Reading through Romans
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory. You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
A reading from Romans: Romans 15:23-32 (NLT)
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.
Reflection: Romans 15:23-32 (John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World)
Conclusion: The providence of God in the ministry of Paul (Romans 15:14–16:27)
Paul takes the Roman church into his confidence about the salient characteristics of his ministry… giving us insight into the outworking of God’s providence in his life and work.
His travel plans (Romans 15:23–32)
Paul now looks into the future and confides to the Romans his travel plans. He specifies three destinations. First, he is about to sail from Corinth to Jerusalem, taking with him the collection which he has long been organizing. Secondly, he is intending to go from Jerusalem to Rome, even though he will only be ‘passing through’ rather than settling down among them for an appreciable period. Thirdly, from Rome he will travel on to Spain, determined to resume his pioneer evangelistic commitment.
1. He plans to visit Rome (23–24)
Although Paul has so far been hindered from coming to Rome, now at last the time seems to be ripe for his long-awaited, long-postponed visit. A combination of three factors has facilitated it. First, his missionary service in the East Mediterranean zone is complete…. Second, he has been longing for many years to see them…. Third, he has come to see his visit to Rome as a stepping-stone to Spain…. Perhaps Paul hopes to establish an ongoing relationship with the Christians in Rome, so that they will continue to support him, as other churches have done previously. This conjunction of three factors must have presented itself to Paul as evidence of the providential guidance of God. It has led him to make plans to go to Rome. But first, he explains, he has another journey to make.
2. He plans to visit Jerusalem (25–27)
The facts may be simply stated. For Macedonia and Achaia (that is, the churches of northern and southern Greece respectively) were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (26). In order to understand this, we need to think first about the poor in Jerusalem, and then about the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia.
First, no explanation is given of the cause of poverty in Jerusalem. It may have been caused partly by the ‘severe famine’ which Agabus predicted. But the plausible suggestion has also often been made that it was related to the economic sharing of the first church there…. Second, Paul writes that the Macedonian and Achaian Christians were pleased to make a contribution for the Jerusalem poor…. They did give freely and willingly, but only because Paul had urged them to do so!
It is right for Gentiles to acknowledge what they owe to the Jews. When we Gentiles are thinking of the great blessings of salvation, we are hugely in debt to the Jews, and always will be. Paul sees the offering from the Gentile churches as a humble, material, symbolic demonstration of this indebtedness.
3. He plans to visit Spain (28–29)
Having explained the facts and the significance of the offering, Paul now looks beyond its presentation in Jerusalem, and hopefully its acceptance, to the long westward journey which he plans then to undertake to Spain via Rome. So after “I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received” this expression of solidarity (offering), “I will go to Spain and visit you on the way” (28).
Whether he reached and evangelized Spain we shall probably never know. The nearest thing we have to evidence is the statement by Clement of Rome in his first letter to the Corinthians (usually dated AD 96–97) about Paul’s ‘noble renown’ as a herald of the gospel: ‘To the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before rulers.’
As Paul mentally prepares for his visit to Rome, however, he is full of assurance…. Paul’s confidence is not in himself but in Christ.
4. He requests prayer for his visits (30–32)
Paul refers to prayer as a struggle… our need to wrestle with the principalities and powers of darkness. .. and/or an activity demanding great exertion, a struggle in fact with ourselves, in which we seek to align ourselves with God’s will.
Two topics: first – for his protection and deliverance from his opponents… Paul knows he is in danger, even for his life; and second -for acceptance among believers… Paul longs that Jewish—Gentile solidarity in the body of Christ may be strengthened by the Jewish Christians’ acceptance of its tangible symbol (the offering).
Paul now requests prayer also for his visit to Rome. Indeed he sees the two visits to be inseparably connected. Only if his mission in Jerusalem succeeds will his voyage to Rome be possible. So he asks the Romans to pray that he may be protected and his gift accepted in Jerusalem, not only because these things are important in themselves, but also so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed (32).
“Send the Light”
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen