For this reason I have often been hindered from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain – for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while – but now , I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints.
Up until now God had closed the door on coming to Rome for Paul. In his missionary function God wanted Paul to cover the eastern half of the Roman Empire first. Paul had always wanted to preach in Rome. He had been detained in order to take up the slack in certain areas of positive volition in the eastern part of the Empire. God had detained him as a part of evangelizing and starting churches in certain positive areas in the East. There were several times when Paul could have gone to Rome but he was always hindered or prevented.
Verse 23 refers to Paul’s current status of having covered the areas of the Eastern Empire and now being ready for the next step in God’s plan for his life. Paul’s missionary function had been replaced by the operation of the local church in the east. He had functioned on the indigenous principle. The indigenous principle means that the missionary is tasked with sharing the Gospel with the locals, teaching the locals, identifying those local men who have the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher and helping them set up local churches. Paul therefore no longer had a mission in these places because everywhere he had gone he had not only evangelized but he had established churches.
Paul said that he expected to be helped along the way by the Romans, which refers to money, clothes, food, people to escort him, etc. “But now” anticipated Paul’s choosing to go to Jerusalem instead of going to Spain via Rome. No biblical evidence exists that Paul made it to Spain. Church fathers who followed in Paul’s footsteps made reference to the fact that Paul preached the Gospel to the far reaches of the West, which would include Spain.
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were please to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
There was nothing wrong with the decision of the believers in Macedonia and Acaia, they did the right thing. This was impersonal giving, which means it was not based on emotion but based upon compassion from doctrine. Impersonal giving emphasizes the subject rather than the object. The subject is properly motivated by doctrine rather than by emotionalism. Impersonal giving is motivated by impersonal love. Therefore, such giving becomes a part of the function of the Royal Family Honor Code. Many of the saints in Jerusalem were destitute and the reason for being destitute was not the issue, it was a question of the believers’ motivation in giving. Impersonal giving, like impersonal love, emphasizes the doctrinal standards and grace motivation of the subject. Furthermore, spiritual giving divorces emotion from the motivation factor. Emotion as the master of the soul is a distraction to the Christian Way of Life. It should be remembered that emotion has no spiritual connotation in this dispensation. Therefore true motivation in giving is not based on emotion but on the impersonal love function of the honor code.
The Gentile believers were cognizant of the fact that Jewish believers were responsible for the existence of the Old Testament canon. They were also aware of the fact that human writers of the New Testament (that which was available) were either apostles or someone intimately associated with the apostles, and the apostles were Jews. They are further aware of the fact that all of these apostles were not only Jewish believers but that Jerusalem was their headquarters.
Understanding these facts, they were obviously pro-Semitic, which means that like them no believer today has any right under any circumstances to be anti-Semitic. It is a violation of the honor code to be involved in anti-Semitism. Being grateful for doctrine and being motivated by doctrine, they were anxious to assist financially the source of their spiritual blessings — Israel. As God had prospered them financially they sought to share this prosperity with those who were humanly responsible, i.e. doctrine was the source of their prosperity and therefore they tried to share with those who were the source. The Jews had shared their spiritual prosperity of doctrine (through Paul), now these Gentiles desired to share their material prosperity with those who were the source. Therefore another honor code principle - the sharing of spiritual prosperity in doctrine motivates the sharing of material prosperity in money.
Christian giving is an honor code function. It combines doctrinal motivation with material prosperity to perform a divine service. Bona fide spiritual giving is really the function of the positive, strong believer who has benefited from doctrinal teaching by advancing in the plan of God. The true givers are those believers who have shared in the spiritual things from doctrinal teaching, so that doctrine resident in the soul motivates them to give, and nothing else. Giving is not the sharing of emotion, is not based on attraction or persuasion by flattery. The strong believer has been spiritually blessed from doctrine and financially prospered by divine blessing. The doctrine provides motivation to give to the source of his doctrinal teaching. In this context it is the Jew; in the Church Age it applies to the local church. From the divine blessing of prosperity comes the money with which to give. God creates the wealth by divine blessing. And from doctrine resident in the soul comes the motivation to give.
Paul used an example of the churches of Macedonia to teach the doctrine of giving. The churches of Macedonia were both impoverished and afflicted themselves. In spite of their condition and the fact that they were Gentiles, they found it in their hearts to give to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. The Macedonians had learned grace orientation (a prerequisite for grace giving) and were advancing in their spiritual lives. This knowledge had resulted in a relaxed mental attitude toward giving though they had little themselves to give. They had learned, believed and applied the principle that God will always provide for His children. This was not an attempt to bribe God into sending blessing; it was a result of their spiritual growth.
Grace giving is to be done “as unto the Lord.” It is the principle of grace giving commanded by the Word of God that is important, not the amount of the gift. Giving requires the proper mental attitude of grace under the control of God the Holy Spirit. The actual gift is not what is important when giving; the “soul status” is what really counts the most. Whether your local church needs your financial support or not it is still your responsibility to give as God has prospered you. When properly done, giving is divine production, which is of eternal value.
Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
Using seals in the ancient world was a custom of identifying things with a sign, a letter, a word, or a combination of these things. Sealing was certification in the ancient world. An impression was made with a signet ring on the paper as a guarantee and legal protection of property. Here, Paul was the seal himself and he was using his apostolic authority for a legitimate thing: the transfer and distribution of funds.
It was God’s will for Paul to go to Spain. He was not going to Spain, however; he would deviate from God’s plan. The good decision was to go to Spain; the bad decision was the diversion to Jerusalem. The emotional pull to Jerusalem caused Paul to deviate from the plan of God temporarily. The distribution of that money did not require Paul’s administrative ability. Paul should have been inflexible with regard to the will of God for him to go to Spain. It was God’s will for Paul to minister to the Latin world of the empire, just as until now Paul has ministered to the Hellenistic part of the empire. The Adriatic Sea divided the Roman Empire into two parts: Latin in the west; Hellenistic in the east.
Now that Paul had fulfilled his unique missionary function of three missionary journeys in the Hellenistic area, he was to go immediately to the Latin west. Therefore Paul must be inflexible regarding Rome and Spain. But the temptation to personally deliver the great offering to Jerusalem was too much for him, and Paul found himself violating the honor code principle.
Paul was confident that it was God’s will for him to go to Rome to minister the Word of God. In this he was correct. In fact, it was the will of God for him to go immediately to Rome in preparation for his missionary work in the regions beyond. Paul’s missionary momentum demanded that he keep moving west and not be distracted by any personal desire of taking that offering personally to Jerusalem. Paul had a special apostolic ministry to the Roman believers which was vitally necessary for securing his base in Rome. Furthermore, the Roman believers had been brought to a certain level by their pastors. They were ready for Paul. Paul’s ministry was necessary to bring a lot of them to maturity. It was imperative that a mature remnant of believers be established in Rome since historically the expansion of Christianity would include that vital center.
For several hundred years after the death of Paul Rome would be the center for the advance and expansion of Christianity and the pivot which would be eventually formed in Rome by Paul’s ministry would produce the greatest historical age anyone has ever known: one hundred years of the Antonine Caesars, 96-192 A.D. Therefore Rome, not Jerusalem, was the key city for the dissemination of doctrine. Jerusalem was actually being phased out as the center of Christianity and positive volition was moving away from the Jews to the Gentiles in the West. Therefore, there was the necessity for Paul teaching Bible doctrine in Rome and beyond to the west.
Paul finally made it to Rome, but he didn’t just stop there in passing. Paul made it to Rome under house arrest for two years, waiting for his trial before Nero. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote the four great Prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Paul was tried by Nero and released for lack of evidence in 63 or 64 AD. Afterwards is when he most likely proceeded to Spain to begin his ministry in the western part of the Roman Empire, which included Spain. (Read Acts 22-28 for the full story of Paul’s journey to Rome)