Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish — hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
This is the beginning of a long letter. By its end, Tertius, who wrote while Paul dictated, must have had an aching wrist.
As an apostle writing to fellow Christians in a city he had never visited, Paul yearns to share his story. He wants to set out for them the content of his experiences and beliefs. He needs to inform them about why he is coming to Rome, and reassure them he isn’t a threat. He might even take the opportunity to offer advice about challenges they face, living as they do in the Empire’s capital city. A short note will not suffice to do all of that.
Still, it helps to get the highlights in early so that people know what this letter (and your faith) is all about:
· The gospel (good news) of God · Concerning Jesus Christ · God’s ‘Son’ · Risen from the dead · Our ‘Lord’ · For everyone · Yes, including all of you, where you live
Perhaps, as we read for ourselves, and as Paul expands on this in his letter, we will experience him sharing a spiritual gift that strengthens us. And if we in turn share that, then we might also be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
So read for yourself. Read carefully. Read hopefully.
Good News God, Thank you for Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord. Thank you for those who share their experiences of your good news. Help me to listen carefully, share generously, and be encouraged through the faith of others. Amen.
The Revd Dr Trevor Jamison, Minister, Saint Columba;s United Reformed Church, North Shields