The Plans and Priorities of Paul the Apostle (Romans Sermon 115 of 120)
September 17, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Missions, Money and Possessions
The Necessity of Planning
Would it trouble you if I were up here without a plan? Would that bother you? If I just said, "What should we talk about? We got some time together. What should we do?" I know it would trouble me. That's not the way I'm put together. I like to plan out my messages. I like to think about it ahead of time. It seems reasonable to do so. I think we are planning beings, aren't we? Some more than others. My wife is definitely more than I am, more of a planner than I am. And that's a good thing. Everyday we make plans, and as we're looking at Romans 15:23-29, we're looking at the plans and priorities of the Apostle Paul. Paul reveals what he's intending to do, what his plans are, what he hopes to do, etcetera. It got me to thinking about the issue of planning. And it occurs to me that we hardly make it through life without being planners. We make plans for small things like putting together a grocery list. Woe to you if you ever go to the grocery store hungry and no idea what you're there for, okay? You'll buy far more than you ought to. We plan out a work day or a work week. We figure what's the best way to spend our time, Monday, Tuesday, all the way through Friday.
From small things like that all the way up to larger things like career planning or financial planning or life planning. There are financial planners that will meet with you and talk about things like debt strategies or saving plans, investment plans, planning for college, long-term investments, even retirement. They'll talk to you about that, and they're skilled in that ability and that discussion to help you make those plans. And also world history has been formed by those who have made plans and have executed them. I was reading recently about the Marshall Plan. In 1947, the United States government Secretary of State George Marshall wanted to help rebuild Europe. Part of it was a buttress against encroaching communism. They wanted to see, especially Western Europe, strengthened and rebuilt so that those economies would be able to stand up and be vibrant. And so $13 billion was apportioned through the Marshall Plan to the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. Architects spend their whole career planning out buildings down to the very detail, kind of windows and structure and the artistic appearance, all of that. Engineers plan out projects down to the nuts and bolts. That's what it is, we do planning all the time.
And in this way, I think, we reflect the character of God. We are created in the image of God, and our God is a planning God. We believe from Ephesians 1 that he planned out, before the foundation of the world, to call a people for himself, for his own name and his own glory, that they should be holy and blameless in his sight. And it says, "In love he predestined them and called them according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose or plan of his will." Our God is a glorious planner. And thanks be to God, all of us who are Christians can say this, "Thanks be to God that his plan extended even to me, and that God worked in history and orchestrated things so that I would come to faith in Christ." God is a planning God. And we are in his image and therefore we are planners as well. It says in Proverbs 22:3, "A prudent man sees danger coming and takes refuge, but the simple keep on going and suffer for it." So the ability to look on into the future, to use your imagination and to think what's coming, and then to make plans accordingly and carry them out, now that's in the image of God.
Now, the ant in Proverbs 6 is held up as an example against the sluggard. "Go to the ant, O sluggard," we're told, and why? Because he stores up his food when there's an opportunity, in the summer. Stores it up so that when winter comes he'll have enough to eat. And so we're enjoined to be planners like that. But I tell you that human planning is at a much higher level. The Christian I think in this area of planning is trained to think in three senses. First of all, we're trained to think, "The Lord may return or I may die tonight. So I need to be ready right now to face my judge and maker unafraid." It could be that you came here today not a believer in Christ. You need to come to faith in Christ, and why? Because you don't know for sure what a day will bring about. You need to look to Jesus who shed his blood on the cross that you might have eternal life. You need to trust in him for your personal salvation, because you don't know whether you'll even be alive tomorrow. So that's the first sense a Christian is trained to think about planning. We need to be ready to die, we need to be ready to face our judge and maker unafraid now because we might not even have tomorrow. We need to think like that.
But secondly, the Lord may not return tonight or I may not die tonight, and so therefore, after the ant who stores up when there's an opportunity, I need to make plans for the future. I need to think about the future as though I might live another 30, 40 years. Knowing all of that is in the hand of God, I might not, but I need to plan for it. I need to keep working and plan for the future. And there Isaiah 32:8 stands and helps us. There it says, "The noble man makes noble plans and by noble deeds he stands." So that's a planning verse for you. We are to make plans and we're to live and act out according to those plans. And those plans are to be noble plans, and by those noble deeds, we will stand righteous and with a life that's worth living. So that's the second way we're trained to think about planning.
Thirdly, having planned, we're supposed to go back to the first concept that God is sovereign over all things and that he may overturn many if not all of my plans. And that that shouldn't frustrate us, it actually should delight us. I want my bad plans overturned, don't you? I want my lack of foresight not to be the final determiner in the end. I want God to make the final decision, and he does. He rules over all those things. Now, we'll talk more about some aspects of that, but I think that's a good way for Christians to think about planning. Now here in Romans 15, we're going to get a look at the Apostle Paul's plans. How he thought, what he planned to do, and how the Lord finally would dispose of those plans in the end, according to wise counsel of his will.
I. Paul’s Plans: To Jerusalem, then to Spain
Now first, we get a sense that Paul's planning to go to Jerusalem and then to Spain. Now, let's review Paul's relationship with the church at Rome. Back in Romans 1:13, Paul expressed a deep desire to visit the church at Rome. Romans 1:13, he says, "I do not want you to be unaware brothers, that I planned many times to come to you, but have been prevented from doing so until now in order that I might have a harvest among you just as I've had among the other Gentiles." So Paul had already made many plans but they weren't getting fulfilled the way he wanted. And now here in this text, in verse 23 and 24, he says, "I've been longing for many years to come, and visit you. I plan to visit you when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and have you assist me on my journey there after I've enjoyed your company for a while." That's his plan, that's what he's planning on doing.
Now, we already talked last time and the week before about why Paul hadn't visited Rome yet. We saw previously that Paul made clear his priority structure was to focus on unreached people groups. To be a frontier, trail blazing, church planting missionary or apostle to the Gentiles. That's what he was called to do. Look at verse 20 and 21, again by way of reminder, "It has always been my ambition," Paul says, "to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written, 'those who were not told about him will see and those who have not heard will understand.'" This priority led to Paul's activity, and his activity is from Jerusalem all the way round to modern day Yugoslavia, Illyricum, he has been fully preaching the Gospel of Christ. He's been active in all these strategic urban centers, following the main perhaps Roman roads, going to places like Corinth and Athens and significant places, and also some that were a little bit smaller but that God led him to. In Asia Minor, in northern Greece, which is Macedonia, and down in Southern Greece, which is Achaia, he'd been faithful in preaching the gospel all the way to the border of the Adriatic sea. He's been faithful in doing that.
Secondly, we also saw that the Roman church was a mature church. He says in Verse 14, "You are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to counsel one another." And the idea there is, therefore, you don't need me to come. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be a fully blessed time. He actually does say that in verse 29, "I know that if I come it will be with the full measure of Christ's blessing and that there'll be a good time of rich fellowship and there'll be harvest among those Romans that haven't heard yet, etcetera." But what he's saying is you're a healthy, strong church and I'm not going to spend a lot of time there. That's why he hadn't visited Rome yet, so Paul hadn't come. But now Paul makes an amazing declaration. Look at verse 23, he says, "But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions…" Wow, there's no other place to go if I'm looking for a frontier here in Asia Minor and in Northern Greece, Macedonia and down in Southern Greece, Achaia. There's no more place for me to go. The gospel has been fully proclaimed in all these areas.
Oh, what an incredible statement that is, that is a rich and powerful statement. He's not saying that there's no one there that hasn't heard the Gospel, everybody's heard the Gospel. He's not saying that, but he's saying he can see the hand of God in laying out a strategy where there are centers of strong gospel preaching churches in each of these regions, and he wants to move on now to a place where there's no churches at all, that's what he's talking about. And so he wants to go to Spain. It was a new horizon of fruitful ministry, a new trail to blaze and we'll talk more about that in a moment. But that's his desire, he's going to go on because there's no more place for him to work. Now here he expresses his plans, he says, "But now, since I no longer have any room to work in these regions and since I've been longing for many years to come to you, I hope to do so 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. At present however," verse 25, "I am going to Jerusalem, bringing aid to the saints." So there's the plan, first to Jerusalem bringing some aid to the saints, second to Spain. Going to stop by in Rome on my way through. Those are my travel plans. That's what he's talking about.
But we know from scripture that all plans are subject to the sovereign will of God. There are many verses in the bible that teach us this. For example, Proverbs 16:9. Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Or this one, again, Proverbs 16:1, "To a man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue." In other words, you can make your plans, but God's going to be sovereign even over the words you speak. All plans are subject to the throne of God, that's what it's saying there. Or this one, Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." So we make many plans, and we ought to, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails.
The strongest teaching on all this in the New Testament is in James Chapter 4, and there James is dealing with people who are confident, fully confident in tomorrow. They're actually more than that, they're fully confident in a year from now. And so James addresses this arrogant confidence that has this confidence that we'll be alive and be able to do business even a year from now, in some very strong words. James 4:13-15, he says, "Now listen, you who say today or tomorrow." Today or tomorrow is equally certain to these people. "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You're a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'if it is the Lord's will we will live.'" Stop right there. That there is careful meditation. If it is the Lord's will we will live. That's not morbid, it's theologically accurate. If it is God's will I'll be alive tomorrow. If it is the Lord's will we will live and do this or that. Even my own plans are in the hands of God. That's the way we ought to think.
Now even the great apostle Paul, the one who is caught up to the third heaven and saw inexpressible things that man is yearning to know about but no one can put into words, is not even permitted to try; even the great apostle Paul who wrote the Book of Romans made plans that didn't work out. Planned to do certain things, and he's got to explain himself at least to one local church. Here he describes his plans to the Romans, but it's not clear he ever made it to Spain as we'll talk about it in a minute. But in 2 Corinthians, he's got to deal with the fact that he had planned to visit that church and didn't go anyway. And he needs to uphold his apostolic authority in light of that.
And so in 2 Corinthians 1 he talks about the change in his travel plans. He said, "I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly, or do I make plans in a worldly manner? So that in the same breath I say yes, yes and no, no? But as surely as God is faithful our message to you is not yes and no." The issue is that an apostle who changes his plans like this seems unstable, uncertain, unsure, unleader-like, unreliable, therefore not worthy of following. So he's got to deal with it in 2 Corinthians, his change of plans. Nothing could have been further from the truth in Paul's case, he's just establishing that God rules over our plans finally in the end. Knowledgeable that God rules over our plans, however, does not mean we ought not to plan. And so here Paul is making his plans.
Five years ago on the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was packed up to go down to Washington DC to meet with some leaders, Christian leaders in Congress and Christian senators, for a meeting together with some pastors. So I was all packed up to go on the morning of September 11th. My car had the luggage in there, I had my suits with me, I was all... I'd planned to go, until I saw that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and that they had sequestered all the members of Congress and hid them in some secure places, and that the whole highway which I was going to travel on right by the Pentagon was closed down to all traffic. I knew immediately, among many other things, I wasn't going anywhere today. My travel plans had changed.
And so it is in our lives. We can make plans, but in the end, it's God who decides what happens. They rescheduled the meeting for a month later, and so we went, I went, and that was the weekend of the anthrax scare. So I was there when there was plastic all over the air ducts and stuff. I came back saying to my wife, I was complaining of flu-like symptoms four or five days later, she didn't think it was funny. But I never did get anthrax and that was an amazing time. But just walking around through the Capitol building and looking at all that, and just the intensity was so strong at the time, and the time of prayer. But that was what God planned, not my original plan. You see, God makes the decisions in the end. We still need to plan.
II. Paul’s Mission to Jerusalem: Serving and Uniting the Church
So what was Paul's mission to Jerusalem? What was he going to do? Well, he wanted to serve and unite the church. Look at verse 25-26, "Now however, I'm on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there, for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem." The issue here is money. It's a love offering that was taken from Gentile churches in Greece. Macedonia as I've said is Northern Greece, Achaia is the southern part. Macedonia, that's where you get Philippi and Thessalonica, and all that. The southern part is Athens and Corinth and those cities. And he said both Macedonia and Achaia together these Gentile churches were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Now this shows an attitude of fellowship. Paul... Actually the word contribution in the NIV is the word "koinonia." They're pleased to make a "koinonia", a fellowship is what it was. It's money, but it's coming out of a theology of oneness, that we're part of one body of Christ together, and Paul is there in service to the unity of the Body of Christ. Not like communism in which government decrees that everybody's stuff belongs to everybody else, but rather, from an open and glad heart, a desire to share. That was the fellowship they had.
Now, the money was for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. These were Jewish believers who because of their faith in Christ were put at a great societal and social disadvantage or economic disadvantage. It was already declared in John's gospel in John Chapter 9. Remember the man that was born blind? And it said right there that they had already decided that if anyone said that Jesus was the Messiah, he'd be thrown out of the Synagogue. Well, you can't imagine what effect that would have if you're living in Jerusalem, if you've been thrown out of the Synagogue. Perhaps you're a Jewish shopkeeper and nobody comes to your place and buys anything. Maybe you're a Jewish farmer and nobody buys your crops. Maybe you're a Jewish merchant and you invest in a big caravan coming from some other place and they bring in all your wares, big investment, nobody buys them, or you have to sell them at bargain prices because nobody will take them. You've been shut out. You've been blackballed.
And as a result of this societal problem because of their faith in Christ, they were poor, very poor. Now these were the very people that the leaders in Jerusalem begged Paul and Barnabas to remember as they went out in their mission to the Gentiles. In Galatians 2:9-10, "James, Peter and John those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. When they recognized the grace given to me, they agreed that we should go to the Gentiles and they would go to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." So one of the things they mentioned, these pillars in Jerusalem mentioned, these men, is please remember how much the saints here are suffering. Could be that there's some Gentiles who have come to faith in Christ, and they could help us out. And Paul says, "We are eager to do it."
And so they went out, not only in the name of Christ, but once people were established and the churches were flourishing, and they said, "You know something, there are issues back in Jerusalem. Is there any way you could help?" And so they started taking a collection, money, from these Gentile churches. He mentions it in depth in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. If you want to know more about the offering, there's more reading about it there, but let me just read a few verses from that. It says in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, "And now brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches."
Now let me stop a minute again. Macedonia is the northern part of Greece, Achaia the southern part. Corinth was in the southern part. The northern churches have already given. What he's doing is he's saying look at the example of your brothers up there in the northern churches. Now you who are in the southern churches in Corinth, you ought to give too. That's what he's saying to these brothers in Corinth. He says, "We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they pleaded with us urgently for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints." Oh, what a sweet attitude among these Macedonian Christians. They're poor, but they give everything they can for the saints in Jerusalem. And he uses that example to motivate the Corinthians to give as well.
And Paul stresses here in verse 26, Macedonia and Achaia were pleased. So, apparently, they gave as well. The Corinthian churches, the church in Athens perhaps, they gave as well. And so there's this big offering collection that has been taken. And he stresses the pleasure that these Christians had in giving. They were pleased to do it he says. He says it twice, they were pleased to do it and yearned to do it. There was a pleasure in the giving. Oh, that's a heavenly attitude.
I don't want to be chained to my money, do you? I like to send it on ahead by giving in the Lord's work. It's the only way you can really invest in heaven. You know how they say you can't take it with you? Well, that's true, but you can send it on ahead, you can wire it ahead. Give it by faith in the Lord's work as the Lord calls on you to give cheerfully and generously, because God loves a cheerful giver. Give. That's what he said the church in Macedonia and Achaia did. They were pleased. Now, back in those days, you couldn't send it on ahead, you couldn't wire it like you can do Internet banking these days or wire some money to an unnumbered or a numbered account in the Grand Cayman Islands or some private bank in Switzerland or something like that. You can do all kinds of stuff with money by electronic means. Back then, if you're talking about silver coins or even gold, you had to carry it, there wasn't paper money. And so, he's got this big amount of money and he's got to get it to Jerusalem. That's a big job, isn't it? And so it'd be on animal back in a caravan perhaps, or on one of those slow moving vessels that would go through the Mediterranean, hugging the shore and eventually get to Jerusalem.
So Paul was going, he's going to bring that money, and he's got some brothers with him who can protect the money, perhaps somewhat at least, from highway robbery, and get it eventually there to the church at Jerusalem. That's what he says he's going to do.
What Was Paul’s Motive in the Mission?
Now what was his motive in the mission? Well, he talks about the service to the saints. It's related to the word for deacon. He's a servant to the saints there in Jerusalem. He wants to serve them. But why? Because they have real needs. They're hungry, they need food, clothing, and shelter for their children, for themselves. They're not able to make a living and support themselves. And so they really have become wards of the church at this point. It's a very tough situation for them and he wants to serve them. But he also has a higher purpose doesn't he? We've seen throughout the Book of Romans, but especially here at the end, how much Paul yearns for Jew/Gentile unity to be put on display. And so he wants the Jews and the Gentiles, who both believe in Christ, to be openly and visibly together and one as Christians. He wants to show the power of the gospel to make former enemies brothers, friends in Christ.
And so he talks about this, the unity that they have in Christ. A very open obvious tangible way to display this unity is for Greek churches, Gentile churches to give a lot of money to a Jewish church and help them out. And so he displays a rather remarkable attitude about this offering. He certainly describes how gladly willing the Greeks were to give, but he also goes beyond it and says they actually owed it to them. They actually owed it to them, they were pleased to do it, and indeed, they owe it to them. Huh. Wasn't it Bill Cosby that said, "After all, it's my money, okay?" Well, that's an attitude in our hearts, you look at it and say... We can relate to that. In one sense it's true, there is such a thing as possession. It is ours. As the Lord said to Ananias and Sapphira, "Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?" "It was yours." But there's a sense of obligation here that Paul's talking about among the Gentile Christians. Well, what's his logic?
Well, he says They're pleased to do it, indeed they owe it to them, for if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings." It's amazing logic. Basically, he's coming at it from this point of view. Remember how Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "You Samaritans worship what you don't know; we worship what we do know..." You know why? Because "salvation is from the Jews." It's the very thing that had been said to Abraham way back at the call of Abraham, "Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed." It is a Jewish fountain that has opened up the river of living water for the nations to drink at. You have received lavish spiritual blessings. He already talked about this in Romans 11 with the image of an olive tree, remember? The Jewish olive tree has Jewish roots, the patriarchs, and it's been growing up, it's a cultivated olive tree. And you Gentiles you've been cut out of a wild olive tree and you've been grafted into a Jewish olive tree, and now you share in nourishing sap flowing from the Jewish root system. You have received spiritual blessings from the Jews. And therefore the Gentiles owe it to the Jews to share with them the lesser blessing of material things. That's the way he's arguing. That's an amazing thing.
What Was Paul’s Reason for Telling the Church at Rome about the Mission?
Now you might ask, Why is he telling the Romans about it? Well, could it be that he's trying to motivate them to think the same way about their money? Could it be he's motivating the Roman Christians to think that way about Jews and to evangelize Jews or to Jewish Christians to promote unity in the church at Rome? As we've already noted, it's a mixed church. And he's going to be... Oh, how shall I put it, hitting them up for money in a minute. He's going to be asking them to support his mission work, and if they're clinging to their money as though it's their own, they're not going to be open-handed and generous. They're not going to think about their money rightly. And so he wants to show them the example of Macedonia and Achaia.
III. Paul’s Mission to Spain: Advancing the Church
Alright, well, what's Paul's mission to Spain? We've talked about his mission to Jerusalem, for the unity and service to the church. What is his mission to Spain? Well, it's to advance the Church. Simply put, he wants to preach the gospel to people who've never heard of Jesus. Now, there's some good evidence that the Old Testament place known as Tarshish is actually Spain. Do you remember the story of Jonah? How Jonah didn't want to go to those nasty Gentiles in Nineveh? Didn't want to preach the gospel to the Gentiles so he said, "I'm going to run." Maybe he had never read Psalm 139. "Where can I flee from Your spirit? Where can I go from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. Even if I go to the far side of the sea, you are there." And actually, you're never going to make it, Jonah. I'm going to send a storm, and you're going to go to Nineveh. You see? Many are the purposes of a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails. Where is he trying to go though? He's trying to go to Tarshish. That probably was Spain.
You think about the Mediterranean, and if that's all they really knew, that is the distant most parts of the earth. That's the end of the world as far as they're concerned. Well, we have already learned from Scripture, The ends of the earth belong to Jesus. To the distant shores, it belongs to Jesus, the distant islands will worship him and praise his holy name. God said in Isaiah 49 to Jesus, "It is too small a thing for you to be the savior of the Jews only. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that you may declare my salvation to the ends of the earth." Paul says that's for me. I want to take Jesus' name to the distant most regions of the world, very different from Jonah. He's not running from God, he's not running from the Gentiles, he's running to Tarshish to preach the gospel there.
There's another prophecy so beautifully in Isaiah 66:19, and such a powerful prophecy speaking to the Jews, of the Jews, the people of Zion, this is what he says. God says, "I will set a sign among them and I'll send some of those who survive to the nations. To Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians, who are famous as archers, to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations." Paul's a direct fulfillment of that prophecy. Isaiah 66:19. Look it up, "I'm going to send them to Tarshish I'm going to send them to Greece and they're going to hear of my glory, the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Paul says, "That's for me, I want to go. I want to take Jesus' name to the ends of the earth." And why? Because it's not just these two prophecies. There are many of them. Psalm 2:8, God the Father says, "Ask of me and I'll make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession," speaking to his son. Psalm 22:27, "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of nations will bow down before him." Psalm 67, "May the peoples praise you O God, may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest and God our God will bless us. God will bless us, [listen] And all the ends of the earth will fear him." Isaiah 45:22, this was Charles Spurgeon's conversion verse. Isaiah 45:22, "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other."
So we look unto God and are saved, and this one gospel is good not just for Jerusalem, and not just for Judea and Samaria, but to the uttermost parts of the earth, to the ends of the earth. And Paul wanted to go to Spain. And what did he want to do in Spain? Well, he wanted to plant a church, actually many churches. He wanted to establish healthy strong gospel centers. And if the Lord had given him time, he'd have said, "Now, is there anything further than Spain?" Maybe history would have been changed. Christopher Columbus wouldn't think anything of it. Maybe the Lord would have led him to even distant shores, who knows? But he wanted to push the Gospel as far as he could go. He wanted to go to Spain and preach the gospel.
Did Paul ever make it to Spain? Well, there is no New Testament evidence that Paul ever made it to Spain. Never got there. Some scholars reading some of the church fathers think he got there, but I think the church fathers are just reading Romans 15 and talking about it. There's really no evidence that Paul ever made it to Spain. As a matter of fact, as people put together the chronology of Paul's life, try to figure it out, New Testament scholars, it may be that that trip to Jerusalem was the last free trip he ever took. That he was put in chains, was brought through the shipwreck on Malta to Rome, and there he stood trial before Caesar and died for the gospel, and never made it to Spain. We don't really know. But either way, God eventually got the Gospel to Spain, didn't he? Eventually the Gospel made it there, and why? Because it is the Lord's will that the distant most parts of the earth, even to the furthest shores and islands hear of the glory of Jesus Christ. Even if the Apostle Paul doesn't have the honor of doing it.
VI. How Rome Fit In: Understanding and Helping These Missions
Now, how did Rome fit in? Well, it was their job to understand and to help Paul's missions. He wanted them to support him on the way. Look at verse 24, he says, "I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there after I have enjoyed your company for a while." Verse 28 he says, "So after I've completed this task [in Jerusalem] and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way." So he wants help from them. He wants financial assistance, maybe some personnel, some people who will go with him and help him plant that church in Spain. That's what he wants. He also wants somewhat to reduce their expectation. Since they're full of goodness, complete knowledge and competent to instruct one another, they don't need Paul to be their pastor, so it's like, "Oh, would you mind? We actually have a pulpit committee and we've been looking, and you are looking really good for us. Is there any way we could convince you to be our pastor?"
Paul says, "Look, before I even get there, just know I'm passing through. You can help me, we'll have a good time together. We'll bless one another. There'll be some fruit. I trust that some Romans will come to faith in Christ, but then I'm moving on, I'm going to Spain. However, when I come, verse 29, "I know that when I come, I'll come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to say that? Let's say a Christian family invites you over for dinner this afternoon. You say, "Well, I want you to know, I know that when I come I'll come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. You'll be blessed to have me." You say, "Well that sounds arrogant." No, that's not it, it's just my desire is that you will be blessed in Christ by my coming. I yearn to have that kind of sweet fellowship. I yearn to leave the sweet savor of Christ after we left, not, "I couldn't wait for them to leave," but rather that it was a rich blessing of fellowship, and that's what he's saying in verse 29.
Now, what application can we take from these verses? Well, can I urge you to be planners, godly planners? Can we start out at eternity with our planning? I would like you to plan for death. Because it's appointed to each one of us to die, and then to face judgment. So I want you to plan for judgment. I want you to plan to stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and to give him an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad, plan on that. Plan on it, plan on giving Christ a full account and work backwards from there. Then I'd urge you to plan for 10 years from now. Say, "Lord, if you give me time, where do I want to be in 10 years?"
We often talk in this church about the two infinite journeys. What kind of person do I want to be in 10 years, how do I want to grow, what are my habits, what do I want... Spiritual disciplines, what Bible chapters and books do you want me to memorize? How do you want me to develop as a prayer warrior? Right now I'm paying X amount of time, I'd like to pray three or four X every day. I want to be more of a prayer warrior. I want to be more faithful in evangelism. What kind of person you want me to be in 10 years? And in terms of the external journey, what do you want me to do for the kingdom? What's my mission, what's my calling? Plan 10 years down the line, knowing you might not ever even make it, but just plan for it and prepare for it. And then work backwards. What do you want to do next week? What do you want to do later this afternoon? Plan for eternity, plan for 10 years from now, plan for later this week and tomorrow. Be planners, but know that God holds all of those things in his hands. The noble man makes noble plans and by noble deeds he stands. Plan for that.
Now, if you've come in here today and you're not a Christian, come to faith in Christ, don't plan for anything other than that. I don't ever want it to be said, Somebody came to this church and didn't know how to come to faith in Christ. They've been going to all these other churches, heard other messages, no one ever told them how to be saved. It's as simple as this. You look to the cross of Jesus Christ, the blood shed on the cross, trust in him and not in your own righteousness for your salvation. And then after that you can make noble plans by the power of the Spirit. Close with me in prayer.