First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.…
The apostolic commission has been presented; in this section it is interfused with the sympathy and service of a brother. He is still pre-eminently the preacher of the gospel (ver. 15), but he speaks as to those whose faith is one with his own, and who are therefore brethren in a most sacred brotherhood. We may consider, as in some sort distinct though mutually involved - his prayers, and his purpose.
I. HIS PRAYERS. Does Paul for one moment here strike a happy comparison between his work and that of the priestly intercessor in the elder covenant? For the "service" of which he speaks now is the service as of a temple, and it is as though he said, "In the gospel, as under the Law, there is a holy of holies, and worshipful intercession there. The holy of holies is the shrine of the innermost spirit, where converse is held with God, and the priestly worship is the pleading for brethren in Christ, and concerning the things that touch the kingdom of God." Yes, he "serves" God "in his spirit in the gospel of his Son."
1. A thanksgiving. "That your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world." It was fitting that he should use such language as this, hyperbolical though it was, to those who lived in the world's metropolis. Wherever he went he heard of their good name, and he thanked God for it. He thanked God for it? Yes; for was he not spiritually identified with all who were identified with Christ his Lord?
(1) Doubtless the faith itself which was so eminent was the chief cause of gratitude. That there should be such a light shining in a dark place filled his heart with joy. They were alive unto God!
(2) That the faith of the gospel should have taken such hold on the world's central and imperial city was no small cause for joy. What visions of the future might not open up before his mind!
(3) The wide proclamation of their faith was gratifying, for if others were stimulated it would be for the furtherance of the gospel.
2. A longing. "To see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift," etc. The grace of God that was in him was to be operative towards others; he lived not unto himself. And was it not even so with them? A mutual duty, and a mutual blessing.
(1) The interaction of their common faith: intensity by contact.
(2) The special aspects of the common faith: "yours and mine;" "some spiritual gift." Thus their establishment. The fulfilment of what promised so well, and the supply of any lack.
3. A request. "If by any means now at length," etc. As Paul taught the Philippians afterwards (Philippians 4:6), so he practised now. And doubtless, with all the wrestlings of that impetuous spirit, there was peace. For God's will was gouvernant. "By any means." He learned in the issue (Acts 28.) that his ways are not as our ways. But it would still be "prosperity" (see ver. 10), if it were God's doing; so Romans 8:28.
II. HIS PURPOSE.
1. The great constraint of the gospel. "I am debtor." Nothing in the universe so free as the spirit of Christianity; nothing, on the other hand, which lays so commanding a grasp on love and life. A blessed yoke.
(1) All our possessions and powers are held in trust for the world; we all are "debtors," according to our several capacities and circumstances.
(2) In an eminent degree are we stewards as being entrusted with the gospel of God's grace. And the law - here, as in the former case - is, that being unused it ceases to be possessed.
2. The personal aim. "That I might have some fruit." Were the words of our Lord in mind, John 15:8? Or was he rather regarding the world as a great field, and himself as a sower? (see John 4:35-38; 1 Corinthians 3:7-9).
(1) The commission was to the Gentile world (Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; so vers. 13, 14).
(2) Must not the central purpose, then, be the evangelization of the great metropolis of the Gentile world? Doubtless this filled his mind, and hence his intense interest in these Roman Christians. What visions! Realized in history. How? and how may it yet be? Let us realize our stewardship (1 Peter 4:10); and that the fulfilment of our stewardship may become a freedom and gladness, let us realize our oneness with Christ, and with Christ's people. T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.