Derek Prince - Self-Denial On Behalf Of Others
This is the fourth and final session in the series of four sessions in which we’ve been working through the last five chapters of Romans. We’ve got to chapter 15 and we left off round about verse 5–7. I think we’ll go back there and then go on from there. Romans 15: 5 through 7, because this is, as it were, the objective of Paul in this writing. He’s not writing simply to produce individual believers but his aim is to produce a body that can function in unity and in harmony. And some of the lessons that we looked at in our previous session emphasize the need for us to put the interests of the Body before our own personal opinions and convictions, at times.
So, Paul says: Now may God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what the church should be, a body of people who have one purpose: to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And all preaching and all teaching and all church activity should always have that as its goal. And then Paul goes on: Wherefore accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. So there’s another example of a practical application. Accept one another just as Christ accepted us to the glory of God. That’s a challenging statement because Jesus didn’t wait for us to get straightened out and really cleaned off before He accepted us.
Isn’t that true? He accepted us just the way we were and then He began to change us. And I’ve seen that, I’ve dealt with so many people whose problem is rejection. And The only solution is acceptance. You can’t say, Well, once you get straightened out I’ll acknowledge you as a fellow believer. But you have to take people where they are just as God took us where we are. And so it’s a challenging statement, Accept one another just as Christ accepted you. Don’t expect everybody to be perfect. Everybody has problems even preachers, even pastors, even the leaders of the work of God. Don’t expect perfect leaders. Accept them the way they are if you believe that God put them in that place. We have to accept one another. Why don’t you do that right now?
Turn to the person next to you and according to gender or sex, say, Brother or sister, I accept you the way you are. Turn to somebody, look them in the face. Do you see how happy that’s made some people? You might have been sitting next to somebody who never really felt accepted in their life untill now. If there’s one place where people should find acceptance is the Body of Christ. Alright! Now we’re going on from that point of acceptance. And We come to a point that was covered in our previous series of four sessions on God’s plan for Israel and the Church. Paul goes back for a moment and he recapitulates the difference in the approach of God to the Jewish people and to the non Jews, the Gentiles, the other nations. And it’s good in a way to recapitulate this at this point.
He says in verse 8: For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision you know that’s the Jewish people on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to father, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for his mercy; as it is written and then he goes into the Scriptures. So Jesus came first and foremost as a servant to the Jewish people to confirm all the promises that had been made over the centuries to the Jewish people. But He also came to bring mercy to the Gentiles, to the other nations who had no promises, who had no previous history of God’s covenants and dealings. So there’s always this difference. In Galatians, Paul speaks about the gospel of the circumcision, the gospel for the Jewish people; and the gospel of the uncircumcision, the gospel for the Gentiles.
Now, it’s not a different gospel, it all centers in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, His resurrection, His ascension. He is the beginning and the ending, but there’s a different approach. I’ve discovered this in preparing my self study Bible course which has been translated in many languages and circulated in hundreds of thousands of copies around the earth. I originally made it as a correspondence course when I was in Kenya about l960, and I had Africans primarily in mind. I thought to myself I want to present to people the basic truths which if I were a pastor I would want all the people in my congregation to know. And it was done in the form of questions and answers. You get a question, you get the Scripture reference, you write in the answer. And then there are correct answers and notes and memory work as well.
This has blessed, I mean, there’s no way to count how many people who have been touched and changed by it. But, as I’ve been living in Israel and in Jerusalem and particularly fellowshipping with Jewish believers in Jesus, I’ve come to see that you can’t start there with Jews. I just start with the fact we’re all sinners and we all need a savior, and go on from there. Which is true, but with the Jewish people you have to explain to them this is the outworking of the history that they’ve had from Abraham onwards. So, together with a young Jewish believer, [young by my standards] in Israel I worked on five introductory lessons. They’re not really introductory but they take the whole thing back to Abraham through Moses and so on. And this is now available for all people.
I think it’s very important for Gentiles to know the origin of the gospel, the origin of our faith. But I’ve seen that for Jewish people, in the last resort, it’s essential. Because, Jesus was a servant of the circumcision to confirm and fulfill the promises that God had made to them. But, for the Gentiles like me, I didn’t have any background in the promises of God, except as a nominal Christian which is quite different. All I needed was mercy. You see, if I can put it this way in dealing with the Jewish people, God was dealing with a field that had been plowed and cultivated and sown over many centuries. When Jesus sent the disciples out to His own people He said, You’re entering into the labors of men who’ve labored long before you.
So it was the continuing of a process that had begun way back. But the Gentiles were an uncultivated field. They’d never been cultivated. And the gospel just came to them without any background in the history of their ancestors. So, I hope you can understand that because it’s very important, especially as thank God, more and more Jewish people are coming to believe in the Messiah. We need to know how to approach them. We need to know how to help them. At the present time there are hundreds of thousands of Russian Jewish immigrants coming to the City of New York. And basically, their minds are open. They don’t have all the prejudices of European and American Jewry. They’re just crying out for someone to tell them what it’s all about.
We’re planning—I didn’t mean to say this, but we’re planning to have this new book of mine translated into Russian and to be used there in New York, to be used in Israel where hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants are pouring in. They don’t know Hebrew, they don’t know English, but they know Russian. Here is a golden opportunity; here is a field that can be reaped if we’ll put the sickle in right now. I didn’t have a word of that in my mind when I began to preach but I felt the Holy Spirit just compelled me to say it. So, I hope you understand. Now, I’m a Gentile. I have no Jewish background that I know of, though I sometimes wonder. But I mean, there’s no reason to believe that I have one.
And I want to say before all of you I am so deeply grateful to the Jewish people because every spiritual blessing that I have has come to me through them. How could I ever turn against them or become anti-Semitic? It would be just as they say, biting the hand that feeds you. Well, I must go on. Then. Paul doesn’t have to take a lot of time to prove that Jesus came to the Jews... He has to take a lot of time to prove that the Gentiles can come in. Do you see? This was nineteen centuries ago. Now the boot is on the other foot. Let’s just look very quickly at these promises which he refers to. The first is in Psalm 18 verse 49. Psalm 18 verse 49. This is a great triumphant song of David after God had given him victory over all his enemies. It’s also predicative of the Messiah. Therefore I will give thanks to thee among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to thy name.
When you read the word nations in most translations you need to say to yourself Gentiles. I think I’ve explained this earlier, but there are two main terms. There’s people and nations. They’re not always used that way because translators are not always consistent. But people, the Hebrew word is am, is those who have a covenant relationship with God. The other word, nations, Gentiles, goyim in Hebrew, are those who have no relationship with God. Do you remember what Jesus said to the Syro-Phoenecian woman when she came for the healing of her daughter? He said: I’m paraphrasing, He said, Well, you’re just a little dog. You don’t have any relationship with God. You’re unclean, you’re outside the covenant. And bless God she didn't argue. She said: True, I’m just a little dog. But all I’m asking you for is a crumb that falls from the table of the children.
What faith, brothers and sisters, what faith! I don’t need a loaf, I don’t need a slice, I just need one crumb to get the demon out of my daughter, that’s all I’m concerned about. Many people have wondered why Jesus spoke to her in such in a way harsh terms. And I mean, if you call a person a dog here it’s not altogether uncomplimentary. Some dogs are treated better than people. But in the Middle East, to call anybody a dog, that is another matter. I wonder if you can see it? Do you see? To relate to God ultimately, there’s only one way. You have to have a covenant. God does not relate on any other basis permanently but through a covenant.
Now, we who are Gentiles who've trusted in Jesus for salvation and believed in His atoning death and resurrection, we have become a people. So the New Testament tells us, as believers of Jesus, we are a people because we have a covenant relationship with God. So God has two peoples in the earth. The Jewish people who even though they are outside the grace of God at the moment are still a people, because of an unbreakable covenant that was made with them. And we, Gentiles, who used to be dogs—we’re not dogs any longer— who have a relationship through the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. Can you see that? If you could grasp that, the Bible would be a whole lot more intelligible book too. Often because of ignorance or because of arrogance we’ve approached the Bible without seeing this perspective.
Alright. Let’s look at the other Scriptures quickly. Deuteronomy 32:43 Deuteronomy 32: 43 Rejoice O nations, with his people. Do you see that? You’ve got both words there. Rejoice O goyim. with His people am. Because now you can become a people. You can come into covenant relationship with God. And then in Psalm 117:1, and there aren’t many verses in Psalm 117. If you’re ever going to memorize a psalm, start with that one. Psalm 117 The trouble with me is I’m in Psalm 119 and can’t get out of it! Psalm 117: Praise the Lord all nations. Laud him all peoples. Now, that word peoples is a third word, we won’t go into that. But it says praise Him all goyim.
See what Paul is doing. He’s addressing it primarily to Jewish people. He said, Look, our own Scriptures said that God was going to return mercy to the other nations. Do you know what angered the Jewish people most in Paul’s ministry? That he was taking the message to the Gentiles, because the Jews at that time regarded this as their exclusive right that no other nation had access to. And then one final scripture or two Scriptures in Isaiah chapter 11. Isaiah 11 verse 10. Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse who’s the root of Jesse? Jesus who will stand as a signal for the peoples that’s the third word and his rest will be glorious.
So Paul is saying it’s predicted in our great prophet Isaiah that the nations, the goyim will resort to the root of Jesse. And there’s another Scripture in Isaiah 42 verse 4, Isaiah 42: 4. speaking of the Lord Jesus: He will not be disheartened or crushed until he’s established justice in the earth, and the coastlands will wait expectantly for him. The coastlands, I think I’ve explained, are all those parts of the earth that border on the ocean. So, all the continents are going to wait expectantly for the law of the Messiah. We must go on because we’ve got a long way to go.
Turning back to Romans 15 verse 13. Now again we come to the purpose of this teaching, Romans 15:13: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think I'm going to ask Ruth to come up. This is all right, I mean, we’re in charge of this situation. This is one of our proclamations, that’s why. While she’s coming, let me point out to you how important hope is. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, Now by what? Faith, hope and love. I’ve heard many sermons about faith, quite a lot about love. I think I’m the only person I know of that I’ve heard preach on hope. And yet it’s one of the three abiding realities. But you can only abound in hope by the power of what? The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the greatest optimist. And when He comes in, you may have been the worst pessimist but you begin to become an optimist. I was a professional pessimist when I got saved. I was born a pessimist and trained to be a pessimist. I mean, in my family if you weren’t worrying, you should have been worrying about the fact you weren’t worrying. But God has changed me. It didn’t all happen in one moment, believe me, and I had a Danish wife who straightened me out from time to time. So, here we are. (Where is it?) Now may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Would you like to say that if I say it before you, would you say it after me? Stand up, change your position for a moment.
Now, I’ll say it phrase by phrase, and as you say this, it’s being registered. It’s going to stand to your account. Alright? Wait, don't transect with us, because you won't get it. Now may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Do you feel better now? I hope you do. We’ve got to go on. Romans 15, we are going on verse 14-16. Now Paul was pretty forthright but he was also tactful. And here he is writing to a church he’s never visited, although he knows a lot of the people in the church, and he’s been giving them a lot of teaching, some of which is pretty strict. And so he kind of apologizes for being a teacher to them, but at the same time reminds them that he is the apostle of the Gentiles and that this is his job. This is a kind of lesson in tact which I desperately need.
Verse 14: Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. In other words, really you hardly need teaching. And the he’s given them fourteen or fifteen chapters of teaching. But he’s, as it were, sweetening the pill at this point. But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given to me from God and that’s the grace of apostleship to the Gentiles, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
What a view of his ministry! He said, I’m like a priest in the Old Covenant. I’ve got a sacrifice to offer up to God, but it has to be sanctified. What was the sacrifice? The Gentile church. He said, My sacrifice. A little later on in this epistle he says, My gospel. What a sense of responsibility. God has committed this task to me to make everybody know the message of the gospel in such a way that it includes not merely the Jewish people but the Gentiles. And he said, I’m offering this up as a priest in the Old Testament would offer up the sacrifice. And every sacrifice, you know, had to meet certain conditions. It had to be anointed with oil; it had to have other things that accompanied.
So Paul envisions himself as a priest offering up not just a little lamb or even a bullock, but offering up the whole Gentile church to God. And, concerned that it will be sanctified, that it will be holy, that it will be set apart to God. And so, in a way, one main thrust of Romans is to produce a holy church. He says, Forgive me that I’ve written such a long letter, and I know that you really know much of these things, but this is my job. This is what God called me to do.” All right, going on now. Now we come to something very, very important which I’m particularly, what should I say, conscious of. So we’re going to verse 17: Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.
I’ll point out to you later that it’s legitimate to boast, provided you boast about the right thing, not about yourself, but about the things that pertain to God. Then he goes on to explain what he means: For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me I’m not talking about my own accomplishments resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed. See, the ultimate purpose of his ministry was to bring the Gentiles through faith into obedience to the word of God. And how did he do it? Verse 19 says: in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. That’s the full gospel, it’s a legitimate phrase.
Paul says, I haven’t just preached in word, but my word has been attested by supernatural signs and miracles. I’ve fully preached the gospel. And the purpose of it was to make the Gentiles obedient, not just nominal believers, not just head believers but committed from the heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of His word. Why this is so real for me is because five years I served as principal of a teacher training college for African teachers in Kenya in East Africa. And when I went there, my aim was not so much to teach them the secular subjects as to teach them the word of God and bring them to know Jesus Christ. And by the grace of God and His mercy, I can say we were successful. Hardly any student ever left that college that had not been saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Very, very few.
One year we graduated 57 students; every one of them had been saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. And furthermore, they set a record for the Educational Department of Kenya, because every one of them qualified as a teacher. And I still have somewhere in my records a personal letter from the Director of education thanking me for those results. And what I want to emphasize is when you are a Christian, you should be better than you were before. If you were a teacher before, you should be a better teacher. If you were a nurse, you should be a better nurse. I taught those students, this I emphasized. The fact that you’ve been saved doesn’t mean you can get away with sloppiness. It means you’re going to be much more efficient than you were before. And it worked as God’s Word always does.
But anyhow, at the beginning of my time there I pounded at them with the Word of God and they sat there, smiled at me and said all the right things. If I were to say, Get baptized, they’d be baptized. Or do this or do that, and the reason was they knew they were dependent on me for their education. And education for them was the door out of a lower status. Do you see? Why do the white people succeed and we don’t? And their answer was in Swahili, eleemoo? Eleemoo is the Swahili word for education. If we get education, we’ll be there. So, we had willing listeners. But I realized after a while that their obedience was only from the head, it was motivated by self interest, because they wanted to get their certificate as a teacher.
And so, I assembled the whole student body and I said, they didn’t know what I was going to say. I said, I want to thank you that you’re very cooperative and very willing. And when we ask you to do anything, you do it. And I said, I know the reason why you do it, because you want to get your teacher’s certificate. And I said, I understand it. But I said, The things I've been teaching you, there’s a deep question inside you. And the question is this: Is the Bible really a book for Africans or is it only a white man’s book with white man’s traditions and customs that don’t apply to Africans? And I said, A lot of your own African elders have been teaching you the latter, that it’s just a white man’s book and it doesn’t apply for Africans.
Then I said, Now I can’t tell you the answer. And that astonished them because they thought, you know, the white teacher, he has all the answers. I said, There’s only one way you’ll ever find out whether this is from Britain and America or whether it’s from God. And that is if you have a personal experience in your own life of the supernatural power of God. And I said, I can’t do that for you. That can only come from God. But when it comes, you’ll know for sure it didn’t come from Britain and it didn’t come from America. It came from heaven. And so I left it at that and I didn’t try to, as it were, persuade them. I just went away and prayed.
And about six months later there was a visitation of God on that little college. Before that we said, You ought to pray before you go to bed. But I don’t know how many of them did, not many. After this visitation we couldn’t stop them from praying. I mean, they would go on all through the night praying in the dormitories. And I would say every gift of the Holy Spirit was manifested in those next months. Amongst other things, just to mention it, we saw two people raised from the dead. So, after that I called them together and I said, Now, I’m calling you to witness that you know where this came from. You know it came from heaven and from God, not from Britain or America. Now you’re answerable for what you know. But you see that, that was such a demonstration to me of the truth that Paul is trying to convey here. You can get head acceptance by teaching people’s heads but there’s only one power that can reach people’s hearts, that’s the Holy Spirit. And when He comes in sovereign power, there’ll be miracles, there’ll be signs, there’ll be wonders.
I don’t believe it’s the signs that convince people. The signs get their attention but it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that brings the signs and also convinces. And they become obedient from the heart, understand? There’s a lot of difference between obeying from the head, which can be perfectly sincere and genuine. But obeying from the heart. And after that, one of the facts of it was that they got the burden for their own people. They would go out in the villages and start themselves to evangelize. We didn’t have to form a program, the Holy Spirit directed them. And I always think whenever I read this passage in Romans 15, I always think back. Paul knew what he was talking about. If you want heart faith and heart obedience, it comes only by the supernatural power of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and miracles will accompany it. And it’s still true. That was, let me think how long ago, more than 30 years ago. But God hasn’t changed, the word hasn’t changed, the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed.