Reach. I like the title to our lesson this week. I think about a little boy reaching across the counter to grab the cookie jar. Because his arm is too short, he must strain his little body as he stands on his tiptoes and extends his fingers as far as he can, just barely reaching his prize. But alas, he succeeds and with a big smile eats a delicious cookie.
The church was created for the purpose of reaching the world with the gospel. We are called to put all our energies into that pursuit. As Paul begins to close out his letter to the Romans, he uses himself as an example, seeking to inspire action on the part of the church. He writes, “…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God” (Romans 15:16-17).
God was doing a work in Rome. A church was planted and believers were growing in Christ. Paul spent the majority of his letter explaining in detail the rich theology of the gospel. It was now time for the church to get to work. The church is not called to only believe in the good news, but to share with the world the wonderful news that God has provided a Savior. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life is available to all who call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13).
Paul ministered to the saints at Rome. It was now their turn. As they experience spiritual growth in Christ, Paul was telling them that they are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were now set apart for special service to God. He then bragged about the great work that the Lord is doing amongst them. But God’s work was not done; indeed, it was only beginning. Thus, Paul did not envision his letter as a conclusion, but as the beginning of a great work of God in Rome.
The gospel is like that. It comes to a person, and a people, in power. They become a new creation. They are transformed by Christ. The net effect of the gospel in the life of a believer, and in the life of the church, is that it propels them into their community. The gospel energizes them to reach into the lives of those around them with the goal of proclaiming, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” and “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (1 Cor 15:3-4; Romans 10:9).
Paul said that he, “was a minister of Jesus to the gentiles, ministering the gospel of God…” (Romans 15:16). It was time for the church to view themselves the same way. The little boy enjoyed his cookie because he worked hard in getting it. But he had to reach with all his little might to have it. The church is called to reach with all is strength into its local communities and beyond, that it might have the joy of seeing many people come to faith in Christ.