THE PRIESTLY DUTY
Key Verse: 15:16
“...to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
There are many great men throughout human history. Definitely none of them were born great. Then, what makes them great? For example, Paul was the great man of God. He confessed, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”(1Co15:10) The grace of God made him great. Especially God’s calling to proclaim the gospel of God grew him great. When Paul remained faithful to God’s calling regardless circumstances and costs in life, God used him to display His power, His glory, and His greatness. Our God is truly great God who called such a wretched sinner to the priestly duty and revealed his power and glory. God is not limited by who we are. In today’s passage, Paul tells us about the priestly duty to proclaim the gospel of God. Through this passage, we may learn God’s hope for us to be a kingdom of priest for this nation. We may fulfill our priestly duty by raising up disciples of Jesus through one to one Bible Study. Through 1:1 Bible study and disciple-making, the gospel of God may be preached to the end of the earth.
First, the priestly duty is God’s amazing grace (14-19).
Look at verse 14. “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Though Paul had never visited the church in Rome, he already knew them well. In Chapter 16, Paul greeted the house churches and the believers in Rome, calling them “my co-workers”, “my dear friend”, “my fellow Jew”, “brothers and sisters”, and “Lord’s people.” Paul deeply understood the church in Rome. They were full of goodness. Since they had been transformed by the gospel, they revealed God’s goodness through their kindness to the poor; through obedience to the authorities; through compassionate hearts to the weak in the midst of the evil of the world. They were also filled with knowledge. They grasped the essential of the gospel. Many of us say that Romans Bible Study is hard because this is a deep theological letter. Amazingly they understood what Paul was writing about. They were also competent to teach one another. They were Bible teachers and spiritually mature people. It seems like they would hardly need anything more said to them.
Look at verse 15. “Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me....” What did Paul write to them? Paul did not try to write something new. But he wrote them boldly on the basics – the simple gospel to remind them of it. Living out in the world, it is so easy to forget this simple gospel of Jesus. God trained Israelites for 40 years through Daily Bread in desert just to remind them of who God is. Likewise, we need daily reminders of the truth. Otherwise, we are going to slip right back into thinking like everybody else. It is so easy to be sucked into pleasures of the world. We easily become unthankful, judgmental, hostile, discouraged or despair, forgetting the grace of God. We need to be reminded again and again of the old, old story of Jesus. One of the best way is to gather Daily Bread every morning faithfully. Do not worry to be bored. Rather, we will go closer and closer to God; our relationship with Jesus will be deeper and deeper. Every morning we will be thankful and filled with grace of God. After Romans, we will study Luke’s gospel again. Through Luke’s gospel Bible Study, we may newly learn Jesus, his love for sinners, his death on a cross and resurrection.
Let us read verses 15b~16. “… because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” How did Paul become a minister of Christ? “By God’s grace.” In other word, it was impossible for him to be a servant of God by any other means. Once he was a man of self-righteousness and pride. Seeking self-righteousness, he became the chief enemy of the church of God. He tried to destroy the work of God, putting all believers in prisons. The Risen Christ who has all authority and power did not crush Paul, his enemy. Instead, he visited him and one-sidedly gave him the grace of forgiveness of his sins and the grace of mission to carry his name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel (Ac 9:15). Paul was deeply thankful to God for calling him to be a minister of Christ. Though Paul suffered much to carry out this mission; he was often abused verbally and physically; he was hated by his own people, he never forgot the grace of Jesus who saved him and gave him a holy mission. He confessed “I am what I am by the grace of God.” His selfish ambition and self-righteousness had made him miserable, but God’s grace and his calling made him a truly great man in God, and in world history.
I also confess that I am what I am by the grace of God. If someone ask me when might be the most wonderful time in your life, without hesitation I will say “it is my college years.” I did not sleep much. From the early morning I had to work to earn school tuition and support myself. I did not have time to study much for I had to run here and there to invite sheep and to track down run-away-sheep and to bring them back to Bible Study. I was misunderstood by friends and family members. Still it was the most wonderful time of my life for Jesus saved me from my sins and called me to be a shepherd. And I had lived according to God’s calling; Not just as a student, but as a servant of God, a bible teacher and a shepherd. Do you want to remember your college years as the most stressful times because of school study, the meaningless years with parties after parties? What about your 20s, 30s, or 40s? Living according to one’s ambition does not make his life wonderful. Even though he achieved so much things, all things become meaningless. However, living according to God’s calling makes our life beautiful, wonderful and meaningful regardless suffering, pain, and all kinds of troubles we have. Years later, we may remember this year 2016 as the most wonderful year.
How did Paul describe his ministry? Look at verse 16. “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” What does “the Priestly Duty” mean? This refers to the Old Testament Levitical priesthood. In the Old Testament, priests had many duties. One of them was to offer animal sacrifices on the altar. The priest stood before God, bringing the sacrifices for the sin of the Israelite. God accepted these sacrifices and forgave theirs sins. Then the priest proclaimed the forgiveness, representing the Lord to the people. What about now in the year 2016? Should we sacrifice animals still? “Priestly Duty” is not to sacrifice animals any more, but to proclaim the gospel of God. Then, what is the Gospel of God? How does this gospel of God different from animal sacrifices? The animal sacrifices cannot cleans all their sins and make them holy and acceptable to God; it just covers their sins temporary. But the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is able to make sinners holy and acceptable to God. It is because Christ, the Son of God died once and for all as the Lamb of God. The gospel of Jesus is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes (Ro1:16). Sinners are justified by faith in Jesus alone (Ro3:28). Not only so, but we also become heirs of God and coheirs of Jesus Christ. Anyone who hears the gospel and put their faith in Jesus receive the forgiveness of sins and the living hope in the kingdom of God. This is the gospel of God. What people need is not animal sacrifice, but the gospel of God.
Then what should we do with this gospel? “Proclaim” Proclaiming is not the same as chatting about. It is more than just delivering information. It is announcing with absolute faith and a life-giving spirit. The gospel of God should be proclaimed. The gospel of God is not something that we can discuss about it and change it. It is the fact what God has done for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn3:16).” The gospel of God is not a theory which can be changes according to circumstances or times. The gospel of God is the truth of God that never changes. “Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one come to the Father except through me (Jn14:6). ”
Look at verse 16 again. Proclaiming the gospel of God is a priestly “duty,” not a priestly “option.” It is not “ordinary” duty, but “priestly” duty. It is the grace of God and highest privilege to be part of God’s salvation history. Not only Paul, but also Peter see his mission as a divine duty as royal priests to spread the gospel of God. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Peter wanted all believers to live as Bible teachers and shepherds, wherever they were. From the worldly point of view, they were just emigrants or strangers scattered throughout all the provinces of Asia Minor. However, from God’s point of view, they were chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a people belonging to God for the purpose of the priestly duty; proclaiming the gospel of God.
Look at verse 16b. “so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” This teaches us why proclaiming the gospel of God is so urgent and important. Through preaching; through proclaiming the gospel, God accepts those who believe the gospel of God. It is worthy to go out campus-fishing in this cold wheatear, even though we might be rejected numerous times. It is because God will save anyone who hears and believes what we preach. Let’s pray to build up Fishing Basecamp in CSC food core, so that we may faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus. God may save students through what we preach – the gospel of God.
Proclaim the gospel of God is more than just delivering information. According to verse 16b, Proclaiming the gospel of God is to take are of people with the word of truth, so that they become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In today’s terms, to be a minister of Christ Jesus with the priestly duty means that we become shepherds for people, to help them to come to God and grow spiritually through the word of God. As Jesus commanded his disciples in Mt 28, “Priest Duty – proclaiming the gospel of God” is to raise up disciples of Jesus who became a living sacrifice for God (Ro12:1) It is to raise up disciples of Jesus who obey the word of God wholeheartedly with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Do you know what RURP stands for? “Rutgers University Royal Priesthood” We named our bible study group “RURP”, for we accepted our priestly duty for God’s flock in Rutgers campus. We accepted God’s hope for us to grow as a Royal Priesthood who can proclaim the wonderful grace of God. What an amazing grace of God upon Noah Yoo and Paul Shin. They are chosen people for the purpose of the priestly duty for this campus and this nation.
You might think that you are not ready for “Priestly Duty”. Do not worry about it! God is not limited by who we are. Look at verses 17-18. “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 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....” What does it mean to glory in Christ Jesus? It means, “My life is great because I can be used to do the work of God.” The life under God’s priestly duty is the most glorious life. When Paul followed Jesus, he lost everything in this world. He gained nothing in the world through his ministry and built no foundation for his future security. This would make most people really miserable with a sense of loss. But Paul only felt glory in his heart because he could live a life of mission and fulfill his priestly duty. At the same time, Paul rejected all glory and praise for himself. Paul always pointed people to Jesus and gave glory to God. When we read Acts, we are amazed by what he had done. However, he never said, “What I have accomplished,” but he always said “What Christ has accomplished through me.” Paul had been a mighty instrument of God’s power. Through him, God changed individual lives; through him, God evangelized the entire area from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Yugoslavia). Many people looked at Paul as if he were a mighty man. However he always identified himself as a servant of Christ. It was enough for him to be a mighty instrument to reveal the glories of Jesus Christ. Because Paul did not depend on his brilliant mind, nor his great personality, nor his talent, nor his wisdom, but God alone, Jesus Christ could accomplish great things by what he said and did. The secrete of Paul’s ministry is power; not his own power, but the power of God and the power of the Spirit. God could do his mighty work through Paul, because he was the servant of God who depended on God fully and obey his words absolutely.
To those who depend on God fully, nothing is impossible. Those who live for the glory of God have a reason to rejoice in the great things Christ does through them. To be a fruitful in God’s work we must fully depend on God alone; we must have a deep desire to glorify God alone. Raising up 1 disciple of Jesus seems impossible with our own ability. However when God works through our humble obedience to his command, nothing is impossible. When we become a servant of God who listen and obey his words absolutely, God will display his power in our lives. May God help us give up on self-glory-seeking. We may live a truly glorious life to be used to lead the Gentiles to obey God through proclaiming the gospel of God. When we teach the word of God faithfully and prayerfully, the USA will become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Second, join me in my struggle by praying to God (19b-33).
Look at verses 19b-21. “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written, ‘Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’” In these verses, Paul reveals his own ambitions in order to plant in us a holy ambition for world mission. When we study the gospels, we cannot ignore the fact that at the end of each one Jesus leaves us with the world mission command. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mk 16:15). The priestly duty that Jesus gives us is worldwide in scope. Through three missionary journeys, Paul pioneered four churches in Galatia (Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe), three churches in Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea), and a church in Achaia (Corinth), and laid the groundwork for a tremendous ministry in Asia Minor through the city of Ephesus. At the time he wrote this letter, his plan was to go to Spain. That’s because at that time, Spain was the end of the earth! If he knew England or American, he would want to go to England or even America. It seems that Paul would singlehandedly bring the gospel to all the Gentiles of his time. And he wanted to drop by Rome on the way and share his world mission vision with the Roman Christians. He wanted to encourage them to spread the gospel to the whole world through Roman roads.
Where might be the end of the earth for us? We have prayed to pioneer the Middle East and North Korea, the most unreachable ends of the earth, with the gospel of Jesus. Is it impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. Thank God for blessing NJ ministry to be used for the Gospel work in Middle East, beginning with Turkey. Last Summer M. David Byun shared his vision for NJ ministry to be world mission center for Moslem Countries beginning with Krykistan and Kazakhstan. What a wonderful vision! It is God’s hope for us to carry out this priestly duty to the end of the earth. Each of us may see this hope of God for us, so that our hearts may be filled with the world mission vision. First of all, God may bless NJ ministry to pioneer 66 colleges in NJ with the gospel of God.
Before going to Spain or Rome, Paul had a very important task to finish. Look at verses 25-29. The reason Paul was compelled to visit Jerusalem was that he wanted to deliver a special offering collected by the churches in Macedonia and Achaia for the believers in Jerusalem who were suffering from a famine. Why did he want to deliver the offering, risking his life? This offering was not just a relief offering. It was Paul’s prayer to unify Gentile and Jewish believers for the glory of God. Paul hoped that Jewish believers would recognize God’s work among the Gentiles and accept them as brothers from their hearts and also the Gentile believers would acknowledge their tremendous spiritual debt to the Jews. He hoped that through mutual understanding and recognition of God’s work, both Jew and Gentile would become one in the work and history of God. This was an important part of his world mission vision. For this, Paul was willing to give his life (Ac 21:13).
Paul knew it would be very dangerous for him. So he asked for a prayer support. Look at verse 30. “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Here Paul asks the Roman Christians to join his struggle by praying to God for him. He shared three prayer topics. 1) His safety from unbelievers in Judia 2)The Jewish believers would accept the offering from the Gentiles and they would accept God’s purpose for them and 3) He may visit Rome with the fullness of God’s blessing. Paul took prayer seriously because he was well aware of the power of prayer. He urged them to pray for him. Do you know what happened to him after this? All these prayer topics had been answered. He was rescued. His service was accepted. And he was brought to Rome, even if in chain. Do you think all these happened by accident or coincident? Paul would tell us it was because of the prayer of God’s people for him. We may not ignore world mission prayer topics. By praying to God for our world mission co-workers, we are joining in their struggle. What prayer topics do you know for Turkey, for Libya, for Nigeria, for Moscow UBF? What prayer topics do you know for your co-worker in NJ? Let’s join in this spiritual battle by praying to God for our world mission co-workers, and for our sheep. Finally, Paul finished his prayer requests with benediction. He said, “The God of peace be with you all. Amen” (33).
Let’s read verse 16 together again. “...to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” God fulfilled Paul’s world mission vision, as he continued his priestly duty by preaching the gospel wherever he was; in prison and also in his rented house in Rome (Ac 28:30). May the Lord help us to be faithful servants; Bible teacher; shepherd to the end of our lives! May God help us also to take the priestly duty seriously! May God help us to faithfully share the gospel with our students until they become an acceptable offering to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit!
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