Note from Jesus
Dear Beloved Disciple,
Paul had many reasons to be on the road. He traveled extensively all over the regions bordering the northern and eastern Mediterranean Sea. He traveled to share the good message of the Father’s grace with people who had never heard it. He strengthened house churches he had helped plant on previous trips. He matured and appointed leaders in those house churches. He carried communication from one group of disciples to another. As Paul left for Jerusalem on the trip described in the verses below from Acts, he was bringing a special financial gift to Jerusalem. He wanted to bless the impoverished Jewish disciples in Jerusalem with a gift from Gentile Christians. He was hoping to tie together the whole brotherhood through this project.
As you read the verses below, you will find all of those reasons for Paul’s travels through Asia Minor (with key cities of Troas & Ephesus), Macedonia (with key cities of Philippi, Berea, & Thessalonica), and Greece (with key cities of Corinth & Athens) on his way back to Syria (Antioch) and ultimately to Judea (Jerusalem). Paul was determined to go to Rome, the capital of the empire, after going to Jerusalem. Then from Rome, he planned to go to Spain to share My story and the good message of salvation.
The first set of verses below (from the book of Acts) is a very simple summary of a few years when Paul wrote the incredible letter of Romans while in Greece. (We will be reading parts of Romans together over the next several days.) As you read from some of the beginning and ending verses of Romans today, you will also find information and hints about Paul’s travels and what motivated him to take these trips.
Underneath all of these travels during this stage of Paul’s life, there were three predominant influences:
- Paul was My chosen emissary (apostle), especially to the non-Jewish peoples of the world.
For I [Paul] am not the least bit embarrassed about the gospel. I won’t shy away from it, because it is God’s power to save every person who believes: first the Jew, and then the non-Jew.
He was passionate about fulfilling this call. He had a special fervor to take the good news to people who had never heard it:
I have dreamed of preaching the gospel in places where no one has ever heard of the Anointed so that I do not build on a foundation laid by anyone else.
- Paul wanted to bring the brotherhood of Jews and non-Jews together through the offering from the Gentile churches for their brothers and sisters in faith in Jerusalem:
But right now I [Paul] must make the journey to Jerusalem to serve the saints there. Those in Macedonia and Achaia decided it was a good idea to share their funds to help the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. I must tell you that they were thrilled to be able to help. They realize that they are indebted to the believers in Jerusalem. If the nations share in the Jews’ spiritual goods, then it’s only right that they minister back to them in material goods.
- Since some people were seeking to stop and, if necessary, kill Paul, he could and would alter his travel strategies based on their hostility. However, he was determined to complete his travels:
He [Paul] spent three months there [in Greece], and then he planned to set sail once again for Syria. But he learned that a group of Jewish opponents was plotting to kill him, so he decided to travel through Macedonia.
While in Greece, he wrote about possible additional opposition he would face when he returned to Jerusalem:
Pray that I [Paul] will be rescued from those who deny and persecute the faith in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem will meet the approval of all the saints there.
As Paul traveled to share My good news, he wrote the nearest thing to a complete document on grace, faith, baptism, the Holy Spirit, and holy living in his letter called the book of Romans in your Bible. This is the letter we will share together in the coming days. First, however, I want you to get a feeling for the passion that drove Paul along the many roads he traveled!
Verses to Live
As you read today’s verses, you will find much more depth of emotion than can be highlighted in this short note. So I want you to read through these verses several times listening for the passion of Paul to fulfill his call to share the gospel. As you read, also pray for the Spirit to release this same kind of passion in you and through you in your day!
As soon as the uproar ended [in Ephesus], Paul gathered the disciples together, encouraged them once more, said farewell, and left on foot. He decided to pass through Macedonia, encouraging believers wherever he found them, and came to Greece. He spent three months there, and then he planned to set sail once again for Syria. But he learned that a group of Jewish opponents was plotting to kill him, so he decided to travel through Macedonia.
Now I feel that the Holy Spirit has taken me captive. I am being led to Jerusalem. My future is uncertain, but I know — the Holy Spirit has told me — that everywhere I go from now on, I will find imprisonment and persecution waiting for me. But that’s OK. That’s no tragedy for me because I don’t cling to my life for my own sake. The only value I place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace.
(Acts 20:1-3; Acts 20:22-24)
Paul, a servant of Jesus the Anointed called by God to be His emissary and appointed to tell the good news of the things promised long ago by God, spoken by prophets, and recorded in the Holy Scriptures. All of this good news is about His Son: Who was (from a human perspective) born of David’s royal line and ultimately designated to be the true Son of God with power upon His resurrection from the dead by the Spirit of holiness. I am speaking of Jesus, the Anointed One, our Lord.
And here’s what He’s done: He has graced us and sanctioned us as His emissaries whose mission is to spread the one true and obedient faith to all people in the name of Jesus. This includes you: you have been called by Jesus, God’s Anointed.
To all those who are God’s beloved saints in Rome:
May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, surround you.
First, I thank my God through Jesus the Anointed for all of you because we are joined by faith as family, and your faith is spreading across the world. For I call God as my witness — Whom I worship in my spirit and serve in making known the gospel — He alone knows how often I mention you in my prayers. I find myself constantly praying for you and hoping it’s in God’s will for me to be with you soon. I desperately want to see you so that I can share some gift of the Spirit to strengthen you. Plus I know that when we come together something beautiful will happen as we are encouraged by each other’s faith.
If, my brothers and sisters, you did not already know, my plans were set to meet you in Rome, but time and circumstances have forced every trip to be canceled until now. I have deeply desired to see some good fruit among you just as I have seen with so many non-Jewish believers. You see, I am in tremendous debt to those of various nationalities, from non-Jews to barbarians, from the wisest of the wise to the idle wanderer. So you can imagine how eager I am to join you and to teach the good news in the mighty and diverse city of Rome.
For I am not the least bit embarrassed about the gospel. I won’t shy away from it, because it is God’s power to save every person who believes: first the Jew, and then the non-Jew. You see, in the good news, God’s restorative justice is revealed. And as we will see, it begins with and ends in faith. As the Scripture declares, “By faith the just will obtain life.”
My brothers and sisters, I am ultimately confident that you are full of goodness, knowledge, and the ability to help and instruct one another. I have written to you with unflinching honesty on many topics because I do not want you to ever lose sight of the tremendous grace God has given me. His grace makes me who I am, a minister of the Anointed One, Jesus, called to serve the nations.
The good news of God is the focus of my priestly work. In effect, these nations have become an offering to God, totally acceptable, indeed made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit. So in Jesus, the Anointed One, I have reason to celebrate the things I do for God. I don’t want to be presumptuous, so I will restrict myself to what the Anointed has accomplished through my words and actions, which has culminated in the obedience of the nations. My words and actions have been rooted in Spirit-empowered signs and miracles. The upshot is this: I have been able to preach the good news of the Anointed One in city after city from Jerusalem all the way around the Mediterranean to Illyricum. I have dreamed of preaching the gospel in places where no one has ever heard of the Anointed so that I do not build on a foundation laid by anyone else. But as the Scriptures say,
They will see Him even though they’ve never been told about Him; they will understand even though they never heard of Him.
Because of many issues, I have not been able to visit you in the city of Rome. But my time to serve those here is coming to an end, there’s no room left for me in this region, and I have longed to come to you for many years. So I plan to visit you on my journey to Spain. I am hoping that I will not only see you face-to-face, but that you will assist me in the journey west after I have enjoyed our time together. But right now I must make the journey to Jerusalem to serve the saints there. Those in Macedonia and Achaia decided it was a good idea to share their funds to help the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. I must tell you that they were thrilled to be able to help. They realize that they are indebted to the believers in Jerusalem. If the nations share in the Jews’ spiritual goods, then it’s only right that they minister back to them in material goods. When this work is complete and the funds we’ve collected are delivered, I will make my way to Spain through your grand city of Rome and enjoy some of your hospitality. I’m sure that when I come to you I will come as a blessing and as one fully blessed by the Anointed One.
My brothers and sisters, I urgently plead with you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, and by the love of the Spirit to join together with me in your prayers to God for my success in these next endeavors. Pray that I will be rescued from those who deny and persecute the faith in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem will meet the approval of all the saints there. If that happens, then my journey to you will be filled with joy; and, if God wills, I can rest and be refreshed in your presence. I pray the God of all peace will be with you all. Amen.
Response in Prayer
O Father, I find Paul’s travels amazing. He journeyed to so many places, used different modes of travel, reached out to such diverse people, and took such great risks to share the message of Jesus. Open my eyes, O Lord, to see the opportunities near me to share your message of grace. Be with me as I seek to share that message with kindness, compassion, courage, and conviction. Open my eyes as well, O Lord, to the opportunities to share your grace with the lost all over the world. Whether it is in going, praying, or sending, O Father, please use me to bless Your world-wide mission. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.