Romansby David Cook
In and of itself, it is neither wrong nor right to be ambitious. It all depends on what you are ambitious for. Ambition for money will make you greedy. Ambition for pleasure will make you indulgent. Ambition for recognition will make you self-promoting.
Paul uses the word “goal” or “ambition” on three occasions: In 2 Corinthians 5:9, in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, and here in Romans 15:20.
This verse is a good reminder that Paul was an incidental theologian—he was first and foremost a missionary church planter. This does not mean that he was theologically sloppy. The letter to the Romans is testimony to his theological acumen. However, it does mean that all of Paul’s thinking was to serve the enterprise of taking the gospel where there was no existing church, “where Christ was not known” (v. 20). Like 16th-century theologian John Calvin, who studied theology in order to be a better pastor, Paul makes sure that all truth and insight drive his mission endeavours.
How does Paul view his ministry?
First, all he is and does is based on God’s grace (v. 15). He never forgot his days as a persecutor of the church. Second, he is a “minister” of Christ Jesus (v. 16). This word is used to describe serious government service.
Third, his ministry priority (v. 16) is to pass on to the Gentiles the gospel from God in order that their lives would become an offering acceptable to God (see 2 Corinthians 11:8).
Fourth, his ministry is self-effacing (v. 17) and is a result of Christ’s accomplishment (v. 18). Paul is not out to build a following for himself. His ministry is based on grace, focused on the gospel, and undertaken in a self-effacing manner.
Here are self-evident truths that help us recognise false claims:
Paul is God’s instrument to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Where will this lead him? From Jerusalem in the east to Illyricum in the north-west (v. 19).
What are you ambitious for today? Where are your ambitions leading you?
How do your ambitions affect the gospel and its ministry?