Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you.…
I. NOTICE THE MANLY EXPRESSION OF CHRISTIAN AFFECTION WHICH THE APOSTLE ALLOWS HIMSELF HERE. Very few Christian teachers could or should venture to talk so much about themselves as Paul did. The strong infusion of the personal element in all his letters is so transparently simple, so free from affectation or unctuous sentiment, that it attracts rather than repels. He had never been in Rome when he spoke these words; he had no personal relations with any of the believers there; but still his heart went out towards them, and he was not ashamed to show it. "I long to see you."
II. NOTE THE LOFTY CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE PURPOSE OF THEIR MEETING. The word he employs here, "gift," is never used in the New Testament for a thing that one man can give to another, but is always employed for the concrete results of the grace of God bestowed upon men. The very expression, then, shows that Paul thought of him self, not as the original giver, but simply as a channel through which was communicated what God had given. In the same direction points the adjective which accompanies the noun — a "spiritual gift" — which probably describes the origin of the gift as being the Spirit of God, rather than defines the seat of it when received as being the spirit of the receiver. Notice, too, as bearing on the limits of Paul's part in She gift, the delicacy of the language in his statement of the ultimate purpose of the gift. He does not say, "that I may strengthen you," which may have been too egotistical, but he says, "that ye may be strengthened," for the true strengthener is not Paul, but the Spirit of God. And now, what are the lessons that I take from this?
1. No Christian teacher has any business to open his mouth unless he is sure that he has got something to impart to men as a gift from the Divine Spirit. And no Christian organisation has any right to exist unless it recognises the communication and farther spreading of this spiritual gift as its great function. That is the one lesson, and the other one is this —
2. Have you received the gift that I have, under the limitations already spoken of, to bestow? That is, have you taken Christ, and have you faith in Him. The purpose of the Church, and the purpose of the ministry, is that spiritual gifts may be imparted. And if that purpose be not accomplished, all other purposes that are accomplished are worse than nothing.
III. NOTE THE LOWLY CONSCIOUSNESS THAT MUCH WAS TO BE RECEIVED AS WELL AS MUCH TO BE GIVEN. The apostle corrects himself after he has said, "that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift," by adding, "that is, that I may be comforted (or rather, encouraged) together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." If his language were not so transparently sincere, and springing from deep interest into the relationship between himself and these people, we should say it was exquisite courtesy and beautiful delicacy. But it moves in a region far more real than the region of courtesy, and it speaks the inmost truth about the conditions on which the Roman Christians should receive, viz., that they should also give. There is only one giver who is only a giver, and that is God. All other givers are also receivers. Paul's was a richly-complicated nature — firm as a rock in the will, tremulously sensitive in its sympathies; like some strongly rooted tree with its stable stem and a green cloud of fluttering foliage that moves in the lightest air. So his spirit rose and fell according to the reception that he met from his brethren, and the manifestation of their faith quickened and strengthened his. And he is but one instance of a universal law. All teachers, the more genuine they are, the more sympathetic they are, are the more sensitive of their environment. The hearer reacts on the speaker quite as much as the speaker does on the hearer. If you have got ice in the pews, that brings down the temperature up here. And the unbelief and low-toned religion of a congregation is always pulling down the faith and the fervour of their minister, if he be better and holier, as they expect him to be, than they are. On the other hand, the true encouragement to give a man when he is trying to do God's will, to preach Christ's gospel, is not to pat him on the back and say, "What a remarkable sermon that was of yours! What a genius; what an orator!" not to go about praising it; but to come and say, "Thy words have led me to Christ; and from these I have taken the gift of gifts."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.