(8) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (9) For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you (10) always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. (11) For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— (12) that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (13) I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. (14) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (15) So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Today we’re going to be talking about Paul’s relationship with his fellow Christians, and how we can use that as a model for our relationships with other Christians. Remember that the epistles were letters to various churches. Verses 1-7 were a formal greeting with some theological stuff packed in. This next group of verses we’re studying is more informal and personal; it is Paul talking about himself and his desire to see the people he is writing to, so we are going to study it in a slightly different manner. Then next week we get to jump right into the theology starting in verse 16!
The word Gentile means a person who is not a Jew. Paul was called to be the minister to take the gospel to the Gentiles so that they too might be saved. Barbarians were people who were not either Greek or part of the Roman Empire.
Paul states that he thanks God for the faith of the Roman Christians. News of their faith has spread fast across the ancient world. (The ancient world was mostly made up of what is now North-East Africa, the Middle-East, and Europe. Places far out east in Asia and the Americas were pretty much isolated from the rest of the world at that time.) Keep in mind that Rome was the basically the most important city in the world, so the controversy going on in this area because of the Christians was a pretty big deal. Christianity was receiving a lot of publicity. Paul was very thankful for those who were standing for Christ in Rome.
Here’s a brief summary of what these verses say. Paul prays constantly for the Roman Christians that by God’s will he would be able to come and visit them. He longs to go see them so that they would be encouraged by each other’s faith. He wants them to know that he has tried many times to come to the them so that he could help them grow in faith, but hasn’t had the opportunity. He is already committed to preaching the gospel to the Greeks and non-Greeks, to the educated and to the uneducated, and he is eager to teach the Romans as well.
There are four points here that I want to talk about.
First, Paul cared deeply for his fellow believers. I think it’s obvious by his longing to see them; Paul loved these people. And he hadn’t even met them! How could that be possible? Look at the beginning of most of the epistles and you’ll see a pattern of the love and compassion that the Christians had for one another. This is actually something that all Christians should have. We all share the fact that we are God’s children, so we should all love each other accordingly. When we, as Christians, draw closer to God, we will be drawing closer to each other as well. As we grow in our faith and our love for God, we will start to experience more of the love that Paul felt for other Christians as well as his eagerness to share the gospel.
Secondly, Paul prayed for the people he was ministering to; for his brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is huge, guys! Paul had a lot of people he was ministering to, and yet from what he says in his letter, he seemed to be taking the time to pray for all of these churches and specific people in them. Doesn’t that make you think that prayer is pretty important? We should be praying for each other.
Thirdly, Paul wanted to meet with the people for the purpose of encouraging one another and strengthening each other’s faith. This should be our purpose in all of our relationships, “that we would be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. If a friendship does not do that, than it is not a good friendship.
Something that I noticed here is that Paul was greatly encouraging the church of Romans and personally cared about them, even though he had never had the opportunity to meet them in person until after he had written this letter. This makes me think of us in blogland. I know at least for me, I’ve found my best friends on here and developed a couple really cool relationships, so it’s cool to me to think that Paul had long distance friends too!
Fourthly, Paul believes that it is his duty to reap a harvest among both Jews and gentiles. He is committed to the work of the gospel. Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. What’s a harvest? A harvest is the gathering of crops. The Bible uses harvest as a metaphor for people who have believed the “seed” of the gospel that has been “planted” into their hearts, and having accepted it,
grow and flourish in that faith in the gospel that was planted in their hearts. Paul wants to reap a harvest among these people; to plant the seed of the gospel in their hearts and to help them grow in faith.
So to summarize:
~We should care for our fellow believers.
~We should pray for our fellow believers.
~We should build our friendships in such a way that we are helping one another grow in Christ.
~We may not all be called to spread the gospel in foreign countries, but we are all called to pray for the work of the gospel, that it would be spread and received, and for missionaries who are carrying out that work. Of course, we are also called to share Christ with the people around us, too.