It would be easy to think that after the Great Exposition of chapters 1-11 and the Great Exhortation of chapters 12-15:13, Paul is winding down with some travel plans and greetings. He’s been delayed in his plans to visit Rome (1:23, 15:23) and during the delay, has been church planting in “backwaters” rather than the largest city (of the time) in the world, Rome. Now his stated purpose is that he is coming to Rome for some mutual refreshing and for finances for church planting in Spain.
Paul is a man on a mission – he wants us to see the greatness of God’s plan and to enlist us in Jesus’ missionary army. There are 114 million people who have no Scriptures at all in their heart language, 3,787 languages as yet untranslated and 7,088 unreached people groups – 41.7 of the world’s population. We estimate 250,000 cities, towns and villages in Northern Europe without an evangelical witness.
But it’s hard enough witnessing over the garden fence, you and I may say!
Paul’s favour wasn’t due to his innate ability – his critics say he was hard to understand. It wasn’t his charm – an ex-Pharisee reaching Gentiles. He was too Gentile for some Jews (Acts 21) and too Jewish for some Gentiles. He prayed a lot and spoke in tongues more than all of us at The Gateway put together. It was the grace of God, fearless preaching and signs and wonders that was the key. He was all-out in passion; red hot for God and knew that to live was Christ and to die was gain – that makes one fearless.
William Carey, a working class Englishman, went to India in the 18th Century. He was told “Young man, sit down, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.” In response he penned a tract – “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God” was his motto, and off he went. He’s now known as the father of modern missions.
In 1854 James Chalmers was called, as a 14 year old, to go to the Cannibal tribes of Fiji to preach the gospel. His friends laughed off the challenge, but he grew to the task and went with his wife. She died of a tropical disease. On the 7th April 1901, aged 51, he went to the remote island of Goaribari to preach the gospel. He was surrounded by warriors, beaten to death, decapitated, boiled and eaten. The London papers carried the headline “James Chalmers is dead, but others will carry on his work.”
The challenge for us is this – if Paul’s heart was breaking for Spanish cities of less than 100,000 people; if Carey wept and prayed for an 18th Century world 10 times less populous than ours and James Chalmers gave his life for islands with fewer people than in North Lynn. Will we pray and go? Let’s pick up the baton and reach King’s Lynn, West Norfolk, the region and Northern Europe.