Scripture reading: Romans 15:22-33
Sermon Title: Paul’s Travel Plans
Sermon Text: Romans 15:22-29
Key verse: Romans 15:29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
Journey to Rome
Journey to Jerusalem
Journey to Spain
Five insights about missions from Paul’s travel plans
This manuscript is provided as a courtesy. It is not always followed word for word during the message. This document is not developed for publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proofread. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipling people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
Our Scripture reading this morning is Romans 15:22-33. We will look at the passage in two sections; the first section is Paul’s travel plans, and the second, which we will look at next week, is Paul’s request for the Roman church to strive with him in prayer for his journeys.
The verses we are looking at this morning, 22-29, describe Paul’s upcoming itinerary.
Paul mentions the journeys out of order. Let’s first understand the order in which Paul is visiting the destinations. As he is writing the letter to the Romans, it is believed Paul is in the city of Corinth. Paul is going to go first from Corinth to Jerusalem (this is a distance of about 800 miles.) When he is done in Jerusalem, he plans to travel to Rome (Jerusalem to Rome is around 1500 miles), and after Rome, he plans on going to Spain (another 800 miles from Rome).
The way we will approach the passage is by looking at each journey separately: Rome, Jerusalem, and then Spain. Each journey serves a different purpose. Our aim today is to gain insight about missions from Apostle Paul’s travel plans.
Paul begins by telling the Romans he has been prevented from coming to them because of his work as a pioneer church planter. In the previous verse, he explained his work is that of one who preaches the gospel in places where Christ has not yet been named. Paul is a church planter.
The church in Rome was planted long before Paul was saved on the Road to Damascus. It is likely to have been started when Jews from Rome were in Jerusalem and were saved on the day of Pentecost.
In the introduction of the letter and here in the closing it is evident Paul truly desires fellowship with the church in Rome and is looking forward, and has been for years, to the mutual encouragement of his visit. It is evidenced in chapter sixteen he knows many of the people in Rome. He thanks God their faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. He has been praying for them unceasingly, and he has been longing to see them so he may bless them spiritually and help establish the church even further.
His mission of planting churches has kept him from visiting. Now that his work is completed in those regions he is making plans to visit. But Paul wants them to know he is a man on a mission. He does want to enjoy their company, but his visit will only be a passing one. The trip to Rome is a stopover on his way to Spain.
Paul hopes to be helped on his way to Spain by the Romans. He uses a Greek verb, translated “helped” in English, which is a term for missionary support. By use of the word, he implies the way the Romans may help is to provide money, food, means of travel, or even companions to accompany Paul as he sets out for Spain.
In verse 29, Paul voices confidence that when he does visit Rome, he will come in the fullness of Christ. What this means is that he will come to them with abundant blessing. As we read Paul’s letters, we see Paul is very confident with his faith and ministry. Many times he talks about being fully convinced or fully persuaded in aspects of doctrine and the Lord’s work. Paul is persuaded that God, who already brought much success and accomplished a great deal through him, will certainly continue to work through Paul as he ministers to the Roman church. Because Paul is confident in the Lord, he is confident his visit to Rome will bear fruit.
Without completing his sentence about enjoying their company, Paul announces his intentions to go to Jerusalem. Paul’s expression of “I am going to Jerusalem” in the Greek is meant to be understood that his departure is imminent. He tells them his intention is to serve the saints in Jerusalem. The Christians of Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Paul encourages the churches to give towards their need and they do. The collection is similar to what we call our benevolent fund offering (which we collect today).
Macedonia is the northern part of modern Greece and consists of cities such as Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Achaia is the southern area of Greece, and the churches there would be those at Athens and Corinth.
The collection for the saints is a major focus of Paul’s third missionary journey. Each letter he wrote during the journey makes mention of the collection. 2 Corinthians has two chapters devoted to the topic (8-9)
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
In the passage in 2 Corinthians Paul tells the Corinth church (southern Greece) that he boasts about their generosity to the Macedonians (northern Greece). It is in this passage we find the principle of giving which most churches use as a principle for giving.
2 Corinthians 9:7 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We learn from Paul the gift from these two regions is given cheerfully. He says Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to give. Paul calls the gift a koinōnia, which literally means a “common share”. In the context it is referring to that which is readily shared. It is an expression of fellowship, unity and intimacy. (Many in our church experienced koinōnia, common sharing, last night as they enjoyed the Guess Who is Coming to Dinner event.)
Perhaps Paul talks of this gift and how the churches in Greece were pleased to give it as an inspiration for the Roman church to give generously toward his mission work in Spain.
The contribution is unique in its significance. Paul says the churches were indebted to give to the Jews. The Gentiles were not legally obligated to give to the collection. Paul speaks of a moral obligation, or perhaps more accurately, a spiritual obligation.
At the beginning of Chapter 9, Paul speaks of the heritage of the Jews. He said to the Israelites belong the adoption as sons, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service and the promises of God. Most importantly, from the Jews, we have the fathers of the faith from whom is the Christ according to the flesh.
It is upon this basis Paul says the Jews of Greece were pleased to minister to the Jews who were impoverished. They believed they were indebted to the Jews because they had the privilege of sharing in the spiritual blessings and inheritance of the Jews. Gentiles are a wild olive branch which is grafted into the Jewish olive tree. Gentiles receive nourishment from Jewish roots. Paul’s point is summed up in saying the Gentiles had no previous ties to the Lord God, yet, they receive all the inheritance.
Paul informs the Romans he intends to deliver personally the contribution to Jerusalem. Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. His bringing the gift to the Jews speaks volumes about the Gentiles’ respect for the Jews and appreciation for their faith and traditions. When he delivers the gift, he may affirm its integrity as well as ensure the gift is understood rightly. Paul also hopes the Jews are willing to receive the contribution. Their receiving the gift helps signify their acceptance of the Gentiles into the fellowship of God’s people.
It is good for the Roman church, which has a mixed Gentile and Jewish population, to hear of this gift from the Gentiles to the Jews. It helps solidify the attitude of which Paul was speaking regarding the two groups accepting one another.
Paul finishes telling of his travel plans by reminding them he will be stopping in Rome on his trip to Spain. Spain is a significant area in the ancient world and had been involved with trade in the region since the time of the Phoenicians. Spain had been conquered by Rome for a couple of hundred years, but it was only organized under Roman government during Paul’s time. Why Paul has chosen Spain as a destination cannot be determined. Perhaps Paul had heard of this and saw Spain as a ripe territory for the Gospel.
We do not know for certain if Paul ever made it to Spain. There is a letter from Clement of Rome dated around 96ad which alludes to the possibility Paul “reached the limits of the West, which would be the Spanish region. We do know history says Paul was imprisoned and beheaded in Rome during the Neronian persecution. It is possible Nero captured and brought Paul back to Rome from Spain.
What we do know is Paul’s intention for going to Spain was to bring the gospel to that region. He clearly made known his aspirations to preach the gospel in places where Christ was not already named. Whether he went or not, we do not know.
What we do know is the Apostle Paul was a man on a mission to make Christ famous in the entire world as he knew it. His ministry is remarkable.
For the balance of our time this morning it seems appropriate to correlate Paul’s travel plans with missions in general. Our goal is to gain insights to help us more fully appreciate those whom we have sent into the mission field for the purpose of the gospel.
The first observation we may make is Paul was continually away from home. Some of us aren’t happy if we can’t sleep in our own beds or sit in our comfortable chairs. In the course of Paul’s journeys, he totaled over 10,000 miles of which these plans make up 3000. As he makes these plans, Paul of Tarsus already has traveled about 7000 miles in his pioneer ministry work.
The missionaries we support, are continually away from home. They miss weddings and funerals and childhood friends and cousins. They think about aging parents or a favorite grandparent or sibling. Missionaries politely eat strange food and live among people with different customs.
Contact our missionaries. They love to hear from people. Realize they are busy and can’t always respond promptly. Send a word of encouragement and let them know you are thankful that they are willing to bring the Gospel to people away from home.
Being a missionary is choosing to be away from home.
We know, from his other letters and from his prayer request to be rescued from those who are disobedient in verse 31, that Paul’s life was one of continual danger. He faced danger of persecution from the Jews who stoned, beat, and pursued him relentlessly. He was in shipwrecks and faced thieves on the road. Missionary work is dangerous.
One of the missionaries we support asks we not name them on our website because they live in fear of being persecuted and don’t want to draw attention to themselves.
We all remember the harrowing story Paul Billings shared as he and his family narrowly escaped ISIS while they were ministering in Iraq. We also can recall Dan Haynes’ story he shared with us a few years ago about how he and his wife narrowly escaping the country of Mali during Muslim upheaval.
As many stories there are about missionaries who escape danger there are stories of missionaries who do not. We know Paul was eventually killed in Rome because he was a minister of the Gospel. There are many missionaries martyred today in the world. Let’s remember our missionaries are always in danger. As Jesus said, “if they hated me, they will hate you also.”
Mission work is dangerous.
Missionaries need financial assistance. Paul desired to go to Spain, and he hoped the Roman church would support his missionary efforts. Missionaries require travel money, food, and housing. They require medical care. Obviously, missionaries need not live in mansions or drive the best cars, but we shouldn’t expect them to eat rice and beans and walk or bicycle everywhere just because they are in ministry. Just like us, they like to travel and see new places. It would be a shame to be a missionary in Egypt and never see the pyramids, or be in Africa and never get to see an elephant.
Life requires money. Missionary work requires money. There is a need for Bibles and space to conduct ministry. There is a need to communicate with the people they minister to, and to their supporters.
Sometimes, as with Paul, there is a need for missionaries to help the poor. Almost all of our missionaries serve in areas where there is destitute poverty. It is difficult to walk past people who you know may not have anything to eat. Missionaries are compassionate and see these needs. They have to know when to help and when not to help. It requires much wisdom and discernment.
Don’t be afraid to ask missionaries if they have monetary needs. It is very uncomfortable for them to bring it up, so it is best if we ask them if their needs are being met and if there is anything we can do to help.
Not all missionaries do the same thing. Even Paul did different kinds of work. Notice each of Paul’s journeys served a different purpose. His journey to Jerusalem was to bear a gift of benevolence from the Gentiles to the Jews. His trip to Rome was for the purpose of giving and receiving encouragement and to further establish the church, and hopefully, receive to support for his trip to Spain. The trip to Spain was for the purpose of preaching the Gospel and planting churches.
Our missionaries do different types of work. Danny and Wendy are planting a church in Serbia. Sammy and Nicole are training up pastors to plant churches in India. Joel and Rachel are receiving abandoned babies in an orphanage for children in South Africa. Brig and Judy are doing pastoral work among the First Nation tribes in Saskatchewan. Emmanuel and Tereza are evangelizing new converts in Greece. Paul and Melanie are helping establish a church in Jordan. Bob and Mary Anne encourage other missionaries in WOL, and Scott and Kori are bringing the Gospel to the Jews in Brooklyn. Each is working for the Kingdom of God. Each is in Christ, and He is accomplishing His will through them.
Paul could not wait to be with his fellow believers in Rome. He said he had been thinking about them for years. It is the same for all missionaries. If you are not a people person, you should probably not think about going into missions.
I can picture the Apostle Paul talking late into the night with other believers, discussing Moses and the prophets or King David and the Nation of Israel, or perhaps the return of Christ. I can picture him answering questions about the Gospel or sharing stories about his converts in the many cities he visited.
Watch the missionaries when they visit the church. They light up when they see other believers. They love the fellowship. They especially love talking about the Lord. Ask them about the people they serve or the joy they have had in sharing the Gospel with people who hear it for the first time. Ask them about their favorite passage they enjoy teaching and sharing, or ask them about the challenges they face.
Ministry is their life. The Gospel is their life. These are the things they enjoy talking about, and only other believers have any possibility of understanding their lives.
Missionaries desire prayer support. We need to pray for those who have left home and family and are willing to bring the Gospel to others. We will talk more about that next week as we look at verses 30-33.
Please use this message this morning to think and talk to one another and your children about mission work. Thank God for the missionaries who have gone forward historically and those who go forward today for the sake of the Gospel. Like the Apostle Paul, they enjoy their work, and they don’t see that they have sacrificed. Their work is a success because it is not for themselves; they are working for Christ and His glory.