Before Paul was saved he had a large program before him. In his mighty energy, he had undertaken a task that never was surpassed in purpose by another. He had determined to wipe out the Name of Jesus from the earth “as a man wipes a dish and turns it upside down.”
In the carrying out of that program he journeyed to Damascus and on the way was arrested by the very One he thought was living only in the mind of the hated Nazarenes. What a discovery to find that Man the Lord of Glory. He never got over it. From that moment his program changed. His purpose was now to fill the earth with the sweet savour of the precious name of Jesus. We have a brief account of his labours for Christ in the verses before us. We will divide them into three sections.
The Preaching of the Gospel vs. 17-25.
In telling of the triumphs of the gospel Paul is careful to take no credit to himself. He will tell “of those things which Christ has wrought by me.” In very few words he takes us over the entire area where he had made known the grace of God in Christ.
He begins at Jerusalem. That was where Jesus died and rose again and where the light first shone. From there it shone out reaching the regions “round about” even unto Illyricum. It was left for Luke to give us in detail the story of how Paul “fully preached the gospel of Christ” in Judea and Syria reaching even into Europe.
Illyricum was the highland seaboard which looked across the Adriatic to the long eastern side of Italy. Thus far Paul had gone and then he had looked longingly out beyond that sea. Oh, to reach the souls out yonder where the rays of the gospel had not yet penetrated.
Paul had the true missionary spirit. The spirit that has led many thousands since to leave hearth and home, and “launch out into the deep” with the gospel net. How much overlapping of gospel effort there is at home. It would be good for some of us to take Paul’s motto for our own. “Yea so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.”
Indeed this very thing had kept Paul from coming to Rome, for the gospel had been preached there. But beyond Rome lay the vast untouched fields of Central and Eastern Europe. Paul looks off to the distant land of Spain and says “When I go there I will pay you a visit on my way. But first I go to Jerusalem.”
The Providing for the Poor, vs 25-29
While Paul’s perspective took in the “regions beyond,” his heart was with the saints and he eagerly seized the opportunity of visiting the Jewish believers that was afforded him by the offering taken up in the Gentile assemblies. He would take this loving token of Christian fellowship to the poor saints in Judea. He makes no appeal to the saints at Rome to help in this. He simply tells how other Gentile assemblies had been pleased to make this contribution and it was only right that they should. The Gentiles had been enriched spiritually as having become partakers of their spiritual things, hence it was their duty to minister to the Jewish believers of their carnal things.
The Petition for Prayer, vs. 30-33.
We have likened this portion to a “missionary meeting.” Paul has given an account of his labour and impressed the saints with their responsibility. Now he closes with a request for prayer. He asks for fellowship in prayer that he may be delivered from the unbelieving Jews; may be welcomed by the saints, may be enabled to reach them in Rome and be refreshed together with them when he came.
All these requests were granted, Paul was welcomed by the saints, and delivered from the rage of the unbelieving nation. He reached Rome and the Christians there, but in a way very different from what he expected. Two long years lay between him and his goal, during which the stirring events recorded in the Acts followed in rapid succession, after which came the long weary wait in a prison in Caesarea followed by a stormy passage thru raging seas and finally “his own hired lodgings” in Rome.
1. State briefly the purpose of Paul’s life.
2. What was Paul’s mission to Jerusalem?
3. Which chapters in Acts give the story of Paul’s journey to Rome?
4. Where did Paul purpose going from Rome?