The Blessing Of Gospel Fellowship

A Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 2c of 83


[We are continuing with our brief study of the book of Romans; and are into the second sermon wherein Romans 1:8-15 is tendered under 3 heads: (1) A note of Thanksgiving (v. 8); (2) A note of Prayer (v. 9-10); and (3) A note of Longing (v. 11-15). In this final instalment we must consider Paul’s longing on behalf of the Romans.]

 

a. Mutual Faith & Comfort

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;…

Notice why he desired greatly to visit the Romans. He did not want to visit them out of curiosity. He wanted to visit them in order to impart some spiritual gifts to them that they might be established or strengthened. The church in Rome was a flourishing church, but there is no doubt they needed further strengthening.

Now, what does it mean by imparting some spiritual gifts? Some suppose that Paul was speaking about laying on of hands, and giving some special gifts like the ability to heal and speak in tongues. But this does not fit the context. We believe, rather, that the spiritual gift that Paul desired to impart to the Romans was to come by way of preaching and teaching. What better way is there to establish and strengthen a church than by preaching and teaching? So Paul declares in verse 15: “…as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Paul’s desire to impart some spiritual gifts is exactly the same as his desire to preach the Gospel in Rome.

But why did he want to preach the Gospel to them? Why did he want them to be established? He explains:

12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

Paul was very clear, and he spoke without any hint of embarrassment. One of the reasons for his keen desire to visit the Romans was mutual encouragement and comfort.

We have already seen how Paul sought to encourage the Romans (1) by telling them how he thanks God for them and (2) by assuring them of his prayers for them. Here, we see his desire expressed in clear. 

He wanted to encourage them and he desired encouragement from them. He would encourage them by his faith and his sermons. And he desired to be encouraged by them by their obedience to the faith and by their fruitfulness. Look at v. 13! He desired greatly to go to Rome that he “might have some fruit among [them] also.

Professing believers who remain disobedient and barren are the greatest source of grief to faithful ministers. But on the other, fruitful and obedient Christians are a source of great joy and encouragement to them. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” says the apostle John (3 Jn 4).

Paul did not hide the fact that he needed and desired encouragement too. Yes, ministers of the Gospel need encouragement too. Some time ago, an unbelieving man was talking to me about the work of pastors. He said, you must have the worst job. Everyone’s problem is your problem, but your problem is no one else’s problem. I told him that is not true,—for we can cast our anxieties upon the Lord.

But is it not true that we often forget that ministers of the gospel need encouragement too. Just the other day, I heard it from a fellow minister, as I heard from numerous other ministers (over and over again): a pastor’s job is a lonely one.

Now, then let us pray for the ministers of Christ we know, and let us seek to encourage them as much as we can. But especially let us encourage them by way of fruitfulness and obedience in our Christian lives.

b. Gospel Debt

But of course, let us not forget the fact that mutual encouragement is just one of the benefits of the ministry. And it must never be over-emphasised. The primary goal of the ministry is rather the glory of God through the salvation of sinners and saints.

Listen to how the apostle puts it:

13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let [i.e. prevented] hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.  14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Paul had a paramount purpose in life. This chief purpose in life and ministry was to serve Christ his King and to make Him known through the preaching of the Gospel. He considered himself a debtor of the Gospel to the Greek and to the barbarians, i.e. to the cultured and to the uncultured; to the wise and to the unwise.

·        He was a debtor because he persecuted the church and yet was purchased with the precious blood of Christ.

·        He was a debtor because of the tremendous amount of talents that the Lord his Master entrusted to His stewardship.

·        He was a debtor too because he was appointed an apostle by the King of kings.

Paul was a debtor to the Gospel. He was ready to go to Rome primarily to pay his gospel debt, not because it would bring him most pleasure.

We live in a hedonistic society. Men are lovers of themselves rather than lovers of God. Man’s chief has become the pursuit of pleasure rather than the glory of God. But here we have a great counter-example in the apostle Paul.

He had desired greatly to go to the Romans. That would bring him great pleasure. But he did not go because he “was let hitherto,” i.e. he was prevented by providence thus far. If nothing had prevented him, Paul would have already visited the Romans. But what was it that prevented him? It was no doubt the care of other churches which were more pressing!

When Paul wrote this letter, he was probably in Cenchrea of Corinth (Rom 16:1). We see from Acts 20, that this was at the last leg of his third missionary journey. He was in the area for about three months (Acts 20:3). And then he made his way back to Jerusalem with gifts from Macedonia and Achaia for the poor. Paul mentions this trip to Jerusalem in chapter 15, verses 25-26.

Paul could not visit the Romans because he had other priorities. There were things more needful for him to do. He did not choose to do that which was most pleasant or he would have gone to the Romans. He did that which was most needful, which was to preach the Gospel in Corinth and also to provide for the deeply suffering saints in Jerusalem.

c. Mutual Encouragement

Here again is a lesson for us to learn from this great servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to our Maker and we have been redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord. Let us therefore not live for ourselves and for our own pleasure. Let us rather live for Christ. Let us not merely consult with our inclination when deciding what to do with our time. Let us rather consider what is most needful in the kingdom of Christ.

Let us, for example, consider how we may provoke one another to faith and good works. Let us consider how we may encourage one other. It is not wrong to seek our own encouragement. Paul demonstrated that. But let us first seek to encourage others, — in honour preferring one another. When we encourage others, we will be encouraged in return. It is always more blessed to give than to receive.

Conclusion

We learned many precious lessons from these personal words of introduction by the apostle Paul. But we are a forgetful people. Therefore, if you forget everything, let me urge you to remember these three points from this passage.

1.   First, let us remember to live as debtors of the Gospel. Only if we live as debtors for Christ will we be known for our faith and not merely for our knowledge or orthodoxy. And only if we live as debtors for Christ will the sweetness of Christ be experienced and spoken about by those who meet us. Let us study how to live as debtors for Christ by considering the example of the apostle Paul.

2.   Secondly, let us learn to pray for one another. Let us learn to be consistent and discipline in our prayers for one another. Let us learn to be specific in our requests and yet let us learn to submit to the sovereign will and providence of God.

Children, this message is for you too. Do you pray for one another? Do you pray for your mummy and daddy? Do you know that you can encourage your mummy and daddy by praying for them and then telling them that you are praying for them?

3.   Thirdly, let us seek to encourage one another in every way possible. Let us do all we can to encourage one another! Let us learn from Paul the need for mutual encouragement, and let us be encouraged to seek one another’s comfort. Amen.

JJ Lim