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Romans 15:20-22

High Ambitions

20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. 22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.


Paul wanted to go to Rome and visit the new church there, but at the time had been kept busy with his ministry. He writes here that he strove to preach the gospel. The Greek word that he used means "to be ambitious" and "to earnestly desire." We could better translate this as, "And thus, being ambitious to evangelize..."

Paul's ambitions did not, however, drive him to step on another man's work. He had a zeal for his ministry but "...not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:" Paul understood how difficult the work of the ministry was and would not interfere in the work that another had begun. He restricted his ministry to places where the name of Christ had not yet been spoken.

There is an important lesson for the modern church in this statement. Today, members are shuffled back and forth from one church to another. We spend too much time trying to increase the number of persons attending our services and too little time evangelizing those who have not responded to the name of Christ. One preacher builds his church on the foundational work of another and the body of Christ never really grows. Meanwhile, millions of people are dying without ever knowing the love of Christ. We have lost Paul's ambition to evangelize and have replaced it with the ambition to assemble large crowds.

To support his zeal for the ministry to the lost, especially the Gentiles, he loosely quoted Isaiah 52:15, "So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider." Paul must have felt like God was fulfilling this prophesy through him, and that alone would be enough to make any Christian excited about his work.

It was the work of evangelism that kept Paul from visiting the church at Rome; It was the work of evangelizing the Gentiles that supplied the drive to continue through every sort of persecution; It was the knowledge that God was working through him to fulfill prophesy; And it was the call to ministry that made Paul set his own desires aside while he served his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Not everyone is called to do the kind of missionary work that consumed the life of Paul, but we are all called to be missionaries of sort. Everywhere we go, whether it be to the office, the classroom, the supermarket, the subway or the sports arena, we are in the mission field where God has placed us. Christians should be compelled by conscience to look for opportunities to share the gospel with the lost. If our churches competed to win people to Christ instead of to put the most people in our pews and the most money in our offering plates, we would accomplish much more for the kingdom of God.

Before The Throne:

Confess your own failures to look for opportunities to share the gospel. Pray for your church to have an evangelistic focus. Evangelism is not done by having the best Sunday morning entertainment. It is done by the individual efforts of each church member. Pray for opportunities. Pray that God will prepare the hearts of those to whom you will speak. Pray for the work of the kingdom to be done.

For Further Study:

(v.20)
** so. 2Co 10:14-16; ** build. 1Cor 3:9-15; 2Cor 10:13-16; Eph 2:20-22;

(v.21) ** Isa 52:15; Isa 65:1;

(v.22) ** I have. Rom 1:13; 1Thess 2:17-18;

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