Romans 1:8-15 "When in Rome" (Part 2)
"First, I thank my Elohim through Yeshua HaMashiach for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For YHWH is my Witness, Whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by YHWH's Will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.
"First, I thank my Elohim through Yeshua HaMashiach..."
The first item of business for Paul following his introduction is to give thanks to YHWH, as we all should do. This also follows the typical epistle format of the Introduction-Thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 1:1-9; Philippians 1:1-8; Colossians 1:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4). I chose to use 'Elohim' here instead of 'YHWH' because Paul is using the term 'God' as a position, rather than a name.
"...for all of you..."
The church in Rome was composed largely of Gentiles, though some Jews must have been present. In 49 A.D., Emporer Claudius expelled Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). However, this ban most likely ended sometime in 53 A.D. This could have created some tension between the Jews and Gentiles during this period which could help explain Paul's focus on the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Romans 9-11. Paul wrote Romans (and 2 Corinthians) during his third missionary journey in 57 A.D. while staying in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3).
"...because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."
Apparently, the faith of this church was renowned throughout the known world. At this point in history, there were many civilizations that were not known to the Roman Empire (Americas, Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.).
"For YHWH is my Witness..."
Paul calls on YHWH to keep him accountable for what he says. Obviously, YHWH is omniscient and omnipresent, and thus is technically always a witness. However, this is structured like an oath, that he is not lying to the church in Rome.
"...Whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son..."
"With" should be translated as "in" (ἐν - en), but the meaning really isn't changed. We worship and serve YHWH in "spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). We are spiritual beings, not just flesh. We are made in the image of YHWH, which means we also have a spirit; but we are still 'perishable'. 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 is an excellent exposition on this from Paul. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." - John 3:6. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." - Galatians 5:16-17. Paul speaks to this in ch. 8:12-17, which, again, will be addressed further at that time.
"...that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers..."
This is certainly a theme in Paul's life as he writes earlier in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica in 49-51 A.D. "...pray without ceasing..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is of course impossible to never stop praying, but it is the attitude towards prayer that Paul is attempting to encourage. It is a mental attitude of being prayerful, and being in continual fellowship with YHWH.
"...asking that somehow by YHWH's will..."
YHWH is omniscient and omnipresent in all of time. YHWH created time and space, and is thus not constrained by it. He spans eternity and knows everything that has, is, and will happen. Does this mean that He has set every event in stone? Or does he pull a Doctor Strange and look at 14,000,605 possible outcomes of every situation? Or are there fixed events with everything happening in between not set? I don't know. What we do know is that there are fixed events determined by prophecy, and that YHWH can see all of time and knows what will happen. I will save this for further discussion for passages later on in Romans, and keep you in suspense.
"...I may now at last succeed in coming to you."
Paul never visited the church of Rome, which also begs the question of why he is writing to them in the first place if he did not plant this church (Romans 15:20). Paul always longed to go to Rome, but was never able to; most of his missionary journeys centered on Greece and Asia Minor. However, at this moment in time, Paul is on his way back to Jerusalem, and certainly had plenty of downtime. His future plans were to eventually minister in Spain (Romans 15:24), which he most likely was not able to accomplish, unfortunately, but Rome would have become his new base of operations most likely (Romans 15:28). This letter could then be seen as an important step in this process. The church in Rome also would have known about Paul through Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila (Acts 18:2-3, 18, 26). I won't dwell on this too much as Romans 15 deals strongly with this.
"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you..."
Paul speaks concerning spiritual gifts in ch. 12:3-8. This passage would appear to indicate that Paul is capable of bestowing spiritual gifts upon believers, however, Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:11 states, "All these [spiritual gifts] are empowered by One and the Same Spirit, Who apportions to each one individually as He wills." So the Ruach HaKodesh is the One Who bestows spiritual gifts. Let's take a look at the original Greek.
"impart" is "μεταδῶ - metado" which Strong's defines as "to share a thing with anyone". And "gift" is "χάρισμα - charisma" which is defined by Strong's as "a gift of grace, a free gift", which is further used in chs. 5:15, 16, 6:23, 11:29, 12:6; generally used in the sense of blessings or salvation, though 12:6 is used in the context of typical spiritual gifts. One possible interpretation of this is "sharing a blessing", which could be utilizing his own spiritual gifts and sharing the effects of it.
"that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine..."
How often do you hear about people who go on missions trips that wish to encourage whoever they are going to, and in the end, not only are those people encouraged, but the missionary who went is also encouraged. It is a beautiful thing to see someone's life changed, and what an impact it has on the giver! When you give to an organization (church, charity, etc.) and see the fruits of the investments, that is also encouraging. If you've never heard of George Muller, please go research him or even read his biography. This man's faith is incredible, and inspiring, and encourages me.
The Greek word here is "συμπαρακληθῆναι" - symparaklethenai) which is a compound word of "σύν" - sun - 'with' and "παρακαλέω" - parakaleo - "to exhort, encourage", which when combined, means to "share in encouragement with".
Now put yourself in 1st Century Rome, Greece, or Central Asia, and you are a group of believers that gets to be taught by Paul himself. What an incredible opportunity to meet a man of YHWH with an incredible testimony! I would be συμπαρακληθῆναι myself!
"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers..."
Paul wishes to be transparent with people, and tell them straight-up what's going on in his life. The Greek word for "unaware" is "ἀγνοεῖν" - agnoein - 'to be ignorant, not to know'. Interestingly, this is a similar word from where Agnosticism comes from ("ἄγνωστος" - agnostos).
The Greek word for "brothers" is "ἀδελφοί" - adelphoi - "brothers". This is to be contrasted with "sister" which would be "ἀδελφή" - adelphe. In Greek, and many other languages, there are masculine, feminine, and neutral forms of words, as opposed to English. In this case, obviously, the root is the same, just with a different ending. What happens when you make them plural? Well, we've already seen 'brothers', and "sisters" would be "αδελφαί". But what if you are referring to both brothers and sisters? You could use both words, and throw an "and" in between, but that is tedious. What about "siblings"? Oddly enough, "sibling" does not show up in the Scriptures, unless otherwise translated as such in modern versions. In modern vernacular, we say "hey guys" which could refer to a group of men and women, even though "guy" is a masculine term. It is certainly possible that ἀδελφοί could be used in the same way.
The Greek word being used here is actually another compound word. "Α" is from the first letter of the ALPHAbet, and is used as a "copulative prefix", and then "δελφύς" - delphus - "womb". Combined together, they literally mean, "from the same womb", which makes sense why brother and sister are the same word, just with gendered endings. So, would it be so hard to imagine that Paul may just be writing concisely, and meaning to say "all of us who come from the same Womb" meaning, in HaMashiach? "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Yeshua HaMashiach." - Galatians 3:28. We are all born again from the Womb of Christianity.
"...that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented)..."
We do not have a clear answer from history or Scripture as to what specifically hindered him, whether it be divine will or Satan himself. The closest clues we have are again in ch. 15:22-29.
"...in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles."
Even though Paul did not plant the seed here, nor "watered" it, Paul still wishes to reap a harvest from them. "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as Adonai assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but YHWH gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only YHWH Who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are YHWH's fellow workers. You are YHWH's field, YHWH's building." - 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.
A more literal translation of this section would read: "until the present, that I might have some fruit among you, as even among the other Gentiles." The meaning doesn't really change, but instead of reaping a harvest, Paul desires to increase the fruits of this church in Rome. "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." - Galatians 6:8.
"I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish."
In the Jewish world, most anyone who was not a Jew, was a Greek. And anyone who wasn't in either category was a barbarian. It seems counter-intuitive to us knowing that this was written during the Roman Empire, which succeeded the Greek Empire, but here we still see the influence of the Greeks remain. This is actually largely due to the fact that when the Romans took over, they did not seek to destroy infrastructure, or to change the cultures they dominated. Rather, for the most part, they preserved much of this, thus allowing these Eastern regions to keep the languages they spoke. Latin was the official language of Rome, though became used in more bureaucratic settings.
Barbarians were those that did not speak Greek, nor Latin. It was also someone who "lacked culture". The inhabitants of the island of Malta were called such (Acts 28:2-4), and the Scythians (southern Russia and Central Asia) in Colossians 3:11.
Paul is called to speak to everyone. It does not matter the people group, it does not matter their educational level, nor their social class level. To the wise and to the foolish. "Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but HaMashiach is all, and in all." - Colossians 3:11.
"So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome."
As stated in the verse prior, Paul felt a deep obligation to preach the Gospel, but he was not disgruntled about this task, rather, he was earnest, and with much readiness ("πρόθυμον" - prothymon) wanting to go to Rome to preach. And not just to Rome, but beyond to Spain, to where there are barbarians, and so much more. Paul, though weak himself, was ready for the task with so much against him, so much hindering him. Nothing was going to stop this man from pursuing his life's mission.
"I am talking like a madman - with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The Elohim and Father of Adonai Yeshua, He Who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands." - 2 Corinthians 11:23-33.
What's my excuse?
"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel..." - Romans 1:16
Blessings and Maranatha!