Romans 15:15-16 HCSB - Nevertheless, I have written to remind you more boldly on some points because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of God’s good news. My purpose is that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Everything Jesus did and said had a purpose. That purpose was to seek and to save lost humanity, giving eternal life to those who trust Him and His work and obey His words. The words of Jesus could be shockingly bold at times. It should be no surprise that His apostles, especially Paul, would also use bold speech to reinforce their message and ministry. Remember, the purpose of this speech and ministry is that lost souls will not only be forgiven but also made holy and acceptable before God. Boldness of speech in service of Christ’s vision and mission is vital. Obviously, we must balance it toward those outside the church with gentleness and respect as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:16. Yet, the boldness of Jesus and the apostles would tend to offend many today, including Christians. Consider just some of what Jesus communicated:
- He called a woman (who was seeking help for her child) a dog, to her face, after ignoring her.
- He called a group of people liars, hypocrites, and children of their father, the devil.
- He called the Apostle Peter “Satan” when Peter contradicted His word and plan.
- He waited for Lazarus to die and then said He was glad about it.
- He taught that people who love their parents, spouses, or children more than Him were unworthy of Him - and that He brought a sword to divide households.
- Without explanation, He told a group of followers that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood to receive eternal life.
- He repeatedly criticized religious people for not knowing God or the Bible.
- He told people to cut off a hand or gouge out an eye rather than sin with those parts of their bodies.
- He said that renouncing one’s possessions was a measure of following Him.
Thorough study of the Bible, the context, and culture can explain these hard sayings but two things are certain: (1) Jesus’s bold speech did offend a lot of people in His day, and (2) Jesus’s bold speech would still offend a lot of people today as well! Paul reminds the Romans of his bold speech (as a writer and as a preacher). In his writings, Paul delivered some people over to Satan, he used a vulgar term for refuse to describe his accomplishments apart from Christ, and he wished that some church enemies would castrate themselves. Paul harshly condemned unrepentant homosexual behavior in Rome and commanded the excommunication of a Christian committing incest in Corinth. He rhetorically asked if the Galatians were simply stupid or seduced by witchcraft. He called the Corinthians immature babies. All this is recorded in God-breathed Scripture! Yet the purpose of New Testament ministry is not to be offensive, but to help prepare a pure and holy Church to Christ. When people are doing wrong, are in bondage to sin, or are blind and deaf to God, bold speech is often God’s way of getting through to them. If the ministry of Christ and the apostles demonstrate anything to us today, it may be that those who are easily offended by bold speech will not be very comfortable living for Jesus. Would others consider you to be easily offended? If Jesus or Paul were your pastor, mentor, or small group leader, would you let them speak to you like they did to those in the First Century church? Do you need to pray for more boldness and/or a “thicker skin” when it comes to following Jesus and being connected to His Church?