Conclusion: Summary of Paul’s Ministry and Travel Plans
- Why Paul had Written: His Ministry to the Gentiles (15:14-21)
- Why Paul had not yet Visited Rome & His Future Plans (15:22-29)
- Paul’s Prayer Requests & His Personal Prayer for the Romans (15:30-33)
Why Paul had Written: His Ministry to the Gentiles (15:14-21)
¶ 14 But I am persuaded, my brethren, I myself also, concerning you, that yourselves also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. v.14 Paul had not written to them because they were totally ignorant of the gospel of the grace of God and of dispensational truth. They were “full of goodness”, not carrying on in a legal way like the Galatians. They were “filled with all knowledge”, not like the ignorant new converts in Thessalonica. They were also “able to admonish one another” when difficulties came up, unlike the carnal and divisive Corinthians.
15 But I have written to you the more boldly, brethren, in part, as putting you in mind, because of the grace given to me by God, 16 for me to be minister of Christ Jesus to the nations, carrying on as a sacrificial service the message of glad tidings of God, in order that the offering up of the nations might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. vv.15-16 Paul had written to them because he had been given a specific commission by God as the minister of Christ to the Gentiles; compared with Peter, who was the apostle to the Circumcision (Gal. 2:7-8). Paul likens his commission among the Gentiles as a “sacrificial service” like the service of Aaron in the Old Testament. God wanted a working force of sanctified ones in the Old Testament to care for His interests in His house. They were the Levites, and they were offered by Aaron before Jehovah for an offering of the sons of Israel (read Numbers 8:5-26). Instead of the firstborn of every family in Israel, the whole tribe of Levi was offered up to the Lord for His pleasure. In a similar way, masses of Gentiles have become Christians through (1) the glad tidings and (2) the sanctification of the Holy Spirit (c.p. with the Levites who were cleansed by (1) natural birthright and (2) ceremonial washing). These Christians compose an “offering” to God. Paul’s ministry was essential to establish these believers in the truth of God, that this offering might be suitable or “acceptable“.
17 I have therefore whereof to boast in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. v.17 Paul had something to boast in, and it wasn’t a matter of personal pride. He had something “in Christ Jesus” that pertained to God; specifically, his commission to the Gentiles.
¶ 18a For I will not dare to speak anything of the things which Christ has not wrought by me, for the obedience of the nations, v.18a But he would not take credit, or even “speak of” the efforts of other servants of the Lord. In the following verses, Paul give a humble and brief synopsis of his labors, which focused on the Gentiles.
18b by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God; so that I, from Jerusalem, and in a circuit round to Illyricum, have fully preached the glad tidings of the Christ; 20 and so aiming to announce the glad tidings, not where Christ has been named, that I might not build upon another’s foundation; 21 but according as it is written, “To whom there was nothing told concerning him, they shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand.” [Isa. 52:15] vv.18b-21 The epistle to the Romans was most likely written from Corinth on Paul’s third missionary Journey. He was in the midst of a second loop from the east (Jerusalem and Antioch) up, over, and down through Greece. Illyricum was a Roman province in western Greece, and Paul must have visited it on his way from Macedonia to Achaia. His point is that, while each of his three missionary journeys widened in extent, they had not yet gotten beyond Greece. In the regions he had covered thus far, Paul was confident that he had fully discharged his mission to announce the glad tidings. The reason he continued to expand his geographical scope was to bring the Gospel to places “not where Christ has [already] been named”. He would not limit himself to ground that others had covered, not out of a sense of pride, but because he was intent on expanding the Gentile gospel frontier, according to his commission. He quotes Isa. 52:15, not as professing to fulfill it, but to draw on God’s intention to give to the Gentiles knowledge that they had never had before.
Why Paul had not yet Visited Rome & His Future Plans (15:22-29)
His Work in the East Finished, His Plans to Go West (vv.22-24)
22 Wherefore also I have been often hindered from coming to you. v.22 These things (vv.18b-21) explain why Paul had not yet visited Rome. He wanted to expand his scope to include Italy, Gaul, Spain, etc. but had been hindered because the work was not yet done in Asia and Greece.
23 But now, having no longer place in these regions, and having great desire to come to you these many years, 24 whenever I should go to Spain; (for I hope to see you as I go through, and by you to be set forward thither, if first I shall have been in part filled with your company;) vv.23-24 Now that Paul’s third missionary journey was coming to a close, he had a sense from the Lord that the frontier work in Asia and Greece was coming to a close, and he would be able to push forward into new regions with the gospel. His mission was “to preach the gospel in the regions beyond” (2 Cor. 10:26). He had his sights set on Spain because the gospel had already reached Italy, but he believed a visit to Rome and the fellowship there would be a help to him in reaching out to distant fields.
The Collection for Jerusalem (vv.25-27)
25 but now I go to Jerusalem, ministering to the saints; 26 for Macedonia and Achaia have been well pleased to make a certain contribution for the poor of the saints who are in Jerusalem. vv.25-26 Paul had one final responsibility to discharge before embarking on a fourth journey; to bring a certain collection to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas has delivered an earlier collection to relieve the needs of the brethren there in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). He had arranged with Peter to do so again before leaving on his second journey (Gal. 2:10), and upon returning from his third journey, he delivered it (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25-26). It was fitting that the apostle to the uncircumcision be the one to round-up these funds. The brethren in Judea were is a state of continual poverty since the very earliest days of the Church, as a result of three things:
- The selling of their possessions in unselfish love to have all things common (Acts 4:32).
- A great famine in the days of Claudius Caesar (Acts 11:27-30).
- The spoiling of their goods by those who opposed and persecuted them (Heb. 10:34).
The brethren from Macedonia (northern Greece) and Achaia (southern Greece) had put together this collection. We read about it in 2 Corinthians 8-9. The Macedonians were relatively poor, and yet had given more readily (2 Cor. 8:2). The Corinthians were quite wealthy, but having started to pull the funds together, and hearing that Paul’s visit was delayed for one year, had not finished the collection. Paul wrote to them encouraging them to finish, just as they had intended. Rom. 15:25 shows us that they did finish the collection, and Paul was on his way with it to Jerusalem! Read more…
27 They have been well pleased indeed, and they are their debtors; for if the nations have participated in their spiritual things, they ought also in fleshly to minister to them. v.27 Notice that Paul says nothing of the Corinthians’ slowness. He only passed on what was commendable! He simply says they were “well pleased indeed” to make this collection. The Gentile believers treated this collection as a debt of love, because they were partakers in the spiritual privileges of the Jews, and it was fitting that they should help in any way they could with the material needs of the Jewish believers. As Gentiles we should always remember that we were once “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), and we have been brought into blessing without a covenant relationship. The “spiritual things” referred to here might be the blessing of the Spirit (Joel 2:28), hope in Christ, and the Word of God (Rom. 3:2). Truly, God has “enlarged Japheth” and made him to “dwell in the tents of Shem” (Gen. 9:27). Additionally, this gift would be a tremendous boost to the unity of the early Church. By their poverty, the Jewish believers were thus cast upon the generosity of the Gentile believers, and bond that would unite them and help to overcome natural prejudices that might exist. Together their hearts would be lifted up in thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 9:12). This same bond is felt between those who give and receive in the assembly today.
His Planed Journey to Rome and Spain (vv.28-29)
28 Having finished this therefore, and having sealed to them this fruit, I will set off by you into Spain. 29 But I know that, coming to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ. vv.28-29 Once this collection was delivered, and the “fruit” of the Gentiles’ generosity was sealed, Paul planned to embark on a fourth journey including Italy and Spain. Unbeknownst to him, he would be imprisoned at Jerusalem, and brought to Rome. But whether as free or in bonds, when Paul came to them he would impart “the fullness of the blessing of Christ”. The words “the gospel of” are erroneously inserted in the KJV, and we can see why. In this epistle, Paul had expounded the gospel to them; clearly, the “fullness” referred to is beyond that. It is a reference to the truth of the Mystery which was the other part of Paul’s ministry (see Romans 16:25-26). He mentions in Romans 1:11 that when he arrived he would “impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.” There are two things Christian’s need to be established; Paul’s gospel, and the revelation of the Mystery.
Paul’s Prayer Requests & His Personal Prayer for the Romans (15:30-33)
30 But I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in prayers for me to God; v.30 Paul “begged” the Romans, whom he had never seen, for their fellowship with him in prayer concerning his ministry. How this would tend to bind their hearts to his! We have the whole Godhead involved in these prayers:
- “Our Lord Jesus Christ” as High Priest, by whom the prayers ascend.
- “The Spirit” produces love in our hearts, the unselfish affection toward others for whom we pray.
- “To God” the prayers are addressed; the Father, from whom all blessings flow.
31 that I may be saved from those that do not believe in Judaea; and that my ministry which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; 32 in order that I may come to you in joy by God’s will, and that I may be refreshed with you. vv.31-32 The apostle requests prayer in regard to three things:
- Deliverance from the unbelieving Jews who would seek to persecute him when he arrived in Palestine. Particularly, this persecution was in opposition to Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles. We ought to pray for our brethren who face persecution all over this world.
- Acceptance by those in Jerusalem of the collection Paul was bringing. It was important that prayers accompanied the gift. It would be very humbling for the Jewish believers to be dependent on a gift from Gentiles, but if it was graciously received, it would be a great victory as far as promoting unity in the early Church.
- Furtherance for Paul that he might be brought to Rome and be refreshed by their company. We ought to pray for those who travel in the Lord’s service, that they would be directed according to “God’s will” and be refreshed by those they visit.
All three of these requests were answered, but not in the way anyone might have expected. He was delivered from the Jewish antagonists by the Romans! He was brought to Rome in chains! But the prayers were answered.
33 And the God of peace be with you all. Amen. v.33 This prayer added by the apostle Paul closes the body of the epistle. The following chapter is an appendix. In a certain sense, the net result of the book of Romans is peace. Why is that? Romans takes up the subject of God’s righteousness, and Isa. 32:17 tells us that “the work of righteousness shall be peace.”
- Ch.1-8 God’s righteousness in justification gives us peace as to our standing before God because we understand that every question about our sins has been fully answered to the glory of God (see Rom. 5:1).
- Ch.9-11 God’s righteousness in His dispensational ways gives peace between Jewish and Gentile believers because it puts all on the ground of sovereign mercy, and eliminates national pride.
- Ch.12-15 Practical righteousness reflected in our lives will result in peace between brethren because love will be the overriding principle of our interactions, as we “pursue the things which tend to peace … and things that edify.”