Text: Romans 15

Introduction: Culture of Self-Reliance and Self-Centeredness vs. Mutual Acceptance and Total Dependence on God. (Read Romans 3:9-18; Jeremiah 17:9)

What is dependence? Proverbs 3:5-6, “to lean on your own understanding” is to be independent of God—meaning, you can survive life without God in your life.

Background: Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Church in Rome. In our passage, Paul is looking forward to visiting them before going to Spain to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Paul reminded them to have “Total Dependence” on the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Main Idea: Paul tells Christians of four matters to exemplify such total dependence:

  • Dependent on one another grounded in the Scriptures (1-6) – Weak and Strong analogy. (14:1) Accepting one another. Those who are weak (indifferent, dogmatic, legalistic, and immature in their faith) need those who are strong in faith to encourage and build them up (15:2).
    • The Christian life centers on strengthening others—endurance (not tolerance, or indifference)
      • That is why it is important to be active in the community of believers: church, small groups, and prayer groups. (yes, be yes; and no, be no).
      • “One mind and one voice.” But where are your small groups now? What’s really challenging is that those who are not participating are the ones who accuse the church of not doing anything or progressing at all. Do not be like that.
    • Dependent on Jesus Christ’s work (7-13) – Christ’s active obedience was the fulfillment of all the prophecies stated in the Old Testament. This specific passage tells us that our security, our assurance, and our confidence in depending totally on Christ is 100% sure. The Christ that we worship is totally dependable and trustworthy. Have you ever had a friend or someone whom you can totally depend on? Other than Ivy, whom I depend on very much, my pastor-best friend Jerome Ocampo is dependable. Having someone whom you can rely on brings overflowing hope and assurance.
      • However, total dependence on Christ requires one major thing in our life—self-denial.
      • This attitude is Christ-centeredness or conforming to the likeness of Christ. When Christ entered our world, he emptied (kenosis) himself; he denied his will and obeyed the will of the Father. Likewise, we are called to depend solely on Christ, not on anyone else, especially not on ourselves—only on Christ! “You lived to die, rejected and alone…” (Above All song)
    • Dependent on the Power of the Gospel (14-22) – “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed…. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12; Cf. John 14:6) How? Remind yourself of two things:
      • Salvation – salvation happens only once but is applied daily. No person here says that he or she does not need to hear the gospel of Christ anymore because he or she has been a Christian for a long time. Paul here deals with that reason in verses 14-15; despite knowing that Christians in Rome were already well-knowledgeable about the gospel of Christ, he still preached to them the wonderful grace of God and reminded them of the power of the gospel of Christ. If this is a challenge of Paul, then why do we resist such an opportunity and privilege to study God’s word? Why are you not being in one mind with the church?
      • Transformation (Sanctification) – When dug deeper, this human heart bears humanity’s sinful nature. Indeed, it is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). What does humanity need in order to have a better condition of the heart? Just like any heart problem, diagnosed as fallen, sinful, and corrupt (Rom. 3:10, 23, Eph. 2:1), it needs surgery; more than that, actually, it needs a transplant. A renewal of heart.
        • This renewal of the heart is called the circumcision of the heart (Deut. 30:6; Romans 2:29). It is taking away the impurities of the heart and making it brand new. Indeed, the promise of a new heart was given to the new covenant people. God said that He would give them a “new heart.” Further, He “will remove…their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26).
        • A renewed—or regenerated heart—is God’s promise for His children to live righteously, freely in His grace, and enjoy the life He has given them. Through Christ’s righteousness, humans became righteous—injected (imputed) with His purity and holiness and clothed with His grace and mercy (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:27).
        • God promised that He will preserve His children. Part of this promise is the operation of the renewal of the heart (Jeremiah 24:7). Indeed, it will only be possible through God’s Spirit (Ezk. 36:27). The renewal of the heart is inseparable from the indwelling of the Spirit. And as Christians, the promise of the indwelling of the Spirit is given to His children alone (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:14-17).
      • Dependent on the Joy of Following God’s Will (25-33) – For God’s glory, not ours (also, 6, 13)
        • God-centered – “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ… so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (29-33)
        • The goal is missions and evangelism to Spain:
          • Missions – church planting, outreach, and community services.
          • Lottie-Moon on Thanksgiving Sunday.
          • Outreach giving: Bottles to Blessings

Conclusion: Last week, we talked about wholehearted trust—having a contrite heart, constantly trusting God, and communal trust. Today, we have heard another trait of a disciple of Christ—we should embrace Total Dependence on God in this world of self-reliance. After completing the task given by God to him, William Carey said on his deathbed to stop talking about him and start talking about his savior.

“Did you call me?’ he asked. “Yes; yes. Mr. Duff,” said Carey solemnly,” you have been speaking a great deal about Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey, Dr. Carey. I beg of you, that when I am gone, nothing may be said about Dr. Carey. Don’t talk about Dr. Carey. Speak, I beg you, about Dr. Carey’s Savior.”


Pastor John Paul Arceno

UCBC New Jersey
November 12, 2023



Text: Philippians 1:12-24

Selflessness, Self-Denial, and the Supremacy of Christ (Full Sermon Manuscript)



Endowment Effect or Psychological ownership is a theory that observes the sense of a person’s valuing his or her own possession. This theory has been traced since the time of the Ancient Philosopher Aristotle; he said, “For most things are differently valued by those who have them and by those who wish to get them: what belongs to us, and what we give away, always seems very precious to us.”

But because of the delicate heart that we have, this thought of owning something, making ourselves the center of everything for selfish gains, and entitlement has been a product of a marred view of self-identity, value, and purpose. We just want to put ourselves first. Just as how pop culture portrays and promotes self-love. I mean there is nothing wrong about loving yourself and valuing your life but as a Christian, I think—and biblically speaking, God calls us to go beyond this state.


Looking back, our passage today in the book of Philippians is a letter of encouragement. Hearing that, it seems that there is nothing special with it. Well… Not unless we see it from the perspective of where he wrote this letter. He wrote this letter in prison. Yes, he was in the moment of his imprisonment when he wrote this letter of encouragement. To add, he actually said “joy” or “rejoice” almost twenty times (16 times to be exact); reminding them about their joy in Christ and to rejoice despite the circumstances and hardships of life.

Main Idea:

Selflessness: To Advance the Gospel of Christ

Despite the status of Paul being imprisoned, he made sure that it is not about himself, or his situation that will be seen but rather how God—in providence—is in control of everything.

Again, even amid that gloomy atmosphere, compared with today’s prisons, prisons during the time of Paul are messier, more miserable, and chaotic. But look at how Paul perceived this kind of situation in his life. In verses 12-14, Paul did not think about himself nor his state but rather the glorious news that the Gospel of Christ is being advanced even inside his prison. The guards were hearing about Christ. This was not the only case that Paul acted in this manner.

Self-denial: To Live and Die for Christ

As Christians, we do celebrate their lives because we know they are already in heaven and experiencing the ultimate joy that we all wait for. Like Paul, being beaten, imprisoned, and mocked—he has longed to “die” and be with Christ because it will be a greater favor for him. Richard Sibbes noted this attitude as breathtaking; he said, “[Paul] knows that Christ is wiser than he; therefore he resigns himself to his disposal, resolving if he lives, he lives to the Lord, and if he dies, he dies to the Lord (Rom 14:8); that so, whether he live or die, he may be the Lord’s.” (read 19-22)

Why did I say that my second point is self-denial? Look at verses 23-24, “I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Paul desired to be with Christ soon because it will be a greater favor but he gave up his will and submitted to the plans of God. Submit your will to God. Listen and pray, be prudent, participate in it.

Supremacy of Christ

With all these characters portrayed by Paul, where did he learn these things? The answer is Jesus Christ. Paul started and ended in this passage making the glory of Christ the core reason (11, 26). Why Jesus? Did Christ demonstrate selflessness and self-denial?

1. Christ emptied himself (kenosis) – Philippians 2:1-11
2. Christ was willing to give up his life for his friend. – 1 John 3:16; John 10:17-18
3. Christ submitted to the will of the Father rather than His will. – Luke 22:42-45
4. Christ suffered for the sake of our salvation.

a. The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53
b. Scourged – Matt. 27:26
c. Beaten – Luke 22:63-64
d. Spit upon – Matt. 27:30
e. Beard Plucked from His Face – Isaiah 50:6
f. Mocked – Matt. 27:26-29
g. Stripped Naked – Matt. 27:35
h. Nailed to the Cross – Matt. 27:38; John 20:25


Learning today, the attitude of Paul both the selflessness and self-denial were all motivated and driven by the supremacy of Christ in his life. If only we really let Christ sit on the thrones of our hearts; if only we can put Christ and others first in our deeds; if only we think less of ourselves and think more about the interests of others, only then, we can truly experience true eternal joy in our hearts.

There is joy in submission; there is joy in putting others first; there is so much joy in having Christ and letting Him govern your life. Let us pray


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
August 29, 2021


*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.