Paul, having not yet even visited the Church which had formed in Rome, now longed to see them. And it’s important to note they why to this statement To what purpose does he long to see them? “That I might impart on you some spiritual gift…” See, it is not merely for useless and meaningless travel that he longs to go and see them, neither just for their companionship, but rather for divine purpose. It is an aspect of our current faith that seems foreign when we read the Scriptures or when we study the early Church, that we tend to separate our lives into “spiritual” and “secular.” We divide between the two. We have our spiritual lives: prayer, worship, studies, and service; and we have our secular lives: work, television, nights out, time with our friends, etc. We want to fit in with the world and still be able to go out and have friends, and then present ourselves piously at the weekly church service as being “good, God-fearing Christians.” And, because of this great divide, it’s so easy for us to forget that when we read the lives of the early Church, or the lives of the saints in Scripture, that their actions, their very motives for doing things, were divinely inspired. In our neglect of the Holy Spirit, we have removed the very source of all inspiration that we read about all throughout Scripture, and then wonder why our lives seem to pale in comparison.
See, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, every aspect of our life is governed by the Spirit, thus every aspect of our lives becomes spiritual. Our worship is no longer the song that we sing Sunday before the sermon starts, our very lives become worship. We worship God in our interactions with others, we worship God with our behaviors in traffic, our very lives become spiritual actions, and we either glorify or mock the name of our beloved Jesus with every action, thought, word or deed. Because of this fact, our sheer motivations and desires become divinely inspired. I’ve heard of companies who will fire employees because of their public actions, as it becomes a stain on the reputation of the company if one of their employees behaves in a particular way; and yet so often we will support the right of a company to do that, yet drag the name of our beloved Jesus through the mud of consummate sin daily, never once thinking that He might be offended by this fact.
Paul speaks of imparting this gift to them. Not something that he had owned that he was giving them, but rather something that he had received that he was going to share with them. He is not imparting a tent that he had created with the sweat and toil of his own hands, but rather “some” spiritual gift. It’s important that this is “some” gift, as the humble Paul deems it. A gift which was suitable to his ability to give. He who so often denied that he had any right to have received anything, now proclaiming that he wants to share that which he has received. And to what purpose? “That you may be established” says the humble apostle. See, Paul was very adamant, and very careful, that grace was a gift which was given to us, not something that we could ever earn of our own volition. The grace of God itself was never the “finish line,” the end result of anything, to be received and then cast aside. Rather, he through his teaching and very life, proclaimed that the grace of God was the starting point from which we were to put away the insolent spirit which seeks dominion over our lives. It’s very important that we note each of these factors, because so often they can be easily misunderstood. Grace is received and then the “work begins.” It is then that we begin “working out your own salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) all the while “evaluating to see that you are truly in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus Himself tells us that “if any man sins, he is a slave to sin” (John 8:34) and Paul writes “you are slaves to the one you obey, whether slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:20). See, Paul is strongly warning us that it is grace alone which saves us, not our deeds or words; however he also strongly warns us of the amount of work which follows receiving that grace. He himself describes what a grace filled life looked like in his own life, when he details, “Three times beaten with rods; once stoned; three times shipwrecked; a night and a day in the deep; in perils of waters, robbers, my own countrymen, the Gentiles, the wilderness, the sea, among false brothers; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27). The grace of God was given to Paul, and that was the beginning of his walk in the faith. And the warning that came with that grace was that, “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:16). The grace which he had received from the Lord was the grace to break free of his previous bondage to sin, to the flesh, and to labor and toil for the Lord instead. It was the grace of salvation, and that grace of salvation led him to much work for the kingdom. We must remember both points of this fact.
Basically, what Paul is saying to the Church in Rome here is, “a long time have I desired, longed, prayed, to be able to see you so I can ‘fix and strengthen’ you so that you will be unwavering, steady until the end.” At this point, based on what he’s heard from all across the land, he knows that they are in the faith, and longs to teach them to assure that they don’t turn away from the faith; whether through disbelief or disobedience. We have to remember that there were many heresies that, even then, had already begun to circulate. Many false teachers teaching many false doctrines. Even as early as the formation of the early Church, there were many who were already twisting the words of the apostles and the meanings of Scripture, and Paul wished to personally present to the Church the true traditions of the Church to all believers. To counter the teachings that said that disobedience was acceptable, that sin was acceptable. To fight against disbelief amongst the faithful.
See, it’s so easy for us to stumble in this truth. We may know Jesus to be the Lord, but do we believe Jesus is the Lord. Do we have faith enough to make Jesus our Lord? Consider this for a moment, anyone in any church will say yes to that statement, but what do their lives say? Do our lives reflect that we believe that Jesus is our Lord? Jesus asked us, “why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). How often do we disobey Him? How often do we twist Ephesians 2:8-9 to mean that we can behave however we choose because it doesn’t matter, since it is by faith we are saved through grace? I had someone recently tell me that when interpreting Scripture, you should always look for the deeper meaning before you look for the application of Scripture. My problem with that is this, if I interpret a passage of Scripture then it becomes tinted by my own personal convictions. So, if I seek the deeper meaning of any passage before I look to the application of it, then what application of it will I find? See, if you seek and find your own flawed “deeper meaning” in a passage before you figure out what you are applying, then you will figure out a way to apply your own twisting of Scripture. Ultimately, you apply to your life the very view that caused you to interpret Scripture that way to begin with. If you read Ephesians 2:8-10 already acknowledging that you are not to do work, then your application of it to your life will cause the verse to fit your life, not the other way around. Suddenly, instead of transforming your life to align with Scripture, you’re changing the meaning of Scripture to suit your life. And this happens so often, it leads to the Eunomians, the Antinomians, the Nestorians, the Arians, etc. It leads to Marcian being able to convince a large group of people that the Bible is two separate gods and that the Old Testament God has nothing to do with Jesus.
Paul here is saying to the Church in Rome, and to us, “I’ve longed to come to you to make sure that you don’t twist the traditions that you’ve been taught based on your own interpretations of Scripture.” And, that’s something that we especially have to be guarded against. The further we fall into theological relativism, the more we are in danger of this modern movement of idolatry. Our prayers, our guidance by the Holy Spirit, our interpretations of Scripture, and the teachings and traditions of 2000 years of annointed men of God should, nay, must align. If they don’t, then there is nothing to assure that we will be “established to the end.” I’m fearful that so many have fallen victim to this easy believist, hyper-grace, Christianity that requires no change, no work, and no authority in our lives but our own. The Lord has ordained for us, in His Holy Scripture, this system of checks and balances to assure that His children could keep themselves “unstained from the world” (James 1:27), “pure and holy” (2 Timothy 2:21) and “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17).
We, my beloved brothers and sisters, must be very mindful, carefully guarded, not to fall victim to this world or the deceptions that it presents to us. We have been given the grace of the Lord; His Holy Scriptures to instruct us; His Church to guide us in understanding the Scriptures, and His Holy Spirit to guide us, to live pure, holy, and obedient lives, to be His ambassadors, a light shining in a dark world. May we never forsake any of these great blessings and fall short, but rather “hold fast the traditions which have been handed down to us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) that we can be established to the end.
May the grace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.