One thing I enjoy in Paul’s letters is how personal he can tend to be. He’s marked by many qualities one of which is his thankfulness to God:
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
Note that the thankfulness is through the mediation of the Son, Paul’s high priest and ours through whom we have Gods’ attention and ear. Next, Paul is thankful for believers. These were precious to him and yet he never met them. Nevertheless his love for them was genuinely sincere and heartfelt. His gratitude had a reason. He was grateful for their faith being “proclaimed” throughout the whole world”. That is, the gospel of Christ came to them and their words and deeds matched their lives. The reason for writing this letter (which many Romans were already demonstrating) was for the obedience of faith.
The term faith in the Bible is very specific and has nothing to do with wishful thinking or believing in something that’s not real or impossible (even if many try to impose that definition on us). Instead, faith is “trust”, “belief”, or “confidence” in that which is true. But trust in God comes as a result of the gospel being preached, heard, understood and loved—obeyed! That is, when it comes to biblical faith it’s a disposition of trust the creature demonstrates in the words and deeds the Creator has revealed. Paul continues and reveals his love for these saints by unceasingly praying for them so that he may impart to them some spiritual gift so they’ll be established:
“9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.…”
Paul here clarifies that mutual encouragement may take place between he and the Roman saints (V.12). In Paul’s mind they need each other, the differences which come through the church to strengthen God’s people. Too often instead of appreciating our differences in the Body of Christ, our different gift mixes are deplored evidenced in our rejection of them. Not Paul. He explains that often he wanted to come to them but was detained from meeting his goal of making disciples (V.13)
Paul gets even more transparent by admitting that he had to preach, “14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” This was a joyful disposition, “15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome,” which reveals his passion and single-mindedness. He gives the reason for his eagerness and its pride—in a good sense (I think), in the gospel of God;
“16I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
He’s not ashamed (but proud) of the gospel because God’s righteousness and power for salvation is made available to those who believe in the gospel, for believers. This gospel produces disciples which is the means for righteousness and living by faith. Up until this point, Paul has made it his mission and message clear that the gospel of Christ is what produces a faith that’s obedient indeed. Thus it is the means to Pauls’ desires of mutual encouragement and this gospel alone has the power to save believers.
This gospel is the gospel of God; it’s the gospel of His Son and instead of being ashamed of the Father and the Son, Paul is ready to declare them to the Romans. Are we ready to do the same to those around us? LORD, may we have the resolve to preach this message of Christ as Paul your servant demonstrated. (SDG)