A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 15:28-29. 3). Paul plans to visit Spain.
Having explained the facts and the significance of the offering, Paul now looks beyond its presentation in Jerusalem, and hopefully its acceptance, to the long westward journey which he plans then to undertake to Spain via Rome. *So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit* (literally ‘have sealed to them this fruit’, this expression of solidarity, meaning perhaps ‘have…officially handed over’ the offering, JB), *I will go to Spain and visit you on the way* (28).
Some two years previously Paul told the Corinthians that, in keeping with his pioneer mission policy, he was hoping to ‘preach the gospel in the regions beyond you’ (2 Cor.10:16). Perhaps he already had his eyes on Spain. We know from the Old Testament that for centuries before Christ the seafaring Phoenicians from Tyre and Sidon had engaged in commerce with Spain, their ‘ships of Tarshish’ being perhaps so called because they plied their trade with Tartessus (cf. 1 Ki.10:22). The Phoenicians also established colonies there. By the time of the Emperor Augustus ‘the whole Iberian peninsula had been subjugated by the Romans and organized in…three provinces…’, with many flourishing Roman colonies. Did Paul possibly look beyond Spain to the edges of the Empire, to Gaul and Germany, and even to Britain?
Whether he reached and evangelized Spain we shall probably never know. The nearest thing we have to evidence is the statement by Clement of Rome in his first letter to the Corinthians (usually dated AD 96-97) about Paul’s ‘noble renown’ as a herald of the gospel: ‘To the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before the rulers.’ It may be, then, as has often been surmised, that Paul was released from his confinement in Rome, in which the Acts leaves him, and that he then resumed his missionary travels, including a visit to Spain, before being re-arrested, imprisoned and finally beheaded during the Neronian persecution.
As Paul mentally prepares for his visit to Rome, however, he is full of assurance. *I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ* (29). There is no need to detect a trace of arrogance in this statement. Paul’s confidence is not in himself but in Christ. That he is not trusting in himself is evident from his request for their prayers which immediately follows. He knows his weakness, his vulnerability. But he also knows the blessing of Christ.