I did not belong to an Independent Baptist Fellowship nor did I ever pastor an Independent Baptist Church; yet I was at heart an independent Baptist preacher for the first twelve years of my ministry from 1956 to 1968.
During those years I devoured John R. Rice’s weekly paper, The Sword of the Lord, and gave gift subscriptions to as many homes as possible in those early years of my ministry. Its primary emphasis was three-fold: 1. proclaiming the Gospel, 2. encouraging Christians to share the Gospel with others and 3. warning against false doctrine and identifying false teachers and movements.
I had first been introduced to The Sword in the ministerial class at Bob Jones University from 1952-56. During that time I often heard Dr. John R. Rice speak to us and I was moved by his genuine love for Christ and for winning lost souls to Christ. I never saw him preach without tears.
After John R. Rice died the Sword was led by others who espoused the “King James Only” heresy, a heresy John R. Rice warned against. You can read more on this in my King James Only post in my Separation series.
One of the leading soul winning Baptist pastors associated with The Sword was Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.
He wrote a weekly column in the Sword entitled “Let’s Go Soul Winning”.
In that column he told of the many people he had led to Christ each week, giving us his instructions as to how to do it.
Jack Hyles also hosted an annual Pastor’s School in his church. About 1967 or 68, my wife and I attended one of his week-long Pastor’s School in Hammond. I had my classes with Pastor Hyles and his staff. My wife had her classes with Mrs. Hyles and with ladies on the church staff. There we learned his psychological methods of giving an invitation and of winning souls to Christ. I would never dare to judge him nor any other Bible preaching preacher as to his effectiveness. That is for God alone to judge. All I know is that as we drove home from that Pastor’s School, my wife and I shared with each other our impressions of the School. Both of us were very uneasy as to how the entire church elevated him to an almost god-like status. We agreed that Hyles was not a man I wanted to emulate.
Several years later rumors were flying in Christian circles that Jack Hyles had gotten sexually involved with a woman in the church. That rumor persisted to his death.
For the last number of years, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana has been pastored by Jack Schaap, Jack Hyle’s son-in-law. Just today, August 1st, 2012, I was saddened to learn on the Hammond, Indiana television news that this son-in-law is now involved in a moral’s issue. I know none of the details, nor am I interested in knowing. My heart grieves again that another servant of God has fallen.
What lesson do I learn from all of this? The importance of Elder Rule in a church, rather than the sole rule of a pastor. Paul’s Epistle to Titus teaches this truth. When a pastor rules without accountability to Elders, power can go to his head leading to great damage to the church. I thank God for the Elders of Alameda Bible Church here in Albuquerque, New Mexico who helped me lead this church from 1990-2011. Together we sought God’s will in prayer for every major decision, and though I did not always have my way, God’s will was done and our church was blessed. I’m thankful that Pastor Peter Lee, my successor, is presently teaching the importance of Elder rule in his expository series in Titus.
The Apostle Paul concludes the main body of his epistle to the Romans with a benediction in Romans 15:33.
In chapter 16 he concludes his epistle with:
Warm greetings to his friends in Rome 16:1-16
A final warning 16:17-20
Greeting to his friends in Corinth. 16:21
Tertius, his secretary, adds a PS in 16:22-24
Paul concludes with a doxology in 16:15-27
GREETINGS TO HIS FRIENDS IN ROME
In this message we consider his greetings to his friends in Rome. You may wonder how Paul knew these Roman Christians when he had not yet been there. We learn in Acts 18:1-2 that persecution by the Roman emperor had caused the Christians with Jewish as well as Gentile backgrounds to be scattered. Paul had met and knew some of these Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ in the churches of Greece and Asia Minor. Now some of these had returned to Rome.
Here in Romans 16 we consider some of Paul’s friends: both men and women.
Paul began by mentioning Phebe, a Christian woman from Cenchrea who had a servant heart and helped many Christians, including Paul. She is probably the one to whom Paul had entrusted the delivery of this Epistle to the Roman Christians. Basically, Paul in this closing greeting encouraged the Christians in Rome to help Phebe in whatever way they could.
The most valuable Christians in any church are those who have a servant heart to help meet needs. They may or may not be leaders in the church. Certainly every pastor, elder, deacon, as well as other worker in the church ought to have a servant heart; otherwise, they are useless and disqualify themselves from church leadership positions.
Priscilla and Aquila
Paul continues his list of friends by mentioning in Romans 16:3-4 a husband and wife team, Priscilla and Aquila, who opened their home for the church in Corinth. More information is given concerning them in Acts 18:1-3. This godly couple was used of God, we learn in verses 24-26 of that chapter, to teach and encourage a young up-and-coming preacher by the name of Apollos to have a clearer understanding of Pauline doctrine. The truths Paul had learned directly from Christ at the time of his conversion were just as much a part of the inspired Word of God as anything Jesus Himself had taught.
We learn in Romans 16:5 of Epenetus who was the first of Paul’s converts to Christ in Asia Minor. There was a special bond of love between these two as there is between every new believer and the one who led him to Christ.
Mary, of Romans 16:6, one of many Mary’s in the New Testament, was another of many Christian friends who blessed Paul and was blessed by him.
Andronicus and Junia
Andronicus and Junia was another Christian couple who were well known by the Apostles. Romans 16:7 informs us, they were fellow prisoners for the cause of Christ. They had a spiritual kinship with Paul; not only because they were both in Christ, but also because they were Christians even before Paul was converted to Christ on the Road to Damascus.
The list of names continues in Romans 16:8-15. From the comments Paul made, it is evident that these were precious, personal friends who had suffered with Paul and had shown him sacrificial love.
All of us involved in ministry for Christ could list our own personal friends who have helped us and been true friends, especially in times of great stress and persecution for Christ. In Heaven we will have eternity to get better acquainted with those who have meant so much to us in what we call time on this earth. Think of it, in eternity time will be no more. We will have eternity to deepen and strengthen those bonds of friendship. Who will be waiting for you in Heaven whose life you have touched for Christ on this earth?
I think of what Jesus said in Luke 16:9. There Jesus encourages us to use our time, energy and money to reach out to lost men, women, boys and girls, to influence and lead them to Christ, so that when we arrive in Heaven, they will be there to welcome us and thank us for sharing our lives, our resources and the Gospel with them.
In Romans 16:21, Paul sends greetings from some of the Christians in Corinth, including Timothy.
In Romans 16:22 Tertius, who was taking dictation from Paul and actually writing the letter, inserted a personal word of greeting to the Roman Christians.
Purpose of these personal words of greeting
The Holy Spirit directed Paul to include these personal words of greeting to teach us Christians the importance of being gracious, warm, kind and loving in our dealings with fellow Christians. Paul had a personal interest and concern for each one, naming them in his prayers as well as in this Epistle inspired of God.
How this should encourage each of us as Christians as we understand that God sees and knows each of us by name and loves us intimately as a Friend who “sticks closer than a brother.” Though sometimes unknown, unnoticed and unthanked by others; God never forgets what we do for Him and for His glory. I am encouraged in Hebrews 6:10 that “ God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love which we have showed toward His name, in that we have ministered or served others.”
In Malachi 3:13-18 we read that Christ has a Book of Remembrance in which are written the names of those who have a reverential fear of God and as a result, have come to trust, love and serve His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Such are as precious jewels to Him.
In Proverbs 31:4-7 Lemuel passes on the warnings of his mother concerning the importance of kings and others in authority to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages, lest in a state of intoxication their ability to make right decisions be impaired.
There’s no question that alcoholic beverages have deceived and destroyed many lives; but what’s so dangerous about drinking wine in moderation? After all, Jesus miraculously changed water into wine at a wedding feast. He instructs us to use bread and wine in observing the Lord’s Supper. I don’t deny that many Christians around the world drink wine responsibly and in moderation. I am also aware that health studies show that red wine is good for our health. Nevertheless we must not ignore the plain warnings of Scripture of the deceitfulness and danger of intoxicating beverages, including wine. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1
Reasons why I do not drink wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Before I give my reasons, please understand that my total abstinence does not make me a better Christian than those who drink wine in moderation. Though beer and wine are not temptations to me, I have my struggles with ice cream and certain pastries that can be more harmful to my health than wine. I am an ongoing recovering addict from some of those rich foods.
Nevertheless, I will give you my reasons for avoiding wine and strong drink for your own consideration.
1. Although Israel drank wine and used it in their feasts, I am not an Israelite. I am a born again Christian and have an intimate relationship with Christ as part of His bride. In The Song of Solomon 1:1-2 the bride says of her husband, that His love is better than wine. In 4:10 the Husband, says of His spouse, that our love is better to Him than wine. Whereas Old Testament Israel perhaps needed a little wine to give them cheer and help make life bearable; as a Christian, wine is something I do not need to give me cheer, nor do I need rich foods and entertainment to brighten my day. With Christ I enjoy a continual feast.
2. I enjoy grape juice. If I started drinking wine, I imagine I could acquire a taste for it and thoroughly enjoy it. If that happened, I might have as much trouble drinking in moderation as I have trouble eating chocolate or certain flavors and brands of ice cream in moderation. I don’t want to take that chance. I do not trust my sinful flesh nature, nor should any Christian. Read the warnings about this in Romans 7:14-25
3. As Paul said in I Corinthians 6:12, so I refuse to allow my body to come under the control of anything, good or bad. If I crave anything, that is a caution flag warning me to bring it under control. If I crave something, I try to avoid it. This is what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 9:24-27. Be warned of those things you MUST have in order to be happy and content. If your meal is ruined because you cannot have a cup of coffee or a can of soda or anything else, than perhaps you have a craving that needs to come under control. If you or I have a certain TV program we just MUST see or our day is ruined, that is a sinful craving. If you or I MUST have a glass of wine with a meal or the meal is ruined, that is an inordinate affection or desire and Colossians 3:5 warns about allowing that to rule our lives.
ANYTHING THAT WE MUST HAVE IN OUR LIVES IN ORDER TO BE HAPPY AND SATISIFED, HAS BECOME A LUST. THAT IS A SIN!
When Israel was traveling through the wilderness on their way to Canaan, they lusted after the cucumbers, leeks and garlic of Egypt and despised the manna God was providing them. Read Number 11:4-10 and see how this attitude displeased God.
II Samuel 23:14-17 tells the story of how David, while in battle with the Philistines, sinfully craved a drink of water from a certain well in Bethlehem, his home town. Three of his brave soldiers jeopardized their lives to bring him a cup of that water. He became so convicted of this that he refused to drink it, but poured the water on the ground as a sacrifice to God.
4. If some people in Old Testament times took a Nazarite vow, which included abstaining from wine and even grapes, in order to please God; it seems to me that as a Christian, I ought to abstain from wine and other alcoholic beverages.
5. Aaron and his sons as priests were forbidden to drink wine. We as Christians are a kingdom of priests. See I Peter 2:9-11. It seems to me it would be right for us to also avoid wine.
6. Kings and judges were commanded to avoid wine lest they should forget God’s Law and pervert judgment. Remember, that was Bathsheba’s warning to her kingly son Lemuel, n Proverbs 31:4-5.
7. Pastors, elders and deacons are all warned to not be given to wine. II Timothy 3
8. I am free as a Christian to drink wine, but I refuse to enjoy that freedom lest by my example I should cause a weaker brother to stumble. Romans 14
9. Personally I cannot think of one good reason to try to acquire a taste for wine and start drinking it, so I won’t.
10. I expect in Christ’s Kingdom in my glorified body, I will feel free to enjoy drinking wine with Christ, but until then I choose to abstain. Luke 22:18
As I hold these standards for myself, I refuse to condemn or think less of my brother in Christ who does not see it my way. Romans 14:21-23
There’s no question that Paul was successful in his ministry. What made him a success? What makes any pastor or any servant of God a success in God’s eyes? We’ll find the answer in the passage before us, Romans 15:13-33.
Let me begin with a simple Biblical principle which you and I must never forget. Our calling and responsibility is to GO with the Gospel and PROCLAIM the Gospel. God’s responsibility is to DO THE SAVING. You and I cannot save anyone. We cannot change anyone’s heart. Only God can do that. I’m glad I learned that principle early in my ministry. It has taken immense pressure off of me to attempt to try to do what only God can do.
Here are the six secrets of Paul’s success, secrets that will work for any servant of God in any age.
I HIS CONCERN FOR THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF OTHERS.
His dual concern was for the salvation of sinners and for the maturity of the saints. Romans 15:13, 9:1-3, 10:2, II Corinthians 5:13-15, Galatians 4:19. That concern results in a two-pronged ministry; that of preaching the Gospel to the lost and teaching and edifying (building up the saints) in the truths of God’s Word. As you read through Hidden Treasures you will soon note that this is also my dual concern.
II HIS CONFIDENCE IN WHAT GOD WAS DOING IN THEIR LIVES
Paul, in Philippians 1:6, writes of his confidence in God’s ability to complete what He alone had begun in the hearts of those who trusted in Him for salvation. That confidence has taken the pressure off of me to attempt to do what only God can do. My responsibility is to preach the Gospel to the lost and to take every opportunity to feed God’s people the Word wherever and whenever I have the opportunity. God does the saving of sinners and the edifying of the saints. Hence this Hidden Treasures web site. His responsibility is to do what I cannot do: save people and cause them to grow and mature as saints. What an unnecessary load that takes off my shoulders!
III. HIS CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS DIVINE COMISSION
In Romans 15:15-20 we learn that this consciousness resulted in holy boldness. 15:15, direction, 15:16,20, and Holy Spirit power to do what he never could have accomplished in his own ability. 15:17-19 What an encouragement this has been to me as a preacher, once a bashful, timid boy who was afraid to stand up in front of people and talk.
IV. HIS CONSIDERATION OF GOD’S WILL
In this same passage in Romans 15 Paul writes of the importance of seeking and knowing God’s will for himself.
Someone once asked a ship’s captain how he guided his ship safely into a harbor. The captain pointing to some harbor lights replied. “See those three lights out there? When those three lights appear as one light, then I know I am right on course to enter the harbor.”
The three lights for you and me as Christians are;
1. God’s Word Romans 15:21
2. Our circumstances Romans 15:22
3. Our heart’s desire Romans 15:23
When seeking God’s will about anything, all three of these factors must line up as one. There must not be any contradiction. Paul always desired God’s will and His will has always been my primary concern as a Christian.
The Psalmist had the same concern for God’s will. See it in Psalm 37 and Psalm 40:8. Is that the deepest desire of your heart?
V. HIS CERTAINTY OF RESULTS
Paul speaks of this certainty in Romans 15:24-29. He was always ready to preach the Gospel, assured that it was powerful enough to accomplish God’s will. There was never a hint of depression or of self-pity. It was not a self-confidence in his ability; but in the power of the Gospel. We see that same assurance of success in Philippians 1:12-14 and II Corinthians 2:14.
VI HIS CALL FOR PRAYER PARTNERS
That call is found in Romans 15:30-33. Note the use of the word beseech.
That word is found three times in Romans.
In Romans 12:1 Paul beseeches us as Christians to consecrate and present our bodies, our lives and our strength, to God for His use.
In Romans 15:30 he beseeches Christians to be prayer partners with him for Jesus’ sake, striving together with him in prayer as he ministers in his dangerous situation in Rome.
In Romans 16:17 he beseeches them, warning them to recognize and mark or identify publicly the dangerous false teachers who were straying from the doctrine Paul, by divine inspiration, had taught them.
He gives them two reasons for praying. First, for Jesus’ sake. He died for a lost world. The least we can do is to pray for our lost world. The second reason we are to pray is for the love of the Holy Spirit. Our human love can’t get us concerned enough to pray, but the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and controlling us can enable us to pray with burdened hearts.
How are we to pray? Romans 15:30 describes it as striving together with Paul. Colossians 4:12 describes effective prayer as laboring together with Paul.
For what should we be praying? In Romans 15:31-32 he request his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray that he would be delivered from the unbelieving Jews who rejected Christ. As he himself had been a persecutor of Christians before he was saved, so now he was being persecuted by the Jews who rejected and hated Christ.
He also asks them to pray that his ministry and message would be accepted by the saints, the Christians in Jerusalem, when he returned to them.
Finally, he asked them to pray that God would enable him to return to Jerusalem by the will of God and that together they would be spiritually and physically refreshed.
He concludes by asking that the God of peace would be with them. May God help us as we study the prayers in the Bible to learn to pray in the will of God.
As we move into the concluding 15th and 16th chapters of Romans note that Paul is winding up this great doctrinal epistle with some concluding concerns for Christ’s Church. He loves the Church and desires God’s best for her. Paul’s God-inspired desire of blessing for the Church at Rome and for Christ’s universal Church then and today is book-ended between two benedictions. The first benediction in Romans 15:5-6 and the second in 15:13. Let’s consider now Paul’s desire for The Church of Rome and for Christ’s Church today as we consider Romans 15:5-13. His desire could be summarized in one thought, spiritual unity of all believers in Christ.
Consider this theme of spiritual unity using the following outline.
- A Pastor’s Burden.
- The People’s responsibility
- God’s Provision for His Church
- God’s Purpose for His Church
I A Pastor’s Burden
Paul’s burden and every true pastor’s burden is that the Church enjoy Christian unity, peace and joy as it is edified (built up) through the preaching of God’s Word. A false pastor ( a wolf in sheep’s clothing) does not feed the Church God’s Word. Rather, his desire for the church is to milk the sheep for all the money he can get, leaving the flock divided, distressed and in danger of Satanic attacks.
Note in John 17 that the unity of believers was the concern of Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep just before He left His disciples to die on Calvary’s cross.
II The People’s Responsibilities
The responsibilities of the Church are summarized in Romans 12:1- 15:4. We’ve already dealt with them in the previous studies in this Roman’s series. They can be summarized in receiving one another with our strengths and weaknesses and being concerned for meeting the needs of others, thus glorifying God.
III. God’s Provision for His Church
God’s provision for the stronger Christians in His Church is found in Romans 15:4-5. Patience is needed for getting along and working with weaker Christians. Comfort and consolation are needed by weaker Christians who don’t always understand why other Christians, who although they preach the Gospel, do things and believe things differently from them. God’s hope, joy and peace, spoken of in verse 13, are needed by all of us for getting along with others.
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul teaches us that it is the Holy Spirit working in the lives of yielded believers which enables us to enjoy that unity as we are yielded to His control.
IV. The Purpose of this Unity
In Romans 15:6 we learn that the purpose of the Spirit’s unity is that God would be glorified as we, His Church, are a united witness to a lost world. That was also Jesus’ concern in John 17:20-21 just before He went to the cross to die for our sins.
It’s His concern for His Church today that we may have an appreciation and understanding of the value and purpose of each Christian. Let’s not be so quick to write off Christians who differ with us as being weak and of no value to Christ and His Church. How we need to learn to value and appreciate one another with all our differences.
Let us learn to recognize and receive fellow believers as brother and sisters in Christ and learn from them, whether they are weak or strong spiritually. We’re going to love one another throughout eternity. Let’s start learning to do that now.
I conclude with Paul’s benediction for us in Romans 15:13. “Now the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
In the light of our previous study of Romans 14:10-12 concerning the Bema Judgment of Christians it should concern us how we relate to weaker brethren; that is, Christians whom we believe are misled concerning Bible doctrine and who are over-influenced by Satan and his world system.
By weaker brethren I am not speaking of those who deny the Bible as the inspired, infallible Word of God and who deny salvation through the shed blood of Christ. They are not weaker brethren, but enemies of Christ and are of their father, the devil. John 8:34-44.
How can we help our weaker brethren?
Receive them as brothers. Romans 14:1
Don’t argue with them over non-essentials. Romans 14:1
Don’t despise them for their perceived weakness, Romans 14:3
Don’t judge or condemn one another for these differences. Romans 14:3-4
Remember that none of us live to ourselves. We’re all interdependent on one another. We can’t make it alone as Christians. We need the prayers and encouragement of each other. Romans 14:7
Don’t stumble and offend a weaker brother by our conversations and actions. Romans 14:13, Matthew 18:6
Be charitable and loving in our relationships and dealings with one another. Let love rule. Romans 14:15
Guard your reputation. Romans 14:16 Dr. Bob Jones Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, used to tell us in chapel, “Your character is what God knows you to be. Your reputation is how others perceive you.” Your reputation is important for your testimony’s sake.
Focus on the essentials of Scripture, the Gospel, salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
When it comes to Christ’s Kingdom, yes, there is a promise of a coming Millennial Kingdom of Christ. At the same time, there is a spiritual truth for every Christians to grasp. The Kingdom has already begun in the heart of every Christian. Christ reigns now. Matthew 5:3,10,20, Luke 17:20-21, Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13, I Thessalonians 2:12, and I Corinthians 4:20. Let’s focus on these concerns that edify rather than the picky differences of opinion that divide.
Endeavor to try to keep peace in God’s family. Romans 14:19, Ephesians 4:3,13.
Here’s one with which I especially have problems! Keep your personal opinions to yourself. Don’t burden down other Christians with you convictions of right and wrong. Romans 14:22 Live by your convictions.
Bear with, that is, put up with the weaknesses of others. Romans 15:1 Christ is our example in this matter. Romans 15:3 He did not live for self-fulfillment and for self-satisfaction. Rather He lived and died for others.
May God help us as Christians to live by these Kingdom Concerns.