Sermon – April 25, 2021

Romans 1:8-15 – Authority and Service (mp3)

Many see any claim to authority as a claim to power, and in that, the ability to oppress and use others. Such claims are not typically wrong. We see throughout Scripture and history that men (and women!) use their authority for evil purposes, and seek to control others for their own selfish good. But, through Christ, who is of the highest authority, we have the prime counter-example! He who had all authority came to give his life as a ransom. Paul, in our passage this morning, displays the same understanding of authority, as he serves the Romans through his apostleship.

1. Paul’s heart is seen in his prayers
Paul, before moving on to his full reason for writing, desires to make it clear that the Romans are a part of his prayers to God. He gives thanks for them, and continually has pleaded with God that he might be able to come and see them. As Jesus said, it is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks – and Paul spoke often to God of his desire to help the Romans, and his thankfulness for their faith. What does our speech say about us?

2. Paul’s heart is seen in his purpose
Paul’s purpose in writing, and in visiting, is to pass on some spiritual gift. This gift is most likely the very thing that he had been appointed to do by God, and the very thing that the letter was meant to do – explain the gospel to the Romans. Paul wants this explanation to strengthen their faith and to encourage them, even as their faith encourages him. Again, his heart for those he has been called to serve is clear.

3. Paul’s heart is seen in his plans
Paul desires to see the Romans, to meet with them and to preach the gospel. His apostolic authority does not mean that he is to Lord over them – rather, that he might serve them under the obligation that God has placed on him. This is how all Christian authority is to be used: not for our own advantage, but for the good of others. For this is how Christ himself used his own authority. How can we do otherwise?