What happens after the book of Romans? Where in the life of Paul does this great book come?
Paul wraps up the teaching of his book halfway through chapter 15, then he starts to wind down this long letter by doing a bit of business. Paul’s greatest desire is “to announce the good news in places where the Messiah has not been named” (15:20). Specifically, Paul longs to go to Spain (15:24, 28). He looks forward to finally coming to the Roman church, something he has not been able to do before now (15:23-24). Rome will become a home base for his Spanish campaign, providing financial support (15:24).
But first Paul has to complete some unfinished business. The Christians in Macedonia and Achaia have given Paul money to deliver to the poor Christians in Jerusalem who are suffering from a famine (15:26). Paul will head back to Jerusalem then come to Rome. The book of Romans was likely written in Corinth during the time mentioned in Acts 18, then taken by Phoebe to Rome around the same time Paul headed east.
Paul reveals some apprehensiveness about this trip to Jerusalem:
Fight the battle for me in your prayers to God on my behalf. so that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judaea, and so that my service for Jerusalem may be welcomed gladly by God’s people. (15:30b-31)
Acts 21 shows Paul had reason to be concerned. Paul was quickly arrested in Jerusalem on trumped up charges and almost killed by the Jews. By the end of Acts Paul does make it to Rome, but not in the way he wished at all.
Did Paul ever get to Spain as he wished? The Bible never says definitively, but early church fathers Eusebius and Clement of Rome both indicate that Paul was released from house arrest in Rome and took the gospel as far as Spain. It seems Paul does get his wish in the end, though not in the way he wished.
Isn’t that often how it works?