|First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of
throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel
of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making
request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God
to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the
end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual
faith both of you and me. (Rom. 1:8-12)
|The Most Important Gift In The World
We have thus far established the fact that Paul was not one of the 12, nor was he God's default
apostle or pinch-hitter, brought in because of the 12's inadequate performance. Likewise, his
message and ministry was not an extension of the 12's, nor was it a continuation of what the
prophets spoke of in the Old Testament. Paul's message was indeed centered on the same
person the prophets spoke of, the Lord Jesus Christ, but his message and ministry were new and
In Romans 1:1-7, Paul explained that the Risen Lord did something very different from what Peter
expected and the prophets spoke of since the world began. Paul was announcing the amazing
fact that Jesus Christ had come back, not in wrath and judgment to establish the earthly Kingdom
through Israel's rise (as Peter and all the prophets expected), but to raise up a new apostle, the
Apostle Paul, with the message of grace, mercy, long suffering and peace that was to be sent out
to the whole world, especially the Gentiles, in spite of Israel's fall (something no one had spoken of
before-it had been a Secret).
In light of this new message and ministry, Paul's overwhelming desire to visit the Romans opens up
with meaning. Bible teachers who suggest that this passage is just a greeting or introduction often
conclude that Paul is trying to warm up to the Romans so that when he arrived in person they
would like him and be nice to him. This, however, misses the whole meaning of this passage.
Remember, travel in those days was extremely hazardous (just read Acts 27 and II Cor. 11:25-27
to get an idea of what happened to Paul when he traveled). Today we get on a plane with a
Starbucks coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other, catch a few winks, and land in Rome for
dinner. Travel in those days was dangerous and not entered into lightly.
No, Paul did not want to desperately go to the Romans to coffee-clutch or to shoot-the-breeze. He
wanted to go there because he had something so important and so urgent to give to them, and
that they were so needful of, that he was willing to risk his own life taking it to them. He had a
spiritual gift to "impart" that would once for all establish them, anchoring them fully to what God is
doing today and strengthening them completely in it. It is interesting to note that the Romans
already had the gifts enumerated in Romans 12--prophecy, ministry, teaching, etc.--but those gifts
could not, either individually or collectively, fully establish them. Paul needed to give them another
gift that could. The very preservation of the Roman assembly depended on it. That was why he
wanted to go to Rome. That was one of the main purposes of this Letter to the Romans.
Now, the obvious question is what was this all-important spiritual gift? Paul does not keep us in the
dark. He tells us exactly what it is in the closing verses of Romans.
preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept
secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25).
Paul identified the gift that could establish the Romans (and us today!) as his Gospel and
the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery. If we learned the
lesson of vv. 1-7 (the most important sentence in the world), it will not surprise us to next
learn that Paul called his new and unique message and ministry the Mystery, which in Greek
simply meant the secret. Not something difficult or "mysterious" or spooky. Rather
something previously hidden but now revealed for all to see. If the Romans (and us today!)
were to be established, it must be by Paul's Gospel of Grace, not Peter and the 12's Gospel
of the Kingdom. If the Romans (and us today!) were to be established, it must be by the
preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, not the preaching of
Jesus Christ according to prophecy. If the Romans (and us today!) were to be established,
it must be by understanding what God had kept secret since the world began not by what He
had spoken of since the world began (see Lk. 1:70 and Acts 3:21).
The Romans needed a visit from Paul because he had something they needed yet could not
get any where else. God had given Paul a new and unique apostleship, message and
ministry that taken together formed the spiritual gift the Romans needed to be established.
Getting this gift to the Romans was so urgent and important, Paul would risk his life traveling
to Rome immediately if that is what it required. We now know, however, that instead of going
in person, Paul wrote this letter, and thank God he did because now the very gift that
established believers 2000 years ago can establish believers today as well.
Like the Romans, we need the gift of Paul's Gospel of Grace and the Revelation of the
Mystery today as much as the world needed it back then. It is the only way to be established
in what God is doing today because in this gift we find out exactly what God is doing today.
Once we know what God is doing today, we can appreciate the fact that He is inviting us to
participate in what He is doing today. And when we accept His invitation and believe what
He says, then we can intelligently act in accord with what He is doing.
This gift of Paul's turned the 1st century world upside down, as it has many times throughout
history. So, beware! It can turn your world upside down as well. If you are already a
believer, be built up in the truths found here. If you are an unbeliever, read on because you
will discover that what God offers here exceeds anything you could possibly imagine. God is
doing something today! And get this--He wants to include you. Through Romans, God is
inviting everyone, the whole world, to participate in what He is doing today.