The Power of the Gospel for Salvation
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” By the time of Paul’s letter to them, the Roman church had become something of a missionary outpost and hub. As the capital city of the Roman Empire, the church had a global reach for the mission of the Gospel of God. Paul expressed gratitude to the church for their strong global witness saying, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”
From the letter it is clear that up to the point of his writing, Paul had not yet personally visited the church in Rome–though he deeply wanted to do so.
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. -Romans 1:13
The letter is a way of laying the groundwork for that future preaching-teaching visit, and it may have ultimately served to be a surrogate for a more personal instruction. The reason for Paul’s delay is revealed in Romans 15:22-29 where he describes his journey to Jerusalem to deliver a gift to the impoverished saints in Jerusalem:
22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
It is long appreciated that Paul’s delay in visiting Rome actually became the occasion for writing a letter which has had a tremendous impact for the Gospel. Had Paul actually gone to Rome accruing to his own plans and timing, the letter to the Romans would not have been written. That is why one commentator calls Paul’s Jerusalem gift, “The Gift that Changed the World”. Sometimes God prevents us from doing what we want to do so that he can accomplish an even greater unexpected purpose through us.
Paul would eventually make it to Rome but his time there would be as a “prisoner in chains” for Christ. The Lord himself revealed to Paul that he would one day personally bear witness for him in Rome:
Acts 23:11 That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”
From prison in Rome, Paul would write several more influential letters known as the “prison epistles”. Out of all of the Apostle Paul’s writings, the letter to the Romans stands to this day as one of the most influential books in the entire Bible. Many of the greatest church leaders in the history of the Christian church were converted or deeply influenced by the letter. People such as, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley all trace their initial conversion and spiritual awakening to verses from the letter to the Romans. Rightly so, the letter is Paul’s most clear and dynamic presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While a deep theological work, it is also deeply personal. For this reason, it has proved to be life changing in its application for everyone who has undertaken to study it with faith in Jesus and a desire to receive the power available in the great Gospel of God.
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ….
May the Gospel of God speak to your heart and mind by Word and Spirit that you might experience the fullness of power of God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, The Lord. Amen.