Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome, Rom. 15:23-33
Although Paul had personal plans for travel and evangelism, sometimes the plan was altered. Paul had wished to visit Rome for a long time, but he had been hindered (15:22). This hindrance was not always of the evil sort. Paul had been working for a long time to be sure that the gospel was preached to those who had never heard it, before he would come to Rome. Add to this that God sometimes steered Paul in a different direction from what Paul had in mind. We surely remember how Paul’s plan was overridden by God’s plans for him on his 2nd journey (Acts 6-10). Paul had a province in mind, but God sent him to another continent.
In today’s text Paul states that he hoped to spend time in Rome on his way to the West, to Spain. Paul hoped that the church in Rome would support him on a journey as far as Spain. The Roman church was strong. Spain surely had not received the gospel yet. Although things moved slowly in carrying out the Great Commission, the apostles and 1st century evangelists took the charge seriously. Though it took decades to accomplish, they carried out God’s marching order to preach the gospel to the entire known world (Mark 16:15-16; Col. 1:23). Scripture does not tell us whether Paul made it to Spain, but there is vague reference to it in church history.
When Paul wrote Romans on his 3rd journey, he was working his way back to Jerusalem with the financial gifts gathered from Gentile churches. Those of Macedonia and Achaia, churches such as Philippi and Corinth, had responded with notable generosity to Paul’s plea for help. In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians Paul used the generosity of the Macedonians to stir up the saints in Corinth (2 Cor. 8:8). “Surely you will not let them outdo you.” 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 constitute the definitive statement on giving in the Christian age. Giving is not only a privilege but a sacred responsibility. Since God has blessed us with salvation plus everything we need to live, we owe it to those who have nothing, to improve their circumstances. The gospel of Christ is a holistic concern; both soul and body are precious to God. Those who receive physical aid may see the goodness of God and his people and turn to the Lord for salvation.
The gospel was first introduced in Jerusalem, among the Jews (Acts 2). Working deliberately, God caused the blessing given to the Jews to be extended to Gentiles as well. Paul reasons, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them in their material blessings” (15:28). The Gentile gift of money to the Judean churches represented more than physical concern. The circle of fellowship was coming to completion. God’s people care for others, and especially for one another (Gal. 6:9-10).
Paul asked the Roman saints to pray that he might be rescued from unbelievers in Judea and that the gift he would deliver to Jerusalem might accomplish its purpose. Unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem tried to kill Paul, but he was rescued and taken into protective custody by the Romans. Using Roman protection for two years, God saw to it that Paul finally reached Rome. There he would spend two productive years before being freed and travelling again (Acts 28:30-31). Let us be open to God’s guidance and be generous with the gospel and with our goods.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.