About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 15:23 - 33 

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Paulís Plan To Visit Rome (ch. 15:23 Ė 33)          


Paul had collected money from the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia for the Christian Jews in Jerusalem who were extremely poor, probably due to both Roman and Jewish persecution.  In verses 23 and 24 we note that Paul, after giving these Jewish Christianís a gift of money, he would work his way west once again.  He was hoping to visit Spain and preach the gospel there to those who had never heard the gospel.  On his way he would spend some time in Rome with the Christians there.  He would also hopefully receive some assistance, which I believe might have included financial support, for his trip beyond Rome to Spain.  Paul's goal was to visit Spain.  Some people say he reached Spain, while other say he didn't.  I don't really know if Paul got to Spain or not before he was executed.  There is no New Testament evidence that he ever reached Spain.  However, there is some extra-Biblical support for the idea that he did reach Spain and on his return to the east was arrested, imprisoned, and executed by Emperor Nero.


Paul's heart desire was to visit the believers in Rome , but he felt compelled to help the poor saints in Jerusalem.  This was quite a commitment.  Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, which was roughly a 1500 mile trip to the west.  The easiest thing for him to do would have been to just head west to Rome.  He didn't do that.  He headed southeast to Jerusalem.  If you consider the trip to Jerusalem from Corinth by land and sea and then back west to Spain via Rome, that would have been roughly 3000 miles, twice the distance from Corinth to Rome.  You can thus see that giving financial assistance to the Jerusalem saints was a major sacrifice for him.  


In verse 25 we see the confirmation that Paul at this point in time was on his way to Jerusalem with the gift for the poor saints.  Paul had lots on his plate, so to speak.  He wanted to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it, he wanted to encourage the believers in Rome and elsewhere, and he wanted to financially help the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  


In verse 26 we see Paul mentions Macedonia and Achaia.  In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of how generous the Macedonian Christians were when it came to giving.  They were very poor people, but out of their extreme poverty, they gave lots to the poor saints in Jerusalem.  Paul actually uses them as an example to spur the Corinthians on in their giving.  See 2 Corinthians 8. 


Verse 27 is interesting and important.  Paul states that the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessing.  Paul has already made the point that the Gentiles have come to a Jewish Messiah.  If not for the Jews, there would be no salvation for the Gentiles.  That being the case, the Gentiles should be willing to share with the poor Christian Jews in Jerusalem material blessings.  This is important because we see the blessing of salvation that the Gentiles received from God was actually a Jewish blessing.  It was a blessing first to the Jews.  The Gentiles simply got to receive the blessings originally offered to the Jews.  This shows the Gentile Christian world that their heritage is found in Jewish culture, that is, godly Jewish culture.  Things haven't changed in this respect.  I believe that Gentile Christians should support their Jewish brothers in Jesus in whatever way they can. 


Paul goes as far to say that the Gentile believers "owe" this to the Jewish believers.  It is the obligation of the Gentile believers to help the Jewish believers.  Beyond this, I would also suggest that the Abrahamic Covenant might come into play in this matter when it states, "He that blesses Israel will be blessed and he that curses Israel will be cursed (Genesis 12:3).      


In verse 28 Paul states his intentions again to visit Spain.  Once he delivers the money to the poor saints in Jerusalem he would head west to Spain. Once again, there is debate among scholars whether Paul actually got to Spain or not.  


What we should note at this time is that Paul did
give the money to the saints in  Jerusalem and he did end up in Rome, but not as a free man.  His good and sacrificial gesture to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem got him arrested.  He ended up in Rome as a prisoner.  You can read the story in Acts 21:17 and following.  There you will read that after the elders at Jerusalem thanked Paul for the gift of money, their ill-advised, and I'd even call it deceptive advice, had Paul arrested.  Many of us would have simply given up.  You do a good thing, and in this case the good thing was one huge sacrifice, and it all backfires on you.  Instead of going to Rome and preaching the gospel as a free man, he went to Rome as a prisoner, but, as predicted at his conversion in Acts 9, he did get to proclaim the gospel to the leaders of the Roman Empire and most likely to Nero himself.               


Paul says in verse 29 that when he would eventually arrive in Rome he would come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.  This means that Jesus would have given him much to pass on to these Roman Christians.  You can be sure that Paul was not boasting, or merely hoping to be a blessing.  More than any other man, Jesus would use Paul with all sorts of miracles in the proclamation of the gospel and the edifying of the saints.  These Roman Christian should have been anticipating Paul's visit to them with great expectation.  The only thing here is that when Paul made this statement, I don't believe he had any idea of how he would actually end up in Rome.  However, he might have had hints of how he'd get to Rome because of all of the prophetic warnings of danger and imprisonment that were given to him by various believers in various cities.                    


Did Paul end up in Rome with great blessings?  I say he did.  If you read Acts 28 you will note that in house arrest, people came to him on a daily basis.  From morning to evening he preached and taught the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ to all who came to visit him.  He was used to going to the people to preach but now the people came to him.  House arrest might well have been a time of rest for Paul as he proclaimed the name of his Lord.        


In verse 30 Paul asks for prayer in his struggles.  Preaching the gospel for Paul was not like preaching the gospel for many preachers today.  He went through many struggles.  These are well accounted for in his second letter to the church at Corinth.  Paul did not have an easy life.  He did not come to Jesus and live happily ever after.  He did not live the good life that Prosperity Preachers preach today.  His life was one huge struggle as He performed the will of God.  This was actually told to him would be the case when he gave his life to Jesus as seen in Acts 9.     


In verses 31 to 33 Paul asked the Romans to pray for him that he would be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea , and that this gift would be acceptable to the Christians there.  All of Paulís prayers seemed to be answered but not necessarily as he might have expected.  The Jewish Christians did receive the gift joyfully as seen in Acts. 21:17 to 20.  Paulís prayer concerning him being kept safe from the unbelievers in  Judea did not get answered as he might have hoped.  He was attacked by the Jews that caused a great riot in Jerusalem.  As a result of the riot the Roman soldiers arrested Paul (Acts 21:27 Ė 36).  Another part of Paulís prayer did get answered.  He did end up in Rome, but as a prisoner, where he was in house arrest for two years (Acts 28:16 - 30).  Some say that Paul was released from this house arrest in Rome and did make one more missionary trip to Spain as he hoped.   They believe the letters to Timothy and Titus were written from Spain.  Others say he went back to Macedonia.  In 64 AD Paul was put to death by the Roman authorities.   


The Romans tortured and killed Christians.  Sometimes they would wrap them up in animal skins and feed them to dogs.  Sometimes they would burn them on poles, making human torches of them, giving light to their gardens in the evening.  Tradition holds with confidence that Paul was executed by the sword in 64 AD.


Concerning Nero, Emperor of Rome at the time, it is said that he may have caused the fire of Rome that spread through the city on July 18 and 19 of 64 AD.  If true, this is an example of the kind of man he was.  This was the man to whom Paul told the Christians to submit to in Romans 13:1.  It is said that when he was out of town he had the city set on fire so he could rebuild it in his own way.  Approximately one third of the city was next to destroyed, while another third was heavily damaged.  It is said that Paul was soon killed after this fire for his faith.   


Verse 33 ends this chapter with Paul saying, "The God of peace be with you all."  God is a God of peace, but that being said, not all aspects of a Christian's life will be peaceful.  The God of peace would lead Paul into a very unpeaceful riot, arrest, imprisonment, and death.          



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