Vv 1-13: The unity of the strong and the weak in
WE WHO ARE STRONG: Paul now openly aligns himself with
the "strong", and at the same time suggests that they -- the "strong" -- are
chiefly responsible for achieving the unity between the two factions.
OUGHT: This word should not be watered down as though
it means the same thing as "should". It speaks not of something recommended but
of an obligation: we "owe it"; we "are bound to" (Diag).
BEAR WITH THE FAILINGS OF THE WEAK: In general, as Isa
53:11: Christ bearing the iniquities of mankind. More specifically here, the
word "bear" was used earlier when the apostle enjoined the Galatian believers to
"carry [bear] each other's burdens, and in this way... fulfill the law of
Christ" (Gal 6:2). Let the strong, then, bear the burden of the scrupulousness
of the weaker brethren. But if they do this in a spirit of mere resignation or
with the notion that this condescension marks them as superior Christians, it
will fail. When the strong bear with the weak, they must do it in love -- the
key to fulfilling the law of Christ.
AND NOT TO PLEASE OURSELVES: The temptation to be
resisted by the strong is the inclination to please themselves, to serve their
own self-interest. This is the very antithesis of love. For example, if a strong
brother were to indulge his liberty openly in the presence of a weak brother,
this would be labeled self-pleasing, for it would do nothing for the other but
grieve or irritate him.
In short, the weak need knowledge, and the strong need to
develop love. Paul was not saying that the strong must determine to put up with
the weak. He meant, 'Those of us who are strong must accept as our own burden
the tender scruples of the weak.'
EACH OF US SHOULD PLEASE HIS NEIGHBOR: Indeed, the
refusal to live a life of self-pleasing should characterize every believer,
whether strong or weak, and should extend beyond the narrow circle of
like-minded people. What is called for here is not a weak or indifferent
compliance with the wishes of others, but rather a determined adjustment to
whatever will contribute to the spiritual good of the other person. This is like
Paul's stated personal principle of making himself all things to all men in
order to win as many as possible to the Lord (1Co 9:19-23).
Paul was not saying that we should be "men-pleasers" and do
whatever anyone wants us to do simply because it will please them (ct Gal
1:10,19; 1Th 2:4). The principles of the gospel must never be given up to please
others, but matters of personal preference may -- and ought to -- be adjusted to
help the weak. In effect, we should not please others rather than God, but we
should please others rather than ourselves.
FOR HIS GOOD, TO BUILD HIM UP: The goal to be achieved
here is the good of the other person, his "edification" (cf Rom 14:19). This
leaves no room for anything like mere ingratiating, or
FOR EVEN CHRIST DID NOT PLEASE HIMSELF: For the first
time in this letter Paul holds Christ before his readers as an example. Christ
was faced with the same problem that continues to confront his followers. Should
they please themselves, go their own way, speak what people want to hear; or
should they resolve to be guided by their commitment to do the will of God?
Christ's own affirmation is recorded for us: "I always do what pleases [God]"
"I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (John 5:30).
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being found in
appearance [form, or status] as a man, humbled himself and became obedient to
death -- even death on a cross!" (Phi 2:5,8). "To this you were called, because
Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his
steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they
hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no
threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1Pe 2:21-23).
THE INSULTS OF THOSE WHO INSULT YOU HAVE FALLEN ON ME:
Cit Psa 69:9. Even in Israel, through the years, God's servants had suffered
reproach and insult when they attempted to warn their countrymen that their sin
and rebellion were inviting the judgment of God. The first half of Psa 69:9 is
quoted in John 2:17 in connection with the cleansing of the temple: "Zeal for
your house will consume me." To take up the cause of God fervently is to arouse
the passions of sinful men.
In Christ we can see the difference between a people pleaser
and a people lover. Sacrificing His own preferences for the welfare of others
did not make him acceptable to everyone, but it did make him acceptable to his
Father. In John 15:25 Jesus cites the same psalm (Psa 69:4), pointing out that
human hatred had dogged his steps, but unjustly. Nevertheless, Jesus did not
discontinue his faithful work, which was designed to help those around him. Paul
wants his readers to realize that similarly they are to seek the good of others
even when they are misunderstood or persecuted for doing so.
What does it really mean, to bear the griefs and sorrows of
another? As exemplified in Christ, it was more, much more, than a mechanical
"burden-bearing". It was a "living sacrifice", a way of life that denied the
lusts of the flesh within himself, while at the same time loving and striving
continuously for the well-being of his brethren who could not, or did not, so
deny themselves. And when they failed, and failed miserably, he bore with their
failures and never gave way to "righteous", condemning anger -- but only
expressed sorrow and gentle rebuke. Was there ever such a man? "For even Christ
pleased not himself" (Rom 15:3).
FOR EVERYTHING THAT WAS WRITTEN IN THE PAST WAS WRITTEN TO
TEACH US, SO THAT THROUGH ENDURANCE AND THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE SCRIPTURES WE
MIGHT HAVE HOPE: Paul used his reference to David's experience as an
occasion to comment on the usefulness of all OT Scripture. It provides
motivation for enduring and gives encouragement as we seek to remain faithful in
our commitment to do God's will. These Scriptures give us hope because in them
we see God's approval of those who persevered faithfully in spite of opposition
"My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your
mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your
neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over
you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this
teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life" (Pro
ENDURANCE: Gr "hupomone": an abiding, or holding up,
under something. The KJV "patience" is far too passive. "Endurance" is a much
better translation: it is active, and it requires strength.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Gr "paraklesis": includes the ideas of
comfort and exhortation, as well as encouragement.
" 'A nation unfamiliar with its history is condemned to live
it again.' This well-known quotation from George Santayana is certainly true: we
should study the past so that we can learn from the mistakes of those who have
"Paul tells us that, 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime
were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the
scriptures might have hope.' History does repeat itself, and the lesson we want
to learn from the past is to avoid the same pitfalls into which our forefathers
fell. If we continue to make the same mistakes as those who have gone before,
then we are not very wise, and we will have to suffer the same consequences.
Some mistakes are so costly that we cannot learn from our mistakes; for example,
little children need to learn not to play in the street because getting run over
is too high a price to pay for this mistake.
"Our young people may question why they must study history
because they think it is dry, boring and irrelevant in their lives. They
couldn't be more wrong. History is about real people who just happened to be
born before we were. History is being written every day, and the things
happening today will be found in tomorrow's history books.
"The greatest history book of all is the Bible, for it was
written by God about His people and tells us of His promises to them and to us.
Without this book we would know nothing of Adam and Eve. We would know that sin
existed but would not know why. We would know nothing of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob and therefore we would be ignorant of the promises. Paul tells us of those
who are strangers from the covenants of promise, and they are if they have not
read God’s history book. Other history books may help us to understand
things from God's point of view. Other history books tell us what has happened,
but only the Bible tells us what has happened AND what will happen. The Bible is
the only book that wrote history in advance, and it is the only book that offers
hope to a perishing world. What a pity it isn't read.
"It may be interesting to know the history of the French
Revolution or the pilgrims that settled New England, but it is essential to know
the history of Moses bringing God's people out of Egypt and the promise to David
of a son to sit on his throne. The one is nice to know, the other essential. It
is like bodily exercise compared to spiritual things. The former profits little
but the latter is 'profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that
now is, and of that which is to come.'
"If all the people who study ancient and not so ancient
history would only spend the same amount of time studying God's history it would
revolutionize their lives. Not only that, but instead of dying at 70 to 90 they
would have the promise of everlasting life in the history that is yet to come.
If all the people who jog five miles a day or work out 2 or 3 hours at the gym
would only spend the same amount of time in Bible study, they would have a mind
tuned to God -- which is more profitable than a well-tuned body. Bodily exercise
is not to be condemned unless it crowds godly exercise out of our life. Ancient
history is not to be condemned unless it crowds godly history out of our life.
Many things of themselves are not evil, but whatever takes us away from God and
His word is wrong. Let us not be unfamiliar with God's history, or else we be
condemned to the fate of those who lived before and died without hope"
MAY THE GOD WHO GIVES ENDURANCE AND ENCOURAGEMENT GIVE YOU
A SPIRIT OF UNITY AMONG YOURSELVES: The study of the Scriptures, along with
the help of God, can provide the strength to do what is right, in this as well
as in all things. And to do what is right does not come easy; to endure in doing
what is right requires special and continued effort. Unity among believers does
not just happen; it must be made to happen by continuing effort.
Is Paul referring to the God WHO GIVES endurance and
encouragement, or the God OF endurance and encouragement? Both AV and RSV favor
the second of these: "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you
to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that
together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ" (vv 5,6).
AS YOU FOLLOW CHRIST: Paul continues to emphasize the
role and the example of the Lord Jesus Christ in bringing about unity.
SO THAT WITH ONE HEART AND MOUTH YOU MAY GLORIFY THE GOD
AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: Though this unity will help the church
in its witness to the world, Paul is more interested here in its effect on the
worship of the people of God: that they might continue to glorify the God and
Father whom Jesus so wonderfully glorified.
"Our Father in heaven" (Mat 6:9); "Father of glory" or
"glorious Father" (Eph 1:17); "Father of compassion" (2Co 1:3); "Father of
spirits" (Heb 12:9); "Father of the heavenly lights" (Jam 1:17); "a Father to
you" (2Co 6:18); "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:6).
ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER: As he moves forward to the
conclusion of his treatment of the strong and the weak, Paul pauses to summarize
what he has already stated. This repeats the emphasis of Rom 14:1, where the
same verb occurs, but here the charge is directed to both groups rather than to
the strong alone.
JUST AS CHRIST ACCEPTED US: Us, strong and weak alike,
or Gentile and Jew alike.
TO BRING PRAISE TO GOD: The motivating factor, not
personal pride or personal satisfaction.
CHRIST HAS BECOME A SERVANT OF THE JEWS... TO CONFIRM THE
PROMISES MADE TO THE PATRIARCHS: Vv 8-10 expand the idea of Jesus Christ
accepting us. V 8 deals with his acceptance of Jews. He not only accepted Jewish
believers but came to serve the Jewish people, as the OT predicted, fulfilling
God's promise to the patriarchs (Mark 10:45; Mat 15:24; cf Rom 9:4,5; Gal 3:16).
Consequently the typically stronger Gentile believers should not despise their
sometimes weaker Jewish brethren.
CONFIRM: Make sure, establish, ratify.
Vv 9-12: In a massive effort to persuade Jewish brethren that
they should receive their Gentile brethren without scruple, Paul brings together
in these vv an overpowering assembly of proof-texts about the essential share
which Gentiles must have in Messiah's redemption.
THEREFORE I WILL PRAISE YOU AMONG THE GENTILES; I WILL SING
HYMNS TO YOUR NAME: this quotation (from Psa 18:49) pictures David as
rejoicing in God for his triumphs in the midst of the nations that have become
subject to him.
REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE: In Deu 32:43
(following the LXX rendering) Moses saw the Gentiles praising God, along with
their fellow-worshipers the Israelites. This would have encouraged Paul's Jewish
readers to accept their Gentile brethren.
Citing Psa 117:1. Whereas Paul anticipates the time when
Gentiles shall be joined with his people, Psa 117 puts Gentile believers BEFORE
Jews. Far from being an afterthought, then, the inclusion of Gentiles in the
hope of Abraham was a primary object of God all along! So why did not Paul
emphasize this even more in his argument? Would not this point have reinforced
considerably his campaign of preaching to the Gentiles? Presumably he omitted
this useful emphasis for tactical reasons. If the inference were to be drawn
that in his gospel Jews must finally take second place to Gentiles, what a vast
amount of psychological damage might result!
But it was right that Paul stress to his fellow Jews, to some
extent, the necessity that the gospel be preached to Gentiles.
"There has always been a reticence among men to take the
Gospel to those outside their immediate sphere. Israel had eyes only for
themselves and even when in early NT times the disciples were bidden to go into
all nations and to preach to all people they were loathe to do so: so much so
that God had to press them into action by special miracles, as is seen in the
Acts of the Apostles. Even today, when we are involved in preaching to all
people, the work is not entirely free from restraints of one kind or another"
ISAIAH SAYS, "THE ROOT OF JESSE WILL SPRING UP, ONE WHO
WILL ARISE TO RULE OVER THE NATIONS; THE GENTILES WILL HOPE IN HIM": Cit Isa
11:10, continuing the point of v 11.
MAY THE GOD OF HOPE FILL YOU WILL ALL JOY AND PEACE AS YOU
TRUST IN HIM: The God of hope is the God who inspires hope in and provides
hope for His redeemed ones. Christians can be joyful because of what God has
already done for us and is doing for us. We can also be peaceful as we realize
what He is doing for us now and what He will do for us in the future (Rom 5:2;
Peace: made (Col 1:20), preached (Eph 2:17), enjoyed (Rom
5:1), filling hearts (Rom 15:13), given (John 14:27), keeping (Phi 4:7), and
ruling (Col 3:15).
The gift of the Holy Spirit did not guarantee joy and peace:
cp Rom 12:6-8 with Rom 12:16-19.
Paul had been somewhat critical of the strong and the weak in
the Roman ecclesia (Rom 14:1--15:13). He now balanced those comments by pointing
out other strengths in the ecclesia beside the faith of his Roman brethren (Rom
GOODNESS: Moral virtue, one of the fruits of the Spirit
(Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9).
COMPLETE IN KNOWLEDGE: Fully instructed in the gospel
(cp Rom 6:17).
COMPETENT TO INSTRUCT ONE ANOTHER: "Let the word of
Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all
wisdom" (Col 3:16). "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle,
encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1Th
"Morally, they were 'full of goodness,' intellectually they
were 'complete in knowledge,' and functionally they were 'competent to instruct
one another' " (Mounce).
The apostle gave his readers credit for some knowledge of what
he had written in the foregoing chapters. Nevertheless they needed reminding --
as do all God's people.
Paul had a special obligation to this primarily Gentile
congregation (Rom 1:13), since God had sent him to minister to Gentiles
primarily. As a "priest" (cp Rev 5:10), it was his duty to bring people to God
with the gospel. He regarded the Gentiles who were coming to faith and growing
through his ministry as his special priestly offering to God.
SANCTIFIED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT: As esp manifested in
God's Word (John 6:63: 17:17).
I WILL NOT VENTURE TO SPEAK OF ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT CHRIST
HAS ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH ME: Although Paul might have reason to boast of his
service to God (v 17), he will give all glory to Jesus Christ (cp Gal
THE POWER OF SIGNS AND MIRACLES: These served to verify
the messenger of God and validate the message he brought. It was so in the
ministry of Jesus (Acts 2:22) and in that of the original apostles (Acts 5:12).
Paul is able to certify the same for himself (2Co 12:12).
FROM JERUSALEM ALL THE WAY AROUND TO ILLYRICUM, I HAVE
FULLY PROCLAIMED THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST: Paul's arena of ministry when he
wrote this epistle stretched about 1,400 miles from Jerusalem to the Roman
province of Illyricum. Illyricum lay on the east side of the Adriatic Sea
opposite Italy. This is modern northern Albania and Yugoslavia. There is no
record in Acts of Paul having gone there though he may have done so on the
second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9) or during the third journey (Acts
21:1,2). Paul's claim to have "fully" preached the gospel means that he had
faithfully proclaimed it in that area, not that he had personally delivered it
to every individual.
TO PREACH THE GOSPEL WHERE CHRIST WAS NOT KNOWN, SO THAT I
WOULD NOT BE BUILDING ON SOMEONE ELSE'S FOUNDATION: Paul expresses his
desire to shoulder the responsibility for blazing a trail for the gospel no
matter how great the cost to himself. He longed to preach "in the regions
beyond" (2Co 10:16). This man could not be an ordinary witness for his Lord.
Somewhat parallel is his insistence on preaching the gospel without charge,
supporting himself by the labor of his hands (1Co 9:18). V 20 should be taken in
close connection with vv 18,19 as providing a reason for the passing of so many
years without a visit to Rome: Paul had been fully occupied elsewhere.
THOSE WHO WERE NOT TOLD ABOUT HIM WILL SEE, AND THOSE WHO
HAVE NOT HEARD WILL UNDERSTAND: Paul felt deeply his obligation to confront
all men with the good news (Rom 1:14). This is confirmed by the quotation of Isa
52:15. Isaiah was a favorite source for Paul's quotations, esp the sections
dealing with the Servant of the Lord and his mission. This very preaching effort
of Paul was actually prophesied in the OT: this would be an enormous source of
comfort to the apostle.
THIS IS WHY I HAVE OFTEN BEEN HINDERED FROM COMING TO
YOU: Concluding this section of the letter is the observation that Paul's
delay in coming to Rome (cp Rom 1:8-13) was the result of his constant
preoccupation with preaching the gospel elsewhere. Now his readers will
understand why he has not come from Jerusalem, the holy city, directly to Rome,
the royal city, with the message of reconciliation and life in Christ.
Vv 23,24: The apostle felt that the believers in the areas
where he had preached were in a good position to carry on the proclamation of
the gospel in their territories. ("No more place to work" probably means: "no
more new or unbroken ground"... for surely there were plenty of other kinds of
work to be done in these developing areas.) At any rate, he now believed the
time was right to look to comparatively unreached fields farther to the west in
Europe (cf Rom 1:11,12).
SPAIN: Which Paul would see as the "Tarshish" of Isa
66:18,19. Parts of Spain (which in the ancient world included all the Iberian
peninsula) had been occupied by Rome since about 200 BC, but it was only in
Paul's lifetime that the Romans had fully organized the entire area.
Whether Paul actually reached Spain is not certain. The
strongest positive evidence is found in First Clement, a late first-century
writing: "He [Paul] taught righteousness to all the world, and when he had
reached the limits of the West he gave his testimony before the rulers, and thus
passed from the world." Spain would fit the description, "the limits of the
AND TO HAVE YOU ASSIST ME ON MY JOURNEY THERE: Not
necessarily by money (cp Acts 18:3; 1Co 4:12), but more likely by their
enthusiasm and encouragement (Acts 28:14,15).
Vv 25,26: The purpose of Paul's collection of money from the
Macedonian and Achaian churches was to relieve the poverty that existed among
the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. A secondary purpose was to cement relations
between Gentile and Jewish believers (cf 1Co 16:1-4; 2Co 8; 9).
MACEDONIA AND ACHAIA: In the NT Macedonia refers to the
northern portion of Greece, Achaia being the southern portion (Acts 19:21; Rom
15:26; 2Co 1:1; 1Th 1:7,8).
Macedonia was the land of the "Makedones", a territory in the
Balkan Peninsula, bordered on the west by Illyria, on the east by Thrace, and on
the south by Thessaly. Its mountainous terrain is cut by the rivers Axios
(modern Vardar) and Strymon (modern Struma), which flow into the Aegean from the
north. It is covered today by northern Greece, southern Yugoslavia, and the
southwestern corner of Bulgaria. The population was ethnically and
linguistically mixed. Here were Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.
By Claudius' direction, in AD 44 Achaia was governed by a
proconsul (eg, Gallio in Acts 18:12), appointed by the Roman senate; the emperor
governed his provinces through procurators. The chief cities of Achaia were
Athens and Corinth the capital with its seaport Cenchrea, although Sparta to the
south and Megara, Thebes, and Delphi to the north were famous from
TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION FOR THE POOR AMONG THE SAINTS IN
JERUSALEM: The Philippians, and perhaps others in Macedonia, were especially
commended in this regard (2Co 8:1-5).
CONTRIBUTION: Gr "koinonia": fellowship or sharing (see
also v 27).
The money that Paul was collecting was both a gift of love,
and an obligation. He could say that the givers owed it because the gospel had
come from Jerusalem and Judea to the Gentiles. Believers in Asia Minor also
contributed to this fund (1Co 16:1; Acts 20:4).
SHARED: From Gr "koinonia", literally a "fellowship" or
"Partakers" / "sharers": of root and fatness of olive tree
(Rom 11:17), of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of one bread (1Co 10:17), of
sufferings and consolation (2Co 1:7), of God's promise in Christ (Eph 3:6), of
inheritance of saints (Col 1:12), of heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), of Christ (Heb
3:14), of the benefit (1Ti 6:2), of the glory (1Pe 5:1), and of the divine
nature (2Pe 1:4).
"Such men sometimes think that they give all that is required
of them in giving money. This has been one of the great errors of Christendom,
the attempt to buy that which is "without money and without price". It is true
that the apostle Paul says something regarding spiritual and carnal things which
seems to suggest reciprocity in these matters. We must not put his teaching
upside down, however. He says that Gentiles who are partakers of Israel's
spiritual riches have a duty to minister in carnal matters. He certainly does
not suggest that carnal wealth can buy the spiritual treasures. The two kinds of
riches are on a different plane. The currency is different and there is no known
rate of exchange. The wealthy man who goes to his chapel with a feeling that he
can purchase anything and a readiness to give of his abundance if the service
pleases him, is not likely to receive any real spiritual food. He is not in the
right condition to appreciate it. Possibly husks please him best. If so he can
buy what he requires" (PrPr).
AFTER I HAVE COMPLETED THIS TASK AND HAVE MADE SURE THAT
THEY HAVE RECEIVED THIS FRUIT: Paul evidently anticipated the completion of
this project eagerly. The money given was "fruit" in that it was part of the
"harvest" of the gospel seed-sowing. Paul as "apostle to the Gentiles" evidently
wanted to bring it to the Jerusalem Christians, and affirm its integrity,
insuring that they understood it properly.
I WILL COME IN THE FULL MEASURE OF THE BLESSING OF
CHRIST: The blessing of Jesus Christ in view was God's blessing on Paul by
allowing him to reach Rome. The apostle probably also had in mind the blessing
that would come to the Romans through his ministry among them. He did not know
at this time that he would arrive in chains (Acts 28:15). Yet even that could be
a blessing (Phil 1:12-14)!
JOIN ME IN MY STRUGGLE BY PRAYING TO GOD FOR ME: He
realized that -- in view of the forces antagonistic to his ministry -- energetic
praying was necessary (cf v 31; Eph 6:18-20; 2Co 1:10,11).
STRUGGLE: Gr "sunagonizomai": to struggle in company
with, ie (figuratively) to be a partner (assistant) in the struggle. The root is
"agon", which suggests an athletic competition; it is an intense struggle (cp
Engl "agony"): "Our praying must not be a casual experience that has no heart or
earnestness. We should put as much fervor into our praying as a wrestler does
into his wrestling!" (Wiersbe).
He identified two immediate prayer requests. One was safety
from the opposition of hostile unbelieving Jews (cf Acts 9:29,30) and the
distrust of Jewish Christians. The other was that the Jewish Christians would
receive the monetary gift of their Gentile brethren. If they did not, the unity
of the body would be in jeopardy.
The granting of these two requests would hopefully contribute
to the realization of a third goal. This goal was Paul's joyful arrival in Rome
by God's will (Rom 1:10) and his refreshment in the fellowship of the Roman
THE GOD OF PEACE BE WITH YOU ALL: However strife-torn
may be Paul's lot in the immediate future, he wishes for his friends the
blessing of the God of peace (cp John 14:27; 17:21; Rom 15:13).