“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Romans 1:8-10).
For a second time in this epistle, the apostle Paul provides his readers with a glimpse of his soul. In these three verses, he blazes on the canvas of Scripture the following elements in a portrait of his innermost being.
Gratitude. Note its specific priority (“first”) and content (“your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world”). Paul’s pre-eminent concern and unceasing source of thanksgiving was not physical in focus. We are to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Therefore, it is never wrong to thank God for our daily bread. However, if our physical blessings are the primary focus or the pre-eminent priority in our prayers, Paul’s example indicates there is much room for personal growth and improvement.
Sincerity. Having lived as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5), the apostle Paul most likely had seen firsthand the religious insincerity Jesus condemned in Matthew 23. Paul knew what it meant to “go through the motions”. As a Christian, he was forever cut off from such lukewarmness and hypocrisy. He served Jesus Christ as His bondservant in sincerity of heart, not with eyeservice as a man-pleaser. There was nothing shallow or superficial about the living sacrifice he presented daily in his priestly service.