"I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen" (Romans 15:30-33)
Prayer changes circumstances! Can you imagine how the Apostle Paul must have felt going to Jerusalem knowing that the people there intended to take his life? This did not sway him from going as he entreated the Romans to join with him in prayer, knowing that the unity of their intercession would change the outcome of his journey.
Paul wrote earlier in this letter, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). This verse comes immediately on the heels of the criteria of this statement, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" ( Romans 8:26-27 ). Paul knew that God was capable of bringing about good in every circumstance when His people join together in prayer. This is because the Holy Spirit partners with us and prays in accordance with God's will. Good comes from it because God is able to work in the midst of our intercession. So as we pray we can be confident knowing that all things will work out for our good when we are united together with God in His purpose and will.
This is why Paul was not afraid to go to Jerusalem even though he was walking into hostile territory. He was tasked with taking the offering to the believers there. One can only imagine that he also desired to go and preach Christ among the Jews one more time, hoping to sway them into believing that Christ was the Messiah. This is why he asked the Romans to join with him in praying for safety and protection while in Jerusalem. What a marvelous vote of confidence that Paul had in this church who he had never met. He had heard about their faith ( Romans 1:8 ) and knew that these believers would join in his struggle, interceding for him in accordance with God's will.
How exciting it is to know that our prayers are answered. What a great reminder today that we can join with the Holy Spirit in praying in accordance with the will of God knowing that it will change the outcome. Just as Paul wrote, may the "God of peace be with you all", may our Lord Jesus Christ give you heart peace today as you intercede and pray with the Holy Spirit as your helper. Be confident that your circumstances will change because God is able to work all things out for your good when you come to him in prayer.
"I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ" (Romans 15:29)
Can you imagine reading these words from the Apostle Paul knowing he was planning to come visit your town? Would you be excited to hear him preach and see the demonstration of power by the Holy Spirit as miracles were performed? Reading these words that Paul wrote to this church, "I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ", must have created anticipation that was unmatched by any other event for these believers.
Paul was confident and bold in what he wrote. But just as Paul wrote many times, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" ( I Corinthians 1:31, II Corinthians 10:17 ), Paul's confidence stemmed out of relationship to the Lord Jesus, knowing that what was accomplished was done by God. He wrote with power and authority because he knew who he was in Christ Jesus. He knew the full gospel and how he had been set apart and redeemed to share it with the world ( Romans 1:1 ). He knew that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now dwelled on the inside of him ( Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19-20 ). So it was a natural statement to make to this church that he expected to come in the abundant blessing of the Gospel of Christ.
In the book of Acts we have the record of what happened while Paul was in Rome. Even though he was under house arrest at this time he was able to teach the gospel freely among the Romans. "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" ( Acts 28:30-31 ). Paul shared with these believers the full measure of the blessing of Christ which comes through the gospel, which is the power of God ( Romans 1:16 ). Paul was able to walk in this blessing because he chose to do so. He did not allow others to dictate whether or not he operated in the Holy Spirit. Even in chains he was able to teach about the Kingdom of God and his word was confirmed by signs and wonders the entire time he was in Rome.
As believers this full measure of the blessing of Christ is also available to us all the time. It is not something God gives occasionally; he has already given it to us when we put our faith in Him to save us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us into the entire truth of Christ and to confirm the Word in our lives. The blessing of Christ is now our birthright as his children and recipients of the gospel. Like Paul we can choose to walk in this abundance at all times. Knowing God and understanding what he has provided and accomplished for us will enable us to dwell in His power continually. Imagine what our lives would be like if we fully operated in the grace we were called to. Just as Paul exclaimed, I" know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ", we too would be confident in our words and deeds, knowing that we bring the kingdom of God with us where ever we go.
What an amazing truth to renew our minds with. As born again believers, our confidence is in the Lord Jesus. Knowing him enables us to operate in the same boldness that the Apostle Paul operated in as he anticipated his trip to Rome. My prayer today is that you remember that the Kingdom of God lives inside you and the abundant blessing of Christ is available for you to live and operate within all the time. May you change the world around you by the power of the Holy Spirit inside you; May God's love and truth be evident in everything you do! Amen.
"Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way" (Romans 15:25-28)
This is a wonderful testament to the heart of God's people. Paul is sharing a marvelous account of believers who came together to provide relief for their brothers and sisters in Christ who were struggling. The Jews in Jerusalem where living in extreme poverty. Because of their confession of Christ they had been thrown out of the synagogue and subsequently lost all connections with families, communities and ways to make a living. As believers they faced extreme persecution and extreme poverty living in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life.
As the result, the Gentile churches that were growing around Asia heard of their distress and took it upon themselves to collect an offering to be sent as relief for these believers. We read about this preparation and Paul's instruction to the churches in I Corinthians 16 & II Corinthians 8 & 9. This is where we get wonderful truths about giving. The Gentile churches pioneered the heart of giving cheerfully when needs arose.
After they had collected the offering they had tasked Paul and his companions to deliver the gift to the believers there. Paul is sharing his plans of returning to Jerusalem to deliver their gift and then journeying on to Rome to visit this growing church. He reminds us of a wonderful truth in the middle of these verses. The Gentile church was overjoyed to share with the poor in Jerusalem because they had been blessed by the gospel that Jews had shared with them. They had benefited from their spiritual blessings and so it seemed right that they would also share with these people their material blessings. This act was completely voluntary on the part of the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. They were overjoyed and willing to give what they had because the gospel they received had changed their lives. So they gave out of a grateful and thankful heart. Paul wrote to these churches and told them, "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God" ( II Corinthians 9:12 ).
What a marvelous truth to know that our gifts express thankfulness to God for what He has done in sending Jesus. It is another way for us to praise him and show our gratitude to him. These churches were great examples in giving with a pure heart. I am sure as the church in Rome read these words of Paul they were encouraged by the faith of other believers. I am sure they were also excited at the prospect of Paul's visit and encouraged in the truth of this letter. Today, I am thankful that Jews shared in their spiritual blessings so that the world could have the good news of Jesus Christ. Today, I pray that this gospel changes your heart and you dwell in gratefulness and thankfulness to God for what he has done, amen!
"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while" (Romans 15:23-24)
Christ is the bond that transcends both time and distance. Even though Paul had never personally met the Christians in Rome, he longed for many years to visit and spend time with them. He started out this letter by saying, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world" ( Romans 1:8 ). The Christians in Rome had a reputation of faith in Jesus Christ. People had heard about them because their faith was the topic of conversation that spread back to the starting ground of Christianity. Because of this Paul longed to see them, he went on to say in the beginning of this letter "God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. ( Romans 1:9-10 ). Paul continually praised God for their faith every time he thought of them. He prayed constantly for them and for an opportunity to come to them. As Paul starts to close this letter to the believers in Rome he fills them in on his plan to visit as he travels to Spain.
Because of the faith report that Paul received about the Christians in Rome, he knew that they would participate in his missionary work once he got there. He mentioned it in his letter so that these believers would be prepared when he came. Paul wanted to give them the opportunity to share in the blessing that comes with giving. He understood that those who give are active participants in spreading the gospel to places where they hadn't gone. He fully expected them to aid him on his journey as he proceeded to Spain. He planned to come and stay with them; teaching and training them in the grace of God. Then he planned to go and preach the gospel to areas that had never heard the good news of Christ.
As we read about his missionary journeys in the book of Acts, we see that Paul never made it to Spain but did in fact make it to Rome. As he wrote this letter he was on his way to Jerusalem to offer the financial relief that the Christians in Asia had provided them. While there, he was arrested and eventually sent to Rome to plead his case ( Acts 21-28 ). While in Rome, Paul was allowed to spend the rest of his days meeting with these Christians and everyone else who came to hear the good news of the grace of God. "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ" ( Acts 28:30-31 ).
What an amazing finish in life to be able to share the gospel unhindered by the persecution that always followed him around. Paul finally got to Rome to meet these believers that he cared so deeply about. The bond in Christ unified them as they learned under the apostle Paul for those few years. Today, may you also share the good news of Christ Jesus unhindered and like the apostle Paul see tremendous results as people respond to this amazing message of grace.
"It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you" (Romans 15:20-22)
Paul's desire to share the gospel with people who previously had no knowledge of it, fueled three missionary journey's across the known world at that time. Everywhere Paul and his companions went they faced fierce persecution because of the good news message of Christ as well as overwhelming response to it. Paul acted upon the principal of what was written in Isaiah, "For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand" ( Isaiah 52:15 ).
His desire was to share Christ where this message was previously unknown so this foundation would not be built upon anything thing else but grace. Paul's revelation of grace was unmatched by anyone. He received it by direct revelation from Jesus ( Galatians 1:11-12 ). He understood the finer points of the Law because of his background as a Pharisee and Jesus showed him how each one was fulfilled and accomplished by His life, death and resurrection on the cross. Paul understood the complete gospel and the grace of God toward mankind in the person of Jesus Christ, so naturally his desire was to reveal this knowledge to the rest of the world.
It is interesting to think how Paul alone was the apostle to the Gentile nation. The Jews had the twelve's apostles specifically set apart to share the good news of Christ with them and show them how he was their promised Messiah. But Paul was the only one sent for the Gentiles. He not only wrote most of the New Testament, but the details and accounts of his life and missionary journeys where incredible. This is because Paul was able to share the good news of Christ Jesus to those who had no preconceived notions about who the Messiah would be. Most of the time, they didn't even recognize that one had been promised, let alone identify their need for a savior. When he shared the gospel in these areas, Paul didn't have to combat doctrines or fight against the teachings and traditions of men. He didn't have to overcome inflexible ideology and tear down philosophy in order to build on a new foundation of Christ. What is awesome is that he went to areas that had never heard of Jesus and was able to share the good news on his revelation of grace. In this sense, the good news was too good to pass up and multitudes believed in Jesus and learned about this amazing grace under the apostle to the Gentiles.
This is an amazing truth, when we open our hearts to the word without bringing in traditions, doctrines and preconceived ideas of what it means to follow Christ then we will also get such a revelation of grace by the Holy Spirit that our entire lives will be affected. Not only ours, but those around us will be impacted as well. So many times religion gets in the way of relationship. Jesus never spoke well of religion, He told the disciples "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" ( Matthew 16:6 ). He was speaking against the established system that was corrupt and enslaving the people by rules, regulations and traditions that were meaningless. These teachings kept them from God and finding true reconciliation with him by faith. This is why, like Paul, our faith should be built on a revelation of grace through Christ Jesus. Grace is what combats meaningless tradition so that our lives stem out of relationship with Christ instead of obligation to religion. The grace and mercy of Jesus is the cornerstone that holds it all together. It is a firm foundation that cannot be shaken or removed by persecution or opposition to this message.
I am so thankful for Paul's revelation of grace and his desire to share this great news to everyone who had an ear to hear it. I am so thankful that he wrote this amazing book of Romans inspired by the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the grace that we were called into through Christ Jesus. And to operate in and live this grace all the days of our lives.