Romans 15 – Living to Bless Your Brother
A. Being filled in the Christian life.
1. (1-2) Filled with care and concern for others.
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.
a. We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves: If you consider yourself strong in comparison to your brother, use your strength to serve your brothers in Christ – instead of using your “strength” just to please yourself.
i. Bear with: The idea isn’t really bearing with, but bearing up the weaker brother – supporting him with your superior strength.
ii. This goes against the whole tenor of our times, which counsels people to “look out for number 1” and despises those who live lives of real sacrifice for the sake of others. Yet, undeniably Paul points the way to true happiness and fulfillment in life – get your eyes off of yourself, start building up others and you will find yourself built up.
b. Let each of us please his neighbor: It is a simple yet challenging call to simply put our neighbor first. Paul later wrote much the same thing in Philippians 2:3-4: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
i. This does not mean that the church is ruled by the whims of the weak. “A genuine concern for the weak will mean an attempt to make them strong by leading them out of their irrational scruples so that they, too, can be strong.” (Morris)
c. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good: This shows that Paul does not mean being a “man-pleaser.” Such a person may want to please his neighbor, but not for his neighbor’s good.
d. Leading to edification: All too often, Christians find it easier to tear each other down instead of building each other up; this is a classic strategy of Satan against the church that must be resisted.
2. (3-4) Filled with the example of Jesus, who always put others first.
For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
a. For even Christ did not please Himself: Jesus is the ultimate example of one who did not please Himself, but put others first. Paul’s classic development of this idea is in Philippians 2:5-11.
b. As it is written: As Jesus took abuse and suffered wrong for God’s glory, He fulfilled what was written in God’s word. Jesus showed by example that for the most part we are entirely too quick to vindicate ourselves, instead of letting God vindicate us. Jesus showed how the Father is well able to vindicate us.
c. The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me: The commandment Jesus fulfilled from Psalm 69:7 applies to us as well. It was written for our learning, that we might have hope, knowing we are doing what is right even when it is difficult.
i. When we respond rightly to the reproaches the world casts against us for Jesus’ sake, it bothers them even more. It makes them know there isn’t anything they can do against a child of God whose eyes are really on Jesus.
3. (5-6) A prayer for the fulfillment of this attitude in the Romans.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Now may the God: The fact that Paul puts these words into the form of a prayer demonstrates that he recognizes that this is a work that the Holy Spirit must do inside us.
b. The God of patience: Our God is a God of patience. We are often in such a hurry and God often seems to work too slowly for us. Often the purposes of God seem to be delayed but they always are fulfilled. God’s delays are not His denials, and He has a loving purpose in every delay.
i. We love God’s patience with His people – we need Him to be patient with us! Yet we often resent God’s patience with His plan – we think He should hurry up. Nevertheless, God is patient both with His people and in His plan.
c. That you may: The goal is to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We accomplish that goal by having one mind and one mouth – by unity in our thinking and speech.
4. (7-13) Filled with love for others and joy and peace by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”
And again he says:
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
“Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”
And again, Isaiah says:
“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”
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.
a. Therefore receive one another: Instead of letting these issues about disputable things divide Christians (especially making a division between Jew and Gentile), we should receive one another just as Christ received us – in the terms of pure grace, knowing yet bearing with our faults.
i. Spurgeon on just as Christ also received us: “Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.”
b. As it is written: Paul quotes a series of passages from the Old Testament demonstrating that God intends that the Gentiles praise Him. Instead of dividing over disputable matters, Jews and Gentiles should unite in Jesus over the common ground of praise.
i. I will confess to You among the Gentiles: The quotation from Psalm 18 describes Jesus Himself giving praise among the Gentiles.
c. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace: The prayer and blessing concluding the section is appropriate. As God fills us with the blessings of His joy and peace in believing, we are equipped to live in this common bond of unity God calls us to.
B. Paul’s burden in ministry.
1. (14-16) Paul’s reason for writing.
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
a. Able also to admonish one another: Paul didn’t write because he felt the Roman Christians couldn’t discern what was right before God or admonish each other to do right. Rather, he wrote to remind them, encouraging them to do what they knew was right.
b. That I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles: This is consistent with Paul’s calling to be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. In fulfilling this call, he didn’t just preach the gospel of salvation but also instructed believers how to live before God.
c. That the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable: When the Gentiles live glorifying God, then their offering to God is acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit – the necessity of such a sacrifice makes Paul’s writing necessary.
d. The offering of the Gentiles: Romans 15:16 is filled with the language of priesthood. Paul says he serves as a “ministering priest” of Jesus Christ presenting the gospel as a “priestly service” so Gentile converts would be an acceptable sacrifice to God.
i. “When he defines his ministry as ministering the gospel of God the apostle uses a word occurring nowhere else in the New Testament which may properly be rendered ‘acting as a priest.’ So the ministry of the gospel is conceived of after the pattern of priestly offering.” (Murray)
2. (17-19) Paul glories in the work God has done through him.
Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient; in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
a. Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus: As he considers his call to be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, Paul can glory in God that he received such a call – speaking only of the things God did through him to bring salvation to the Gentiles.
i. “Paul will glory only in what Christ has done through him. He is sure that Christ has done great things through him, and he is glad that he can draw attention to those things. But he is not trying to attract adulation. It is what Christ has done that is his theme.” (Morris)
b. In word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient: God used mighty signs and wonders and the broader power of the Spirit of God to help Paul fully preach the gospel of Christ everywhere he went – from Jerusalem to Illyricum.
i. I fully preached the gospel of Christ: We sense that Paul would consider “bare” preaching, without the active and sometimes miraculous work of the Holy Spirit evident, to be less than fully preaching the gospel.
c. From Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel: Illyricum is modern Yugoslavia and Albania. This means that Paul’s ministry spread from Illyricum in the west to Jerusalem in the east.
d. Christ Jesus… God… Spirit of God: Paul effortlessly weaves references to each member of the Trinity in Romans 15:16-19. Paul can’t talk about God without recognizing His three Persons.
3. (20-21) Paul’s desire to preach the gospel in new places.
And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.”
a. Not where Christ was named: Paul did not want to build on another man’s foundation. Rather he wanted to do pioneer work for the Lord – not because it was wrong or bad to continue the work begun through another man, but because there was so much to do on the frontiers.
b. But as it is written: Paul saw his pioneering heart as obedience to the Scriptures, fulfilling the passage he quotes from the Old Testament.
C. Paul’s desire to come to Rome.
1. (22-24) Why Paul hasn’t visited the Christians in Rome yet.
For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.
a. For this reason I also have been much hindered: It was his great desire to do pioneer work that hindered him from coming to the Romans, though he did desire to see them.
b. Whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you: Therefore, Paul supposes that he will visit the Romans on a future trip to Spain, where Paul will preach the gospel on the frontiers. Stopping off in Rome on the way, Paul anticipates that he can enjoy the support and fellowship of the Romans before he goes to preach the gospel in the regions beyond.
i. Paul probably wanted Rome to be his base of operations for the western part of the empire, even as Antioch was his base for the eastern part.
c. For I hope to see you on my journey: Paul had these plans; yet things did not work out according to his plans. He did go to Rome, yet not as a missionary on his way to Spain. He went to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial before Caesar, where he would preach the gospel on a different kind of frontier.
i. God had unexpected frontiers for the gospel in Paul’s life, giving him unexpected access to preach to the emperor of Rome himself.
ii. After his release from the Roman imprisonment at the end of the Book of Acts, we have reason to believe that Paul did in fact make it to Spain and preached the gospel there.
2. (25-29) Paul’s present plans.
But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain. But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
a. But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints: Paul thought he would stop in Corinth on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a collection from Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 20:1-3).
b. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things: Paul’s observation is appropriate: the Gentile Christians of the broader Roman empire had received so much spiritually from the community of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, it was only right that they help the Jerusalem Christians in their need.
c. I shall go by way of you to Spain: Paul would indeed head for Rome after his time in Jerusalem, but not in the way he planned!
3. (30-33) Paul’s plea for prayer.
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
a. Strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe: Sensing that danger awaited him in Jerusalem (having been warned several times as recorded in Acts 20:22-23 and Acts 21:10-14), Paul knew he needed the prayers of God’s people to see him through the difficulty promised him.
i. Strive together with me: The idea is that Paul wants the Romans to partner with him in ministry through their prayers. The New English Bible translates this: be my allies in the fight. The New Living Bible translates the phrase like this: join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
ii. “Ministers need the prayers of their flocks. With Paul I urge you to strive in your prayers for your pastors. We need your prayers and we thank God for them. Pastors are sustained by the power of the Spirit through the support of their congregations.” (Smith)
iii. The ancient Greek word translated strive together is sunagonizomai – literally meaning, “agonize together.” This is the only place in the New Testament where this specific word is used.
iv. Yet, this same root word for agony is used of Jesus’ anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asked His disciples to agonize with Him in prayer. They failed at that critical moment and left Jesus to struggle alone. We must not leave our ministers and leaders to struggle alone. “It reminds us of Carey, who says, when he goes to India, ‘I will go down into the pit, but brother Fuller and the rest of you must hold the rope.’ Can we refuse the request? Would it not be treachery?” (Spurgeon)
v. “Does it astonish you that a man so rich in grace as Paul should be asking prayers of these unknown saints? It need not astonish you; for it is the rule with the truly great to think most highly of others. In proportion as a man grows in grace he feels his dependence upon God, and, in a certain sense, his dependence upon God’s people.” (Spurgeon)
b. That I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe: Paul knew that his danger in Jerusalem would come from those who did not believe. This was the case, as demonstrated in Acts 21:27-28 and 22:22.
c. And that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints: Paul knew that the church in Jerusalem was very conservative, and sometimes regarded men like Paul as dangerous innovators; for this reason, he asks the Romans to pray that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.
d. That I may come to you with joy: The prayers of Paul and the Romans were answered, though not in the manner they expected. Acts 28:15 describes Paul’s “triumphal entry” into Rome, so that he did come to them with joy – though also in chains!
e. Amen: Paul concludes the letter here except for the personal greetings in Romans 16.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission