Paul’s hearts for Gods Plans
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 15. If you do not have one of your own or do not own a Bible, please grab one off the back table as our gift to you.
Well, we will finish up Romans chapter 15 this morning. Which means that there is just one more chapter left before we have completed this long journey to Rome. And one of the other things we will see this morning is the Paul harkens back to the very beginning of his letter here.
Again, we see Paul’s heart on display here. We see from him, complete transparency in his heart, his intended actions and more importantly, his submission of all of those to Gods plans and intentions.
Last week, we saw what Pauls calling was, he was both missionary and pastor. He was a missionary, going and spreading the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who had not yet heard of them. He planted churches in those areas, built them up, pastored the people, raised up elders to be heads over the church and then continue on to the next place to share the Gospel.
And thats important, because Paul is going to talk about that here. His submissiona nd heart for Gods plans for him and how that both fits and differes from Pauls own wants and desires and plans.
Lets go ahead and read this mornings text. We will be reading Romans chapter 15, verses 22 through the end of the chapter, verse 33. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your perferred translation. Romans 15:22-33, Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:
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,[b] 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[c] 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.
Paul had shared in the section we looked at last week that he was called bring and preach the Gospel to those who who were in the Eastern Meditaranian region, from Jerusalem to Illyricum. That was what God had set out to him. Just like you and I are called to the Bangor, California area, Paul was called to that Eastern Meditaranian area.
He knew that, and he had a heart for it as we saw last week. But we also know that his calling, what God called him to do, prevented him from coming to Rome until now, something he truly and deeply wanted to do. He had a passion and a desire to go see the churches, the believers, his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that were in Rome.
Lets look back for a moment at what Paul wrote as he opened this letter. He started his letter to the Romans, in chapter 1, starting in verse 8:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[c] that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,[d] both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
We see here that Paul was longing to go spend time with the churches in Rome. Fellowship is so vital to our walk and life in Christ. He says that they would be mutually encouraged by each other. When believers spend time together, in any form, we should all leave each others company being encouraged and uplifted.
Think about this, I know some of you have shared stories in this vein with me and with the congregation before. You are on vacation. You are on a trip somewhere. Hours or days from home. Hundreds or thousands of miles. You just happen to strike up a conversation with someone and Lo! And Behold! They are Christians too! When that happens, how do you feel afterwards? From my experience, thats a great time and you walk away marveling at God, his timing, his providence.
We need companionship and fellowship. We were made to be in community with each other. We are that way because we were made in the image of God. God who himself is trinity. Eternal fellowship, never alone. We were created to reflect the image and nature of God and one of his natures is fellowship.
Paul is excited that he finally gets to come to Rome and fellowship with his fellow believers there. And for good reasons! But we continue to see that Paul gladly and willingly submits his plans and his wants to Gods plans for him. Before Paul can go to Rome, he must make a detour. And when he does think he will be going to Rome, he will be going there on his way to another missionary journey, another job that he is being given by God.
And this is important to see. Gods call on your life, your obedience to him will require you to do things you dont want to do. It will cause to you to speak up when you would rather stay silent. It will require you to stay silent when you would rather speak up. Im not saying who is on which side there, but we each have work to do in one of those areas, I garauntee that. Gods call and our obedience to it will make us step out of our comfort zone. It will make you go places yu dont want to go. Or, in Pauls case, to go somewhere that you may want to go, but want to go less than many other places.
The flip side of all that, Gods call on your life and your obedience to it will delay an/or cancel plans that you have for yourself and things you really want to do. Sacrifices will be made. Plans will change. Other things will come up. Paul can not high tail it straight to Rome.
Paul needs to go back to Jerusalem, personally go back to Jerusalem, to deliver offerings taken up by the mostly Gentile churches that Paul had established, back to the mostly Jewish church in Jerusalem that was poor and struggling.
This is most likely mentioned by Luke in Acts 24:17, where Paul says that “after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.” And one of the things we see here is there is a two fold reason for why this offering is so important to be brought to Jerusalem.
The first of course is because of the needs of the poor in the churches in Jerusalem. There are people there who had real needs and those needs had to be met. It is the responsibility of the church body to meet the needs of those within the body. Thats starts local. If we in this room have needs that need to be met, not wants mind you, but needs, than it is the responsibility of those of us in this room to help as we are able.
Scripture makes it clear the order these things are to go. We take care of our own household first. We make sur that our spouse and kids, if they are still at home, we make sure they are taken care of first. Our household is our fisrt priority when it comes to meeting peoples needs.
Second would be our local chhurch family. Again, thats when we look around this room, we share our prayer needs every week, we share life together in fellowship, and we carry each others burdens. When someof us are incapacitated for whatever reason, surgery, sickness, car accident, when one of us gives birth, whatever the reason, we come together and we meet each others needs.
Further out from that, still no less our responsibility is to help the universal church body. This is other churches that are not ours. This is parachurch and missions orginizations. This is believers in other parts of the country, maybe ones that have been hit with natural disasters. This is believers in other countries, maybe ones that are undergoing incredible persecution, or ones that are in incredibley poor regions. This could be local orginizations and ministries like Mt Hope or Caring for Women, the local pregnancy resource center. It could national orginizations like Village Missions, as one example. It could be international missions orginizations as well.
We give when and where we can. We give first to our local home church. Thats what we call our tithe. Above that, as you are able, you give your offerings. The causes and the ministries that God has put on your hearts and when we see needs that need to be met.
Paul saw needs in Jerusalem and as he was on his journies, he was raising money to send back to help meet those needs. And Paul shows that there is a direct connection between our giving and what the Gospel does to us.
John Piper makes this point, writing:
when we go to 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where Paul gives his fullest explanation of this offering for Jerusalem he explicitly connects the offering with the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, he says this, “By their approval of this service, they [the poor saints in Jerusalem] will glorify God because of your [the Gentiles’] submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ.”
Piper continues, saying:
In other words, one of the things at stake in this collection for the poor is the demonstration of what the gospel does to people—it makes them generous. It frees them from the love of money.
Paul also tells us that we are to give cheerfully and generously and in 2 Corinthians 8:13 & 14:
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.
So that is the first reason why it was so important that the churches that Paul had been visiting gave and sent their offerings back to Jerusalem. The second reason why it was so important to Paul that this happened was to bring the church in the 1st century together
Church Unity. This has obviously been a theme of Pauls all throughout the letter to Rome. And most specificallyto what we see here, unity in the church between the Jews and the Gentiles. Starting from back in chapter 1, through out the rest of the book, culminating in chapter 11 and continuing through what we see here, Paul makes the point time and time again that there is no difference, no two people of God, in the church of God, in the Kingdom of God, in Jesus Christ, there are no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
Now, one thing we do know, is that God did choose to reveal himself and his Son, through whom we can obtain salvation, through the Jewish people and offered it equally to the Gentiles as well. Paul writes in Romans 1:16&17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[f]
But Paul is just as clear that, in Christ, there is no difference. We are all one in Gods eyes and in status before him. And we see here, that it wasnt always easy and it didnt match their preconcivied notions but Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were showing love and unity to each other.
Dr Kim Riddlebarger writes:
Those whom the gospel sets free, will find themselves filled with gratitude and desiring to help out their brothers and sisters whenever necessary. Since the blessings of that gospel were first preached to the Jews, and then spilled over on to the Gentiles, the Gentiles are able to show their gratitude by collecting an offering for the relief of the Jewish poor. Having been given spiritual blessings from the Jews, the Gentiles can now share their material blessings with them.
With the gospel, everything changes. Our heart, our attitudes, our actions, even our perceptions of other groups of people. Outside of Christ, Jews & Gentiles were essentially enemies. In Christ, they were brothers and sisters.
Piper again writes:
The spiritual blessings we enjoy—forgiveness of sins, and justification by faith, and reconciliation with God, and escape from hell, and all things working together for our eternal good, and the hope of enjoying the glory of God—all of these are owing to our being connected to the seed of Abraham, namely, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). Jesus said in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.” Our savior is the Jewish Messiah.
The unity between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians was brought about by their submission to Jesus Christ and by the work of the Holy Spirit, but it took purposeful work on their part.
Unity takes work because we are all different peoiple, from different backgrounds with different experiences. But unity is both called for and worth it. It comes through the changed hearts of the Gospel. It comes through work on our end. It comes through loving each other, remembering love covers a multitude of sins. It comes through setting aside our own preferences for the sake of the good of the body of Christ. It comes through fellowship and serving together.
Paul finished this section with an appeal to prayer. Even in this, Paul is fostering fellowship and unity. He is asking the believers in Rome to pray for his situation. He is praying for his trip to Jerusalem and that he gets to Rome for their meeting up on his way to Spain.
Heres the thing, based on scripture, we never see Paul get to Spain. And we do see him get to Rome, but not for fellowship. He was arrested in Jerusalem in Acts 21. He then appeals his trial and sentence to Ceaser and is brought to Rome in order to be put before Ceaser himself. Pauls motivation was to preach the Gospel to the highest authority in the land. The book of Acts ends with him waiting for that chance, under house arrest in Rome.
Paul knew that there was trouble waiting for him in Jerusalem. He was asking for prayer that that trouble would bypass him. He was also asking for prayer that the gifts he was bringing for the Jewish Christians would be accepted as the gift it was intended to be and accepted with grace and humility. The good news, we see in Acts 21, is that it was indeeded accepted by James.
Paul finishes his prayer, praying a blessing over the believers in Rome. That the God of Peace would be with them all.
Dont miss this as a throw away few verses. Prayer is a vital part of coming together in fellowhsip. It is a vital part of unity within the body of Christ. We cannot come together and grow together if we do not pray together.
This is why our time here on Sunday morning, we have a time of prayer. We have our list in the bulleting that we pray for continually. We also open it up to hear your current requests. We have both our family of the week and we have the Village Missionaries of the week as well, and they list some prayer requests in there. We have prayer meeting Wednesday mornings and we pray for you all specifically and by name. Prayer is connec tive and brings us together in ways that would not happen otherwise. It opens us up to each other and helps us to know each other on deeper levels.
There is no throwaway lines in these 11 verses. Paul lays his heart out and models heartfelt and sacrificial submission to Gods plans and Gods will. And in that, I will leave you with John Pipers 4 takeaways from this passage.
So I close with these summary exhortations:
1) Be vigilant for the reputation of the gospel.
2) Care for the poor. Ask God for that kind of heart.
3) Love the unity of the church and its ethnic diversity, and rejoice that there is one people of God, not two.
Embrace the glorious truth that when you are born again by the Spirit of God and treasure Christ—who died for you—above all else, you begin to change. You delight to do what it is your duty to do, and want to do what you ought. This is holy joy. And it lasts forever.