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The apostle Paul, in Romans 15:18-24, writes to the church in Rome that he and his co-workers have “fully proclaimed” the gospel from “Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum” (v19). He concludes, “there is no more place for me to work in these regions” and asks for the disciples of Jesus in Rome to help him on his way to Spain (v23-24). Paul and his co-workers aimed to continue taking the gospel and kingdom of God to the gaps: “where Christ was not known” (v20).
Two observations are noteworthy with Paul’s statement in Romans. First, we know that Paul, by himself, did not “proclaim” the message of the Gospel to every person who lived in that geographic region, which encompassed a sizable portion of the Roman empire in the 1st century. Estimates indicate there were millions (link) of people who lived within these geographic bounds.
Proclaiming the gospel to every one of those people would have been an impossible task for any single individual. Second, we have an in-depth record from Luke’s account of Paul and his co-workers’ labor in the book of Acts that coincide with letters Paul wrote during this same period: Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans. From this record, we know that Paul’s usage of the word “proclaim” indicated much more than simply presenting an explanation of the gospel to one person and then moving on. Instead, we see that Paul was able to say there was No Place Left within these regions for him to work because over an estimated 15-year period (Acts 13 to Acts 20)
Paul, along with his co-workers, faithfully “proclaimed” the Gospel by:
1) Abiding in Christ as they entered into various cities led by the Spirit.
2) Upon entering a city, they would proclaim the message of the Gospel of Jesus along with performing signs and wonders that gave evidence to the message.
3) They would then make disciples of those who believed the message, immediately baptizing them, and gathering the new disciples for teaching on obedience to Christ’s commands.
4) These new gatherings of believers were identified as churches. These churches met publicly and from home to home.
5) To help these new churches persevere in health and generational growth, Paul and his co-workers would call for the appointment of local leaders to shepherd the new disciples (or appoint elders themselves). Paul and His co-workers would then exit the location due to the Spirit’s leading to other work in other locations or as a result of persecution.
Paul and his co-workers continued to stay in contact with these churches through letters sent through co-workers like Timothy, Titus, Silas, etc. This pattern of ministry and mission, as observed in the life of Paul and his co-workers is key to understanding what the No Place Left vision is and how we are laboring to see the accomplishment of that same kind of outcome.
By the time that Paul writes Romans 15:18-24*, he and his co-workers could confidently say “I fully proclaimed” the gospel throughout all the cities from “Jerusalem to Illyricum” because of the disciples they had made, churches they had formed, and leaders they had developed who were continuing the work of the Gospel throughout the regions surrounding every major city from Jerusalem to Illyricum. This holistic strategy or pattern of ministry over a 15-year period is what preceded Paul making such an audacious claim that there was “No Place Left” for them to work in those particular regions.
A Biblical Vision
This No Place Left vision, however, is not confined to Paul. We clearly see this vision from Genesis to Revelation. This is God’s vision for mankind to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” with His image (Gen. 1:26-28). This is God’s vision to see that His “blessing” through the seed of Abraham extends to “All the nations” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:16). This is God’s vision in Christ that His gospel would be proclaimed “throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14).
This is God’s vision that we would be His witnesses empowered by His Spirit from “Jerusalem” to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is God’s vision, who will one day reap a harvest from every “nation, tribe, people, language” to dwell with Him in a restored creation at Christ’s second coming (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10). A No place left end-vision is the core of our Father’s heart for His Glory throughout all the world (Hab. 2:14).
The Father’s Heart
Furthermore, it is our Father’s heart to work through the faithful obedience of every one of His children to accomplish His No Place Left vision. Every follower of Christ, upon repentance and belief in Jesus, is made a new creation, ambassador for Christ, and empowered by His Spirit. We are immediately adopted into God’s kingdom family as priests who must proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into the light. We immediately begin the lifelong journey as disciples who are called to grow in Christ as we go to make more disciples of Christ. We are baptized and commanded to baptize. We are taught to obey the commands of Christ and commanded to teach others to obey the commands of Christ.
Jesus, through His Spirit, is with us until the end of the age, as He is with every Jesus follower we disciple. As disciples, we regularly gather as churches from our local neighborhoods to the nations. Individually as disciples and collectively as churches, we must faithfully pursue Jesus and His vision for No Place Left until the mission is complete (or until he takes us home). We must love God, love people, and make disciples of Jesus until there is literally no place or people left on God’s earth. Every single man, woman, and child must be given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of grace as we eagerly await Jesus’ return.