(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 13, 2002
One of the great frustrations in life, at least for me, is that there is so much more I would like to do,
but I am limited and cannot do them. I am limited by time and space. I cannot be in two places at the
same time, and the time it takes to travel from one place to another takes away from what I could have
otherwise done. All of you who have long commutes to work understand that very well. I am also
limited in capacity. There is only so much I can deal with before becoming overloaded and bogged
down. My mind can only comprehend so much at a limited rate. Sometimes it feels like I need to be
multi-tasking with many windows open on the screen, but the operating system is still DOS handling one
item at a time. I am further limited by my abilities. I simply do not possess all the abilities I would like
and need to accomplish all I would desire. Whether it is a limitation in knowledge, understanding, skill,
physical ability or any combination of those, I simply do not have the ability to do all that I would like.
Perhaps some of you also share in this frustration.
As the years go by, the wise learn to live with this frustration even as the level of it increases. As the
years go by, all of us see the opportunities to accomplish certain things in life pass us by, but the wise set
their priorities accordingly so that they can accomplish what is actually important. When I was a young
man, there were a host of things I wanted to do in my life. Now that my life on this earth is half over, I
know that I never will accomplish many of those things. For the most part that is okay, because some of
them were not really that important to begin with, and others were replaced by more important things.
Yet there are those things I wish I had done, and there are those things I still long to do. Hopefully, I
have learned enough to keep the priorities in order so that I do accomplish what is important, but I know
that because of my limitations there will be things important to me that I will not do. The desires are
there, but I must leave the accomplishment of them in God’s sovereign hand.
I think the apostle Paul understood this, for in the passage we will study this morning we will see
the expression of his desire of something he could not control. He wanted to go to Rome to meet with
the believers there. However, it would not be long after writing this, while on his way back to Jerusalem,
that the Holy Spirit would keep letting Paul know that bonds and affliction awaited him, and Paul’s own
statement is that he would be ready to die in Jerusalem if need be (Acts 20:23; 21:13). Paul did not know
the future, but he could still express his desires and then let God work out the details. We need to do the
same and so there is an important lesson in these verses as Paul continues in his introductory statements.
In the first seven verses of his letter to the Romans, Paul identifies himself and the subject of his
letter as well as bringing an opening greeting to them.
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which
He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was
born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by
the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through
whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the
Gentiles, for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are
beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord
The writer is Paul who had been Saul, a persecutor of the church, but by the grace of God had been
changed into a bond-servant of Christ Jesus and called as an apostle with the specific commission of
proclaiming the gospel of God. The subject of Paul’s letter would be this good news of God concerning
His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who had been promised before hand by the Old Testament prophets.
Paul’s quest was to glorify God by bringing about the obedience of faith among the gentiles, and that
included the saints in Rome. Paul expands on this in verses 8-1 as he expresses his desire to come and
minister among them. In expressing this desire, Paul also reveals his own character. A character that is
well worth emulating because of his thankfulness, prayerfulness, desire for ministry and faithfulness.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed
throughout the whole world. 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 in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I
may be encouraged together with you [while] among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and
mine. 13 And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and
have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the
rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to
the foolish. 15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
The first characteristic we find in Paul is thankfulness, but note the reason for his thankfulness. It
does not have to do with something that he personally received from them. Anyone can and should
express thankfulness for things that are done for them. That is simply common courtesy. A courtesy, I
am sad to say, that seems to be expressed less and less within our culture. Perhaps this is a result of
child-centered in which children are doted on instead of trained in civility, or perhaps it is a consequence
of the welfare mentality prevalent in our nation in which people think they are entitled to gifts. They
receive gifts as earned wages rather than as a charitable present. Or perhaps it is a combination of these
and other factors. But even in a society such as ours, all of us understand that being thankful for
something that benefits you personally is a normal reaction.
But the Romans were not doing anything that benefitted Paul personally. Paul had received gifts
from the Philippians and was thankful to them for that (Phil. 4:15,16), but the Romans had not sent
anything to Paul. Why then was Paul thankful to God for them? Because they were doing something that
was dear to his own heart. That is why Paul’s expression of thankfulness here is so significant in
revealing his character and the driving force in his own life. Paul was thankful because God was
producing in the lives of the Romans the very thing that made Paul the most excited. Living for Christ.
Paul was thankful because the Romans were playing on the same team as him and they were making
progress. There is no jealousy in Paul over what they were accomplishing, just as there should not be any
jealousy in any Christian over what the Lord is accomplishing through other Christians. It is a sad
commentary on the true sinful heart of a person when jealousy arises because God is doing something
through someone else instead of them, yet I even find that to be true among pastors. We should rather be
I like to hear of what God is doing through his people in various parts of the world even if I have
never been there myself or met the people doing the work. I get excited when I hear that the Lord is
doing great things though someone else. There is no cause for jealousy because we serve the same
master who is head of the same body. We are part of one another, and as Paul says in 1 Corinthians
12:26 concerning the Body of Christ, And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if [one]
member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. I hope that you respond the same way. That is the
case of Paul here. Chapter 16 reveals to us that Paul and some of the people with him knew some of the
people that were in Rome. However, Paul had not been to Rome, and as we shall see in a few minutes,
he has not imparted to them any Apostolic ministry, though that is something he desires to do (vs. 10-15). Paul was excited and thankful for the reports he was hearing about the faithfulness of the Roman
We can understand even more of Paul’s thankfulness when we consider what these Roman
Christians had already endured. Some eight or nine years earlier (49 A.D.), Emperor Claudius expelled
Jews from Rome under the belief that they were all followers of someone named Chrestus – a variant of
Christ. This seems to have been the result of the reaction of the unbelieving Jews against the testimony
of the Jewish believers. The result was a turmoil that threatened the peace of the whole city. Claudius
sought to solve the problem by driving them all out. The powerful testimony of these Christians not only
affected Rome, but as Paul states here in verse 8, their "faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole
world." That is a good cause to be thankful. Are you not thankful when you hear of faithful believers in
Russia, China, the Middle East or elsewhere? Would you not want people to rejoice if they would hear
of the work God is doing through us here in Wappingers Falls?
But note as well who Paul is thankful to. Paul states, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you
all." Paul uses the personal possessive pronoun in reference to God. It is not "I thank God," but "I
thank my God." A pagan could not have done that and even most Jews would have refrained from such
an expression. But Paul has a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe and he is
not hesitant to let others know it. What about you? How willing and bold are you to let others know that
you know God personally?
Paul gives thanks to his God for the Roman believers "through Jesus Christ." This is appropriate
because Jesus is the one and only mediator between us and God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5), and it is
through Him that we are given access to the Father’s throne (Heb. 4:16) as His adopted children (1 John
Paul’s use of "first" in verse 8 is not "first" in the sense of the points of an outline, but more in the
sense of "let me begin by saying" and then starting his discourse. Paul’s thankfulness leads him to the
response of prayerfulness. The same is true for all who have hearts like Paul’s. When the righteousness
and kingdom of God are the primary focus of our lives, we get excited when we hear of people who are
living in righteousness and extending that kingdom, and that in turn motivates us to pray. The prayer
then motivates us to want to be personally involved if at all possible. That is Paul’s heart here
The NKJV translates verses 9 & 10 well, 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in
the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making
request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
The evidence of Paul’s thankfulness is his prayerfulness, and here, with the specific desire to come to
them. Paul was not trying to impress them with nice thoughts, but was seeking to reveal to them what
was really on his heart. That is why he starts these verse by calling God to be his witness to the veracity
of what he would say. The proof of his heart would not be just that he calls God as his witness, for many
people will swear by God without even a thought that what they are saying is true. They do not have a
relationship with God so they do not care. The proof here is in the expression of Paul’s relationship to
God as one who serves Him by his spirit in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul’s life was one of service to
God, and so God is the proper witness to Paul’s expression his devotion in praying concerning them.
Again, the specific request in Paul’s prayers is that he might at last, if God should so will, be able to
come to Rome. If the passage ended there, you might think, "so what, many people would like to see
Rome." Perhaps you would like to see Rome yourself and all its sights. Imagine what it would have been
like before it fell into ruins over the centuries? But Paul did not want to go to Rome either as a tourist or
to gain something through visiting the capital of the empire. Paul expands on his reasons in verses 11-13.
Romans 1:11For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may
be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you [while] among you, each of us by
the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I
have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit
among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
Paul’s reason for, as he states here, "longing" to go to Rome was for the purpose of ministry. The
tourist goes to a place in order to get, while Paul’s heart was set on what he could give. I wonder how
many of us here today have desires similar to Paul’s of wanting to go someplace in order to give? I
would hope that would be the desire when you come here to worship God and interact with His people.
That is a characteristic of spiritual maturity that I pray each of us are continually developing. Worship is
about giving to God, not getting from God. Your spiritual gifts are given to you for the purpose of
building others up and not seeking your own edification. There is, of course, a benefit to yourself in
doing this, and Paul points this out here too, but that does not detract in anyway from his heart to
Specifically, Paul desired to share with them what God had entrusted to him as an apostle. He
wanted to impart spiritual gifts to them they might be established, or strengthened. The very purpose of
spiritual gifts is for the building up of the whole body (1 Cor. 12-14). Paul expands on this idea in
Ephesians 4:11 where he states:
11 And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some
[as] pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of
the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we
are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of
doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we
are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, 16 from whom the whole body,
being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of
each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
This was Paul’s goal. To use his giftedness as an Apostle to help equip them so that the body of
Christ in Rome would be stronger. This is not arrogance on Paul’s part in anyway. This was a proper
desire for him as an apostle just as it should be your desire to use your gift, whatever it maybe, in the
service of God in building up other Christians. It is not arrogant to use what God gave you to accomplish
what God wants. Further proof of Paul’s humility is seen in his acknowledgment and desire to gain from
The first thing Paul expected to gain himself from them was encouragement. It is very seldom that
when you minister your spiritual gift to others that you do not likewise receive back the ministry of
others spiritual gifts to you. That is God’s design. Each part works together. Paul understood what it
meant that he was an apostle, but he did not view this as a superior position that did not receive back
ministry from others. The thankfulness he had expressed earlier already revealed he had been
encouraged by the report of their faith. He expected to gain even more encouragement from them when
he could meet with them in person. He expected their mutual faith to encourage and build up both them
In verse 13 Paul mentions the second expectation, but before mentioning it he emphasized again his
desire to come to them by speaking about his earlier efforts. Paul uses the phrase "I do not want you to
be unaware" in several places to call attention to the importance of something he was about to say (Rom
11:25; 1 Cor. 12:1; 1 Thess 4:13).
Going to Rome was not something that was a new or fleeting thought with Paul. He had "often" or
"repeatedly" made plans in the past to go to Rome, but up to the time of writing the letter, he had always
been prevented. In chapter 15:23 Paul mentions that this had been his desire for many years. In Acts
19:21, when Paul was just starting his third missionary journey, he speaks of going to Rome after the
completion of that journey. Paul does not specifically say here what had prevented him from making the
trip earlier. We do know that Paul was very sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit and diligently
sought to do God’s will and not his own. Acts 16 gives us an insight into this.
Acts 16:6-10, And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by
the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go
into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to
Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and
appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 And when he had seen the
vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the
gospel to them.
In Romans 15:18-21 Paul speaks his earlier ministries and is aspiration "to preach the gospel, not
where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is
written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.’" Paul
then states in verse 22, 23 "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
In truth, it was Paul’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that hindered him from coming earlier. Paul’s
desire to do God’s will in God’s timing was greater than his desire to do his own will in his own timing.
So should it be for all of us. Doing good things is not enough, nor can it really be good, if it is done apart
from God’s will including His timing. The right thing done at the wrong time, is still wrong. Paul
contented himself in serving the Lord as directed and trusted Him for the specifics of time and place of
Paul’s second expectation of gain was fruit among them even also among the rest of the Gentiles he
had ministered to. In some ways it could be said that obtaining fruit was Paul’s continual quest. Paul’s
ministry of preaching and teaching the gospel were not ends in themselves, but were for the purpose of
bearing fruit for God. Remember what Jesus said in John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose
you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain, that
whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you." While all that God requires of a man
is faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2), if a faithful man is not seeing some sort of results from his ministry, then he
will want to find out why and see if he can overcome any obstacle in order to gain fruit.
What kind of fruit? There are several types of spiritual fruit spoken of in the New Testament, and it
would be safe to say that Paul would expect all them since they all result from the proclamation of the
gospel and preaching of God’s word.
The first type of fruit is converts or new believers in Christ. Epaenetus mentioned in Romans 16:5
was the first convert, literally the ajparchV /aparxe or "first fruit," from Asia. There is also the "fruit of
the Spirit" mentioned in Galatians 5:22,23 that refer to the attitudes and characteristics of those who
walk in the spirit as contrasted with walking in the flesh. There is fruit of worship that comes from
conversion. Hebrews 13:15 states, "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to
God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." There is the fruit of holiness exhibited in the
changed life. The fruit of being freed from sin and enslaved to God is sanctification (Rom. 6:22). And
there is the fruit of service to the Lord. That changed life includes the fruit of shared ministry. In Phil
4:16,17 Paul thanks the Philippians for the money they sent to support him which he specifically called
the fruit (karpoV) which increased to their account.
Paul concludes this section with a final reason for his desire to come to them. Given Paul’s
commitment to obeying and serving God, he did not have any other choice. 14 I am under obligation
both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to
preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul states that he was under ofeilethV (opheiletas), "obligation" or "debt" to the Greek and
barbarians and to the wise and the foolish. This was part of Paul’s commission at his salvation (Acts
9:15; 26:17,18). Paul considered himself crucified with Christ and no longer living himself, but it was
Christ living through him (Gal. 2:20). He exclaimed to the Corinthians, woe is me if I do not preach the
gospel for he had a stewardship entrusted to him (1 Cor. 9:16,17).
The two sets of contrasted groups covers all people. Greeks and barbarians covers all people. Those
who spoke Greek and all the barbarians, which is simply a reference to those that did not speak Greek.
Paul had an obligation to preach the gospel to every ethnic group he encountered. He also was called to
the wise and the foolish. The education and intellect level did not matter either. The gospel is for all
For that reason Paul was eager to go to Rome and preach the gospel there.
What about you? Do you have a heart even faintly similar to Paul’s? Do you understand the
obligation that you are under to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? It is not a harsh obligation, for Jesus’ yoke
is easy and light (Mt. 11:30), but we are in debt to Him, for every true Christian is no longer his own, but
has been bought with the price of Jesus’ precious blood, the price of our freedom from sin.
My own prayer is that God will bring about fruit in your life in this church. Fruit of new converts.
Fruit of true worship. Fruit of people walking in the spirit and becoming holy. Fruit of willing use of
spiritual gifts in the service to God for the benefit of the whole body. As each of us strives to emulate
Paul’s priority of seeking God’s kingdom and will above all else, that fruit will grow.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young
Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your
parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times Paul is
spoken about. 2) Discuss with your parents what your desires for the future are and how you can accomplish
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What frustrates you? In what ways do you find yourself limited in being able to accomplish your desires?
What desires have you had that you known know will not be realized? How do you deal with that reality?
What desires do you still have for the future? What can you do to assure they will be accomplished? Who
wrote the book Romans? Why does he identify himself as a "bond-servant" and an "apostle"? What is the
purpose of his letter? What is the "gospel of God?" Why was Paul thankful for the Romans? How did Paul
know about life of the Romans? What are you thankful for in the life of others? Why did Paul continue to
pray for them, especially since he had never been there? What was the thrust of Paul’s prayers? What
specific reasons did Paul have for wanting to go to Rome? What ministry do you desire to do? What, if
anything, is keeping you from doing it? What did he hope to give? What did he hope to gain for himself?
What do you hope to accomplish when you minister to someone else? Why was Paul so concerned that they
know his desire? What prevented Paul from going to Rome to this point? What fruit did he want from them?
What obligation do you have to minister?
Sermon Notes – 1/13/2002 A.M.
Paul’s Desire – Romans 1:8-15
REVIEW (Romans 1:1-7)
THANKFULNESS (Romans 1:8)
Thankful without receiving
Thankful for Common Goals
Thankful to "My" God
Spiritual Gifts to Give
Mutual Encouragement to Share
Fruit to Receive