Summary: From our passage we see that Paul had a vision & a plan for ministry. We can also gain insight into the God's providence outworking in the life & work of Paul.
ROMANS 15: 22-29
A PLANNED MINISTRY
Paul continues here to open his heart to the Romans in reference to the future of his ministry. He had just declared something of his heart for ministry stating that "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not named." He was a pioneer evangelist and church planter at heart. Up to this time Paul had always found new areas for ministry in Asia Minor and the Grecian Peninsula so that he had not yet felt free to look beyond to Rome and Spain.
Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome, but he had delayed his visit because he had heard many good reports about the believers there and he knew they were doing well on their own. It was more important for him to preach in areas that had not yet heard the Good News. So he outlines his travel plans which include a missionary journey to Spain, in keeping with his commitment to the unreached people, with a brief stop in Rome and a trip to Jerusalem to deal with some business there.
[If he were to make all these journeys by ship, the first from Corinth to Jerusalem would be at least 800 miles, the second from Jerusalem to Rome 1,500, and the third from Rome on to Spain, 700, making a minimum total of 3,000 miles; and many more if he were to travel some of the way by land rather than sea. When one reflects on the uncertainties and hazards of ancient travel, the almost nonchalant wayin which Paul announces his intention to undertake these three voyages is quite extraordinary. Stott, John. Romans. IVP. 1994. Dover Grove, IL. p. 384.]
From our passage we see that Paul had a vision and a plan for ministry (CIT). We can also gain insight into the God's providence outworking in the life and work of Paul.
I. FUTURE PLANS, 22-24.
II. PRESENT PLANS, 25-28.
III. FAITHFULNESS PLANS, 29.
Paul's future plans were to visit Rome on his way to evangelize and plant churches in Spain. For years Paul has had the desire to visit Rome, but as verse 22 indicates he had been prevented because of his evangelizing and discipling the unreached peoples of the Mediterranean. "For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you;"
Paul has just expressed his ministry goal in a quotation from Isaiah 52:15 and explained, This is why I have often been hindered (imperfect tense, "I was being prevented many times") from coming to you. Paul's constant preoccupation with completing the missionary task of preaching the gospel all around the eastern Mediterranean had prevented him from making a trip to Rome.
Verse 23 indicates the pioneering work in eastern Mediterranean has been solidly established. "but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you"
Up to this time Paul had always found new areas for ministry in Asia Minor and the Grecian Peninsula so that he had not yet felt free to look beyond to Rome and Spain. He now believed that he had accomplished what God wanted him to do there. Now with solid churches and growing disciples in those regions he lifts his eyes to the western horizon of the Roman empire.
This does not mean that he had visited every town center, but that the gospel had been introduced and local churches had been established that could complete the work (Acts 19:8-10). Others finally were ready to expand the work in and from the churches he had planted.
In verse 24 the remote western Roman empire comes into the great evangelist and church planter's future view. "whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while—
Spain was a Roman colony where many Jews lived. It, like England, was the northwestern limit of the empire, of the civilized World. It's Roman government, road system and connection to the Med and total lack of Christians made it similar to where he worked in the eastern Mediterranean. [Also, Spain had many great minds and influential leaders in the Roman World (Lucan, Martial, Hadrian), and perhaps Paul thought Christianity would advance greatly in such an atmosphere. Life Application Study Bible, NIV. Zondervan.1984 p. 2056.]
Did he ever make it? We don't know. Church tradition [as 1 Clement 5:6 indicates] indicates he did, indeed, go to Spain and then on up into England. But this can't be emphatically verified. [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 996]
Paul hoped to visit them in Rome while passing through. Apparently he did not plan to stay long. This brief stop in Rome would be as much for his benefit as theirs. He desired to "enjoy your company for a while" is literally a deep longing to be "filled" or "saturated" with their fellowship. Their fellowship would refresh and saturated him spiritually. What a compliment!