What is the Church? What is our vision, our purpose. What are the characteristics of a Church? In these verses Paul gets to the core, to the heart of Holy Spirit Church Fellowship. Are we contributing to the body of Christ by living these qualities out in our church lives?
Paul, The Apostle to the Gentiles
(b) Paul’s Vision for a Gentile Church
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
As the first and greatest Church planter of the New Testament Church Paul had a very clear vision of the qualities that ought to characterise a body of believers. As a local assembly of Christians we need to seize Paul’s vision for ourselves. Paul’s vision in these verses relates to the character of the Church. Sometimes we are so consumed with the purpose of the Church (to glorify Christ, to win souls, to contend for the faith) that we fail to appreciate that it is the character of the assembly which ultimately will enable those goals to be attained. Just as a young person will not achieve their potential without the development of sound character so the Church will never be effective without proper spiritual qualities. Therefore Paul’s vision is both challenging and provoking.
1: Paul’s Prayer for a Gentile Church
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
This verse is a prayer that Paul offered for the Romans. The words of this prayer, as they are Holy Ghost inspired, teach us what the theme of our prayers should be for the fellowship to which we belong.
Paul gives us a lesson in the art of prayer. As we come before God we must have an appropriate godly attitude. He addresses his prayer to God. In other places we are taught that when we prayer we address the Father through the person and intercession of Christ. Here we are simply taught that prayer is a communication with the one whom Christ called, “Our Father which art in heaven…” We must not only be mindful of who God is as we pray, we need to consider what God gives. The wonder is; what God gives to us is consistent with his character, He is the “God of hope.” As poor sinners we have hope and we enjoy grace as the recipients of mercy because these gifts flow from his character. Therefore we pray to one who cares and who gives because of who He is.
As Paul approached God on behalf of the Romans he made certain requests for these people that we can echo. We need God to fill us with joy and peace. Joy is that which Christ spoke of to his disciples (John 15:11). Peace is a sense of serenity and stability because God is in control even though our world may be full of problems. This joy and peace, however, does not come from our characters or personalities. It stems from the God of hope, therefore we must constantly offer requests for them. God, however, gives us joy and peace through our faith. As our faith increases so our joy and peace will be enhanced. Therefore we must beseech God for an increase in our faith. The means used by God in strengthening faith and in bestowing upon us a goodly portion of joy and peace is the power of the Holy Ghost. The word for power here is dynamis, which is simply the power to get things done. While we are in possession of the regenerating of the Holy Spirit we are commanded to pray for his infilling. His power is needed within the Church for the shaping of our character.
2: Paul’s Praise for a Gentile Church
And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
In this verse Paul moves away from his prayer to what he actually knew about the Roman believers. The Roman Church is presented as a pattern for every local assembly.
“He could scarcely have devised a combination of words that would more effectively convey to them his own personal conviction of the fruit of the Gospel in their midst” (John Murray).
The fact Paul was persuaded of the godly character of this congregation, although he had never visited Rome, is an indicator that they had a strong and credible testimony. Such a testimony is vital for a Church to flourish lest we bring shame upon Christ’s name.
This Church was famous for its faith; but how was their faith revealed? Paul selects two characteristics which were the core strengths of this congregation; goodness and knowledge. The Greek word for goodness refers to moral excellence as well as those other qualities we associate; kindness, thoughtfulness, selflessness etc… This is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and is evidence of God’s work in our hearts (Ephesians 2:10). These Romans were filled with or they were complete in knowledge. They had a sound understanding of Christian Doctrine and Biblical Principles. A strong congregation is thirsty for a thorough knowledge of God’s truth and will apply the lessons to everyday life.
The Roman Christians had a good relationship with one another because they admonished their brethren and sisters. The verb admonish means to remind by means of an encouragement or even a rebuke. As these people gathered they honestly and lovingly held each other to account and assisted each other in their spiritual walk. Many qualities went into the mix to make such a relationship possible. The rebukes were gracious and were always balanced by positive encouragements. These rebukes were also taken in love for the relationship to succeed. These people were marked by not just a material concern in their brethren and sisters but by a spiritual interest also. Love, honesty and humility were essential ingredients in an attractive and strong fellowship.