Romans 15:15-16 “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God…”
Not everything Paul taught in this letter to the Romans was new to them. The way he writes here, it seems that most of it was not. He reminds them again. He reviews the saving truth for them. He rehearses them in the gospel they already knew.
Such methodology was not unique to Paul. Do you remember Peter’s similar concern from his second letter? “So I will always remind you of these things even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” What was Peter going to do for these people? He was going to remind them of God’s gifts.
From a pastor’s perspective, such reminders make perfect sense. Every other endeavor in training and teaching people involves repetition in one form or another. For eleven years I reported to football practice in the fall, from late grade school through the end of college. The first day was always the same: how to get into a proper three-point stance, how to break down for a tackle, how to keep your feet driving on your blocks. For five years I took piano lessons, and for five years I reviewed scales, chords, and key signatures. Those things worth remembering are worth repeating.
What did Paul remind the Romans about? Some painfully dull drills? No! He had “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.” Paul reminded them of God’s gifts in the gospel! Gospel means “good news,” but just what is that good news? Don’t take the answer to that question for granted. Even many Christians find it hard to define. At its core the gospel is the good news of Jesus’ love, all he did to forgive our sins and spare us from death. He lived for God the life of love we owe. He died the death our sins deserved. He rose to reveal the new life we’ll receive. Through his Spirit he even gives us the faith that makes these gifts our own.
From that good news flows one gracious blessing after another. Because God loves me so much he died to save me, I know that he will keep his promises. I know that he will give me my daily bread, listen to my prayers, guide me through temptations, give me the words to share my faith, strengthen me to handle life’s heartaches and disappointments, guard me with his angels, and walk me by the hand through the gates of death into heaven. My confidence in every good thing God gives me is somehow related to Christ’s love at the cross.
Is that a tiresome message to hear? Are we weary of being reminded of God’s gifts? I once heard a person complain about her pastor, “Law and Gospel! Law and Gospel! That’s all we ever hear!” When that pastor goes on to glory, I think they should inscribe that on his tombstone! Isn’t the message of law and gospel the greatest love story ever–God’s love for you and me?
When my wife does something particularly kind for me, I often ask her, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?” Believe me, she gives me plenty of opportunities to ask. Her stock answer is always, “No. Tell me again!” She has never said, “Yep. That’s enough.” Not even once.
Here is our Lord with his message of sacrificial love asking us, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?” We haven’t even done anything to prompt such a question. Are we going to tell him, “Yep. That’s enough”? No! Tell me again! That’s why Paul wrote what he did. That is what every Christian who understands God’s love wants to hear.