Paul's Epistle to the Romans

(2) Paul’s Purpose
Romans 1:8-13

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Whenever possible, the apostle began his letters by expressing appreciation for whatever was commendable in his readers; a good example for all of us. Here he thanks God through Jesus Christ, the Mediator, because the faith of the Roman Christians was proclaimed throughout the whole world. Their testimony as Christians was talked about throughout the Roman Empire, which then constituted the whole world from the perspective of those living in the Mediterranean area.

Paul had no personal acquaintance with many of these Romans, and yet he could heartily rejoice in their faith. He traveled up and down from place to place, and, wherever he went, he heard great commendations for the Christians at Rome. Like the great men of God of the past, these Romans got a good report through faith: “For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good testimony” (Heb. 11:2). God is not concerned about numbers, or a big show. God is honored by our faith in His Son. God honors faith in His people. We will be rewarded for the works we do in true faith. It is something we should all want; to be famous for faith. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

9 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,
10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

Paul wrote, “I make mention of you.” Because the Roman Christians let their light shine before men, Paul was willing to pray for them without ceasing. It’s not that Paul did nothing else but pray, it’s that he kept certain times for prayer. He prayed frequently and without fail. He calls God as his witness to the constancy of his prayers, because no one else could know this. But God knows—the God whom the apostle served through preaching the gospel of His Son. Paul’s service was with his spirit. It was not that of a religious robot, going through endless rituals and reciting prayers from memory.

Coupled with Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the Roman saints was his prayer that he might visit them in the not-too-distant future. As with everything else, he wanted his journey to be according to the will of God, and God did work His will by orchestrating Paul’s circumstances.

Paul was a praying man, and he had a long list of those he prayed for. In Acts chapter 16 there is recorded the conversion of three people, and on each occasion, prayer is mentioned as the important factor:
1. In verses 12-15, there is Lydia, an outstanding lady of Thyatira. Paul led her to the knowledge of Jesus Christ while attending a prayer meeting.
2. In verses 16-18, Paul led a fortuneteller to Jesus. She gave up her witchcraft and became a disciple of Christ. It was on the way to a prayer meeting that the fortuneteller began to listen to Paul and Silas: “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.”
3. In verses 19-34, we find that because of the conversion of the fortuneteller, Paul and Silas were put in prison. In prison, Paul and Silas prayed—and then they sang. God answered their prayer, sent an earthquake that almost brought the jail down—and the jailor got saved.

God help us, which have taken the title of Christian, to pray as we never have prayed before! James says, “… you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

Paul now states his purpose in wanting to come to Rome. He says, For I long 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 faith and explain to them more fully what it means to be “in Christ Jesus.” The apostle’s impelling desire was to help the saints spiritually so that they might be further established in the faith. Knowing that this local church had not had the apostolic stamp of approval placed on it, Paul wishes to visit them to do so. There is no thought here of his conferring some “second blessing” on them, nor did he intend to impart some spiritual gift by the laying on of his hands (though he did this for Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:6). It was a matter of helping their spiritual growth through the ministry of the word. God does give spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit, but for the most part they are for spiritual enablement.

Secondly, Paul desires the Romans to reciprocate, that I may be encouraged together with you. It is his desire that there would be mutual blessings; he would be encouraged by their faith, and they by his. Even this great evangelist, who probably has never had a spiritual equal, says plainly that he needed the encouragement that comes in Christian fellowship. Therefore, we should never underestimate the importance of Christian fellowship for Christian growth.

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. In all edifying societies, there is spiritual enrichment. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Note Paul’s humility and graciousness—he was not above being helped by other saints

Finally, verse 13 indicates that Paul’s desire is not only to evangelize Spain but also the capital of the Gentile world. He says that I might have some fruit among you. An evangelist at heart, Paul does not look to Rome simply as a launching pad for further evangelistic effort but as a needy field itself.

13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.

He had often planned to visit Rome but had been hindered, perhaps by pressing needs in other areas, perhaps by the direct restraint of the Holy Spirit, perhaps by the opposition of Satan. He desired to have some fruit among the Gentiles in Rome as he had among the other Gentiles. Here he is speaking of fruit in the gospel (sinners coming to faith in Christ), as the next two verses show. “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Rom. 1:14-15). Many of those folk he was writing to were his converts, as he had led them to Christ as he met them in different parts of the Roman Empire. In verses 11 and 12 his aim was to see the Roman Christians built up in their faith. Here he desires to see souls won for Christ in the capital of the Roman Empire. Paul attended to his work, as one that believed the more good he did the greater his reward would be. The phrase, as among other Gentiles would seem to indicate that although the nucleus of the Roman church was originally Jewish, it is now predominantly a Gentile church.

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