I have often intended to come to you…
Romans 1:7 (ESV) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
When this book was written the Apostle Paul had never been in Rome, through communication he knew of the church and the faithful brethren in a most challenging situation. Romans is unique in that way as Paul usually wrote to churches that he had either founded or had a hand in the founding of. We have no idea who founded the church at Rome, whether it was believers who came back from Pentecost and started preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ or whether believers moved into Rome and began to congregate together for logistical and safety reasons (again supposition on my part) we are not made aware.
Much like, through different interactions in the Calvary Chapel movement and different folks I have been privileged to sit in the company of, I have many mutual friends and acquaintances with many other folks. Paul would have been likewise with the Christians at Rome. (Romans 16 mentions many of these by name) he calls them “loved” because regardless of whether he had known them personally, they are still his brothers and sisters in the faith.
I like this as it is an add on to the introduction of Paul, in verses 1-6 (see the blog from yesterday) Paul introduced who he was and gave his credentials as an apostle, this is ongoing to that thought and like a little of a longer introduction to believers who many of whom will not have met him. Kind of like “small talk” but in written format.
He greets them with his formal greeting of Grace and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ, boy did that church need that! As alluded to in yesterday’s article, the Roman church was not popular as the beliefs of the Christian did not sit well with the pluralistic, polytheistic sinful nature of the Roman government and the city in which the church found itself in. They were unpopular because they were known for their faith. (This is why it was known worldwide) They were famous in Christian circles due to their faith under fire.
We have that today in both the Western world and the persecuted church in the 2nd and 3rd worlds, we have believers who while they fly under the radar are dynamic for the kingdom of God, they go places and are sent into areas by God and are truly called, for their obedience they may lose their life in order to glorify the name of Christ Jesus. This was a real fear in the Church of Rome. If you were found to be against Caesar, then there was only one judgment, a one way ticket to a posthumous state. (You just have to examine how many of the apostles died or look at the “Nero trials of Christians” in order to see the point I am making)
Sometimes I wish we had a little persecution in the west to weed out the “pretend Christians” or the “Sunday believers” and it would serve to galvanize the faithful, when your life is on the line it suddenly means more. A good question to ask would be “if you were under pressure from the Romans, would you still be as open in your faith?”
Paul advises that “without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. (V9-10)” for me that is encouraging and a timely reminder that you can always help your brothers and sisters who are located far away from you by prayer. Folks I know in the mission field when they are going out always answer the same question the same way, I ask “anything I can do for you?” they always answer “pray for me, I need your prayers”
He uses the term “without ceasing” does anyone else feel a little small at the moment (I am not boasting about my imperfections rather I am shamed by them) this tells me the dynamic nature of Paul’s prayer life, it wasn’t a rise, eat, eat, eat go to bed type of prayer life that he had. When we neglect prayer in our lives we are losing out on so many benefits, blessings and encouragements by not doing this right. We learn to put others first, seek others will, we learn to ask for things that won’t benefit us. We become more Christ like.
Paul uses the term, “for God is my witness” he appealed to a much higher power and said, God will verify what I said, I pray for you a lot. How easy is it for us all to say “I will pray for you” and then life gets in the way and you fail to do so. I always try to do it there and then, that way it gets done. But I am not immune to this. Paul had a will to go there and see them for three reasons
He wanted to do the following
1 “impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you”/”mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (v11/12)
2 “reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles” (v13)
3 “preach the gospel” (v15)
Paul sets out in love what he hoped to achieve by visiting the believers in Rome, he was looking to strengthen them but also he realized that he could be in a position to receive from them also. I found that when I have been preparing Bible studies to teach and have been preparing blog articles like this I have received much more that I have ever given out. What I thought I was to teach has ministered to me first.
Paul sets the record straight in why he has missed out on coming to Rome thus far, that he was willing to go there, that he had great love for those believers in Rome. That external circumstances and things that have been beyond his control are all that have stopped him from being there. He has to leave Corinth and go to Jerusalem next; if you know your history you will know how dangerous it would be for a well-known Christian evangelist to go to. This however would not have prevented Paul from going there if God had sent him. Paul had planned to go to Rome after this journey.
I love Paul in that he was so humble and always was the evangelist; he worked tirelessly to bring the gospel to whomever God would place in front of him. We have to be likewise, I pray frequently for God to put someone in my way that I can share with, but I secretly lament all my missed opportunities for the gospel. Paul see’s Rome as someone he is under obligation to, perhaps because under there rule a common order was found and this allowed passage easier for the gospel to be spread. Whatever his reasoning was, he was really keen to get the gospel preached in Rome.
He concluded this part with the following statement “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (v15) History tells us that Paul eventually did make it to Rome, he did so at the Roman governments expense and went as a prisoner. He impacted people during his time in chains, using his “I am eager” stance to include witnessing to the very guards who were imprisoning him, whoever God placed in his way, Paul would talk to about Jesus.
LORD make me that way please!
God bless and I hope this was a blessing