Romans 15:14-21 Goodness, Knowledge, And Admonishing One another.
Part of the Christian life is that we admonish each other. However, it is interesting to see what Paul considers as prerequisites for that. He was able to admonish them to admonish each other because he was confident that they were filled with goodness and knowledge (v. 14). One can certainly understand the need for knowledge-it is hard to admonish if one is ignorant concerning what they are admonishing about. However, admonishment is more than the simple passing on of information. Admonishment carries the idea of the need for correction, that perhaps one is not following the teaching or practice of the Scriptures (Cf. II Tim. 3:16-17). This is a delicate business that requires that one also be filled with goodness.
The word translated as ‘goodness’ here (agathosune), is one Paul uses specifically to refer to the fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9), as a communicable attribute of God Himself (Cf. II Th. 1:11). One who is full of goodness has the virtue of being kind and charitable or beneficent. Knowledge with love is what edifies (Cf. I Cor. 8:1). In other words, it is using one’s knowledge in a kind and charitable way. Many have knowledge, but they use that knowledge in a matter of fact way, or worse yet, with malicious intent. On the other hand, having a kind and charitable intent will not be enough to admonish if one is not also knowledgeable. Goodness and knowledge must be wedded together to be able to truly admonish another.
Paul himself engaged in such admonishment with this letter, but he made clear he did so “because of the grace given to me by God.” (v. 15 Cf. 1:5). The goodness required, as a fruit of the spirit, and the knowledge, these come because of God’s grace. This humble acknowledgment is what is required. The reality is that without God’s grace this work is not possible. However, it is a necessary work, and Paul in particular had a specific mission to take the gospel, the good news of salvation, to the Gentiles (v. 16). It wasn’t just about justification, but admonishment was needful that they might be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (v. 16) Progressive sanctification here, is based on the definitive work of Christ (Cf. I Cor. 1:2; 6:11; [Heb. 2:11 with 10:10]).
Their progress in the faith was a just cause for Paul to boast about, because it was the work God gifted and called him to do (v. 17 Cf. 12:3; Gal. 6:4; II Cor. 10:13-16). It is also important that one who admonishes also have experience of those things which Christ accomplishes in us, as Paul said, “in word and deed.” (v. 18) For Paul, the goal was that the Gentiles might be obedient. He also had a unique apostolic task to which God the Holy Spirit testified to “in mighty signs and wonders.” (v. 19 Cf. Acts 19:11; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:4) Paul “fully preached the gospel of Christ,” both in its content and in his reach (v. 20). This was as a result of the grace of God and the power of the Spirit.
Paul was used by God to fulfill this promise to the Gentiles (v. 21 [Is. 52:15] Cf. 11:13; Acts 9:15; II Cor. 3:5). In the same way God gifts and calls all of us to do a unique work, as unique as he has made each one of us. The antidote against sinful pride is to refrain from comparing ourselves to others, and being thankful and productive with what God has given us in gifts and opportunities (Cf. Gal. 6:4). Paul had goals, his aim was to take the gospel to where it had not been heard before, partly so he could construct his own work (v. 20). We need to also assess what are our gifts and make it our aim to make the most of the time and opportunities He gives us to help build His kingdom.