The Christians In Rome Should Respect Paul And Receive This Letter With Respect; Paul Intended To Visit Them After Delivering A Donation To The Impoverished Messianic Jews In Jerusalem; He Intended To Get Financial Support From The Romans To Continue His Pioneering Ministry In Spain
We are near the end of one of the greatest letters ever written, one of the greatest works of theology ever written. It tells us so much about God, and how God works; and the only way we can be reconciled to God and receive eternal life; and the way to live a righteous life now – by the transforming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Paul had not started Messiah’s Community in Rome; had not visited Messiah’s Community in Rome; yet he had written this long letter to the Christians and Messianic Jews there, in which he taught them many things. Although Paul was one of the outstanding leaders in Messiah’s Community, and an apostle, one of the Lord’s very special representatives, there were those who did not like him. Paul wanted to make sure that the Romans respected him and this letter.
The Rabbi reminds them that he was graced by God Himself, to be the apostle to the Gentiles; to have a special ministry to the Gentiles – and many of them were Gentiles. I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Messiah Yeshua to the Gentiles. Even though Messiah’s followers in Rome were full of goodness – they were kind; they were generous; and even thought they had a lot of knowledge and were able to teach each other, Paul, the Lord’s Representative respectfully, yet with authority, communicated to them that he had the right to teach them. Therefore they should respect him and receive this letter and give it the respect it deserved.
Paul’s ministry had been given to him by God, and his ministry was very special. It was like the ministry of a priest. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. A priest brings God and His blessings closer to people; and he brings people and their gifts closer to God. Paul brought the peoples from the nations closer to God by proclaiming the Gospel of God. It’s called the Gospel of God because it’s good news about God; and its called the gospel of God because the Good News is made possible by God. When a person responds to the Good News, he is brought close to God – very close – which is what a priest does.
Normally, a priest brings people’s offerings to God. But in this situation, the people themselves were the gift. The Gentiles became an offering that was acceptable to God; and they were a far better offering than anything the priests at the temple offered – bulls, goats, sheep and pigeons; money; grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Whereas before they responded to the Gospel that Paul brought them, and were unacceptable to God, now they were acceptable to God. Whereas the peoples from the nations had been unsanctified, unholy, now they were sanctified, holy, set apart for God because of the work of the Holy Spirit – uniting them to the Father and to the Son and to each other; living in them and transforming them and sanctifying them.
Because of his ministry, these Gentiles were given the Good News by this great Jewish man. They responded and were reconciled to God. They now belonged to God. So, they were Paul’s offering to God the Father; they were sanctified by the Holy Spirit; and Paul was able to do this because of Messiah. It was Yeshua who enabled Paul to serve God in this wonderful, priestly way, and Paul knew this and honored Messiah for it. Therefore I glory in Messiah Yeshua in my service to God.
Bringing people to God the Father, which makes them like a valuable offering which is acceptable to God; human beings who become set apart by the Holy Spirit; and all made possible by the glorious Son of God – this almost makes me want to be like Paul, and get serious, get committed about bringing the Good News to others. How about you?
The Romans should respect Paul and his ministry because it was Messiah and His Spirit who were working through Paul, and of course, the Messiah and His Spirit are to be respected. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Messiah has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. Paul was the vessel, the instrument of Messiah and His Spirit. That was obvious because of the results of his ministry – the Gentiles, who had been disobedient, were now obeying God; and signs and wonders were taking place through Paul, and that was happening through the power of the Spirit of God. Signs and wonders and large numbers of people becoming obedient to God were signs of a true apostle. Therefore Paul, and his ministry, and this letter, should be respected.
Paul now informs them that he intends to visit them. If you know that someone intends to visit you, it causes you to pay more attention to that person. Since Paul intended to visit them, it would be wise if they took him and his ministry seriously – starting immediately. Why did he want to visit them? Because he had completed his work in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and wanted to move on to virgin territory in the West – specifically, to Spain. And to get to Spain, he would pass through Rome. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum (an area north of Greece), I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Messiah.
The area from Jerusalem in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, through Syria, Cilicia, Galatia, Asia, Cyprus, Achaia, Macedonia and Illyricum is a huge area. Yet Paul was able to say: From Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Messiah. This was a huge undertaking! This was a tremendous accomplishment which required much hard work, and suffering, over many years. Yet Paul didn’t want to quit. He didn’t want to retire. He was ready for new challenges in the Western part of the empire.
Paul understood that he was to be a pioneer. He preferred not to work in an area with a community that had been started by someone else. He was to bring the message about the Messiah where it hadn’t been proclaimed before. He was to start new communities. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Messiah was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Spain beckoned him.
The Rabbi, as he has done so often, quotes from the Word of God to reinforce his statement, in this case, the preface to the great Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” Isaiah predicted that a time would come when the leaders of the nations would be impacted by the truth about the Messiah. What they had not been told, they would be told. What they had not heard, they would hear and understand. The Rabbi wanted to be part of the fulfillment of that great prophecy. He wanted to bring the Good News about the suffering yet risen Messiah to nations who had not heard about Him.
Because the Good News had been proclaimed in Rome, and the community there had already been started; and because Paul was focusing on areas where the message had not been proclaimed in the Eastern part of the Roman empire, he had not been able to visit Rome. This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. But his pioneering work in the East was over. Mission accomplished! But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions … That’s an amazing statement. By this point in history, only 25 years or so after Messiah’s death and resurrection, the Good News had thoroughly penetrated the Eastern part of the Roman empire.
Now the Apostle to the Gentiles could think about going to virgin territory in the Western part of the empire, and bring the Good News to people there, and start communities there. His plan was to go from the East to the West, and pass through the center, Rome. 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. Notice that Paul mentions that he wanted to have the Romans assist him on his journey to Spain. That means he wanted to raise support from them. He wanted to get money from them, and he was letting them know it ahead of time. This was not an unreasonable expectation. This was the way that traveling evangelists and apostles were able to carry on their ministries.
But, before he could visit the Lord’s followers in Rome, and spend time with them and help them with his great abilities, and get the financial support he would need to travel to Spain from them, he needed to travel to Jerusalem to give money to the suffering Messianic Jewish community there. 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.
The Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem was a community that had been experiencing trials. Starting with the martyrdom of Stephen, we were persecuted. We were being excluded from the temple and the synagogues. Our Jewish brothers who didn’t share our faith in Yeshua may have refused to do business with us. Many of the Messianic Jews were poor. Paul wanted to help, and so, when he was in Macedonia and Achaia, he raised money from the Gentile Christians there in order to help the impoverished Messianic Jews in Jerusalem.
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. It’s good when the members of Messiah’s Community help each other in practical ways: when some are prospering, to share with those who are needy. The believers in Macedonia and Achaia understood this, and were pleased to help the poor Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. Giving to brothers and sisters in need is pleasing.
But the Rabbi adds another thought: they, meaning Gentile Christians, owed it to their Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters to share their material resources with them. Why? If the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
What is greater – spiritual blessings or material blessings? The answer, of course, is spiritual blessings. When someone benefits you in a great way, it’s right to benefit him in return. So, if the peoples from the nations benefitted in a great way from the spiritual blessings that came from the Jewish people – blessings like salvation that comes from the Jewish Messiah; blessings like the instruction that comes from the Word of God, which was written by Jewish men; blessings like the ministry of the Jewish apostles – then the Gentiles owe the Jewish people some benefit in return. And if they had material blessings, which are inferior to spiritual blessings, then they owed the Messianic Jews some of those material blessings.
And if the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to help the Messianic Jews, and more than pleased, if they owed it to bless the Messianic Jews with their finances, then so did the Christians in Rome – and one way they could do that was to help Paul financially when he was in Rome and support his trip to Spain.
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 Messiah. Wow! One of the greatest men who ever lived; one of the wisest; not just an apostle, but the apostle to the Gentiles; a man equipped to help the nations of the world understand the Messiah and how they needed to live; a man whom God used to do miracles – coming to them full of the blessing of the Messiah, to share that full measure of blessing that comes from the Messiah with them. That was something to look forward to. I am thrilled just to have the writings of Paul. How much better to have access to Paul himself!
However, the Rabbi was concerned that when he went to Jerusalem, he might be walking into the lion’s den; that he might be persecuted by the non-believers there; and he was also concerned that there could be problems with some of the believers there. The Rabbi believed in prayer, and he asked those in Rome to pray for him. I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Paul wanted them to pray for him. And he communicated that it was urgent for them to pray. He urged them to pray. And he invoked the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Paul understood that the Lord Yeshua wanted them to pray for him. And he invoked the love of the Spirit. The Rabbi understood that the Spirit of God produces love in us, and praying for Paul would be an act of love – in keeping with the love the Spirit produces in us.
Paul was in danger from the non-Messianic Jews in Jerusalem; and I think he was concerned that some of the so-called Messianic Jews there would also create trouble for him. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. Even though he was one of the greatest men of God who ever lived, and an apostle, Paul was not liked by everyone in Messiah’s community. There may have been some Messianic Jews in Jerusalem who didn’t like him or his ministry to the Gentiles; they might have disagreed with his teaching that Gentiles were not required to be circumcised and follow the laws of the Sinai Covenant. Paul didn’t want anyone in the community in Jerusalem to reject him or the offering he was bringing.
Paul had asked the Romans to pray for him. He ends this part of his letter with a prayer for them. The God of peace be with you all. Amen. Of course, God is already with us, now and forever. When the Rabbi prays that God would be with them, he means that God would be with them in a special way, that He would be especially close to them, protecting them in a dangerous world, blessing them in a cursed world, and in this case, giving them peace in a world that lacks peace.
Just as God is the God of hope because He gives hope – true hope, real hope, lasting hope, so God is the God of peace because only He can give peace, true peace, real peace, lasting peace, to peaceless people. Only He can bring wholeness to those who are not wholesome; completeness to those who lack so much that is essential to their well-being.
Humanity is not at peace. From time to time human beings may not be experiencing conflict or war, but they are never at peace. They are never whole, complete, truly in a state of well-being. Only the God of peace is able to provide peace; and He does so by revealing to us that Yeshua is the Prince of Peace; and giving us the faith to believe it and become loyal to Yeshua.
You want peace? You need the God of peace. You need to make a serious commitment to be loyal to Him and His Son. Then the Spirit of the God of peace will produce peace in you – a peace that comes from knowing God; knowing that are right with God; knowing that you are saved; knowing that you will live forever – a peace not dependent on circumstances.
Father, thank You for Paul. Thank You that we can benefit so much from this letter, which has been preserved for us for 2,000 years.
Thank You for Paul’s priestly ministry of proclaiming the gospel so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God. Lord, we are not Pauls, but You want us to have a similar ministry. Help us, through our proclamation of the Good News, bring You and Your blessings closer to people; and bring people closer to You. Help us to get serious, get committed about bringing the Good News to others.
Help us, and the Church, understand this principle that has been lost: If the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. Lord, the majority of the Church are Gentiles. Please work so that they are able to understand this truth, and love and help and support the struggling Messianic Jewish movement the way they should.
Throughout 2017, and beyond, no matter what may happen, may the God of peace be with us.