Missions Theology in Romans 15:14-33 -- By: Steve Strauss
BSac 160:640 (Oct 03) p. 457
Missions Theology in Romans 15:14-33
The world is alive with unparalleled opportunities and challenges for obeying Christ’s Great Commission. The church in Latin America, Africa, and Asia is an emerging giant, now three times the size of the Western church.1 The opportunity for mobilizing missionaries from these younger churches is already being realized, as the number of cross-cultural workers from the two-thirds world now exceeds the number from North America and Europe.2 But huge challenges remain. The greatest numbers of unreached peoples live in political, social, and religious systems most resistant to the gospel and most determined to prevent their people from having the opportunity to respond to the gospel. The task that remains can be accomplished only as the global church is renewed for missions in the direction set by God in the Scriptures.
Romans 15:14–33 provides significant guidance for the church in taking advantage of tremendous opportunities while facing daunting challenges. Recent studies have recognized that this is a “highly significant passage” for a theology of missions.3 “The strategic priorities of Paul’s mission are nowhere set forth as clearly” as in this text where Paul affirmed “the priorities that govern the
BSac 160:640 (Oct 03) p. 458
fulfillment of his mission.”4 Understanding Paul’s approach to missions is important for developing a sound biblical theology of missions.
This article traces Paul’s understanding of his mission in Romans 15:14–33 through an exposition of the text. Then principles are drawn for a biblical theology of missions that reaches beyond Paul’s experience with relevance for today.
The Message of Romans 15:14-33
Romans 15:14 marks a major structural break in the Epistle to the Romans. In verse 13 Paul concluded his fully developed theology of the gospel begun in 1:16. In 15:14 he returned to the subject of 1:15—the circumstances that prompted the epistle, namely, his planned visit to Rome. Though there is a major break in thought between
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