Paul begins to sum up his letter, he provides us with a glimpse into his heart. After spending nearly 15 chapters defining and defending the gospel and its non-negotiable dependence upon faith alone, he takes time to remind his readers why he wrote the letter in the first place. He was passionate. In a way, he was possessed. He had a received a personal commission from Christ Himself to take the gospel to the Gentiles and he would stop at nothing to see that he fulfilled his responsibility. That is why he could put up with all kinds of suffering, abuse, rejection, ridicule, and apparent lack of success on many occasions. He was relentless in his mission. He would not be distracted or deterred from his life’s calling. He described it as “the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God.” Paul considered his job as an apostle and missionary was an expression of God’s lovingkindness and favor. His responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles was a privilege that was undeserved and unmerited, and he did not take it lightly. And he had every reason to be proud of his work for God. Not in a self-centered, boastful kind of way, but because he knew that anything he had accomplished was by God’s grace and through His power. Paul had a healthy understanding of who he was and what he had accomplished. “For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 NLT). His hard work and determination had paid off. He could look back on all his missionary journeys and see the fruit of his labors. There were thriving, growing churches filled with new believers from all walks of life. Jews and Gentiles, having come to know Christ as their Savior, were worshiping together and living out Paul’s metaphor of the body of Christ. That is why he could say, “from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.” He had done his job. He had fulfilled his commission. But he was far from done.
Paul wrote, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” He was neither content or complacent. He was not one to rest on his laurels. In fact, he had told the church in Rome, “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours” (Romans 1:11-12 NLT). Paul was not distracted by the things of this world. Money and materialism had no appeal to him. Which is why he wrote, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him” (Philippians 3:8-9 NLT).
Paul made it his “ambition” to preach the gospel. The Greek word he uses is philotimeomai and it means “to strive earnestly, make it one’s aim” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). You might say that Paul had a one-track mind. His single focus in life was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. It was his sole passion. And what should amaze us is the incredible impact of one man committed to a singular cause. Paul changed the world. He revolutionized the culture in which he lived. Everywhere he went, he left a wake filled with radically changed lives. One man. One mission. One gospel. One hope for making men right with God: the gospel of Jesus Christ. How easy it is for us to see ourselves as insignificant and incapable of making a difference in the world in which we live. We sometimes feel alone and outnumbered. We see our faith as too small and our influence as too weak when compared to the darkness that surrounds us. But like Paul, we must understand that any difference we make is not going to be dependent upon us, but on the power of God within us. Our job is to make ourselves available. We can make a difference – with God’s help. As we know from the life of Paul, one individual can make a world of difference, when he or she is committed to the cause of Christ and dependent upon the Spirit of God for strength.
And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. – Colossians 1:27-29 NLT