Saturday, March 8, 2014

Eyes Open for Opportunity (Romans 15:23-28)

“but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain.” (Romans 15:23–28, NASB95)

Paul’s ministry in the areas he had been working was drawing to a close as the persecution was being turned up and the threats on his life became quite real. There was no place he could go there where his enemies had not already heard of him and would push to shut him down. As Paul was feeling these pressures and seeing the doors close where he was, he began to sense the leading of the Spirit in looking toward Rome and some new doors. Earlier we had looked at the first seven verses of Romans in establishing Paul’s credentials. In verses 8-15 of chapter 1 Paul expresses his desire to visit Rome.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (Romans 1:8–15, NASB95)

And it seems that he had come up with a way to make this happen, by stopping there for a while on his way to an even further region in Spain. The gospel was continuing to spread, and Paul had a passion and an eye for how God might use him to be a continual part of this expansion of the gospel to the Gentile nations. At the same time Paul also remembered his first roots and his ties to his Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. As he wrote here in chapter 15, while serving in Macedonia and Achaia financial gifts had been given to help the poor in Jerusalem.

These Gentile believers recognized that the gospel message originated in Jerusalem with the Jews and they were indebted to them for this. Knowing the struggles that some of their Jewish brothers were having these Gentile believers freely and gratefully gave to meet their needs. As Paul stated, they recognized the great spiritual benefit they had received from them, and now it was their great pleasure to respond by helping to meet their material needs. And Paul was the one privileged to now return to Jerusalem to deliver these gifts before making his way back out again.

Even today we have a spiritual heritage in Jerusalem, even though most of the Jews in the world and in particular in Israel and its cities do not believe that Jesus is their Messiah. As we watch things develop around the world and even see our own country waiver in its support of Israel we are given great reason to pause and to pray for their salvation. Scripture told us that this would be the condition (apostasy) of the Jewish people, where most would not trust in Christ. Scripture also tells us that God has kept a remnant and that there will be a time when all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26; Revelation 7), but before that time things will get much worse for them and for the rest of mankind.

With this in mind, we might even be given greater reason to consider not only the unsaved in Jerusalem, but also those in other areas as well. What was a further region for Paul in Spain may today be other regions for us, and we can have a part in the gospel being furthered through our prayers, encouragement, finances, and even our presence. Even now at home in our communities there are still countless others who we might share this great news with who so desperately might need to know. Paul went where he was needed and he served faithfully while he was there until God sent him on. He was attentive to doors being opened and doors being closed, and he saw them as opportunities for ministry.

Having considered this, several questions might be begged, such as what are we doing where God has us while He has us there, and are we willing to do what he has called us to do with the time, talents and resources He has given us whether here or by being moved somewhere else?

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, NASB95) 

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