Sermon: Paul’s Plans and Ours Romans 15:22-33

Paul’s Plans and Ours

Romans 15:22-33


Truth Taught – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)
Prayer

Romans 15:20–33 (ESV)

20 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, 21 but as it is written,

       “Those who have never been told of him will see,

and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 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, 24 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. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For 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. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

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, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

  1. Gospel Passion

20 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, 21 but as it is written,

       “Those who have never been told of him will see,

and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.

23 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, 24 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.

I haven’t come to see you yet because I have had more important things to do. I’m not sure but I think this would probably only work for Paul. My desire to come to see you has not been fulfilled because I have a greater desire. What was his greater desire? To preach the Gospel and plant churches where Christ has not been named. For Paul, God’s call was to be a frontier missionary. God used him in a mighty way to begin Christianity because most places Paul went were places where Christ’s name had not been heard. He desired to visit Rome, but God had different plans for Paul. Priority number one was for Paul to plant churches where there were none.

Now, he believed that he could, at some point, visit them because, as far as he knew, his pioneer missionary efforts had been fruitful, and churches were started where there were none.

since I no longer have any room for work in these regions

24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain,

He’s at it again. I’ll come to visit you because I have no more work where I’m at, and you’re on the way to my next missionary journey.

While it may sound a little awkward, Paul was right. God had called him to a task. It was a hard task, one only he could do. His work didn’t involve visiting with friends for long. As much as he longed to see them in Rome, God had other things in mind.

In order to go to Spain (Paul’s next adventure) he needed to stop on his way to visit with those at the Church in Rome to be refreshed by them and to lend them aid. He needed resources to go the Spain. These were plans Paul had made but would they come to pass? I think they will but not in Paul’s timing and not in the way he thinks.

How do we react when our plans don’t work out like we think they should? Are we comfortable living in the realm of God’s sovereignty? Are we at peace with God while we wait? How we respond shows us a lot about what we believe.

Paul wanted to go to Rome to visit his friends, but he was hindered. Who hindered him? God did. God had other plans and God always wins. Are you flexible when God takes you a different direction than you thought? Do you try to dig your heels in and make something happen even if, at least for now, God’s desire is different than yours? How do you respond? Paul had his desires, but he submitted to God’s plan which was far better for those He would save than if Paul just always did what he wanted to do.

If we study the end of the Book of Acts, we discover something very strange. God did eventually take Paul to Rome, just not the way he thought. In Acts 25 Paul appeals to Caesar in order to escape certain death. We all know where Caesar lived, right? Rome of course. So, in a twist of God’s providence the Apostle Paul is actually escorted to Rome by Centurion soldiers. In Acts 27 he sets sail for Rome, he endures the great storm and shipwreck and finally, months later arrives in Rome. Things didn’t work out the way he thought. He arrived as a prisoner. However, as a prisoner he was able to share the Gospel with the Roman soldiers. Here’s part of the twist that God worked in Paul’s life. Churches were started in those regions where there were none. They were started by Paul. So, now it seems God’s strategy had changed. Rather than using Paul to go and plant churches himself, He would have Paul chained and in prison and under house arrest so that he could share with those Roman soldiers who would then be dispatched to all regions of the Roman Empire. They would take the Gospel with them and they would, in fact, start churches and help in the churches that were already established.

Philippians 1:12–14 (ESV)

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Things don’t always work out the way we had hoped. But we must try to always remember God is doing something far bigger than us and far greater than we would ever dream or imagine.

We must seek to have Gospel Passion . . .

  1. Gospel Obligation

25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For 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. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

Here is something we might not think about, but it is just as important to remember and help those who bring the Gospel to you than it is to take the Gospel to others. This is Paul’s point here in this section.

He’s heading to Jerusalem, a place where Christ has already been named, not for proclamation of the Gospel but to deliver the much-needed aid to those poverty stricken Christians there. We might expect Paul to drop everything to head to Spain to preach the Gospel to those there but instead he is going the opposite direction. Why? Those who were engaged in Gospel ministry were suffering due to the oppression in Jerusalem. They needed help, and Paul was not about to go off to some far away land when those who had helped him needed help. He cared for those who were instrumental in helping him grow.

27 For 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.

Here’s the way God looks at it. Let’s focus first on the verses before us. The logic goes like this . . . The Gentile Christians share in the Gospel (spiritual blessings) that came from or started in Jerusalem with the Christian Jews. As the message spread to other lands and other people, all who benefited spiritually from the Gospel owe or are indebted to the Christians in Jerusalem. They were not specifically paying the debt to the Jewish Christians but to God.

The Apostle writes earlier about this in:

1 Corinthians 16:1–4 (ESV)

16 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

2 Corinthians 8:1–7 (ESV)

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Why is it right to say that it was just as important for Paul to go to Jerusalem with this aid than it was for him to go to Spain with the Gospel? As you read further in 2 Corinthians you really begin to see that the reason this was vital was it showed in a very real and tangible way that the Gentiles (those in other lands where Paul had already preached) and the Jews in Jerusalem were one in Christ. This was a picture of unity within the Universal Church. It was even a fulfillment of prophecy. Many theologians see this aid as fulfillment of Isaiah 60:

Isaiah 60:4–7 (ESV)

   Lift up your eyes all around, and see;

they all gather together, they come to you;

       your sons shall come from afar,

and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.

   Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

       because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,

the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

   A multitude of camels shall cover you,

the young camels of Midian and Ephah;

all those from Sheba shall come.

       They shall bring gold and frankincense,

and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.

   All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you;

the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;

       they shall come up with acceptance on my altar,

and I will beautify my beautiful house.

So, we see that Gospel obligation is to those who are currently engaged in ministry. We owe God first and those working to share and teach the Gospel second. We are indebted to give material blessings to those who have given us spiritual blessings. For us we start with the local church. The aid Paul took to the Church in Jerusalem went to that local church first.

  1. Gospel Prayer

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, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

In a very real sense things are not working out like Paul had envisioned. Here’s what he told them:

28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

Is it possible that he came to them in this way chained to a Roman guard? Did he really come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ? I think he did but just not the way he thought.

Notice what he asks them to pray . . .

31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

Did he arrive with joy chained to a Roman soldier? Is it possible to have joy in this world? What about when things are completely backwards according to your plans, hopes, and dreams? The Christian’s secret to a happy life is learning to not just put up with God’s providence but to embrace it.

Most scholars are divided on what happened next in Paul’s life. Did he ever get to Spain or did he die in Rome?

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. It was the Gospel that hindered him from coming to visit Rome. Here, in another twist of God’s providence we read at the end of the Book of Acts:

Acts 28:30–31 (ESV)

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Whenever God acts, he acts in a way that pleases him. God is never constrained to do a thing that he despises. He is never backed into a corner where his only recourse is to do something he hates to do. He does whatever he pleases—John Piper

Embrace God’s plan for you and find joy in this life.

 

 

 

 

*Resources Used:

Romans by Christopher Ash

Romans by Douglas Moo

Romans by John Stott

Romans by John MacArthur

Outline of Romans by Steel and Thomas

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