A Reputation Worth Having (Part 3)
Romans 1:8, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
The third reason why the reputation for faith that the church at Rome had was worth having was because it was an encouragement to other believers, including the apostle Paul. In verse 12 Paul writes that one of the reasons he wants to visit them is so “that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” This expectation was in the future and Paul could look forward to it and speak so confidently of it happening because reports of the church at Rome’s faith had already be a source of encouragement for him.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand that even someone like the great apostle Paul needed encouragement. But Paul tells us that he was often adversely affected by the trials and burdens that he suffered because of his work. In 1 Corinthians 2:3 he writes, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” In his second letter to the church at Corinth he writes, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Yet, in verse 15 he concludes, “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” Later in 2 Corinthians 11:28 after he gives a long list of the many persecutions, hardships, and dangers that he had endured as Christ’s ambassador, he writes, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
Everyone needs to be encouraged from time to time, even the great apostle Paul. Encouragement is especially important for those who are engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan. But who is to encourage them and what is to encourage them? Well, God of course. But God’s also works through other people to encourage us. One of the great means of God’s encouraging Christian workers is the report of genuine, growing faith on the part of others elsewhere.
I know personally I am greatly encouraged when I hear about churches thriving in other parts of the world. I am greatly encouraged when I hear the reports of our brothers and sisters withstanding persecution in China and continuing to meet as the church anyway. I’m greatly encouraged when I hear reports of the gospel being preached and people repenting and coming to faith in Romania. I’m greatly encouraged when I hear of just one person coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
The thing that is different about Paul’s letter to the Roman church as opposed to the letters he wrote to the other churches – to believers in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philipi or some other city he had visited – is that he did not start the church in Rome. Although Paul was planning on visiting Rome to be encouraged by them and by the mutuall sharing of faith with them. Up to this point he had not yet been there, and so for that reason alone he was especially encouraged.
It’s always encouraging when you hear that something you wrote or a message you preached help bring someone to faith in Christ or to a closer relationship with him. But it is especially encouraging when you hear that people are blessed by someone else’s work. Why? Because it confirms to us that we are not alone in the Lord’s work. It means that there are other soldiers in this spiritual battle and that victory is in the strong hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This had to have been true of the apostle Paul as well and that is one reason why he was so encouraged by the example of the Roman Christians. In hard times it must have encouraged him greatly to just know of these believers and to be aware that their faith was being spoken of “throughout the whole world.”