“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 Romans 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.”
Read: Read the above verses.
The Scripture that we’re focusing on in this devotional comes from the fifteenth chapter in Romans. This passage is near the end of a long letter—one which we could spend hours just talking about the context that precedes our verses. There is a lot behind our passage, but to keep it short, Paul has written this letter to a church that he has never personally visited but has always wanted to visit because of the good things he’s heard about them (1:8-15). He knows some of the members, but he doesn’t know the church at large, and he’s writing to them because it seems as though he will finally get an opportunity to visit them. He is not writing to correct them on some doctrinal error they were susceptible to, nor is he writing to rebuke them for sin in their congregation. He’s writing to them to let them know he’s coming, to see if they can help him with his future plan to go to Spain (15:24), and to remind them on some points of the faith.
Today, some Christians use Romans as an evangelistic book to introduce unbelievers to the gospel, its implications, and many of the foundational truths of reality. You have a lost friend? Take them for a walk down the ‘Romans Road.’ And that’s great! Many heroes of church history, like Augustine and Martin Luther, came to the faith after reading Romans. I mention this use of Romans because for many today, Romans is an entry point to the Bible that introduces folks to many new theological words and concepts.
But for the original readers of the letter, the content of Romans was all stuff that they had already known. Maybe they’d forgotten some things here and there, but they had at least heard most of the content that Paul had written to them. As he says in our verses above, he is satisfied about them—that they are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and capable to teach one another. The word translated for us into “satisfied” can also mean “to have confidence.” Paul is confident that the Roman church was full of knowledge and competent to instruct, exhort, and rebuke one another. They know the basics of the gospel, they know that it is the power of God for salvation (1:16), they know that all mankind is guilty before a holy God and only deserving of judgment (1:18-32; 3:1-19), they know that man is not saved by works but only by grace through faith in Christ whom God put forward as the wrath-satisfying sacrifice for the sin of those who believe in his Son (Rom 3:21-26). They know about their new nature in Christ as a result of their saving faith (6:1-23) and also of ethnic Israel’s relationship with the gospel and their future national redemption (9-11).
So why didn’t Paul just write them a short letter like this, “Hey guys, this is Paul the apostle and I’m hoping to come visit in a month or two to enjoy your company and maybe get some help on some ministry things. See you soon!”? He tells us why he’s written to them in 15:15-16, which is to remind them of all those things. But if they are filled with all knowledge, why do they do they need a reminder of the truths they’ve already learned, some of which are basic Christian doctrines? As Paul writes in our passage above, it’s all a part of the mission to which God called him: to be an apostle to the Gentiles for their salvation and sanctification. Paul is reminding this church about these truths for their continued growth in Christ.
Now, I’m preaching to myself here: I know that when I go into a Bible study or hear a sermon on a passage or a topic that I think I know well, I am very prone to instantly check out and not really listen attentively to the message. Perhaps you have that tendency as well. If you do, listen when I say that when we do that, we are not only being disrespectful to our pastor or Bible study leader; we are also doing a great disservice to ourselves. Whenever you next start to entertain the thought of, “I already know this, I don’t need to listen anymore,” quickly think about all the wonderful, blessed truths that are in the book of Romans that you hold dear. Then imagine if the original readers had the same mentality that you have toward your pastor’s sermon to the new letter that they just received from Paul. “This is a kind letter, but we already know all of this so just chuck it out after everyone’s read it.”
Now, I’m not trying to compare your pastor’s sermons, as great as they might be, to the inspired Word of God, but you see what I’m getting at, right? How much encouragement, how much needed rebuke, how much doctrinal correction, how much truth that we didn’t fully comprehend before, and how many precious gifts of God intended for our sanctification are we throwing away when we zone out to a message because we’ve “heard it before”? Let us never again underestimate the value of reminders, whether timely or persistent, knowing that God is using those reminders of his truth to conform you closer into the image of his Son.
Ponder and Pray Together: Take a little bit of time to remind yourselves of some Gospel basics by answering these questions: Why do we need salvation? How can someone be saved? Why is Jesus Christ our only hope?