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Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome May 25, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 15:23-33.

Summary: Paul begins by stating that since

  • he had fully preached the Gospel in the region from Jerusalem to Illyricum
  • he had a great – and long-standing – desire to visit the church in Rome

he plans to visit the Roman Christians on his way to Spain. Paul hopes that they will accompany him on his trip to Spain for some distance and that they will provide for his journey there. Before he travels to Rome, he plans to visit Jerusalem and use the contributions of other churches to supply the needs of the believers there. Indeed, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia wanted their brethren in Jerusalem to share in their abundance. The fact that the believers in Macedonia and Achaia acted voluntarily in this regard shows that they were pleased to help their brethren in Jerusalem, yet Paul notes that it was reasonable that they should help them; the Gentile believers have received the “greater good” from the Jews, and so they share the “lesser good” with them. After Paul has safely delivered these contributions to the believers in Jerusalem, he will visit the Roman church on his way to Spain. Paul is fully convinced that his visit to the Roman church will be the occasion of an outpouring of the blessings that are inherent to the Gospel. Now Paul exhorts the Roman believers, out of their regard for the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the love that the Holy Spirit produces in them, to help him in his difficulties by joining him in prayer. Paul desires that they would pray that he would be kept from harm at the hands of the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, and that the contributions that he was bringing to Jerusalem would be favorably received by the believers there. In that way, by God’s permission and blessing Paul would be able to come to Rome and be strengthened there before his trip to Spain. He concludes by praying that God would grant peace, mercy and blessings to the church in Rome.

Thoughts: In this passage we learn that Paul, after preaching the Gospel in the region from Jerusalem to Illyricum, planned to travel to Spain to preach the Gospel. In his commentary on verse 24, Hodge notes:

Whether Paul ever accomplished his purpose of visiting Spain is a matter of uncertainty. There is no historical record of his having done so, either in the New Testament or in the early ecclesiastical writers, though most of these writers seem to have taken it for granted. His whole plan was probably upset by the occurrences at Jerusalem which led to his long imprisonment at Caesarea and his being sent in chains to Rome.

I was inspired to learn who had actually “picked up the torch” for Paul and helped establish Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. A quick Google search seems to indicate that the origins of Christianity in this region, though, are uncertain; see this page for a helpful summary of what I discovered. What is certain is that the Visigoths brought Arianism to the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century AD. Spain eventually became a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, so we can say that Paul’s desires were eventually fulfilled.

From the preceding discussion it is probable that while Paul had planned a trip to Spain, God had other plans for him. This is an apt illustration of Proverbs 16:9; even though men have plans, God’s will is paramount. In fact, we see that even the strongest Christians can make plans that God will alter or even thwart, depending on the situation. When these situations arise, it is important to think about how 1) as humans, we have limited knowledge and 2) God can be glorified in these instances. Reflecting on the circumstances that overtook Paul shows that although he probably never made it to Spain, his arrest and imprisonment had the following benefits:

  • in Acts 28:30-31, we see that Paul was able to preach the Gospel in Rome for two years; evidently there were unbelievers in Rome who needed to hear this life-giving message, even though the Gospel had already been preached there
  • during Paul’s final – and difficult – imprisonment in Rome, he was able to write the moving book of 2 Timothy, and his instructions and exhortations for Timothy in that epistle cannot be overstated
  • Paul’s arrest enabled him to deliver the Gospel message to several prominent political figures, including King Agrippa, Festus and Felix; God allowed Paul to proclaim His name to those who, although they were great in the eyes of the world, needed to understand the wisdom of the Gospel.
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