Read ROMANS 1:8–13
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
New International Version (NIV)
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“As God moves people to cities, reaching the world with the gospel means cities must be our missions priority. We need a gospel movement in cities around the world” (Tim Keller). This was certainly Paul’s priority.
Rome was the heart of the empire. The emperor was there, proclaiming himself to be the divine savior of the world who had brought peace. Rome was the center of the power that had crucified Jesus, but a Christian church had been established there. Paul kept praying for these people as part of his service to God as a Gospel minister. He also longed to visit this city of a million people, but recognized that it was God and not Paul who would determine when that would happen. He knew how often his personal desires—and even what he thought were strategic plans—were overruled by God (Acts 16:6–10). In all our planning we must be ready for God to redirect us (cf. James 4:13–17).
Paul saw Rome as part of the Gentile world to which he was called to minister. He wanted to be a blessing to the Roman Christians, but he also recognized that he would be encouraged when he saw their faith. Here is the correct relationship between Christians who serve God in different settings. Our desire to serve others should always be tempered by an expectation that we will also receive from them. Paul saw the Romans as true brothers and sisters in Christ with whom he would enjoy an enriching mutual fellowship.
Paul looked for fruit in Rome. He always wanted to see new people responding to the Gospel and he had the expectation that his visit would be a stimulus to evangelism. But was there other fruit he expected from the Romans? In 15:24 he specifically asks for help with his mission to Spain. The Spanish mission would take Paul to a country with particular challenges linguistically and culturally. At the least he would need Latin speakers to assist him. All who are engaged in mission need brothers and sisters who can help them.
What have you received from brothers and sisters from other cultures and countries?