Dan Popp
It takes all kinds
Romans: The most important book ever written
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By Dan Popp
June 29, 2011

The opening of Romans 15 is actually the summation of what Paul has been saying since Chapter 12: Although we've received the gifts of repentance, faith, rightness and eternal life as individuals, we'll be living out those gifts as members of a body. And that will require plenty of accommodation of others.

Chapter 15

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. [KJV] ...Those of us who have a robust conscience must accept as our own burden the tender scruples of weaker men, and not consider ourselves. [NEB]

Paul includes himself and his readers in the we who understand and believe that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink (14:17). The principle that applies to food and other matters of conscience, applies to everything: Others First.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good. to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." [ESV] ...The abuses of those who abused you fell on me. [Ber]

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction [NRSV]


Those Old Testament scriptures are still "profitable/helpful/useful" — for what? "For teaching." (2 Tim. 3:16) For our learning. The Bible is not a random collection of proof-texts for scoffers, nor of happy promises for believers. It is a book to be studied. I dare to hope that our meetings of the Romans Book Club have helped a few people learn how to learn from God's Word.

that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [KJV] ...hold fast to our hope [TCNT]

This is the hope we read about in Chapter 5: Not a wish, but a firm connection to Truth.

Now may the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [NKJV] ...with one accord and one voice... [NASB] ...that you may unite in a chorus of praise... [Mof]

In a word, accept one another as Christ accepted us, to the glory of God. [NEB]


Other translations give this as receive or welcome one another. It amplifies and completes what Paul began at Romans 14:1; receive him who is weak in faith. When the Pharisees snorted at Jesus, "This man receives sinners!" (Luke 15:2), they were unintentionally praising one of His greatest attributes. And God receives glory when sinner-saints receive each other in His name.

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, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy, as it is written...[NASB]

The Kingdom is so inclusive that even Jews and Gentiles are now brothers in it. The salvation of the Jews shows God's truth, His honesty. The root of this Greek word means, "unconcealed." His faithfulness to the Jews over thousands of years is certainly manifest to the whole world. But Yahweh cut no covenant with the Gentiles; His rescue of the heathen demonstrates His mercy.

These two things in combination — truth and mercy — seem to be a kind of signature of God. "Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Ps 85:11 NKJV) He alone could be just, and yet the justifier of the unjust. (see Rom. 3:26b)

Skipping to the end of verse 12:

On Him shall the Gentiles hope. [ASV]

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [NASB] ...that your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope. [Phi]


In the previous chapter, Paul famously wrote that the kingdom of God is...righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Here again are joy and peace, and even the Spirit. But where is righteousness? It's where it always is: in faith. And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace by your faith in him, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you overflow with hope. [NEB]

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. [NASB]


To support an old argument of mine, here's another example of Paul's use of the word all that clearly doesn't mean, "without exception." Is he flattering the Roman Christians in this verse? No, I think he's acknowledging that his preceding thesis on rightness is not new information to them.

Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. [NRSV]

This mirrors his introduction: ...Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.... (1:4b,5a NASB)

My priestly service is the preaching of the gospel of God, and it falls to me to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit. [NEB]

The psalmist had penned, "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations [that is, the Gentiles] as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession.' " (Psalm 2:7,8 NASB) Those living in the first century were beginning to see this prophecy come true.

Obviously, ministering as a priest the gospel of God [NASB] is a metaphor, like the sacrifice. "There is no trace of an order in the new Christian society, bearing the name and exercising functions like those of the priests of the older Covenant. The idea which pervades the teaching of the Epistles is that of a universal priesthood." — Smith's Bible Dictionary

Paul's office is that of Apostle, as everyone knows. But in his day, not everyone did know. He was occasionally challenged, and in several of his letters he doesn't shrink from showing his credentials.

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience — by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God — so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. [ESV] ...I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. [KJV]

We've tasted Paul's word here in his letter to the Romans, but an apostle was also required to have deeds. Supernatural deeds. "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance," he told the Corinthians, "by signs and wonders and miracles." (2 Cor. 12:12)

This seems like a good place to break. As preachers often do today, Paul has begun his Conclusion long before the final Amen, which means there is still good stuff to come in the most important book ever written.

© Dan Popp

 

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