Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation...Romans 15:17-20
Concerning the principles of his ministry, Paul tells us five things: First, everywhere he went he found himself boasting, or a better translation is
rejoicing. He said,
I rejoice, I glory in Christ Jesus, in my service to God. Why? Because when this man came into a city, he usually found it in the grip of Roman authority, and ruled with an iron hand. He would find the people in widespread despair, empty and longing for something they could not find, and fallen into terribly degrading habits that were destroying homes and the very fabric of society itself. He would find them in the grip of superstitious fears. No church existed where he went, but after he had been there a while, and had begun to preach these tremendous themes, light began to spring up in the darkness. People were changed; they began to live for the first time. They discovered why they were made, and excitement appeared in their lives. So Paul just spent his life rejoicing over what was happening. That is the kind of ministry he had, and he gives us the secret of it in Verse 18:
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done. That is the greatest secret God has to teach man — that man was designed, not to do something to make God happy, but to let God work through the man. God would do the work — that is what Paul said,
.. Christ has accomplished through me.
Paul's life and ministry were constantly characterized by the display of the power of God to change lives. Then look at how widespread his ministry was (Verse 19):
So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. Jerusalem is way down on the eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia. Paul had traveled up and down that coast, on into what we call Turkey, in Asia Minor, up and across the Dardanelles, into Europe, then into Macedonia and Greece. He had gone into what we call Yugoslavia (Illyricum). And the nature of his ministry was pioneering (Verse 20):
It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. He never wanted to build on another man's work.
There are two kinds of Christians: Some want to be Settlers, to live around the courthouse and let the mayor run everything. They have lost all desire to reach out. But then there are the Pioneers, like Paul. They want to be getting into new areas that have never been touched adequately. I believe this is characteristic of the Spirit of God. He loves to thrust out into new areas.
Some of us are praying for a thrust into unreached and needy areas, to touch folks who have never been touched much. You should pray to be able to reach into these areas, that something will develop that will have the touch of God upon it. And this is Paul's great hunger. We are to reach out with the good news, as Paul did.
I pray that I may not forget that I am still in the battle, and I am still to be your instrument. Help me to partake of the apostle's spirit and press on, until you are ready to call me home.
Have we settled for apathetic complacency though surrounded by evidence of personal and worldwide spiritual warfare? What steps are urgently needed to be God's messengers, empowered by His wisdom and indwelling Presence?