Romans 15

Romans 15  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
THE FIRST PARAGRAPH of chapter 15 sums up and completes this subject. The sum of the instruction is that those saints who are strong in the faith ought to bear the infirmities of their weaker brethren. Instead of pleasing themselves they are to aim at what will be for the spiritual good of the other. The attitude of mind which says, “I have a right to do this, and I am going to do it, no matter what anybody thinks!” is not the mind of Christ. It is exactly what Christ did not do!
“Christ pleased not Himself” (ch. 15:3). The prophet testified this, and the Gospels bear witness to it. He was the only One on earth who had an absolute right to please Himself, yet He lived absolutely at God’s disposal and identified with Him; so completely so that, if any wished to reproach God, they naturally heaped their reproaches on the head of Jesus. He is our great Example. We need to ponder Him, as made known to us in the Scriptures, and as we do, the patience and comfort necessary, if we are to follow Him, become ours.
So then, we are to manifest the grace of Christ in our dealings the one with the other: we are to be “like-minded... according to Christ Jesus” (ch. 15:5). For this we need not only the Scriptures to direct us, but the very power of God Himself, who is the God of patience and consolation. Thus strengthened we shall be able to glorify Him together. Instead of the mind and mouth of the weak being filled with criticisms of the strong, and the mind and mouth of the strong being filled with contempt of the weak (see, 14:2), the minds and mouths of all are to be filled with the praise of God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This presents a perfectly lovely picture: does it not?
Well, then, in spite of such differences as may exist, we are to receive one another in the happy enjoyment of Christian fellowship, so that the lovely picture may be realized, to the glory of God.
Having dealt with matters of practical life and behavior, from verse 8 the Apostle gives us a little summary of his earlier teaching as to the relations of the Lord Jesus with both Jews and Gentiles. He did come as the Servant of all God’s purposes in regard to His ancient people; so that the promises made aforetime to the fathers have been confirmed, though as yet they have not been all fulfilled. Then as regards the Gentiles, He came as God’s Messenger of mercy to them, so that ultimately they too might glorify God. This showing of mercy to Gentiles, though perhaps quite unexpected by the Jews, was no new thought on God’s part, for it had been indicated in Old Testament Scripture. Moses, David and Isaiah had all borne testimony to it, as verses 9-12 show us.
The believers in Rome were mainly Gentiles, hence there is a special force in the Apostle’s desire in verse 13. They had been without God and without hope in the world—as the Gentile believers in Ephesus were reminded—and now God, who is the God of hope, is to fill them with such joy and peace that they abound in hope. This is a most desirable, a most glorious result, which is achieved as the fruit of faith in the Gospel; for it is, “in believing,” and also, “through the power of the Holy Ghost” (ch. 15:13). Believing the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is received, and peace, hope and joy follow, as the fifth chapter of our epistle taught us.
Many there are who earnestly desire peace and joy, but they think to arrive at them in working, in resolving, in praying or in feeling, but none of these things lead to the desired end. It is only in believing. Faith, and faith alone, puts the soul into touch with God. And only by the Spirit are our hearts filled with all joy and peace and hope, which are the proper fruits of the Gospel. It is very fitting that the Apostle should desire these things for those to whom he wrote, seeing that this epistle unfolds the Gospel which produces them.
In verse 14 Paul expresses his confidence in the believers in Rome, and from that point he turns to write of more personal matters, both as regards them and as regards himself.
First, he deals with his own service to the Lord and unbosoms to them his intentions as well as referring to what he had already accomplished. This occupies all the remaining verses of chapter xv.
Paul’s ministry has especial reference to Gentiles, and in verse 16 he speaks of it in a very remarkable way. He ministered the Gospel amongst them as a sacrificial service, so that he considers those who were converted as being offered up to God for His acceptance in the sanctification and fragrance imparted by the Holy Spirit, who had been conferred upon them as believers. In this perhaps he alludes to the sanctification of the Levites, as recorded in Num. 8:1-191And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick. 3And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the Lord commanded Moses. 4And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses, so he made the candlestick. 5And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 6Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. 7And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. 8Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. 9And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: 10And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: 11And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord. 12And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the Levites. 13And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the Lord. 14Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. 15And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. 16For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me. 17For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. 18And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel. 19And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary. (Numbers 8:1‑19). It is expressly said there, “And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord” (Num. 8:1111And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the Lord. (Numbers 8:11)).
This shows us the spirit in which the Apostle carried on his gospel service. The apostle Peter speaks of Christians as royal priests who show forth the virtues of the One who has called them, and what we find here is in keeping with that. Paul acted in priestly fashion even in his gospel labors, and the fruit of them was seen in Gentile converts offered to God for His service as a band of spiritual Levites. In all this therefore he could boast, but his boasting was “through Jesus Christ,” (ch. 1:8) or, “in Christ Jesus” (ch. 3:24); for it was all referable to Him as the great Master-worker.
These thoughts lead to a brief survey of his labors already accomplished. First, as to their great scope and extent, “from Jerusalem, and in a circuit round to Illyricum” (ch. 15:19). Illyricum lay to the north west of Macedonia, so we can see what a vast district he had fully covered, considering the difficulties of transport in his day. Second, as to their peculiar character of pure and unadulterated evangelization. He was the pioneer of the Gospel in a supreme sense. He addressed himself to the Gentiles in a way that no other apostle did, and he went into strange cities that no other had visited. In this he was helping to the fulfillment of Scripture, as verse 21 shows.
Just because this was the special character of his service he had been hindered from coming to Rome. Christians had already gravitated to it as the metropolis of the world of that day, and thus the Gospel already had a footing there. Yet we can see Paul’s missionary heart looking beyond Rome to distant Spain, and contemplating a journey thitherward some day, with a call at Rome on the way. For the moment he had before him a visit to Jerusalem in order to carry thither the contribution for the poor saints, made by the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
We find an allusion to this collection for the saints in 1 Cor. 16:1-41Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. 4And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me. (1 Corinthians 16:1‑4), and again at much greater length in 2 Cor. 8 and 9. If those passages be read we can at once see why the Apostle here places Macedonia before Achaia. The Philippians were poor as compared with the Corinthians yet they were far more liberal. They talked less and gave more. The Acts of the Apostles furnishes us with a twofold explanation of what gave rise to the need. There was a famine in those days (11:27-30), and also the believers in Jerusalem had been in a special way impoverished by the “Christian communism” they practiced at the beginning (2:44, 45). Their impoverishment however furnished the occasion for the cementing of practical bonds of Christian fellowship between Gentile and Jew.
There was a strong tendency in those days for Jew and Gentile to fall apart, and this tendency was increased by the scheming of Judaizing teachers from Jerusalem. Hence Paul evidently considered this collection a very important matter and insisted on being the bearer of the bounty himself. He was quite aware of the danger he ran, and verse 30 and 31 of our chapter show that he had some premonitions of coining trouble. Whether he was really right in going to Jerusalem has been a much discussed question. We need not attempt to answer it here, but we shall do well to note that the prayer, in which he asked the Roman saints to join with him, was answered, though not in just the way he hoped. He was delivered, but not as a free man. He was delivered from his persecutors by his imprisonment at the hands of the representatives of Caesar.
So also did he finally come amongst the Roman Christians with joy, being refreshed among them, as Acts 28:1515And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. (Acts 28:15), witnesses. Another proof this of how God answers our prayers, but in the way that is according to His will, and not according to our thoughts and wishes. We may also be sure that Paul came amongst them in fullness of blessing. Phil. 1:12, 1312But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; (Philippians 1:12‑13), is proof of this, as also Philem. 1:1, 101Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlaborer, (Philemon 1)
10I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: (Philemon 10)
. Peace was what the Apostle desired, peace in which both the saints of God and the work of God might flourish; hence the chapter closes with the desire that the God of peace might be with them.
We shall do well to notice the three ways in which God is characterized in this chapter. “The God of patience and consolation” in verse 5. “The God of hope” (ch. 15:13) in verse 13. “The God of peace” (ch. 15:13) in verse 33. Having noted them we shall do well to meditate upon them. What God is at any time He is always, and what He is for any of His people He is for all and for each. Therefore He is all this for you and for me.