As we continue on tracking with Paul today, ending chapter 15 today, we’ll see not only more of his pastoral heart for these Romans, we’ll also see…guess what?! Paul’s travel plans! Don’t everyone stand up and start screaming amen at once. As mundane as this might appear to be at first, I’m hoping this text will be for us today will be something like Antiques Roadshow. You know of the TV show right? Where people bring in their old antiques and they get examined to see how much they’re worth? Well, every now and then someone comes on the show with something seemingly common like an old rusty spoon, and surprisingly find out it’s the long sought-after porridge spoon of Abraham Lincoln, that just so happens to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the same way, my prayer for us today is that we’d experience this passage like that. It might feel mundane and common and ordinary. These are travel plans. But my oh my, kingdom treasures abound within it.
So, let’s dive in.
Kingdom Treasure #1: “…enjoying your company…” (v22-24)
“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
v22 picks up right where Paul previously left off. He had made it clear back in v19 that he had fulfilled his ministry all throughout the region of Jerusalem to Illyricum. This, according to v22, is why he was formerly hindered from coming to see these Romans. He was still traveling all throughout that region preaching Christ, planting churches, and visiting those churches to ensure they were well established. But now, v23 says, because he no longer has any room for work, and since he’s long desired to come see them, he says he will come to them soon. v22-23 give the sense that Paul felt crowded. See that? “…I no longer have any room for work in these regions…” Paul could’ve said something else. He could’ve said, ‘I am finished with my work here’, or ‘I have accomplished all I set out to do here.’ But he doesn’t say that. Rather he says ‘I don’t have room to work here anymore’ giving us the sense that Paul truly feels crowded and longs for an open country to work in that’s free of Christians and free of churches. Not because he tired of Christians or tired of churches, no, but because he desires to be on the frontier, to do pioneer missionary work. To preach Christ, as v20 says, where
Christ has not been named before. That’s his great ambition, and it drives him in all he does. And so, since his work in this region is done, his longtime desire of visiting and meeting these Romans can now happen.
But notice v24. He will come to them, but he won’t stay for very long. He says, “…I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you…” So Spain is the final destination Paul plans to reach. But why Spain? Well, I think we saw the answer to this last week when we examined Paul’s great ambition in v20-21. His desire, his ambition, or we could say, his holy discontent was to take the gospel to the uttermost ends of the world. For Paul, and for all else in the Roman Empire of the 1st century, the ends of the earth was thought to be the western coast of Spain. They knew of places and peoples beyond their borders to the East and to the North, but to the West, nothing was further than the sea on the coast of Spain. So why Spain? So the Gentiles, the nations, would hear of Him they’ve not heard of before, believe His gospel, stream into the Kingdom, and bow before Christ the King. Paul knew he was being used in this way by God, we saw that last week in v15-16, and this here in v24 is also evidence of that burden he joyfully carried. And part of the reason he plans to go to Rome is “…to be helped by them…” on his way to Spain. In other words, Paul needed support. Paul needed prayer, Paul needed money, Paul needed food, Paul needed means of travel, and I think its right to say he was anticipating Rome meeting some of these needs, just as modern day missionaries are ought to expect and anticipate the churches that sent them to be of similar help to them as they seek to go out to the nations with the gospel. So do not shirk missionaries asking for support. By asking us to come alongside them, they’re not only giving us an opportunity to be a blessing to them, but they’re inviting us to join with them in their taking the gospel out to the world.
As beautiful as Paul’s heart is in this missionary endeavor, notice how v24 ends. Yes, Paul will go to Rome, briefly on his way to Spain, but while he’s in Rome he not only desires to be helped by them to get to Spain, he also desires to enjoy their company for a while. This is not a throw away phrase, or Paul blowing smoke at the Romans with niceties while just being after their finances to send him off to Spain. When he says he will leave after he’s enjoyed their company for a while, he means it. He wants to get some time with them. To know them. To talk with them. To encourage them. And to be encouraged by them. Paul shows here not just what missionaries ought to be like as they come into new churches and meet new people. Paul here shows us what Christianity looks like. What the Christian life looks like. He shows us what Christians ought to be eager to do with other Christians.
You see, when we’re saved. When we turn from sin, believe in Jesus, and are filled with the Spirit of God, we’re united to God in a way we’ve not been united before. Sin has separated God and man, but when one is born again that separation is removed, and God welcomes us back into His presence. All Christians then, belong to God. AND NOT ONLY SO. Yes of course, Christians belong to God, but because we belong to God what’s often missed is that we also belong to all others who belong to God. And so when one becomes a Christian they’re united to God and united to all others who are united to God. We gain a heavenly Father in God the Father, an older brother in God the Son, and millions of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters in the Church.
What am I saying? I’m saying Christians belong together. I’m saying Christians not only belong together, but that Christians ought to want to be together as often as they can. This is true, v24 shows us this, we ought to have a deep desire to enjoy one another’s company. It’s so true in fact, that local churches shouldn’t have to schedule this to make it happen. I mean that. If the only thing we scheduled here at SonRise was this Sunday morning gathering, would this be the only time of the week you met with and interacted with other believers? If you can answer yes to that you’re not living this life at you ought to. If the Apostle Paul and all his missionary ambition to go to unreached places of the world to preach made time to enjoy the company of other believers, we have time in our schedules today. Church, the gospel comes with a house key. We were made to be together. May our lives reflect such a delight in the enjoyment of one another.
Kingdom Treasure #2: “…the blessing of Christ” (v25-29)
“At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”
Now we learn why Paul isn’t immediately coming to Rome. He will be going to Jerusalem first, to bring aid to the Church there as we read in v25. So as Paul has been going around on his latest missionary journey throughout Macedonia and Achaia, he’s received contributions for the poor in Church at Jerusalem. And Paul says in v26 they were pleased to give them aid. As the maps in the back of your Bibles will show you, the churches among Macedonia and Achaia are: Berea, Philippi, Thessalonica, Cenchreae, and Corinth. Anything stand out about all these churches in those regions? They’re all largely Gentile churches, and they’re sending aid to a largely Jewish church in Jerusalem. Is there anything for us to learn in this? Of course there is.
Notice how v26 ended and what v27 says? Paul says, “For they (the Gentile churches) were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” In what sense do the Gentiles ‘owe’ aid to the Jerusalem church? Why should they be of service to them materially? This is very much the language of Romans 11 coming into back view here. Back in chapter 11 Paul mentions it was Israel who was cut off for their unbelief and that is was the Gentiles (who he calls wild olive shoots) who were grafted into the true vine. Meaning, the Gentiles are now presently enjoying the very gospel promises God made to the Jews of old. Paul uses this fact as a warning to both Jew and Gentile to not be proud, but to fear God who has great severity and great kindness. Paul is using this language in a similar way here in chapter 15 to teach the Romans a great gospel principle that at its most basic could be put like this “…those who receive spiritual blessings should share their own material blessings.”
For these Roman Gentiles, Paul is reminding them that the great gospel grace they enjoy began first with the Jews, and they ought to be aware of this and eager to be a blessing to their brothers and sisters in Christ in Jerusalem as they’re able to do so. That’s why Paul uses language of the Gentiles owing them, and this is why Paul speaks of them helping them materially because they’ve been so enriched by them spiritually.
The same principle rings true for us today. This is our second Kingdom Treasure of the text today. We not only should desire to enjoy one another’s company as often as we can. We should also understand that those who have been blessed spiritually should seek to be a blessing materially. This could look very different for all of us depending on our context, but in general I think it looks like us living life with an open hand toward fellow believers rather than a closed fist. Perhaps these first two Kingdom Treasures go together. Of the many ways we enjoy one another in the Church, perhaps one way is us sharing the good gifts God has given to us with one another.
So this is Paul’s plan, v28 mentions, to bring this collection to the church in Jerusalem, come see them in Rome, and then leave for Spain with their help. v29 then concludes with Paul expressing his confidence of his coming to them in the fullness of the blessing of Christ, because he is about to be a great blessing to Jerusalem, these Romans will bless him, as he moves on and seeks to be a blessing to Spain. Blessing abounds all around among these churches. Having been so blessed by God in the gospel, they seek to be a blessing to one another.
Kingdom Treasure #3: “…striving together with me…” (v30-33)
“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
Now Paul asks something of the Romans. That they would pray for him, and not just pray for him, but strive in prayer for him. The word for strive here is agonizomai, which is where we get the word agony. Which shows us this isn’t just a brief mention of Paul in prayer. No, this is coming before God agonizing in prayer for Paul. Is that new for you, this kind of prayer? We usually avoid all kinds of agony, but this kind of prayer is not to be avoided. It involves urgent pleading, and a stubborn persistence to labor in prayer for Paul. This is the same kind of burden Paul has toward all the churches. Gal. 4:19 mentions how Paul daily agonizes over them, that they’d grow and mature in faith. Here he uses the same word to describe the kind of prayer he asks of them.
This is the third Kingdom Treasure in our text, striving in this kind of prayer for one another. Perhaps you pray for your fellow believers, good. Perhaps you even linger in prayer for them and their joys, sorrows, and burdens, great! But do you agonize for one another in prayer? Do you plead persistently in prayer for one another? I think for many, prayer is far too casual, too comfortable, too calm, or too safe. v30 is our call into a certain kind of agony, our call from God that we give ourselves to this kind of prayer for one another. And in this, perhaps we see again how all three of these Kingdom Treasures are related. When we agonize for one another in prayer, we will seek to bless one another, and when we do all this, we will enjoy one another’s company as often as we gather together.
Why pray this intensely for Paul? Well, he asks for this kind of prayer because of two things. First, he desires to be delivered or saved from the unbelievers in Judea, because if Jerusalem were the Wild West, wanted posters with Paul’s face would be posted all over town. They hated Paul, and sought his death, because to them he was nothing more than a traitor. So he needs the prayer of these Romans. And second, Paul asks for this kind of prayer so that the money collected from the Gentile churches would be accepted by the church in Jerusalem. But, why would they refuse the gift? Paul knows full well, that hostility between Jew and Gentile still exists, and just as the Gentiles must see how they owe help to the Jewish Christians, these Jewish Christians must recognize God’s work has now moved beyond the nation of Israel to the nations. So he asks for their gift to be acceptable to them. Paul believes if God answers these prayers, he’ll arrive in Rome with joy, and eager for refreshing from them.
In an ironic manner, God did answer these prayers, though not as Paul or these Romans expected. Acts chapter 21 and following shows us that Paul was delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, by being arrested by the Romans and locked up in prison for two years. The Gentile collection was accepted by the church in Jerusalem. And, Paul did arrive in Rome and did experience a measure of joy and refreshment from this church, but he was in chains and would soon be killed.
Again, all of this might seem mundane and common to many. Paul’s travel plans doesn’t excite many. But Church, enjoying one another’s company, being a blessing to one another, and striving for one another in prayer, these are some of the treasures of the Kingdom of God.
Church, if you allow yourself to live in isolation, to foster a stingy-ness with your money, and avoid the agony of faithful prayer, your life will be wasted. But if you give yourself to one another, bless one another, and agonize in prayer for one another your life will be hard, but it will be full.
May these things continue to fill out our life together here.
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 423–424.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 916–917.
 While not conclusive, 1 Clement 5:7 gives us evidence of Paul’s arrival and ministry in Spain.
 Fesko, Romans, 425.
 I owe this insight to my esteemed colleague and partner in ministry at SonRise, Andrew Jaenichen.
 Reformation Study Bible, notes on Romans 15:25-33, 2008.
 Fesko, Romans, 428.
 Moo, Romans, 927.