God's Word in Romans, Lord willing this week and next week we'll wrap up our study of  Romans. And today, I just want to focus on why Paul wrote Romans. Why did he write this  letter? In one sense, you might say, it's pretty easy. The theme verse of chapter one, verses  16 and 17. He says, I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it's the power of God for the  salvation of everyone who believes. First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel, a  righteousness from God has been revealed a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last,  as it is written, The righteous will live by faith. And Paul teaches what the real gospel is, and  what the power of the gospel is, and the fact that we can be right with God through trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. And throughout church history, that message of gospel power through  faith in Christ has made an enormous impact. And yet today, I want to ask what was going  through Paul's mind, when he first decided to write this letter? We know that God had great  purposes in inspiring it. But why did he write Romans? And when the people received this  letter from Paul, they might have been asking the same question those Christians living in  Rome, because Paul had never been to Rome. This was a church that he did not plant. It got  started without him. on Pentecost, there were visitors from Rome, who became Christians that day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem. And no doubt when they went back to  Rome, they helped spread the gospel, there may have been others. But anyway, Paul did not  start this church. And yet, he writes them a letter. Why? If you're one of those Roman  Christians, you may have wondered, why this? Why now? Does he think we're in really tough  shape? And he's got to elbow his way in and tell us what's What is he trying to be kind of  bossy and, and run things here in Rome where he's never been? Well, the apostle says in  chapter 15, verse 14, not not any of that I myself am convinced my brothers, that you  yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competence to instruct one  another. The Apostle as is so typical of him, is praising them, complimenting them on what  God has already done in them. And he says, I, I know that you're full of goodness, your  complete in knowledge competent to instruct one another. And after he says, something like  that, then you might really be asking, Well, then why in the world, would he write to us if  we're already so good, if we already know so much, and if we're already have the ability to  instruct and teach one another. And his first reason is really very lowly. I want to remind you,  he wants to remind them of what they already know, and to refresh a faith that they already  have. And then he's got some other reasons as well, he wants to because he's never been  there to help them become more familiar with who he is, and what his mission goals are, what the impact so far, has been. He's a missionary, and he wants his church to know more about  him and his mission. Then he wants to let them in on what he's got in mind for his future  plans. He's got some stuff he wants to do in the future. And he's going to tell the people in  Rome about that. He also is a big believer in the unity of the church, wherever you are  anywhere in the world. And so he wants to connect and make connections more strongly and  help the church in Rome to be unified among themselves as well as connected and linked with Christians in other places. And oh, yeah, this is a support letter. The great, magnificent  doctrinal letter of the Romans is a mission letter looking for support. He cuts to the chase, and at the end, he makes me ask, he says, I'm hoping to get some support from you. And I would  like your prayers. So like many a missionary throughout history, this is the support letter,  though none has ever topped it, in terms of its content, and impact, but those are five of the  main reasons we're going to see in this section of Romans, how Paul explains why he's writing this letter. And the first reason is simply a reminder, I have written you quite boldly on some  points as if to remind you of them again. And this is not anything unique to this letter, the  apostle writes to the Philippians, hey, it's no trouble for me to write the same things to you  again. And it's a safeguard for you. And Paul wasn't the only one who had this reason for  writing. The apostle Peter says, I will always remind you of these things, even though you  know them. I've written both of these letters I and II Peter as reminders to stimulate you to  wholesome thinking, I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets,  and the command given you by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. So remind I'm  writing as reminders, I want you to recall, again, and again, the apostle Peter says, I'm not  telling you anything you don't know, I want to remind you, the apostle John says, you have an  anointing from the Holy One. And all of you know the truth, I do not write to you, because you

do not know the truth. But because you do know it. And because no lie comes from the truth.  As for you, you have an anointing from the Holy One. So he wants them to know that because the Holy Spirit lives in them, he's got confidence that they're already in touch with the truth.  They've already learned the truth before. So I'm not writing because you don't know that  because you do. And now I want to remind you what you know, the apostle Jude is writing to  people who are facing some challenges. And he says, though, you already know all this, I  want to remind you, and then he tells them, the things that have happened throughout Old  Testament history and warnings that the apostles had previously given the whole letter of  Jude just about is reminders of things that you already know. Now, why do these apostles  make such a big deal about telling people what they already know? Isn't that an insult to  people's intelligence? Do you like hearing the same thing over and over again? A good deal of the time? We don't? If parents tell their kids something that they've already told em? Yeah, I  know, I know. If if somebody tells you something, you often like to indicate to them right  away, please don't keep going. I already know all that. Well, why then? Well, the Holy Spirit  Himself, Jesus said, The Holy Spirit will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything  I have said to you. Once again, we think oh, the ministry, the Holy Spirit, there's so many  things that that'd be so exciting, if the Holy Spirit would do in my life. And I'd really love to  have these fantastic spiritual experiences, and amazing powers from God living in me. And  that is wonderful when the Holy Spirit does that. But one of the Holy Spirit's main purposes  and works in our life is just to keep reminding us of what Jesus has already said to us and  what we've already heard from the Lord Jesus, what is so important about reminders? Well,  we may think that if you have a belief, it's just like one of these things that you put on the  shelf, and now you have it. A belief is something you have or you don't, but it's not. So if you  have a belief, and it just sits there in your skull, it weakens. And it fades. And eventually, it  goes away. That's been demonstrated time and again, just in terms of sociology of religion,  when you study what happens with people, in previously Christian societies, where they  stopped reading the Bible at home, and when they stopped going to church, they say, I'm a  Christian. And I don't need to do that every day. And I'm a Christian, and you don't need to go  to church to be a Christian. And what happened in country after country? Was that where  people thought that way, belief faded, they did not for the most part, stop going to church  because they stopped having correct beliefs in their head. They stopped going to church. And  eventually, the beliefs faded and failed, if not in their generation. Then certainly, in the next  one, why do you need reminders again, and again? Why do you need to read the Bible so  frequently, even when you already know a lot of the passages you're reading, because if you  don't keep refreshing belief, it weakens and fades, and it needs to keep being reinforced. And  for that same reason you need to hear need to hear the same message preached over and  over again, the task, the task of preaching is not for me to scratch my head and say, How can  I come up with something they've never heard before? Something fantastic and amazing. And they'll say, Wow, the pastor really came through today and showed us something that we  didn't previously know as compared to oh man, another are one of those same old, same old,  I heard that same old thing over again? Well, a good deal of my calling is to tell you the same  old thing over again, maybe in a little different manner, maybe from different angles and from the way the Bible talks about it, but we need to be reminded just to preserve our belief. And  then when you actually read the scriptures daily, you find that rather than your beliefs fading, they're getting stronger. When you're listening to the preaching of God's word, or involved in  a Bible study with people together, you find that your beliefs aren't merely staying the same  or fading, but they're getting stronger. They also get sharper, because sometimes you get  there and the pastor is talking about something you already knew. And at the end of it, you  say, Yeah, I guess I knew that, but I sure didn't know it quite as clearly as I do now. Or you're  reading something in the Bible and you had you kind of knew the story. And then this time  through, you read it, and there's details that you didn't notice, even on stories you thought  you really knew so well, and some things jumped out at you, and it gets so much clearer and  sharper. And things that you knew you knew, though way of salvation, that we're right with  God through faith in Jesus Christ. But your belief gets deeper and richer, as you keep  reflecting on it and hearing it preached or reading about it, or discussing it in Bible study 

together. So one of the most important things in your spiritual life is to keep being reminded.  And one of my most important tasks as a pastor, and as a parent, is to be one of those  reminding kind of people. Because if you're always trying to be fancy, and always trying to  stand on your head and run the dog and pony show to keep the kids interested, you know  that, yeah, you don't want to be boring if you don't have to be. But the fact is, so much of  what we need in our spiritual lives is to be reminded, and if you want to grow in spiritual  depth, do not live on adrenaline. Don't say, what will give me the next Super Deluxe fantastic  vibe, and feeling. Because the, the long obedience in the same direction, that is the Christian  life consists largely in being faithful, in being reminded in keeping on keeping on and the  apostle knows that so he says, I'm going to write you Romans, a lot of stuff that you already  know. And I just want to remind you, because I have a sneaking hunch that when they heard  the epistle to the Romans, there was one or two things they might not have understood, that  they didn't know maybe a lot more than one or two. And as, as you go through that book and  other parts of the Bible too where you think it's talking about what you know, if you really pay attention, there is a lot to learn in all those reminders that the apostles are giving us. Well, in  addition to reminding and refreshing their faith, he wants to just review who he is his mission  aims and the impact of his mission so far, if you're writing a missionary support letter, people  need to know who you are. They need to know what you stand for. Do you have a gospel  worth believing? Is your mission making a difference anywhere? Why should we support you if you're teaching lies, or if you're having zero impact and have no vision. So he wants them to  know what his mission aim and impact have been. He says, I've written you quite boldly on  some points as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a  minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He has a special calling to be the servant of God, for  the sake of non Jewish people with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that  the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He's  using the picture of Old Testament sacrifices and offerings. And now instead of bringing an  animal or this or that, to honor God, he says, I want to be able to offer up Gentile people, I  want to offer up different nations of Christians, as my sacred offering to God, therefore I glory  in Christ Jesus in my service to God, I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ  has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God, by what I have said, and  done by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. The apostle wants to  know that he has had an impact far and wide, that he's not bragging but he's just saying this  is what Jesus has done through me. He did things through what I said. And through the  miracles I did, it's always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. He wanted to be a frontier missionary in places where nobody was a Christian. It's always  been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be  building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it's written, those who were not told about  him will see, and those who have not heard will understand that's a quote from Isaiah 52. In a  sense, Paul saw it as his life verse, I'm supposed to tell people so that those who hadn't  previously heard will see, and those who didn't hear before will now understand that's why  I've often been hindered from coming to you. He wanted to go to Rome many other times, but he was hindered, and he was hindered because he had other things to do. That was part of his calling as a pioneer missionary. So John Stott looks at those verses, he sees three main  emphases when Paul's reviewing his mission. One is that it's a priestly mission where he's  proclaiming God's gospel so that the Gentiles will be that offering to God that he's offering  them up as a good offering, people who've been thoroughly converted who understand  soundly and are growing more and more like the Lord Jesus and are a pleasing offering to  God. He wants me to know that his ministry has been a powerful one. He's been a change  agent for the Lord Jesus Christ. He's had words of power, that when God spoke and preached,  or when Paul spoke and preach the gospel of Jesus, people heard, and they believed, and they were transformed by what they heard and believed. And it wasn't just a matter of words, but  of power, the Holy Spirit gave this apostle, tremendous ability to work miracles, and wonders  in the various places where God sent him. And Paul wants the Romans to know this, that  God's hand has been upon me, I've preached the word with power. And God has given me 

that apostolic ability to do miracles that validate the word. And as he said, he's a pioneer. He  preaches in regions that never heard of Jesus, and he wants to establish churches, where  there weren't any before. He describes it as I planted, and then Appolos watered, he was a  planter. And there's other people who take care of the crop. But his main job was to just get  that crop started in the first place. He said, I laid a foundation in Jesus Christ, and others are  building on it, they gotta be careful how they build, but he was a foundation layer, he was a  planter, he was a pioneer, doing stuff where nobody been. And so he goes on. And as experts  say, I've run out of things to do here. And the fact of the matter is, in these various places  were he'd been from Jerusalem to Illyricum. He's describing a sweep around the  Mediterranean Sea, where he'd been ministering, there were still a lot of people who were not Christians. But he'd started things in lots of different regions. And so he considered that work  to be done. And so he's reviewing His mission, He wants them to know that he is offering up  non Jewish people as well as Jewish people as an offering to God that God's power has been  on him, and that he has a pioneering calling to minister the word and he wants the Romans to know that because later, when he asks for their support, he wants them to know exactly what he's up to. Then he goes on, to reveal his plans for the future, to renew their unity in Christ  and to request support and prayer. He does those things in the next chunk of Romans 15 that  we read. But now that there's no more place for me to work in these regions. And of course, if  he had a different calling, there would have been tons of work, because lots of people weren't Christians, and those who were needed a lot of instruction and help. Yeah, but that was not  his calling. He's saying there's no more pioneering work to be done here. There's no more  place for me to work in these regions. And since I've been longing for many years to see you,  I plan to do so when I go to Spain, hey, Spain is to the far west. Nobody's been there yet on  behalf of the gospel. So that's an important item on his agenda. I hope to visit you while  passing through. That's not the most flattering thing is it? I've longed to see for years hope to  drop in on my way to somewhere else. But that's just the way it is. I hope to visit you while  passing through and have you assist me on my journey thereafter. I've enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I'm headed the opposite way. Now, however, I'm on the way to  Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia, the those are Roman  provinces, which are now in the area of Greece and in the era of what's called Turkey. They  were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. There'd been a famine, a lot of hardship in in the Christians in Judea. And so Paul had set up an offering.  And you'll read in several of his letters how to do that collection. And then he's going to make  the circuit and collect the money and bring it to Jerusalem. So he says these churches were  pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, they were pleased to do it. And indeed, they owe it to them for if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual  blessings, they owe it to the Jews, to share with them their material blessings. So that's how  he sees church unity, it doesn't all flow one way. Sometimes there's blessing that's flowing in  that direction. But in other times, God's wisdom in the blessing has to flow back again. And  the Jerusalem church has sent out missionaries, and they've blessed these Gentiles with the  knowledge of God. And now it's a little tight, it's about time that the Gentiles show that they  can do something in return to bless those believers. So Paul says he's got this collection, and  therefore he's not heading to Rome, he's writing from Corinth. And instead of heading for  Rome, when right after he writes this letter, he says, Oh, by the way, I think I'll head a couple  of you know, go 1000 miles the opposite direction, and head that way, and then eventually  make his way back. So after I completed this task, and I've made sure that they've received  this fruit, I will go to Spain, and visit you on the way, I know that when I come to you, I will  come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. I urge you brothers, by our Lord Jesus  Christ, and by the love of the Spirit to join me in my struggle, by praying to God for me, pray  that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will, I may come to you with joy, and together  with you be refreshed, the God of peace be with you all, amen. So he's revealing his future  plans to them, he's going to bring this offering from Gentile churches to the church in  Jerusalem. And then once he's accomplished that the next item in his plan is to launch a new  mission to the farthest western frontier that he knows of Spain. And he'd like to pop in on the 

Romans, on the way. On the way to Spain, he wants to make a pit stop in Rome for fellowship  with them, and to get some more provisions from them. Those are the plans that he reveals.  Planning is kind of a tricky thing. When we, when we think about our plans, there's a lot to  take into account, the apostle here is writing in about the year A.D. 57. He's writing from  Corinth. And so you can see where Corinth is on this map. He's writing from Corinth, and he's  writing to Rome over there, he's planning to go to Spain eventually. But first he's got an  offering that he's been collecting from here, and from Asia Minor or Turkey. And so he's going  to go from Corinth and take the offering over to Jerusalem. So that's the plan. And then once  he's taken the offering to Jerusalem, then he wants to head for Rome. And then after that  pitstop and a few along the way, he'll go from the pitstop in Rome over to Spain, because  there he can finally find a place he can work again, where nobodies a Christian. So that's  Paul's plans. Now, when we make plans, that can be a little dicey, because we just don't know the future. Sometimes God gives a glimpse into the future and says, here's where I want you  to be next. And here's what's going to happen. But he doesn't do that all the time. And in fact, he doesn't do it very often. And that means that we need to make plans. And we need to  make longer term plans, sometimes with the knowledge that those plans are not a guarantee  of how the future is going to go. God sometimes gives direct guidance, He gave Paul a vision,  come over to Macedonia and help us when Paul had been trying to go to some different areas. And so God just gave him direct information about where he wanted him to go next. But most  of the time, that's not how Paul operated, most of the time, he was just looking for the next  key city in the next region to go to and God let him do that. And, and Paul would just follow  those plans until God had directly given him knowledge to go somewhere else. So for each of  us too, if we are going to wait for a vision from God, every time we undertake something  significant, then there are many, many times where we are just going to become couch  potatoes, because we're not going to get a direct vision from God, and a direct revelation of  what the next step ought to be. Or the knowledge this is your future job five years from now,  here's exactly the courses you need to take in college. Here's the girl or guy who would make  you happy if you married them. And I will tell you that your marriage is going to turn out  fabulously 10 and 15 years from now and so this is the one that's not how God ordinarily  guides our decision making, we have to think we have to make plans, we can be open to the  possibility and pray even God, if you want me to know special wisdom or vision on this, then  grant it to me. But don't assume that that's how it's always going to go. Be somebody who  makes plans. It's good to make plans. And, as you plan, pray, the apostle Paul shows again  and again that when he's making his various plans, he's praying to God. And he's not just  asking, it'll turn out, making him a little happier and more comfy in life. He's praying for  wisdom and for results that will honor God's name that will advance God's kingdom that will  accomplish God's will in the world. In other words, the first chunk of the Lord's Prayer is  basically a vital part of prayer. Anytime we're seeking guidance, anytime we're making plans,  Lord, help me to do the thing that's going to Hallow your name that's going to help your  kingdom to come and your will to be done in my life. And among those whose lives I touch.  And then as you're planning, you can't do everything, set some priorities, have a sense of  what God wants for you. And then line things up, the apostle had things lined up in his mind,  okay, I have a calling to be a pioneer missionary. And Rome, already has Christians. Rome is  lower on my list. I have other I would love to get to Rome. Oh, would I love to get to Rome.  And there's other things on my list. So he's ministering in these various places. And he says,  My pioneer ministry there has hindered me from coming to you until now. So he's got his  pioneering ministry. Then he says, oh, and I do want to go to Spain, but first I, I need to  cement the ties between the Gentile churches that I planted and the Jerusalem church and  that offering would help the Jerusalem church a ton. And it would really bond those distant  churches together. So that's n on my list. I've got to bring this fruit of my whole ministry up to  this time in my life, I've got to get to Jerusalem. And so I've got to go 1000 miles in the wrong  direction, before I go, where I'm where I need to go next in my mission. So he has, okay, I've  completed those regions. Now I'm going to bring an offering, then I'm going to head for Spain, and Rome is in about fourth slot, but I need to go through row in order to get to Spain. So he  plans things out, according to the priorities that he has. And as you look at Paul's approach to 

planning, it's still a great one today, there's a lot that we don't know, but to plan to pray for  God's wisdom, to have priorities and pursue this. And then the next thing on your list of  priorities, and then the next and being open to changes in priorities if God leads you in that  way. And as you do that, you need to know that plans don't always go the way you figured. He says, I pray that now at last by God's will, the way may be open for me to come to you. I  planned many times to come to you. So he had plans before to go to Rome, but have been  prevented from doing so until now prevented mostly by his other priorities that he had to do,  but perhaps also by other factors. So he says I wanted to I wanted to and I, I've often been  hindered from coming to you, I've been longing for many years to see you. So this is an item  in his planning that put him on his bucket list, if you will, he wants to get to Rome. He wants  to connect with the people in Rome and preach the gospel in Rome. And the plan just keeps  getting delayed. And our plans and God's don't always match up perfectly even when we  have good and godly plans, godly plans, godly prayers. They're pleasing to God. But they  don't always come to reality. God likes it when you make good plans. But he doesn't always  make those good plans come true. Our plans might differ from his and we just don't know the  future. And the Bible warns us against thinking that we do. Even if you have good intentions  and great plans, it doesn't mean that God owes you that future you've been planning on. And  sometimes your plans come true the goals that you were aiming for the priorities that you  were after they happened, they come true and you say, what if I had known how they were  going to come true, I don't know if I would have planned that. And I don't know if I would have wanted that. Because the path to those goals may go a lot slower. It may be a lot stranger  and a lot harder than we expected it to be. And we'll see a little bit more about that in a few  moments. So as you do your planning, just keep that in mind plans are good, but Be open to  those facts that God is running the show. And sometimes you won't get to the places that you  were planning. And sometimes if you do, you will get there by routes that you would never  have expected or chosen, maybe some of you right now, feeling like Paul, you've planned  something again and again and wanted something over and over and just hasn't happened.  And you know, it's a good thing. But there's other things you got to do with your life. And so  you've been doing those. Don't get too impatient. Keep on planning, keep on trusting and be  ready to live the life that God gives you and not just the life that you planned out for yourself.  Well, he wants to reveal his plans for the future. And then he wants to renew the unity of the  believers in Jesus at Rome. And just to give you a little bit of background on that. Unity Paul  knew would be a special challenge for the churches in Rome for a variety of reasons. One was just some things that had happened a few years earlier, when the church in Rome got going  don't think that there was some great Vast, beautiful building called the church in Rome, there was no church building. There weren't any church buildings for probably 300 years after the  coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The churches were mostly house churches that would meet in homes, sometimes of richer members, or they would meet in the outdoors. But they were  groups of people house churches. And when they started in Rome, they were brought there by Jewish people who were in Rome on the day of Pentecost, and became Christians. And the  early churches in Rome were very likely mostly Jewish people. And then as they stayed there  a little longer. And as they understood that the gospel was meant for non Jewish people as  well, some non Jewish people became Christians as well. But most likely these were majority  Jewish churches. Then in 49 A.D., the Emperor Claudius gets mad at the Jews. And he expels  the Jews from Rome. He just forces them to leave the city. And we read of that in the book of  Acts, where Priscilla and Aquilla end up in Corinth, because they were Roman people who  were Christians and Jewish, but they were among the Jews who got kicked out of Rome. So  they land in Corinth. And as you're reading the greetings in Romans 16, they're among the  people greeting, you know, involved in those greetings. But anyway, a lot of Jewish people got kicked out of Rome. Now, for five years, these churches that are left in Rome without the  Jewish believers kind of take on a life of their own. They're mostly Gentile, non Jewish people  now, and they don't have the Jewish influence anymore. What happens when an entire  cultural group that's been kind of the dominant force in your church is all of a sudden, poof,  gone, you start doing things a little differently, you start attracting maybe a little different  gang of people. And so these churches develop into churches that are mostly non Jewish 

people, then in 54, Claudius dies. And the edict is over, and Jews start trickling back to Rome  again. But when they trickle back to Rome, those churches they left five years ago aren't the  same as they used to be. I don't know how many of you have ever had that, where you go  back to a church, and you remembered it being thus and such. And you went back and you  thought, what happened? And it's not always something bad that happened, but something  happened, a lot of your old familiar faces aren't there anymore, the way you used to  remember things being done, aren't done that way anymore. And the people there are a very  different group. Sometimes that happens, and it certainly happened in Rome. So in 57, is  when Paul writes this letter to the Romans. And he's writing it as these Jewish believers are  trickling back into Rome and rejoining churches that aren't very Jewish anymore, that have  changed. And so Paul knows that and he has some concerns. And so he wants to help those  people to be united. First of all, he just wants them to be united in the same gospel and be  united with the one Lord Jesus Christ. And as you read Romans, you really hear that phrase for the Jew and for the Gentile and and you say, yeah, that's nice, and theologically, it's true. But  he also had a more urgent reason for saying, this is for the Jew and for the Gentile, and  there's no difference all sin and fall short of the glory of God, you're freely justified. God's got  this plan for the Jews. But this plan for the Jews includes the Gentiles, and now that mostly  Gentiles, he says in Romans 9-11, don't think God has forsaken the Jewish people, because  God still has plans for them too you know that that's True, that's all true. But he had a reason  for saying all that. He wanted Jewish people and Gentile people to know that they still  belonged together, even when it's kind of awkward when formerly Jewish congregations had  become pretty Gentile. And now they're getting a Jewish influx back into them. Again, that  can be a challenge in churches still today, maybe not quite as big a challenge, but still pretty  significant. That's where some of the worship wars have come from things involving musical  preferences, or ways of doing things in worship, where one group of people has begun to  influence the way things are done more than another. And it's largely a cultural difference, not a huge change in belief or gospel in many cases, but just different groups of people doing  things in different ways. And the need for unity in such circumstances is very great. The  apostle in the in the parts of the letter just before the one we're on now, he talks to people  with strong consciences who feel really free to do various things with regard to special days,  and feasts and holy days and the like, and they don't make a big deal of those anymore. And  other still do make a big deal with them. Some have a big deal about what they eat, or choose not to eat, and others food, that's not a big deal spiritually. And so he's trying to get unity in  Christ with people who have different degrees of strength in their conscience. And of course,  he just wants again to solidify the unity that he has with him because he has his own agenda.  He wants to go to Spain, and he wants the support of Rome, and the Christians there. And  because he does, they need to be unified with him on that mission. So this renewal of unity is  extremely important. And not only does he talk about that, but that's that's really a big, big  reason for why he wants to take that offering to Jerusalem. Yeah, the people in Jerusalem  need it, it'll really benefit the Jewish people there. But this is not just oh, those poor people  gonna starve unless you guys get some money over there quick. He wants to unify those  faraway churches, with the Jerusalem church, that the importance of the unity of God's  Church worldwide, is something that we often lose track of, we say, oh, boy, I, I'd like to go to  heaven when I die. I have a personal relationship with Jesus. Well, that's wonderful. It is  wonderful and super important. It is not the only important thing. Being connected with God's  people, in your own congregation, and in places around the world is very important in the  gospel of Jesus Christ. And so he says, he also in this unity, he wants to be encouraged by  each other's faith. He said early in the letter, I long to see you, so that I may import impart to  you. Some spiritual gift to make you strong, that is that you and I may be mutually  encouraged by each other's faith. That's one of the benefits of being connected, of being  united, that you can make my faith stronger, and I can make your faith stronger. And  together, we're stronger in our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, I want to come  to you with joy, and together with you be refreshed. So he's revealing these plans for the  future. He's renewing the unity of believers in Christ. And now he gets to the ask. I want your  support. I want your prayers. He says I hope to visit you while passing through and to have 

you assist me on my journey to Spain. That's the only line in the book of Romans, where he  actually is asking for support. And even that may not mean I'm going to be receiving checks  from you for the next 20 years as your missionary but on his way to Spain. He wants this  pitstop he wants to, if possible, have some financial help from them, and then move on and  carry on his mission to Spain. And as he's going to do that he also wants them to pray for him. Join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. And then he has three requests first, Pray  that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea. Remember in his plans, he's headed for  Jerusalem. He's been there before, it didn't go well. In terms of the unbelievers. They tried to  kill him the first time he was there, and he's expecting a little trouble, the next visit as well.  He has a second prayer request, that my service in Jerusalem that is the bringing of this  offering that he's collected will be acceptable to the saints there. He wants prayers for that.  Why does he want prayers for that? Wouldn't? Wouldn't it be automatic? You know, some guy  shows up and says, here's the cash. What's not to like about that? Actually quite a bit. Do you  know lots of people who like to receive charity? Do you know lots of people who say, Oh, wow, thanks for the goodies? You know, maybe a lot of the time, especially if it's coming from  somebody you really haven't even met, you say, well wonder what they're up to? Yeah, you  know? Or do they think we're a bunch of losers, and we can only survive on their handouts.  And even more seriously, Gentiles, those dogs, you know that I mean, that was, that was the  Jewish attitude toward Gentiles and Gentiles felt pretty much the same way toward Jews in  and of themselves apart from the Gospel of Christ. So when Paul comes from this, on this trip  and comes to the Jerusalem church, and says, Here's a ton of cash that I collected from the  converts, and they heard about your tough situation, and they want to help out a little bit.  He's just praying that it won't be taken the wrong way. Just like he was praying that his letter  to Rome wouldn't be taken the wrong way. When he writes about all these doctrines and  teaching, he doesn't want them to take it. Oh, yeah, he thinks we're a bunch of No nothing's,  and now he's going to set a straight. He doesn't want them to take the letter that way. He  wants them to know that he already has confidence. And now he's just trying to bless them.  And the same with this offering. He doesn't want them to take it Oh yeah, they think we're a  bunch of losers who don't know how to take care of our finances, and we couldn't survive  without them. He wants them to receive it as a gift of love from fellow believers, and as a sign of the unity that they really have in the Lord Jesus Christ. So he wants him to pray, that he'll  be rescued from any plots that the saints in Jerusalem will accept the gift and rejoice in it. And of course, pray that I'll get to Rome. Pray that I'll come to you and that when I come, it'll be a  good visit. Well, he says, By God's will pray that whenever you're planning whenever you're  praying, it's whether you say it or not, God willing, if God wills it, this is what we're praying  about. Because our plans and our prayers are subject to God's will. Did Paul's plans come  true? Were his prayers granted? Well, we read the book of Acts. It says when we arrived at  Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. That prayer was answered. They came with the  gifts they came with the greetings from the Gentile believers in the various cities. And Paul  was received warmly the gift was received warmly prayer answered the prayer that he would  be protected from the unbelievers. Well, yeah, that's one of those Well, yeah, answers to  prayer. He didn't get killed. He only had, you know, a few riots, a few near misses people  swearing not to eat or drink until they killed him. But he didn't get killed. And in the middle of  all that, the Lord stood near Paul and said, Take courage, as you've testified about me in  Jerusalem. So you must also testify in Rome. Sometimes God doesn't reveal the future.  Sometimes he does. And on this occasion, when things were really dangerous, and in doubt,  while Paul was still in Jerusalem, God says to him, you're gonna make it to Rome. But not  without a few twists and turns. When he gets to Rome. They receive His gift warmly. And then  he goes to the temple to worship God, what could be wrong with that? Well, some of his  Jewish enemies, see him in the temple, and they want him dead. And there is a big hullabaloo a huge riot that takes that just goes. And so the Romans, the soldiers and their commander  come rushing in to see what's going on. And they see somebody that appears to be the focus  of it all. so, they grabbed Paul. And the Roman commander knows now whoo got him got him,  I got the Egyptian terrorist. That's what that's who he thinks he's gotten. He thinks he's gotten the Egyptian terrorist, so he's going to torture him and whip him and get the truth out of him. 

And, and Paul says, I'm a Roman citizen, I'm not a terrorist. And so then the the officer has to  recalibrate. And then there's this plot on Paul's life. And Paul's nephew hears about it, and  tells Paul and then then the nephew goes and tells the commander, and the commander lines  up a major security detail of hundreds of foot soldiers and hundreds of horsemen. And they  escort Paul under armed guard from Jerusalem to Caeserea. What an answer to prayer. He  was saved from the unbelievers in Jerusalem, but now he's a prisoner. He's in chains. And he  has hearings with governor Felix, then with another leader Festus. Then with King Agrippa.  There's these various hearings that he has, all the while being under arrest, and they're  thinking of sending him back to Jerusalem and Paul says, I don't think I want to go back to  Jerusalem. I know that all the knives are out for me there. And so he says, I appeal to Caesar.  I'm a Roman citizen. And he knows when he appeals to Caesar, then his escort is going to be  heading for Rome. And so there's an answer to prayer. He's heading for Rome. And on the  way to Rome, well, that's quite a trip. Because the ship that he's on, Paul has a sense that it's  not going to go well if they try to make the trip because it's late in the season and bad  weather is due. But they see a day of good weather and they think they can make it into, you  know, two weeks of the most stomach churning typhoons sweep across the Mediterranean.  And that ship is driven onto the rocks and smashes, and they land on the island of Malta.  Eventually, they catch a ride with another ship. And so Paul makes it to Rome as a prisoner  after a shipwreck after two years in prison, and after a whole bunch of other difficult  circumstances along the way, you will reach your goals. Isn't it wonderful, your plans will  come true, and there you are in chains well, so we came to Rome, the brothers there had  heard that we were coming and they traveled to meet us at the sight of these men Paul  thanked God and was encouraged when we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself  with a soldier to guard him. For two whole years, Paul stayed there in his own rented house,  and welcomed all who came to see him boldly without hindrance, he preached the kingdom of God, and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. So it turned into more than a pitstop. He was  planning to just kind of hop in Rome for a bit and then on to Spain. But when you're a  prisoner, you're not really in control of the schedule. So he's under house arrest. And for two  years, he's in Rome preaching. And so did he ever make it to Spain? Well, Clement of Rome,  he's mentioned just briefly in the Bible, but he wrote a letter and he was the leader of the  church in Rome. In the decade after the apostle had been there, he said, Paul reached the  farthest limits of the West. And then there are later writers who say that Paul journeyed to  Spain. So it seems from what evidence we can gather, that Paul actually did make it to Spain,  the book of Acts stops with when Luke was with Paul in those circumstances. And Paul was in  Rome under house arrest, but it seems that later on, after two years of house arrest, then he  was released, and headed for Spain. And so, again, his plans it appears, did come about, he  made it to Rome by a very difficult path, and then spent a couple of years there under house  arrest, then was released, and it made it to Spain and was able to preach the gospel there. So he writes this letter in A.D. 57. He spends a couple of years in prison shortly after this letter is  over. From that time in prison, he writes the letters to the Philippians, the Ephesians, the  Colossians, the letter to Philemon. Do you put prison on your to do list? No. But sometimes  when you're in prison, you find something productive to do. If you're a preacher, it is a pain in  the neck. If you're volunteer preacher and they lock you up in the Bedford jail, why would God let something so awful happen when you're supposed to be preaching to your flock and here  you are stuck in prison. And so John Bunyan starts scribbling something that comes to be  called Pilgrims Progress, which becomes the most read book in the world after the Bible,  because he had been stuck in jail. When the apostle is in jail during his Roman imprisonment,  he writes later on, he spends that time under house arrest, he goes on a mission to Spain.  And then he's arrested again, under the terrible persecutions of Nero later in the 60s. And this time, he writes I and II Timothy and Titus. He writes II Timothy, knowing that he's doomed,  that he's going to be executed soon, he writes it from the worst dungeon in Rome. Those are  his final years. Again, it. It is amazing what God used this man to do. And it's at the same  time, important to remember that our plans and God's sometimes they overlap. Paul's plans  overlapped a lot with God's plans for him. And he certainly had God's priorities, but it didn't  always come out the way that he thought it would. So again, when you're thinking of your 

plans, just realize that God likes it, when you're trying to be wise, when you're trying to figure  out his purposes and priorities for you and then pursue them. But be ready to realize that we  don't know the future that he may have a few other things in mind for you. And realize, too,  that when he even if he were to reveal to you that something's going to come through as he  did to Paul, you're going to make it to Rome. Well, yeah, he did. With a very difficult manner  of getting there. So the path for God's plans in your life, it may be slower. Be patient when it's slower. It may be weirder and stranger than you expect it. Be open to surprises. And it may be harder, a lot harder than you expected. I remember I went to Strathroy, Ontario with a lot of  excitement, it was going to be my first ministry, the first church I served in, I was newly  married, we were excited a baby was due. And then we found out, two babies were due. And  then we found out that Wendy was gonna have to be in the hospital from, you know, from  early, earlier in the pregnancy on and then the babies were born. And then they were deathly  sick. And then one of them died. And I spent the first six months of my ministry, mostly  writing sermons in my head on the way to and from a neonatal intensive care unit. That was  not how I planned to launch my ministry. I ran into a young lady, she'd been in her late teens.  When we first came to that church, I ran into her 10-15 years later. And she said, Well, Pastor,  I, I don't, you know, I loved when you were here, there's I don't remember a whole lot. You  know, specific from this or that sermon, I do remember that sermon that you preached the  week after your daughter died. Sometimes, when you plan, it's different than you planned.  And yet, through sometimes hard, hard circumstances, people are more deeply united to each other, you get more of a hearing, than you might have otherwise. And you may find that in  your own life, that some of the things that you've been through that you would not have  chosen, that you would not have planned. But God put you somewhere and put you through  that, to accomplish important purposes. And be open to the possibility that that's happening  right now. Because you're not looking back 20 or 30 years ago, and saying I can see a little bit of what has happened since then, you're in the middle of the muddle. And the middle of the  muddle is not a fun place to be. But God is there in the middle of the muddle, too. And there  he says, My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. Well, why did  Paul write Romans to refresh and renew faith to remind the people, so let me say again, don't  despise reminders. Keep reading your Bible, even if you think you know it. And I suspect  there's a few parts, maybe a lot of parts that you don't know as well as you might need to. So  don't despise the reminders. Don't be one of those who says, hey, I can be a good Christian  without your , I don't need that preaching my, my faith and my beliefs are going to stand  strong. No, they won't. No, they won't. You need reminders, you're not exceptional. You're not  one of these fabulous heroes of faith. If you were Paul, and you were off on a frontier mission  field with no other Christians around, then you'd have an excuse to be a lone ranger. And that  is the only good excuse is when you are a pioneer for the gospel going where no Christian has ever gone before, then you have an excellent excuse for being a Christian without being able  to attend church on a faithful basis. Other than that, you better stick with it. Because you are  not a hero or an exception. You need your faith to be reminded and refreshed. As you think  about your own life. What's the point of you being here? I, that's a good question. What is  God's purpose for you? Or purposes? Think about it. Go home today. Write down a few lines, if you must. What is the point of you being here? Try to discern that. Try to figure out why God  has you on this planet at such a time. And in these circumstances. Because he does. It may  not be as striking and amazing as the apostle's purpose. But God has purposes for you. And  don't stumble all the way through your life without knowing what your aims and purposes are. And then be ready to make plans. Have priorities in those plans, make them wisely and well  to serve the priorities that you think God has for you. And if God changes things that be open  to that, but but have plans for the future? value, the unity of believers, be connected with one another you need to be part of a church not just to get reminded by that boring old preacher  who keeps telling you the same stuff you already know, you do need that. But you also need  unity with those people. Because those personal connections that you have with other people  nourish and feed your faith and your walk with God, and to build unity with believers in other  locations is also vital. And then the apostle wanted support, he wanted prayer. And when  we're thinking about missions, we do want to have missionaries who are worth supporting. We

do want to listen to what they say about what they teach about what the priorities are. And  then support them generously and pray for them a lot. And not just for missions then but for  each other. Because there again, when we talk to each other, it's not just to exchange a little  chit chat, chit chats, fine, it's good, keeps connecting some, sometimes you just plain need  help. You need encouragement. And so don't be embarrassed to say I could use a little  support here. I could use some prayer, and some help there. And be also ready to give that  kind of support and prayer to one another. One of the dangers of reading through Romans is  thinking that after you've read the power of God for salvation, justification by faith, and all  those towering realities about our Lord Jesus Christ, now you're kind of done with the  important parts of the book, these parts where he's just saying, here's, here's why I wrote,  here's what I'm up to. If we pay attention to those, we can learn a lot about just living, real  Christianity in the here and now. We pray Father, that you will make us people of purpose with mission we're ready, Lord, to plan and to seek how we can carry out your purposes in our, in  our lives. We thank You, Father. For those who've gone before us who blazed the trail, we ask  that they may continue Lord to be an example and a light for us. We pray, Lord, that the  power and truth of the Holy Spirit and the wonder of Jesus Christ may dominate and fill our  lives that we made too be people who are always looking for ways to honor you, to serve you  to build up others. And to bless them. Lord, help each person here help those who may be  struggling right now with knowing your purposes for them. Help those who may be in one of  those really hard circumstances where their plans aren't turning out the way they expected or hoped. Help them Lord, to be able to trust you and to walk through that time finding that you  are a faithful friend, that you are accomplishing your amazing purposes even through  suffering and disappointment and hardship, and help us Lord to encourage each other  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2022, 10:08 AM