Saturday, July 09, 2011

Today I want to look at the first journey that Paul was planning at the time he wrote Romans.

1.  A Journey to Jerusalem

In the winter of 57, Paul felt that his work in the eastern part of the Roman Empire was complete.  He writes in Romans 16:19: ‘from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ.’  In 16:23, he states that there is now no role for him in these regions.  Except that is for one.

Paul has for some years been collecting money from his Gentile churches to take as a gift to the Christians in Jerusalem.  As he puts it to the Romans: ‘At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.’  (Romans 16:25-26).  Paul didn’t, however, see this simply as a charitable gesture.  For him, this was an expression of fellowship between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and a sign of unity between the two branches of the Church.

Incredible though it may seem, Paul was worried that this generous collection and ‘sign of peace’ would be rejected by the Church in Jerusalem.  He writes to the Roman Christians: ‘I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints …’ (Romans 16:30-31)

In these three months, it is likely that Paul was reflecting on how his ministry had gone now that this chapter had come to an end.  Inevitably, he would remember the opposition he had encountered so far, the arguments he had had and be thinking about the questions he would be asked in Jerusalem especially by those who were suspicious of him and his message.  The letter to the Romans is the outcome of this reflection.

No comments: