Romans 15 (NRSV)
Please Others, Not Yourselves
We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. 3For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
Verse 4 is one of my favorite verses! All those wonderful stories in the Bible, and Paul is talking here particularly of those in the Old Testament, have something important to teach us! I spent hours as a child reading Catherine Vos’ Story Bible, and those stories — those people — shaped my life. (For example, I remember praying and asking God to help Peter while he was in prison!) As we read how God interacts with the people in the Scriptures, silly and stubborn as they might seem, we may begin to see our own shortcomings (the same as theirs, usually) in a clearer light. Then we can see how marvelously God will work his good purposes in us and through us.
5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel for Jews and Gentiles Alike
7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
Here Paul quotes a series of passages from the Old Testament demonstrating that God intends that the Gentiles to praise Him. Surely there are disputable matters, but Jews and Gentiles (Catholics and Protestants, liberals and conservatives, mainline and evangelicals and charismatics) are commanded to unite in Jesus over the common ground of praise.
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“My Hope Is in the Lord.” And the Lord is utterly dependable, faithful beyond our understanding.
Click HERE to hear the Tommy Coombs Band.
Paul’s Reason for Writing So Boldly
14I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. 15Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
17In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. 18For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ.
Illyricum is the former Yugoslavia and Albania. This means that Paul’s ministry spread from Illyricum in the west to Jerusalem in the East.
20Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, 21but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
“I have dwelt for years practically alone in Africa. I have been thirty times stricken with fever, three times attacked by lions, and several times by rhinoceri; but let me say to you, I would gladly go through the whole thing again, if I could have the joy of again bringing that word ‘Saviour’ and flashing it into the darkness that envelopes another tribe in Central Africa.”
–William R. Hotchkiss, missionary in Africa in the 19th century
Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome
22This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you 24when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.
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. Paul probably wanted Rome to be his base of operations for the western part of the empire, even as Antioch (north of Jerusalem) was his base for the eastern part.
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.
God had unexpected frontiers for the Gospel in Paul’s life, giving him unexpected access to preach to the emperor of Rome himself. 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.
25At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; 26for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. 28So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; 29and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
30I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, 31that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.
This sounds like the end. But no! There’s more! Romans has 16 chapters.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.