Christians join in the mission of God by striving together in prayer. #prayer
Romans 15:30 “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.”
As Paul brings his letter to the Roman Christians to a close, he does so with a prayer request. As a matter of fact, it is not so much a request as an urgent plea. Paul understood the power of prayer and the necessity that believers unite in prayer for one another as they live as exiles in this foreign land. The apostle could sense the impending danger for his trip to Judea, and rightly so. We learn later that on this trip he is assaulted by unbelieving Jews, imprisoned by the Roman governor and eventually transported back to Rome where on the way he is shipwrecked, he is bitten by a viper and then almost killed by a mob, and then he is finally taken back to Rome in chains. When Christians come together in prayer, they unite in the mission given to each, and it is a dangerous, awe-inspiring mission. That is why we must “strive together” as Paul phrases it. In other words, we struggle or wrestle together in prayer for one another. This fight may be against our own sin or the sins of others, it may be against distraction or our own unbelief, and it is always against the schemes of Satan, but it is a striving nonetheless. As Leon Morris once said, “There is a very real struggle going on between the forces of good and evil, and a most significant part of that struggle is in prayer.” (The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, 1988, p. 523) Let us all strive together in prayer for one another because of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love given to us by the Holy Spirit.
Study/Meditation: Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. What does Paul say in this passage was the significance of the prayers of the saints on his behalf?
*Father, I lift up to You my brothers and sisters who are in the mission field. Give them peace and safety and rest. Amen.
Consumerism cannot ultimately bring joy. #blessingofChrist
Romans 15:28-29 “When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”
There are certain phrases in God’s Word that when we read them we feel compelled to stop and meditate on the depth and beauty contained within them. “The fullness of the blessing of Christ” is one such phrase. What an amazing proclamation Paul makes here that he will come to the Roman Christians in the fullness of the blessing of Christ, and interestingly, he proclaims that he will do so in light of what he will have just partaken in—giving to the saints in Jerusalem. Surely the blessings of our Savior come in myriads of ways, but one way we are sure to experience Him and all that He has to give us in joy and satisfaction and peace is when we give to others. Consumerism is so pervasive in today’s society that the notion that happiness comes from giving things away as opposed to having things for ourselves is counterintuitive. One need only to examine the commercials on television and radio to see this point of view. The entire advertising market bases its success on the illusion that owning and acquiring more and more will bring happiness. As believers we know that what we truly desire is to live in the fullness of the blessings of Christ, and one absolute way for attaining that is by living in the truth of Jesus’ words as recalled by Paul: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Study/Meditation: On what premise should a Christian base his or her desire to give away earthly things? (Hint: Who actually “owns” everything?) How will this act then bring joy to the believer?
*Father, thank You for giving me all the things that I enjoy while living on this earth. Help me see and move in the opportunities You give me to bless others with what You have first given to me. Amen.
It is a Christian’s duty and pleasure to give to the needs of the saints. #giving
Romans 15:25-27 “At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 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.”
Serving our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we see face to face is often much easier than serving our brothers and sisters whom we may never meet. If my earthly brother came to me for money, I would have no problem giving it to him. However, would I so readily give that same money to my spiritual brother in another land whom I have never met? Paul reminds us here of three very important principles that apply to our spiritual family: 1) They are our family because we share the blood of Christ, 2) We owe them support as our family members, and 3) It should please us to give to them in their times of need. These principles apply to our spiritual family with whom we attend church as well as those who attend churches thousands of miles from us, either in our countries or in others. We should do so with glad hearts just as Paul says the Macedonians and Achaeans were pleased to contribute to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. What a truly magnificent blessing we have received in having been grafted into the family of God. How can we but exult in that blessing by doing anything less than generously expressing love for one another in service and material blessings?
Study/Meditation: Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. How does Paul describe the churches in Macedonia? How can you apply these principles in your life today?
*Father, thank You for my family, for both my local and international brothers and sisters. Help me to see where I need to be generous in supporting them. Thank you for giving me those opportunities. Amen.
The power of the Gospel brings diverse peoples together in fellowship. #church
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.”
The language in these verses demonstrates how much Paul wanted to see the Roman Christians. Indeed, they had been on his mind for many years, so much so that he had been planning for a long time to find a way to come to see them. Thirty years before this when Paul was known as Saul, he wouldn’t have wanted to have anything to do with these Roman Gentiles. His prejudices against them ran deep, and the feelings were completely mutual. However, both of them had been changed, they had been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that now these Gentile and Jewish Christians and this Jewish Pharisee wanted very much to fellowship with one another and spend time together. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel. It brings people together who most likely would have never chosen to hang out together before, and now that they share the love of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through Christ, they fellowship together and love one another. That’s why churches are made up of such a diverse group of people, drawn together in the common bond of fellowship by the shared love of the King. It’s not because they root for the same football team or wear the same clothing or go to the same school. The bond we seek with one another as the body of believers is because we share Christ.
Study/Meditation: Why is it so important that believers become active members in the church? How might you answer someone who claims that his beliefs are “personal” so he doesn’t need to be in church?
*Father, thank You for grafting me into Your body and thereby giving me such an amazing family. Amen.
God calls all Christians into missions. #missions
Romans 15:20, 22 “Thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation….This is why I have so often been hindered in coming to you.”
Praying for missions and contributing to missions is an appropriate prayer within the church body. However, when we pray that God send missionaries into the mission’s field, do we pray with the mindset that He may send us or maybe our children or grandchildren? Would we pray so fervently if, in fact, we knew that the possible vessel God were intending to use was us or someone we loved? Oftentimes our focus is our own comfort or the safety of our loved ones, and the thought of stepping outside of those places is frightening and avoided. However, Paul demonstrated the mindset that all Christians must cultivate when praying for the mission field and our roles in it. The end game is not our comfort or our even our safety. The end game is proclaiming God to all nations, tribes, and tongues. Certainly, God does not call everyone into foreign missions, but He does call all Christians to be missionaries. Are you willing to pray with complete abandon that He send you or someone you love wherever He desires?
Study/Meditation: How is it that all Christians are called into missions? How has God called you to this area?
*Father, send me wherever You will, and give me the courage to go. Amen.
Why are Christians to be missions-minded? #missions
Romans 15:19b-21 “…so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’”
Romans 15 is probably the most missions-minded chapter in all of God’s Word, and Paul states the reason why we should be likewise mission-minded. He writes that he has preached from Israel up through Asia Minor and Greece and into northern Italy, and having exhausted that territory, he would then move into Spain. Why? Certainly not because everyone in that area had been saved, but because they had been reached. He refers to the prophet’s words in Isaiah when he makes the proclamation of what God will do, and basically Paul is saying, “I intend to be right in the middle of God’s work.” We do not go on mission trips or support missionaries or become missionaries primarily for the sake of the church or the preaching or even the people we wish to reach. Whereas those are some of the secondary reasons, they are not the primary reason. We are to be missions-minded and missions-oriented because God has declared that He will be proclaimed throughout the world, and He will make His glory known to all peoples. Like Paul, we, as a church, must say, “We will be a part of what God has declared He will do.”
Study/Meditation: How is God calling you to be a part of His declared work to all peoples?
*Father, help me to see what part I am to play in Your work in this world. Give me wisdom and courage to carry out my particular part of this mission. Amen.