Romans 15, Part 3
Jan 15, 2011
Paul says in Romans 15:25, 26,
(25) but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. (26) For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (27) Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the ethnos have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
Just before Paul was first commissioned in Antioch, he and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to bring contributions to the saints there. This was in preparation for a soon-coming famine that was prophesied by Agabus (Acts 11:28-30).
It is interesting that when Paul had largely finished his missionary work in Asia, Greece, Macedonia, and even up to Illyricum, he knew it was time to go to Spain. But first, he had a final mission to accomplish. It was to bring a second contribution ten years after the first from Achaia and Macedonia to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
Paul's explanation of this Greek generosity is this: The Greeks had shared in the spiritual blessings coming from Judea, so they were now reciprocating by sending material blessings to the saints in Jerusalem. This is based upon the principle of priesthood, wherein the priests were to be supported by the people that they served. In essence, it was payment for services rendered, though voluntary and not by compulsion. Paul does not call this a "tithe," but a "contribution," which correlates to the voluntary offerings under Moses.
(28) Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you [in Rome] to Spain. (29) And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
Paul did not know that it would be three years before he would finally reach Rome. He knew that he would be imprisoned, for this was prophesied by Agabus in Caesarea (Acts 21:11), where he visited on his way to Jerusalem. Paul was arrested at the temple in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost of 58 A.D. Then because of a plot against his life, which was exposed by Paul's sister's son (Acts 23:16), Paul was taken to Caesarea on the coast, where he could be protected in this Roman city. Thus, in the very city where Agabus had prophesied of his imprisonment, Paul was detained for two full years (Acts 24:27).
Then in June of 60 A.D. Felix, the Procurator, was replaced by Festus. Here is where Roman history dates Paul's time in prison, for Acts 24:27 says, "But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus." This is how we know that Paul had arrived in Jerusalem at Pentecost of 58 A.D. It was two years before Festus was appointed Procurator of Judea in 60 A.D.
As a newcomer, Festus wanted to curry favor with the religious establishment in Jerusalem, so he suggested bringing Paul to trial in Jerusalem (Acts 25:9). Paul well knew that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him, so he appealed to Caesar (25:11). No doubt it became clear to Paul at this point that this was how he would come to Rome. The ship was wrecked by a storm, and so he spent the winter in Malta, known then as Melita (Acts 28:1).
Paul finally arrived in Rome in the Spring of 61 and spent two full years there before his trial before Nero (Acts 28:30). There is where the book of Acts ends.
When we study the history of Rome and Britain, we see why God had detained Paul for so long. While Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, the Boadicean War had broken out in Britain. Rome's Ninth Legion was virtually destroyed, and about 70,000 Roman citizens (many of them retired soldiers who had been given land in Britain as a retirement settlement) had been killed. The land was devastated in this war. If Paul's missionary trip to Spain and Britain had gone as scheduled, he would have been caught up in that war. So God detained him for nearly five years, first in Caesarea and then in Rome.
But when Paul wrote his epistle to the saints in Rome, he was unaware of the long imprisonment that would delay his travel plans. He only knew that Christ had told him that he would be sent "far away to the ethnos" (Acts 22:21), and that he would go to Rome as well (Acts 23:11).
So Paul continues his letter in Rom. 15:30-33,
(30) Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, (31) that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; (32) so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company; (33) Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul understood the threat against his life coming "from those who are disobedient in Judea." These "disobedient" ones were those who did not believe in Jesus Christ, but opposed the gospel and anyone preaching it.
Paul then seems to end his epistle with a classic benediction in verse 33. The final chapter is devoted to greeting many of the saints in Rome.
This is the final part of a series titled "Romans 15." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones