“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”–Romans 1:8-17
During the past almost six months, I’ve been fortunate enough to have three of my stories picked up by the Associated Press and published in The Washington Times, a newspaper in D.C. It’s nothing terribly special, but it is nice to know someone thought I wrote a good story well enough to be read outside of our paper’s coverage area.
As nice as that is, I am struck by Paul’s first sentence to the Roman church in this passage. Their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” My stories on a retiring sheriff, the state of small rural towns in an Arkansas county and one man’s work to remodel his dream home may have reached a handful of people online, but these people’s faith in the Lord Jesus is known around the world. That’s a heck of a lot better, and it is the first of three “vital lessons” we learn from Paul in this passage.
As I wrote in my previous Wednesday Wisdom post, the world is obsessed with a legacy, and that’s because it’s natural for us to want to make a difference. As Christians, though, we should strive for a legacy such as this…that our faith in the Lord Jesus would be known around the world. That our love for Him, and how that love pushes us out to share the gospel and live godly lives that benefit others around the world, would be known throughout the world should be our high aim as we seek to glorify God.
If we want to be known for something worthwhile, let it be our love for Jesus.
Next, Paul tells the church he wants to see them so he can “impart some spiritual gift” to them, which makes sense. Paul is the leading missionary in early church history and wrote 13 books of the New Testament. When Paul calls and says he wants to stop by, you get a room ready. But it’s what Paul says next that has always struck me about this passage:
“that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
While discussing this passage, a friend of mine once said that if anybody doesn’t need the help of other believers, it’s Paul. Paul, you would think, has it all together. Paul is the one who encourages others. And yet, we know that Paul struggles with sin like everyone else (Rom. 7), and that he is imprisoned for his faith (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon were all written from a jail cell), and that he faces critiques and accusations from the church at Corinth, where some draw attention to his perceived lack of boldness when he comes in person and others seemingly refuse to provide for their pastor’s needs. Paul certainly needs encouragement throughout his life.
We all need the encouragement of Christian brothers and sisters. During a six-month battle with depression in early 2014, words can’t explain how life-sustaining my brothers in Christ were. There were days where I wondered how I could just keep moving spiritually, how I was going to make it, but spending time with brothers in Christ, reflecting on spiritual things, talking about God’s Word, reminding each other of the promises in Christ, and just having friends to talk about what’s going on in life with, was vital. I would not have made it through that time, and wouldn’t have made it throughout my move to Jonesboro, without having godly friends.
You won’t survive the Christian life on your own. To not be connected to a church, to not have a group of fellow believers holding you accountable, praying for you, encouraging you, talking about God and His Word with you, is to take steps toward spiritual suicide. It is to refuse one of the greatest helps God gives us, a gift that He gave us with His blood, as the church is formed as a result of what Christ has done. If you aren’t connected to a body of believers and don’t have close Christian friends, you will not make it as a Christian. You will not endure to the end.
Lastly, Paul tells the Roman church why he is eager to see them. He is eager to see them because he is eager to preach the gospel. Paul recognizes the need for people in Rome to hear of Jesus, whether they be Greek or “barbarian,” or non-Greek, or whether they are wise or foolish. Paul is driven by the gospel; he’s not ashamed of the gospel, because he knows the power of the gospel.
The gospel, as Paul says, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” It is more than just words, it is more than just a slogan, and it is more than a trend. The gospel is the only hope you and I have of standing before a holy and righteous God. It is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come and lived perfectly on our behalf and died in our place so we could be forgiven, made perfect and made new in Him. It is the news that makes the devil flee and our hearts rejoice. It is the song that we will sing forever. And as God wields it through the witness of His church, it has the power to raise people from the grave, to save lost sinners and to captivate the hearts of men and women, Jew and Gentile, from every tribe and tongue for all eternity. So how could we ever be ashamed of it?
It is the gospel that is “the power of God” for our salvation, not our works, not our church membership, not even our baptism. It is the gospel. We must cling to the gospel, more specifically, we must cling to the Christ revealed by the gospel. We live by faith, as Habakkuk found out. Each day, we trust and rest in the grace of God. We trust in the goodness of God as we seek to obey Him in love. We trust in the faithfulness of God no matter what life brings.
And as we live by faith, as we rest in Christ and enjoy Christ and live for Christ, our faith will be known the world over, and we will not hesitate to join together and encourage each other to “run the race” God has for us.
Lord, may we seek to have a faith that is known worldwide. May we seek to encourage one another in Christ as we all strive to follow you. May we keep the gospel at the center of our lives. May we not forget that we live by faith, not by works, not by sight, but by faith. May we be faithful to you as you have been so faithful to us.