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Rome, Jerusalem and Congregational Churches! Acts 19:21-22


Rome, Jerusalem, and Congregational Churches!

Text: Acts 19:21-22, 2 Corinthians 9.  

Here’s a little passage of text that I almost missed!  It seem that while Paul was ministering to the local church in the city of Ephesus, his mind and heart were brimming with pastoral concern for the Body of Christ throughout the world.   

Rome. Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay

1 The Proposed Visit to RomeV21. After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

I remember having a representative from a usually reliable missionary/evangelistic organisation give a report at church.  He was speaking enthusiastically about a young man whom he’d met in the course of his work who was on the verge of suicide, deeply troubled, broken and bruised by life.  They’d talked and he’d just poured out his heart to him, reaching out of his despair for some help.  The evangelist reported that he had been moved by the young man’s plight.  He said to him, “Please don’t despair…  God has a wonderful plan for your life…”. At that point I was in despair too!   Let me show you why, from this text in front of us:-

  • Paul’s Plan – Conceived. After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit.  At this time the work at Ephesus was in full bloom, with the gospel now spreading all over the province, and many people coming to saving faith and into fellowship in the church. So he ‘purposed in the spirit.’  The Greek ‘purposed’ is τίθημι (tithēmi) means to ‘lay out’ – it’s used in the sense of laying out a table, in preparation for a meal for a special guest.  Everything in its place, everything designed and detailed and precise.  Paul’s plans were ‘laid out’ in his spirit.  
  • Paul’s Plan Carefully Drafted.  Time-wise, Nero has died, and Jews, who had been exiled from the city during his reign, are now starting to drift back into the city. Paul will travel to Jerusalem, via a roundabout route, through Macedonia and Greece, then travel overseas to Jerusalem, then travel out to Rome.  He sends out Timothy and Erastus to prepare the way for him, so that meetings would be arranged, accommodation planned etc. V22   But there’s two other things we need to consider.
    • There’s an enigma.  Why would Paul want to go to Rome?  Paul is no idle sightseer, – Paul would be going to Rome to preach and teach.  But why?  There had already been a Christian Church at Rome before Nero’s persecution, comprised of converted Jews.  Priscilla and Aquilla had been part of that church.  Acts 18:2  Paul had a policy that he would never build on the foundation laid by someone else, rather that he would always work in un-evangelised fields. Romans 15:20.  So why go to Rome?  After the expulsion of the Jews, the whole character of the church had changed.  Paul has to address this in his letter to Romans, written from Ephesus.  Maybe he wants to address this issue in person.  There might be anther reason.
    • The final destination. Perhaps Rome was a staging post to go further.  The furthest west Paul could go at this time was to Spain, and when he wrote to the Romans from Ephesus he mentioned that he wanted to visit Rome, on is way to Spain.  Romans 15:24. Romans 15:28.   Perhaps Spain was the un-evangelised field that Paul was aiming to reach.  FF Bruce comments, ‘For Paul, Spain is the new Macedonia!’
  • Paul’s Plan Crashed and Derailed! But back to the wonderful plan.  Paul will get to Rome, but not by the route he has planned.  Paul’s intention is that he will make his roundabout trip back to Jerusalem, and then sail to Rome.  But in Jerusalem his life will change forever.  He will be arrested, and brought before the Jewish and Roman authorities, and will claim the rights of his Roman citizenship, and be carried as a prisoner to Rome, to answer before Caesar, and to face imprisonment and certain death.  

So, what about the wonderful plan God has for your life? To imply that God is going to straighten out your life, solve all your problems, and and grant you a happy and carefree existence from this time on is to deliberately delude someone.   God’s plan for Paul’s life was a PERFECT PLAN, and would bring others into the kingdom and bring glory to God, but it wasn’t at all what he expected, – travelling to Rome as a prisoner!

2 The Proposed Visit to JerusalemV21. 

I wanted to deal with this proposed visit second, – because I think it will be an interesting and challenging issue for those of us who value the independence of the local assembly, as a complete and entire church.  That is, how do we meaningfully relate, in fellowship and support to other churches?  Let’s look at Paul’s proposed visit to Jerusalem.

  • The purpose of this visit.  Paul was going to travel around the Gentile churches of Greece to collect financial relief for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  READ: 1 Corinthians 16:1-5    Romans 15:25-26   Now, why would this be necessary?  There was a huge contrast between the Gentile Churches in Asia Minor and in Greece, compared with the church that met in Jerusalem.  
    • The Jerusalem saints were poor.  To be a Christian in Jerusalem, a Jewish Christian was to lose everything!  Deprived of wealthy sponsors, and starved of their jobs and income the members of the Jerusalem church were poverty stricken.  Romans 15:26  
    • The Gentile saints were, in comparison, financially blessed.  Many of the towns in which the new Gentile churches had been established were financially stable, and the new Gentile believers were from every strata of society, including the business classes, government officials, and the top echelons of society.   SO:-
  • The precedents set by this visit.  Paul wants those Christians who are financially and materially blessed to show willing support for those who are in need. What can we learn from this?  
    • Paul is emphasising the unity of the Body of Christ!  He perhaps wants the Christians in the churches of Asia and Galatia and Macedonia and Greece to understand that the church is a far greater entity than their own local assembly of Christians. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, even when they are not meeting in fellowship with us.   Our challenge is to see if there are ways that we can be a blessing to believers in other churches too.  
    • Paul is encouraging the exercise of Christian concern!  I’ve no doubt Paul would have been encouraging the believers in the Gentile churches to pray for the poor saints in Jerusalem.  He would have told them of the conditions there, relayed detailed accounts of the sacrifices they had made in following Jesus.  But Christian love demands a practical response.  We show our love for the brethren by ministering to their needs.  
    • Paul is teaching us the correct method of giving.  He is urging the churches to do what is right, but he is not laying down a law.  He’s not demanding a percentage, or asking for their payslips.  2 Corinthians 9:7  

So, just two verses, pregnant with significance for us!  But Paul is now spiritually ready to leave Ephesus, but as I’ve said before, – there’s going to be a riot.

© Bob McEvoy May 2021

  1. Thanks Andy. I hope you’re both keeping well. I’d love to see you sometime for a coffee and a catch-up!

  2. Andrew Hipson permalink

    Another insightful passage, thank you

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