Monday, 27 January 2014
…whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy yourcompany for a while. Romans 15:24
Paul’s intent, which is expressed in the previous verse, was to come to Rome for a visit, but this was not the purpose of coming there. Rather, it was only to be a stop on the way to Spain. Once again, Paul’s life was directed to mission-type evangelism. He desired to preach the gospel where it had not yet been preached and to establish churches as he went. His desire to visit Rome was merely to fellowship with them, encourage them, and as a point of stopping for help along the way.
In this verse, he uses the Roman term for Spain, Hispania, rather than the common Greek term, Iberia. The Iberian peninsula included the entire region of Spain and Portugal. This was Paul’s next goal in his work. It is not clear if he actually ever made it to Spain. He was imprisoned in Rome, but some early writings state that he was released for two years before being imprisoned again. In these two years, it is claimed that he actually went to Spain.
Regardless of whether he made it there or not, he stated that he hoped “to be helped on my way by you.” This sentiment is found at other times in the New Testament. A notable one is found in 3 John –
“Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well…” (6, 7)
It was incumbent on the established churches to assist missionaries because there was little help to be expected from the gentiles. This wasn’t because of the coldness of the gentiles so much as it was a policy of the missionaries. The less burden on those being evangelized, the better. Paul remained a tent maker during his working years in order to not be a burden on those he ministered to. This is still seen in the mission world today. Support normally comes from the sending churches, not from those who receive the missionaries.
And so, in order to receive their help and to fellowship with them, he desired to visit them in Rome that he might “enjoy” their company for a while. The term he uses implies being gratified or satisfied in their fellowship. He was looking forward to coming to them in need of their encouragement and leaving fully encouraged.
Life application: The need for missionaries has never ended. The world still has many places which haven’t heard the gospel. But mission work is not an end in and of itself. It should be a means of establishing churches and then moving on. Too often, mission work devolves into a constant state of externally supplied ministry. Rather, our missionaries should encourage self-sufficiency among those they evangelize.
Lord Jesus, it is a big world with many people in need of hearing the gospel message. I would hope to be a part of this. Send people into my path that I can help to encourage and support in missionary work that are capable, responsible, and sure to spread the good news in a worthy manner. And then Lord, give me the desire and ability to help them in their work. Amen.