Romans 15 study notes

Chapter 15 begins with a continuation of Chapter 14 but leads to new aspects and new depths of the believer’s spiritual life. These instructions are finished at verse 7.

From verse 8, apostle Paul once again tells us that Jesus Christ has come to fulfill solvation for both Jews and Gentiles. It is a summary with an emphasis. He also talks about his personal circumstances and gives salutations.

“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15.1.

In Christ, we are called to wear the righteousness of God, and this is the basics of our salvation. But in Christ, we are further called to bear the weakness and even wrongs of others.

We wear God’s righteousness as we received it as a gift, and have no reason to complain about it (only the unsaved see God’s righteousness as a burden instead of a blessing). But we also bear the weakness and even wrongs of our fellow brothers and sisters by God’s command, and only in maturity do we see such burden not as a reason to complain, but a reason to give thanks for an opportunity to fellowship with our Lord and his people.

Not to please ourselves. “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good… For even Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, ‘THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME.’” Romans 15.2-3.

“…that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Rom 15.6-7.

The idea of treating others fairly and even make sacrifice for the sake of others is a basic element of human ideals including moral teachings and most religions. However, if we are seeing only human ideas in Chapter 15 of Romans, we are missing the truth.

There are two fundamental differences between what is taught in Chapter 15 of Romans and what is taught in moral teachings and religious teachings.

The first difference lies in their entirely different purposes. The second difference relates to what actually empowers a person to accomplish what he has been taught to do.

Concerning the purpose, most moral teachings are usually meant for the good of the society, while most religious teachings are usually meant for edification and enlightenment of one’s self. There is nothing wrong with the idea of the betterment of the society, nor the idea of being edified and enlightened. They are just not the ultimate truth.

Concerning the empowerment, the problem with human ideals is not only that it is incomplete but more important, it can never be actually accomplished. Something that can never be accomplished isn’t merely an ideal that’s unfortunately too high to achieve, but in fact a lie.

But the Word of God is not an ideal. The Word of God is truth with a purpose. God’s purpose is to bring people into His glory so that the purpose of our living is both united and realized in His glory. This is not merely a much higher purpose but more important a purpose with truth, because this purpose is guaranteed to be accomplished by the Almighty God.

It is with this purpose that God commands us to love each other, to bear with each other, and to come into one accord in Jesus Christ. The purpose of doing all that is not a mere means to just solve our social problems or to regulate our social relationships, nor is it a social redistribution program for the sake of balancing people’s resources so that the strong is not too strong and the weak is not too weak.

We are given different gifts and different resources in our temporary lives. But God calls His people into a unified purpose to glorify Him. This is done on earth by God’s people living together, bearing with each other and loving each other. It is in this process that the temporal meets the eternal and finds the meaning of life intended by its Maker with no partiality.

A dear brother in the Lord once confided how difficult and unreasonable one of his siblings is. Every complaint of the brother was more than justified because his sibling was indeed not only less capable, but in fact irresponsible, inconsiderate and even selfish, a family member who seems to contribute more trouble and burdens that help. The brother made much sacrifice both financially and emotionally for the sake of this sibling.

But after pouring out all the hard feelings with sufferings he was made to experience, the brother summarized by saying: “but I have no way to escape, because he is my brother and I am his keeper.”

Now what the brother said captures the essence of family love. In the society, people seek for fairness. But in the family, it is not about fairness but about love in destiny. “Life is never fair” — Without love, this is a cynical statement. But with love, this is just family reality without bitterness.

So is God’s family, in fact even more so because this family is for eternity. We are destined to love each other. So how can we complain about bearing with each other?

Let us not seek to please ourselves, because seeking to please one’s self will never be satisfying nor will it ever be actually achieved. For “even Christ did not please Himself.”

In the rest of chapter 15 of Romans, apostle Paul once again presented the gospel in whole to both Jews and Gentiles. To the Jews, Paul once again emphasized that Jesus came not to invalidate but to actually confirm the promise God made to their forefathers. To the Gentiles, Paul quotes passages from Deuteronomy (that is to say, from the Law), from the Psalms, and from the Prophets to show that God had Gentiles in His heart even while he dealt with the Israel in the past. But at the same time, Paul again demonstrates the contrast and difference between Jews and Gentiles. The former was the subject of the truth in law, the latter became the subject of the truth in grace.

But the truth is one.

Starting from verse 13, Paul leaves the exposition of the general truth regarding the gospel and personally turns to the Romans who are the direct audience of his letter. He showed affection for them. He expressed confidence in their faith. He humbly admits that some words he spoke to the Romans may seem to be bold, but he nonetheless relies on the grace of God given to him to speak such words in truth.

But Paul’s apologetic attitude toward Romans isn’t meant to gain any praise by Romans to him as a personal advantage, but to solidify and guard the authority and the effectiveness of the ministry he received from the Lord. It is all about the service to Christ and work of God, and not about the servant himself. And although he now speaks to both Jews and Gentiles, his ministry is about Gentiles primarily because that is what he was commissioned by his Lord Jesus Christ to do.

“That I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15.16.

It is not exactly clear in what sense Paul is referring to by “offering of the Gentiles” (i.e., whether it is “offering made by Gentiles” or “Gentiles presented as an offering”), but in the real spiritual sense, there is no distinction. We are all presented to God as an offering, and like in the Old Testament an offering had to be “proper” in order to be acceptable to God, today an offering must also be “proper” in order to be acceptable to God. An essential property of an acceptable offering to God is sanctification by the Holy Spirit.  Nothing can be acceptable to God unless sanctified by the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit sanctifies nothing outside of Jesus Christ; and nothing outside of Jesus Christ is acceptable, much less desirable, to God.

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