SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY DEPENDS ON URGENT INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Thomas Schreiner: Paul summons the Romans to pray for the collection that is about to be delivered to Jerusalem and for his protection there. The acceptance of the collection would signify solidarity between Jews and gentiles, which by now in the letter the Romans understand to be a vital element of the Pauline gospel and a symbol that the promises made to Abraham are being fulfilled. If Paul is spared and the collection is a success, then his visit to Rome will be one of joy and rest.
John Toews: The strategic importance of the mission to Jerusalem is signaled by the way Paul describes the deliverance of the offering in v. 28—when I have completed this and have ’sealed over’ to them this fruit—and by his request for the prayers of the Roman Christians for the mission. The word for sealed over suggests the secure transfer of ownership; Paul will transfer the collection and the Jewish Christians will accept it. It is precisely “the transfer of ownership” that is so significant and at the same time filled with such great danger. Therefore, Paul appeals (the same word as in 12:1) to the churches through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Holy Spirit to struggle intensely with me in prayers in my behalf to God (v. 30). The language of the appeal is intense and personal. It calls for the disciplined activity of contesting, even struggling, through prayer with and for Paul’s mission.
John Witmer: A Christian’s intercession is a means of sharing in the ministry of others.
Steve Strauss: Reciprocal, mutual partnerships, so central to the task of missions, must emerge among churches around the world.
[Steve Strauss, “Missions Theology in Romans 15:14-33,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160:640 (October-December 2003):474.]
Bob Deffinbaugh: Paul was a great man of prayer himself, but he coveted the prayers of the saints on his behalf. My friend, if the apostle Paul needed the prayers of the saints, we need them more today. Not only should you be praying for your own needs and the needs of those who minister at home and abroad, you also need the prayers of your fellow saints.
S. Lewis Johnson: Prayer is mysterious in its working but mighty in its power, and the apostle believed in it. The apostle of predestination, the apostle of divine election, the apostle of sovereign grace, the apostle of divine calling, the apostle of foreordination, and foreknowledge is also the apostle of fervent prayer. In his mind prayer was the means to the accomplishment of the divine purposes. And he understood prayer therefore to be absolutely essential in the work of God.
I. (:30) PLEA FOR INTERCESSORY PRAYER –
WE NEED OTHERS TO SUPPORT OUR MINISTRY WITH THEIR PRAYERS
“Now I urge you, brethren,”
Prayer should be our primary strategy!
Thomas Schreiner: The verb “I appeal” (παρακαλῶ, parakalō) does not represent an informal request. Thus the translation “I ask” (Cranfield 1979: 776) is unsatisfying inasmuch as it devalues the exhortation into a personal preference (rightly Dunn 1988b: 878). The authority of the request is conveyed by the grounds on which it rests. Believers in Rome are summoned on the grounds of (διά, dia, through) “the Lord Jesus Christ” (τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou) and “the love of the Spirit” (τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ πνεύματος, tēs agapēs tou pneumatos).
Thomas Constable: Paul realized that, in view of the spiritual forces antagonistic to his ministry, energetic praying was necessary (cf. Eph. 6:18-20; 2 Cor. 1:10-11).
- Ministry of Christ – Uniting Believers in One Body
“by our Lord Jesus Christ”
Frank Thielman: Although Paul would have been unknown to many within the Christian community at Rome, he could make such a personal request on the basis of their common acknowledgement of the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and on the basis of the love that the Spirit effects in the lives of believers (cf. Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22).
- Ministry of the Holy Spirit – Prompting Mutual Love
“and by the love of the Spirit,”
Michael Bird: The prayer is thoroughly trinitarian, taking place through Lord Jesus and through the love of the Holy Spirit and comes before God.
Ray Stedman: Prayer is born of the Spirit of God within us, awakening a desire to help, a sense of love and compassion. We pray to honor the Lord Jesus. This is what will stir people to pray more than anything else — not beating them with a whip. I learned that long ago. It is when people begin to see that the honor of Christ is involved, and the love of the Spirit is fulfilled when you pray, that they will really begin to pray. That is what the apostle appeals to here.
C. Mutual Effort
“to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,”
Thomas Schreiner: The verb may convey the idea of wrestling, as Jacob wrestled with God at Bethel (Gen. 32:24–32). What is communicated in this word group is that prayer involves discipline, energy, and earnestness (cf. Luke 13:24; Josephus, Ant. 12.2.2 §18; 17.9.3 §220; 1 Clem. 35.4). Paul calls for the Romans to partner with him in prayer because of their unity in Christ and the love that the Spirit has poured into their hearts for him.
Frank Thielman: This middle-voice term could simply mean “assist,” such as when Josephus used it to describe King David’s request that the people “assist” Solomon in building the temple (Josephus, Ant. 7.376 [Ralph Marcus, LCL]), but it was also often used in the context of war. Diodorus Siculus, writing in the first-century BC, for example, could use the term in an expression similar to Paul’s to describe sending Greek ambassadors to various neutral Greek cities in order “to urge [παρακαλέσοντας] them to join in the struggle [συναγωνίζεσθαι]” against the Persian invasion (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 11.3.3 [C. H. Oldfather, LCL]). In light of the conflict Paul hopes to avoid in Jerusalem (Rom 15:31), he probably meant to use a live metaphor for the formation of an alliance in the context of a conflict. The stakes were so high because the collection for the poor in Jerusalem was both the fulfillment of a theological debt that gentile believers owed to the Jews and a sign of the practical partnership in the gospel that gentile and Jewish Christians had with each other (15:27; cf. 3:22–23, 29–30; 4:11–12; 9:4–5; 11:17–18).
Warren Wiersbe: Our praying must not be a casual experience that has no heart or earnestness. We should put as much fervor into our praying as a wrestler does into his wrestling!
II. (:31) PURPOSE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER
A. Protect us from Opposition from Persecuting Non-believing Jews
“that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea,”
Thomas Schreiner: “The disobedient in Judea” (ἀπειθούντων ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ, apeithountōn en tē Ioudaia) refer to non-Christian Jews who had a particular animus against Paul because he had turned against their understanding of Judaism. The book of Acts reflects the antagonism of unbelieving Jews against Paul (cf. Acts 9:23, 29; 13:45, 50; 14:2, 5, 19; 17:5–9, 13; 18:12–17; 19:9; 20:3). His prayer for “rescue” (ῥυσθῶ, rhysthō, I should be rescued) refers to the preservation of his life. This should not be interpreted as an ordinary request for life to continue. The Romans are exhorted to pray for Paul’s life because of his mission, and especially his planned trip to Rome. We also know from Acts that Paul had good reason to solicit prayers for his safety in Jerusalem. After his arrival he was assaulted and nearly killed in the temple (Acts 21:26–36). During his imprisonment a Jewish plot to kill him was foiled (23:12–35), and Paul ended up in Rome only by appealing to Caesar (25:10–12). Was the prayer for rescue answered? It certainly was (cf. Murray 1965: 222; Stott 1994: 390), though not in the way Paul anticipated (cf. Schnabel 2016: 848–49). Still, his life was preserved despite the fierceness of the opposition. Indeed, Acts emphasizes that the Jewish opposition was the means by which Paul arrived in Rome.
B. Prepare for a Positive Outcome by the Believing Jewish Church
“and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;”
Frank Thielman: Paul’s “ministry [διακονία] to Jerusalem” was Paul’s work of conveying the collection from Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem (cf. 2 Cor 8:4; 9:1, 12–13). The scribe who replaced the term translated “ministry” (διακονία) with a later and less ambiguous expression meaning “bringing of presents” (δωροφορία) captured the nuance that Paul probably intended to communicate about his role in the collection. He was a courier—a go-between—on an important “errand” (REB) for his predominantly gentile churches in the Aegean area. . .
He did not simply hope, then, that the believers in Jerusalem would appreciate the monetary gift he was bringing, but that they would understand and accept the theological implications of the collection. The collection was a demonstration that gentile and Jewish believers in Christ were unified with, and supportive of, one another as members of the people of God.
James Dunn: The fear becomes explicit in v 31. It was twofold. First, that the main body of his fellow Jews, who had not (yet) recognized what the obedience was which God now required (the obedience of faith [1:5]), would regard Paul’s breach of traditional ethnic and cultically marked boundaries as traitorous and heretical. Paul would have no illusions on this score: he himself had once shared the very same attitude (10:2; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6); and the mounting nationalistic and religious fervor in Judea in the interval would have increased the likelihood that some group of zealots would see it as a religious duty to put Paul out of the way (cf. Acts 23:12–15). So he asks their prayers that he might be kept safe and delivered from such threats and peril to life. His second fear was that the collection might not be accepted by the Jerusalem church. The two were no doubt as closely linked in Paul’s mind as his syntax makes them: a church composed of large numbers of Jewish Christians who shared much of that nationalist and religious fervor would not take kindly (to say the least) to one who had threatened and abandoned some of the most basic beliefs and practices in terms of which Israel understood its divine calling as the people of God. And even if some of the leaders were more open to or even sympathetic to the gentile mission so much identified with Paul, the political and social pressures of a Judea beginning to gear itself for rebellion might have made it impossible to accept anything from the apostate Paul.
In view of all this the strength of Paul’s determination to deliver the collection becomes all the more impressive, and his determination to maintain the continuity and unity between the diaspora churches and Jerusalem, even at the risk of his life, can be seen in its full significance. The sharpness of the differences and the breadth of the diversity gave him no desire to break Christianity up into discontinuous entities.
John Toews: His mission is to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish faith and the location of the mother church of the Christian community. Paul fears that he will be rejected in Jerusalem and that the Jewish Christian churches will not accept the offering he brings. Nationalist zealotry is increasingly militant in Judea as developments progress toward the war of A.D. 66-70. Christians in Jerusalem were affected by this rising nationalist fervor. Any breach of Jewish group boundaries is under increasing threat. Paul’s law-free gospel for Gentile Christians represents precisely such a breach which at least representatives of the Jerusalem churches have opposed in several different regions of the Pauline mission (e.g., Galatia, Philippi).The more sharply the Jews of Jerusalem react to Paul’s presence and offering the greater the likelihood that the Jewish Christians will feel pressure to reject him and the offering. We know from Josephus, a Jewish historian contemporary to Paul, that the Jews of Jerusalem become so suspicious of the offerings of Gentiles to the Temple that one of the first actions after the beginning of the war in A.D. 66 was to refuse any monies from non-Jews. Paul’s mission is truly a high risk venture. His own life and his vision for a unified people of God composed of Jews and Gentiles is at risk. If the Jewish Christians reject the offering, do not find it “acceptable,” a massive breach between the Jewish Christian and the Gentile Christian churches will have been opened, perhaps even an unreconcilable breach. Paul sees his mission to Jerusalem in salvation-history terms; it is a kairos event in the saving purposes of God.
III. (:32) POTENTIAL OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER
A. Arrival in Joy
“so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God”
John MacArthur: Pray for my safety, pray for my success and pray for the fulfillment of my plans. Pray for the ultimate goal. Pray that I’ll get to Rome with joy, that I’ll come with a joyful heart in the will of God and be refreshed with you.
B. Anticipation of Refreshing Fellowship
“and find refreshing rest in your company.”
Thomas Schreiner: Thus the “refreshment” (συναναπαύσωμαι, synanapausōmai, 15:32) envisioned is not the relaxation enjoyed during a vacation. The refreshment stems from the fellowship and joy that exist when members of the church mutually minister to one another.
“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
The presence of the God of Peace is needed to keep the bond of unity and fellowship among believers
Thomas Schreiner: The benediction placed here is not the sign of the end of the letter, for elsewhere Paul conveys greetings of peace before the letter comes to a conclusion (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; so Fitzmyer 1993c: 727; Stuhlmacher 1994: 244). Thus the prayer-wish here precedes the greetings found in chapter 16. The extensive greetings in Rom. 16, of course, are unusual, but their function will be explained shortly.
Frank Thielman: Paul prays that God will reconcile believers to one another across the ethnic and theological boundaries that divide them, whether in Jerusalem or in Rome.