February 24 - Romans 15:23-29

Monday, February 24, 2014

Romans 15:23-29 – Paul's Plan to Visit

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 visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people 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 contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

One of my favorite things in the New Testament is the little details that are exposed – especially when it comes to Paul's travels and the people he encounters. Because he is writing letters, rather than sermons, he writes of the places he has been and the places he wants to go. He writes of people he knows and people who are important to him. He writes of his passions and his fears. He writes of his failings and the things that he is thrilled about. These are details which make him real and alive to us, even though we are reading his letters years and years after he wrote them.

Because we have also read the Acts of the Apostles, we know that Paul didn't make it to Rome until he arrived in chains, as a prisoner. He never got the opportunity to come to them and live in comfort … to enjoy their company. But, oh the desire he had to spend time among these amazing Christian people.

Paul probably was looking for a base of operations as he ministered to the west … between Rome and Spain. Up until this point, he operated out of Antioch, but he needed to close the distance as he reached beyond the areas which were now quite populated with Christian churches. If the church in Rome would become his home church, he would be able to  move forward in ministry.

Though those are his plans, he first has to go to Jerusalem to deliver funds that he had been collecting while on his travels. The Jerusalem church was apparently quite poor and we now that the wealthy believers in that church had sold all of their belongings to give to the poor (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-5:5). Not only the Christians in Jerusalem, but the Jews who were living there were not wealthy. Jerusalem was a poor city. From Acts 11, we know that Judea faced a famine and funds were rushed in to care for the people.

Paul recognized that these funds, collected from the Gentile churches throughout the region for the Jews in Jerusalem brought unity to the Church as a whole. This offering was important for many reasons and so Paul diverted from Rome for Jerusalem in order to present it to the church there.

In verse 27 we read that "if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings." The gospel came first to the Jews and it was Jews who delivered it to the Gentiles. Joyously giving back to the church in Jerusalem was a privilege for those Gentile churches, because of the great gift that had been given to them.