ROMANS, CHAPTER 15.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE TRANSFORMED LIVES OF THOSE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. Romans 12:1 - 15:14.
LET US BUILD UP ONE ANOTHER AND NOT TEAR DOWN THE WORK OF GOD. Romans 14:16 - 15:6.
"(1) Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. (2) Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. (3) For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me.' (4) For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (5) Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; (6) that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:1-6.
In Romans 14:1 Paul said, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith." Then in Romans 15:1 Paul said, "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength." To whom did Paul address himself? He addressed himself to "the strong," didn't he? The admonition, to "accept the one who is weak, is obviously addressed to the one who is strong. Then Paul directly addressed "we who are strong." We perceive that Paul showed here a very good understanding of human nature in addressing these admonitions. Which of us are "the strong" and which of us are "the weak?" Does anyone admit to being one of the weak? Paul bypassed the problem of determining which of the Christians were "strong" and which were "weak" by addressing all admonitions as to the "strong"! If every Christian in Paul's time had complied with these admonitions as one of the "strong," and had obeyed the admonition to "bear the weaknesses of those without strength, then problems of passing judgment on opinions would never have arisen. Likewise, in our time, if we, whether of "the strong" or of "the weak," will obey these admonitions, "doubtful disputations" about opinions will not arise.
Paul continued in chapter 15 in the same vein as in chapter 14, telling the Christians to safeguard their consciences and the consciences of their brethren, even when they differed, and even when some were weak and some were strong. Individual Christians do not need to please themselves but to do what is good to the "building up" of his neighbor. Christ was the example in this. He was the extreme example as the strong One who did not please Himself but bore the weaknesses of all who are without strength. Christians must come to be of the same mind as Christ Jesus, and then, as many as are of the same mind as Christ Jesus, will be of the same mind also with each other.
When Christ accepted us, even when we were yet sinners, and died for us, even when we were yet enemies, God was glorified! We do not understand this but how grateful we are! How marvellous! How wonderful! Now, when we accept one another, even those who disagree with us in important matters, God is glorified!
When Paul admonished us "to be of the same mind with one another," was he telling us that we must all fully agree on every opinion? Obviously not! Such a conclusion would be entirely out of context with Paul's message of Romans, chapters 14 and 15. He meant that we must all agree that we will not let "doubtful disputations" arise about our differing opinions. He meant that we must accept each other dispite differences of preference and opinion. Only when we accept each other can we "with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
In Romans 15:5-6, Paul said that we who make up Christ's church are to be of the same mind and with one accord and with one voice we are to glorify God. The surprising thing is that we can obey this admonition even when we differ in opinions, even when some are weaker than others. The only imperative is that we accept one another. Then we can, with one voice, glorify God. This is of utmost importance.
ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER JUST AS CHRIST HAS ACCEPTED YOU. Romans 15:7-14.
"(7) Wherefore accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. (8) For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, (9) and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, 'Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles. And I will sing to Thy name.' (10) And again he says, 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.' (11) And again, 'Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise Him.' (12) And again Isaiah says, 'There shall come the root of Jesse, and He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles hope.' (13) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (14) And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another." Romans 15:7-14.
Paul said in Romans 15:7 that we have an example in one Person of how, in spite of differing opinions, we are to accept one another. Christ exhibited to us in His life on earth how to deal with contentious brethren. We are to accept one another just as Christ has accepted us. We are reminded of Paul's statement in Romans 14:4, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls, and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand." We are reminded that we did not become sinless even after we were baptized and even after Christ took us "into Himself". Even "in Christ" we are all somewhat at odds with Him because of our sinfulness. We are each servants of our Master, Jesus Christ. We "stand" in Him, not because we are good enough to do so, but because Christ is able to make each of us "stand." If we accept one another just as Christ has accepted us, there will be no bickering among us concerning the differences of opinion among us. All our opinions are but part of our imperfections. Thank God that Christ accepts us in spite of imperfections. Surprisingly, Christ's acceptance of imperfect human beings contributes to the glory of God! Thank God for that!
Do we not reject the precepts of God the Father and Christ the Son when we try to veto their acceptance of certain fellow Christians by refusing through "doubtful disputations" to accept some of them ourselves? The righteosness of God is revealed in His acceptance of sinful human beings into His family of Christians. When, through "doubtful disputations" we reject one another, we reject the revelation of God's righteousness toward us!
Perhaps many of the problems of "doubtful disputations" in the church at Rome came about because of the differences of opinions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. In Romans 15:8-13, Paul pointed out that there is but one Christ for both Jewish and Gentile Christians. The one Christ became the all sufficient Servant to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Christ became "a servant to the circumcision (the Jews) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers." And Christ became a servant "for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." And if any Jewish Christians had doubts about the acceptability of Gentile Christians into God's fellowship, in Romans 15:9-12 Paul quoted Old Testament prophets who foretold how the Gentiles were also to receive mercy through Christ just as the Jews were to receive it.
Christ did not just please Himself (as from a human standpoint), but He became a servant to both Jews and Gentiles. The salvation of both the Gentiles and the Jews has always been the purpose of God. And the purpose has been carried out in Jesus Christ. So now all Christians "may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" who leads them in their Christian "walk".
In Romans 15:13-14 Paul began to bring his monumental Roman letter to a close. With the phrase, "And concerning you," he turned to comments concerning his personal relationship with specific Christians at Rome. The rest of the letter was given to personal notes about himself and a number of specific Roman Christians whom he knew or had heard about. In verses 13 and 14 Paul expressed confidence that the Roman Christians were allowing their lives to be led by the Holy Spirit and were enjoying the manifold blessings of the spiritual life in Christ about which he has written in this letter.
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED IN THE TRANSFORMED LIFE OF PAUL. Romans 15:15-23.
GRACE WAS GIVEN TO PAUL TO BE A MINISTER OF CHRIST. Romans 15:15-21.
"(15) But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, (16) to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (17) Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. (18) For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, (19) in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (20) And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation; (21) but as it is written, 'They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.'" Romans 15:15-21.
In this part of chapter 15 Paul said, in effect, that he has written this letter to the Romans because God has given him a specific mission. It is not my letter, Paul said, but God's letter through me and I am simply a vessel of God's mercy to you Gentiles. The objective of Paul's Roman letter has been that the Roman Christians (most of whom were Gentiles) might become acceptable vessels through whom Christ could work, vessels sanctified by the Holy Spirit. That was the grand purpose of the Roman letter, to teach the Gentile Christians to follow the Holy Spirit in their "walk" and become sanctified as holy and acceptable vessels for Christ's use.
Then in these verses Paul pointed out how Christ had used him. There was no expression of personal human pride in Paul's account of his life. But Paul made it clear that great things had been accomplished by Christ through him who would have accomplished nothing without Christ. He said that the only accomplishments of which he could boast were those which Christ had done through him. And these were considerable. Christ's work through him had brought about the complete success of God's purposes -- the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed. The power of the Holy Spirit had accompanied Paul so that the gospel of Christ had been fully preached from Jerusalem to Illyricum. (Illyricum was a province northwest of Macedonia about where Yugoslavia and Albania are now located.)
Notice that Paul did not give a numerical count of those who had believed and been baptized. He said only that the gospel had been fully preached! This indicates that Paul thought his work was done, not when a large or certain number had been baptized, but when the gospel was fully preached. Paul said that Christ's work through him had fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that those Gentiles who had never heard anything about Christ at all would hear the gospel of Christ. The Holy Spirit directed Paul to go where no other preacher had yet gone.
There are people today, even among socalled Christians, who object to the preaching of the gospel of Christ to those in the world who have never heard about Him. In their objection they say that some people should not be disturbed in their "innocent ignorance" for Christian preaching will unnecessarily make them feel guilty. But people who make that objection should note this passage. Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit to go only to people who had not yet heard about Christ. It was not just Paul's own idea, but Paul went only where Christ through the Holy Spirit directed him to go. Of course we have already learned in the early chapters of this Roman letter that all people everywhere, no matter how seemingly ignorant, are held responsible to call upon God and are without hope or excuse except they respond in obedience to God's message to mankind.
Isn't this an indication that Christians of today have a special responsibility to preach the gospel to those who have not yet heard it? There are billions more of such people today than there were in Paul's time. How can we expend all our effort to preach the gospel right here at home where the gospel has been preached so much, where Bibles are available to everyone, and where everyone has had chance after chance to come to Jesus. Is not the Holy Spirit directing us to turn our efforts primarily toward those who have not yet heard about Christ? Is not Isaiah's prophecy, "They who had no news of Him shall see," to be fulfilled in our time also? And is not the Holy Spirit through this Roman letter, which still speaks in our day, directing us to fulfill prophecy concerning the preaching of the gospel?
SERVING THE SAINTS, PAUL SAID, "I WILL COME TO YOU IN THE FULNESS OF THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST." Romans 15:22-29.
"(22) For this reason I have often been hindered from coming to you; (23) but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you (24) whenever I go to Spain -- for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while -- (25) but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. (26) For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (27) Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. (28) Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. (29) And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." Romans 15:22-29.
Here is clear evidence that Paul practiced what he preached! In Romans 15:1 the Holy Spirit directed Paul to say that we ought not to please ourselves. Then in Romans 15:22 he said that he would have been pleased personally to have gone to Rome even earlier in his life. But Paul had not sought only to please himself. He had been hindered up to that time because the Spirit had led him elsewhere and kept him busy elsewhere. Paul had had a long time dream of going to Spain, and on the way to stop in Rome. A man like Paul could have done that already if he had insisted on pleasing himself. He could have convinced himself that his dream ought to be Christ's dream too. And very likely, he could have visited Rome and Spain before the time of this writing. But no, if Paul had insisted and had gone on to Rome and Spain instead of letting himself be led by the Holy Spirit back to Jerusalem, his keen conscience would have accused him of wrong doing. There were no human, personal dreams of self fulfillment left for Paul. These were all brought up short on the road to Damacus many years before. Paul had found a better way. Paul no longer presumed to speak to do anything for God except what the Holy Spirit led him to do. Paul was a vessel who simply let Christ work through him.
At this time, even though Paul had a great dream and longing to go to Rome and to Spain, he was still being hindered from immediately carrying out that dream by the Holy Spirit. At the time of this writing he was going in the opposite direction, back to Jerusalem. For the Lord had use of him in serving the poor saints in Jerusalem at that time. And Paul lived for the Lord's use of him.
But Paul said that when he finished his trip to Jerusalem he planned to go to Rome. Perhaps the Spirit had somehow made it known to Paul that he would go eventually to Rome for he said in Romans 15:29, "And I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ." But evidently, Paul did not know at that time that he would be taken to Rome in chains, as a prisoner. Paul did go later to Rome. And as a humble vessel, he bore Christ's name before Kings. Did Paul ever go to Spain? The Bible does not say, except here in Romans 15:28 the Spirit prompted Paul to say, "I will go by way of you to Spain." We do not know of any definite record, but a traditional account has been handed down to us that Paul, during the time between a first and a second imprisonment in Rome, went to Spain.
PAUL SAID, "STRIVE TOGETHER WITH ME IN YOUR PRAYERS." Romans 15:30-33.
"(30) Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, (31) that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; (32) so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. (33) Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." Romans 15:30-33.
Paul knew the dangers to his flesh as he followed the direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew of the possibility of trouble for him from those who were disobedient in Judea should he go back to Jerusalem. But apparently, he had not been fully informed by the Spirit about what was to happen to him in Jerusalem. As he went on nearer to Jerusalem the Spirit informed him more fully. On his way to Jerusalem, in Miletus, he stopped to visit briefly with the Ephesian elders and he said to them, "The Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and affliction await me." (Acts 20:23). So, for the time being, Paul gave up a personal dream of traveling to Rome and Spain, and headed instead, for Christ's sake, to a place where bonds and affliction awaited him. But in Romans 15:32 he was already looking past all possible afflictions in Judea to joy by the will of God and refreshing rest in the fellowship of the Roman Christians.
Do we have refreshing rest in the company of our fellow Christians? That is a blessing that the Holy Spirit would have us enjoy!
In Romans 15:33 Paul said, "Now the God of peace be with you all." Do you see the paradox here? Paul had met opposition and affliction everywhere he had gone and he knew the possibility of more of such in store for him in Jerusalem. But, in the midst of his affliction, he was at peace. You see, we too have only short term fleshly afflictions in the human body which, after all, has already died with Christ. But, as Paul did, we have, even now, eternal spiritual peace in our new spiritual man in Christ!
(This has been taken from the book "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on Romans by F. M. Perry.)
© 2002, F. M. Perry