For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed. Romans 15:18
Resulting In – When you read this statement from Paul, do you find it a bit perplexing? Given the popular Christian view of evangelism, doesn’t this strike you as a little empty? Where is the mention of the hundreds of decisions for Christ? Where is the account of all those that Paul led to salvation? It’s not here. Paul’s résumé doesn’t contain any mention of conversions or memberships or church growth. Instead, Paul says that he won’t speak about anything except what Christ has done through him that results in obedience. That isn’t what we would look for, is it? We want an evangelist who brings in souls, not someone who hammers away at obedience. But, of course, we wouldn’t hire Paul. He’s just too Jewish.
It’s easy to read right over the implication in Paul’s statement. Since we think in terms of the numbers of converts, we don’t pay much attention to Paul’s insistence on obedience. After all, if it’s all grace, who really cares about all those commandments. They don’t count anymore. I’m afraid that Paul would not agree. You see, Paul’s focus is not on obtaining cognitive agreement. It is about transforming behavior. So, Paul doesn’t give a lot of credence to those who heard the good news. He looks for those who obeyed the good news.
The Greek preposition here gives us a clue. It is eis, normally translated as movement from one place to another (into). It is John’s preposition of special significance that he uses when he describes believing. When I accept the Lordship of Yeshua, I move from one worldview into another. Everything about my perspective changes. Paul and John do not describe belief as a set of creeds or doctrines. They describe believing as a way of living, and that way of living is all about obedience. If there is no obedience, there is no conversion. From a Hebrew perspective, obedience is the necessary and essential result of conversion. It isn’t possible to be faithful without transformed living. No one can claim to follow Jesus and not have changed behavior.
Don’t get confused here. This is not an argument for earning your own righteousness. Paul would never support such nonsense, and neither would any biblically-based Pharisee. Paul is not talking about how we are saved. He is talking about why we are saved. We are saved in order that we may be obedient to God and bring about His will on earth. So, from Paul’s perspective, it doesn’t matter one iota how many people claim to hold certain doctrines about Yeshua. It only matters how many people follow the path that Yeshua set out. That’s why Paul says that he will only count those whose lives become obedient as a result of his preaching.
Now we have a much more accurate measure of what really matters. Ask yourself how many people have become obedient as a result of your ministry. By the way, that doesn’t assume that you are a religious “professional.” Everyone has a ministry, a place where God puts you in order to bring about His will on earth. In that place, God engineers your encounters with others. The real question is not how many people heard the rationale of the faith from you. The real question is how many obeyed as a result of your life. Paul gives us a measure of our effectiveness, not our efficiency. It’s time to do a re-count.
Topical Index: Evangelism