Romans 15:9: Paul The Church Planter
How do you see the Great Commission being fulfilled? Some think that it is not our job but it was the job of the original apostles, this cannot be the case because the command to preach to all nations lasts as long as the promise of Christ’s presence does, till the end of the age. Some have a picture of mass evangelism in their minds where Billy Graham style crusades are done all over the world until millions of Christians are saved. Some see every Christian being a missionary and if each one reaches one then the world can be reached that way. Today as we continue to look at the ministry of Paul, I want to argue that Paul’s view of fulfilling the Great Commission is this: to plant local churches all over the world in strategic locations. You see in order to make disciples you need a whole church. We are not merely called to make converts, but disciples who obey all the commands of Christ which include getting baptised, observing the Lord’s Supper, submitting to elders, practicing church discipline, meeting together, sitting under the word, praying with one another and loving one another, among other things. One on one evangelism, campus ministry, even mentoring does not do all of this only getting someone saved and into a church does. Secondly, we will see by Paul’s method that instead of making sure every single person in an area hears the gospel, if there is a church in a strategic location which will act as leaven and finally affect the area around it, one can be content with planting a church and moving on.
The text that points us to Paul’s method is Romans 15:19, ‘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.’ A few things to note from this verse. Firstly, we need to see that Paul says he has fulfilled his ministry from Jerusalem to Illyricum. Jerusalem is on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, and Illyricum is the large area north of all those places lining the northern shore of the Mediterranean. Paul is claiming that a large area of land from Italy all the way around the Mediterranean has been reached for the gospel. How? Had every person in that area been preached to? No! so how then could Paul say he has fulfilled his ministry? Look down at verse v23, ‘But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you.’ He has fulfilled his ministry and he has no room for work in these regions, what is he talking about? Paul understands that his goal is not to preach to every single soul, but rather to plant churches in strategic locations where Christ has not been reached, and then from those churches the message will continue to be broadcast.
Secondly, please notice that Paul says from Jerusalem to Illyricum? So what! This matters, Paul’s home church and sending church was Antioch not Jerusalem. Why then would he say from Jerusalem to Illyricum? Because he is thinking in terms of the Great Commission. Acts 1:8, ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”’ (see also Luke 24:47). He sees himself on a mission to fulfil Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations beginning in Jerusalem. How does he do this? By peaching to every individual in the world? No! Instead he targets key cities from which the gospel will travel along the Roman roads and infiltrate a whole area like leaven. Once he has established a church, even though all have not heard in that area, it is time to move on.
So lets think then on how the church is necessary to making disciples and then how churchplanting is the key way we should be seeking to fulfil the great commission.