Notes for Nov. 12, 2017
Business letters: many ancient letters found from the 1st century would mention travel plans and trips. We do that today, but imagine that a trip from Jerusalem to Athens would take weeks rather than a few hours.
“I hope to be helped” or “assisted”: Paul is using a word or phrase that would imply that the Romans would help cover the expenses for his trip. In other words, he is talking about financial help. This would be an expression of hospitality and one that the Roman church probably would have felt to be a great honor. Hospitality was an important part of the culture and still is in the Middle East today. Strangers even will go out of their way to cover the needs and expenses of a traveler.
Spain: Paul had a desire to spread the Gospel where no one had heard about Jesus. Thus, Spain, the furthest point West in the Roman empire was in Paul’s sights. One Greek geographer, Strabo, described Spain as “the end of the earth” with India being the end of the earth to the East. As far as we know, Paul never made it to Spain, but eventually the church reached Spain in later generations, probably in the 3rd century AD.
“the poor”: In Paul’s day, the pious Jews in Jerusalem were often called, “the poor”, in part because they were. In this case, Paul is calling upon the wealthier Romans to give aid to the believers in need in Jerusalem.
Sending money to Jerusalem: In Judaism this was a common practice – to send money to the Jews in the Jewish capital where the temple was located. In this case, Paul is asking Gentile converts and Jewish Christians so send money to Jerusalem to the Christians there who were in need.
Churches identified by cities: It’s interesting to note that Paul and other early Christians identified local churches by their city (not their denomination). Thus, our church might be considered to be part of the Church of Washington, DC, for example. This provides a sense of unity and could be a good example to follow even here in divided DC.
Corporate Responsibility: In verse 27 we see the early church’s sense of corporate responsibility and the fact that the Gentile Christians “owed” a debt to the Jewish people for passing on the truths of God and eventually bringing the Messiah into the world. The church is one big family and thus the focus is not so much on just our local church but on the church as a whole.
Prayer for protection and fruitful ministry: Paul asks the Romans to pray for his ministry in Jerusalem and also for protection from the Jewish religious leaders, Roman leaders and anyone else who may be seeking to harm him and the church in Judea.
What does Paul mean that he no longer has room to work in some of these regions? What does this say about Paul’s calling?
What is the calling on your life for sharing the Gospel with others? Who are the unreached people living around you?
Why would Paul have the desire to go to Spain, “the ends of the earth” for the Roman world?
Where might God be giving you a desire to go to share the good news of Christ?
Paul never made it to Spain. Why do you think God gave Paul a desire to go to Spain, but never allowed him to go there?
What is Paul asking the Roman church to do for him? Why would he ask them for financial support?
How are the churches of Macedonia and Achaia an example to the church in Rome? What can we learn from these churches?
Is our giving centered only on local church or are we intentionally seeking to give to the church at-large where there are needs? What percentage of our giving is focused on our own church versus the church at-large?
What ways did the Jewish people bless the Gentile Christians?
How does Paul see the connection between Jewish and Gentile Christians?
Why would Gentiles “owe” their Jewish brethrern?
What is the full measure of blessing in Christ? What does that look like?
What does Paul ask the Romans to do them as he serves the church in Jerusalem? What can we learn about how to pray for others, other churches and for others involved in ministry – in the workplace, church and home?
Examine your own giving and prayer life. Ask the Lord to show you ways that you may change what you are doing?
As a small group, consider asking the Lord if there might be a special project, mission, person-in-need that you could corporately serve and give to financially and pray for.