In this closing section of the book of Romans we get to see Paul’s heart, Paul’s vision, Paul’s co-laborers and his tireless work for our Savior.
“And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God.” (Vv. 14-15) Paul neither planted this church nor had ever been to this church but from the very start he spoke highly of their faith and testimony to Christ. (Romans 1:8) Here he affirms their goodness, their knowledge of the Scriptures, their ability and willingness to admonish (warn/confront) one another and yet their need (and our need) to be constantly reminded of God’s truth. Even truth from the Scripture that we have learned and applied to our lives can slip away if we don’t continue to hear it and put it into action. The spiritual life is like going up a down escalator and as soon as we pause to rest we digress. Paul had the mindset of a pioneer and reminds us that we can’t settle down on this side of heaven; this world is not our friend. “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
….”Because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written,
“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard shall understand.”
22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you.” (Vv. 15b-22) Both Jews and Gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith were in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 1:11) when thousands came to Christ and took the gospel back to their homes. We know that this church included saved Jews and Gentiles as Paul addressed both of them through this epistle. But Paul’s commission from our Lord was specifically to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:15, 26:9; Gal. 1:11-17) So here Paul speaks of his passion to reach the Gentiles with the gospel and to go especially to Gentile regions that had no established church. So he postpones his trip to Rome though he “longed to see” them (Romans 1:11) and reiterates that desire in the next verses. Throughout all of Paul’s epistles we see his heart for the lost (evangelism) and the saved (discipleship). He delayed his visit to the church in Rome because a well-discipled church and believer is a witness to the lost in their network of relationships. Jesus didn’t call us “to do witnessing” but to be a witness for Him and to Him; our life and our lips should point people to Christ (Acts 1:8); and the believers in Rome were doing just that. (Romans 1:8)
“But now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you.” (Vv. 23-24) Again we get a glimpse of Paul’s heart and vision. He desires to enjoy some fellowship with the saints in Rome but he then shares his vision with them to go to the lost Gentiles in Spain (v. 28 below) and asked them for their support. Likewise our work for the Lord is not over until He returns or takes us home. We might retire from our jobs but never from the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Engage in business (kingdom business) until I come.” (Luke 19:13)
“But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” (Vv. 25-29) Some commentators did the calculation on how many extra miles it took Paul to go to Jerusalem first and then to Rome and Spain (though there is no record in Scripture that Paul ever made it to Spain). It was an extra 1,500 miles of travel by boat plus many miles on foot. This extra effort shows Paul’s deep love for God’s people as the offering for the believers in Jerusalem was for Jewish believers and it came from Gentiles believers. Paul worked hard and continually for the unity of believers. In fact, unity among believers is a powerful witness to the lost and a strength and support for missions.
“Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.” (Vv. 30-32) Here we see Paul’s great desire for that unity I spoke of above. “Strive together with me in your prayers” helps us feel the intensity of Paul’s desire. “That I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea.” (V. 31) This refers to the unsaved Jews who hated Jesus, and hated Paul for preaching Jesus and reaching out to the Gentiles. God did answer Paul’s prayer but probably not in the way Paul could have imagined. We see the account in Acts 21-28 on how God answered it. In brief, the Jews tried to kill Paul when he preached Christ in Jerusalem and because of his love for the Gentiles. The Romans saved his life and kept him safe in prison (for two plus years) and then delivered him to Rome (he made it at last) as a prisoner who had appealed to Caesar for justice. Tradition says he was released from his initial imprisonment (and possibly went to Spain) and then was seized again for preaching Christ and beheaded.
“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (V.33) God gave us Jesus to be the Peacemaker between us and God. We should never ask a dying person if they have made their peace with God. That is too vague and it cannot really be done. We can ask them if they have accepted Jesus Christ as the way to have peace with God and invite them to do so if they haven’t. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
Chapter 16 – In this concluding chapter, Paul mentions 36 names of co-laborers with him in the Gospel. He also commends them to the saints in Rome with appreciation and affection. Christian fellowship exemplified here by Paul and his co-laborers goes much deeper than social relationships or even family relationships that are outside of Christ. We are fellow soldiers in the battle for the cause of Christ and we pray together, work together, cry together, and rejoice together. We also share deeply from our hearts, both our struggles and our sins as Paul and others modeled for us in the Scripture. (See 2 Cor. 1:8-11; Romans 7:14-25; James 5:16) “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) “ For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:17-20) In the midst of Paul’s expressions of love and commendation for his fellow laborers in the gospel, he mentions two concerns he has for them (and us): 1) false teachers and 2) the need for discernment of good and evil. (This was the root cause of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin.) The writer of Hebrews addressed this issue by saying that the best way to know the false is to study and know the truth. “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Questions for Discussion and Application
1. “But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God.” (V. 15) Even truth from the Scripture that we have learned and applied to our lives can slip away if we don’t continue to hear it and put it into action. The spiritual life is like going up a down escalator and as soon as we pause to rest we digress. Paul had the mindset of a pioneer and reminds us that we can’t settle down on this side of heaven; this world is not our friend. a) What is the difference between a spiritual pioneer and a worldly settler? b) How do you remind yourself of God’s truth? c) How do we “seek” a heavenly country like the saints in Hebrews 11:13-16?
2. Jesus didn’t call us “to do witnessing” but to be a witness for Him and to Him; our life and our lips should point people to Christ (Acts 1:8); and the believers in Rome were doing just that. (Romans 1:8) a) How do we witness to Jesus with our life? b) And with our lips? c) Why are they both important?
3. Our work for the Lord is not over until He returns or takes us home. We might retire from our jobs but never from the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Engage in business (kingdom business) until I come.” (Luke 19:13) a) What work are we all called to do? (See Mark 12:29-31) b) What is your particular work for the Lord?
4. Paul worked hard and continually for the unity of believers. Why is this so important and how do you work for the unity of believers?
5. a) What is the difference between Christian fellowship and social relationships? b) Why is true fellowship so important? (Hebrews 3:12-13; 4:12-13) c) Where do you fellowship with other believers and share your heart/struggles/sins? (See 2 Cor. 1:8-11; Romans 7:14-25; James 5:16.)
6. In the midst of Paul’s expressions of love and commendation for his fellow laborers in the gospel, he mentions two concerns he has for them (and us): 1) false teachers and 2) the need for discernment of good and evil. How did the writer of Hebrews tell us to deal with these two issues? (Hebrews 5:11-14)