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Mutual Love and Forbearance Enjoined
Summary —The Strong Must Bear with the Weak. Not to Seek to Please Ourselves. Christ Did Not. As Christ Received Us, So We Should Receive Each Other. Christ the Savior of Both Jews and Gentiles. Paul's Apostleship. His Work Among the Gentiles. His Purpose to Visit Rome.
1–3. We that are strong. In the last chapter Paul contrasts the strong and the weak. The first are those, like himself, who know that no kind of food “is unclean of itself,” and are emancipated from Jewish prejudices. These strong ones are to bear with the “infirmities of the weak,” as has been enjoined in the preceding chapter. The lesson is a practical one of all ages. 2. Let every one please his neighbor. We are not to seek to please ourselves, but to please others. Nor are we to seek to please them for our own selfish purpose, as is often the case, but for their good to edification, with a view to their good and upbuilding in Christ. 3. For even Christ pleased not himself. Our duty to others is enforced by the example of Christ. He forgot himself in his work of saving men. So ought we to do. As it is written. In Psalm 69:9. The passage affirms that the Messiah, instead of pleasing himself, became the subject of “the reproaches of them who reproached” his Father.
4–6. For whatsoever things were written. The passage just quoted applies to Christ, and all things written in the Old Scriptures are for our instruction. Learning. Instruction. Might have hope. The purpose of the Scriptures is to impart a present blessed hope through the patience and the comfort they impart to those who suffer for God. 5. Grant you to be like-minded one toward another. The apostle does not pray that they may be of the same opinion, but that there be harmony of feeling. According to Christ Jesus. Let each be so conformed to Christ that all may be of one mind. See Phil. 2:5. 6. That ye may with one mind, etc. That being in full accord you may with one voice (mouth) utter the praises of God.
7–12. Wherefore receive ye one another. Let the strong receive the weak, all receive each other into full fellowship, even as “Christ has received us.” To the glory of God. All must be done so as to glorify God. So Christ hath done. 8. Now I say. Rather, “For I say.” The work of Christ is given to show the spirit we ought to have. A minister of the circumcision. Christ became a minister of the circumcision; that is, a Jew, of the seed of Abraham, for the truth of God. The Scriptures had declared that he would be of the seed of Abraham. To confirm the promises. Had he not been of the circumcision, the promises would not have applied to him. 9. That the Gentiles might glorify God. It was a part of this plan, all the while, that Christ, “born under the law,” should save the Gentiles, and enable them to glorify God for his mercy to them. As it is written. Various passages from the Old Testament are now quoted to show God's purpose to give the gospel to the Gentiles. For this cause, etc. This quotation is from Psalm 18:49, and implies that God shall be confessed, and his praises sung among the Gentiles. 10. Rejoice, ye Gentiles, etc. This is found in Deut. 32:43, and is a direct command to Gentiles to worship with the Lord's people. 11. Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles. This command to the Gentiles, still clearer and stronger, is found in Psalm 97:1. 12. Again Isaiah saith. The quotation that follows is from Isaiah 11:10, a chapter which is throughout a prediction of Christ and his kingdom. Jesse, the father of David, was an ancestor of Jesus. The passage quoted shows very clearly that Christ was to be the Savior of the Gentiles.
13–16. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy. Paul has quoted from Isaiah, “In him shall the Gentiles hope,” and follows it by a prayer that the God who has given them the blessed hope may fill them with joy and peace, so that they may abound in hope. The hope we have in Christ is the source of a great part of our joy. 14. Filled with all knowledge. Compare 1 Cor. 8:1; 7:10, 11. It is evident that the knowledge of spiritual truth, professed by the strong in faith, is meant. Able also to admonish one another. Therefore having less need of the admonition of the apostle. 15. Nevertheless, brethren. Though they were able to admonish each other, he has written to them boldly and plainly, as was his right, because of the grace, the apostleship to the Gentiles, given him of God. 16. That I should be a minister to the Gentiles. This is the grace just referred to. Ministering. The Greek reads, “Ministering in sacrifice.” The figure is that of Paul, as a priest, bringing the converted Gentiles as offerings, which are placed upon the altar of God and dedicated to his service. This offering, the Gentiles, is made acceptable through the gospel, they being sanctified, set apart, by the Holy Spirit. See Rom. 8:1, 2.
17–21. I have therefore whereof I may glory. Because of his wonderfully successful ministry among the Gentiles. Yet he glories not in himself, but only through Jesus Christ. See 1 Cor. 15:31. In those things which pertain to God. In his ministry as an apostle of Christ. 18. I will not dare to speak, etc. The meaning is: “I will not dare to speak of the signs of grace and the work of others, but only of the mighty works of God hath wrought through me to make the Gentiles obedient.” 19. Through mighty signs and wonders. This describes what extraordinary help had been given—the power to work miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So that from Jerusalem, and around about unto Illyricum. Jerusalem was near the southeast corner of the Mediterranean; Illyricum lay north of Greece, on the Adriatic, so that his gospel labors had embraced a circuit clear around the east and northeast shores of the sea. 20. Yea, so have I strived to preach. He declares the fixed policy of his ministry not to preach where Christ had been heard, but in new fields. Where other apostles or evangelists had laid a foundation, he did not seek to build. Compare 2 Cor. 10:12–16. As no apostle or great evangelist had yet visited Rome, his letter to the Romans was no violation of his principle. 21. But as it is written. In Isaiah 52:15. The passage declares that God's name shall be carried where it was unknown; hence, Paul's course was in harmony with the will of God.
22–24. For which cause I have been much hindered. The greatest hindrance to his coming to Rome hitherto was the duty of preaching in places where Christ was unknown. 23. But now having no more place in these parts. Everywhere around the eastern Mediterranean the name of Christ had been preached, so that churches were formed in all the chief cities. Hence, Paul wished to seek new fields. Having a great desire … to come unto you. See Rom. 1:11, and Acts 19:21. 24. Whensoever I take my journey into Spain. It was his purpose to go to Spain as a new field. The New Testament does not record that he ever carried out this purpose, though it is the testimony of the early church that he did. To see you in my journey. He only intended to stop for a season, in passing through, for the reason that there was already a church there. God willed that it should be otherwise.
25–27. Now I go unto Jerusalem, etc. See Acts 20:3, for account of the undertaking of this journey. Also Acts 24:17. He is going to Jerusalem to minister to the poor saints. 26. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia, etc. Concerning the contribution, see 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:1, and 9:2. Certain contribution. The Greek word is the same rendered fellowship in Acts 2:42. 27. Their debtors they are. It pleased these Gentile Christians to help those at Jerusalem, and, besides, they were under obligation to them, for the church at Jerusalem was the center from which the gospel had been spread abroad.
Why the need of this contribution for the church at Jerusalem? This is often asked. (1) Because it was mainly composed in the start of the poor. (2) Because it had undergone persecution, and this always impoverishes, not only because members are spoiled of their goods, but because they are driven from their employments. Hence, this church, at the center of conflict, and with a great number of poor, had need of the aid of the saints elsewhere, where they were more favored with the worldly blessings.
28, 29. When therefore I have performed this. As soon as he has discharged this office, it is his purpose to start to Spain, and to take Rome in on the way. Sealed to them this fruit. Made this contribution safe to them. What is sealed is made secure. 29. I am sure that, when I come. He assures them that his coming will be full of blessing to them in Christ. Godet says, with force, “Would a forger of this epistle, in the second century, have drawn a picture of the future so opposite to the way in which things really came to pass?” These allusions to his future movements are positive proof that this was written before Paul was a prisoner.
30–33. Now I beseech you, etc. This urgent request of the apostle for his brethren's prayers, shows a strong confidence in their faith and devotion. Compare verse 29. 31. That I may be delivered. Paul knew too well the bitter hostility of the Jews to him, and that his visit to Jerusalem would be beset with dangers. He goes there with some forebodings. See Acts 20:22, and 21:13. And that my service … may be accepted of the saints. We learn from Acts 21:21, that the Jewish brethren looked with great prejudice on Paul's work among the Gentiles, and that various rumors were circulated among them. 32. That I may come, etc. Three things he desires through their prayers: (1) That he may be delivered from his Jewish enemies; (2) be cordially received by his Jewish brethren; (3) come unto them with joy by the will of God. He did come to Rome, submissive to the will of God, but not “in joy,” though no doubt God was with him and “refreshed” him. 33. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Asking their prayers, it was but natural that he should ask God to bless them. Compare other benedictions, in 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23.
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