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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 7

Meditation Title: Living with Prayer


Rom 1:9,10   God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times;


I often think that the subject of prayer is one of the things that is most spoken and written about, and least done. Paul prays – often! Some of us do as well, but from talking around I would suggest that most of us find prayer the greatest enigma in life. We'd like to pray more but we don't. We'd like to understand prayer, but we don't. We read big books on prayer, but still we find it a struggle and, to be quite honest, people like Paul make us feel guilty or embarrassed. When I was once asked to produce a series of seminars on prayer, I did a study of every prayer in the Bible and found that the vast majority of them came out of a crisis. We pray best when we are under pressure. Ah, here may be the reason we pray so little. Perhaps our life is very ordinary (we think) and there are no big crisis issues. Well let's see what we can learn from Paul.


These two verses together give us clues as to the nature of his praying and the causes or motivation for his praying. He calls God to be his witness that what he is saying is true, but his descriptions of God reveal something about the nature of his life. He speaks about serving God, and we've seen that aspect of Paul at the beginning of the chapter. But it isn't a half hearted serving; it is serving with his whole heart. When we do something with all our heart, we go all out for it. We are enthusiastic about it and it takes up all our thoughts and our energy. We want to be successful in it, we want to do it well and, maybe, we want to please the Lord in the way we do it. For all these reasons we have a sense of urgency in it. But there is often an even bigger motivation. Perhaps we have a clear sense of calling on our lives from the Lord, and we have a distinct ministry. Now that calling will provide an urgency within us, for a desire to exercise our ministry for the blessing of others will also provide an urgency within us.


That was how it was for Paul. What was it that he did with all his heart by way of serving the Lord? Preaching the Gospel! That was the all-consuming fire within Paul, the desire to take any and every opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to bring people into salvation through Jesus Christ, and then to establish them in their faith in the church. So Paul had, as an apostle, this two-sided thrust to his ministry: to bring people to the Lord and then to establish them in their faith in the church. For that reason he had a concern for all Christians. As a father in the faith, wherever he heard of the Gospel being spread and churches being established, he had a concern – even if he had not ever met them! That is the truth here: Paul has never yet been to see these Christians in Rome – but he still prays for them whenever he thinks of them.


So what is it about prayer, what was it about prayer that made Paul pray? Well, what is prayer? It is simply talking to God. It may be sharing our hearts, our feelings and our concerns with Him; it may be thanking Him for what he has done, praising Him for what He has achieved, worshipping Him for who He is – or asking Him for help.


Now it is that last thing that I suspect so often motivated Paul to pray for others. I am sure with the revelation he had he would often have been worshipping, praising or thanking, but when it came to asking for others, it would have been the recognition that he (or the recipients of his prayers) needed help. Now that recognition is a major revelation for most of us don't recognise our need; we think we can just get by as we are, but as we've noted already, grace is something we need because it is God's resource to enable us to live as His children and do the things He puts before us in such a manner that He is glorified. So, as we face the day, do we realise that if we are to live and work at more than a boring mundane level of survival, we need God's help?


If we are at school, we need His help to learn. If we are a teacher we need His help to enable us to teach well. In whatever is our work, we need His help if we are to rise above the mundane. Do we face every day as a fresh opportunity to live with God's enabling, God's resources there to bless us, bless our work and bless other people through us? If we see our life and work like this, we will see new possibilities and those new possibilities will stir within us a recognition of our need which can only be fulfilled in Him. It is a need that will stir us to pray for somehow we know deep down, and we witness it in the Bible, that when we pray it opens the way up for God to move in and through us in ways which otherwise remain absent.


Paul had a calling, Paul was aware of his life purpose and Paul had an urgency as a result of that. To cope with that urgency, and the need that forced itself into his awareness, he prayed. If nothing else it was off-loading the burden to the Lord but, in reality, it was something far more than that; it was opening a channel of blessing from heaven, a blessing that would change him and change the people he was praying for. THAT meant Paul was praying much of the time. What an example!







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 8

Meditation Title: Entering God's Will


Rom 1:9,10  I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.


Prayer is a mystery, but that shouldn't stop us thinking about it. At one extreme there are people who say you can't understand it and so don't pray. At the other end there are those who seem to have it completely wrapped up and all they do is pray. I suggest a middle way – we can understand some apparent aspects of prayer and we can make it a meaningful part of our lives. We have previously considered Paul's motivation for what appears, at times, a life of prayer (although in fact he spent much time talking with people) and now he shares a request he has been making of God.

This is in addition to what he has been praying about them; it is almost as if as he prays so he has had this even stronger realisation of a desire within him, and he recognises that he needs to pray about that as well. That is one of the things about prayer: as you pray things come more clearly into focus and you realise things you previously hadn't been aware of, or things you had hardly taken any note of, but now they come into focus and you realise these things are part of God's will and so you pray them.

I have noticed in the psalms and the prophets in the Old Testament, that a writer or prophet would catch God's will and that would spur them on to pray and ask for it. Hold you, you might say, why pray for what you already know IS God's will? If it is His will then why bother to pray for it? Surely if it is His will, He will bring it about anyway? No, merely because something is God's desire, that doesn't mean to say it will automatically happen for He has given us free will and He invites us to enter into the process of bringing it about – and part of that process is us coming to the realisation of His will, establishing it in our hearts and minds in prayer, and then being ready to be whatever part of its fulfilment that God has for us.

Within the teaching on prayer in the New Testament, there is this sense that we pray for what we confidently believe is God's will. When we do that we know we'll get the answer. Yes, there will be times when we pray in uncertainty, and there we just have to trust in God's love and hope we've got it right, and He will eventually show us whether it is right or wrong. Yet the better way is to wait on the Lord and catch a sense in your spirit of what His will is and then pray it out. But even then it's not that simple!

So look again at what Paul says here: “and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” Note those words, “now at last.” We'll see in the next meditation something of his frustration at not having been able to get to see them previously. He has been waiting and wanting but hasn't been able to go to see them in Rome, but now, as he writes to them, he has had this fresh desire to go, and with that awareness he has prayed. There have been things that previously have blocked his way, that have stopped him going to Rome but, as he has started to write and this desire to go has risen afresh in him, it has spurred him to ask the Lord to open the way for him to go.

But note also his phase, “by God's will.” The NKJ version says in v.10, “now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come…..” That I prefer. Paul is completely submitted to the will of God. We find him at Ephesus saying, “I will come back if it is God's will.” (Acts 18:21 ). He would like to come back but was submitted first and foremost to what God wanted. Near the end of this letter-book, we find him writing, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me . Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” (Rom 15:30-32). He knows he has to go back to Jerusalem and there will be faced by unbelieving Jews who will oppose him, and he also needs the approval of the Christians there, but if these things can be resolved then he may be free to come to Rome to encourage the Christians there. He believes it is God's will for him to come, but for that to happen various other things have got to happen first. Thus he gives them specific things to pray for that we've just seen.

Isn't this convoluted! It's God's will for him to come to Rome but that is subject to various things coming about which are imponderables that are dependent on human responses. Note in that last quote, “by praying to God for me.” Then note what he wants prayer for: first for divine intervention to protect him from the unbelieving Jews, possibly for divine wisdom to cope with those Jews, and finally divine grace to be able to fulfil his ministry in Jerusalem to the satisfaction of the church there. So, finally, what we have here is God's overall will for Paul to go to Rome (which Acts tells us he eventually did, but as a prisoner), but then various specific parts of God's will to enable that to come about.

Now here's the tricky bit: did that all happen? Well yes, he did end up in Rome blessing the Christians there but, no, he didn't escape the hostility in Jerusalem because he ended up a prisoner under Roman protection (?) and it was only as a prisoner that he got to Rome . Conclusion? We may catch God's overall will but how it is going to be worked out, only God knows, for we live in a Fallen World with sinful people and they may make the path very twisty and windy to our final destination. But carry on praying, carry on trusting, and carry on seeking to do God's will. That's what faith is all about – listening with imperfect ears and seeking to do our best at obeying what we believe is right. Hopefully much of the time we'll get it right; sometimes we won't – but God will always we working in the background to bring good out of it all (Rom 8:28). Hallelujah!






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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 9

Meditation Title: Frustrated Longings


Rom 1:11-13  I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.


We concluded the previous meditation struggling with the thoughts of Paul praying but only getting partial answers. Many of us would like the Christian life to be a neat package with no questions and everything working out just as we want it to. Unfortunately we live in a Fallen World where lots of people do their own thing in rebellion against God and that means bad and harmful behaviour. Because God has given us free will, He respects our use of it, i.e. He allows us to exercise it, even when we make wrong decisions and exhibit wrong behaviour and speak wrong words. We also have an enemy called Satan who God permits for a variety of reasons. Thus everything does NOT work out exactly as we might hope.

Paul has this yearning and, as we go through the passage, we see that it is being frustrated. He longs to go to see them so that by the ministry God has given him he can impart something to them to strengthen them in their faith. This is part of the apostolic gift, the ability to impart faith and grace, in a variety of forms. Apostles are both ‘fathers in the faith', and ‘master builders', and God gifts them in such a way that they are able to pass on or impart faith and grace. By doing that, says Paul, both you and I will be encouraged and (by implication) strengthened.

But then he expresses the frustration that he feels: “I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now).” He doesn't say here what it is that has hindered him but when he wrote to the Thessalonians he said, “out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again-- but Satan stopped us.” (1 Thess 2:17,18). There he didn't just put is down to ‘circumstances' but specifically to the work of the enemy.

That reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle which Paul spells out best in Ephesians 6. Why ever does God allow Satan to hinder us? Surely God is much greater that Satan so surely He could stop his activities if He wanted to? Of course, but Scripture indicates that God uses Satan and one way that He uses him is to allow him to bring hindrances to us so that we will learn to persevere and overcome and, in so doing, will be strengthened. A world where everything was laid on and life was very easy would produce a weak humanity, characterless and grey. Instead we rise to greatness in the face of obstacles, even though we may not like those obstacles at the time. If only we could see them as activities in the gym of life designed to strengthen us and make us fit, we might feel happier about it!

So here was Paul with the best of motives – to come and bless the church in Rome – being thwarted, whether by people, circumstances or the enemy, we don't know. If that happened to this great saint, then we should feel happier when it happens to us. It is not a sign of our sinfulness but it may just be that God is allowing it to sharpen us up and teach us some things along that way. Of course it is just possible that we've got it wrong and the course or path we are trying to follow isn't the right one, or perhaps not the best one and so the Lord allows us to be slowed up or redirected.

In Acts 16 we see examples of Paul trying to go one way and being redirected by the Lord. See: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia , having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia . When they came to the border of Mysia , they tried to enter Bithynia , but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas . During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:6-10) That is possibly the classic passage on redirecting by God, but what it means is that initially Paul had one idea in mind – to preach in the province called Asia – and then another one – to preach in Mysia and Bithynia – and finally a third one – to preach in Troas - but in each case was stopped because the Lord was trying to lead him over into Europe to Macedonia. Does that mean that Paul was wrong or obtuse? No, of course not, simply that it isn't always easy to hear the Lord even when you are an apostle!

So, as we said in the conclusion of the previous meditation, that's what faith is all about – listening with imperfect ears and seeking to do our best at obeying what we believe is right. Hopefully much of the time we'll get it right; sometimes we won't – but God will always we working in the background to bring good out of it all. Pray, seek God for guidance and step out on what you believe you have, and if you get it wrong, the Lord still loves you and will be working to bless you anyway! So, go on, go for it!







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 10

Meditation Title: Frustrated Longings (2)


Rom 1:11-13  I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.


In the previous two meditations we have been looking at Paul's desire to go to Rome and we've thought on some of the things that have thwarted him, but now we really ought to bring these things together and observe in more detail the reasons Paul gives for not having got to see them yet. He is probably writing this letter near Corinth on his third missionary journey. If you have a map in the back of your Bible it is worth looking up this journey. It starts from Antioch in Acts 18:23. Paul travelled up through Galatia, to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). While he was there we read, “After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. "After I have been there," he said, "I must visit Rome also." (Acts 19:21) This seems to be his first indication of a desire to go to Rome . After Ephesus he went up through Macedonia and down through Greece where he intended to catch a boat towards home, but instead started to retrace his journey on foot back through Macedonia (Acts 20). It was while he was in Greece for three months (Acts 20:3) that he probably wrote this letter.

Now it is important here to see that at the moment he has other pressing things on his agenda which he records near the end of the letter in chapter 15. First he tells them, “ So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum , I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation… …. This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you . (Rom 15:19 -22) i.e. the first cause of delay in going to Rome was his ministry of preaching the Gospel.

Next he records, “Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem . They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way,” (Rom 15:25-28) so the second cause of delay was his responsibility of transporting the money to Jerusalem which requires him to put off coming to Rome.

Third, we find him recording a different concern that we have noted already: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” (Rom 15:30 -32) i.e. things in Jerusalem (unbelieving opposition) may hinder him unless they pray.

Thus we find ourselves with three reasons why Paul's desire to come to Rome is being thwarted at the present. So his plans are to make his way back to Jerusalem and then set off for Rome – that's the plan! But already we've briefly noted that the plan had to be changed. Consider: “Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.” (Acts 20:3). Apparently traveling by boat was going to be dangerous so he goes the slower way retracing his steps on foot. Indication number one of the effects of the work of the enemy through people! When he eventually gets back to Jerusalem it all goes horribly pear-shaped! There is a riot because of him and he is arrested and it is only because he is a Roman citizen that he avoids being flogged (Acts 22:25 -29). There is another plot to kill Paul and so the Romans take him into protective custody and take him to Caesarea where he stays for two years testifying to the Lord before eventually being sent to Rome.

What is important to note is the Lord's obvious hand on Paul in all this. On the way back to Jerusalem, a prophet named Agabus had prophesied and, “took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, `In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” (Acts 21:11). Paul's response was the equivalent to, “I can live with that” and was not put off. After his two opportunities to speak to the crowd and the Sanhedrin we find, “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem , so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) It IS going to happen , but perhaps not how Paul originally envisaged going to Rome.

In Rome Paul was eventually to write, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil 1:12-14) In the midst of all that had happened to him, Paul says it is the working of God that had meant that he had been able to witness in places he had not dreamt of!

Yes, he may have caught something of the end product in his spirit when he wrote to Rome, but the details of how it was to work out involved the sinfulness of mankind, but even in that the Lord used it to ensure Paul testified to kings and leaders. It is an amazing story of a mix of the sinfulness of mankind and the sovereignty of God. We cannot tell how people are going to be used by the enemy, but the Lord knows and He works and weaves all these things together in His purposes. Be at peace in this knowledge.







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Meditation No. 11

Meditation Title: Gifts are for Giving!


Rom 1:11-13 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.


While we stay with these verses we need to focus on something different, that we have only made brief reference to and which deserves greater consideration; it is about the impartation of gifts and the harvest brought thereby. Paul's desire to come to the Christians in Rome is partly motivated by a desire to come and “impart to you some spiritual gift.” It is not until he comes to chapter 12 do we see further references to ‘spiritual gifts'. For his greatest exposition on such gifts we need to go to 1 Corinthians 12-14 but all we need say here is that when Paul uses the phrase he is quite clear that he is speaking about some particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit that is used primarily to build up the church. Now some people are very negative about spiritual gifts, more I think out of fear and the recognition that we are talking about a godly supernatural dimension which ‘naturally' we are unable to operate in. For those of us who like to keep the Christian faith purely in the intellectual realm, the activities of the Holy Spirit, especially when in harmony with us, are particularly threatening.

So Paul is aware that he, as an apostle, has the ability to pray over others at God's directing and impart these gifts or release these gifts in them. He sees that these gifts will help the Christians in Rome and make them strong. Strength comes when we are flowing in harmony with God's Holy Spirit, for He is the source of all strength. He is also aware that as he comes with the faith that God has given him, it is an encouragement to the church. Looking back on my own life, I don't know how many times I have been encouraged and strengthened by being in the presence of others who are gifted by God. Such supernatural gifting helps us realise that this is not merely about intellectual assent; it is about living in relationship with the all-powerful God who is real and who brings His power to bear in our everyday lives as we allow Him to.

Everything about this subject challenges the concept of Christianity being a passive and static faith that is all about just believing certain things. That is where the crusading atheists of the twenty first century are blind, for they do not realise that it is not merely about arguing about specific beliefs. They don't realise that they are having to combat the living experiences of God that Christians have. It is impossible to explain away the changes that have taken place in my life on purely psychological grounds. It is impossible to explain away the many experiences of God that I have had on purely intellectual or rational grounds.

If only we did have such a thing as time travel then such silly atheists could travel back and watch and investigate the incredible works of Jesus while he was on earth, and then the things that happened to the early Christians as recorded in Acts. Seeing such simple and naïve people doing the impossible again and again would truly upset some of these carping critics. Sadly today most of them seem to lack the integrity that would go and investigate the millions of changed lives that can be observed in those who have encountered Jesus today. Travel the globe and you encounter millions of such people whose lives have been dramatically changed by encountering the living God and His Son Jesus Christ. Where are the other world religions that testify to such changes? Where are the millions of atheists who can testify to their lives being dramatically changed when the heard the good news of atheism, who found a new power source flowing in them that set them free from addictions and bad habits and bad behaviour when they received that good news. We can testify to such things because we have encountered the forgiveness, the love and power of the living God and we know that these are the things that have changed us.

Now for Paul it was a two-way street; it wasn't merely about him, as an apostle, imparting something of a supernatural dimension to those Christians he encountered. Oh no! What he imparted had an effect on the lives of those Christians and they would thus bring forth ‘a harvest' or a crop of fruits if you like. When Paul speaks about a harvest he surely means first of all a harvest of salvation of people coming to Christ and giving their lives to him and being born again. That is surely the first ‘harvest' that he refers to. But there is also the fruit that comes forth in those lives and this goes back to what we were saying earlier.

The Christian faith is not static or passive, it is all about change. It is not about turning up at church once a week, it is about a radical life change that starts when we repent and surrender our lives to Christ and he forgives us and puts his Spirit within us. It is that power that changes us as we allow Him to work in us. Paul was able to write to the Galatians about the ‘fruit of the Spirit' or the outworking or changes that the Holy Spirit brings in us when we come to Christ. He listed some of those fruits there : “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22,23). There will be a steady growth of all these things in the true Christian – and a lot more. It is a life of change, the New Testament declares, a life of becoming more Christ-like. That can only come about as we submit ourselves to the Lord and He, by His Spirit, empowers us and brings about the work of change. That is what Christian leadership is all about – about bringing change to lives through the direction and power of God's Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!







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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 1 - 3

Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Obligations


Rom 1:14-15   I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome .


“I owe you one!” is a phrase that is not unknown to us. We know what it means to owe a favour to someone else. Some people feel they owe no favours to anyone; they are just self-concerned and life is all about pleasing them. The apostle Paul comes to us with a completely different take on life. Paul feels he owes something to everyone! Now that must almost be a unique outlook on life, for that isn't how most of us feel about the rest of the world. Now what is slightly frustrating is that he doesn't explain why he feels like this, only what its outcome is.

We are left to speculate why Paul felt obligated to the world. Our starting point might be to look at what he felt about his own salvation. To Timothy he wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:15,16) Now there has been much dispute over what Paul meant there but the most obvious interpretation is that Paul has come to realise the magnitude of Sin in him. He was a very bright man and had risen in the ranks of the learned but that hadn't stopped him acting arrogantly and powerfully against the church and against God by persecuting the Christians.

To the Corinthians he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God . But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” (1 Cor 15:9,10). He didn't rate himself as an apostle because he knew he was what he was only because God had stepped in and apprehended him on the road to Damascus . If God hadn't of done that, then Paul would probably be continuing in that self-driven way, still in darkness. Later in the letter to Rome he explains about the power of sin in us in a way that reveals much self-revelation: “For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:22-25) He knew that without Christ he was utterly hopeless.

In all these ways we see Paul putting himself down. To the church at Ephesus he wrote, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:7,8) On that terrible day on the road to Damascus he had heard that awful voice from heaven ask him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) He had thought he was being zealous for God (see Acts 22:3), but in fact he was actively opposing God. How wrong could you be! Thus the fact that the Lord bothered to speak into the material world and apprehend him, was an act of pure grace. He deserved judgment and received mercy and grace instead. Perhaps, therefore, we might say Paul's sense of obligation is first and foremost one towards the Lord, but knowing the Lord's love for His world, that obligation is then turned outwards to the rest of the world.

Paul sees himself in such a lowly position that he feels he is blessed by any and all people. When he says “to the Greeks and non-Greeks” he means to civilized society of the day, and the not civilized parts of society; they are all the same to him now for he is a servant of them all. It doesn't matter if they are wise or foolish, all men are equal in Paul's eyes; he has a calling to serve them all by bringing to good news of Jesus to them. They are lost like he was lost and so he has a message to pass on to them all. He makes no distinctions between peoples and that is why he wants to come to Rome to preach there. He's heard there are Christians there and he wants to come and encourage them by preaching the Gospel in that city so that there will be MORE Christians there!

Presumably, by the nature of the content of this letter he has heard that the Christians in Rome are very young and have not had much teaching for the first parts of this letter are pure, basic Gospel and is the only letter that spells it out in such detail. It is an amazing letter and perhaps Paul puts so much detail in because, deep in his heart, he realises he's not going to get to see them for some years (it was in fact at least nearly three years) despite his expressions of desire to come to them that we have considered already. He has a deep burden to share the good news with as many people as possible and, once they have surrendered to Jesus, to build them up in the faith with good teaching. This burden comes out of the realisation of his own state together with the amazing calling that he has received. This is why he feels so obliged to come to them and bless them. He is just so grateful at what has happened to him he wants everyone else to know and experience it as well!