August 16, 2010

Next Stop: Spain

No, I am not heading off any time soon on a mission (or pleasure) trip to Spain (although I enjoy going there, every so often, via Rick Steves’s Best of Europe PBS programs!). Rather, I am writing, once again, about Paul’s letter to the Romans. And, when we come to the latter portion of the 15th chapter, we discover that his love for the country of Spain was one of His reasons for sending this marvelous letter to Italy! That requires some explaining, doesn’t it?

One of the reasons Paul wrote to the Romans was to introduce himself to these Christians more thoroughly. As an aside, it’s interesting that, in introducing himself to them, he doesn’t actually do a lot of introducing of himself (how many churches he’d planted; how many people he’d baptized; how many chapels he’d built). There is a tiny bit of that. But Paul’s introduction of himself is more like an introduction to his gospel! A reminder that, when we support some mission work, we ought to want to know far more about what is preached than about how ‘successful’ the missionary has been! But I digress …

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome in order to introduce himself to them. And one of the reasons he wanted them to know who he was (and what he preached) is because he hoped (15.24 and 28) to stop off in Rome on his way to Spain. And he hoped, frankly, that the Romans church would support this great missionary effort to the western edge of the Mediterranean (and, really, the know world). So Paul wrote the Romans because he wanted to preach the gospel to the Spaniards! And I find that intriguing and challenging!

Paul had already done so much, had he not? Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts demonstrates that Paul had already preached in dozens of widespread locations, and planted several handfuls of churches! In fact, here in Romans 15, he tells us that he is on his way to Jerusalem (v.25); and that he has just finished a tour in Macedonia and Achaia (or modern Greece, v.26). Indeed, in verse 19 he tells us that “from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum (modern Albania and Croatia) I have fully preached the gospel of Christ”. In short, Paul had spent ten very hard years travelling, often on foot, a distance roughly the equivalent of traversing the original 13 colonies of the United States! And now he wanted to almost double that distance by heading to Spain!

And I say: ‘What a heart for the gospel!’ What a desire Paul had to proclaim Jesus and to see people bend the knee to Him! He meant what he said when he wrote that his desire (v.20) was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named”! And, O, that more of that desire would rub off on me! Are we all called to go to China, or Yemen, or Afghanistan? No more than all of the Christians in Jerusalem, or Rome, or Antioch were all called to board the ship with Paul on his way to Spain! But, O, that we all had his spirit! Many of you do … and have demonstrated it by faithful prayer and support. And let’s keep going … longing to see people at the ends of the earth – people we may never see this side of heaven – coming into Christ’s kingdom!

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