August 11, 2006

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

St. Paul: His strategy to go to Rome

While he was in Corinth during the winter of 55-56, Paul planned what he would do next.

He wanted to go to Rome, become a leader of the Christian community there and then be sent by that community to Spain. It was an ambitious strategy.

First, though, he had to make himself known to the Christians in Rome. He began by proposing to his associates Prisca and Aquila that they would return to Rome as sort of his advance team. The married couple was quite willing. It had been 13 years since the Emperor Claudius had taken action against the synagogue at which they had worshiped, and they were anxious to return home.

The second part of his strategy was to send a letter to the Christians in Rome. Paul would not actually send the letter until after he heard from Prisca and Aquila, and learned the names of the leaders in the Roman community. He wanted to personalize the letter. Then, after sending the letter, which Prisca and Aquila would circulate, Paul would go to Rome.

But first, Paul had to go back to Jerusalem. For years, he had been taking up a collection among his communities to aid the Christians in Jerusalem. It was high time for him to deliver that collection. Then he would be free to go to Rome.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans is his masterpiece of theology. Because it expresses his teachings so well, it is the first of his letters included in the New Testament. It stresses the importance of faith in Jesus Christ which, he says, has been given by God to both the Jews and the Gentiles. He uses Abraham as the model for a man of faith.

Paul demonstrates his knowledge of Scripture as he relates the way God chose the Jewish people. He says that the Jews have remained God’s chosen people and “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26), but God will also save the Gentiles who believe in Jesus.

He then proceeds to spell out the implications of a life of faith, how a person of faith must deal with sin, death, law and the flesh.

A message from Prisca and Aquila arrived in Corinth in the spring of 56. From the information in that message, Paul was able to add to his letter comments about some of the issues that the Roman Christians were facing: a taxation problem (Rom 13:1-7) and what to do about those who wanted to continue to practice Jewish dietary laws and festivals (Rom 14:1-23).

He even greets 26 individuals in the community, 24 of them by name, a dead give-away that he learned about them from Prisca and Aquila. Who knew that Paul had some of the instincts of a politician? He definitely was courting these Christians in Rome.

Paul ended his letter by telling the Romans that he would see them as soon as he finished his business in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, it would be several years before Paul made it to Rome, and then it was not as he had planned. †


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