Why I’m Glad Paul Couldn’t Get to Rome

I’m Italian.  Kinda.

I’m really an American.  I was born & raised in New York City and, last I checked, it’s the great American melting pot.  Still, Italian heritage isn’t something that Italian-Americans shed too easily, so there were (and are) many aspects of my life that have Italian written all over them.

I’m one of those people who speaks standard, American English, but insists on saying certain words in Italian (Sarah makes fun of me all the time).  It’s usually foods.

Mozzarella.  I say it like an Italian, and so do most members of my family.  We’re not snobs.  We just wanna say it…I dunno…right.

Ask me to say ricotta sometime, and listen to how I instantly respond.  Fair warning—I may, in turn, ask you to say “sfogliatelle” (it’s a pastry).  {;-)

We don’t cook with tomato sauce out of a jar unless we made it fresh and put it in there ourselves.

I talk with my hands.  Wanna shut me up?  Handcuff me.

Oh, and we’re not shouting.  We’re just talking.  What – you gotta problem wit dat?!

I could go on.

I’ve never been to Italy, but hope to get over there someday.  In Romans 1:8ff, we read that despite Paul’s desire to visit Rome, he was unable to do so at the time he was writing his letter. 

I want to go to Italy, but as a tourist.  I want to be among people who appreciate my proper pronunciation of Italian cheeses and such.  Paul’s desire, however, was rooted in a desire to minister to, encourage, and engage in fellowship with Christians who were in Rome at the time.  He was eager to preach the Gospel to them (Rom. 1:15), but it’s not that he just hadn’t gotten around to it, or needed to bone up on his Italian.

(Hey…Pauly boy.  Listen.  It’s moots-a-rrrelll-a.  Roll the R.  I can’t really explain how.  You just…you just do it.  C’mon.  Moots-a-rrrelll-a). 

The Greek word in Rom. 1:12 translated “prevented” or “hindered” is used elsewhere in Scripture as “forbidden” or “restrained.”

He strongly desired to go but was prevented from going.

God is sovereign.  He has a LOCK on everything in that He Limits, Orders, Controls and Knows ALL things.  What prevented Paul from going to Rome?  The question isn’t what, but who.  The answer is God.  He used circumstances in Paul’s life to prevent him from going to Rome…and I’m glad He did.  You & I benefit directly from Paul having never spent the time there he wanted to.

You know what Paul did since he couldn’t get over to Rome?  He stayed in Corinth.  While there, he took out his pen, put it to the paper, and wrote a long letter to the Christians in Rome under the inspiration and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  That which he could not impart to them in-person, he had no choice but to put in writing, and write he did.  He didn’t know his audience very well, so he left no stone unturned.  He introduces himself, lets them know he wishes he could be with them, and gets right to it.  He digs deep wells of doctrine from which he’ll draw from to teach the truth of the Gospel for over 65% of the letter, and finally gives practical application in what we know as the latter 5 chapters.  This is the providence of God at work in Paul’s life some 2,000 years ago, and we’re blessed by it today.

In Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, he defines the providence of God as follows:
“God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that He (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which He created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.”  (emphasis mine)

The very existence of Romans in our Bibles is a huge testimony to the providence of God.  I wonder what God is doing in our lives, in our relationships, in our Small Groups, on Sundays at GFC Newport, through seemingly ordinary, perhaps even mundane circumstances, all to bring about a greater good that you & I can’t even fathom now, but perhaps will see clearly in the rear-view mirror later on.

I’m glad we’re on this ride together, and can’t wait to look back with glad hearts on what God is doing among us for His glory and our good.

Cíao,                   (like this…“chow”)                  {;-)

Pastor Peter

Thanks to Bill HR for the mozzarella image.
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