Before kicking into the flow of his letter, Paul wants to linger a bit longer on his personal relationship with the recipients of this letter — Christians in Rome with whom he has experienced life and faith throughout the eastern Mediterranean world.
We have, over the years, built-up the apostle Paul into a superman of faith… I have heard people credit him with the spread of Christianity… as if he did it alone. But the truth is that Paul was just one of an increasing many who were captured by the love of Jesus and then set loose on the world. Paul did have tremendous impact, of course. But his impact was enhanced by the growing network of his partners in faith who found their hub in Rome… a place that Paul had not yet ever visited.
Paul knew this. And rather than being jealous about being left out of the limelight of the spread of Christianity, he was deeply strengthened by it. He understood that there were many, many others… and an increasing many of others, who were champions of the Gospel (1:1-7). And he was so thankful.
Paul, like each of us, doesn’t really want to be alone in faith. While he was willing to go it alone, he honestly wanted to endure for Jesus knowing that others were also living for Jesus. Paul is deeply encouraged that these friends continue to pursue a life of faith.
In fact, their life of faith is so impressive that it is becoming known. “More than famous,” as Ned Nederlander might say (Sorry– Three Amigos reference!). Paul says that their faith is being reported “all over the world”. While those in China in 55AD might not have heard of Epenetus or Apelles or Tryphena and Tryphosa (etc), people all over the Roman Empire certainly were beginning to hear about this band of “Christians” who were creating a stir in Rome. A city of 1 million people, the center of the “world” in many respects, was being transformed in just a few short years by the Way… by a group of people who claimed to worship the true living King, Jesus Christ.
So significant was their faith, in fact, that within the next 10 years, Christians would be pursued and executed regularly in Rome (including Peter and Paul himself). Within 15 years, Christians would be blamed by Nero and for a fire he set (which burned a significant portion of the capital). So numerous and passionate and dedicated were these Christians, that others around the Roman world were being inspired to give their lives over to Jesus Christ. Their testimony, perhaps more than any, catalyzed the growth of relationship with Jesus in the 1st century. And Paul hadn’t even been there yet. A truth that encouraged him greatly!
I love this verse! And I respond to it in three ways:
- I am so thankful for those of you who live your faith whether I’m there or not. Because of your example to me, I am affirmed to keep going and keep living more deeply for Christ. Thank you!!
- Your faith is being reported all over the world! I reflected recently that I must have passionate-Jesus-following friends right now in almost every country of the world… or with direct ministry relationships in every country of the world (not sure about North Korea or Iran actually- but I am certain Jesus knows some solid people there!). Christian faith is flourishing so much in some places that societies are being turned over, systems are being recreated, and powers are being overwhelmed. The networks and partnerships I’ve had over the years are being increasingly intertwined and knit together… and all of it without me needing to be spearheading any of it. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the way things work out in this world is remarkable to me!
- I am encouraged to pray for you! Even selfishly, I pray for you to “keep ‘er lit” (Sorry- Northern Ireland reference!) so that I’ll be continually encouraged to keep ‘er lit too.
So, dear friends around the world,
first of all,
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith is being reported all over the world.