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Romans 15

1 In this verse, those who are strong are believers whose faith is strong. The weak are those whose faith is weak.

This joy is the spiritual joy given by Christ through the Holy Spirit; it is not the joy that comes from the world (see John 15:11 and comment). Likewise, this peace is the spiritual peace given by Christ through the Holy Spirit; it is not the peace that comes from the world (see John 14:27 and comment). No amount of trouble and suffering in this world can take away this spiritual joy and peace.

For the kingdom of God is … righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). A man will never find all joy and peace in any kingdom but the kingdom of God, in any religion but the Christian religion, in any god but the God Jesus Christ.

Let us not cease to pray for one another that we might be filled with all joy and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

14 If Paul wrote a letter addressed to our church today, how would he describe our church? Would he write about us, as he wrote to the Romans: … you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Is that a description of our church? If not, it should be!

Christ wants us to have both goodness and knowledge together. Those who possess goodness and knowledge need to share those gifts with others.

At the time Paul wrote this letter, he had not yet been to Rome. But he was ready to believe good things about the Roman Christians. We, too, must always be more ready and eager to hear good things about each other than bad things.

15-16 Paul again reminds his readers that he has been given special grace (verse 15)—that is, a special anointing and power (see Romans 1:5; Ephesians 3:7 and comments)—for proclaiming the gospel of God.

What is the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel? The purpose, as stated in verse 16, is that those who accept the Gospel might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:1). If we have not been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we cannot be an offering acceptable to God. And only by the work of the Holy Spirit living in us can we be sanctified (see 1 Corinthians 6:11 and comment).

That men and women might become sanctified offerings acceptable to God is the one chief purpose and goal of all preaching. Preaching is not a matter of dry discussion, explanation, and teaching. It’s a matter of persuading hearers to receive new life from Christ, and then to give their lives to Him in obedience and love.

17 Notice that Paul does not glory in himself, but in Christ Jesus.

18 Paul speaks only of what Christ has accomplished through [him]. Christ, through Paul’s preaching, led the Gentiles to obey God. Obedience is the main sign and proof of true faith.

Notice that Paul says that the Gentiles have been led into obedience to God by what he (Paul) has said and done. Christ’s ministers must serve not only by word but also by deed. People will of ten be more influenced by what we do than by what we say. However, they will be most influenced when we mix both words and deeds together.

19 The Holy Spirit worked mightily in Paul’s life (see Acts 19:11; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Through the power of the Spirit Paul accomplished so much! We can say that Paul, through the Spirit, accomplished more than Jesus accomplished during His time on earth! Jesus had said: “… anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). This is because only after Jesus went to the Father did He send the Holy Spirit to His followers. It is through the power of the Spirit that Paul was able to do all the things he did. And we too, through the Spirit’s power, are able to do as much as Paul did!

The Holy Spirit works not only in the lives of believers; He also works in the lives of those who hear our words of testimony, our preaching. Our own words alone do not bring people to faith in Christ; it is the Holy Spirit, working in the hearts of those who hear our words, who brings them to Christ.

Illyricum was a province of the Roman Empire lying northwest of Greece. Today it is part of the modern nation of Yugoslavia.

20 Christians are not all called to the same work. Some Christians, like Paul, are called to travel from place to place. Other Christians are called to remain working in one place. Some Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel in new places where Christ [is] not known. And other Christians are called to build on someone else’s foundation—that is, to teach and strengthen believers, to “water the seed” that someone else has planted (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 and comment). But the important thing to learn from this verse is that Christians should not compete with each other. We must never put another Christian down in order to advance our own work. We must never try to draw Christians away from other churches in order to make our own church bigger. We must never take for ourselves the honor or credit that belongs to someone else (2 Corinthians 10:15-16).

21 Here Paul quotes a prophecy of Isaiah, in which Isaiah says that those who have never heard of Christ will see and will understand (Isaiah 52:15). It was Paul’s desire to help fulfill this prophecy by going and preaching to those who had never heard of Christ.

22 When Paul wrote this letter he had not yet visited Rome (Romans 1:13), because he had been busy preaching the Gospel in places where Christ was not known (verse 20).

23-24 Paul hoped to go to Spain, the westernmost part of the European continent. In Paul’s time, Spain was a province of the Roman Empire. The Gospel had never been preached in Spain; that’s why Paul wanted to go there.

Paul hoped that the Roman Christians would help him on his journey to Spain. In Paul’s mind, the church in Rome was ideally situated to become a new center from which the Gospel could spread into western and northern Europe.

Paul had been longing to see the Roman Christians (Acts 19:21; Romans 1:11-12). Paul wanted to enjoy their company, their fellowship. However, a few years later when Paul finally arrived in Rome as a prisoner (Acts 28:16), these same Roman Christians refused to take his side; instead, at his trial, they all deserted him (2 Timothy 4:16).

25-26 Jerusalem85 was the chief city of the province of Judea, the southern province of Israel. In New Testament times, all of Israel had fallen under the control of the Roman Empire. The saints (believers) in Jerusalem were very poor. Most of them had originally been Jews, but after becoming followers of Christ they had been opposed and persecuted by the other Jews around them. It’s likely that many lost their property or businesses because of their faith in Christ. Probably many of them had to forfeit their inheritance. For these reasons, then, the Christians in Jerusalem were poor.

Twelve years earlier during a time of severe famine, Paul and Barnabas had taken up a collection in all the Gentile churches and had delivered that collection to the believers in Jerusalem (see Acts 11:28-30).

Now Paul was again on his way to Jerusalem to take to the Christians there a similar collection raised by the churches of Macedonia (northern Greece) and Achaia (southern Greece); the Jerusalem Christians were again in need of financial assistance from the wealthier Gentile churches of Greece (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 9:1-2).

27 The churches of Macedonia and Achaia had been pleased to make a contribution. Yet in another way the Gentile Christians of Greece were under some obligation to help the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Why were they obligated? Because in the beginning the Gospel had come from the Jerusalem church. From Jerusalem the Gospel had been carried from one province of the Roman Empire to another—including, of course, the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. Therefore, since the Gentile Christians in Greece had shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they certainly should be pleased to share with the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem some of their material blessings, their money. Indeed, Paul says, the Gentile Christians owe it to the Jews (Jewish Christians) to give them material help in exchange for the spiritual blessings they have received.

28-29 It is not known whether or not Paul ever reached Spain. However, we do know that when Paul finally arrived in Rome, he arrived as a prisoner of the Romans (Acts 28:16). But even though he was a prisoner, Paul came to Rome in the full measure of the blessing of Christ (verse 29). Wherever Paul went, in whatever circumstances he found himself, he always experienced the full measure of the blessing of Christ. Can we say that about ourselves?

30-31 Here Paul asks the Roman Christians to pray for two things on his behalf. First, he asks them to pray that he might be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea (verse 31). Paul was on his way to Judea to take the gift of the Gentile Christians to the believers in Jerusalem. But among the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem Paul had many enemies. They would certainly try to kill him. And, indeed, shortly after Paul arrived in Jerusalem they did try to kill him, and almost succeeded! (Acts 21:27-32). Therefore, Paul asks prayer for his safety in Jerusalem.

Paul’s second prayer request is that his service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there. Why should Paul have to pray for that? Why wouldn’t his service be acceptable to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem? The reason is that the believers in Jerusalem, being Jews, had never fully accepted the Gentile Christians. Furthermore, they were not happy that Paul, himself a Jew, had become an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul feared that these Jewish Christians in Jerusalem might not accept his service—this gift he was bringing from the Gentiles.

32-33 Paul writes that if these two prayer requests of his are fulfilled, then he will be able to come to Rome with joy (verse 32). But from reading Acts Chapters 21-28, we know that in Jerusalem things did not work out as Paul had hoped and prayed for. Paul prayed; but at the same time, he left his life in God’s hands.

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