Monday, 3 February 2014
…that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,… Romans 15:31
Paul just previously stated, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me…” This then sets up what continues in verse 31. He is asking for these prayers so that he “may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.”
Before being called by Christ, he was a persecutor of the church. He was given letters to arrest those who followed in this new faith and he was even in attendance at the stoning of Stephen, Christianity’s first recorded martyr. His standing in Judaism was well known and he was a Pharisee who had progressed beyond many around him. But with his conversion, all of that was over. Those Jews whom he once fellowshipped with would have considered him an apostate from the faith and would certainly intend him harm.
This is one reason he requested such fervent prayer. Along with this, even the believing Jews may have considered Paul a rogue. He was out ministering to the gentiles and in Acts 21:20-25 rumors had spread that he was teaching “all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.” (Acts 21:21)
Because of this, even those Jews who had accepted Christ were most assuredly wary of him. In order to alleviate such concerns, he had taken a vow under the Old Testament Nazirite system and was intending to complete the customs associated with that vow when he arrived in Jerusalem. This would help to dispel the notion that he had rejected his Jewish roots or that he would speak contrary to the customs of the Jewish people.
But in this verse, along with what has been noted so far, is another reason for his requesting of prayers. It is that “my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” Because Paul was chosen as the “apostle to the gentiles,” and because he had been slandered among his people, the saints in Jerusalem might very well not accept his offering to them. He also might not be sure if they would consider charity from the gentiles as an acceptable means of support. Further, even if they accepted what gentiles offered, they may not receive it because of Paul’s position. These things probably weighed heavy on him as he prepared to depart for Jerusalem.
It should be noted that even today, 2000 years later, old habits die hard. Within the body are many who are “weak in the faith” because of a lack of proper upbringing in Christ, or because they carried a lot of baggage along when they came to Christ. All people are at different levels of maturity and all people are prone to different types of failings. Because of this, what may be perfectly acceptable to one, may be shunned by another. We need to be empathic with those who have limitations which differ from us.
Life application: When facing a coming challenge of whatever sort, it is always best to precede meeting that challenge with prayer. Depending on the weight of what lies ahead, it may even be good to reach out to others for their prayer as well. Paul’s letters show us that this is the preferred method of handling such things.
Lord Jesus, I thank You for those around me who remember me in prayer during my times of need. And I thank you that I can be there for them during their tough spots as well. You have given us each other to build up and support one another. What a great encouragement and comfort that is. The world is a tough place, but with You among us as we petition You for help, we can make it through any trial. Thank You Lord. Amen.