The Heart of an Apostle: Notes
Romans 15:14 – 16:27
“I urge you . . . to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” (Rom 15:30).
Today’s study brings our sermon series from the Book of Romans to a close. As is customary for Paul, he closes this letter with personal remarks, plans about his near-term plans, and both praying for his readers and asking their prayers for him and his ministry. He focuses on the fact that his ministry among the Gentiles is God’s special calling on his life. He announces a plan to go to Spain via Jerusalem and Rome – and to deliver a collection from Gentile believers to their Jewish believers in Jerusalem. There are tender and personal things to be seen in this text that reveal Paul’s heart to us.
Although Paul’s enthusiasm to preach Christ typically moved him to look for virgin territories (cf. 15:20), Rome was not such a place. What was his opinion of the general stability of the church already established in the empire’s chief city? Cf. 15:14.
In explaining his desire to be with the church in Rome, Paul speaks of his “priestly duty” in serving God by preaching the gospel to Gentiles. What was the chief work of a priest? How does this view of priesthood fit Paul’s view of his special mission to bring non-Jews as an “acceptable offering” to God?
Paul had in mind a Fourth Missionary Journey to Spain – after finishing his work at Corinth, delivering funds to Jerusalem, and coming to Rome. Do you recall how Paul’s Third Journey ended? His arrest in Jerusalem, imprisonment for two years at Caesarea, and eventual ship voyage to Rome as a prisoner? Cf. Acts 21:17ff. Not only was his visit to Rome not what he was anticipating, but there is no evidence he ever made it to Spain. Does this “humanize” Paul a bit for you? Can you recall some “major plan” you made that came to a very different end than you had hoped? How did God show himself faithful to you?
In the long list of names Paul gives, what is the most interesting thing you hear being said of any of the people he identifies? Do you know any of those names from other NT texts or events?
Paul felt compelled to urge the Roman Christians against false teachers who could “cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” Paul has used similar language about the “pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” at 6:17. What do you understand to be his concern here? How would a failure to keep the gospel at the center of their life lead to “divisions” and “obstacles” for that church? For Harpeth Hills?
Paul closes this majestic epistle by writing a prayer for his readers. What does his tell you about the apostle’s heart for his fellow-Christians? What do you see as the central theme of his prayer?
What has been the primary value of this series on the “ONE gospel”? Has it led you to a deeper appreciation for the Book of Romans? For Paul? What has it helped you see about the life of the Harpeth Hills Church? Why not end this series of studies by praying aloud the prayer of Romans 16:25-27?