"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.