The Intention To Visit Rome
Re-Translated In September 1999
1. First please take a look at the verses in Acts 19:21 on.
"After these things, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem through the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. He said, 'After I have gone there I must see Rome.' Then he sent Timothy and Erastus from among the people serving with him to Macedonia and he himself stayed back in Asia for a while," (19:21-22).3. This was the time Paul had sojourned at Ephesus while en route the third missionary journey he had taken. The Book Of Acts tell us that Paul had been entertaining plans to go to Rome at this point in time. Next, there was a terrible riot in Ephesus. After the riot settled down, Paul left Ephesus and headed for Macedonia. Look at chapter twenty and verses one and following.
"After the riot settled down, Paul called his disciples together and encouraged them and after announcing his farewell he departed for Macedonia. Then he walked around that region as he encouraged the people telling them all he knew, then he came to Greece and spent three months there," (20:1-3).5. The place where Paul sojourned here is believed to have specifically been the great sea port city of Corinth in Greece. It was about the year A.D. 58. It seems this was the time when Paul had written his epistle addressed to the Roman disciples.
6. The church at Rome did not come into being through the missionary work of Paul. That's why Paul felt a need to send out a letter prior to visiting Rome and he wrote this. In the passage beginning with verse eight, which we read today, is recorded the kind of intentions (or motives) Paul had when trying to visit Rome. In a certain sense it was right for him to write his intentions because he was to visit with people whom he had never met in person. But, besides that, it seems to me that the text has devoted a lot of words on purpose to Paul's wish to visit Rome and his reasons for the visit. This could be an indication of how much he really wanted them to correctly understand his intentions regarding his forthcoming visit to Rome.
7. At this point in time, Paul has already gone on three mission trips across quite an extensive area. There was a great number of churches that came into being through his gospel preaching. Furthermore, Paul was making more progress towards Rome, the capital of the empire, and he was trying to get farther along towards Spain, the western most extremity. (Romans 15:24) However, it wasn't the widening of the sphere of his work that was so important to him. It was certainly an important task to spread the gospel to as wide an area as possible. But it was more important for him that the work be done with the right motives. Because he knew that even the sacred work of missions could be done out of the wrong motivation. Later, Paul wrote from prison and sent the following words to the disciples at Philippi, "There might be those who are driven by jealousy and strife while they preach Christ; but, there are also those who do it with good will," (Philippians 1:15). Often times people only keep their attention on what appears visible to the eye. There is a lot of attraction to superficialities, neglect for the important things, and failing to notice [what should be noticed]. Or there's a lot of self-deception [and lieing going on]. But, Paul himself knew that the person on the inside was totally obvious to God. Paul knew that his very intentions and motives were plain and clear to God first. Therefore, he was hoping that this might be made plain to the Romans as well. Even if they completely misjudge [things], Paul didn't want them to misunderstand his going to Rome as trying to expand his personal sphere of influence. Paul was hoping to have them accept what was at the foundation to his plans after they understood them.
The Prayer Of Thanksgiving
8. With that, let's direct our attention to the contents of the section which has been designed and written as I described above.
"First of all, I give thanks to my God for all of you through Jesus Christ because your faith is being spoken about through out the world. While I preach the gospel of the son, I am serving God from the heart. God is a witness for me that when I pray I am always remembering you and hoping for there to be an opportunity for me to be able to come to you somehow and some time in accordance with the will of God," (vv. 8-10).10. Paul is first offering up thanksgiving to God here. He is giving thanks that the "faith" of the people at Rome" is being spoken about through out the world." Paul made no reference by this to what kind of persons the Roman Christians were. He was not giving thanks that they were known for being so called fine Christian people or that they were known for the great work they were doing. He says only one thing, that they were known for being Christians in Rome. And Paul's giving thanks to God for this expresses that he understands that this has been no one's work but God's alone. There was a church in Rome. By whose hand did that [church] come to be? It didn't matter to Paul; any [hand] would have been fine. He did not care whether a church came into being from his own work or by someone else. What had meaning to him was solely that God was carrying out his work.
11. Thus, Paul's wish was for nothing but "for there to be an opportunity for me to be able to come to you in accordance with the will of God." There are so many different kinds of hopes in this world but most of them are, in the final analysis, wishes for self actualization. Even if a person's actions seem wonderful or if a person's plans seem altruistic, when you delve deeper into them, they are only as much as a wish for self fulfillment or personal ambition. Indeed, this does not just go on in the world. It may even be seen in the church. As I said before, even the work of missions in the church is not exempt. While using the name of Christ and saying "It's for the Lord," it is likely that in the final analysis it is only about "me" or "us." But, Paul's plans bound for Rome were not like that. The meaning of what Paul was "wishing for" wasn't like that. It was about how that he was "praying for" them as the text says in verse nine.
12. A simple "wishing and hoping for" is different from "a prayer" before God. When prayer to God is left out, the work of humanity, no matter how beautifully attired, is nothing more than a wish and a hope tainted by human sin. As Paul called God as his witness, he was able to relate his intentions. Because he was always praying for it. Because prayer was behind all the work he did.
According To The Gifts Of "The Spirit"
13. Then he makes clear the purpose of the visit that he is wishing and praying to God for. Please take a look at verses eleven and following.
"The reason I want to meet you without fail is to strengthen you by sharing some of the gifts of 'the Spirit.' According to the faith you and I both have in common, I would like for us to give each other encouragement while among you," (vv. 11-12).15. To begin with, one of his first purposes was to bring encouragement to the churches. Paul was not trying to control them; rather, he was encouraging them to take a firm stand individually as believers. Also, he was wanting to help them be able to stand firm as a church as well. That was his prayer.
16. However, in regard to this point, Paul dares to say, "by sharing some of the gifts of 'the Spirit.'" What this term "gifts of the 'Spirit'" means is not entirely clear. In chapter twelve and verse six of this epistle the text says, "Since we have all sorts of different gifts by the grace given to us, if one has received the gift of prophecy, prophesy according to one's faith, if one has received the gift of service, please devote yourself to service...," (12:6-8). Thus, he may be thinking here of the power needed for different kinds of work. But, regardless, it is important that Paul dares to say gifts "of the Spirit" here. Gifts "of the Spirit" mean the gifts that come from God. Paul did not want to help them with encouragement because he himself was a good missionary or teacher. He knew inside out that the best thing he could share with them was not from anything he had within him but what comes from God. He knew that he was no more than a tool in use by God.
17. And besides that, he continues verse twelve at once. Because he might have been misunderstood as if he were some special personality that stood above them. He doesn't say here that I am giving you something from me to you in one direction, but says that "According to the faith you and I both have in common, I would like for us to give each other encouragement while among you." Paul was hoping to be encouraged himself. And it meant that it was not a mutuality based on anything that comes from inside humanity, but rather that it comes from their mutual faith and it comes from God.
18. People often times are proud. Especially when a person is better than another, a person thinks because he or she is better he or she can assist somebody else. They end up thinking that they can make anyone stand firm by their own power. They think as if there is in them something that gives others life. However, what truly gives a person life does not come from the inside of sinful humanity. Unless received from God a person cannot share with others and truly revive them. And a person cannot build up the church, which is the body of Christ, through what comes from the flesh. A true church can only be built with a person the Spirit of God uses and who shares in his work. What comes from the flesh is only flesh. The church of Christ, which belongs to God, can not be built up by anyone separated from God or by anything that has come from a godless ego.
As Paul The Debtor
19. In addition, as for another purpose Paul had, it was to preach the gospel in Rome and see some missionary fruit. That is, just as Paul has already stated, Paul was wanting to head for Rome for the purpose of "spreading that Name and guiding all Gentiles into obedience according to faith." Please see verses thirteen on.
"O brothers, I would have you know without fail. I was hoping to have some fruit among you as we've had among other Gentiles, but even though I have undertaken to come to you many many times, I have been hindered to this very day. I have a responsibility that I ought to fulfill to both the Greeks and the Barbarians, and both to the wise and the unwise. Therefore, I want to make the gospel known without fail to you in Rome as well," (vv. 13-15).21. We have already taken a look in the book of The Acts Of The Apostles and have seen the work of Paul during his gospel preaching ministry in the early church. We are absolutely marveled by that work which produced numbers of churches while he shouldered all sorts of hardships amidst many persecutions and distresses. While he was exposed to endangerment of life over and over again, he still headed for Jerusalem and after that he still wanted to head for Rome. However, how Paul himself had been thinking about this work of his is clearly revealed in this epistle. He was wanting to go to Rome "hoping to have some fruit." The image of a peasant farmer is being used here. It is the farmer who cuts and brings in the harvest. Although he certainly does have work there, he understands that God himself is the one who produces the fruit. Please recall that Paul was giving thanks to God for the faith of the disciples of Rome. He was wanting to head for Rome as one worker to be used by God.
22. And he says that because "I have a responsibility I ought to fulfill to both the Greeks and the Barbarians, and both to the wise and the unwise." The truth is when you translate "responsibility" literally the word "debtor" is in use. Paul calls himself "a debtor." In other words, he says that even though he has repeated so many hardships, he has nothing whatsoever to boast of, but that he was only paying back his debts. He says that after he has proclaimed the Word, it is nothing for him to brag about. Because he is a debtor. Why would Paul call himself a debtor? He calls himself a debtor because he knew what a tremendous sacrifice of love was paid out in order for him to be in grace. The first reason [he was a debtor] was God's love, God's sacrifice; for, Paul knew that the unique son of God shed his blood on the cross for him. And the second reason was that he was currently shouldering the responsibility of love and labor for others. He knew that until he came to hear the gospel, there had been the toiling of many other Christians. Paul knew that until he came to his conversion and until he became a missionary the blood and the tears of many people had been shed. It was already from the very start an unpayable debt with the sacrifice on the cross. Along with his thanksgiving, he only offers up himself. And he can only do with thanksgiving that which [God] let him do. Paul knew what he had done and there was nothing he ought to be proud of. Therefore, he sent the following in writing, "Therefore, I want to make the gospel known without fail to you in Rome as well."
23. As far as this matter of indebtedness, it applies to us as well. Meanwhile, if we tend to be proud of the things we have done and the small number of hardships we have borne, or on the other hand, if tend to downgrade ourselves by comparing ourselves with others, we should be ashamed of ourselves either way. What kind of persons do we say we are? Since that's how Paul is, we too will only seek for the work of God to be seen and can only offer up ourselves with thanksgiving and in service [to God]. That's where Paul's joy was and where our joy is, too.