As I’ve mentioned a few times – most recently in my post yesterday “” – we’re currently studying through the book of Romans together with the church. A few weeks ago, we read through the entire book together – which was extremely rewarding, by the way. Then, last Sunday, we read, studied, and discussed the first few verses of the first chapter.
Of course, as we talked about Sunday, it’s difficult to break apart a book like this into little chunks. The book is a whole entity and should be considered as a whole. When we break it up, we often miss what the author is saying. But, it took us over an hour to read through the letter, and it would take several hours – perhaps several days – to talk about meaning and application and to discuss how God would have us respond to this letter.
So, for better or for worse, we have to break it up into chunks that we can read and discuss in 1 – 1 1/2 hours. (Yes, that’s usually how long we spend working through various parts of Scripture. Of course, it’s not one person talking for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, but that’s for a different post.) And, we try to keep the whole letter in mind while discussing various parts of it.
Last Sunday, we ran across this passage that is quickly becoming one of my favorites:
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. (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)
Now, there is so much that could be said about this short passage. But, consider this…
Paul had never been to Rome. In fact, in the very next sentence, he says that he had tried to visit them before but had been “prevented.” He knew a few Christians in Rome – obvious from chapter 16. But, for the most part, he did not know the Roman believers.
So, while he was looking forward to coming to Rome for many reasons – for example, as a base to continue to proclaim the gospel in Spain (Romans 15:24,28) – he was also looking forward to strengthening the faith of the Roman believers. He knew that God would use him to build them up and encourage them as they follow Jesus.
But, that’s no all. And, to me, this is the extremely exciting part. Even though Paul did not know many of the Romans, he knew that they would be able to strengthen and encourage him as well!
How did Paul know that his Roman brothers and sisters in Christ would be able to strengthen his faith?
1) He knew that God dwelled in them through his Holy Spirit.
2) He knew that those Roman believers would have opportunities to build him up.
Those two things must go together in order for the Romans to be able to strengthen Paul and for Paul to be able to encourage them.
I wonder what would happen if we expected God to work through us whenever we gathered with others in order to strengthen them in the faith? I wonder what would happen if (at the same time) we also expected God to work through our brothers and sisters in order to strengthen us in the faith whenever we were with them?
For me, I think this should be our attitude whenever we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ.