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Romans 15 Study Notes

15:1 Why should the strong “give in” to the conscience of the weak? The way of love demands it. The strong believer does not forsake his conscience by abstaining from certain of his freedoms, but the weaker believer would have to violate his in order to accommodate the liberties of the strong. Thus the strong should choose in accordance with the weak.

15:2-3 The strong Christian is to follow the example of one’s Lord, who did not please himself. As foretold in Scripture, Jesus bore the insults and hostility that people had against God (Ps 69:9).

15:4 Far from being irrelevant to Christian faith, the OT writings are for our instruction (2Tm 3:16). Not everything in them is applicable to new covenant discipleship, but everything points to Jesus (Lk 24:27).

15:5-6 Paul’s prayer is that God will bring these house churches of Rome to the place of harmony, love, and unity that will enable them to best honor God.

15:7-8 These verses show that people from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds struggled with accepting one another. Jesus as the Christ was born a Jew and ministered to Israel (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Mt 15:24) to fulfill OT promises and prophecies. His primary purpose was for Israel, but he also had a design for the nations (Gentiles).

15:9-12 A series of citations from the OT demonstrates God’s plans. Quotes from the Law, History, Psalms, and Prophets refer to Gentile reception and praise of God. In Ps 18:49 the Messiah stands among converted Gentiles and offers their praise, along with his own, to the Father. In Dt 32:43 Moses summons the Gentiles to join Israel in joyful praise to God. Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm, and it calls for universal praise from the nations. In Isaiah the Davidic King, the Messiah, is described as the hope not just of Israel but of all the nations (Is 11:10).

15:13 Paul gave a second benediction for the churches with emphasis on hope in God produced by the Holy Spirit’s work among them.

15:14-16 Paul was convinced that the Roman Christians were gifted by God for effective service and healthy church life. God does not build his church without seeing to these needs. Yet Paul also knew that God had uniquely called and equipped him as an apostle to the Gentiles. So what he wrote was sure to be useful in helping the Roman house churches grow to maturity. He served as a priest offering the Gentiles to God and wanted this offering to be holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God (12:1-2).

15:17-19 Paul wanted to boast in Christ Jesus to the Roman believers about how God had used him to spread the good news all the way from Jerusalem to the Roman province of Illyricum (modern Albania). God had approved of his ministry by authenticating signs and wonders and many conversions. The Roman believers would have been comforted by this testimony, for it illustrated the secure basis on which they had rested their hopes for salvation.

15:20-21 In ten years, God had used Paul as a pioneer church planter in the eastern section of the Roman Empire. Paul felt his ministry was in keeping with OT messianic prophecy (Is 52:15). He was the planter; others would come water the soil, and God would give growth (1Co 3:3-9).

15:22-24 God’s work for Paul in the eastern half of the Roman Empire had kept him from going to Rome sooner, but now the work was completed and he planned to pass through Rome on a mission trip to the western part of the Roman Empire (Spain). Scholars are divided on whether Paul ever made it to Spain. The Bible does not record a Spanish mission for Paul.

15:25-29 Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to bring a gift from the Gentile churches for the poor of the Jewish church in that city. He planned to come to Rome next. Little did he know he would be taken to Rome in custody (Ac 25:11-28:14,30-31).

15:30-33 Paul made three specific prayer requests: (1) for deliverance from unbelieving Jews in Judea, (2) that the gift from Gentile Christians would be welcomed by Jewish Christians, and (3) that he might come to Rome. All three were answered; see Ac 23:10; 21:17-20a; 25:11-12, respectively.

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