Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 (53) Paul’s Plans Following the Writing
Romans 15:22-29

 

Scripture

22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.
25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.
29 And I am sure that, when I c ome unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

 

Commentary

22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.

The apostle desired, for a long time, to preach the Gospel in Spain; and now, the years of desire are about to give way to an actual journey to Spain, (Paul’s arrest and confinement in Rome ended this dream of his.) which will necessitate a stopover in the capital city of the Empire. His activities in Spain, as well as in Rome, will likewise be cultivating virgin soil, but before he arrives there he wants his visit to Rome to be one of mutual benefit for both the Romans and himself. He has spiritual benefits to impart to them as a teacher of the Word and they have comfort, fellowship, and lodging to give to him. He desires to be engulfed with their company.

At this point the foundation had been laid in the region described in 15:19[1]. Others could build on that foundation. Paul was therefore free to fulfill his long-standing desire to visit Rome. In his desire to plow untilled territory, Paul had been busy taking the Gospel to other regions; therefore he had been unable to get to Rome in the past; but this is not the only reason for his delay, as we shall see.                                                                                                     

The apostle Paul was a man that had as many friends and as many enemies as any man ever had: he passed through hard times and times when his life was threatened, but by the grace that was extended to him by the Savior he gave many good reports. No doubt the Roman Christians had heard a lot about him, and longed to see him. Should the apostle to the Gentiles be a stranger at Rome, the metropolis of the Gentile world? In this passage he expresses his regrets that he had not yet taken the Gospel to Rome; he promises to come shortly, and gives a good reason for why he could not come now.

For which cause—Paul may have expressed his reason for putting off visiting Rome in this way: I consider it a point of honor to build on no other man's foundation; and, finding that the Gospel was planted at Rome a long time ago, I have been prevented from going there, choosing instead to spend my time and strength in preaching where Christ has not, as of yet, been proclaimed.

Much hindered—Hindered in many ways; not many times. He had such frequent and urgent demands on his time from other sources that he could not go to Rome. That didn’t mean that they were not in his thoughts and prayers: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established” (Romans 1:9-11). He could honestly say, I always mention you in my prayers. Paul’s prayer life is intertwined with his life of service. The word the apostle uses for service (Gr latruō) is that of the function of a priest in the Temple and is very frequently used by Paul to mean worship (II Tim 1:3[2]). A great deal of Paul’s priestly service to the Lord was his regular program of intercessory prayer on the behalf of other believers (see Ephesians 1:16[3]; Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; I Thess 1:2; II Tim 1:3; Phm 4).
From coming to you—coming from where the gospel has been preached. He desired to come, but he had been unable to leave the vast region where he could preach the gospel to those who had never heard it. “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18). In spite of his strong desire to visit them, Satan somehow blocked his efforts.

23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;

But now having no more place in these parts,

“These parts” was Greece, since that is where Paul is now. Almost all of that country had heard the Gospel preached; churches were being planted in the largest towns and pastors were selected to carry on the work which Paul had begun (Acts 20:17[4]); there was not much left for him to do there. He had conquered Greece with the Gospel and now he wishes there were another Greece to conquer. Paul was one that would complete his work, and then take on more work. Here was a workman that needed not to be ashamed.

Having no more place—the obvious meaning here is that there was no longer anyplace where Christ was not known. This idea is included in the declaration that he had fully preached the gospel in that entire region—he had completed his assignment there.

Paul realized that to have the assurance that any particular service committed to us has been completed, is by necessity, the outcome of the habit of walking with God and of our having received the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit.

And having a great desire these many years to come unto you;

A great desire—means "a longing." “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established” (Romans 1:9-11). Paul admits that he prays for his Roman brothers constantly. A great deal of Paul’s service to the Lord was his regular program of intercessory prayer on the behalf of other believers; Paul’s prayer life is intertwined with his life of service.

Here, in Romans 1:9-11, is where Paul first states his purpose for wanting to come to Rome. He says, “I have a great desire to see you (in current language, “I am homesick for you”).” This deep longing of Paul to be with the Roman believers arises out of three reasons. First, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift. Paul wants to be more than a blessing to them, he wants to build them up in the most holy faith and explain to them more fully what it means to be “in Christ Jesus.” Knowing that this local church had not had the apostolic stamp of approval placed on it, Paul wishes to visit them to do so. Secondly, Paul desires the Romans to reciprocate, that I may be comforted together with you. It has been the lifelong desire of the apostle to preach the gospel in Spain where no man had laid a foundation. Rome was to be a stopover for that journey. Paul would need lodging, food, and Christian fellowship. He desires the Roman believers to provide these for him. Thirdly, he had a special desire to see them, because of the great reputation they had in all the churches for faith and holiness; they were men that excelled in virtue, and therefore Paul wanted to know them.

24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

His plan was to stop off at Rome en route to Spain. He would not be able to stay long enough to enjoy all the fellowship with them that he would like, but his desire to enjoy their company would at least be partially satisfied. Then he knew that they would give whatever helps was needed to complete his trip to Spain.

Whensoever I take my journey into Spain,

Ancient Spain included the modem kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, or the entire Spanish peninsula. It came under Roman rule in 133 B.C., and became a “province,” but the conquest of the whole country was not complete until 19 B.C. By the apostle’s time it contained large numbers of Jews, and this would probably strengthen his desire to preach Christ there. It is very likely that the Gospel had not yet been planted in the Spanish territory; although legendary tales inform us that St. James had planted the Gospel there long before this time, and had founded many bishoprics (bishop's diocese: an area that a bishop is in charge of)! But this is as unfounded as it is ridiculous and absurd; for nothing like what is called a bishopric or even a parish, was founded for many years after this. It would be more likely that the gospel was spread by a circuit traveling preacher. In any case, whether the apostle ever fulfilled his plan of going to Spain is unknown; but there is no evidence at all that he did, and the presumption is that he did not undertake this voyage. His whole plan was probably derailed by the occurrences at Jerusalem, which led to his long imprisonment at Cesarea, and his being sent in bonds to Rome. The distant past offers no proof that he fulfilled his intention, except there is some evidence in an epistle to the Corinthians written by Clement of Rome, who was a follower of the apostle that Paul “went to the end of the west.”

I will come to you:

These words are not found in almost every manuscript of note, such as the Syriac of Erpen, Coptic, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Itala. If the first clause of this verse is read in connection with the latter clause of the preceding, it will appear that this rejected clause is useless. The verse should be read, “Having a great desire these many years to come unto you; whensoever I take my journey into Spain: for I trust to see you in my journey and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.” “I will come to you” must have been inserted as a necessary supplement.

for I trust to see you in my journey,

Paul wanted to preach the gospel in a place where it had never been heard before and so he set his sights on Spain, but first, he would stop-over at Rome to fellowship with the Christians there. But, the fact is that, in our journey of service for the Lord, circumstances take place very differently from our expectations and desires, and unfortunately there is often not any indication that we are being guided by God. On the contrary, our worst disappointments come with the accomplishment of far greater things than we anticipate. That is the way it was with Paul’s actual stay in Rome. As an outcome of his imprisonments there the churches have had all of his later epistles.

And to be brought on my way thitherward by you,

To be brought on my way—The original words mean to provide for  any one on a journey for some distance, as an expression of kindness and respect; and also to make provision for his journey; see Acts 15:3[5]; 20:38[6]; 1 Corinthians 16:6[7]; 2 Corinthians 1:16[8]

There are several things the apostle expected from his Roman brethren. This clause contains the first; he expected they would bring him on his way towards Spain. It was not an assembly of the rich and influential, such as princes have, but a loving crowd, such as friends provide that Paul expected. At the time, Rome was communicating with certain Spanish cities, and so, Spain was well known to the Romans: therefore, they might be helpful to Paul during his voyage there. It was not that he wanted them to accompany him part of the way, but instead he needed them, and their help, and their prayers, and their fellowship, and he counted upon them to supply those things, not only out of their respect for Paul, but out of respect for the souls of those poor Spaniards that Paul was going to preach to.

if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

This clause gives the second expectation that Paul had for the Roman Christians. What he expected of them was for him to be somewhat filled with their company. All Paul desired was their company and conversation. Paul was a man that had attained great knowledge and grace, and he was taller by head and shoulders than other Christians in these things, and yet he pleased himself with thoughts of good company; for as iron sharpens iron so does a man the countenance of his friend. He implies that he intended to stay with them for awhile, since he wanted to be filled with their company; not just look at them, and then leave: and yet he thinks their conversation is so pleasant that he would never have enough of it; but finally, he is only somewhat filled, since he thought he should leave them while he has a desire for more of their company. Christian society, when it is managed rightly and improved, is a heaven upon earth. The satisfaction we have in communion with the saints in this world is only partial; we are only somewhat filled. It is partial compared with our communion with Christ; that, and that only, will completely satisfy, that will fill the soul. It is partial compared with the communion we hope to have with the saints in the other world. When we shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, with all the saints, and nobody but saints, and saints made perfect, we shall have enough of that society, and be quite filled with that company.

Somewhat filled with your company—the word which has been translate filled, would be better rendered gratified; because, it signifies to be satisfied, to be gratified, and to enjoy. The apostle, although he did not have the honor of having planted the Church at Rome, yet expected much gratification from the visit which he intended to pay them

If first—if on my journey, or before I go into Spain.

Somewhat—in part. As though he could not be fully satisfied with their company, or could not hope to enjoy their society as fully and as long as he could desire. This is a very tender and delicate expression.

Filled—this is a strong expression, meaning to be satisfied, to enjoy. To be filled with a thing is to have great satisfaction and joy in it.

With your company—with you; meaning, in your society. The expression to be filled with one, in the sense of being gratified, is sometimes used by the classic writers.

25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

Paul cannot immediately embark on his way to Rome for he must travel first to Jerusalem. He must deliver to the poor saints there an offering which the apostle had collected from the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia. This was not only an act of Christian love but a way of cementing the relationship between the Jewish and Gentile factions of the early church, since the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia was predominantly Gentile. The contribution (or sharing of their wealth) was a voluntary gesture on the part of the Gentile churches, yet it also recognized the moral debt they owed to the mother church which had first disseminated the gospel. This is the collection that we read about in 1 Corinthians 16:1[9]  and 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.

As far as the Roman Christians are concerned, he gives them a good reason for why he could not come and see them now; it was because he had other business upon his hands, which required his presence; but first he must make a journey to Jerusalem. He was going to Jerusalem, as a messenger of the church with charity for the poor saints there. Observe what he says,

Now I go unto Jerusalem—From this and the two following verses we learn that the object of his journey to Jerusalem was, to bring them a contribution from the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia for the relief of the poor Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. His aim in this matter is very evident from 2 Corinthians 9:12, 13, where he says: “So two good things will happen—the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanksgiving to God. You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ” (The New Living Translation).

The apostle was hoping that this liberal contribution, sent by the Gentile Christians who had been converted by St. Paul's ministry, would win the affections of the Jewish Christians, who had been greatly prejudiced against the acceptance of the Gentiles into the Church, without being previously obliged to submit to the yoke of the law. He wished to establish a partnership between the converted Jews and Gentiles, being aware of its great importance to the spread of the Gospel; and his obtaining this contribution was one creditable device that he could use to accomplish this good end. And this reveals why he so earnestly requests the prayers of the Christians at Rome; that his service which he had for Jerusalem might be accepted by the saints.

To minister to the saints. To supply their necessities by bringing to them the contribution which the churches have made for them.

This clause gives the third expectation that Paul had for the Roman Christians. The Romans were whole, and they did not need a physician as much as the other poor places that were sick and dying. While men and women were dropping into eternity every day, and their precious souls perishing, it was no time for Paul to trifle. He would wait awhile before going to Rome, and use his time to introduce many to the gospel. He expected that the Roman Christians would understand his reason for delaying visiting them, because they were more mature in their faith.

26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

The districts of Macedonia (the chief inhabitants were the Philippians) and Achaia (the chief inhabitants were the Corinthians), stand for the churches in them. These two provinces comprise the whole of Greece. The believers in Macedonia and Achaia had gladly contributed to a fund to relieve the distress among the poor Christians who lived in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. This collection was completely voluntary on the part of the donors; but it was quite appropriate for them to give. After all, they had benefited spiritually by the coming of the gospel to them through Jewish believers. So it was not too much to expect that they would share material things with their Jewish brethren. There was evidently a large number of poor among the saints who lived in Macedonia and Achaia. They were poor, in part, due to the arrangement referred to in Acts 2:45: “And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” The enjoying of all things in common among those of the early church should not be interpreted as communism. This was an early system of mutual ownership which is distinct from communism. Communism says, “what is yours, is mine.” “Commonism” says, “what is mine is yours also.” At the birth of the church, this system was absolutely necessary for many who came to know the Lord were renounced by society and disinherited by family. This system was temporary, and had its problems (see Acts 5:1-2[10]; 6:1[11]). It is a system which gave rise to laziness (II Thessalonians 3:7–10[12]). Macedonia and Achaia, had left an aftermath of poverty from following this system, which placed all goods and property in common; but, in any case, it could be, only a temporary measure. This verse plays an important part in enabling us to fix the date of this Epistle. It must have been written soon after 2 Corinthians, and just before Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, mentioned in Acts 20:22[13]; that is, about the year A.D. 57.

For it hath pleased them

That is, they have done it cheerfully and voluntarily. Their liberality and cheerfulness is commended by the apostle in 2 Corinthians 8:1-6[14]. Paul had worked hard to obtain this collection, but still they did it freely (See 2 Corinthians 9:4-7[15]).

Of Macedonia.

That is, the Christians in Macedonia-those who had been Gentiles, and who had been converted to the Christian religion, Macedonia was a country of Greece, bounded north by Thrace, south by Thessaly, west by Epirus, and east by the Aegean Sea. It was an extensive region, and was the kingdom of Philip, and his son Alexander the Great. Its capital was Philippi, at which place Paul planted a church. A church was also established at Thessalonica, another city of that country.
 
And Achaia.

Achaia, in the largest sense, included all ancient Greece. Achaia Proper, however, was a province of Greece, embracing the western part of the Peloponnesus, of which Corinth was the capital. “And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat” ( Acts 18:12).

The poor saints,

The Christians who were in Judea were exposed to cruel trials. They were condemned by the Sanhedrim, opposed by the rulers, and persecuted by the people. See Acts 8:1, Acts 12:1[16], etc. Paul sought not only to ease their hardships by this contribution, but also to promote empathy between them and the Gentile Christians. And this circumstance would tend to enforce what he had been urging in chapters 14 and 15 concerning the obligation they have for having kind feelings between the Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity. Nothing tends to eliminate prejudice, and to prevent unkind feelings toward others, than to find some purpose for doing something good for them, or to join them in doing good.
 
27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are.

Why were the Gentile believers such cheerful givers? The reason is found in the first part of the verse; “and their debtors they are.” Alms[17] are called righteousness in Psalms 112:9: “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.”

Christians are stewards of what we have; we must use it where our great Master orders us to dispose of it (by His divine intervention, and by the teaching of the word): but here there was a special debt owed; the Gentiles were greatly indebted to the Jews, and were obligated to be very kind to them. Christ himself came from the stock of Israel, according to the flesh; out of the same stock came the prophets, and apostles, and the first preachers of the gospel. The Jews, having had the oracles of God committed to them, were the Christians’ library-keepers—out of Zion went forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; their political church-state was dissolved, and they were cut off, so that the Gentiles might be admitted in. Consequently, the Gentiles acquire the Jews spiritual things, and receive the gospel of salvation as if it were second-hand from the Jews. Therefore, they are duty-bound to minister unto them with carnal things: it is the least they can do—to minister to the Jews as unto God. A conscientious regard for God, shown by works of charity and almsgiving, makes them an acceptable service and sacrifice to God, with fruit abounding to a good account.

For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things,

spiritual things—That is, those blessings which primarily, in the providence of God, belonged to Israel, but which also relates to the Gospel. God used the Jews to bring to the Gentiles, knowledge of Him and of the Gospel of Christ. These were the spiritual things which they had received;

Their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

How did Paul involve himself in the feud between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians? He could not make a personal contribution to the love offering because, as he explains; “silver and gold he had none.” He lived off the kindness of his friends; and yet he ministered unto the saints—“But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints” (v. 25) by stirring up others to contribute to the offering intended to help the poor Judean Christians, receiving what was gathered, and then personally carrying it to Jerusalem. Many good works similar to this are left undone while waiting for one willing person to lead them, and to set the wheels in motion. Paul’s involvement in this work is not to be construed as causing him to neglect his preaching-work, nor did Paul abandon the word of God, to serve tables; because, besides this, Paul had other matters to attend to during this journey, such as to visit and confirm the churches; this was indeed a part of the trust committed to him, in which he was anxious to prove himself faithful—“ Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do” (Galatians 2:10). They wanted Paul and his fellow travelers to remember the poor.

Carnal things—Things pertaining to the flesh; that is, to this life. It is on this ground that the apostle puts the obligation to support the ministers of the gospel—“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?  (1 Corinthians 9:11). Paul, as their minister and teacher, taught them spiritual things. Was it any wonder then, that he would expect remuneration to sustain the body?

28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

When therefore I have performed this,

As soon as Paul had performed this mission, delivering the funds as promised, he would visit Rome on his way to Spain. He was confident that his visit to Rome would be accompanied by the fullness of the blessing of the gospel which Christ always pours out when God’s word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was God’s man, and as such he determined to do good in every way, and like his Master, the good was directed to the bodies as well as to the souls of people. Ministering to the saints is good work, and it is not below the greatest apostles.  Jesus may have given the best example of this by washing the feet of His disciples. Paul had undertaken the task of transporting the collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem, and therefore he resolves to go through with it, before he would take on any other work.

And have sealed to them this fruit,

He calls the alms fruit, since it is one of the fruits of righteousness; it sprang from a root of grace within the givers, and it fulfilled its purpose of benefitting and comforting the receivers. And his sealing it implies his great care of it, that what was given might be kept intact, and not embezzled, but disposed of according to the design of the givers. Paul was very anxious to prove himself faithful in the management of this matter: an excellent pattern for ministers to follow, that the ministry may in no way be blamed.

This wording of this verse reveals the sacredness in God’s sight of ministering material assistance to the saints. The material help was the fruit of his spiritual ministry to the saints in Greece. But this spiritual blessing to Gentiles emanated in the first place from the Jewish nation. Hence, in meeting the needs of the saints in Jerusalem, the churches of the Gentiles were but bringing forth the fruits of them having shared with them in spiritual things.

Have sealed to them—That is, have secured it to them. To seal an instrument of writing, a contract, deed, etc., is to authenticate it, to make it sure. That is how it is used here. Paul was going himself to see that it was placed securely in their hands.

This fruit—This is a result of the liberality of the Gentile churches—the fruit which their benevolence had produced; the faith and love of the Gentile converts
 
I will come by you into Spain.

Once again, Paul returns to the thought of his arrival in Rome en route to Spain. He is convinced that his coming to them will be more than a blessing. It will be the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (see Ephesians 3:8, 19 ). At the time he wrote this, he was unaware that when he finally arrived in Rome, he would be in chains. Even so, he arrived in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel. This is exhibited in the fact that Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians were all written from Rome during his first imprisonment there.

I will come—This was Paul's purpose, to take the Gospel to Spain, but it does not appear that he ever went. “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company” (Romans 15:24).

29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

And I am sure that, when I come unto you,

I am sure—I know; expressing the fullest confidence, a confidence that was greatly confirmed by the success of his labors elsewhere. Earlier in the epistle, Paul spoke of his great desire to see these Roman brethren—“For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:11-12).

I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

The fullness of the blessing, means the abundant blessing; it expresses the sum of the favor shown by God to man in Christ. Paul was convinced that God, who had so richly crowned his labors in other places, would cause his visit to Rome to experience those abundant blessings which the gospel of Christ is tailored to produce. He had, in Romans 1:11, expressed his desire to visit the Roman Christians, so that he might impart unto them some spiritual gift, to the end that they might be confirmed.

The words, “of the Gospel”, are omitted in almost every manuscript of importance. There is no doubt they should be omitted. The fullness of the blessing of Christ is really more than the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. He hoped to come to them not only with the blessing of the Gospel, but endued with the gifts and graces of the Lord Jesus himself; since he was now a constant instrument, in the hand of God, to dispense both spiritual and material gifts among those who were converted to the Christian faith. The apostle was not mistaken in this confidence that he would visit Rome, although his visit to Rome was in very different circumstances from what he expected. (See Ac 28:16-31[19].)

Of the gospel of Christ—Every minister of the gospel should wish to go to where God leads him. This should be his ever-burning desire in preaching. Paul went to Rome; but he went in bonds; see Acts chapters 27 and 28. But though he went in this manner, he was permitted there to preach the gospel for at least two years; nor can we doubt that his ministry was attended with the anticipated success, (see Acts 28:30,31[20]). God may disappoint us in regard to the mode in which we intend to do good; but if we really desire it, he will enable us to do it in his own way. It may be better to preach the gospel in bonds than to be at liberty; it is better to do it even in a prison, than not at all. Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress to fill his time during twelve years’ of cruel imprisonment.  If he had been at liberty, he probably would not have written it at all. The great desire of his heart was accomplished, but a prison was the place in which to do it. Paul preached; but preached in chains.

Now, let’s end this section by observing what Paul expected from God. First, he expected to come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. But as far as the Roman Christians are concerned, he had lower expectations. He had some doubts about them.  He said, “I trust to be brought on my way, and to be filled with your company.”  Paul had learnt not to place too much confidence even in the best men. These very men eventually left him when he needed to use them (2 Tim. 4:16), “At my first answer, no man stood by me; none of the Christians at Rome.” The Lord teaches us to be cautious when dealing with men. But concerning what he expected from God he speaks confidently. He was uncertain whether he should go to Rome or not, but the one thing he is certain of is that when he does come to Rome, he will come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. Now Paul expected that God would bring him to them, loaded with blessings, and that he would be an instrument of doing a great deal of good among them, and fill them with the blessings of the gospel. Again, Romans 1:11 states, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.” The blessing of the gospel of Christ is the best and most desirable blessing. When Paul would raise their expectation of something great and good in his coming, he directs them to hope for the blessings of the gospel; spiritual blessings, knowledge, and grace, and comfort. There is then a happy meeting between people and ministers, when they are both under the fulness of the blessing. The blessing of the gospel is the treasure which we have in earthen vessels. When ministers are fully prepared to give out, and people fully prepared to receive, this blessing, both are happy. Many have the gospel that have not the blessing of the gospel, and so they have it in vain. The gospel will not profit, unless God bless it to us; and it is our duty to wait upon him for that blessing, and for the fulness of it.

 

_____________________notes and scripture references__________________________

[1](Romans 15:19)Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Through the grace of God Paul has preached the gospel of God with mighty signs and wonders in a wide radius from Jerusalem through Macedonia to the area round about Illyricum, the Roman province bordering the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. What God has chosen to do through Paul gives him justification for writing to a church he has never visited.

[2](2 Timothy 1:3) I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.” What an encouragement to Timothy. Paul prayed for young Timothy daily. He prayed for Timothy for years. Much of Timothy’s “success” in the ministry must be attributed to Paul’s prayers for his son in the faith.
[3](Ephesians 1:16) “Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” A vital part of Paul’s ministry was his intercession for the saints. This was his constant and continual fixed habit. 
[4](Acts 20:17) “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” Paul sent for the Ephesian elders, who hurried to meet him at Miletus during a layover in his ship’s schedule. The church leaders or elders (Gr presbyteros) were the overseers (vs. 28, Gr episcopos) or guardians of the church and some became “bishops.” It becomes obvious from Paul’s interchangeable usage of the two terms that a bishop was also an elder. It is also clear that there was a multitude of elders in the church. It seems that early church custom was for one of the elders to eventually become the bishop or pastor of the church. This would parallel the modern situation in most evangelical churches which are led by a pastoral staff (elders) who in turn are led by the pastor himself (the bishop).

[5](Acts 15:3) “And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.”
[6](Acts 20:38) “Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship. 
[7](1 Corinthians 16:6) “And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.” Paul’s plans at this time are to spend the winter at Corinth. If the Lord permit. The apostle was always subject to the will of God above his own.
[8](2 Corinthians 1:16.) “Following the custom of ancient times, since Paul would be traveling immediately to Judaea from Corinth, it would be appropriate for the assembly to assist him financially.”

[9](1 Corinthians 16:1) “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”  The believers at Corinth were aware that the apostle was gathering funds for the Jerusalem church, and apparently they had written to inquire to what extent they could participate in this collection. I have given order suggests that this was not an optional matter for the Corinthian believers any more than it was for the churches of Galatia.

[10](Acts 5:1-2) “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” The problem here is not that they lied to Peter; actually they lied to the Holy Spirit in Peter. It cost them their lives.
[11](Acts 6:1) “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Both of these groups were Jews, the Grecians were Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrews were Aramaic-speaking Jews. As is so frequently the case, a conflict arose over a minute concern. Some of the Grecian Jews felt their poor and widows were being neglected in favor of the more traditional Hebrew-speaking Jews.
[12](2 Thessalonians 3:7-10) “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
[13](Acts 20:22) “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:”
[14](2 Corinthians 8:1-6) “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”
[15](2 Corinthians 9:4-7) “Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
[16](Acts 12:1) “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.”
[17](Alms) charitable donations: in former times, money or other assistance given to people in need of charity

[18](Ephesians 3:8, 19) “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; …And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Paul’s sense of unworthiness is progressive: (1) the least of the apostles (I Cor 15:9); (2) less than the least of all saints; and (3) chief of sinners (I Tim 1:15). Paul’s high calling humbled him, and he never got over his own unworthiness. He is forever conscious of his sinfulness and never thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think (Rom 12:3).
The unsearchable riches of Christ. The contents of the message, the wealth beyond description which God provides for all men in the person and work of Christ. It is a vast and measureless resource, this love and grace of God. If Christ were not too big for our mental comprehension, He would be too little for our spiritual need.
And to know by experience the unknowable, the love of Christ in all its dimensions mentioned above. The love of Christ is knowledge-transcending. That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Filled with His presence and power, the fullness which God imparts.

[19](Acts 28:16-31) “For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."

[20]Acts 28:30-31) “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

 

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