For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.…
The apostle had mentioned in the beginning of his letter this desire which he had long cherished (Romans 1:9-13). He here repeats it. The cause which had frustrated its accomplishment was the principle mentioned in vers. 20-21. New openings had presented themselves in succession, for a long period, "in these parts" — Macedonia, Achaia, and the surrounding districts, and while there remained a spot of earth which had not been visited by the gospel, he could not be satisfied. On the principle of preaching "where Christ was not yet known," it is likely he would not have thought of Rome had there been no "region beyond" into which he might be the first to carry the truth. Even Rome, the metropolis of the world, is not here his primary object. It is only secondary and by the way. He would "make his journey into Spain," and take Italy in passing (ver. 24). Here is —
I. OPEN HONESTY. He does not pretend that Rome was the immediate, far less the sole, object of his proposed journey. He does not, for the sake of ingratiating himself, make more of the believers at Rome than the truth warranted. There is often great danger of insincerity arising from this cause. We wish to impress those to whom we speak or write with their holding a prominent place in our regards; and we tacitly leave them to think that we have come, or purpose coming, to see them, when the real object of our visit is different. There is too much of this kind of hypocritical courtesy even amongst Christians. When we cannot be courteous but at the expense of truth, it is better to say nothing at all.
II. REAL AFFECTION, ACCOMPANIED WITH GENUINE POLITENESS — the politeness of honest feeling. It appears —
1. In his confidence in their kindness to himself. He does not hesitate to express his assurance that they would help him forward. This confidence is always one of the marks of true friendship. Whenever we feel it necessary to make many apologies for presuming to request or to expect a favour, it is a proof that friendly confidence does not exist. There is, however, a tact and propriety in such matters. There are persons who have a knack of availing themselves of the slightest acquaintance for taxing others with trouble and expense. But still, where there is true friendship, there will be mutual freedom, and the fullest confidence that it will be a pleasure to our friend to serve and to help us. Then Paul had friends at Rome to whom he could have said as he does to Philemon (ver. 19), and with regard to them all, he confided in the interest they felt about the cause in which he was engaged. This is a ground of confidence on which ministers of the gospel may often have to presume in prosecuting their work (3 John 1:5-8).
2. In the pleasure with which he anticipates their company, and his desire to be with them for as long a time as his ulterior objects and engagements would permit. But he does not speak of being fully satisfied, or even simply of being satisfied with their company: he speaks in the terms of heartfelt love, and yet of the most unexceptionable courtesy — "if first I be somewhat filled." He knew he might not have it in his power to stay so long as his inclination might dictate; but he hoped to be able to spend some short time with them. In many cases, there is little pleasure, and less profit, in merely seeing individuals for an hour or for a day. The most valuable characteristics require time to elicit. The superficial are soonest known, because there is least to know. If, on the other hand, they are well-known friends, the fondness of true friendship always produces a lingering reluctance to part. But duty ought to dictate against inclination. When an important object demands our presence elsewhere, however fascinating or improving the company of our friends, it must not be allowed to detain us; nor should we, in such cases, attempt to detain those whom we might even like to keep permanently. Conclusion: The apostle did see Rome. But it was in another way than he thought of. He went thither as "a prisoner in bonds." It was the way in which it pleased the Lord to send him: and he himself found that it contributed to the benefit of his cause (Philippians 1:12-14). Let us, in all our schemes, while we trust in God for their fulfilment, trust with submission, leaving everything in His hands as the Infinitely Wise.
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.