The apostle Paul was constantly making plans for the future. One glimpse of this is found in the book of Romans. One of his ambitions was to visit Rome and encourage the brethren in that capital city. He wrote to them in Romans 1:11-12, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” Paul goes on to write in Romans 1:13 that many times he had intended to come to them, but circumstances had prevented him from coming.
In Romans 15:20-21, Paul explained what had prevented him from coming to Rome: he worked to preach the Gospel not where Christ had been named, but to lost souls who had never heard of Jesus Christ. Rome, the capital city of the empire, did have a congregation of the Lord’s church within the city limits. Unlike many of Paul’s letters where he writes to his own converts because he is tending to a congregation he had planted, the congregation at Rome had been established by someone other than Paul. Perhaps it was those “strangers of Rome” who were present on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of the Lord (Acts 2:10). Regardless of who it was, the basic fact that made Paul’s visit to Rome less pressing than his visit to other places was that the Gospel was already being preached there. Paul’s statement of his desire to preach where Christ had not been named is followed by these words: “For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.” (Romans 15:22-24).
Paul had a priority to spread the borders of the kingdom of Christ to places which heretofore had not heard the Gospel. Next in his list of priorities was to build up the brethren in various places who were striving to live the Christian life. This is seen in his desire to see the brethren at Rome and, through laying on his apostolic hands, give them a miraculous spiritual gift to further equip the developing church there. It is also seen in his involvement in bringing financial relief to the poor in the environs of Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26). Meeting the needs of Christians around Jerusalem—who had been affected by famine—by funds raised by Christians in Macedonia and Achaia would go a long way toward helping the relationship between the two groups in the one body of Christ (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).
Paul was keenly aware of the importance of the Gospel of Christ. He knew there was no way for one to be saved without hearing it (Romans 10:17). Paul was also acutely aware of the effect trials and temptations can have on the faith of one who has obeyed the Gospel, as he writes, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul had plans for the future because he knew continual efforts needed to be made in order that, in the end, his soul and the souls of many others would be saved. Are you making plans for our Gospel meeting on “Always Reaching Forward” next Sunday? Perhaps you could invite someone who is not a Christian to come with you. Thus, the lost can hear the Gospel and the saved can be encouraged in the faith. Paul plans centered around efforts of preaching the Gospel. What about your plans?
– Mark Day