Romans 15:1-33

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2009-05-20 21:50.

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In relation to “weak” fellow believers, those who are “strong” would be those who recognize to a fuller extent the kind of freedom that faith in Christ and his sacrificial death has brought about. They would not have scruples about eating, drinking, observing certain days, or engaging in any other activities that in themselves are not morally defiling. Their “weaker” brothers, through the conditioning resulting from past beliefs and practices, would have scruples about acts that are not wrong in themselves. Their consciences would be sensitive regarding aspects of life that posed no problem for those who were strong. Therefore, the strong ones were obligated to show consideration for their weaker brothers. Including himself among the strong, Paul said, “We, the strong, are obligated to bear the weaknesses of the ones who are not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves.” (15:1)

For one to bear the weaknesses of those who are not strong would mean being considerate of their limitations, refraining from any activity that, though not wrong in itself, could seriously trouble them and injure them spiritually. Believers who are strong would act, not to please themselves in doing what they had the right to do, but would, out of love, show regard for the sensitive consciences of their weaker brothers and conduct themselves accordingly. (15:1)

Within the community of believers, all should be concerned about doing what would be pleasing to the “neighbor” or the fellow believer, wanting to do the things that are for his good and thereby to build him up. This would contribute to his being strengthened to continue conducting himself as a disciple of God’s Son. (15:2)

Paul called attention to the fact that Christ had set the example in not pleasing himself and backed this up with a quotation from Psalm 69:9[10] (68:10, LXX), “The reproaches of those reproaching you have fallen on me.” (15:3; see the Notes section.) God’s unique Son did not act in his own interests but willingly gave up his glory as his Father’s intimate and lived as a man subjected to misrepresentation, insult, and abuse, finally to die a shameful death like that of a vile criminal. (Philippians 2:5-8) While on earth, Jesus Christ conveyed his Father’s teaching and faithfully carried out the work his Father had commissioned him to do. Therefore, when Jesus was insulted (as when accused of expelling demons by the ruler of the demons), this meant that his Father, who had sent him, was also being reproached. The force of that reproach, however, fell fully on Jesus.

Paul’s quotation came from the writings that fellow believers regarded as holy. Commenting on their value, he continued, “For whatever was written formerly was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the comfort of the [holy] writings we might have hope.” (15:4) In keeping with this principle, the apostle had quoted the psalmist’s words. These words served as instruction for the strong ones to put the interests of others ahead of their own, imitating Christ by choosing to act in a manner that might not have suited personal preference but that contributed to the good of fellow believers. In thus being willing to endure for the sake of others and taking comfort in the assurances found in the sacred writings that this was the right course, believers would have hope, specifically the hope of entering the fullness of their reward upon being found approved in the sight of God and Christ.

The apostle’s reference to the God of endurance and of comfort (paráklesis) denotes that God is the source of the believers’ endurance and comfort. He is the one who enables them to endure in faithfulness and, by means of his spirit and the holy writings, provides them with needed comfort when having to deal with difficult circumstances. (15:5)

Paul’s prayer for fellow believers was that God would grant them the capacity to think the same toward one another “according to Christ Jesus, that they might unitedly with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (15:5, 6) This sameness of thought may relate to their having consideration for one another, not allowing conscientious scruples or the lack thereof to cause divisions among them as a family of God’s children. “According to Christ” may signify in harmony with Christ’s example of not pleasing himself. It could also include the thought of heeding Christ’s teaching in every aspect of life. With all believers striving to preserve unity as beloved members of the same spiritual family, they would be in position to glorify the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ unitedly as with one mouth.

Believers should be accepting of one another, manifesting the welcoming spirit that Christ has manifested for all of them. He died for them and, on the basis of their faith in him and what he accomplished through his death, acknowledges them as his brothers. When believers imitate the Son of God in their treatment of one another as beloved members of the same family, they glorify or bring praise to their heavenly Father. They demonstrate that they are truly his children, manifesting the same kind of love that his unique Son has shown and continues to show. (15:7; see the Notes section.)

Whereas Jesus accepted or welcomed both Jews and non-Jews who responded to him in faith, he focused on the Jews during his time on earth. Commenting on the reason for this, Paul continued, “For I say, Christ became a servant to the circumcised for the truth of God in order to confirm the promises [expressed] to the forefathers.” (15:8) When ministering among the Jews, Jesus Christ revealed his Father to be absolutely trustworthy. He, as the seed of promise, fulfilled God’s word to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the Messianic seed would come through their line of descent and that, through him, peoples of all nations would be blessed. (Genesis 17:15-21; 22:17; 28:13, 14; compare Luke 1:68-75) Thus Jesus served for the “truth of God,” undeniably establishing that his Father’s promises to the Jewish forefathers had proved to be deserving of complete confidence.

When sending his Son to be born as a human and to live and serve among the Jews, he demonstrated his compassion for them. Through his Son and faith in him and the benefits of his sacrificial death, they would be forgiven of their sins and come to be his approved children. Gentiles who came to recognize this expression of divine mercy would be moved to glorify or praise God for the mercy he had shown. Paul referred to the holy writings to indicate that this purpose was served when Christ ministered to the Jews. He quoted from Psalm 18:49[50] (17:50, LXX) “Therefore, I will acknowledge you among the nations, and I will sing praises to your name.” (15:9)

In the case of the psalmist, he acknowledged YHWH as the one who had delivered him from his enemies and gratefully raised his voice with joyful praise. That deliverance was an expression of God’s mercy. Likewise, in the case of Jesus, what he taught and did in obedience to his Father’s will, revealed his Father’s compassion. Jesus did not personally go to the non-Jewish peoples to testify about his Father and to praise him, but he did so through his disciples. They made known his acknowledgment and praise of his Father.

Paul also quoted from Deuteronomy 32:43 (LXX), “Rejoice, O nations, with his people.” Because of what God would do for his people and the blessings that would result, the non-Jewish peoples would have reason to be glad. In the context of Deuteronomy, the execution of divine justice and manifestation of divine mercy through the atonement for the “land of his people” (or God’s “land and his people”) would occasion the rejoicing. Likewise, God’s arrangement for being forgiven of sins and for coming to be reconciled to him through his Son involves both mercy and justice. (15:10; see the Notes section.)

The apostle quoted a similar passage from Psalm 117:1 (116:1, LXX), “Praise the Lord [YHWH, Masoretic Text], all [you] nations, and let all the peoples praise him.” According to this psalm, the reason for all the peoples to praise YHWH is what he has done for his people. Though Israel often failed to live in harmony with his ways, he continued to be dependable and true to his word and promises. Fittingly, therefore, the apostle used the words of the psalmist to show that people of all the nations should praise God for his mercy to his people. (15:11)

Paul concluded with a quotation from Isaiah 11:10 (LXX), “[There] will be the root of Jesse, and [meaning ‘even’ (based on context)] the one rising up to rule nations; on him, nations will hope.” (15:12; see the Notes section.) By natural descent, Jesus was born in the royal line of David. The royal line existed then in obscurity, resembling a mere “stump.” (Isaiah 11:1) That stump had its root in David’s father Jesse. From this root, Jesus, the foretold Messianic ruler of nations, did come. People of the nations who responded in faith rested their hope on him. They looked forward to the time when they would be united with him and enjoy the magnificent freedom of God’s approved children in the sinless state.

The apostle continued with a prayerful expression directed to the ultimate source of the believers’ hope, the fulfillment of which is bound up with Jesus Christ and what he accomplished through his sacrificial death. “[May] the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, in order that you may abound in the hope by the power of holy spirit.” (15:13; see the Notes section.)

Paul based his prayerful expression on his knowing that those to whom he addressed his letter were believers. His desire for them was that God, the source of their hope, would fill them with joy and peace. This included the joy stemming from their full awareness that they were their heavenly Father’s approved children and recipients of his love and care. Peace would be the inner sense of well-being from the assurance that he would continue to aid, guide, and sustain them in their walk of faith. Their hope in seeing the fulfillment of all that God had promised to them as his children would abound, flourishing and growing, because of the powerful working of his spirit within them.

In this letter, Paul had directed strong admonition to believers in Rome, many of whom he did not know personally. It appears that he did not want them to conclude that they were seriously lacking and without believers in their midst who were in position to provide spiritual aid to others.

Addressing them as his “brothers,” he expressed confidence that they were “full of goodness” and in possession of ample knowledge to be able to instruct or admonish one another. Unlike the people among whom they lived and who engaged in the vices the apostle had mentioned in the beginning of his letter, the believers in Rome were full of goodness, living upright lives and showing genuine love and concern for others. Among them were those who had been Christ’s disciples even before Paul came to be a believer. (16:7) So the community of believers in Rome did have the essential fullness of knowledge to provide whatever instruction or admonition may have been needed. (15:14)

On the basis of the gracious favor God had given him, however, Paul expressed some points with a measure of boldness, doing so by way of reminder to the believers in Rome. (15:15) It was because of divine favor that he had been constituted a “servant [leitourgós] of Christ Jesus to the nations.” (15:16) The Greek designation leitourgós described a person who did public service that was commonly associated with things of a sacred nature. In a more general sense, the term could apply to someone who rendered personal service. (Philippians 2:25)

As a servant of Christ Jesus, the apostle engaged in the sacred or priestly service of the “evangel of God” for the purpose of making the “offering of the nations acceptable, sanctified by holy spirit.” The evangel or good news has Christ as its focal point, but his Father is the one who sent him and whose will he carried out when laying down his life in sacrifice. Fittingly, therefore, Paul spoke of the “evangel of God.” The apostle’s sacred service refers to his service in carrying out his apostolic commission to proclaim the glad tidings to people of the nations. His concern for those who became believers was that he might be able to present them as an acceptable offering to God, “sanctified” or made holy through the operation of holy spirit within them. (15:16)

“In Christ,” or as a believer at one with Christ and who had been commissioned as an apostle, Paul had reason for boasting, exulting, or taking pride in things “pertaining to [literally, toward] God.” These things would include everything that Paul, through the gracious divine favor that had been granted him, was able to accomplish in his service to God as a servant of Christ. (15:17)

For his accomplishments he gave all the credit to the Son of God, saying, “For I will not dare say a thing about [anything] that Christ did not do through me.” Through the working of Christ within him, Paul had brought people of the nations to obedience. They submitted to God’s will as disciples of his Son. (15:18)

Non-Jews became obedient on account of the “word” or message about Christ that Paul proclaimed and the “work” that he did, which included the performance of miracles. (15:18) The apostle specifically mentioned the “power of signs and portents,” which he was enabled to do by the “power of holy spirit [God’s spirit, according to other manuscripts].” (15:19) According to the book of Acts, Paul’s miraculous works included liberating others from demon possession, healing all manner of diseases and afflictions, and raising a young man from the dead. (Acts 19:11, 12; 20:8-10)

In proclaiming the “evangel of Christ” or the good news about the Son of God, Paul traveled extensively. The area which he traversed extended from the city of Jerusalem as far as Illyricum, a Roman province on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. (15:19)

The apostle “aspired” (philotiméomai) to proclaim the good news about Christ where he had not been “named” or where the glad tidings regarding him had not already been preached. Paul did not want to build on someone else’s foundation, benefiting from the service that others had rendered earlier. (15:20; see the Notes section.)

In speaking of his labors, he appropriated the words of Isaiah 52:15 (LXX), which relate to God’s Messianic servant and found their fulfillment in Christ, “Those who have not been told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” Through Paul’s activity, persons who had not previously been told about Christ came to “see” him as God’s unique Son, putting their faith in him, and came to understand everything they needed to know concerning him. (15:21)

Paul had often wanted to go to Rome but had been hindered from doing so. (15:22) At the time he dictated this letter to believers there, he had proclaimed the evangel in principal cities of Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Achaia. No longer having any new area to be reached in the regions where he had spread the message about Christ, Paul felt that he was in a position to visit believers in Rome, fulfilling a desire that he had entertained for a number of years. His primary objective, though, was to go to Spain and to make a stop in Rome on his way there. After seeing the believers in the city and having the pleasure of being with them for a time, he hoped to have them send him (apparently with their blessing) off to Spain. (15:23, 24; see the Notes section regarding 15:24.)

Before undertaking this westward journey, Paul was heading eastward, back to Jerusalem. The purpose of this trip was to serve the “holy ones,” the believing Jews who were impoverished on account of persecution and adversities. Fellow believers, primarily non-Jews, in Macedonia and Achaia had learned about the plight of their Jewish brothers and were pleased to make a contribution for poor believers in Jerusalem. (15:25, 26)

The apostle considered it most fitting that they were pleased to make this contribution, for they were indebted to their Jewish brothers. This was because the non-Jews had come to share in spiritual blessings through them, and so it was only right for the non-Jews to share material things with their needy Jewish brothers. It was through the initial efforts of Jewish believers that the glad tidings about Christ began to be proclaimed to the non-Jews. Accordingly, non-Jewish believers were indebted to their Jewish brothers for having come to enjoy the standing of approved children of God and all the privileges and blessings associated therewith. (15:27)

After completing his ministry for the needy believers in Jerusalem, making sure that this contribution (literally, “fruit”) was safely handed over to them, Paul planned to head for Spain and, on his way, to stop in Rome. (15:28) He was confident that his visit would prove to be a blessing to the believers there, for he would be coming “in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” This could mean that the apostle would be coming with the bountiful spiritual gifts Christ grants. Another possibility is that the apostle knew that Christ would fully bless his visit. It does not appear that the “fullness of the blessing of Christ” would be limited to the good news about him, for the believers in Rome had already responded to it in faith. (15:29)

Paul was aware of the personal danger from unbelievers he might face while in Jerusalem. During the course of his ministry in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece, he had encountered intense hostility from unbelieving fellow Jews, some of whom were determined to kill him. In the course of an earlier stay at Jerusalem, he fell into a trance while at the temple and heard Jesus tell him to hurry out of the city, for his testimony about him would not be accepted. (Acts 22:17, 18) For this reason, he entreated fellow believers in Rome to pray earnestly to God for him. The Greek term conveying the thought of “earnestly” is the verb synagonízomai, which basically means to join someone in a common effort as when fighting or contending. When making his entreaty, Paul did so “through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the spirit.” He based his appeal on the relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ he shared with believers in Rome and the love that the spirit of God had engendered within them. (15:30)

Paul wanted them to pray that he would be rescued from unbelievers (literally, those who disobey) in Judea and that his service for the holy ones in Jerusalem would prove to be acceptable. (15:31) He was deeply concerned that the needy believers in Jerusalem would receive the monetary assistance their non-Jewish brothers had provided. Hoping for a successful outcome, the apostle referred to his desire that, by God’s will, he would get to the believers in Rome “with joy” and be refreshed by their company. (15:32)

After asking them to pray for him, Paul added his own prayerful expression for them, “[May] the God of peace [be] with all of you. Amen [So be it].” The heavenly Father is the “God of peace,” for he is the source of the inner sense of well-being and tranquility that believers enjoy on account of his love and tender care for them. (15:33)

Notes:

The quotation in Romans 15:3 is identical to the wording of the extant Septuagint text of Psalm 69:9[10] (68:10, LXX), which passage relates to the experience of the psalmist. Paul applied the quotation to Jesus, as what befell the Son of God did fit the words that had been preserved in the holy writings.

In Romans 15:7, numerous manuscripts read, “Christ accepted you,” whereas others say, “Christ accepted us.”

The phrase (in Romans 15:7), “for the glory of God,” could be directly linked to the Son of God, indicating that his acceptance or welcoming of believers resulted in glory to God. A footnote in the German Neue Genfer Übersetzung, sets forth this alternate meaning, Darum nehmt einander an, wie Christus euch zur Ehre Gottes angenommen hat. (Therefore accept one another as Christ, for the honor of God, accepted you.)

The words quoted in Romans 15:10 from Deuteronomy 32:43, though found in the Septuagint, are missing in the Masoretic Text and in a preserved Dead Sea Scroll (4QDeutq). In the Septuagint, the entire verse reads, “Rejoice, O heavens, together with him, and worship [prostrate yourselves before] him all you sons of God. Rejoice, O nations, with his people, and prevail for him all [you] angels of God, for the blood of his sons he will avenge, and he will revenge and repay the penalty to [his] enemies, and to those who hate him he will repay, and the Lord will cleanse the land of his people.”

The preserved Dead Sea Scroll text, though agreeing with the Septuagint more than it does with the Masoretic Text, differs in other ways. “Rejoice, O heavens, together with him; and bow down to him all you gods, for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and will render vengeance to his enemies, and will recompense those who hate him, and will atone for the land of his people.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible)

The Masoretic Text reads, “Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for the blood of his servants he will avenge, and will take vengeance on his enemies, and will expiate [make atonement for or purify] his land, his people [the land of his people, or his land and his people].”

In Romans 15:12, the quotation from Isaiah 11:10 follows the reading of the Septuagint. While the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah likewise refer to the “root of Jesse” and a turning of people of the nations to him, the wording is different. The Hebrew text refers to the “root of Jesse” as standing up as a “signal for the peoples,” and that the nations would inquire of him or seek him out.

Although the extant Hebrew text is not the same as the Septuagint reading of Isaiah 11:10, this does not affect the application Paul made of the passage, for the primary point is that people of the nations would be turning to the “root of Jesse.” As prophetically portrayed in the Hebrew text, Jesus Christ proved to be like a raised signal or banner that identifies the location for people to assemble. This began to be fulfilled when non-Jewish peoples, starting with Cornelius, his relatives and acquaintances, accepted Jesus Christ in response to the glad tidings proclaimed by his disciples. Through their public proclamation of Christ, his disciples called attention to him as to a raised banner.

In Romans 15:13, a number of manuscripts omit the Greek preposition for “in” (en) and the Greek word eis, meaning “into” but (in this context) denoting “in order that,” “so that,” or “for the purpose of.”

The Greek word philotiméomai literally means “to have a love for honor.” As used by Paul in Romans 15:20, the term denotes “to make a matter of honor,” or “to have the ambition, aim, or aspiration.”

In Romans 15:24, later manuscripts contain an expanded reading for the opening phrase, “Whenever I may be going to Spain, I will come to you.” The oldest extant manuscripts do not include the words, “I will come to you.”