Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome (Romans 15:22-33)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 13 and Sunday, November 14, 2021
Do we care about missions?
A few years ago I stood on the banks of a river in South America and watched a young man in western clothes climb out of a primitive canoe. The veteran missionary with whom I was traveling beamed at the young man and he whispered to me, “The first time I saw him he was a naked Indian kid standing right on this bank, and he pulled in my canoe for me. God gave me a real concern for him, and eventually he came to Christ, committed himself to the Lord’s work and is just returning home after graduating from seminary in Costa Rica.” I could understand the beam on the missionary’s face, and I think Paul beamed when he talked of his men. And he had good cause to be thrilled with them.
—Stuart Briscoe, Bound for Joy
My theme today is:
Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome (Romans 15:22-33)
My application is:
Pray for the gospel impact.
- Paul’s travel plans (verses 23-29).
- Paul has now wrapped up his theology section. That was Romans chapters 1-11.
- Paul has now wrapped up his ethics section. That was Romans chapter 12:1-15:7.
- Paul has written about his passion to reach the unreached with the gospel. That was Romans 15:8-21.
- Now, Paul continues that theme. Paul continues writing about his passion to take the Gospel to those who have never heard the Gospel.
- I have told you that it seems that Paul wanted to use Rome as a staging point to take the gospel to Spain.
- Read with me verse 22, Romans 15:22: This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.
- Why was he hindered? What reason? It seems that he was busy taking the Gospel to the unreached people groups. He wanted to take the gospel to those who have never heard. In verse 19 he was specific about the places he has declared the gospel.
- In Romans 1:13 he also referenced this.
- Now, look at verses 23-24, Romans 15:23-24: 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, 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.
- He has no room for work in these areas. It seems this means that his work is either complete or hindered.
- He hopes to see them in passing as he goes to Spain.
- He hopes they will help him on his journey to Spain.
- First, he wants to enjoy their company for a while.
- Isn’t it amazing to think of the gospel going from the middle east to Spain?
- That is quite a distance in maybe 30 years.
- Spurgeon said every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter!
- Look at verse 25, Romans 15:25: At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.
- Paul wants to do gospel ministry in 2 different directions. He wants to go to Spain but now he is taking aid to Jerusalem. In 2 Cor. 8-10 he was doing a fundraising drive to help victims of a famine in Jerusalem. It seems he is doing the same now.
- Look at verses 26-27, Romans 15:26-27: For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27For 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.
- Now, he continues with this by writing about Macedonia and Achaia giving to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Notice how he calls them “saints.” Notice how he says they are “pleased” to contribute.
- Then, verse 27 is interesting: they owe it to them. They were gentile believers who received spiritual blessings from the Jewish believers and so now they should give them material blessings.
- Look at verse 28, Romans 15:28: When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.
- This is Paul’s travel plans. He will take the offering to Jerusalem and then go to Spain, but see them on his way.
- We do not know if he ever made it to Spain. It is not recorded in the Bible.
- Look at verse 29, Romans 15:29: I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
- When he comes… He is confident that he will come.
- He will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
- Little did he know he would be taken to Rome in custody (Ac 25:11–28:14, 30–31).
- By the first century a.d. Spain was firmly a part of the Roman Empire. Spain provided significant crops to the empire, and it was the fatherland of several important Roman authors (and a few later emperors); thus it would have been a strategic location for Paul to evangelize. No visit of Paul to Spain is recorded in the NT, but it is possible that he went there after his release from prison in Rome (after Acts 28:30–31). There is some historical evidence after the NT suggesting that Paul did preach in Spain, but it falls short of clear proof.
- He represents Christ.
- How to pray for Paul (verses 30-33).
- Look at verses 30-32, Romans 15:30-32: 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, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
- Paul is appealing to them and he is calling them “brothers,” or “brothers and sisters.”
- There is a sort of natural trinitarianism to v. 30, where Paul speaks of praying to God, but beseeches the Roman Christians through Jesus and through the love which the Spirit engenders in them.
- He is appealing by the Lord Jesus Christ.
- He is appealing by the love of the Spirit.
- This phrase occurs only here in Scripture and refers to Paul’s love for the Holy Spirit, not the Spirit’s love for him (cf. Ps 143:10).
- His appeal has the power of the Lord.
- His appeal is in the love of the Spirit.
- ESV Study Bible: Two prayer requests are found here: (1) that Paul would be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and (2) that his offering would be acceptable to the saints in Jerusalem. Some think the first request was not answered since Paul was arrested in Judea at the impulse of the Jews. But it seems his prayer was answered, for the Jews desired to put him to death (Acts 22–28), and this desire was frustrated, so that Paul did go to Rome, even if not in the way he anticipated. Further, Acts suggests that the offering was accepted in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17).
- His appeal is that they would strive, it has the Greek connotation of agonizing.
- The language of “striving” together in prayer19 is “agonistic” language, using the athletic metaphor of the straining of an athlete toward a particular goal (cf. Phil. 1:27; 4:3; Col. 4:12). The Christian is viewed as a spiritual athlete wrestling or striving diligently and earnestly in prayer.20 Paul does not seem to mean simply that the Romans should strive with him, rather than strive in prayer.21
- He wants them to agonize with him in prayer for him. He is praying for himself and he needs them to pray to.
- What is his prayer? It is not selfish. It is that his ministry in Jerusalem is acceptable to the saints… He wants prayer so that he is “delivered” or “rescued” from those unbelievers in Judea. It seems that some would want to cause him harm.
- He wants that so that he can go to Rome, but only in God’s will.
- He wants prayer that the gifts are favorably received. The only indication that it was is found in the cryptic statement of Ac 21:17, “… the brethren received us gladly.” No wonder! Paul showed up with a crate full of relief funds for them.
- He wants to be refreshed by their company.
- Are we refreshed by the company of other believers?
- I think they were because they faced more difficulties.
- Look at the end, look at verse 33, Romans 15:33: May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
- That is a caring and wonderful exhortation.
- He is asking that God be with them all.
Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary opened its doors, their doors almost closed because of bankruptcy. Before their 1929 commencement day, the faculty gathered in the president’s office to pray that God would provide. They formed a prayer circle, and when it was Harry Ironside’s turn, he circled Psalm 50:10 with a simple Honi-like prayer: “Lord, we know you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell some of them, and send us the money.”
The time lapse between our requests and God’s answers is often longer than we would like, but occasionally God answers immediately.
While the faculty was praying, a $10,000 answer was delivered.
One version of the story attributes the gift to a Texas cattle rancher who had sold two carloads of cattle. Another version attributes it to a banker from Illinois. But one way or another, it was God who prompted the gift and answered the prayer.
In a moment that is reminiscent of the day Peter knocked on the door of the house where his friends were praying for a miraculous jailbreak, the president’s secretary interrupted the prayer meeting by knocking on the president’s door. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and president of DTS, answered the door, and she handed him the answer to prayer. Turning to his friend and colleague, Dr. Harry Ironside, President Chafer said, “Harry, God sold the cattle!”
- We also must care about the Gospel and even alter plans for the gospel ministry (verses 22-24).
- Will we alter our day if it means Gospel ministry?
- Will we alter our travel plans for the gospel?
- Maybe it is direct gospel ministry of sharing the gospel, or maybe serving.
- Will we serve at the rescue mission?
- Will we serve a neighbor in need?
- Will we get our hands dirty in ministry?
- Will we go on a mission trip?
- Will we volunteer in the youth ministry, children’s ministry, worship ministry, or help in other ways in the church?
- Are we praying for Gospel ministry?
- Paul wanted to visit them and then go further to Spain (verses 23-24). Do you want to visit Christian brothers and sisters you do not usually see?
- Are we serving? In verses 25-28 Paul was talking about churches that donate to the needs of Jerusalem and Paul was delivering it.
- Have you thought about donating to the pregnancy help center or the rescue mission?
- Are we praying for Christian ministries (verses 30-33)?
- Pray for the praise team.
- Pray for the youth ministry.
- Pray for the children’s ministry.
A missionary couple came home aboard a ship after many years of faithful service in Africa. It so happened that there was a very important diplomat also on the same ship who got special treatment and special attention. When the ship arrived, this couple stood back and watched from the deck as the band played and the people had gathered and there was great applause. As the diplomat walked down the gangplank and was whisked off in a lovely limousine to the sounds of music and applause, this dear fellow put his arm around his wife and he walked off with her and got into the streets of New York. “Honey,” he said, “it just doesn’t seem right after all of these years that we would have this kind of treatment and here this fellow gets that kind of special treatment.” And she put her arms around her husband and said to him, “But, honey, we’re not home yet.”
 Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 376–377.
 Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 366.
 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 15:30.
19 Synagōnizomai is found in inscriptions from before the NT era with the meaning “strive together with,” referring to a sort of tug of war with ambassadors from other countries. See NewDocs 3:84.
20 See Barrett, Romans, p. 256.
21 Against Dunn, Romans 9–16, p. 878.
 Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 366–367.
 Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 377.