1 - 7 Accept One Another
1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not [just] please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
V1-2. In this portion Paul summarizes what he said in Romans 14. In verse 1 he counts himself with the ‘strong’ ones. He includes himself when he says “we”. This is not haughtiness, but awareness of who he has become in the Lord Jesus. “Who are strong” are the Christians who know that by the work of the Lord Jesus they’ve been set free from every law and every slavery.
But this freedom shouldn’t be a cause of grief to the other brother who is not strong. You shouldn’t try to force him to accept your correct conviction. On the contrary, you must bear with his weakness. So here you have again to consider another as to what is profitable to him. Pleasing yourself is contrary to this thinking. You mustn’t do what simply pleases yourself. Philippians 2 says something similar: “Do not [merely] look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
V3. Then Philippians 2 gives the example that the Lord Jesus has given in respect to this (Phil 2:5-8). It’s striking how the Lord Jesus is set as an example for us every time God demands something from us. For example, look at Colossians 3. There you read about forgiving each other, followed by the example of the Lord Jesus that says: “Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Col 3:13). And in 1 Peter 2 you can see the Lord Jesus very clearly as an example (1Pet 2:21). Servants or employees are spoken of there. It is written so they can learn from the Lord Jesus how they must behave. So, every time something is demanded from us, we must look at Him. If God asks something of us, we can always learn from the Lord Jesus how to do it.
Here in verse 3 you find the same thing: “For even Christ did not please Himself.” In His whole life, Christ set His mind on the honor of God. This was what He lived for. He wasn’t living for Himself; He was so perfect in all of His interactions with God that when God was disdained, He felt it as His own. The example given by the Lord Jesus gives you strength to do what is required. It is the same here in pleasing your neighbor.
V4. The Old Testament is full of examples. When you’re exploring the Bible, everything that’s been written can teach you something. God had it written with that purpose. It’s not just a group of coincidences. 1 Corinthians 10 says everything that happened to Israel happened as an example for you (1Cor 10:6,11)! For this reason, you must read the Scriptures. Then you’ll learn about endurance and you’ll find comfort. You need endurance in this life because the life in Christ is made difficult by opposition and lack of understanding. Keep going! This is the encouragement that comes to you from Scripture. You also need comfort in this life where so many things can cause you to become disheartened. In the Scriptures you find how believers found comfort with God.
When you have found endurance and comfort in the Scriptures, then you’ll have “hope”. Hope turns your eyes towards the future. The moment will come when endurance and comfort will no longer be needed. Then perfection will have come. Differences between weak and strong believers will no longer exist.
V5. Since these differences do still exist, endurance and comfort are still necessary. You can find them with “the God of perseverance and encouragement”. This God is your God! When you’re centered on Him, you’ll contribute to the lasting unity of the believers. The differences will not estrange you from any other.
To learn how to endure and to find encouragement, where must you go? To the Lord Jesus. Nothing could stop Him in His walk here on earth. He endured no matter how strong the opposition. And who met with more opposition than He? No encouragement was found in this world for Him, not even with the disciples. He found encouragement in knowing the Father was always with Him.
V6. If the Lord Jesus is our example in this way, we will with one accord and one mouth glorify God. If we quarrel with each other about things in which we should bear with one another, God doesn’t receive the honor due Him. When we learn to bear with one another, this will give us even more reason to glorify God.
V7. To really accept one another we must realize how Christ has accepted us; He accepted us just as we are. And He knew perfectly how we would behave. But even so He still accepted us. He put away our sins by giving Himself up to death, but we retain our peculiarities. To the Lord Jesus this was no reason to turn us away. He accepted us in spite of our peculiarities, which are often so prominent. According to this example, we ought to accept one another.
Now read Romans 15:1-7 again.
Reflection: Which are you, the weak or the strong one? Why?
8 - 13 The Gospel: For Jew and Gentile
8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises [given] to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name.” 10 Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.” 12 Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.” 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
V8. The Lord Jesus has become “a servant”! Think about this. He, the eternal Son of God, has accepted the form of a servant. He came to serve, not to be served. Here we read that He has become a servant to the circumcision. This means He came to the Jewish nation because circumcision had been given to that nation as a sign of the covenant God had made with them. He lived as a Jew among this people.
The aim of His coming was, among others, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, like Abraham. These promises were spoken by God. They were as firm as God’s truth because when God says something, He will do it. The Lord Jesus therefore came to confirm the promises.
V9. But there was something more for which the Lord Jesus became a servant to the circumcision. This was “for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.” Here Paul makes clear the coming of the Lord Jesus implied a blessing for both Israel and the nations. Isaiah 49 speaks of this in a wonderful way. There, God says to the Lord Jesus: “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49:6). In the first part of this quotation we see it was in God’s heart for the Lord Jesus to restore Israel. But this wasn’t all. To God, the work of His Son was so great He didn’t want to limit its benefits to Israel. He wanted all the nations to share in the mercy which would come to man through the Lord Jesus. The result would glorify and magnify God.
What’s surprising is that God spoke of mercy for the nations in the Old Testament! This mercy wasn’t something new, as if it was only revealed in the New Testament. This is not about the church of God, for in the Old Testament, the church was a mystery, that is, something God did not reveal to them. But even in the Old Testament time, God’s heart was going out towards the nations outside Israel. They had a different standing, for Israel was and remains God’s elect people, and has a separate place in the history of salvation. But God hadn’t rejected the other nations.
To confirm this thought, four verses from the Old Testament are quoted here. These four examples represent all the Old Testament, for they are taken from the Law of Moses (Deu 32:43), the Psalms (Psa 18:50; 117:1) and the Prophets (Isa 11:10). In Luke 24 the Lord Jesus listed these three parts as a summary of the whole Old Testament (Lk 24:44b).
The first quotation, at the end of verse 9, is from Psalm 18 (Psa 18:50). It may be considered as a heading over the other quotations. There we have the remnant’s redemption by God out of the enemy’s hand. This redemption is an occasion for them to confess God’s name among the nations.
V10. The outcome of this is that in the second quotation in this verse, the nations are called to rejoice with God’s people. They are invited to share in the joy of the redemption.
V11. In the third quotation “all peoples” and “all Gentiles” are called to worship and praise the Lord. Here the joy is not confined to the people of Israel, but all the earth’s nations may share in it.
V12. Then here, in the fourth quotation, the cause of this joy is indicated. The “root of Jesse” is mentioned, speaking of the Lord Jesus. Look up Revelation 22 (Rev 22:16). He will rise to rule over the nations. Under His millennial reign there will be a time of joy and gladness that all the nations are now feverishly trying to attain in their own strength. A time will come when the nations will hope in Him.
V13. He is able to fill you with all joy and peace in believing. It’s still believing that counts. To believe means to trust in God who will make everything happen as He has said, even if everything around you seems to contradict it. If you’re filled with this, you’ll abound in hope. It will make you glad and you will be able to praise Him in a world where God and His Christ are being more and more denied.
You don’t need to try to be enthusiastic. This is what people without God do. They say: ‘Keep your chin up’ and: ‘Never say die.’ Exhortations like this don’t give any real or lasting power. Man doesn’t possess this power by himself. Your power is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has come to direct your heart to the Lord Jesus. Only then will your hope be unshakable and plentiful.
Now read Romans 15:8-13 again.
Reflection: How can you receive ‘all joy and peace in believing’?
14 - 21 Paul’s Ministry
14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that [my] offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was [already] named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written, “They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand.”
V14. Although Paul had never met the believers in Rome, he was convinced they were full of goodness. He had heard enough about them to be able to say this. He also knew they were filled with all knowledge. By their goodness and knowledge they were enabled to admonish one another. Goodness and knowledge are things you shouldn’t keep for yourself. You can serve others with these things. To admonish means to bring back someone who in one way or another is going in a wrong direction. It is a proof of goodness if we take care of one another in this way.
V15. Paul almost apologizes for writing this. But he wanted to remind them of things that might have been forgotten. This is one thing you also will always need. If you’re constantly reminded of a certain thing, you would not forget it. It will establish you, as Peter calls it (2Pet 1:12-15; 3:1) when just before his death he reminded the believers of the truth of God.
V16-17. Paul had a special relationship with the nations, including the believers in Rome because they belonged to the nations. Here he calls himself a “priest”. This is a remarkable expression, but also a wonderful expression. When you look at the ministry of the gospel in this way, the preaching of the gospel is a wonderful ministry. After all, a priest is someone who sacrifices to God. When someone is converted and comes to faith by the preaching of the gospel the minister is allowed offer such a person as an offering to God.
It is the Holy Spirit who works conversion and faith in someone. This faith sanctifies (sets apart) the person: he is loosed from the world and now belongs to God. This is made possible by Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has done everything necessary for a person to be saved. Therefore there is glory only in Him in the things that count for God.
V18. Paul’s whole life was aimed at doing Christ’s will. At his conversion, he asked at once: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). In everything he said, he had Christ in mind. This is an important example for us. If Christ wasn’t working through him, Paul kept his mouth shut. He subjected everything to the Object of his life. That was very clear before his eyes in bringing the nations to obedience.
V19. Everything he said, everything he did and every gift he had received was directed at this. He didn’t have the power in himself to do this. He was aware he could only do so by the power of God’s Spirit. Everywhere he went, he preached the gospel.
V20. In doing so, he respected what had been entrusted to another. When he became aware that someone else was preaching the gospel in a certain region, he went to another region. To him, the preaching was more important than the preacher. He liked to be in places where the gospel hadn’t as yet been preached. In such a way, you too have received a part of this world from the Lord, in which you may witness of Him. This part may become ever larger, but be careful you don’t seek the portion the Lord has given to someone else. This will only result in trouble. We all may serve the Lord in the gospel, but everyone has his task and his place to do so.
Paul experienced much trouble through people who saw him in an unfavorable light. They told things of him that weren’t true. When Paul was in one place, others came to say he was only seeking his own advantage. This wasn’t the way Paul wanted to work. He had an eye for what the Lord had given to others. When he saw how others were used by the Lord, it made him glad rather than envious.
This offers you an important warning when you want to do something for the Lord (and who doesn’t want to if he loves the Lord?). Let yourself be guided by the Word of God. By feeding daily on the Word of God, you will receive answers to the questions you have. You will certainly have questions about many things. You would not easily find the answers. You must read prayerfully. In the situation Paul was in, he didn’t get a note from heaven with the names of the places he was to visit.
With many questions in our lives, we experience the same thing. There are questions like: Which person does the Lord intend for me to marry? What education should I have? Which job should I choose? You would not find the literal answers to these questions in the Bible, but you can find the examples of God-fearing men and women, and principles of God’s Word that should be maintained. You can pay attention to this in your decisions. In the same way, your choice for a job may depend on the question: ‘Can I serve the Lord in it or will I be pushed into doing things contrary to God’s will?’ Believe God in His Word. He who believes on Him and trusts in Him will not be ashamed.
Now read Romans 15:14-21 again.
Reflection: What questions do you have? Where do you look for the answers?
22 - 33 How Paul Made His Plans
22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; 23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— 25 but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased [to do so], and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. 30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and [that] my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find [refreshing] rest in your company. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
V22-24. Again, Paul let the believers in Rome know that he’d like to come to see them. At the beginning of this letter in Romans 1, he also said this (Rom 1:11). But now he said he would come to them when he journeyed to Spain. He would visit them on his way. He expected them to give him what he needed on his journey. He was counting on their love. He wouldn’t go on before he had enjoyed their company for a while.
Yes, you can enjoy your brothers and sisters in Christ. You probably have had the experience of people around you who care about you and who are interested in you. When you didn’t know the Lord Jesus there were many people who behaved as if they cared. But often, this was only a pretense. They only cared for you as long as they could profit from you. Now that you have come to know the Lord Jesus, you’re accepted into a new company of people. These people also know the Lord Jesus and have learned to love each other. And everybody who’s added to that company is going to share in this love.
Sure, sometimes you’ll be disappointed in your fellow-believers. In themselves, they are weak, failing human beings. But if Paul, the great apostle who knew well enough that in Rome not everything was spotless, could enjoy the believers in Rome, then we can enjoy one another, can’t we?
V25-26. But before Paul could come to Rome, he had to do something else. He had money with him from a collection from believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The money was destined for the poor believers in Jerusalem.
V27. This collection hadn’t resulted from a charity movement set in motion when they heard of the poverty in Jerusalem. It was a voluntary collection because twice it says it “pleased” them. Yet there was a certain obligation too, since the nations had participated in the spiritual things that were first destined for God’s earthly people. Since Israel had rejected the Lord Jesus the gospel had gone out to the heathen (the Gentiles) so they too could be blessed spiritually. Then the nations should do something in return when there was need among the Hebrew saints in Jerusalem. It was a debt they could repay in this way.
This applies to us too. When you’re blessed spiritually by a brother or sister, you can share with him or her with material gifts (Gal 6:6). You can give something in the collection at the meeting and you can give personally too.
Paul took this service very seriously. He was mainly concerned about the spiritual well-being of the believers, but nonetheless this assignment with respect to the believers’ bodily well-being was important to him.
V28. When this assignment had been performed, he would come to them on his way to Spain. At least, this was what he was thinking. Later he went to Rome, but not in the way he had intended. He came as a prisoner. So you can see that even with this man of God, things worked out differently from what he had supposed. This was no disappointment to him. He knew God was leading his life. In your life too, things can take a different course from what you expected. God knows the best way for you as well. If you think of this, you’ll be guarded from disappointments.
V29. Paul knew something else too, that if he were to come, he would “come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ”. Well, that full blessing came. It was from the prison in Rome where he wrote letters about the highest blessings of the church. We have these letters in our Bible. You can read about the “fullness of the blessing” in these letters to the believers in Ephesus, Colossae and Philippi. These letters provide you with a view of Christ’s full blessing.
V30-31. Maybe Paul had some feeling of what was before him. He appealed earnestly to the believers in Rome. This appeal was inspired “by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit.” This is a fine way of appealing to someone. He could say this because he knew that both the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit stood behind this appeal. The Lord Jesus is mentioned here with His full name. You see too, that the Holy Spirit is a Person Who loves. So this appeal of Paul to strive with him in prayer comes in fact from the Lord Jesus, while the love of the Spirit is the power to respond to it.
Paul speaks about striving in prayer. Do you know something of this? Real prayer is like fighting. This fighting is not done with hands and feet. It is a spiritual fight. We must fight so the service of the servants will not be hindered by opponents, and the work of the Lord will go on as a blessing to the believers.
V32-33. In this way we can contribute to the servants doing God’s will with gladness. The believers will be refreshed by this. The Lord’s servants are not machines without feeling. They need prayer to be able to do their service with gladness and be refreshed by other believers. “Now the God of peace” is ready to give you inner peace and to help you in the fight you have to fight in so many fields.
Now read Romans 15:22-33 again.
Reflection: Is there someone to whom you would like to give or to send something? Do it and think of Mt 6:1-4.