“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God 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 God’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 eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Romans 1:7-13,15
Paul’s affection for his churches is apparent in every letter he writes. He holds no favoritism, only genuine love for the churches God has planted. His opening words always point to the grace of Jesus, whose Spirit unites him with those he is addressing, and extends that grace in love to them. Here, he then sets out his intention for a fruitful visit in Rome. (Philippians 1:2-8; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:2-4)
Paul prepares for that visit by reminding the saints at Rome they are just that: saints by God’s call, and loved. He paves the way to them with grace and peace whose Source is the Lord Jesus. He specifically thanks God for all of them, and for their faith that is growing and which he anticipates will continue to grow. He tells them he’s praying for them and that he hopes to see them soon, stoking that same expectation in their spirits too. Then he describes a visit that would include fellowship, the strengthening of spiritual gifts, mutual encouragement, discussions of faith and scripture, and eternal fruitfulness. Who would reject such a time together?
While we are moved by the affection felt in Paul’s words, and the comfort and excitement they would evoke, imagine the richness of the actual gathering that would ensue! Paul is describing true fellowship of the saints: acknowledging who we are in Christ in unity of Spirit, sharing stories of Christ’s deeds, imbibing in and refreshing one another with living water, and spurring each other on in specific gifts and ministries.
When we are intentional in our visits with others, taking thought and prayer ahead of time for how we can build one another up and contribute to a lasting harvest, the Lord will bless our time together in ways we cannot imagine. Would we take time to humble ourselves, thank God beforehand for each we will see, and ask Him to direct all conversation and connection to accomplish His bidding? How will we encourage faith, reconciliation, scriptural wisdom, and mutual spiritual growth when we gather with His people?
Lord, help me make the most of the relationships You have given. Fill me to flow forth with Your grace, love, and encouragement.