Romans 1:11, 12
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established;…
The vehement desire of the apostle cherished through many years was at length gratified; but the manner of entering Rome how different from the anticipated voluntary visit! He was to arrive, after a tempestuous, perilous voyage, as a prisoner to plead for his life before the emperor. It is well that a veil hides the future, or our wishes for some event might die away in silence.
I. LOVE IS NOT SATISFIED WITHOUT A MEETING. Augustine would have liked to see Christ in the flesh, Paul in the pulpit, and Rome in its glory. The apostle thought little of the outward magnificence of the metropolis; his heart turned to the company of Christians there. Some were his kinsmen, others had been his fellow-workers and prisoners, yet all who were knit in Christian fellowship were dear to him, and he longed to see them face to face. The ties of attachment in the early Church may have been cemented by the cold wind of opposition and persecution, which drove the members closer together for warmth and sympathy. Still Christianity proves itself able to banish worldly distinctions to-day, breaking down barriers of race and caste and language. The friends of the Saviour can feel no jealousy, since his love is large enough to embrace all, and a regard for his honour impels his friends to increase the number of his adherents. Love to Christ is the antithesis of narrowness of spirit. We may form an opinion of our discipleship from observing the degree of our longing to "assemble ourselves together." "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." There is a natural desire to look upon the face and form of famous men, that names may become persons to us, and that our weak imaginations may henceforth be assisted in picturing their voice and gesture and appearance. And this yearning leaps up into a sacred hope of the consummation of our bliss, when we shall be permitted to behold the Saviour and "see him as he is." Christ is "with us" now, but at death we depart to be "with Christ" for ever. Proximity and affection are correlative ideas.
II. THE MEETING OF CHRISTIANS HAS EDIFICATION AS ITS OBJECT, Paul was supremely anxious to be the medium of spiritual benefit to the Christians at Rome. He believed that a spiritual gift was the most valuable present he could bestow or they could receive. It ranked higher than scientific communications or almsgiving. Hours of pleasant chat and recreation are not despicable, but if our societies set these in the foreground they miss their proper mark. The cross of Christ flashes solemn light upon a pleasure-loving age. To this touchstone we must bring our Church engagements and our individual plans of living. Let congregations rightly value the ministration of spiritual things. We may not suppose the apostle to care most about miraculous endowments, gifts of healing, and of tongues, but rather a growth in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, and in love, the pre-eminent attainment. Do parents always convey to their children the impression that they set greater store by their progress in the Divine life than by their success at the bar or in the senate, in the exchange or the fashionable world? Note the apostle's desire to confirm the faith of these Christians. To establish them, not to unsettle their opinions and practices, was his intent. It is no light matter wantonly to disturb men's convictions and tear them away from their old beliefs. "Men" are not to be "carried about by every wind of doctrine," but to feel their feet firm upon the unchanging rock. The Greek word in the text reminds us that "stereotyping" is good when we are dealing with the first principles of Christianity. The frequently shifted plant grows with difficulty. There is a hint here that oral would be more effective than written communications. In spite of recent assertions, pulpit and platform speech holds its own as the engine that moves the masses. Even "the weighty and powerful letters" of the apostle could not equal the effect of his personal presence. Only enemies would term the latter "weak and contemptible." The Scriptures depict the coming advent of Christ as giving a mighty impetus to the perfection and triumph of his Church. He "shall appear in his glory," and "build up Zion."
III. A MEETING ENABLES ALL TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMON GOOD. The apostle looked forward to a mutual benefit. He was not so self-opinionated or proud as to imagine none could enlighten him or comfort him. Ministers need the consolation of their flock. Recall the inspiriting exhortation of the Israelites to Joshua, "Only be thou strong and of a good courage: the Lord be with thee," etc. (Joshua 1:17, 18). Nor was the apostle so selfish as to wish to get all and to give nothing. Christian Churches are designed to be Mutual Improvement Societies. Some only inquire - What good will such a gathering do us? forgetting that their remarks or their attendance even may stimulate their brethren and aid in the success of the meeting. It cheers the weak and supports the wavering to witness the steadfast confidence of the strong. The faith spoken of implies visibility in order to its full effect. Secret disciples unconnected with any organization miss much comfort and work through their isolation. Come, join our Church ranks! Christians are like the stones of an arch, strengthened in position by their joint presence and pressure. Bunyan beautifully portrays this mutual comforting in Christian and Hopeful as they ford the river of death. What a testimony to the work of any man that his presence helps, not mars, the piety of his friends! Let not "brethren cause the heart of the people to melt"! (Joshua 14:8). We are responsible for the influence we exert. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;