LETTER TO THE ROMANS
Part 2 of 2, chapters 9-16
THE JEWS OF ISRAEL AND SALVATION THROUGH THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
PAUL'S SORROW FOR HIS JEWISH BROTHERS
Romans 9:1-5 - Before Christ and my own conscience I assure you that I am speaking the plain truth when I say that there is something that makes me feel very depressed, like a pain that never leaves me. It is the condition of my brothers and fellow-Israelites, and I have actually reached the pitch of wishing myself cut off from Christ if it meant that they (the Jews) could be won for God.
Just think what the Israelites have had given to them. The privilege of being adopted as sons of God, the experience of seeing something of the glory of God, the receiving of the agreements made with God, the gift of the Law, true ways of worship, God's own promises - all these are theirs, and so too, as far as human descent goes, is Christ himself, Christ who is God over all, blessed for ever.
WHY GOD HAS NOT INCLUDED ALL JEWS IN HIS PLAN OF SALVATION
Romans 9:6-13 - Now this does not mean that God's word to Israel has failed. For you cannot count all "Israelites" as the true Israel of God. Nor can all Abraham's descendants be considered truly children of Abraham. The promise was that
'in Isaac your seed shall be called' (Genesis 21:12).
That means that it is not the natural descendants (the Jews) who automatically inherit the promise, but, on the contrary, that the children of the promise (i.e. sons of God) are to be considered truly Abraham's children. For it was a promise when God said:
'At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son' (Genesis 18:10,14).
(Everybody, remember, thought it quite impossible for Sarah - Abraham's wife, Genesis 16:1, to have a child.) And then, again, a word of promise came to Rebecca, at the time when she was pregnant with two children by the one man, Isaac our forefather (Genesis 25:21-23). It came before the children were born or had done anything good or bad, plainly showing that God's act of choice has nothing to do with achievements, good or bad, but is entirely a matter of his will. The promise was:
'The older shall serve the younger' (Genesis 25:23).
And we get a later endorsement of this divine choice in the words:
'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated' (Malachi 1:2,3).
GOD IS NOT UNJUST; IT IS HIS BUSINESS TO WHOM HE SHOWS MERCY AND GRANTS SALVATION
Romans 9:14-29 - Now do we conclude that God is monstrously unfair? Never! God said long ago to Moses:
'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion' (Exodus 33:19).
It is obviously not a question of human will or human effort, but of divine mercy. The scripture says to Pharaoh:
'Even for this same purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name shall be declared in all the earth' (Exodus 9:16).
It seems plain, then, that God chooses on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will harden in their sin.
Of course I can almost hear your retort: "If this is so, and God's will is irresistible, why does God blame men for what they do?" But the question really is this: "Who are you, a man, to make any such reply to God?" When a craftsman makes anything he doesn't expect it to turn round and say,
'Why did you make me like this?' (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9)
The potter, for instance, is always assumed to have complete control over the clay, making with one part of the lump a lovely vase, and with another a pipe for sewage. Can we not assume that God has the same control over human clay? May it not be that God, though he must sooner or later expose his wrath against sin and show his controlling hand, has yet most patiently endured the presence in his world of things that cry out to be destroyed? Can we not see, in this, his purpose in demonstrating the boundless resources of his glory upon those whom he considers fit to receive his mercy, and whom he long ago planned to raise to glorious life? And by these chosen people I mean you and me (whether Jew or Gentile), whom he has called out from both Jews and Gentiles. He says in Hosea:
'I will call them my people, who were not my people, and her beloved, who was not beloved' (Hosea 2:23).
'And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they will be called sons of the living God' (Hosea 1:10).
And Isaiah, speaking about Israel, proclaims:
'though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For he will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth' (Isaiah 10:22,23).
And previously, Isaiah said:
'Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom and we would have been made like Gomorrah' (Isaiah 1:9).
THE JEWS STILL INSIST ON GOOD WORKS; THE GENTILES ACCEPT THE NEED FOR FAITH IN CHRIST
Romans 9:30-10:4 - Now, how far have we got? That the Gentiles who never had the Law's standard of righteousness to guide them, have attained righteousness, righteousness-by-faith. but Israel, following the Law of righteousness, failed to reach the goal of righteousness. And why? Because their minds were fixed on what they achieved (through following the Law) instead of on what they believed (in faith). They tripped over that very stone the scripture mentions:
'Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence, and whoever believes on him will not be put to shame' (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).
(Chapter 10 ....) My brothers, from the bottom of my heart I long and pray to God that Israel may be saved! I know from experience what a passion for God they have, but alas, it is not a passion based on knowledge. They do not know God's righteousness, and all the time they are going about trying to prove their own righteousness they have the wrong attitude to receive his. For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteouness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him.
SALVATION COMES FROM BELIEVING IN YOUR HEART THAT JESUS IS LORD, AND LORD OF ALL
Romans 10:5-13 - Moses writes of righteousness-by-the-Law when he says that
'the man who does those things shall live by them' (Leviticus 18:5)
- which is theoretically right but impossible in practice. But righteousness-by-faith says something like this:
'Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven?' (Deuteronomy 30:12)
to bring Christ down to us, or
'who will descend into the abyss' (Deuteronomy 30:13)
to bring him up from the dead?
'The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart' (Deuteronomy 30:14).
It is the secret of faith, which is the burden of our preaching, and it says, in effect, "If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation. And the scripture says:
'Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame' (Isaiah 28:16).
And that "whoever" means anyone, without distinction between Jew or Greek (or Gentile). For all have the same Lord, whose boundless resources are available to all who turn to him in faith. For:
'Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved' (Joel 2:32).
THE GOSPEL MUST BE PREACHED BUT STILL THE JEWS WILL NOT LISTEN
Romans 10:14-21 - Now how can they (the Jews) call on one in whom they have never believed? How can they believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how can they hear (the Gospel) unless someone proclaims him? And who will go to tell them unless he is sent (as a Christian minister of the Gospel)? As the scripture puts it:
'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!' (Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15)
Yet all who have heard have not responded to the Gospel. Isaiah asks, you remember,
'Lord, who has believed our report?' (Isaiah 53:1)
(Belief you see, can only come from hearing the message, and the message is the word of Christ.)
But when I ask myself: "Did they never hear?" I have to answer that they have heard, for
'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their word to the ends of the world' (Psalm 19:4).
Then I say to myself: "Did Israel not know?" And my answer must be that they did. For Moses says:
'I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation. I will anger you by a foolish nation' (Deuteronomy 32:21).
And Isaiah, more daring still, puts these words into the mouth of God:
'I was found by those who did not seek me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for me' (Isaiah 65:1).
And then, speaking of Israel:
'All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people' (Isaiah 65:2).
SOME OF PAUL'S JEWISH BACKGROUND
Romans 11:1 - This (the Jew's rejection of Jesus) leads naturally to the question, "Has God then totally repudiated his people?" Certainly not! I myself, for one, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and of the tribe of Benjamin.
A REMNANT OF ISRAEL IS BEING SAVED
Romans 11:2-6 - It is unthinkable that God should have repudiated his own (chosen) people, the people whose destiny he himself appointed. Don't you remember what the scripture says in the story of Elijah? How he pleaded with God on Israel's behalf:
'Lord, they have killed your prophets, and torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life' (1 Kings 19:10,14).
And do you remember God's reply?
'I have reserved for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal' (1 Kings 19:18).
In just the same way, there is at the present time a minority chosen by the grace of God. And if it is a matter of the grace of God, it cannot be a question of their actions especially deserving God's favour, for that would make grace meaningless.
THE JEW'S LOSS HAS BEEN THE GENTILE'S GAIN
Romans 11:7-12 - What conclusion do we reach now? That Israel did not, on the whole, obtain the object of his striving, but a chosen few "got there", while the remainder became more and more insensitive to the righteousness of God. This is borne out by the scripture:
'God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day' (Deuteronomy 29:4; Isaiah 29:10).
And David says of them:
'Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them; let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always' (Psalm 69:22,23).
In the providence of God disaster has been turned to good account
Now I ask myself, "Was this fall of theirs an utter disaster? It was not! For through their failure the benefit of salvation has passed to the Gentiles with the result that Israel is made to see and feel what is has missed. For if their failure has so enriched the world, and their defection proved such a benefit to the Gentiles, think what tremendous advantage their fulfilling of God's plan could mean.
HE HOPES TO SAVE SOME OF THE JEWS FOR CHRIST
Romans 11:13-14 - Now a word to you who are Gentiles. I should like you to know that I make as much as I can of my ministry as "God's messenger to the Gentiles" so as to make my (Jewish) kinsfolk jealous and thus save some of them.
THE GENTILES HAVE DONE NOTHING TO RECEIVE GOD'S SALVATION; THEY HAVE NOTHING TO BOAST OF
Romans 11:15-21 - For if their exclusion from the pale of salvation has meant the reconciliation of the rest of mankind to God, what would their inclusion mean? It would be nothing less than life from the dead! If the flour is consecrated to God so is the whole loaf, and if the roots of a tree are dedicated to God every branch will belong to him also.
A word of warning
But if some of the branches of the tree have been broken off, while you, like shoots of wild-olive, have been grafted in, and don't share like a natural branch the rich nourishment of the root, don't let yourself feel superior to those former branches. (If you feel inclined that way, remind yourself that you do not support the root, the root supports you.) You may make the natural retort, "But the branches were broken off to make room for my grafting!" It wasn't quite like that. They lost their position because they failed to believe; you only maintain yours because you do believe. The situation does not call for conceit but for a certain wholesome fear. If God removed the natural branches (the Jews) for a good reason, take care that you (the Gentiles) don't give him the same reason for removing you.
GOD CAN STILL RECEIVE BACK THE JEWS, AND HE WILL DO SO IN FULL
Romans 11:22-32 - You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God. Those who fell experienced his justice, while you are experiencing his kindness, and will continue to do so as long as you do not abuse that kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off from the tree. And as for the fallen branches, unless they are obstinate in their unbelief, they will be grafted in again. Such a restoration is by no means beyond the power of God. And, in any case, if you (the Gentiles) who were, so to speak, cuttings from a wild-olive, were grafted in, is it not a far simpler matter for the natural branches (the Jews) to be grafted back onto the parent stem (the Church of Christ)?
God still has a plan for Israel
Now I don't want you, my brothers, to start imagining things, and I must therefore share with you my knowledge of God's secret plan. It is this, that the partial insensibility which has come to Israel is only to last until the full number (but not necessarily all) of the Gentiles has been called in. Once this has happened, all Israel will be saved, as the scripture says:
'The deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins' (Isaiah 59:20,21).
As far as the Gospel goes, they (the Jews) are at present God's enemies - which is to your advantage. But as far as God's purpose in choosing is concerned, they are still beloved for their fathers' sakes. For once they are made, God does not withdraw his gifts of his calling.
The whole scheme looks topsy-turvy, until we see the amazing wisdom of God!
Just as in the past you were disobedient to God but have found that mercy which might have been theirs but for their disobedience, so they, who at the present moment are disobedient, will eventually share the mercy which has been extended to you. God has all men penned together in the prison of disobedience, that he may have mercy upon them all.
GOD'S WISDOM AND MYSTERY
Romans 11:33-36 - Frankly, I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God's wisdom and God's knowledge. How could man ever understand his reasons for action, or explain his methods of working? For:
'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counsellor?' (Isaiah 40:13)
'Or who has first given to him and it shall be repaid to him?' (Job 41:11)
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever, amen.
II - PRACTICAL ADVICE AND PERSONAL MATTERS
RELATIONS WITH OTHERS
Romans 12:1-2 - With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I (Paul) beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
THE BODY OF CHRIST - THE CHURCH
Romans 12:3-8 - As your spiritual teacher I (Paul) give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don't cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. For just as you have many members in one physical body and those members differ in their functions, so we, though many in number, compose one body in Christ and are all members of one another. Through the grace of God we have different gifts. If our gift is preaching, let us preach to the limit of our vision. If it is serving others let us concentrate on our service; if it is teaching let us give all we have to our teaching; and if our gift be the stimulating of the faith of others let us set ourselves to it. Let the man who is called to give, give freely; let the man who wields authority think of his responsibility; and let the man who feels sympathy for his fellows act cheerfully.
LOVE - ITS PREEMINENCE, also INSINCERITY
Romans 12:9a - Let us have no imitation Christian love.
Romans 12:9b - Let us have a genuine break with evil and a real devotion to good.
Romans 12:10 - Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit.
Romans 12:11 - Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God.
Romans 12:12a - Base your happiness on your hope in Christ.
TRIALS OF LIFE
Romans 12:12b - When trials come endure them patiently ....
Romans 12:12c - .... steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.
CHARITABLE GIVING, also HOSPITALITY
Romans 12:13 - Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them.
Romans 12:14 - ... as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don't curse, bless.
Romans 12:15a - Share the happiness of those who are happy,
Romans 12:15b - Share .... the sorrow of those who are sad.
Romans 12:16a - Live in harmony with each other.
Romans 12:16b - Don't become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people.
Romans 12:16c - Don't become set in your own opinions (... don't become conceited).
Romans 12:17a - Don't pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone. ....
WITNESSES TO CHRIST
Romans 12:17b - Don't say "it doesn't matter what people think", but see that your public behaviour is above criticism.
Romans 12:18 - As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:19 - Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: 'Vengeance is mine. I will repay'.
Romans 12:20-21 - ... these are God's words: 'Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head'. Don't allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive - overpower evil by good!
RELATIONS WITH AUTHORITY
Romans 13:1-7 - Every Christian ought to obey the civil authorities, for all legitimate authority is derived from God's authority, and the existing authority is appointed under God. To oppose authority then is to oppose God, and such opposition is bound to be punished.
The honest citizen has no need to fear the keepers of law and order, but the dishonest man will always be nervous of them. If you want to avoid this anxiety just lead a law-abiding life, and all that can come your way is a word of approval. The officer is God's servant for your protection. But if you are leading a wicked life you have reason to be alarmed. The "power of the law" which is vested in every legitimate officer, is no empty phrase. He is, in fact, divinely appointed to inflict God's punishment upon evil-doers.
You should, therefore, obey the authorities, not simply because it is the safest, but because it is the right thing to do. It is right, too, for you to pay taxes for the civil authorities are appointed by God for the good purposes of public order and well-being. Give everyone his legitimate due, whether it be rates, or taxes, or reverence, or respect!
LOVE - ITS PREEMINENCE
Romans 13:8-10 - Keep out of debt altogether, except the perpetual debt of love which we owe to one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet' and all other commandments are summed up in this one saying: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself'. Love hurts nobody: therefore love is the answer to the Law's commands.
Romans 13:11-14 - Why all this stress on behaviour? Because, as I think you have realised, the present time is of the highest importance - it is time to wake up to reality. Every day brings God's salvation nearer. The night is nearly over, the day has almost dawned. Let us therefore fling away the things that men do in the dark, let us arm ourselves for the fight of the day! Let us live cleanly, as in the daylight, not in the "delights" of getting drunk or playing with sex, nor yet in quarrelling or jealousies. Let us be Christ's men from head to foot, and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling.
RELATIONS BETWEEN THE STRONG AND THE WEAK
DIFFERENCES OF OPINION
- Genuine differences of opinion exist between Christians on style of worship and buildings, music and liturgy, belief in spiritual gifts, forms of baptism, the importance of Mary the mother of Jesus, the place of saints in the Church, and many other such matters. All pale into insignificance compared with what Christians do share in common - a belief in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These differences must not be used as an excuse for condemning each other:
Romans 14:1-23 - Welcome a man whose faith is weak, but not with the idea of arguing over his scruples. One man believes that he may eat anything, another man, without this strong conviction, is a vegetarian. The meat-eater should not despise the vegetarian, nor should the vegetarian condemn the meat-eater - they should reflect that God has accepted them both. After all, who are you to criticise the servant of somebody else, especially when that somebody else is God? It is to his own master that he gives, or fails to give, satisfactory service. And don't doubt that satisfaction, for God is well able to transform men into servants who are satisfactory.
People are different - make allowances
Again, one man thinks some days of more importance than others. Another man considers them all alike. Let every one be definite in his own convictions. If a man specially observes one particular day, he does so "to God". The man who eats, eats "to God", for he thanks God for the food. The man who fasts also does it "to God", for he thanks God for the benefits of fasting. The truth is that we neither live nor die as self-contained units. At every turn life links us to God, and when we die we come face to face with him. In life or death we are in the hands of God. Christ lived and died that he might be the Lord in both life and death.
Why, then, criticise your brother's actions, why try to make him look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by each other's standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God'. It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions.
This should be our attitude
Let us therefore stop turning critical eyes on one another. If we must be critical, let us be critical of our own conduct and see that we do nothing to make a brother stumble or fall.
I am convinced, and I say this as in the presence of Christ himself, that nothing is intrinsically unholy. But none the less it is unholy to the man who thinks it is. If your habit of unrestricted diet seriously upsets your brother, you are no longer living in love towards him. And surely you wouldn't let food mean ruin to a man for whom Christ died. You mustnt let something that is all right for you look like an evil practice to somebody else. After all, the kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of whether you get what you like to eat and drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you put these things first in serving Christ you will please God and are not likely to offend men. So let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another's character. Surely we shouldn't wish to undo God's work for the sake of a plate of meat!
I freely admit that all food is, in itself. harmless, but it can be harmful to the man who eats it with a guilty conscience. We should be willing to be both vegetarians and teetotallers if by doing otherwise we should impede a brother's progress in faith. Your personal convictions are a matter of faith between yourself and God, and you are happy if you have no qualms about what you allow yourself to eat. Yet if a man eats meat with an uneasy conscience about it, you may be sure he is wrong to do so. For his action does not spring from his faith, and when we act apart from our faith we sin.
Romans 15:1-3 - We who have strong faith ought to shoulder the burden of the doubts and qualms of others and not just to go our own sweet way. Our actions should mean the good of others - should help them to build up their characters. For even Christ did not choose his own pleasure, but as it is written: "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."
the HOLY BIBLE
Romans 15:4 - ... all those words which were written long ago (in the Old Testament) are meant to teach us today; that when we read in the scriptures of the endurance of men and of all the help that God gave them in those days, we may be encouraged to go on hoping in our own time.
Romans 15: 5-7 - May the God who inspires men to endure, and gives them a Father's care, give you a mind united towards one another because of your common loyalty to Jesus Christ. And then, as one man, you will sing from the heart the praises of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.
CHRIST IS THE UNIVERSAL SAVIOUR OF JEWS AND GENTILES
Romans 15:8-13 - Christ was made a servant of the Jews to prove God's trustworthiness, since he personally implemented the promises made long ago to the fathers, and also that the Gentiles might bring glory to God for his mercy to them. It is written:
'For this reason I will confess to you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name' (2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 18:49).
'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people!' (Deuteronomy 32:43)
And yet again:
'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud him, all you peoples!' (Psalm 117:1)
And then 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' (Isaiah 11:10).
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.
PAUL'S HOPES AND PLANS
HIS REASON FOR WRITING SO BOLDLY TO THE CHRISTIANS IN ROME
Romans 15:14-16 - For myself I feel certain that you, my brothers, have real Christian character and experience, and that you are capable of keeping each other on the right road. Nevertheless I have written to you with a certain frankness, to refresh your minds with truths that you already know, by virtue of my commission as Christ's minister to the Gentiles in the service of the Gospel. For my constant endeavour is to present the Gentiles to God as an offering which he can accept, because they are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
HE WANTS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL WHEREVER CHRIST IS UNKNOWN
Romans 15:17-22 - And I think I have something to be proud of (through Christ, of course) in my work for God. I am not competent to speak of the work Christ has done through others, but I do know that through me he has secured the obedience of Gentiles in word and deed, working by sign and miracle and all the power of the Spirit. I have fully preached the Gospel from Jerusalem and the surrounding country as far as Illyricum (or Dalmatia, sometime during his visit to Achaia). My constant ambition has been to preach the Gospel where the name of Christ was previously unknown, and to avoid as far as possible building on another man's foundations, so that:
'To whom he was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand' (Isaiah 52:15).
My future plans
Perhaps this will explain why I have so frequently been prevented from coming to see you (... the Christians of Rome who already know Christ).
PAUL HOPES TO VISIT ROME ON HIS WAY TO SPAIN ...
Romans 15:23-24 - But now, since my work in these places (the eastern part of the Roman Empire - Illyricum, Greece, Asia Minor, Cyprus and Syria) no longer needs my presence, and since for many years I have had a great desire to see you, I hope to visit you on my way to Spain (a visit not made, unless undertaken in c AD64-67 after Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment). I hope also that you will speed me in my journey, after I have had the satisfaction of seeing you all.
.... FIRST HE MUST FIRST RETURN TO JERUSALEM WITH GIFTS FOR THE CHURCH
Romans 15:25-29 - At the moment my next call (after leaving Corinth) is to Jerusalem (Acts 21:17, his last visit before his arrest), to look after the welfare of the Christians there. The churches in Macedonia and Achaia, you see, have thought it a good thing to make a contribution towards the poor Christians in Jerusalem ....
- The collection arrangements in Corinth are described in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; the generosity of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; and the approaching departure from Corinth in Acts 20:3-4 -
.... They have thought it a good thing to make this gesture and yet, really, they received "a good thing" from them first! For if the Gentiles have had a share in the Jews' spiritual "good things" it is only fair that they should look after the Jews (in Jerusalem) as far as the good things of this world are concerned.
When I have completed this task, then, and turned their gesture into a good deed done, I shall come to you en route for Spain. I feel sure that in this long-looked-for visit I shall bring with me the full blessing of Christ's Gospel.
PAUL ASKS THEM TO PRAY FOR HIS SAFETY DURING HIS COMING JOURNEYS
Romans 15:30-33 - Now, my brothers, I am going to ask you, for the sake of Christ himself and for the love we bear each other in the Spirit, to stand behind me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf - that I may not fall into the hands of the unbelievers in Judea, and that the Jerusalem Christians may receive the gift I am taking to them in the spirit in which it was made. Then I shall come to you (in Rome), in the purpose of God, with a happy heart, and may even enjoy with you a little holiday.
The God of peace be with you all, amen.
AN INTRODUCTION AND GREETINGS; A WARNING AND A BLESSING
HE INTRODUCES PHOEBE WHO IS PROBABLY CARRYING PAUL'S LETTER TO ROME
Romans 16:1-2 - I want this letter to introduce to you Phoebe, our sister, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchrea (one of the two ports of Corinth where this letter is believed to have been written). Please give her a Christian welcome, and any assistance with her work that she may need. She has herself been of great assistance to many, not excluding myself.
Phoebe - Another important woman in the life of the early Church. A deaconess and contributor to the church, she probably carried this Letter to the Romans, one of the most valuable ever written (according to Martin Luther and many other Christians) the 800 miles by sea to Rome.
PAUL GREETS THE CHRISTIANS OF ROME MANY BY NAME
The Christians of Rome - Apart from Priscilla & Aquila, and possibly Rufus, little is known from the New Testament about any of the others listed in Romans. However:
(1) Many were slaves, and others possibly members of the elite. Narcissus was a man's surname; his household would include his slaves;
(2) Kinsmen Andronicus, Junias (or Junia) and Herodion were Jewish Christians;
(3) Eight or nine are women - Priscilla, Mary, Junia? Tryphena and Tryphosa (sisters?), Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia, and the sister of Nereus;
(4) Many were probably martyred including Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Aristobulus, Herodion, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Patrobas, Hermas, and Philologus:
Romans 16:3-16 - Shake hands for me with Priscilla and Aquila (now back in Rome). They have not only worked with me for Christ, but they have faced death for my sake, Not only I, but all the Gentile churches, owe them a great debt. Give my love to the little church that meets in their house.
Shake the hand of dear Epaenetus (Epenetus), Achaia's first man to be won for Christ, and of course greet Mary who has worked so hard for you. A handshake too for Andronicus and Junias (or Junia, a woman) my kinsmen and fellow-prisoners; they are outstanding men among the messengers and were Christians before I was.
Another warm greeting for Amplias (or Ampliatus), dear Christian that he is, and also for Urbanus, who has worked with me, and dear old Stachys, too.
More greeting from me, please, to:
Apelles, the man who has proved his faith,
The household of Aristobulus,
Herodion, my kinsman,
Narcissus' household, who are Christians.
Remember me to Tryphena and Tryphosa, who work so hard for the Lord, and to my dear Persis who has also done great work for him.
Shake the hand of Rufus for me - that splendid Christian ....
Rufus - He may be the same Rufus as the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Jesus to Calvary some 25 years earlier (Mark 15:21) -
.... and greet his mother, who has been a mother to me too. Greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and their Christian group: also to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and the Christians who are with them.
Give each other a hearty handshake all round for my sake. The greetings of all the churches I am in touch with come to you with this letter.
HE WARNS THEM ABOUT FALSE TEACHERS AND TROUBLE-MAKERS
Romans 16:17-20 - And now I implore you, my brother, to keep a watchful eye on those who cause trouble and make difficulties among you, in plain opposition to the teaching you have been given, and steer clear of them. Such men do not really serve our Lord Jesus Christ at all but are utterly self-centred. Yet with their plausible and attractive arguments they deceive those who are too simple-hearted to see through them.
Your loyalty to the principles of the Gospel is known everywhere, and that gives me great joy. I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners in evil. It will not be long before the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
GREETINGS FROM SOME OF THE CHRISTIANS IN CORINTH
Romans 16:21-24 - Timothy, who works with me, sends his greetings, and so do Lucius ....
Lucius - A fellow Jewish Christian. This is the second Lucius in the New Testament. Some ten years earlier, in Acts 13:1, Luke lists a Lucius from Cyrene as one of the leaders of the church in Syrian Antioch. These could be the same man:
....and Jason ....
Jason - A second Jewish Christian. Another Jason has already appeared - Paul's host during his troublesome stay in Thessalonica when Jason's house was actually attacked (Acts 17:5). This may be the same man, now in Corinth:
.... and Sosipater my fellow-countrymen. ....
Sosipater - The third Jewish Christian in this list, probably from Corinth. Shortly, in Acts 20:4, a Sopater of Berea is one of Paul's companions on his return journey from Greece (Corinth) to Jerusalem. Sosipater and Sopater may be the same man:
.... (Paul has just told me that I, Tertius, who have been taking down this epistle from his dictation, may send you my Christian greetings too.) ....
Tertius - The scribe or secretary who wrote down Paul's dictation.
Interesting research suggests the original manuscript scroll of Romans was 12 feet (3.6m) long, and took some 12 hours for Paul to dictate. In the unhurried case of the Letter to the Romans, this would have been over a period of days, with frequent interruptions and possibly suggestions and comments from some of those present:
.... Gaius, my host (and the host as a matter of fact of the whole church here), sends you his greetings. Erastus, our town clerk, ....
Erastus - Possibly the same man Paul sent from Ephesus to Macedonia in c AD56/57 (Acts 19:22). Then ten years later as Paul awaits execution in Rome, he tells Matthew that Erastus is staying on at Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20):
.... and Quartus, another Christian brother, send greetings too.
A FINAL BLESSING
Romans 16:25-27 - Now to him who is able to set you on your feet as his own sons - according to my Gospel, according to the preaching of Jesus Christ himself, and in accordance with the disclosing of that secret purpose which, after long ages of silence, has now been made known (in full agreement with the writings of the prophets long ago), by the command of the everlasting God to all the Gentiles, that they might turn to him in the obedience of faith - to him, I say, the only God who is wise, be glory for ever through Jesus Christ!
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