The Epistle to the Romans is a magnificent gateway to the Scriptures which follow; it is also a spiritual mountain range where every peak opens up further heights to conquer. Extraneous text is not found within its pages; the issue of sin is dealt with in a faultless legal argument showing that the righteousness of God is not compromised when He acts to bestow on sinners the free gift of eternal life. Towards the end of the epistle Paul reveals his feelings and motives as he preached this great message. The lessons are as vital for the gospel preacher today as they were when they were first dictated to Pauls scribe Tertius (16.22).
First, note his priestliness (v.16). As he looked at his audience he saw before him potential material for the altar. As Handley Moule states, he was carrying out "temple service" in the "gospel of God". His objective was that those who listened and believed would offer themselves in a decisive act of presenting their bodies as "a living sacrifice" (12.1). This is what he desired, what he longed to see.
Second, note his purpose (vv.17-18). He was resolute in concentrating on his own work. He did not speak of, or seek credit for, the work carried out by others; he was precise in everything he said and did. Such an exemplary life is vital. His single-minded resolve was to "make the Gentiles obedient" to the Word of God. With that before him his purpose never wavered.
Note, also, his passion (vv.19-23). The extent of his travelling reveals the passion of his preaching. From Jerusalem and out as far as Illyricum (north of Greece bordering the Adriatic Sea) he had preached the gospel, Both in the great distances that he travelled, and in the content of what he preached, he showed his devotion as the "bondman of Jesus Christ" (1.1, JND). The gospel had to be preached, not only where it had been in the past, but where it had never been. He resisted working "where Christ was named", but would preach where His name had never been heard. His desire was not to build where others had laid the foundation, but where the gospel had never been made known.
His journeys and work were not haphazard. He carefully considered his plans (vv.24-29). His great desire was to go to Spain and, on the journey, stop off at Rome so that he could enjoy fellowship with the believers in that great capital city. His purpose was not to see what men had done in building the grandeur of imperial Rome, but rather to see what God had done in building up the saints. The fellowship appreciated there would be helpful to him on his journey. He did not, however, anticipate that he would remain a long time in Rome. His expectation was to be "somewhat filled" by their being with him. This did not indicate that he would become weary of their company, but rather that the time spent in Rome could only be short; work elsewhere was calling him. His arrival in Rome, when it came, was under very different circumstances from what he anticipated, and his stay was much longer.
His immediate plan was to go to Jerusalem to distribute the collection that had been gathered for the poor in that city. His mention of this may well have partly been to stimulate the saints in Rome to add to that collection.
Finally, Paul reminds them of his prayers (vv.30-33). His prayer life was a time of combat and he requests the Roman believers to join with him in that struggle. Maintaining a stable and regular prayer life is one of the most difficult aspects of Christian experience. There are spiritual enemies who constantly seek to interfere with prayer. Pauls words are proof of how important it is. How often has it been said that a prayerless life is a powerless life. Let us ensure that the Adversary does not gain advantage over us in this vital matter.
In the ungodly society in which we live, where we witness, the mood of society is for increasing secularisation. The changes emphasise that the need for the gospel is undiminished. Paul has left an example of gospel work being carried out in trying times. Let us seek to follow.