Part of Paul’s missionary heart is in glorifying God. In verses 17-19 Paul does some sublime boasting, sublime because he is boasting about God. Paul mentions here at least three marvelous happenings in his life: (1) Gentiles came to belief, (2) signs and wonders accompanied his ministry, and (3) he himself preached the entire 1400 miles from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which is present-day Yugoslavia. Not bad – especially in sandals! But Paul takes no credit. Christ did it through him. Paul made this very clear to the Galatians: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14), he also told the Colossians that Christ “is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). God was everything to Paul. That is the way it has been for the great missionary hearts that have followed in Paul’s footsteps as well. If we are to have lives like Paul’s, our hearts must not only see our ministry as entirely sacred, but we must give all glory to God. This is so fitting, so right; it is the way we were designed to live.

Another aspect of Paul’s missionary heart is that it dreams. We must first note that Paul had dreams and visions of incredibly large proportions (vv. 20-21). Basic to Paul’s dream was the obsession to preach where the gospel had not been preached. He voices this explicitly in 2 Corinthians 10:16. This was an immense obsession, in verse 24 of our text he indicated he even wanted to go to Spain. No one really knows why – probably because Spain and Britain were seen as the end of the world.

Verses 23-29 relate Paul’s dreams to real life. If Paul had his way, he would have immediately set sail for Rome. However he first had to complete the important business of taking an offering to the poor in Jerusalem that he collected from the Gentile churches. His main motive in this was to cement the relationship between Jewish believers and new Gentile converts. The Book of Acts tells us that things didn’t go as planned, however. He did deliver the offering with great success, but he was almost killed by an unruly mob and escaped by night with Caesar’s soldiers. Then he underwent shipwreck and deprivation before arriving in chains in Rome. As to his vision to go to Spain, we really cannot say for sure whether he ever got there. Modern scholarship inclines to say that he did not, though church tradition says he did.

It is important that we have hearts with dreams and great visions of what God can do with us. We need our “castles in the sky” – our Spains. We need to dream of victories and accomplishments for God. Not all of us will meet our dream’s end, but that is all right because God is more interested in the process than the prize, in the journey than the road’s end. May we learn to travel as Paul did.

Paul concludes this section on a positive note: “I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (v. 29). Such optimism! Paul was sure he would come to Rome in blessing. Little did he know his arrival would be in chains, and yet it was in joy. What a way to go – “in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”

The final aspect of Paul’s missionary heart is, he believes in prayer. Verses 30-32 contain his call to prayer. He asked two things: (1) “that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea” and, (2) that his service in Jerusalem “may be acceptable.” Both prayers were answered. In Acts 21:17-20, it records his offering’s joyous reception and the resulting solidarity of the churches. In addition, Paul was granted a spectacular deliverance that could only be attributed to God, as Acts 21-23 makes clear. The prayers of the Roman church brought great power to bear in Paul’s life. Paul called them “to strive together with me” in prayer – literally “to agonize together with me” – and that is what they did.

To those with Pauline hearts, the request, “Brother, pray for me,” is not a cliché, and neither is the response, “I will pray for you.” The missionary heart is a heart that believes in prayer.

To summarize this study: A missionary heart is a heart that sees its mission as entirely sacred. The sacredness of the work comes from seeing oneself as a priest offering up his or her service as a fragrant offering to Christ. Therefore, it regards its own life, however mundane, as a liturgy. Let us ask God to help us see all of life as glorifying Him. A missionary heart is a heart that gives God the credit for everything. Let us pause for a moment and give God the glory for what is happening through us. A missionary heart is a heart that is visionary. Do we have a dream – a Spain? If not, let us ask God for one. A missionary heart is a heart that prays passionately. In God’s Kingdom the great heart passionately strives in prayer. Nothing would be the same for any of us were it not for Paul’s remarkable heart for God.

Romans 15:17-33 Study Questions:

There is no evidence that Paul ever got to Spain. But his desire to go there and, perhaps, establish a new “home base” was one of the reasons he wrote the letter to the Romans. Paul may not have gotten to Spain, but what mattered then, and has mattered enormously in the whole history of the Church, is that, as part of his plan to go to Spain, he wrote Romans. What lesson is there for us in the fact that Paul wrote Romans in preparation for a dream that he may never have realized?

How does the collection for the poor Christians of Jerusalem reinforce what Paul has been saying throughout Romans about the Church?

What does it mean for Jewish Christians to be family with Gentiles and Gentile believers to be family with the Jewish believers?

Why is it so crucial for Paul to enlist the prayers of the Roman church for the journey ahead of him?


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