Romansby David Cook
Paul planted significant churches within the Roman Empire—at Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus—but he did not plant the church at Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire.
He had not met the church at Rome. Yet we see his real interest in the progress of its believers. Paul gives thanks for them (v. 8) and prays for them as if they were his responsibility (vv. 9–10). He is a man of generous spirit, and is not given to parochial interests. If God is at work, Paul prays for and supports the work. What a model he is in ministry— in contrast to other examples of professional jealousy and territorial insecurity. Paul’s attitude provides a necessary corrective.
How often are our sharp criticisms of other ministries simply a thin veneer for envy?
Whether God does His work through Paul or not, Paul rejoices that God’s work is being done. He gives thanks and prays in particular that “the way may be opened” (v. 10) so that he could go to them.
Paul wants the work to continue growing and he wants to impart “some spiritual gift” (v. 11)—probably the gospel—so they will be strengthened.
Paul, however, is not going as a superior. Verse 12 makes it clear that he expects mutual blessing in the visit—note the emphasis on “you and I”, “mutually”, and “each other”.
There is no aura of detached self-sufficiency about Paul. Some people were alleging that he had not visited the church at Rome because he was not interested in them; he corrects that in verse 13. His desire is for a harvest in Rome among the Gentiles because he is the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). It is apparent that besides being a great theologian, Paul was also a passionate missionary and evangelist.
Reflect on Paul’s generosity of spirit and his enthusiastic support of gospel work. Are you challenged by his attitude and his activities towards people he had never met?
John Wesley said that parochialism has always been the enemy of the gospel. In what ways does parochialism creep into your thinking?