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Believers to Receive One Another, as Christ (after His Jewish ministry). Received the Gentiles,—-TO GOD’S GLORY. Verses 1 to 13.
Paul’s Great “Priestly-Ministry” of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Verses 14 to 21.
His Purpose (long-hindered) to Come to the Roman Christians,—after the Great Jerusalem Contribution. Verses 22 to 33.
1 Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. 3 For Christ also pleased not Himself; but, as it is written. The reproaches of them that reproacheth Thee fell upon Me. 4 For whatsover things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be tof the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus: 6 that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ also received you, to the glory of God.
THESE SEVEN VERSES should have closed the preceding chapter, as they continue and close up the subject there considered.
Verse 1: Now we that are strong ought to bear [literally, are in debt to bear] the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
In Chapter 13:8 the word here translated “ought” (Greek, to owe), is used in forbidding a Christian to be in debt to others except in the way of love. Paul here addresses the “strong,” being himself of that number; in which company may we also be found! It is those who are “spiritual” who can show love to others (Gal. 6:1). Note most carefully that it is not bearing with the infirmities of others that Paul is speaking of. The old lady said in the testimony meeting, “I have always got a lot of help out of that Bible verse that says, ‘Grin and bear it!’ ” And the little California girl was heard singing, “When all my neighbors and trials are o’er!” We are apt to think of others’ weaknesses and infirmities as a burden we must put up with, for the Lord’s sake,—as “our particular cross,” for the present! Instead, God’s Word here teaches us gladly to bear, to take over as our own, these infirmities! “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” is the “law of Christ”! (Gal. 6:2). How our blessed Lord bore the infirmities of His disciples!—infirmities of ignorance, of unbelief, of self-confidence, of jealousy among themselves,—until the disciples came into a state of loving trust in their Lord which made even Thomas say, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him”; and Peter: “Lord, I will lay down my life for Thee.” Our Risen Lord again set the example of such “bearing.” For even after they had forsaken Him in Gethsemane, in the upper room the Risen Lord appeared to them with, “Peace be unto you,”—and never a mention of their utter failure! It is this ability, manifested by Divine grace in us, constantly and without end to bear the infirmities of others, to take thought for, and excuse their weaknesses; and to endure for them anything and everything, that manifests Christ; and wins the trustful devotion of our fellow-saints.266266It is this heart-hunger for sympathy,—for some one to take over our burdens, that has always made Romanism such a refuge (albeit a false one!); and is now making Buchmanism, commonly known as the “Oxford Movement,” such a deadly danger. The Romanist unloads the story of his sins and failures in the ready ear of his “father confessor”: while the Buckmanites gather in so-called “house parties,” and “share” their inner secrets with their deluded comrades. Both the Romanist and the Buchmanite feel a great sense of “relief,” after the confessions. Indeed, the Buchmanites make a great parade of testimonies of those whose lives have been “changed” through this process of “sharing.” Certainly! But John Bunyan, in the seventeenth century gave the right name to Buchmanism: “Changing Sins”;—that is, exchanging one sin for another. It is not by unburdening my conscience to my fellow man, whether “priest” or friend, that peace with God, and eternal safety come; but by deep conviction of both my guilt and my helplessness—of my lost state; and revelation to me, by the Spirit, of the shed blood of Christ as my only refuge and hope,—a Christ who bore God’s wrath against sin, and provided the only ground on which a holy God can deal with guilty man. Resting in God’s Word about His Son whom He raised from the dead, I have salvation. Salvation is not at all by “confession,”—either to God or man; but by faith in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ. Even the thief on the cross made no “confession” of his sins, either to God or to Christ:—for lo, Christ was just then bearing his guilt! and it was not by means of his confessing it that sin was put away, but by God’s placing it on Christ. Although this thief, in speaking to the impenitent one, recognizes his crimes in the words, “We suffer the due reward of our deeds”; yet he simply hands himself over to Christ as he is,—“Lord, remember me”: and our Lord’s words are, “Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” (By the way, friend, that thief not only did not “confess” his sins; but he never was baptized; he never “joined the church”; he never went to mass”; and he did not go to any “purgatory”; but he went straight to Paradise,— that day! And, further, Mary the mother of Jesus was standing right there: but our Lord never mentions her to this thief! But says, “Today thou shalt be with Me.” What do you say to that! That thief is a perfect picture of you and me, as regards salvation!)
Meyer well says, “In themselves strong and free, the strong become the servants of the weak, as Paul, the servant of all.” “Pleasing ourselves” is the exact thing each of us will do unless we set ourselves to pursue, to follow after, love, until our Lord comes back!
Verse 2: Let each one of us please his neighbor, in what is good, for [his] edification. Of course Paul does not mean here to exhort us to man-pleasing in the way of selfishly seeking man’s favor. He himself says, “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). There is a man-pleasing spirit that is very obnoxious to God. We may be “nice” to people for our own selfish benefit. But remember that this exhortation to please our neighbor “for his benefit unto edifying,” indicates a studied care for others; laying aside our own preferences, and pleasing them in every way that will in the end benefit them spiritually. This, of course, does not mean that we are to compromise with any evil our neighbor may be doing, by having fellowship with him in a worldly path in order to “win” him. The expression “unto that which is good,” shuts out that. Paul puts it beautifully in I Corinthians 10:32 to 11.1: “Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the Church of God: even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Verse 3: For Christ also pleased not Himself: but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell upon Me—Christ never “looked after” Himself: the whole world knows this! “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” Yet His whole life, from early morning till late at night, and often into the night, was occupied in ministry to others! The multitudes found out with joy that here was One whose whole business was “going about doing good.” The constant drawing upon Him by the multitudes,—upon His time, His love, His teaching, His healing, was a marvelous proof that they could count on the absolute absence of self-pleasing, in Him!
The Psalms, which give the inner heart-history of our Lord, reveal,
(as, for instance, does the
Sixty-ninth Psalm, from which Paul here quotes,—the
great “Reproach”267267 Let us follow this word, “reproach,” in this 69th Psalm and
Verse 7: “For Thy sake I have borne reproach.”
Verse 9: “The reproaches of them that reproach Thee are fallen upon Me.”
Verse 10: “When I wept, and chastened My soul with fasting, that was to My reproach.”
Verse 19: “Thou knowest My reproach, and My shame, and My dishonor.”
Verse 20: “Reproach hath broken My heart.”
Our Lord upon the cross cries that He is a “reproach of men” (Ps. 22:6). In Ps. 31:11, as we find so carried out in the gospels:— “I am become a reproach, Yea, unto My neighbors exceedingly, And a fear to Mine acquaintance”;
while in Ps. 109:22-25, He says He is “poor and needy.” heart-wounded, gone like a shadow, tossed up and down, weak through fasting. His flesh failing, “a reproach unto them.”
But it was always, “For Thy sake I have borne reproach,”—the reproaches that fell upon God—upon the Father, whose will and works Christ was doing, and whom man was learning the more to hate as “the beauty of Jehovah” was manifest more and more in Him. Now, if it were so with Christ, whose goodness was constantly reproached, shall we complain or stumble if even our good be evil spoken of? Let Christ dwell within us, as the Father dwelt in Christ, and let us cease from self-pleasing! Psalm), how difficult was our Lord’s path in a sinful, selfish. God-hating world. Yet it is written of Him: “He pleased not Himself.”
Verse 4: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures268268Those who neglect the Old Testament Scriptures may well remember that this expresses the Christian experience of an inspired apostle!”—(Schaff and Riddle). For it was the Old Testament Scriptures of which Paul spoke here. we might have hope.
Note these four words that God has joined together: “learning . . . patience . . . comfort of the Scriptures . . . hope”: “learning” is heart knowledge, as our Lord said: “Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto Me” (John 6:45). “Patience” follows, for, knowing God, we can wait for Him to work. Next is “comfort of the Scriptures.” It is astonishing—something beyond human conception, this “comfort of the Scriptures”! We have all seen saints poor in purse, accounted nothing at all by men, and perhaps suffering constant physical pain, sad bereavement of loved ones, and complete lack of understanding by other professing Christians: yet comforted by poring over the Scriptures! Hearts happy and hopeful, despite it all! You can step from any state of earthly misery into the glorious halls of heavenly peace and comfort! Praise God for this! “Be ye comforted,” writes Paul in II Corinthians 13:11.
It is ever good to be going over God’s dealings, not only with Christ, but with His Old Testament saints; marking how He is continually bringing them into hard places, where they learn to trust Him more! Joseph, in prison for righteousness; David, anointed of God, but hunted for years “like a partridge in the mountains”; Jeremiah in the miry dungeon; the three in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, and Daniel in the den of lions: not to speak of the New Testament story—James and Stephen killed, the apostles in prison. You may ask, How does “hope” spring out of such trials? We do not ask such a question if we have learned the lesson of Romans Five: “Knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness; and steadfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope,”—witnessed to by the shedding abroad of God’s love for us in our hearts! Therefore let us seek that comfort and hope which this verse tells us the Scriptures work in us if we patiently learn them. When we get thus learningly to verse 13 in this chapter, we shall find ourselves abounding in hope!
Verses 5 and 6: Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind together according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one accord, with one mouth, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul asks here that the same God who gave to the Old Testament saints and to the apostles “endurance” and “comfort of the Scriptures,” may grant that we may be “like-minded, loving as brethren” (I Pet. 3:8). “Behold, how these Christians love one another!” was the amazed but constant testimony of paganism, yea, of Judaism, also, regarding believers in the early days of the Church. And this Spirit-wrought unity and tender affection is by far the greatest need amongst believers today. New “movements,” new “educational programs,” great contributions of funds—what are these worth while Christians are divided in mind, more in discord than accord? Such a state cannot “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “By this,” our Lord said, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
And this accord, this unity, is not brought about by outward organization. There is, incited by the devil, a great cry that all professing Christians today “get together,” form themselves into a great “charitable” unity, inclusive of Romanists, Protestants, and well-intended Jews. Meanwhile, in answer to the earnest, persistent cry of God’s people that He would revive His Church, the real saints are being drawn more and more by His Word into the true fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Bible conferences, unsectarian Bible schools, gatherings and even leagues for prayer, and increasing intelligent fellowship with truly godly missionary effort, are the real sign that God is granting Paul’s desire that believers may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
People generally make one of two mistakes concerning Christian unity. First, that there must be absolute unanimity of opinion on all points of doctrine; and second, that there must be external unity of all so-called “Christian bodies.”
We have alluded to the second of these ideas as of Satanic origin, and deluded human consent. But now, as to the first, the desire of the apostle in verse 5, that the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus, does not have reference to opinions or views of doctrines, but does have reference to gracious dispositions of spirit; for God is not spoken of here as the God of wisdom and knowledge, but as the God of patience and of comfort. It is God’s acting in these blessed graces toward the saints that will enable them to be “of one mind together according to Christ Jesus.”
When the Spirit of God is freely operating among a company of believers, the eyes of all of them, first, are toward Christ Jesus. They are thinking of Him, of His love, of His service, and of what will please Him. They are conscious of their blessed place in Him. Then follow, naturally, patient dealing with one another, comforting one another. Some of the company may know much more truth than others; many may hold varying judgments or opinions concerning particular matters. But this does not at all touch their unity—their conscious unity, in Christ; and it does not in the slightest degree hinder their being of one mind, and working together with one accord, and, in the vivid words of Scripture, be with one mind together according to Christ Jesus.
Rome has undertaken to compel unity in both these evil senses (for she knows not the blessed unity of the Spirit): and rivers of martyrs’ blood have flowed because they dared to express an opinion contrary to the edicts of “the Church.” The doctrine, too, is constantly promulgated, that to be outside “Mother Church,” outside the fold of Rome, is to be without the pale of salvation!
Both these things are fearful perversions of the truth.
Verse 7: Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ received you, to the glory of God.
Strong and weak believers alike are here exhorted to receive one another,—for God’s glory. This not only includes formal welcoming of other believers into the fellowship of the church, the Assembly of the Saints; but, what is far more and deeper, exercising constant careful love to one another;—and all this done with a view to the glory of God! For Christ received us to that end! As He says, “All that which the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me; and him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out. For I am come down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:37, 38). It is Christ’s delight to welcome sinners, for that glorifies God; and there is joy in Heaven over it! Let there be like joy over our Christian love,—our “receiving” one another; for it glorifies God!
Verses 8 and 9: For I say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that He might confirm the promises unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy—
Here Paul defines in a single phrase our Lord’s character as a “minister,” in His earthly life: He was a “minister of the circumcision.” That is, He came “unto His own.” He said, “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (Matt. 15:24). Tell this to the ordinary professing Christian, and he regards you with amazement, if not with anger. When our Lord sent out the Twelve, in Matthew Ten, He said, “Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now people resent that, because of their sad ignorance—both of the Divine sovereignty, and revealed plan. So, the first thing to clear away in our minds is the uncertain or false teaching, about the mission of Christ on earth. He was made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God; that He might confirm the promises unto the fathers.
Now we know that Christ came to declare the Father—to reveal God as He is. Also He came to give His life a ransom for many, to become “the propitiation for the whole world.” Thus He “came not to be ministered unto, ‘but to minister.”
But, if we are to understand the story of His ministry, in the
Gospels, we must remember that He was first a “minister of the circumcision,’ as
the Jewish Messiah, fulfilling, “confirming” the Divine promises of the Old Testament
to that nation.269269 It is essential to understand and submit fully to this remarkable
expression concerning our Lord’s ministry to Israel, taking great care, however,
that we do not allow ourselves to be drawn into the high folly of the Bullingerites,
and others, who, because Christ was made a “minister of the circumcision,” therefore
regard as “transitional,” and as not concerning the Church, the Body of Christ,
the Gospels, the Acts, the present Epistle (to the Romans), the Corinthian Epistles,—in
fact, all but the “prison epistles”! Some of these mistaken teachers, indeed, do
not go to this length, but many are even more extravagant than this, claiming that
Christ did not begin to build His Body on the day of Pentecost, but that there was
a “transitional” time and state, after Pentecost, with a “Jewish Body”; and that
the Body revealed by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians begins with Paul’s revelation
of it in “the prison epistles”! Now everyone knows that there was a gradual entering
upon the full truth of what Gentile grace was, upon the part of the twelve apostles,—as
witness Peter in
Acts 10; and the Council of Acts 15.
But to say that because they did not know fully the calling and hopes of the Church
until Paul had revealed them (as indeed was true, by Christ’s appointment) therefore
the Body of Christ did not exist from Pentecost on, is idle, shallow folly!
The object of the devil in causing these delusions, is practically the same as in his inspiring “higher criticism” and “modernism.” It is to break the moral effect upon the conscience of certain books and certain passages of the Bible, by teaching believers to say, “That Scripture is not for us—it is not for the Church.” Now the account of the creation is not “Church Truth,” yet Paul takes great comfort from it, saying, “It is God that said. Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God, in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). Paul also takes great delight in pointing out, in quoting Genesis 2:24, that a man’s leaving father and mother to cleave to his wife, was a type and picture of, and really concerned the union of, Christ and the Church! (Eph. 5:29-32.) The book of Job was not written “for the Church,” yet we learn in that great book filings of our God and of His ways not fully revealed elsewhere.
I deem it not only folly, but presumptuous wickedness to speak as do these self-appointed wise men of our Lord’s earthly ministry as “not concerning the Church,” saying we must therefore leave the gospels and go to the epistles alone for instruction. Paul, on the contrary, continually quoted even the Old Testament Scriptures; even adducing the Law for our “instruction” (although telling us we are not under it; I Cor. 9:9; 14:34; Eph. 6:1, 2).
Likewise the Psalms: Of course they were written with Israel’s Messiah in direct view,—His sufferings, (and the Remnant’s) with His ultimate earthly Kingdom-triumph in the 1000 years.
Yet, recalling always the facts of our heavenly calling and place, the Psalms become full of blessing to the spiritual mind! The Holy Spirit makes them the quickened vehicle of guiding us into unexpected truth. And the four Gospels;— “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” have a use and beauty of blessing for us, “all the greater because we know we are enlifed in, and risen with, Christ, new creatures in Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, in Christ Jesus! Indeed, we find our Lord, in John 17, praying for that marvelous oneness which was realized in the Church as revealed in all Paul’s Epistles: “that they may be one—even as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.” There is no higher truth about the Church than this! “The Mystery,” the Church as such, was not yet revealed,—as it begins to be in Romans and onward: but we have the great petitions that made the Church possible, here in John.
When we step into The Acts, only those who leave the simplicity of Christian consciousness (as does Bullinger) dare affirm that in those earliest Christians there was not the very life and unity belonging to the one and only Body of Cnrist which it was later given Paul to “minister,” as to its character, calling, destiny, and walk.
Of course Romans is as much “church truth” as Ephesians! Avoid Bullingerism as you would the plague! The Church did begin at Pentecost; there is but one Body of Christ known in Scripture,—and no special “Jewish” Body; the Lord’s words to the Seven Churches of Rev. 1-3 are solemn warnings to present assemblies, and not imaginary “Jewish” assemblies, after the Body of Christ is raptured to heaven, as Bullinger teaches! How anyone can be captured by such fantastic nonsense, is only explainable by the appalling ignorance of Pauline truth, and the hunger for it, (an ignorance and hunger of which Bullinger takes advantage!) Bullinger called the great Welsh Revival of 1904-5 “Spiritism,”— attributing to the devil what the whole Church of God knows was God’s work. (See Bullinger’s Foundations of Dispensational Truth, p. 259.) And he taught “Soul-sleeping,” calling Sheol and Hades “only gravedom.” (See on Revelation, Chap. 1.) To follow such a presumptuous and blind leader, is to fall into the ditch. Only, Bullingerites think everyone but themselves in the ditch: and that they are mountain-top dwellers! Have you heard of a Bullingerite Bible conference for the deepening of the spiritual life? No; and you will not: for they are “sick about questionings, and disputes of words” (I Tim. 6:4). The reason we warn of Bullingerism so repeatedly is, that it endangers the earnest souls who, desiring to escape the intolerable bondage of Protestant denominational ecclesiasticism (now daily becoming more Romish in fact and papal in process), hail Bullinger’s system as freedom. But it is a much worse danger than what they have escaped! You may call it dispensational modernism, or modernistic dispensationalism; for it is both.
It is difficult to deal in patience with presumption that takes an attitude much like that of Theosophy, of a “higher wisdom.” It is a striking thing, (though from history it might be expected) that these errorists like others, are consumed by their error! They must harp on it at all times! And what was this “ministry of the circumcision?
What was it meant to accomplish? Paul here says, It was for the sake of God’s truth, God’s faithfulness. His veracity, “to confirm the promises that had been given to the fathers”— Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was on God’s behalf, to show that when God makes commitments and promises, He forgets them not, but fulfils them. He had promised a Messiah to Israel, and He sent the Messiah.
But God had made no promises, no commitments, to the Gentiles. Consequently, upon Israel’s rejection of their Messiah, mercy, sovereign mercy, flows out to us Gentiles: and for this we glorify God, for that is the purpose of this mercy—that God may be glorified.
The prophet Micah, in the last verse of his prophecy (7:19, 20), illustrates exactly this distinction between “the truth” of God toward Israel, and “the mercy” of God toward the Gentiles: “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the loving kindness [or, mercy] to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” To Jacob the blessings were announced by God (above that ladder of Genesis 28) with the words: “I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:13). The birthright which Esau despised and forfeited, Jacob had; and the promises were to be fulfilled in faithfulness. But to Abraham it was sheer mercy. His father was a Chaldean idolater, and probably he had been so (Josh. 24:2, 3, 14, 15). But “the God of glory” appeared to him out of hand, without cause, right in the midst of Chaldean iniquity there at Ur. This was mercy (Acts 7:1). Jehovah “redeemed” Abraham (Isa. 29:22).
Now for the present a “hardening in part” has befallen Israel, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” as we saw in Chapter Eleven.
It is striking that in the present passage, Chapter 15:9-29, Gentiles are named ten times, the Gentile number! Five of these instances are from the Old Testament prophecies themselves. Let us study these quotations with especial attention:
9 Therefore will I give praise unto Thee among the Gentiles, And sing unto Thy Name (Ps. 18:49).
10 And again He saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people (Deut. 32:43).
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; And let all the peoples praise Him (Ps. 117:1).
12 And again, Isaiah saith, There shall be the root of Jesse, And He that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles; On Him shall the Gentiles hope (Isa. 11:10).
There are three remarkable points about these passages:
They are selected from the three great divisions of the Scripture: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).
There is a progress in the selections.
1. Christ Himself gives praise unto God from among the Gentiles. The quotation is from Psalm 18:49, where David becomes a distinct type of Christ, David’s coming Seed, as see next verse. See also Psalm 22:22, where, after the awful description of the cross in the first part of that Psalm (verses 1-21)—the Divine forsaking, pierced hands and feet, parted garments—the Lord begins thus the resurrection praise:
“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren:
In the midst of the assembly will I praise Thee.”
This “assembly” began, of course, with those Jewish believers in that upper room, to whom He first appeared; but that “assembly” shortly included Gentiles (Acts 10 and on). But we note here in Romans 15:9 that Christ Himself is celebrating Jehovah’s work,—giving praise “among the Gentiles.”
2. Verse 10: The next step is, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people. Now, in Scripture, “His people” are always Israel; and, for awhile, as we find in the Acts, the Gentiles were “rejoicing with His people”: it was with Jerusalem as the center, and the apostles and elders there recognized even by Paul, even after preaching to the Gentiles had begun (Acts 15).270270Of course, the Church, the Body of Christ, was begun at Pentecost, But, though God would by and by send Paul to show the heavenly calling and character of the Church, yet God, in great patience and grace, called upon Israel first to repent and believe (Acts 3:26). So that, for a while,—even to Paul’s officially closing Israel’s national door, in Acts 28:25-28,—the Gentiles rejoiced “with” God’s people Israel: it was “to the Jew first.” But it is not so now! “There is no difference between Jew and Greek” must be preached, if God’s Word is to be followed. Movements that put the Jew, now, in a place of preference, as “first,” do the poor Jew,—a common sinner, undistinguished from the Gentile,— the greatest disservice possible! They protect him from judgment as guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). Instead, Paul went about to “provoke to jealousy” the Jews, by boasting in Christ, as himself the very “chief of sinners,” saved by grace, not by the Law!
3. Verse 11: The next passage calls for direct praise from the Gentiles, with no distinct notice taken of Israel as a people; for the Greek reads: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and let all the peoples [plural] praise Him (as the R.V. correctly translates).
Verse 12: There is a looking forward to the Millennial reign in the quotation from Isaiah 11:10: the Root of Jesse, He that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles. On Him [who shall thus reign] shall the Gentiles hope. Gentiles, thank God, may now freely “hope,” and look to Him who will rule all the earth, during the Millennium. All nations then will be directly dependent upon the Lord, enthroned in the Millennial temple at Jerusalem. How blessed is the Gentile who now learns to “hope in Christ” (Eph. 1:12) before He “arises to reign”! Verily there will be a reward!
As Paul says in II Timothy 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the Seed of David, according to my gospel.” How few Christians connect their Savior with David! They remember Romans 1:4, but not 1:3. So they forget His royal earthly claims!
In this passage we saw (in verse 8) a setting forth of Christ
as a “minister of the circumcision”; but this ministry was duly accomplished. It
did not extend to the Gentiles, for no promises had been made to the Gentiles. Consequently,
Gentiles are brought under Divine “mercy,” and “hope” in Christ, wholly apart from
Jewish connections; though recognizing our Lord’s past and future ministry to the
circumcision.271271 God had made arrangements with Israel at Sinai, had given them
promises conditioned on their obedience. This limited God’s action to the fulfilment
of these commitments to Israel. “Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision
for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.”
But, at the cross, all was ended. Sin rose to its height, and transgression of the Law to its climax. When the Jews “killed the Lord Jesus” (I Thess. 2:15, 16), that Law which distinguished the “circumcision in the flesh” was “abolished” (Eph. 2:14, 15; Col. 2:14).
God having thus wound up matters with Israel, and being, of course, entirely tree from any covenant with or commitment unto the Gentiles, could act according to the movements of absolute Love, which He is.
The highest action of Love, consequently, succeeded the highest action of human sin: man crucified God’s Son; God sends the Holy Ghost, baptizing believers into vital union with that Son raised from the dead and glorified. The Church, the Body of Christ, stands in the nearest possible relation to God of any creature!
Verse 13: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Look at this great thirteenth verse: how it blossoms out before us! Here is a verse packed full!
1. The name here given to God thrills our hearts: The God of Hope. Hope looks forward with exultation for ever and ever! We remember Chapter 5:2: “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God”; and Chapter 12:12: “rejoicing in hope”; and also that hope, along with faith and love, abides forever, for God will be opening up new treasures of grace to us through all the ages to come! See Ephesians 2:7.
God is called the “God of peace” in Romans 15:33; 16:20; and in Philippians 4:9, I Thessalonians 5:23, II Thessalonians 3:16, Hebrews 13:20; and, of course, peace is fundamental: Christ made peace by the blood of His cross. But we are not to be content with peace alone. Many would stop at Romans 5:1, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” But in this present verse God speaks as the God of hope; and He wants us filled with all joy as well as peace, so as to be abounding in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, if God is the God of hope, looking forward with expectancy and delight to the certain, glorious things of the future, then a dejected, depressed, discouraged saint of His is yielding to a spirit directly contrary to His will, which is, for each of us, that we abound in hope.
2. It is God Himself alone who can fill us with all joy and peace, making us to abound in hope. We cannot transform ourselves!
3. It is by the power of the indwelling Spirit that we are to “abound in hope.” Some human beings are naturally introspective and gloomy. Others are naturally jovial and buoyant: but the joy in which we as believers are to abound does not in any wise flow from nature, but from the direct, inworking energy of the Holy Ghost. Some of the most naturally “happy” people of the world, “have been thrown into desperate trouble of soul either by the Spirit’s convicting them of their sin, or, perhaps, by the withdrawal of natural supports on a death-bed without hope; while some of those whose tendency was discouragement and despondency almost to hopelessness have, “by the power of the Holy Ghost,” been filled with all joy and peace, and have abounded in hope day by day and hour by hour!
4. It is in a believing heart that these blessed results are brought about. When asked by the Jews in the Sixth of John, “What must we do that we may work the works of God?” our Lord replied, “This is the WORK of God [the one thing He asks of you], that ye BELIEVE on Him whom He hath sent.” The “believing” of Romans 15:13 is, of course, that “living by faith in the Son of God” of which Paul speaks in Galatians 2:20. It is stepping out on the facts God reveals about us; and learning to live the life of trust.
The verse we are considering is the highest development of Christian experience revealed in this great, fundamental Epistle of Romans. Deeper things will be elsewhere unfolded,—as, for instance, the Indwelling Christ of Ephesians 3:14 to 21. But, as Jude 20 tells us, we must “build up ourselves on our most holy faith.” Paul declares that the “law” that prevails in this dispensation is a “law of faith” (Rom. 3:27); and that the obedience into which we are called is the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
5. It is the will of God that you and I—all believers—be “filled with all joy and peace in believing,”—blessed spiritual state! that we may “abound in hope in the power of the Holy Ghost.” Some are content if they merely find the way of salvation through faith in the blood of Christ. They are much given to talk about being “saved by grace,” but they are not much exercised about holy living. A second class of believers become deeply exercised as to a life of “victory over sin.” These, of course, if instructed aright, accept the wondrous fact that they died with Christ, and are now on resurrection ground, freed from sin, and from that which gave sin its power,—the Law. A third class go further, to the Twelfth of Romans, and enter on true Christian service, by presenting their bodies a living sacrifice to God; and discovering thereby His good, acceptable, and perfect will for them—whatever measure of faith He may give them, and to whatever gift or peculiar service He may call them. But here, in this great fountain of water in Chapter 15.13, we find that a daily, hourly life “filled with all joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope,” is the normal state for every one who is in Christ!
It will not do for us to make excuses for ourselves: God is the God of hope! His yearning is to fill you and me with all joy and peace, if we will just launch out and believe. Others just as unworthy as we have believed; we will never become “more worthy” of believing. “This poor earth is a wrecked vessel,” as Moody used to say. Man is drifting on into the night, and judgment is coming. All the more, then, may the God of hope fill YOU with all joy and peace in believing, that YOU may abound in hope!
Many cherish their doubts, even adducing them as a proof of their humility, which is sad indeed. As Charles F. Deems used to say, “Believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts; most people believe their doubts, and doubt their beliefs.” You can believe. What a wonderful thing to be among those (sadly few!) believers who are filled with all joy and peace, and abound in hope!
We can enter into the benefit of our great apostle Paul’s benedictory prayer in this matter: “Now the God of hope fill you”—for Paul yearned over, prayed over, and had effectual prayer, even, for “those that had not seen his face in the flesh” (Col. 2:1); and we may assume that God will answer this mighty believing prayer of his on our behalf. And our Great High Priest, who moved Paul to pray, is at God’s right hand, making constant intercession for us!
14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye, yourselves, are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another. 15 But I wrote the more boldly unto you in a measure, as putting you again in remembrance on account of the [especial] grace that was given me of God, 16 that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, administering as priest the gospel of God; that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit
Verse 14: Although Paul had never been in Rome, he kept track of believers throughout the whole Roman world! Now he had said in our first Chapter (1:8) that he “thanked God through Jesus Christ for them all, that their faith was proclaimed throughout the whole world.” This was a remarkable condition,—it was early freshness and vigor of faith! Our present verse has especially to do with those inner engiftments of the Spirit which enabled them with loving hearts and discerning knowledge to look after one another’s spiritual needs without any apostle’s help. For neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any apostle, had as yet preached the gospel at Rome! Of the Corinthian church also, Paul testifies: “In everything ye were enriched in Christ, in all utterance and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift.” Now he says of these believers at Rome that he is persuaded that they are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and therefore really able to admonish one another! But Paul takes the very occasion of their remarkable pristine vigor in the Spirit, to bring before them that special and wonderful commission given him of God to the nations.
The ministry of the chosen apostle to the Gentiles was just as needful to establish the Romans (1:11, 12; 16:25) as it was for the Corinthian church, of which Paul himself was directly the “father.” So Paul says to the believers at Rome, as he retraces in his mind the contents and manner of the great Epistle God has enabled him to send to them,—and which he is preparing to close:
Verses 15, 16: All the more boldly, therefore, in a measure, I wrote unto you [in this epistle] on account of the [peculiar] grace that was given me of God, that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, officially administering the gospel of God; that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
And now Paul is reminding these Roman Christians—“putting them again in remembrance,” of this great special grace that had been given him of God, that he should act toward the Gentiles as God’s official administrator, ministering as such the gospel of God. This “grace” was God’s mighty outfitting of His servant Paul for this ministry among the Gentiles, or nations, to whom he was sent.
Paul always carried about the consciousness that he was Christ’s chosen vessel to the Gentiles. Most people are ignorant that he was so, and regard Paul simply as “an apostle,” “one of the twelve,” and so forth. But observe that the words of verses 15 and 16 go far beyond mere apostleship.
The word which characterizes Paul’s ministry here is, in Greek, leitourgos. It is difficult to convey the meaning of it by any one English word. Alford renders it “ministering priest” (of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles); Darby, “an administrator officially employed”; Thayer, in his Lexicon, shows its original meaning to be, “a public minister, a servant of the state.” The simple translation “minister of Christ Jesus” will scarcely do, because every preacher (and in a sense rightly) would deem himself to be thus described.272272We cannot press the liturgical meaning In the sense of a literal priestly function here; for the same Greek word is used in Chapter 13:6 concerning public officials they are said to be God’s ministers (leitourgoi). Again, in verse 27 of our present chapter (15), we find that the Gentiles owed it to the Jerusalem saints “to minister unto them in carnal things.” Here the verb form of the same word is used. See its use further in II Corinthians 9:12, and Philippians 2:17, 25, 30. But that its use here makes Paul a special official of God no one should doubt.
1. It is evident from Peter’s preaching, in Acts 10.35 and 11:18, that Gentile salvation had begun,—apart from Jewish things altogether. “In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto Him”: though not, of course, accepted, saved, except through the preached name and work of Christ (Acts 11:14). “To the Gentiles also God hath granted repentance unto life.”
2. It is also evident from Paul’s words in Romans 15:16, that he had a special ministry toward the Gentiles: that I should be a minister (leitourgos) of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles. Just as when Israel, already God’s people while in Egypt, had sent to them Moses, who brought them out, and with whose ministry they were Divinely connected by God; so Paul was sent to the Gentiles, to whom the door of salvation had already been opened. And as God laid Israel on Moses, so laid He the Gentiles on Paul. Paul it is whose gospel, without mixture of even those Jewish things permitted in measure back at Jerusalem (Acts 21:20), was administered in priestly fashion among the nations, telling of the One Great Offering for sin for the whole world (and not for Jews only); that the offering up (prosphora) of the Gentiles might [thus] be made acceptable (euprosdektos). This last is the same word as in II Corinthians 6:2: “Now is the acceptable time”: the time when God freely accepts, without Law, convenant-conditions, or religious forms, any and all!
3. It is also evident from Romans 15:16 that apart from this full-grace gospel of Paul, the offering up of the Gentiles could not be “gladly acceptable” by God. For Israel had had a Law, with forms and ordinances. The Gentiles had had nothing: and to them as having nothing, Paul’s grace-gospel came,—asking nothing, but bestowing everything!
4. Finally, it is evident that this acceptance of the Gentiles involved the presence and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. This began at Cornelius’ house in Acts Ten: “The Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the Word.” It was continued in Samaria, in Acts Eight. Paul’s question to those at Ephesus in Acts Nineteen was: “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?” Even of the Galatians, mixed up in mind as they were, it was said: “He that supplieth to you the Spirit”!
Ah, we do not realize our privileges! Such an apostle as Paul— is not only ours, but God laid us Gentiles upon this man as He laid Israel upon Moses. Alas, Moses complained of the burden (Num. 11:11-15). But Paul complained not, even of “that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches” (II Cor. 11:28, 29). Paul it was who “most gladly would spend and be spent out for our souls” (II Cor. 12:15). Paul it was who longed “for fruit in us also, as in the rest of the Gentiles”; who also “prayed with agonizing for as many as had not seen his face in the flesh” (Col. 1:2, .Gr.).
So, as God hearkened to Moses regarding wretched Israel at Sinai (Ex. 32:7-14),—for he had made Moses responsible for them, may we not believe that God yet remembers the prayers for the Gentiles of this devoted servant Paul?
We know, from Romans Eleven, that the day will come when Gentiledom
will be “cut off” as the sphere of God’s direct blessing (through their unbelief
and refusal of Divine “goodness”), and Israel, the natural branches, will be grafted
in again. But we cannot but feel that some (and that in prominent places) are forgetting
Paul with his “offering up of the Gentiles,” and turning slavishly back, with flattering
words, to Jews,—if not to Judaism! The glorious grace of the Pauline gospel to
the Gentiles may be corrupted, despised, rejected, by fawning upon the Jew as being
a special being,—different from common sinners. When God said, “There is
no distinction” between Jew and Greek, that matter was settled! The wall of partition is
down,—broken down by God! Woe to those who, under any claim, build it up! When God’s time comes,
after “His whole work”—of indignation toward Israel, He will Himself build up Zion.
Meanwhile hearken to Paul!273273 A certain Jewish mission worker declared that when God caused
the birth of Isaac from barren Sarah, He “infused into the blood-stream of his descendants
new life,” which differentiated them from the rest of the human race!
Now this is not merely twaddle, but an accursed lie, which denies the whole gospel of God in this book of Romans! For if God iterates and re-iterates one thing, it is universal equal human sinnerhood! Nay, it there are special sinners in Romans they are Jews: “For the name ot God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Jews).
Romans 15:16 has been passed lightly over at this Gentile end of the dispensation. Gentiles have taken over “religious” things, such as the Jews and heathen had, and have not regarded that peculiar “offering up” of them, through Paul’s priestly ministering of the Gospel of God to them. But this is a great verse. It must not be “spiritualized” away into mere figurative speech.
The necessity of bowing to this Scripture’s teaching that the unclean Gentiles are “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” through their being offered up by Paul, by means of the Gospel, is brought out in Chapter 11:17. Today, the Gentiles feel as proud and self-sufficient before God as the Jews of old came to be. And just as the Israelitish branches were “broken off,” so will the Gentiles be, by and by, according to the passage just referred to. When the Gentiles are broken off, and the natural branches (Israelites), grafted in again to the root of promise and blessing in Abraham, then, as formerly, the Gentiles, not being “sanctified by the Holy Spirit,” can no more worship God as they do now, freely; but they will have to go up from all over the earth, to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and be subordinated to the priestly nation of Israel. This is brought out in Zechariah 14:16-19.
Ministering the good news of God, and thus making the offering up of the Gentiles acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit,—must cease when the Church is raptured and the gospel which Paul preached has ended its ministry. The Gentiles then are immediately, as before, far away, unclean; Israel. forgiven, cleansed, restored, becomes the priestly nation, unto which the nations must resort as of old for the knowledge of the true God. Not today do the nations have to come “as crawling things licking the dust before Jehovah’s glory,” as they will do in the Millennium. Words fail us to express the glory of the privilege that today prevails in the humblest gospel meeting as a means of access to God, with an amazing free gospel-welcome to God direct, through the shed blood of Christ, that will cease instantly upon the rapture of the Church, when the Gentiles will no longer be under the astonishing blessing which has been theirs during the present gospel dispensation through the apostle Paul. In priestly ministration of the gospel he offered up274274Meyer thus comments here: “In priestly fashion administering the gospel of God. The gospel is not indeed the offering, but the Divine institute, which is administered (is in priestly fashion served) by the presenting of the offering. The Gentiles, converted, and through the Spirit consecrated as God’s property, are the offering which Paul, as the priest of Jesus Christ, has brought to God.” the Gentiles, by which God made them “acceptable”; and upon believing, “sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (not as Israel had been, by circumcision and outward religious ordinances).
In view of this astonishing ministry of Paul, it is no wonder that he writes “boldly,”—very boldly, to the Christians in Rome, although he had not been there. Being “full of goodness and knowledge,” they would be ready to be “put in remembrance” that there was one, although absent, who had, as their apostle, acted on their behalf in a general offering of them to God, as Gentiles; and now was lovingly and particularly concerned about their condition as saints,—such an one as made continual prayer concerning them and longed after them (1:9-11).
17 I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God.
18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ did not work through me, in order to the [believing] obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached [lit. fulfilled] the gospel of Christ; 20 yea, making it my ambition so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; 21 but, as it is written,
They shall see, to whom no tidings of Him came,
And they who have not heard shall understand.
Verse 17: The word therefore refers us to that peculiar ministry of verse 16 just described: I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. How different from that of Moses was Paul’s ministry! Moses operated under God, beneath the eye of all the nations, humbling the proudest of them, and leading Israel in the wilderness, by a marvelous, continuous, physical miracle, for forty years; with God defending him publicly even to opening the earth to swallow his opposers! There is something overwhelmingly magnificent, outwardly, about Moses’ whole life and ministry. Not so with Paul! He shared (and gloried in it) the place of earthly rejection and despising His Lord had; his great desire being to be “conformed unto His death” (Phil. 3:10). Therefore it requires spiritual discernment to see Paul’s place and ministry. Over and over Paul makes statements like that of the present verse, insisting that he and his glorying were before (the unseen) God, and not before men. “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son”; “We persuade men, but we are made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences” (II Cor. 5:11).
Here then, is this “least of all the apostles,”—nay, “less than at least of all saints,” to whom God has given this greatest place of all (as Christ promised to the “least”); not only a ministry of being “an apostle of the Gentiles” (11:13), “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (I Tim. 2:7); but also the official presentation of the Gentiles to God, “offering them up.” No wonder that Paul has a “glorying in Christ Jesus” in these things,—things “pertaining to God” indeed! There was no outward pillar of cloud and fire, no visible temple or formal worship; but just as really as God committed Israel to Moses’ hands, so did God give this liturgical ministry toward the Gentiles to Paul, a priest-like office exercised by this “unknown” though “well-known” apostle. This explains the verses which follow:
Verse 18: For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ did not work through me, in order to the [believing] obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed—Paul means to indicate here the absolute distinctiveness of his calling and work. He does not confuse it with or take glory for, the wonderful work of God at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and thereafter (Acts 2 to 12) by the twelve apostles, whose ministry was to the circumcision: of which twelve Paul was not! (I Cor. 15:5). He will speak only of what Christ has done through him, through preaching, and attesting miracle, and the attending presence and power of the Holy Spirit. An example of the “signs” of verse 19, was the “special miracles” at Ephesus: Acts 19:11, 12; and an instance of a “wonder” was Paul’s shaking off the viper which had bitten him: Acts 28:3-6. All these things set seal to the gospel which Paul preached, as of God. The whole passage needs to be compared with its parallel in II Corinthians 10:13-17.
Verse 19: In the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached [lit., fulfilled] the gospel of Christ.
What a marvelous, absolutely tireless love-laborer was this man Paul. Illyricum was the next province to Italy. Between Jerusalem and Illyricum lay the province of Syria, with its capital at Damascus, but its spiritual capital Antioch; and next to it Cilicia, with its great center Tarsus, Paul’s own home, whither he had been sent by the brethren away from Jerusalem persecution (Acts 9:30) ; and whence Barnabas brought him to the work at Antioch (Acts 11:25, 26) ; next province Pamphylia with Perga and Attalia; and above that Pisidia, centered at another Antioch; then Lycaonia, and above that the great and difficult Galatia with the churches Paul founded there; next proconsular Asia, centered at Ephesus, of course, and the mighty work there and the “fighting with beasts”; then at Troas across the Agean came the call from Macedonia, and its cities Philippi, Berea and Thessalonica, the saints of which lay so close to the apostle’s heart; then Achaia, centered at Corinth, whence he wrote this present letter to the Romans—vast city, vast wickedness, but much people for the Lord. And so we arrive at Illyricum. And through all these regions just traced, Paul has fulfilled the gospel of Christ; insomuch that verse 23 informs us that he had no more any place in these regions.
Verses 20-23: Yea, making it my ambition so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but, as it is written,
They shall see, to whom no tidings of Him came,
And they who have not heard shall understand.
Wherefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you: but now, having no more any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come unto you—
Hindered—These many labors from Jerusalem to Illyricum had “hindered” Paul from seeing Christians at Rome as he longed to do. In I Thessalonians 2:18 he said, “We would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us,”—by some direct, desperate stand. But here, multitudinous labors have hindered. Compare Romans 1:13.
These many times shows how continually Roman Christians were on his mind and in his desire.
And now let us enter into the astonishing statement of verse 23, having no more any place in these regions. Everybody converted? No. All the saints established and perfected? No. Yet there was the urge to go on where no tidings of Him had come. This is the highest, deepest, widest, most Christ-like emotion that ever filled a human breast. How we should weep over our far departure from the whole spirit of Christ and His great apostle in this matter of preaching on and on and on? Instead of the passion to pay our debt to every creature by carrying the good tidings to them, we are rather churlish if they do not come to the buildings we have set up. We say, Why do they not come to church? and we talk of the “unchurched masses.”
But God did not tell them to “come to church.” He told us to carry the glad tidings to them! Let us cease chiding men for failing to come to hear the gospel, instead of our obeying the Lord and going with it to them where they are! The church at Jerusalem “settled down,” until God drove the saints out after Stephen’s martyrdom, so that they “went about preaching the Word.” It is, indeed, the unusual Christian who has written in his soul, as had Paul, the ambition to carry the gospel where the name of Christ had never been on the tongue, and thus, not merely to build on an already laid foundation! To such missionaries verse 23 is fulfilled? When they return to England, or America, or Sweden, it is ever in their hearts, “I have no more any place in these regions.”275275A letter from a missionary just returned “on furlough” from China, reads: I asked the Board as a special favor to allow me to take a short furlough, and I am hoping to return to China in September. My heart is longing more every day to get back to China. The things I miss here in others, the ways in which I see time, energy, and money wasted for the things that do not satisfy,—all these things and others make me realize more than ever how subtly Satan works to seal away our hearts and keep us from God’s best, and makes me desire more than I ever did in my life that I shall not fail of His grace, and that as He works in me and deals with me, these days I may respond fully, so that as I go back to China, if He wills it so,—I may go in the fulness of the grace of Christ, to fulfil all His will in and through me. How the world needs Christ!”—L. S.
And, by the way, a longing to come unto any field (prayed over persistently), will probably land one in that field! So it was with Paul.
Verse 24: Whensoever I proceed [on my course) unto Spain for I hope [proceeding thus] to see you, and by you be brought on my way thither, after I have in some measure satisfied my long-cherished desire for your company.
Proceed unto—The same Greek word is used of Christ’s pursuing His path: “He set His face to proceed [on His course] to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51); “I must proceed [on my course] today and tomorrow” (Luke 13:33) : “The Son of Man proceedeth [on His course] as it is written of Him” (Luke 22:22).
We see here Paul’s consciousness of his “course,” appointed by the Lord, which he had not finished even at his first imprisonment (Phil. 3:12-14); but which he had finished at his second imprisonment (II Tim. 4:7, 8).
Unto Spain—Paul’s purpose to go to Spain, where Christ had not been named, is re-affirmed as a fact in his Divinely-purposed course, in verse 28: “I will go on by you unto Spain.” Meanwhile his longing to have fellowship with, and be a blessing to, those who were already believers at Rome, is very strong. He cannot bear to go on to Spain without being, for a while, at least, comforted with their fellowship. In some measure276276“‘In some measure’ (apo merous) is an affectionate limitation of emplestho, implying that he would wish to remain much longer than he anticipated being able to do,” says Dean Alford.—Paul’s meaning is evidently not brought out in either the A.V. or R.V. Conybeare’s rendering is, “After I have in some measure satisfied my desire for your company,” or, “I must to some extent at least have my fill of your company.” It is a wholly loving expectancy!
Paul also hopes, not only to see these Christians at Rome, but,
to be brought on my way [to Spain] by you. Thus was the Gospel “furthered” in those
days,—yea, and even yet! For we find today companies of saints who by prayer and
gifts, send the preacher on to other fields!277277 “This phase, ‘brought on the way,’ or ‘sent forward,’ refers
to a semi-official custom of the apostolic churches in furnishing an escort to go
some or all the way with a departing minister or missionary. Paul is here most likely
asking that one or more of the Roman brethren be sent with him to Spain. See Acts 15:3;
20:38; 21:5; I Cor. 16:6-11;
II Cor. 1:16; Tit. 3:13; III John 6”—Stifler.
Paul is not asking for a “collection” from the Roman believers, but asking that blessed fellowship in all things of the Spirit which pertained then and now pertains to every servant of Christ and to all believers; to set forward in every way those who are going forth with the blessed gospel.
25 But now, (I say), I am proceeding unto Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints. 26 For [the saints in] Macedonia and Greece have gladly undertaken to make a certain Contribution for the poor among the saints that are in Jerusalem. 27 Yea, they have gladly done it; and they are indeed their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jewish] spiritual things, they owe it also to minister unto them in earthly matters. 28 When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain. 29 And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
Verses 25,26: Paul now announces the purpose of his visit to Jerusalem (to carry a love-gift to the saints there), which was brought out only in a general way in Acts 24:17. This was no hasty journey. In II Corinthians 9:1, 2 he had written to the Corinthians in Greece:
“As touching the ministering to the saints, I know your readiness, . . . that Greece hath been prepared for a year past; and your zeal hath stirred up very many of them” (Christians north of them, in Macedonia,—Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea).
It was a deliberate act of love on the part of the Gentile saints. It is called a special “grace” from God at least six times by Paul in II Corinthians Eight and Nine. It led the Gentile Christians into special consecration. Paul himself, together with other brethren, took this great offering back to Jerusalem, to seal in person unto them this fruit of the blessed gospel! This was probably in God’s sight the highest act of Paul’s whole ministry, fulfilling our Lord’s words: “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them”; “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Not only was this offering for the poor in Jerusalem the “good pleasure” of the Gentile Christians, and gladly given, but Paul recounts that in Macedonia this grace of grateful giving to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, whence the gospel first came, led to their “beseeching Paul with much entreaty” to take what they gave—“of their own accord and even beyond their power”; “in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality!”—they first, “having given their own selves to the Lord”—evidently in special meetings for prayer and consecration to this ministry of giving!
Here, then, we have the original order of “foreign” missions:
The grace of God so abounds in the hearts of those in the unreached lands when they
hear the gospel, that they joyfully insist, amidst persecution and poverty, on
back, to those whence the gospel first went forth, a ministry of money, in grateful
love! Instead of asking to be “supported” from the “home field,” they entreat to
be permitted to send back a love gift for any poor saints there!278278 One wonders what the re-action would be in some comfortable
church in America or England, Holland or Scandinavia, if some morning it were publicly
announced, “Gifts for the poor among us have just arrived from the persecuted, poor,
but happy saints in China, and India, to whom we have sent out the gospel!” Would
we really have humility enough to receive such gifts? On the other hand, as regards
the poor among the saints at Jerusalem, Olshausen trenchantly remarks that the
community of goods of Pentecostal days “evidently had not lasted long!” However,
in answer to this, let us remember that even in those days absolute right of possessing
private property was recognised: “While it remained, did it not remain thine own?
and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?” (Acts 5:4);
and that the community of goods was evidently Divinely set forth at the time as
a sign to the Jews of the power of the love of Christ which completely set aside
private claims; and, finally, that the epistles of Paul, which are the charter of
the Church of God, indicate the path for “them that are rich in this present age,
that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute,
willing to communicate” (1Tim. 6:17,19). They may continue, in
comparison to others, rich, having thus the responsibility of stewards, as some
must have. Finally, we must remember our Lord’s words: “The poor ye have always
But would even poor saints here be willing to be known as having received contribution from “the foreign mission field”?
Verse 27: Yea, they have gladly done it; and they are indeed their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jewish] spiritual things, they owe it also to minister unto them in earthly matters.
Here then is the reason for our special ministry toward Jewish Christians, and, as Gentiles, to help the Jews in any way possible: we have been made partakers of their “spiritual things.” It is not that they are at present recognized, nationally, by God: they are not. But we are “their debtors.” So we should be ready to “minister” to them, as we are able.
“Their Spiritual things” does not mean that our calling is Jewish or earthly, in any sense. See Chapter Eleven.
Here is announced also the principle which Paul states concerning himself to the Corinthians: “If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?” . . . And although he “did not use this right,” he declares that “the Lord ordained, that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel” (I Cor. 9:11, 12). To the Levites only, among the tribes, was given no inheritance, Jehovah saying, “I am their inheritance.” But others were to minister unto them of their substance, so that, when the Israelites were faithful, the Levites had plenty; and when Israel forgot Jehovah, they forgot the Levites.
Verse 28: When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain.
Note Paul’s confidence of the success of his ministry; also that giving is regarded as the proper “fruit” which “seals” to other believers the reality of our confession. See II Corinthians 9:13 about this same matter: “Seeing that through the proving of you [Grecian Christians] by this ministration they [the Jerusalem poor] glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ.” Confession of Christ that does not result in ministering to others, is not an obedient confession.
Verse 29: And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
This verse should put to silence those who claim that Paul was “below” his apostolic calling in this journey to Jerusalem. First, Paul had a holy, inspired knowledge that he would get to Rome; second, he had the same knowledge that when he should come, it would be not on a lower plane than his full apostolic message, but “in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.”
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive [lit., agonise] together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judea, and that my ministration which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; 32 that I may come unto you in joy through the will of God, and may refresh myself in your fellowship. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Here Paul makes the most solemn appeal for the supplications of the saints to be found in all his epistles. “Prayer changes things!” And many things needed to be wrought by God, if Paul’s Divinely-guided journey to Jerusalem was to be successful.
First, there was the inveterate hatred of the Jews toward Paul as the minister of grace to the Gentiles; the Jews were indeed “disobedient.” Paul describes them in I Thessalonians 2:15, 16.279279“The Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always; but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
Second, there was the natural disinclination even on the part of Jewish Christians, through prejudice and pride, to accept for their poor an offering at the hands of Gentiles.
Third, there was the constant willingness on the part of the Roman governors of Judea to “gain favor” with the Jews by yielding as far as possible to their demands in matters of their religion. All these difficulties had to be overcome,—and by what means? By God’s appointed way—through prayer.
Paul therefore in verses 30-33, beseeches and that by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and by the love wrought in believers by the Holy Spirit, that they agonize (Greek, agonidzo, the word used of contestants wrestling in Greek games), together with Paul in their prayers to God for these things: for, the Jews being entrenched in Satanic opposition to Christ and His gospel, Paul asks the Christians at Rome to pray that he may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judea; again, he asks them to pray that his ministration for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; and that, that he may come to the Roman Christians in joy through the will of God, and together with them be refreshed.
Now God answered these prayers, though bearing long; for Paul
was imprisoned at Caesarea two years: and came a prisoner to Rome, suffering shipwreck
by the way! Yet in due time all three things were brought about by prayer!280280 It is astonishing (and the more so the more we study it) how
God makes His work in this world depend on the prayers of His saints! Even His processes of judgment wait for “the prayers of the saints” (see author’s Revelation, p. 121).
And we know, from
I Tim. 2:1, 2, that the saints’ living “a tranquil
and quiet life, in all godliness and gravity” is brought about through their faithful
prayers “for all men, for kings, and all (hat are in high place.” Alas, how sadly
this duty has been neglected,—and with consequences of what dire national unrest
and trouble and disturbance of that outward tranquility and quietness wherein the
gospel best is proclaimed, and the church built up! (Acts 9:31.)
Paul begs the Prayers of all the churches to whom he writes (except the Galatians!)
“Doors for the word” were to be opened through their prayers; “boldness,” “utterance,”
that the gospel might be “made manifest,”—all waited on their
Epaphras, the Colossian, was a good example of what kind of praying we should do! See Col. 4:12, 13: “A bondservant of Christ Jesus, always agonizing for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”
The beautiful benediction of verse 33, The God of peace be with you all, shows how fully at peace was the apostle’s heart, and how fully in God’s will! Also, His overflowing love for the saints. For the “God of peace” to be with us, is more than salvation: it is to be conscious of him—in peace! Amen!
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