Prayer of Thanksgiving (1:8-15)
Paul now engages directly with the elect in the church at Rome. If ever there were a place that contradicted the Gospel of Christ, it would be the imperial city of Rome. This city was built on the ideals of human power to conquer and rule. Its politics were literally blood-soaked. It’s diversions were uninhibited by any conception of human dignity, with rampant sexual license and bloodsport. Pagan religion placed low barriers to the exercise of the basest human desires. For, although the pagan gods were powerful and thus in need of appeasement, they were morally no better than humans and often were far worse. It was in this absolutely hostile environment that God had called into existence a church of Christ-followers; and to whom the Great Apostle wrote this wondrous Epistle of grace.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, 10 asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Paul could legitimately have such deep affection for people he had never met because of their connection through the Body of Christ. Paul loved the Christians in Rome because He who so loved Paul also loved these people. And, what evidence of their allegiance to Christ could be more unmistakable than the light that they cast into the utter darkness of Rome? And so Paul addresses these Brothers and Sisters in Christ with profound love, and, raises them up often in his prayers.
13 I want you to know, brethren, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish: 15 so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul’s longing to visit the church in Rome is deep and profound. However, the obligations of an Apostle are many, with God at the helm. So, though Paul desires to visit Rome he gladly submits to God’s leading, trusting that in His good and perfect time this will come to pass.
We see here a man who by worldly standards is powerless speaking with joy and confidence about visiting the most brutally powerful city on the planet. He leads no armed force, controls no territory and speaks for no significant segment of the population. But he does know one thing — that God in Jesus Christ has made everything new. The powers that be may take some time to discover this new truth. In the meantime they may carry on in their fantasy. But God is at work, igniting the Christian faith in human hearts, one precious human soul at a time.