Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is a masterpiece! It’s sixteen chapters are a concise, yet complete theology of salvation. In what has been called the Roman Road to Salvation, Paul explained the need for salvation (Romans 3:10, 23); the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23); God’s provision for salvation (Romans 5:8); the necessary response to God’s offer of salvation (Romans 10:9-13); the certainty and security of salvation (Romans 8:38-39); and life with Christ after salvation (Romans 12:1-2).
When Paul wrote the epistle, he had not yet visited Rome, but like iron-filings to a magnet, the empire’s capital city drew him. So, having nearly completed his third missionary tour through Asia and Greece, Paul wrote to Rome promising that he would soon come.
It seems curious that Paul wanted to extend his ministry beyond Asia and Greece. There were certainly many people who had not yet responded to the Lord’s offer of salvation. He could have focused his life’s work in a centralized region. Paul explained his strategy in the fifteenth chapter of Romans.
“I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum” (Romans 15:19, CSB), modern-day Yugoslavia. Paul was careful to give glory to God for what had been accomplished in his ministry while he explained that he had “fully” saturated with the Gospel an enormous geographic area. He wasn’t claiming that everyone in Asia and Greece had become a born-again believer, but everyone had been given an opportunity to hear the Gospel. It was Paul’s desire to go to areas where the Gospel had never been proclaimed (Romans 15:20). “But now ... I no longer have any room for work in these regions” (Romans 15:23, CSB). Wow!
We don’t have an exact timeline, but scholars suggest that Paul left Antioch on his first missionary journey in about 46 AD and he wrote the letter to Rome in about 56 AD. That means, in a span of ten years, Paul carried the Gospel almost two-thousand miles from Jerusalem all the way to Athens and Corinth, and that he and others had gone into every town and village and the good news was heard by hundreds of thousands of people. And he did it without a car, without a phone, and without a loud-speaker.
Think about it! In 46 AD most of the population had never heard of Jesus. Ten years later, Paul was looking for fresh territory. Talk about a great awakening! Glory! Jesus had commanded His disciples to carry the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Paul and his companions had done it!
Paul was imprisoned, beaten with rods, whipped with the cat-of-nine-tails, stoned, and shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He had paid an enormous personal cost, but the Gospel had spread like wildfire. With no regard for his personal safety or comfort, Paul was compelled by Christ to carry the Gospel further... to Rome and beyond!
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor