This week our texts were Romans 9-16, 2 Corinthians, and Acts 20-21.
I’ve titled this blog (and will publish a related travel blog soon) “Telling people about travel plans” because I find an interesting parallel between Paul’s letters to the church in Rome, his second letter to the Corinthians, and our own travel plans.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells about how distressed he’s been over the tensions existing between the church in Corinth and him. He mentions how he had indicated previously that he was planning a trip to see them again (from Ephesus), but later changed his mind and went north to Troas first. Apparently the people in Corinth had expressed to Titus (the letter carrier) their displeasure at Paul’s decision to rework his travel plans. Paul addresses this in 1:15 to 2:1.
Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.
Paul is indicating two things here: First, that he is compelled to obey God and felt led to visit Macedonia first before proceeding on to Corinth, and second, that he felt his last visit (see last week’s post) was too painful and still too recent and raw and therefore needed to be more time pass before he returns.
Another time that Paul mentions travel is in his letter to the church in Rome. Romans was written from Corinth at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, sometime around A.D. 57. About three years prior, while Paul was still in Ephesus, Emperor Claudius had died in Rome (A.D. 54). This is significant because Claudius had expelled Jews (and thus many Christians) from Rome in A.D. 49. It was during this three year period, while Paul was finishing his ministry in Ephesus, Asia, and Macedonia, that many Roman Jews (and among them Christian Jews) were making their way back to Rome to re-establish their lives there. Romans ends with a long list of individuals that Paul was sending greetings to, individuals who he knew from various places who had returned to Rome. The letter itself is not addressing specific problems or questions in the church, but rather is a deeply theological treatise written for the growth and theological unification of the melting pot of Christian backgrounds who were joining together in Rome.
In Romans 15:18-33, Paul explains his plan to visit them on his way to Spain (a fourth planned missionary journey).
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul did indeed arrive in Rome in A.D. 61, but would not have been freed to leave for Spain until about A.D. 63. It was not quite as he had possibly envisioned. I’ll discuss how he got there and what transpired next week. However, this brings me to my other point, which is about making plans for travel.
It is not uncommon for Christians to say “I’ll do ________________, Lord willing.” This is what a life of faith is about. We should always make plans to best of our ability, knowing though that they can change in the blink of an eye if God leads you in another direction. This happened to us this summer. As many of you know, as we were traveling, Darlene got a severe leg infection which forced a hospital stay and then a nearly six month recovery period. Her leg is still recovering, but it is now to the point that we can travel again. Our plan now (Lord willing) is to go back to Colorado to spend Christmas with our son there. We’ve been in Florida with our other son since late August. After Christmas, we’ll continue our travels or ???. That part of the plan is still unfolding.
Next week we’ll read Acts 21-28, Ephesians, and Colossians and talk about Paul’s continuing ministry.
For Further Investigation
- Resources on Romans from John Piper on Desiring God
- Resources on 2 Corinthians from John Piper on Desiring God
- Romans 1-4 video from The Bible Project
- Romans 5-16 video from The Bible Project
- 2 Corinthians video from The Bible Project
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