We are prone to look at success, both worldly and spiritual, as merit, rather than grace. Whenever I think I have grown spiritually, I am tempted to pat myself on the back and feel smug. My heart can take a generous compliment and turn it into entitlement in no time at all. But genuine spiritual growth doesn’t turn our eyes self-ward, nor does it set us on a pedestal to receive honor. Instead, spiritual maturity is manifested in humility and service. This is so because all of life is doxological; it is aimed at one thing: the praise of God.
Paul opens this passage with a clear instruction that grows directly out of this doxological aim: strength, authority, power, and influence are not for self-gain or personal honor. In a culture of self-worship, this is a radical notion. But this radical idea is a hallmark of Christianity, for Christ did not please Himself. He exchanged glory for lowliness, power for humility, and even life for death. This is not just about earthly gains, wealth, and blessing, but about spiritual strength.
For those who follow Christ, Paul says, the life of service to others is not an option but an obligation, for Christ became a servant. Closeness to Christ leads to the building up of the saints in harmony. It produces the fruit of love and service, not of self-serving pride.
For this reason, Paul declares, “I would not dare say anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Romans 15:18). How easy it might have been for Paul to claim honors for himself for the success of his ministry! But Paul’s great legacy as an apostle to the Gentiles came about because of the grace given him by God. The root and the fruit of the Christian life are all of grace, so that no man may boast except in the work of Christ. Therefore, where grace is at work, gratefulness, service, encouragement and harmony results.
Christ’s glorious humility brought salvation to Jew and Gentile alike, that all nations might bring Him praise. For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
When we see the glories of the gospel, delivered to an undeserving and needy people, our tongues are set free to echo God’s praises. May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope, to the praise of His glory.
Written by Caleb Faires