Directions how to behave towards the weak. (1-7) All to receive one another as brethren. (8-13) The writing and preaching of the apostle. (14-21) His purposed journeys. (22-29) He requests their prayers. (30-33)
Verses 1-7 Christian liberty was allowed, not for our pleasure, but for the glory of God, and the good of others. We must please our neighbour, for the good of his soul; not by serving his wicked will, and humouring him in a sinful way; if we thus seek to please men, we are not the servants of Christ. Christ's whole life was a self-denying, self-displeasing life. And he is the most advanced Christian, who is the most conformed to Christ. Considering his spotless purity and holiness, nothing could be more contrary to him, than to be made sin and a curse for us, and to have the reproaches of God fall upon him; the just for the unjust. He bore the guilt of sin, and the curse for it; we are only called to bear a little of the trouble of it. He bore the presumptuous sins of the wicked; we are called only to bear the failings of the weak. And should not we be humble, self-denying, and ready to consider one another, who are members one of another? The Scriptures are written for our use and benefit, as much as for those to whom they were first given. Those are most learned who are most mighty in the Scriptures. That comfort which springs from the word of God, is the surest and sweetest, and the greatest stay to hope. The Spirit as a Comforter, is the earnest of our inheritance. This like-mindedness must be according to the precept of Christ, according to his pattern and example. It is the gift of God; and a precious gift it is, for which we must earnestly seek unto him. Our Divine Master invites his disciples, and encourages them by showing himself as meek and lowly in spirit. The same disposition ought to mark the conduct of his servants, especially of the strong towards the weak. The great end in all our actions must be, that God may be glorified; nothing more forwards this, than the mutual love and kindness of those who profess religion. Those that agree in Christ may well agree among themselves.
Verses 8-13 Christ fulfilled the prophecies and promises relating to the Jews, and the Gentile converts could have no excuse for despising them. The Gentiles, being brought into the church, are companions in patience and tribulation. They should praise God. Calling upon all the nations to praise the Lord, shows that they shall have knowledge of him. We shall never seek to Christ till we trust in him. And the whole plan of redemption is suited to reconcile us to one another, as well as to our gracious God, so that an abiding hope of eternal life, through the sanctifying and comforting power of the Holy Spirit, may be attained. Our own power will never reach this; therefore where this hope is, and is abounding, the blessed Spirit must have all the glory. "All joy and peace;" all sorts of true joy and peace, so as to suppress doubts and fears, through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.
Verses 14-21 The apostle was persuaded that the Roman Christians were filled with a kind and affectionate spirit, as well as with knowledge. He had written to remind them of their duties and their dangers, because God had appointed him the minister of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul preached to them; but what made them sacrifices to God, was, their sanctification; not his work, but the work of the Holy Ghost: unholy things can never be pleasing to the holy God. The conversion of souls pertains unto God; therefore it is the matter of Paul's glorying, not the things of the flesh. But though a great preacher, he could not make one soul obedient, further than the Spirit of God accompanied his labours. He principally sought the good of those that sat in darkness. Whatever good we do, it is Christ who does it by us.
Verses 22-29 The apostle sought the things of Christ more than his own will, and would not leave his work of planting churches to go to Rome. It concerns all to do that first which is most needful. We must not take it ill if our friends prefer work which is pleasing to God, before visits and compliments, which may please us. It is justly expected from all Christians, that they should promote every good work, especially that blessed work, the conversion of souls. Christian society is a heaven upon earth, an earnest of our gathering together unto Christ at the great day. Yet it is but partial, compared with our communion with Christ; for that only will satisfy the soul. The apostle was going to Jerusalem, as the messenger of charity. God loves a cheerful giver. Every thing that passes between Christians should be a proof and instance of the union they have in Jesus Christ. The Gentiles received the gospel of salvation from the Jews; therefore were bound to minister to them in what was needed for the body. Concerning what he expected from them he speaks doubtfully; but concerning what he expected from God he speaks confidently. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. And how delightful and advantageous it is to have the gospel with the fulness of its blessings! What wonderful and happy effects does it produce, when attended with the power of the Spirit!
Verses 30-33 Let us learn to value the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous. How careful should we be, lest we forfeit our interest in the love and prayers of God's praying people! If we have experienced the Spirit's love, let us not be wanting in this office of kindness for others. Those that would prevail in prayer, must strive in prayer. Those who beg the prayers of others, must not neglect to pray for themselves. And though Christ knows our state and wants perfectly, he will know them from us. As God must be sought, for restraining the ill-will of our enemies, so also for preserving and increasing the good-will of our friends. All our joy depends upon the will of God. Let us be earnest in prayer with and for each other, that for Christ's sake, and by the love of the Holy Spirit, great blessings may come upon the souls of Christians, and the labours of ministers.
Romans 15:1-13 . SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED AND CONCLUDED.
1. We then that are strong--on such points as have been discussed, the abolition of the Jewish distinction of meats and days under the Gospel.
ought . . . not to please ourselves--ought to think less of what we may lawfully do than of how our conduct will affect others.
2, 3. Let every one of us--lay himself out to
please his neighbour--not indeed for his mere gratification, but
for his good--with a view
to his edification.
3. For even Christ pleased not--lived not to please
himself; but, as it is written--( Psalms 69:9 ).
The reproaches, &c.--see Mark 10:42-45 .
4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning--"instruction"
through, &c.--"through the comfort and the patience of the Scriptures"
might have hope--that is, "Think not that because such portions of Scripture relate immediately to Christ, they are inapplicable to you; for though Christ's sufferings, as a Saviour, were exclusively His own, the motives that prompted them, the spirit in which they were endured, and the general principle involved in His whole work--self-sacrifice for the good of others--furnish our most perfect and beautiful model; and so all Scripture relating to these is for our instruction; and since the duty of forbearance, the strong with the weak, requires 'patience,' and this again needs 'comfort,' all those Scriptures which tell of patience and consolation, particularly of the patience of Christ, and of the consolation which sustained Him under it, are our appointed and appropriate nutriment, ministering to us 'hope' of that blessed day when these shall no more be needed." (For the same connection between "patience and hope" 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ).
5, 6. Now the God of patience and consolation--Such beautiful names of God are taken from the graces which He inspires: as "the God of hope" ( Romans 15:13 ), "the God of peace" ( Romans 15:33 ).
grant you to be likeminded--"of the same mind"
according to Christ Jesus--It is not mere unanimity which the apostle seeks for them; for unanimity in evil is to be deprecated. But it is "according to Christ Jesus"--after the sublimest model of Him whose all-absorbing desire was to do, "not His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him" ( John 6:38 ).
6. That, &c.--rather, "that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"; the mind and the mouth of all giving harmonious glory to His name. What a prayer! And shall this never be realized on earth?
7. Wherefore--returning to the point
receive ye one another . . . to the glory of God--If Christ received us, and bears with all our weaknesses, well may we receive and compassionate one with another, and by so doing God will be glorified.
8-12. Now--"For" is the true reading: the apostle is merely assigning an additional motive to Christian forbearance.
I say that Jesus Christ was--"hath become"
a minister of the circumcision--a remarkable expression, meaning "the Father's Servant for the salvation of the circumcision (or, of Israel)."
for the truth of God--to make good the veracity of God towards His ancient people.
to confirm the--Messianic
promises made unto the fathers--To cheer the Jewish believers, whom he might seem to have been disparaging, and to keep down Gentile pride, the apostle holds up Israel's salvation as the primary end of Christ's mission. But next after this, Christ was sent.
9. that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy--A number of quotations from the Old Testament here follow, to show that God's plan of mercy embraced, from the first, the Gentiles along with the Jews.
as it is written--( Psalms 18:49 ).
I will confess to--that is, glorify
thee among the Gentiles.
10. And again--( Deuteronomy 32:43 , though there is some difficulty in the Hebrew).
Rejoice, ye Gentiles--along
with his people--Israel.
11. And again--( Psalms 117:1 ).
Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people--"peoples"--the various nations outside the pale of Judaism.
12. And again, Esaias saith--( Isaiah 11:10 ).
There shall be a--"the"
root of Jesse--meaning, not "He from whom Jesse sprang," but "He that is sprung from Jesse" (that is, Jesse's son David))see Revelation 22:16 .
and he that shall rise, &c.--So the Septuagint in substantial, though not verbal, agreement with the original.
13. Now, &c.--This seems a concluding prayer, suggested by the whole preceding subject matter of the epistle.
the God of
fill you with all joy and peace in believing--the native truth of that faith which is the great theme of this epistle (compare Galatians 5:22 ).
that ye may abound in hope--"of the glory of God."
through the power of the Holy Ghost--to whom, in the economy of redemption, it belongs to inspire believers with all gracious affections.
On the foregoing portion, Note, (1) No Christian is at liberty to regard himself as an isolated disciple of the Lord Jesus, having to decide questions of duty and liberty solely with reference to himself. As Christians are one body in Christ, so the great law of love binds them to act in all things with tenderness and consideration for their brethren in "the common salvation" ( Romans 15:1 Romans 15:2 ). (2) Of this unselfishness CHRIST is the perfect model of all Christians ( Romans 15:3 ). (3) Holy Scripture is the divine storehouse of all furniture for the Christian life, even in its most trying and delicate features ( Romans 15:4 ). (4) The harmonious glorification of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by the whole body of the redeemed, as it is the most exalted fruit of the scheme of redemption, so it is the last end of God in it ( Romans 15:5-7 ).
Romans 15:14-33 . CONCLUSION: IN WHICH THE APOSTLE APOLOGIZES FOR THUS WRITING TO THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS, EXPLAINS WHY HE HAD NOT YET VISITED THEM, ANNOUNCES HIS FUTURE PLANS, AND ASKS THEIR PRAYERS FOR THE COMPLETION OF THEM.
14, 15. And, &c.--rather, "Now I am persuaded, my brethren, even I myself, concerning you"
that ye also yourselves are full of goodness--of inclination to all I have been enjoining on you
filled with all knowledge--of the truth expounded
and able--without my intervention.
to admonish one another.
15. Nevertheless, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort--"measure"
as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God--as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
16. that I should be the--rather, "a"
minister--The word here used is commonly employed to express the office of the priesthood, from which accordingly the figurative language of the rest of the verse is taken.
of Jesus Christ--"Christ Jesus," according to the true reading.
to the Gentiles--a further proof that the Epistle was addressed to a Gentile church.
ministering the gospel of God--As the word here is a still more priestly one, it should be rendered, "ministering as a priest in the Gospel of God."
that the offering up of the Gentiles--as an oblation to God, in their converted character.
might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost--the end to which the ancient offerings typically looked.
17. I have therefore whereof I may glory--or (adding the article, as the reading seems to be), "I have my glorying."
Christ Jesus in those things which pertain to God--the things of the ministry committed to me of God.
18-22. For I will not dare to speak of any--"to speak aught"
of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me--a modest, though somewhat obscure form of expression, meaning, "I will not dare to go beyond what Christ hath wrought by me"--in which form accordingly the rest of the passage is expressed. Observe here how Paul ascribes all the success of his labors to the activity of the living Redeemer, working in and by him.
by word and deed--by preaching and working; which latter he explains in the next clause.
19. Through mighty--literally, "in the power of"
signs and wonders--that is, glorious miracles.
by the power of the Spirit of God--"the Holy Ghost," as the true reading seems to be. This seems intended to explain the efficacy of the word preached, as well as the working of the miracles which attested it.
so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto--"as far as"
Illyricum--to the extreme northwestern boundary of Greece. It corresponds to the modern Croatia and Dalmatia ( 2 Timothy 4:10 ). See Acts 20:1 Acts 20:2 .
I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
20, 21. Yea, &c.--rather, "Yet making it my study (compare 2 Corinthians 5:9 , 1 Thessalonians 4:11 , Greek) so to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was [already] named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation: but (might act) as it is written, To whom no tidings of Him came, they shall see," &c.
22. For which cause--"Being so long occupied with this missionary work, I have been much (or, 'for the most part') hindered," &c.
23, 24. But now having no more place--"no longer having place"--that is, unbroken ground, where Christ has not been preached.
and having a great desire--"a longing"
these many years to come unto you--(as before,
24. whensoever I take my journey into Spain--Whether this purpose was ever accomplished has been much disputed, as no record of it nor allusion to it anywhere occurs. Those who think our apostle was never at large after his first imprisonment at Rome will of course hold that it never was; while those who are persuaded, as we are, that he underwent a second imprisonment, prior to which he was at large for a considerable time after his first, incline naturally to the other opinion.
I will come to you--If these words were not originally in the text, and there is weighty evidence against them, they must at least be inserted as a necessary supplement.
in my journey, &c.--"as I pass through by you, to be set forward on my journey thither, if first I be somewhat filled with your company": that is, "I should indeed like to stay longer with you than I can hope to do, but I must, to some extent at least, have my fill of your company."
25-27. But now I go to Jerusalem to minister--"ministering"
to the saints--in the sense immediately to be explained.
26. For, &c.--better, "For Macedonia and Achaia have thought good to make a certain contribution for the poor of the saints which are at Jerusalem." (See Acts 24:17 ). "They have thought it good; and their debtors verily they are"; that is, "And well they may, considering what the Gentile believers owe to their Jewish brethren."
27. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also--"they owe it also"
to minister unto them in carnal things--(Compare 1 Corinthians 9:11 , Galatians 6:6 ; and see Luke 7:4 , Acts 10:2 ).
28, 29. When therefore I have . . . sealed--that is, delivered over safely
to them this fruit--of the faith and love of the Gentile converts
I will come--"come back," or "return"
by you into
29. And I am sure--"I know"
that . . . I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ--Such, beyond all doubts, is the true reading, the words "of the gospel" being in hardly any manuscripts of antiquity and authority. Nor was the apostle mistaken in this confidence, though his visit to Rome was in very different circumstances from what he expected. See Acts 28:16-31 .
30. Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit--or, "by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit"--not the love which the Spirit bears to us, but that love which He kindles in the hearts of believers towards each other; that is "By that Saviour whose name is alike dear to all of us and whose unsearchable riches I live only to proclaim, and by that love one to another which the blessed Spirit diffuses through all the brotherhood, making the labors of Christ's servants a matter of common interest to all--I beseech you."
that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me--implying that he had his grounds for anxious fear in this matter.
31. That I may be delivered from them that do not believe--"that do not obey," that is, the truth, by believing it; as in Romans 2:8 .
in Judea--He saw the storm that was gathering over him in Judea, which, if at all, would certainly burst upon his head when he reached the capital; and the event too clearly showed the correctness of these apprehensions.
and that my service which I have for
may be accepted of--"prove acceptable to"
the saints--Nor was he without apprehension lest the opposition he had made to the narrow jealousy of the Jewish converts against the free reception of their Gentile brethren, should make this gift of theirs to the poor saints at Jerusalem less welcome than it ought to be. He would have the Romans therefore to join him in wrestling with God that this gift might be gratefully received, and prove a cement between the two parties. But further.
32. That I may come unto you with--"in"
joy by the will of God--( Acts 18:21 , 1 Corinthians 4:19 , 16:7 , Hebrews 6:3 , 4:15 )
and may with you be refreshed--rather, "with you refresh myself," after all his labors and anxieties, and so be refitted for future service.
33. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen--The peace here sought is to be taken in its widest sense: the peace of reconciliation to God, first, "through the blood of the everlasting covenant" ( Hebrews 13:20 , 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , 2 Thessalonians 3:16 , Philippians 4:9 ); then the peace which that reconciliation diffuses among all the partakers of it ( 1 Corinthians 14:33 , 2 Corinthians 13:11 ; and more widely still, that peace which the children of God, in beautiful imitation of their Father in Heaven, are called and privileged to diffuse far and wide through this sin-distracted and divided world ( Romans 12:18 , Matthew 5:9 , Hebrews 12:14 , 3:18 ).
Note, (1) Did "the chiefest of the apostles" apologize for writing to a Christian church which he had never seen, and a church that he was persuaded was above the need of it, save to "stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance" ( 2 Peter 1:13 , 3:1 ); and did he put even this upon the sole plea of apostolic responsibility ( Romans 15:14-16 )? What a contrast is thus presented to hierarchical pride, and in particular to the affected humility of the bishop of this very Rome! How close the bond which the one spirit draws between ministers and people--how wide the separation produced by the other! (2) There is in the Christian Church no real priesthood, and none but figurative sacrifices. Had it been otherwise, it is inconceivable that Romans 15:16 should have been expressed as it is. Paul's only priesthood and sacrificial offerings lay, first, in ministering to them as "the apostle of the Gentiles," not the sacrament with the "real presence" of Christ in it, or the sacrifice of the mass, but "the Gospel of God," and then, when gathered under the wing of Christ, presenting them to God as a grateful offering, "being sanctified [not by sacrificial gifts, but] by the Holy Ghost." (See Hebrews 13:9-16 ). (3) Though the debt we owe to those by whom we have been brought to Christ can never be discharged, we should feel it a privilege when we render them any lower benefit in return ( Romans 15:26 Romans 15:27 ). (4) Formidable designs against the truth and the servants of Christ should, above all other ways of counteracting them, be met by combined prayer to Him who rules all hearts and controls all events; and the darker the cloud, the more resolutely should all to whom Christ's cause is dear "strive together in their prayers to God" for the removal of it ( Romans 15:30 Romans 15:31 ). (5) Christian fellowship is so precious that the most eminent servants of Christ, amid the toils and trials of their work, find it refreshing and invigorating; and it is no good sign of any ecclesiastic, that he deems it beneath him to seek and enjoy it even amongst the humblest saints in the Church of Christ ( Romans 15:24 Romans 15:32 ).