Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 2 2013 - Romans 15:22-16:2 – A vision for the kingdom

Paul was a man with a plan. It seems strange for us to read that he considered that he had fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem all the way round to Illyricum/Albania (Romans 15:19) and that there was no place more for him to work in these regions (15:23) so that he was now wanting to go to Spain via Rome.

Did Paul really believe that the work of the Gospel was complete in that large part of the Roman world of his day? No, but he did believe that his work was complete. Paul had a clear strategy of seeking to plant churches at key centres in the various regions so that the Gospel would be spread by and from those churches. He did not see it as his mission to preach personally to every inhabitant of the region. If he had, he would have robbed the churches of their own ministry – and he would not have got beyond the borders of Judea. No, Paul was a strategic church planter and he wanted now to take the Gospel to Spain. He wanted always to go where no one had gone before, so that he might preach Christ to those who had not yet had opportunity to hear of him.

In 1962, Roland Allen wrote his seminal book, Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours? He suggested that our failure to learn from Paul’s missionary methods had stultified the growth of the church and led to church planting which sought to control rather than empower those to whom the gospel had been taken. Our missionary methods have all too often reflected an imperial model rather than that of the kingdom. We have much to learn from Paul.

But Paul was also aware that his plans might not work out as he wished. He was on his way to Jerusalem and knew that he would encounter trouble there. He therefore asked the Christians in Rome to join him in struggling in prayer that he might be kept safe from those who threatened him and that he might be free then to visit them “in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (15:29). Prayer is a vital element in kingdom warfare.

We know that Paul was taken captive in Jerusalem and that from there he was eventually taken as a captive to Rome. We do not know whether he ever managed to go to Spain – some suggest that he was freed and had opportunities for further ministry before again being taken captive.

Paul’s life and vision are a challenge to us. We also need to have large views concerning the Gospel and a burning sense of the need for all the world to hear of Jesus Christ. Even if we are not called to be a missionary or a strategic church planter, we are reminded that we also share in the task of making Christ known. That is what Paul expected of the Christians in the churches he planted as he left them to make an impact on their own areas and to establish the kingdom of God in their part of the Roman Empire. That is the task that Christ has given to us also. Paul knew that it would require prayer as well as action, serious prayer as part of the warfare against the powers of this present age.

Lord, enlarge my vision that it may be as large as your saving plans. Give me a passion for Christ and his kingdom like the passion that drove the apostle Paul. Help me to be a faithful witness to Christ; help me to build your kingdom today. Help me to be serious about prayer; wrestling in prayer until your kingdom comes and your will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Peter Misselbrook