Paul’s Mission to Spain

From the book of Acts we know Paul wrote Romans after a long and bitter controversies in both Galatia and Corinth. As a result of these conflicts, Romans “constitutes a ‘manifesto’ setting forth his deepest convictions on central issues” (Kruse, Romans, 9). This manifesto was written and published to gain the widest publicity. It is possible the core of the letter was sent to other Pauline churches, although there is no manuscript evidence for this.

Paul also wrote Romans just prior to his trip to Jerusalem to deliver the collection to the poor saints in Jerusalem. The book of Romans may have been intended to gain the favor of the Roman church as he approached the contentious Jerusalem church. Romans 15:30-33 specifically asks the Roman church to pray for Paul because he is not sure what reception he will receive when he arrives in Jerusalem.

paul-statue-romeThat he calls his potential opponents in Jerusalem “unbelievers” is instructive. It is at least possible he means the gentile, Roman authority in Judea. Certainly the Romans would be suspicious of a cash gift to potential revolutionaries! He also may mean Jews who have not accepted Jesus as messiah and are therefore not part of the community led by James? But could Paul be referring to the Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah who insisted on Gentiles keeping the Law, the Judaizers who worked against his mission in Galatia.

Whatever the case, Paul assumes Roman church had close ties with Jerusalem and some communication regularly occurred between these two communities. Paul may have though the Roman church had some level of influence on Jerusalem leaders like James, the brother of Jesus. In fact. At least one scholar suggested the real target audience of the letter is the Jerusalem church. Paul wants the letter to get to the potentially hostile Jerusalem church to make clear his theology in order to diffuse any suspicion.

With this in mind, Paul wrote Romans gain the cooperation of the Roman church for his mission to Spain. He needed the assistance of the Roman Christians to provide contacts in Spain because of the lack of Jewish population there that could provide him with a base of operations. Paul faced an unusual problem in Spain, Greek was commonly spoken. He may have needed local help from Romans to assist him in Latin. Romans would then be a kind of discipleship letter which ensured the Roman churches were equipped with his Gospel and were not exported a Roman system of pursuit of honor to “barbarian Spain.” Paul argues in Romans that God saves all sinners impartially regardless of culture through Jesus Christ.

As F. F. Bruce pointed out in The Romans Debate, any combination of the suggestions made over my last several posts may be in the background of Romans. Paul had several motivations to write a complex book like Romans, in contrast to a letter like Galatians which is targeted at a single issue, or 1 Corinthians which deals with serious problems in the church and answers several questions.

12 thoughts on “Paul’s Mission to Spain

  1. The fact that Paul has never visited the church in Rome gives reason for needing to send such a lengthy letter. And without being there he did not know the condition the church was in. This would help explain why the letter goes into such detail on theology. Furthermore, Rome was no small city, and Paul, being excited for the potential harvest, explains very clearly the gospel in hopes of bringing unbelievers to Christ through this letter. Paul speaks of his desire to go to Spain in Romans 15:24, its clear that he is anticipating the support of the church in Rome. Paul, with his desire to journey to Spain may have gone into such detail so that the church in Rome would be better established and he would not have to stay there longer than needed. If that were the case, Paul not only needed the support of the church in Roman, but he also needed to try and clean up any doctrinal false teachings before his arrival.

  2. Imagine writing a letter to a group of people in a huge city that you have never meet before. What would you say? How much should you share\tell? What if they do not listen? ect. When I think of what Paul did by writing Romans and all of his letters in general, I makes it harder to judge or question why he would say certain things that he did. I do not think we would have known any better or been any better than Paul if we were given the same task today. Paul did an excellent job of being detailed. He had ever right to be excited about all of the potential growth that could come from his letters as well as visits. While reading the book of Romans, I admire how loyal and faithful Paul is to God through everything he faces. Paul never once gives up when he faces trials, he continues on in prayer and asks others for support. It is cool to see how much Paul has the interests of others at heart when reading his letters. God gave him a heart for people and Paul uses his gift to reach other for Christ. No doubt Paul was afraid, nervous and unsure of what awaited him as he traveled and wrote to different churches, yet he never quit or gave up on the believers who were struggling. Although the letters Paul wrote and the travels that he made are not taking place now, we can learn from them and take him as an example to share Christ with everyone. God’s gift is open and free to all. Paul did not have a problem with opening sharing and going out, so why should we?

  3. Paul certainly had multiple motivations to write the book of Romans. Expounding in particular at the theological points he is trying to get across we can get a better picture at the Roman audience he is likely trying to reach. We know that there is a Jewish community of messianic Jews as well as gentiles trying to abolish the law. It would definitely be important to communicate with a letter his intentions and expectations for the believers who are hosting him. Romans is not just a “missionary support letter” sent out to gain support for his upcoming trip to Spain but also a very strongly worded theological position. Paul voices a strong position in (Romans 2:1-5) that the Jews will not be saved by their covenant, and that God’s message to the Jewish church is God’s impartiality. A Jew in Rome at the time would probably question where Paul is going to take these points that seem contrary to everything they had been taught in the Synagogues and temples up until Christ’s death. Moo discusses that they, the Jews believed that the covenant would protect them as the proof that they were God’s chosen people.
    knowing that he was conveying a non-conventional message Paul does a good job using parallels from the OT. If his specific audience is the Gentiles they would take this news as confirmation that the Jews were too legalistic about the law but I think they would also be receive the letter with a hope of telling other churches in Rome the good news that Paul is bringing. I think that by clearly expressing the Gospel, Paul was trying to make the message simple enough that anyone not versed in the law would be able to understand it and also easy enough to spread the news.
    I like to think that because of the trials that Paul faced he might be more fearless than I am in the face of danger and death but Autumn has made a good point that he might have been nervous of what awaited him. We all get nervous when trying something new. Traveling to a new city he had never visited and speaking to a church he had not built a rapport with would have made him excited but maybe he had some real fears.
    my question is how many Jewish believers left the Roman church because Paul brought an unpopular position to light?

  4. The fact that Paul wrote Romans in part to gain support for his missionary journey to Spain and travel to Jerusalem makes me wonder what makes us keep this book in the New Testament canon. Are these parts of the letter divinely inspired as well? I believe that most parts of this letter are inspired, such as the depravity of man, what it means to be saved, and living as believers, however how do we know that the closing of the letter is inspired? I wrestle with how verses such as “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:13) has power and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting etcetera. Is all this book really inspired?

    • Although it seems to be a childish answer, anything and everything can be useful for teaching, rebuking and correcting–it simply depends on what is being taught [rebuked or corrected] and who it is being taught [rebuked or corrected] to. Romans 16:13 is much like a significant portion of the Bible which lists specific genealogy where the names could be seen as insignificant to many Christians today. The question here should probably be: what does it mean for the Bible to be in the inspired word of God? Secondly, and probably even more importantly, is the Bible divinely inspired as a whole or only specific parts? I would argue that “all scripture is God breathed” signifies that ALL scripture is divinely inspired (2 Tim 3:16). The word ALL should not be difficult to understand.

  5. I wonder if part of the reason Paul wrote out a great portion of his theology to the Roman church was so that when he potentially was able to come to them, that they would all be on the same page. Paul’s ultimate goal was not to do ministry in Rome, but rather, he wanted to use the Roman church to help him to get to his goal of Spain, which we see in Romans 15:23-24. It appears that Rome was an integral part of his plan to get there, both financially and perhaps educationally, if Paul really did need help with speaking Latin. Since Paul’s goal was to do ministry in Spain, he would not have wanted to spend as much time with the Roman believers as he had with other churches, so perhaps he though that writing this letter would speed up the process when he eventually made it to them. Talking through theology can take a very long time to get everyone on the same page, as there are many different views carried by various people. In writing Romans, Paul was able to give the believers time to work through the letter and get to know him before he came to them. Not only that, he was also able to save time by not having to teach all of the theology that the book contains. Whether it accomplished Paul’s specific goals or not, Romans ended up as one of the most influential books written of all time.

    • I am on the same page with you here, I agree that Paul was hoping to be on the same page as the Roman Church because in end that means they will agree with what he says. I am curious to know truly if Paul really needed help speaking Latin. I think it was important that Paul gave the people time to adapt to the letter he wrote them because you never know how they could of taken the letter. So to same time and emotions, it is better to warn the people.

  6. In today’s society, it is normal to send out support letters for short-term mission trips. Paul was obviously on a lifelong journey to proclaim the good news. In order for that news to be spread he is going to need the right means to do so. If this letter was truly written to gain financial aid, I do not see it as a crime or faulty. I believe he was trying to inform the church what was happening so that he could reach his goal to Spain. He needed as much support as he can get, and we see that with our missionaries today, they fill us in on their goals and what has been happening. They do that so they can get the support they need to still fulfill God’s will. In Romans 15:23-24, he makes it clear that his goal is to get to Spain and that he needs the help to get there. I think that it is admirable that he humbles himself to ask for help.

  7. Its very interesting how scholars can come up with so much back story and context from Romans and decipher so much from the text and from Acts. Its interesting that they figure Paul also wrote to the believers in Jerusalem based on the context. With such as wide audience, the Romans whom he never met, and those in Jerusalem, it makes sense that Paul would write a letter heavy with theology because with such a wide variety of people, he would want to make sure the gospel is clear. Commenting on David’s post last year, its interesting in that the part of the support letter is included in the canon, and that that particular parts are divinely inspired because it still shows the context of what Paul was doing which helps us understand the text even more about the setting of his audience and going over Jew and gentile equality. By knowing the context of him about to go to Jerusalem, he will encounter jews. Paul wanted to make sure the jew and gentile equality was referenced in this letter. I think we have to still say it is divinely inspired and a part of the canon based on its given context. All the books of the bible are written specifically in a context and for a purpose. The writers are not just robots writing exactly what they hear, they are people.

  8. Romans is a really solid book all around. It’s very theologically important, and the points that Paul addresses can show us a good picture of his audience. The Roman church needed some re-establishing in certain areas. But don’t we all. Even if we do regard it as a support letter in some degree, Paul still sets an example for mission-work for literal centuries to come. We can learn a lot from the book’s message, but also the life that Paul was living in the position that he was in to send it. Being a missionary is tough work, and you do need people’s faith and support.

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