But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey. But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.Romans 15:23-29
Paul told the Roman Christians in Chapter 1 that he wanted so much to come and see them:
- First of all, I thank my God for all of you (1:8)
- I ask that somehow I may at last succeed in coming to you. (1:10).
- I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong (vs 11)
- that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1:12).
- I often planned to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) (1:13).
- I am so eager to proclaim the gospel to you who live in Rome. (1:15)
Are you getting the idea of how much Paul longed to go to Rome and share with the church there? It is not like Paul had ever been there before and developed strong relationships. But his heart goes out to this body of believers who are hot in their desire to know God and serve Him. Their faith is talked about across the empire, thus Paul wants to go to encourage them. He has never met these people before but feels an affinity with them and has planned for a long time to spend some time with them. Why? Their faith appears to be legendary. I am sure that is what draws Paul to them. There are times for a preacher when we speak to a group of people who are animated and enthusiastic that it encourages us too. That is what Paul seems to be saying.
He has got some things to do first. He needs to finish up what he is doing then head to Spain but before he does that he will drop off the gift for the poor in Jerusalem and then head to Spain. He plans to drop in on the Roman believers on his way there. Without ever having met them Paul has a heart for them. There is no problem with that. Many commentators see a problem here and make much of it. I have no difficultly in comprehending it. I have felt those feelings myself for believers I have never met. (See Bible Gem 138)
Note the similarity between Romans 1:13 and 15:23. This has clearly been in Paul’s mind for a while. Not just from Romans 1 until Romans 15 but longer. We don’t know exactly how long it took for Paul to write Romans but his desire lasted longer than just the time he took to write Romans 1 to Romans 15. Do you have desires that last a long while before you see the fulfilment? I hope so, for your sake. Having such long term desire is good for us. It shows us that our yearning is not just “a flash in the pan”. It is something that stays within us until we accomplish it. That is what it was like for Paul. Do you have a longing like that? Oh, not for owning some material thing but for accomplishing something in the Lord? Ask that He may give you the desires to begin with and then grant the desire of your heart which is in accord with His will. If that happens you can’t go wrong.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.Jim Elliot
You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them.Anon