Paul’s final comment in this passage, which is mainly about his prayers, reveals the heartbeat of his spiritual outlook: ‘I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.’
He says three things about himself, and we should not regard them as boasting. Rather we should see them as a way of Paul requesting prayer for himself. It is almost as if he were asking his readers to pray about those priorities in his life. The three things are (1) a desire for a harvest of souls, (2) a sense of obligation to share the good news with all, and (3) an eagerness to preach to the inhabitants of Rome.
In what way was Paul under an obligation to preach to people? I think the answer is that it was what Jesus wanted to happen, and since Paul wanted to serve Jesus well he did what he knew his Master wanted him to do. Jesus had called Paul to serve him among the Gentiles.
In a sense, his three details are self-explanatory, but here are three comments about them. First, here we have a picture of an ideal minister’s heart and therefore a congregation should pray for those three details as far as their minister is concerned. It is also a picture of the ideal Christian witness, except we can substitute speaking for preaching, and we should also be praying that we would become this kind of witness.
Second, the gospel is suitable for everyone outside the church, whether refined and educated or unrefined and untaught – there is no reason to be embarrassed about its contents. It is God’s message and it will accomplish what he pleases. The gospel is also suitable for everyone within the church – the maturest believer needs to hear the gospel often, probably every day.
Third, Paul makes a connection between harvesting and preaching. He would be surprised if he could see what is happening today in our country in that most converts are not found through preaching. At one time they were, but things have changed. Why? It might be the rise of different forms of preaching, but personally I would say a major cause is the lack of corporate prayer. Here Paul calls the Roman Christians to pray that his preaching would be fruitful. And they would realise that they should pray in a similar way for everyone else who was spreading the gospel.