You are part of the message — Romans 1:8-10

The prayers of Paul

This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

A scroll of paper in a bottle is floating on waves.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

Romans 1:8-10 ESVUK

Every passage has a context. This payer comes almost at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans, straight after the basic introduction which follows the common code of the time to start with two things: Who the letter is from and who it is to. Something like this: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

But Paul seldom writes like that. He uses his introduction to say what the base for his letter is all about. It is not some sort of Plan B that God has, this is part of God’s Plan A, going all the way back to David. Jesus is God’s Son which was proved by his resurrection. Jesus has won the victory that God always planned he would, and is claiming his victory through messengers (that is what apostle means) going out into the world.

After this extended introduction, Paul gets on with the main part of Romans and opens it with a prayer of thanks to God for the people he is writing to. In Rome, in the closing years of Claudius’s reign, there would have been up to 100 Christians in a population of a little under a million meeting not in a large building but in houses and the different hosed grouped by different backgrounds, which we can surmise by the problems Paul addresses in this letter[1].

But look at this, Paul gives thanks that their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” This is straight after talking about the Good News of Jesus being proclaimed, the faith of the Roman Christians, an insignificant number of people in a massive city is going out with the Gospel message. People’s faith in Jesus Christ has become part of the Gospel message. The message is not just, “This is how to be saved,” but also, “Look at how the Gospel has transformed the lives of these people.” Your story is part of the Gospel.

Look at Paul’s modesty here. The church in Rome is not a church that he has planted, he has tried several times to get the Rome, but life happens and the plans never came about. Life is about to happen and get in the way of Paul’s plans again, and Paul’s success in coming to Rome will remain unfulfilled. Prayer is not always answered in the way we expect. Paul eventually will get to Rome, but in chains as a prisoner.

You don’t have to be perfect for your faith to count as part of the message of God. The house churches of Rome had problems in accepting each other, but Paul gives thanks that their faith has become part of the witness of Christ; as is your faith. Even if you fail at times and get things badly wrong. Jesus is in the business of reconciling people to God, even those who have got it wrong or who have been weak.


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[1] Tom Wright – Romans for Everyone: Romans Part 1

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