Romans 1:8-15 – Paul's Eagerness to See Them
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
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
Their faith was being proclaimed throughout the world in both a positive and negative way. Like the church at Thessalonica, they were known for enduring persecutions and afflictions for the cause of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10; cf. Romans 16:19). People also spoke against them. When Paul was taking visitors while under house arrest, some men came to him and said that it was spoken against everywhere (Acts 28:22).
While the expression “throughout the whole world” is hyperbole in the sense that not every single person knew of the faith of the Roman church, it does help to establish a proper understanding of the term kosmos. Though this word can have reference to the world as we know it (it is where we get the word cosmos), it most often refers to the people of the known Roman world (or oikoumenē, see Matthew 24:14). When Matthew and Mark spoke of going into the entire oikoumenē or kosmos (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), they did not mean the entire world as we know it but the known world at that time. This is how Paul was able to confidently claim that the gospel had gone to every creature (Colossians 1:23).
“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,”
Paul says he serves (latreuō, worships) God “in my spirit” (pneuma). Paul viewed his ministry as a priestly duty. His ministry itself was worship offered to God. He encourages the saints at Rome to take on a similar ministry in Romans 12:1 by presenting their very lives as living sacrifices. Dedicating our lives to God is exactly what Peter had in mind when he spoke of the church offering “spiritual sacrifices” (pneumatikos thysia, 1 Peter 2:5). The church is the priesthood of the New Covenant, and every believer takes part in worship daily.
“always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.”
Continuing from the previous verse, Paul is constantly mentioning them in his prayers. He earnestly hoped to come and visit them. Paul takes a moment to clarify that he only wants to visit them if it was God's will. There are occasions within the book of Acts where an individual or team were directed by the Spirit to go a minister to a person or group of people. God urged Phillip to join the eunuch, Ananias to visit Paul, Peter to preach to the Gentiles, and Paul to travel to Macedonia. God even forbid Paul to speak in Asia (Acts 16:6). So, he made it a point to allow God to direct his steps.
“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;”
Spiritual gifts were imparted through the apostles as seen in Acts 8. There is a difference between one being “in the Spirit” or “being led by the Spirit” and having spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts signify the presence of the Spirit, but the absence of the gifts does not mean that an individual lacks the Spirit as seen in Romans 8.
Gifts were given to enrich the churches in all speech and knowledge. They confirmed the testimony concerning Christ, and they continued to witness to the validity of the believer until the coming of the Lord, as Paul explained to the church at Corinth.
“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4–8)
“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.”
Fellowship with other saints is a key way for Christian to be encouraged. The constant fellowship and gatherings of the New Covenant community were one way they were able to weather the extreme persecution they faced. A key to church growth and perseverance in our day is fellowship with other believers. Unfortunately, so many today divide unnecessarily, and these divisions are the greatest hindrances to the success of the church in proclaiming the gospel. Because of the widespread knowledge of the faith of those at Rome, it was necessary for them to maintain unity so they could be an example to others. Paul handles this in Romans 14. If fellowship is the key to overcoming persecution, then infighting is the key to the dissolving of a congregation.
“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.”
Paul had not yet travelled to Rome because the church there already had experienced members who could build it up as Paul explained in Romans 15:20-25. However, Paul could use his planned trip to Spain as an excuse to stop and see those at Rome in order to fellowship with them and receive support from the congregation.
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”
Paul covers every class of people. His obligation was to anyone and everyone. Any preaching of the gospel that does not aim to reach all manner of people is not the gospel of God. We must not make any attempts to filter the gospel. It must be preached to all regardless of age, sex, or race.
“So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
I previously had a misunderstanding when I was growing up that the mystery involved the extension of the New Covenant to the Gentiles. There was nothing mysterious about this aspect of Paul's ministry, however. Baked into the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and the prophets, such as in Isaiah 49:6, is the prophecy that the nations would be blessed through God's faithfulness to the fathers.