#2: A Commentary on Romans 1:8–15
To learn how and why I am writing this small commentary on Romans, see this former post. Now for Romans 1:8–15:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 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. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
v. 8: Paul gives thanks not for the popular, wealthy, good-looking, best on social media, most polite, smartest, most theological, coolest or hippest Christians, instead he gives genuine thanks for “for all of you.” What a word for our times. We croon and crowd over those who make us feel a certain way or those we wish to be associated with. This has cost. To favor some will always come to the neglect of others. This is a terrible way to live, yet it common even in the local church and even local to my heart! James warns us as such, “But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” (James 2:9) I am so glad that Christ sought the lowly, uncouth, and despicable… me. (1st Cor. 1:27–29) Remember, Christ saves those who have nothing to offer, not because of any latent gift, talent, popularity, or gleam of goodness, Jesus draws near to us in our unholiness. My value to God is His own value reflected. Humans created in the image of God gives us dignity, a derived dignity from God himself. (Genesis 1:27) That’s the specialness of humans and the specialness that makes us supremely equal to one another no matter our functionality. Our beauty, brains, health, productivity, family, wealth, status, or personality don’t make us valuable and worthwhile. Our worth is settled not by our productivity or contribution to society, rather we have value beasue God created us. We are the crown of creation made in God’s own image! To favor the more likable or rich over the less likable or poor, is to deny the image of God and thus deny God. It’s not a matter of fairness, niceness, or civility. It’s a holy matter.
The devil has twin schemes here. First, to make convince your sin has rendered you completely without worth. Not true, remember you are in God’s image and redemption in Christ solves sin’s ruining. Second, because you believe you have no worth, the devil tempts you to degrade others verbally, physically, mentally judging, or entire society’s degrading through sexism, racism, classism, ageism, etc. over others fundamentally denying their equality of worthiness in an attempt to regain your own. Resist the devil’s schemes! Know your worth and give equality, diginity and respect to tothers with great generosity! Be just!
“because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” Can we pray this audacious prayer? Not that we would be famous but our faith would be? Our thankful faith for each and every member of church? A faith that is radically unlike the world’s valuing of persons? Let’s brag on the faith of faithful friends. Celebrity news and magazines exist because people are not sure what else to talk about. The church has something to talk about. We are to brag on the goodness God is bringing about through one another. Imagine a local church where encouragement was so rampant that seeking the approval of others seemed ludicrous because of the deep, regular, and unsolicited encouragement of others was so plentiful.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-
v. 9–11: Paul is patient even with his godly desires. He has wanted, prayed, hoped, and tried to come to Rome but hasn’t been able to yet. Paul has the right motives to impart spiritual good, and later he’ll share his desire to visit Rome is also as a stop over to move on to wild further fields of mission work. Yet he has been delayed and in fact, he’ll go to Rome but in chains (Acts 28). There’s a message here for our longing and delays. Years. Fears. Tears. And sometimes receiving what was longed for in an unexpected way. Paul will die in Rome. Far from his birthplace in Cilicia or the churches he helped plant.
Sometimes our desires are fulfilled right away, sometimes after a long season, sometimes in ways we wouldn’t have asked for and sometimes not at all. There’s a giving of thanks for desires granted. And there’s a less talked about giving thanks in the specialness of praising God with longing kept in open hands even in and through death. We must remember death is no longer the end. Everything broken will be whole. Our longings are not silly but precious. They are the hopes of grace in a sin-racked world. Sometimes the grace comes, that marriage, baby, house, job, travel, missions, friendship, salvation in a lost family member or friend, and sometimes the grace does not. We must take our longings and desires to God in prayer believing he is cultivating them no matter the ends. (Psalm 37:4)
12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
v. 12: Beware of the ‘teacher’ who does not eagerly wish to learn, receive, and be encouraged. There’s always a mutually in believers sharing, loving, and teaching. Our teachers need us, we need teachers. Let teachers be humans and teachers (always weird to rebuke myself in public!) need to be absolutely ready to observe, listen, and receive.
13 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. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
v. 13–15: Be under obligation for the lost. It is a holy matter to let the yoke of obligation to preach the gospel rest on you. The burden is light, because salvation indeed ‘belongs to the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9), but the responsibility to preach, share, live, and tell about the glorious goodness of God found in Christ Jesus is weighty, life-altering, and constant matter. Jesus died to save sinners, if you are a sinner than you are pre-qualified for his reign of grace in your life.
I. Thankful for all, v.8a
II. Including the some, v.8a
III. Famous Forever, v. 8b
I. A Moving Mission, v. 8
II. Momentary Delays, v. 9–13
III. Eagerness for the End, v. 14–15
I. Long Longings, v. 10–11
II. Things to Long for, v. 12
III. Intentions for More, v. 13