134-115 Romans Chapter 15
Paul now instructs those of strong faith the help shoulder the burden for those of weaker faith. The help of the strong should be as an encouragement to the weak but not to be used as an encouragement of continuing wrong acts. The purpose of this encouragement is to help the weak to grown into a stronger faith. Paul uses words from the Scripture found in Psalm 69. “For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9) The purpose is to show that we should suffer for the benefit of others as Jesus had. Jesus did not come to please Himself but to serve the will of His Father. The Insults that Jesus received were on behalf of His Father. By their rejection of Jesus they were rejecting God.
Paul’s teaching goes against the way of the world. People in the world are looking out for themselves but this is not the way to find true happiness. People of the world tend to despise those who live their life in sacrifice for the benefit of the less fortunate. To serve others give a true fulfillment to the servant and when we build others up we often find that we also build ourselves up as well.
Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as our self. (Matthew 19:19) This is a simple challenge to put our neighbor ahead of our self. When Paul was later imprisoned he wrote the same taught to the Philippians. (Philippines 2:3-4) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This does not mean that the church is ruled by the whims of the weak. “A genuine concern for the weak will mean an attempt to make them strong by leading them out of their irrational scruples so that they, too, can be strong.” (Morris)
The idea is not just to please other people for the sake of making them happy but to build them of in the Christian faith. A strategy of Satan is to tear down the Church by having Christians tear each other down rather than building each other up. This attitude is seen in many organizations where selfish interest over ride the humility of helping others for the common good of all.
Paul speaks of the Old Testament Scriptures as a way to know how God has acted in the past to rescue His people. This knowledge of a faithful God is an encouragement to the people of Paul’s day and is also an encouragement to the people of today. The Scriptures are filled with promises from God that give the Christians a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Paul prays that with God’s help the people of the Church can learn to be in agreement with one another. Churches that have people who have learned to be of one mind and purpose are strong. This will enable the Church to declare the gospel message in a powerful way and bring glory to God. Paul writes these verses in prayer because he knows that the power of the Holy Spirit must do the work in the inside of his readers.
People are naturally impatient but we must learn to persevere as we wait upon the Lord. Often God seems to work to slow for us but we must realize that God is not restricted by time and brings His answer at exactly the right moment. What may seem as a delay in His answer may actually serve a purpose that is of greater benefit than we realize. We appreciate God’s patience with us and we must learn to be patient with Him.
Jesus Christ who was the sinless perfect God was willing to bring sinful men into the Kingdom, then we as forgiven sinners should also be willing to accept each other in spite of our differences. “Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” (Spurgeon)
Jesus Christ was the suffering servant for God’s glory. There are two reasons that Christ came to serve. The life of Christ showed that we can trust God. The Jewish ancestors of Christ had seen all things done that God had promised. In Zechariah’s song of praise he remembered the promise that God had made to Abraham that his descendants would be blessed. (Luke 1:73-35) And the Gentiles would also receive God’s mercy, a promise He made to David. (Psalm 18:49
Paul now quotes from three parts of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, and other books. Paul’s purpose is to teach that it has been God’s plan for the Gentiles to receive His mercy. Verse 10 is a quotation from Deuteronomy 32:43 and verse 11 is Psalm 117:1-2. Verse 12 Paul quotes from Isaiah 11:10 stating the Jesse, who was the father of David verifies that the Messiah came from the family of King David.
Paul closes this portion with another prayer. Paul has been speaking of the hope that the Gentiles have and now he mentions that their hope comes from God. Paul tells them that their faith brings to them joy and peace. It is the prayer of Paul that they will know the joy and peace completely. Through the power of the Holy Spirit they will see their hope and that hope will encourage their Christian walk.
The hope that we have in God will not disappoint us as we eagerly expect the return of Christ. Our salvation will then be complete when Christ gives us our resurrection body and eternal life in the new heaven. As we wait, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:13)
Paul addresses the Church as his brothers and shows that he appreciates their goodness. Because of their spiritual maturity Paul is confident that they will understand his letter to them. They seem capable to teach the gospel and are able to warn those who doing wrong things.
It may seem that Paul’s praise of the Christians in Rome is a bit over the top but he did not want to offend them. Paul as of yet had not been to Rome and therefore had not visited the Church in Rome. He qualifies that this letter was written to remind them of important matters in the Christian faith. Throughout the Scriptures God tells his people to remember so that they will not forget His Word. There are many references in the New Testament of the need to remember. (1 Corinthians 15:1 2 Peter 1:12)
Paul reminds them his calling was the stewardship of the Gentiles. Paul makes reference to the work of the Priest in the Temple who would offer sacrifices to God. Paul’s offering to God as a priest were the Gentile converts made favorable to God by the Holy Spirit. “When he defines his ministry as ministering the gospel of God the apostle uses a word occurring nowhere else in the New Testament which may properly be rendered ‘acting as a priest.’ So the ministry of the gospel is conceived of after the pattern of priestly offering.” (Murray)
Paul is aware of the privilege that God has given him to bring the Gentiles into God’s Kingdom. This honor has come to Paul by Christ working through him so Paul is speaking on behalf of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul’s words and actions declared the gospel message and the Holy Spirit empowered him to preform signs and wonders. This ability validated Paul’s Apostleship. (2 Corinthians 12:12) Paul had finished his work in the east Mediterranean area. He had declared the Christian message across the whole region. From Jerusalem to Illyricum, he had established Christian churches in all the important towns and cities. Illyricum includes parts of Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia, today.
“Paul will glory only in what Christ has done through him. He is sure that Christ has done great things through him, and he is glad that he can draw attention to those things. But he is not trying to attract adulation. It is what Christ has done that is his theme.” (Morris)
Paul was an evangelist and did not want to interfere in the work of others in Rome. (Ephesians 4:11) Paul left the work in Rome to the teachers of the gospel but had long desired to come to Rome. Paul saw his work as to taking the gospel to those who had never heard the message. Paul quotes the words of Isaiah to describe the work of God’s servant. (Isaiah 52:15) God was working through Paul to make these words true.
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Rome Paul had mentioned that he had decided to visit Rome on many occasions but had not be able. Paul does not say the reason for his delay except that he wanted to finish his work in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire first.
Paul had been wanting to go to Rome for some time and that had been his goal. His work was now finished in spreading the gospel as he had no place left to go. Paul mentions here that his journey to Rome had been hindered. What had hindered Paul was to do the pioneer work of spreading the gospel but now that work was complete. Rome was to be a stop off place on his way to Spain. It may have been Paul’s plan to use Rome as his base for evangelizing Spain much like his use of the Church in Antioch.
It was the hope of Paul to depart to Spain after his visit to Rome. Paul’s desire was to preach the gospel beyond the regions of Corinth. (2 Corinthians 10:16) Spain was at the western end of Europe and was a part of the Roman Empire. Spain was an important place of commerce and home to famous writers that Paul had hope to persuade to believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Spain was the home of Seneca who became Emperor Nero’s chief minister.
Paul had these plans but the plans of man do not always work out according to God’s plan. Paul did go to Rome but he went as a prisoner. While waiting for his trial before Caesar Paul preached the gospel to a different kind of frontier. Paul was even given the opportunity to preach the gospel to the emperor of Rome.
There is no history to say that Paul ever reached Spain but we do know that he reached Rome, as he was imprisoned there. (Acts 28:14-16) It is probable that Paul gained his freedom after two years of house arrest in Rome. (Acts 28:30) It is possible that Paul did make it to Spain but we know that the Romans did execute Paul during the rule of Nero.
At the writing of this letter Paul’s immediate plans were to go to Jerusalem. On his way there he urged the Macedonians and those of Achaia, the north and south of Greece to contribute money to help the poorer Church in Jerusalem. Paul made reference of this aid for the Christians in Jerusalem in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-14. The Poverty of the Christians in Jerusalem may have been because of the lack of food in the region. Agabus had given a prophecy of such an event. (Acts 11:28) It may be because they had no work because they had lost their jobs because of their Christian faith.
There are several reason way Paul wanted the Gentile Churches to contribute to the Christians in Jerusalem.
- The Church leadership in Jerusalem had agreed that Paul should work among the Gentiles. They also asked that Paul and Barnabas continue to help the poor. (Galatians 2:9-10)
- Paul recognized that that Gentiles had a debt they owed to the Jews. It was the Jew that had preached the gospel to the Gentiles and they received the spiritual blessing. Not it was the Jews that were poor and needed help. So it was only right that the Gentiles should pitch in and help the Jews.
- The Gentiles offering of a gift to the Jews would help unify them and would help in the realization that all are a part of the world wide Church.
- It would demonstrate that the Christian faith was practical. It would show that Christians were aware of others in need and were willing to act and help them.
Paul wanted to go with the Christians from the different Churches to give the gift to the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 20:4) It was after this that Paul would travel to Rome on his way to Spain. Rome would be a useful place from which Paul could continue his ministry. There was a good road system and many important cities there and the Church in Rome was a large Church. It was also the hope of Paul that the Church in Rome would help Paul on his journey to Spain.
Paul’s trip to Jerusalem had a great possibility of being a dangerous one for him. The Christians of Caesarea had tried to prevent Paul from going to Jerusalem. But Paul refused to change his plans. (Acts 21:10-14) There are two reasons that Paul asked for the prayers of the Christians in Rome.
- Paul knew that the Christians in Jerusalem would be in opposition to him. Paul also many years before opposed the Christian faith then on the road to Damascus he was converted by Jesus Christ. Paul had testified of his new faith in Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. The Jews there then plotted to kill him. It was then that Paul left Jerusalem and returned to Tarsus. (Acts 9:28-30)
- Neither was Paul sure how the Christian Jews would accept the gift from the Gentile Christians. There may have been some of the Jewish Christians who would be unhappy about a gift from the Gentiles. Also Paul’s teaching was that the Gentile Christians did not have to obey the Jewish laws. Even then the Jewish Christians believed the old Jewish law to be very important. It may be possible that they would refuse the gift because Paul was bringing it to them.
All Christians serve the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul asked those in Rome to pray for him because the Holy Spirit gave all Christians love for each other. Paul prayed that he would reach Rome if it be God’s will. Paul also began this letter in the same manner that if it be God’s will. If Paul did reach Rome he and the Christians there would be a help to each other.
We believe that the Christians in Jerusalem did receive the gift of the Gentiles. Luke in the book of Acts did not mention if they did. Luke did record what Paul said to Felix, that he had returned to Jerusalem to bring gifts to help the poor. (Acts 24:17)
The prayer for safety had a different answer than Paul had hoped for. The Jews in Jerusalem did cause trouble for Paul and the Romans had to come to his rescue. After the Romans carried him away from the threat of the Jews they did not release him. Instead of freedom the Romans put Paul in prison. A plot was made to kill Paul and the Romans sent him to Caesarea.
After several court appearances and two years in prison Paul appealed to the Emperor. The Emperor sent Paul to Rome as a prisoner to have his case heard there. It was to be a brief time waiting for trial which lasted for two more years in prison. During this time Paul was under house arrest. Paul was able to have visitors and he also preached the gospel to his Roman guards. (Act 28:16-31)