How to Be a Friend like Apostle Paul

Following is an English transcript of the message from this morning.

In the conclusion of this study, I want to notice how Paul put into practice the life of love he has been preaching throughout this letter to the believers in Rome. We’ll read a section, then I will give some thoughts on it before finding some other scripture passages that correlate.

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.

I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.””

‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:14-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this letter, Paul has given instruction to the believers about many things that may have been difficult to hear. They weren’t exactly rebukes, but Paul did clearly show them how and where they were not meeting God’s standards of love toward others. At the close of the letter, Paul leaves them with encouragement. This is a good example for us to follow in our relationships, particularly with those under our authority.

Paul says he is persuaded that the Roman believers were full of goodness and the knowledge of God and were able to admonish one another in that truth. Paul wasn’t putting this in as flattery, but as commendation for their efforts. The majority of chapters 15 and 16 consist of encouragement. That shows how much Paul valued the valuing of others.

Though we may need to speak truths that are difficult for others to hear, if we speak the truth in love and then take the time to notice the good in others, we will be the sort of blessing Paul was to these brethren.

Paul restates his mission and authority from Jesus to minister to the Gentiles in this way, yet we do not see pride in his words. In fact, he points out that he was in no way trying to compete with other apostles. He only preached in places where there were no established churches. Though Paul was firm and clear in his leading, he was also compassionate and caring.

This is how we should be toward those in our care. We must not shy away from telling them the truth, even if it exposes their disobedience. Yet we must always have love as our motivator. Compassion should be the foundation of our work. Silence is not love. We must share the gospel. But we share it with open arms, welcoming others into our family, the family of God.

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.

In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this parable, we see the sort of compassion, longsuffering, and forgiveness we should have toward others. If we are humble, we will recognize our own great debt, and that gratefulness will lead to compassion for others.

We see this sort of humility from Paul in 1 Timothy 1:12-16.

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.”

1 Timothy‬ ‭1:12-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul considered himself the greatest of all sinners. It was that humility coupled with his devotion to the Lord that made him such an effective witness of God’s power and love.

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:8-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this passage the Apostle Peter also gives a pattern for working with one another. What sort of persons are we to be? Compassionate, loving as brothers, pitying, courteous, speaking blessings on others. Peter says if we want the blessing of a good life, we should guard our tongues. Paul was a good example of this in the Book of Romans.

“In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places. But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.

I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey. But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there.

For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.

As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other.

And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:22-33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this section, Paul indicates that he would have loved to visit the believers in Rome sooner. He missed them, and he let them know how much. Yet he showed that it was not selfishness or disinterest that kept him away. He was busy building the church in other places.

He says it had been many years since he had seen them, yet his love for them was still strong. We see that in verse 23. All these years since he had last seen them, he had been busy planting other churches and preaching the gospel wherever he went. Now he was traveling, as he had accomplished the work he had set out to do in that region.

But he could not come directly to Rome because he needed to take a monetary gift to the believers in Jerusalem. By sharing this, Paul is leaving an example of what regular love looks like in action. I wonder if Paul even realized this was leaving an example. It was simply part of his life of service.

But it showed the believers in Rome that the most important thing is to put others first. Serving others always comes ahead of personal comfort or enjoyment.

Paul was not superhuman. He needed others, just like any believer. He gives specific requests for prayer. He had people who opposed him. Some of that opposition came as physical persecution. He asks the believers in Rome for their support in praying for his deliverance. He always asked them to pray for the Jewish believers in Rome.

Remember that Paul was a Jew and an Apostle, yet he was humble enough to be honest about the troubles he was facing and to ask from help from others. This is an excellent example for us. We do not need to pretend that we have everything figured out and that we can make it through life alone. We need the family of God to support us.

“Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer.

But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:1-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is another letter from Paul. Here again we see Paul’s request from other believers to pray for him. He faced much opposition. Yet he had full confidence in the faithful care from the Lord.

“Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.

Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.

I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.

I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here we get a picture of some of the troubles Paul faced as he preached the gospel. Despite all of these things, he still took the time to write to believers and friends in other places, such as this letter to the Romans.

Though Paul fought through such difficulties and was victorious, he recognized that his strength did not come from himself. He needed the prayers of other believers. We too need others to support us. We should be honest and open with others, requesting their support in prayer.

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ.

Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did.

Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus.

Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord.

Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them.

Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them.

Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭16:1-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a series of personal salutations from Paul to individuals at Rome. What stands out as remarkable to me is that he remembers everyone’s name, though it had been years since he had seen them, and though he had gone through so many other events, including intense suffering.

We read in all of Paul’s letters to the various churches that he was praying for them. In several places he said he prayed always or without ceasing for them. This was not an empty phrase for Paul. He didn’t say it simply because it was a nice thing to say. Rather, he truly kept these believers in mind and prayed for them. He had a deep and lasting love for them.

Jesus told His disciples the night before His arrest to pray so that they could avoid entering into temptation. In that circumstance, they failed to pray and consequently all deserted the Lord when troubles came. It seems Paul was more fervent and more faithful in prayer than many. That is a key to his success.

Not only was he staying connected to the Lord by constantly talking with Him, but he was also continually laboring for believers in many places. He was a prayer warrior. He fought the spiritual battle even when he could not be physically present.

Also, notice that he didn’t simply send greetings, but he remembered specific things about many of these people. He took the time to point out those strengths and skills that he recalled. This would have been such a blessing and encouragement to those believers.

This is a good example for us. We need to notice the good in others, but we should be specific. If they have a particular strength or skill, we can bless and encourage them by pointing it out. That will give them the impetus to continue and to improve. We can do this for our brethren in the church, for our friends from afar, for our spouse, and for our children. It is a simple and free way to bless others greatly.

Paul also sends greetings from the other churches in Christ, both Jewish and Gentile believers. This was another reminder that God’s people are to be united in faith through the Lord Jesus.

When I read this section, I am reminded of Proverbs 18:24.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It’s a simple truth, but one we so easily forget. It mirrors the truth of the Golden Rule: As you wish men would treat you, in that way should you treat them.

Let’s read verses 17-20 of Romans 16.

“And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.

Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.

But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭16:17-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

After showing by example what love and unity looks like, Paul gives his final admonition. We are to notice those who cause division and avoid them. He says we must be wise about such an evil. These words have been proven crucial through the history of the church since.

One of the greatest troubles that has plagued the church has been division. With time, the church has become more and more fractured. There are countless tribes working at cross purposes against each other. Many believers are not able to pull together under the common cause of Christ because they are following a division or doctrine of men instead.

Jesus told His disciples as He sent them into the world to preach the kingdom that they were to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. This fits very much with the teaching we find here in Romans.

We read in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that fellowship with evil will corrupt our good lifestyle. Therefore, it is critical to avoid those who sow strife and division, especially within the church.

“Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”

‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Though we must avoid company with believers who fall into disobedience in this way, it must never be out of antagonism. Instead, we are to continue loving him by admonishing him as we would a brother. We must put barriers in our social life, but we must not have walls in our hearts.

Verses 21-24 are greetings from others to the church in Rome. Verse 22 is a greeting from the scribe, the person who wrote out the letter as Paul dictated it. This was a common practice of the time. They couldn’t simply send a message via social media by using a smartphone. Communication was much more difficult.

That’s yet another proof of how great Paul’s care was for those he wrote to. Though it cost him much time and other expense, Paul went out of his way to communicate with those he loved. We should follow that example.

“Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭16:25-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬

At last we have come to the end of this study of the Book of Romans. Paul closes with this beautiful prayer, reminding the believers of the character of the Lord Jesus and of God the Father. If we love and obey, we too can experience these same promises.

This is another good example of how we can bless others. It is good that we pray for them in private, but we should be quick to pray with them or for them in public, too. This is yet another way to show our love and to encourage others.

And so, we conclude this study. Love, obedience, faith–these are the things we strive for. Through the obedience of faith, we can be established in the Lord Jesus, and we can find a sure path through life.

“Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.”

‭‭Jude‬ ‭1:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬