Summary: His desire was to encourage people he had never met before.
A kindergarten teacher gave her class a "show and tell" assignment of bringing something to represent their religion. The first boy got in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David." The second one was a girl and when she stood in front of the class and she said, "My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is the Crucifix." The third boy got in front of the class and said, "My name is Tommy and I am a Baptist and this is a casserole."
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Most of those who were gathered at this Roman church had probably never even heard of Paul, so, he speaks from his heart and in verses 8-12 he not only tells of the love he has for the Lord but also of the love he has for those who are in Rome.
In the last chapter of this book he signs off by mentioning 29 people he had known from previous places he preached and these people had become part of this church, and many think he’s not just saying hello but he’s letting the rest of the church know that these are people who can vouch for him.
His overall purpose in writing is to encourage the believers, to tell them he intends to visit and his desire is to preach among them. And so, he begins in verse 8 by telling them,
I He’s grateful for two reasons, first that these people are saved and second, that they’re not ashamed of their salvation.
So, he says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”
When Paul uses the word first, I always tend to look down the page for the word second; like he’s starting to list a few things; but when he says first, he’s emphasizing his ‘first’ priority is to express his gratitude. And Paul says he’s grateful because their faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Now that’s quite a testimony, isn’t it? Of course, we realize he’s referring to the Roman world but that’s no small potatoes.
Can you imagine being from any large city in North America and someone saying, “Everybody in this city has heard about your faith.”
So, Paul is grateful and people who are truly spiritual are those whose lives are marked by an attitude of gratitude. After all, if we’re not thankful, it’s because, we don’t feel like we’ve been treated right or somehow, we didn’t get what we deserve. Of course, it goes without saying that if any of us got what we deserved we’d be spending eternity in hell.
There was a lady who wrote to Ann Landers and she said, “I’m looking forward to going to heaven when I die but if my parents are there, I’d rather go to hell.” And reading that I got the impression she isn’t going to have to worry about the choice.
One Saturday morning, a 4-year-old boy and his grandpa went out for a treat at the donut shop. And as they were driving along the Grandpa asked the little boy, "Which way is heaven?" The little boy pointed up to the sky. And then he asked, "And which way is hell?" And the little boy pointed down towards the floor. And then Grandpa asked, "And where are you going?" And the little guy said, "To the donut shop." And many we meet have the same attitude. They don’t care about eternity they’re more concerned with getting what they want and getting it now.
If there's anything we learn about the apostle Paul, it's that he had a grateful heart. In every epistle he wrote, he always begins by expressing his thanks for those to whom he is writing, except for one and they were the Galatians who he couldn’t possibly be grateful for because they had departed from the faith and were living totally in the flesh.
But notice, that it was the faith of the Roman Christians he was grateful for, not the size of their building, their number of employees or even what they gave to missions. It was their faith because their faith had astonished the entire Roman world.