corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Duty of the strong to the weak, Romans 15:1-7.

1. Then—Rather, but. This particle marks the transition from the last paragraph (Romans 14:14-23) to the present. In the former paragraph the duty of the strong toward the weak is treated negatively; namely, requiring them to avoid injury, and specifically in regard to meats and drinks and days. In the present paragraph the duty is stated positively to bear the infirmities of the weak, and generally without limitation to any particular weaknesses. And this contradicts the assertion of Renan that this paragraph is a mere repetition.

Strong—Every Church may be divided into the many weak and the few strong. The few may be strong in faith, in talent, in wealth; and it is these generally who must manage to carry the Church along. The large body of the membership do not contemplate and study the interests of the Church as a whole; they gather in to be interested, perhaps to be profited, and to save their souls.

Infirmities—It is often easier for the strong to bear up and carry along the weakness of the weak rather than to endure their weaknesses, that is, their infirmities. Those infirmities are often vacillation, petulance, and strife.

Please ourselves— The desire to please ourselves is the weakness of the strong. They like to have their own way in the Church; not only because they think it best, but because it is their own way. The man of faith is liable to be overbearing in his zeal. The man of talent is sure that he understands the best methods.

The man of wealth expects to foot the bill, and so thinks that he should control the policy. And so all three may forget the command not to please ourselves.


Verse 2

2. To edification—That is, to building up both the individual and the Church. For this pleasing his neighbour must not be for a private, but for a public end; it must not terminate in merely the attainment of a personal popularity, but in the upbuilding of the common unity.


Verse 3

3. Even Christ—And the strong Christian has before him the mightiest of all models. Entirely transcendent in unselfishness was the birth, the life, the death of Christ.

WrittenPsalms 69:9. This is one of the psalms predictive of the sufferings of the Messiah, and it indicates the very summit of Christ’s history of unselfishness. Thee refers to God. It was the height of Christ’s unselfishness patiently to endure on the cross the insults of the reproachers of God.


Verse 4

4. For—Reason for adducing this example.

Written for our learning— The psalm is written for the very purpose of placing the highest example of self-sacrifice before our eyes.

Patience and comfort—Rather, patience and consolation. The graces needed by those who may endure the infirmities of others.

Of the Scriptures—Of these two graces the Scriptures are a fountain head, full of impressive examples and persuasive precepts and lessons.

Might have hope—Though these examples and lessons exact our sacrifice of self, it is not in a tone of severity and condemnation, but with a touching accent of consolation and the cheering inspiration of hope. Our endurance shall not be in vain; for the lesson of our great Exemplar, who pleased not himself, bids us to cherish a cheerful eye to the blessed recompense of reward.


Verse 5

5. Likeminded—From this mutual bearing with each other the apostle passes to its blessed result, the unity of the heart of the Church. For this he offers his prayer to the God whose qualities are the very patience and consolation which the Scriptures proffer to the enduring Christian.


Verse 6

6. One mind and one mouth glorify God—By this blessed unity wrought by the spirit of Christian endurance the Church becomes as one living person from whose single heart and voice God hears the song of glory.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—Who rejoiceth in the sanctity and unity of the Church bought with the blood of his Son.


Verse 7

7. Receive ye—Into your Christian communion as Christ received us into communion with the holy Trinity: (John 18:23,) “I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”


Verse 8

8. Minister of the circumcision—Born of the Abrahamic line, circumcised the eighth day, and limiting his ministry within the holy land, Christ was eminently a minister of the circumcision.

For the truth of God—His ministry was to establish the great truth of God that all nations should be gathered into the fold of the Church.

To confirm—That is, to make sure the promises of which the apostle will now adduce a few specimens.


Verses 8-14

Unity of Gentile with Jew in the Church, Romans 15:8-14.

The unity of the Church, derived from mutual forbearance, leads the apostle to touch finally upon that unity which forms the main argument of the epistle—the fusion of the Gentiles into the Abrahamic Church through Christ. This he confirms with a few quotations from the prophets and psalmists of old.


Verse 9

9. Written—(Psalms 18:49.) In these quotations the translators of the Old Testament have variously used the words nation, heathen, Gentiles, in the same meaning.


Verse 10

10. He saith—(Deuteronomy 32:43.)


Verse 11

11. And again—(Psalms 117:1.)


Verse 12

12. Again, Esaias—(Isaiah 11:1.) In the first of these passages Jehovah is confessed among the Gentiles; in the second and third the Gentiles are called upon to unite in praising Jehovah in unity with his Church; and in the third it is under the offspring of Jesse, in whom the Gentiles shall trust, that this oneness of both races in the Church shall take place.


Verse 13

13. Now—In view of this predictive unity I offer this prayer.

God of hope—To the God of hope he prays that they may abound in hope, both of the accomplishment of this predicted unity on earth, and of the perfected unity above.


Verse 13-14

13, 14. In these two verses the apostle, in view of this unity, prays for the Roman Church, and expresses his joyous trust in the excellence and perfectness of their Christian union.


Verse 14

14. Full of goodness—Not divided like the Galatian Church, not disgraced with vices like the Corinthian Church; but, in spite of some weakness of faith, blessed with a heart full of goodness.

Able also to admonish one another—Able to admonish, and, what was, perhaps, still more and still better, mutually able to accept each other’s admonitions. This emphatically required that spirit of bearing and forbearing which has formed the topic of the last chapter and of this chapter thus far.


Verse 15

15. In some sort—Or degree. The apostle’s apology specially applies to the ethical part of the epistle, in which he assumes to furnish them reminders of their duty on various points, and that, too, when he was neither founder of their Church, nor possessor of any local official authority, nor even an acquaintance to their main body.

Putting you in mind—Delicately assuming that they knew their duty and only needed reminders.

Because—The ground of his boldness is the apostolic grace conferred upon him. The same grace and apostleship (Romans 1:5) he has announced in his majestic exordium, and in announcing it in this conclusion he rises into a similar majesty.


Verses 15-21

II. PERSONAL CONCLUSION, Romans 15:15 to Romans 16:24.

1. Paul’s Epistolary boldness based on his Apostolic Mission, Romans 15:15-21.

His apology for his boldness, namely, his apostleship, well attested and broad spread over new grounds, (Romans 15:15-22.) His long hindered purpose of visiting Rome, he hopes, after finishing his charitable mission to Jerusalem, to accomplish as he takes his missionary journey to Spain, (Romans 15:23-29.) And he asks the prayers of his Roman brethren for his safety and success at Jerusalem in order that he may accomplish his joyous visit to Rome, (Romans 15:29-33.)


Verse 16

16. The minister—Rather, the priest. Being a different Greek word from that rendered minister in Romans 15:8 and elsewhere, it should have been differently rendered. By a grand figure the apostle here makes himself a priest under Christ the high priest, to perform a sacrifice in which the offering to God is the Gentile nations. There is a difference, important to be noticed, between a priest and a minister. A priest is a sacrificer and offerer of victims upon an altar; a minister of the New Testament is purely a preacher and a servitor for the spiritual interests of the people. The Church of Rome, which makes the appalling claim to sacrifice the real body of Christ on the altar in the mass, claims also that her minister is a priest. Whereas Protestantism maintains that Christ, having offered the final sacrifice once for all, (Hebrews 10:10,) is the sole and eternal priest of the new covenant. Yet as consecrating themselves a living sacrifice unto God the entire Church is in a figure not only a chosen generation, but a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9.)

To the Gentiles—As the twelve were specifically the apostles of the twelve tribes, so it is the stupendous mission of this one minister to be the apostle of all the nations of the earth. The bridge from one to the other is his living person. At the thought his imagination kindles as he seems to himself to be approaching the altar on which he shall consecrate the Gentile world through Christ to the living God.

Sanctified by the Holy Ghost— The victim upon the Jewish altar was fitted for the offering by salt or oil or frankincense. But this living offering is consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Verse 17

17. I may glory—Notwithstanding his denunciation of all boasting in the argument of the epistle, yet through Christ, St. Paul claims the right to boast, and to boast of what he had accomplished, yet claiming that Christ had wrought by him.


Verse 18

18. Not dare to speak—As some false boasters do.

Not wrought—He will not boast of conquests he has never really achieved.

Word and deed—Qualifying wrought.


Verse 19

19. Through—The sentence proceeds as if the previous verse affirmed what Paul had wrought.

We give the meaning in which commentators are so unanimous that we hardly dare specify a meaning spontaneously taken by our own mind from the words before reading a commentator. Let Romans 15:18 be read with a strong emphasis on not and the following meaning will arise: So great are the things wrought by Christ through me that I will scarce dare to say what he hath not wrought! And then no twist is required to make Romans 15:18-19 run uniform.

Signs—As evidences of a supernatural Christianity.

Wonders—To arouse the minds of the world.

So that—As he has just given the might and power of his mission work, so now he traces its geographical extent. Jerusalem and round about Jerusalem. The English translators seem to understand by κυκλω, in circle, the sort of geographical curve described by the apostle’s missions from Jerusalem to Illyricum. It more probably means his first circuiting around the region of Jerusalem. (Acts 9:28.)

Unto Illyricum—(See note on Acts 17:9.) Had the apostle prosecuted his westward career from Thessalonica he would have soon gone into Illyricum, which was the next province.


Verse 20

20. Have I strived—The translators seem to have covered up a Greek word they did not like, φιλοτιμουμενον, being ambitious, or making it a point of honour, as if there could not be a holy ambition inspired by God’s Spirit in the proper breast to fulfil a heroic mission. It was Paul’s divine work, for which he was fitted by both grace and nature, to be a founder. Never did he envy another man his work or his territory. He knew the field was wide, and the occupancy of any part by another was a signal to him that there were plenty of blanks elsewhere for him to fill. It was for a Paul to plant, for others to water.


Verse 21

21. Written—(Isaiah 52:15.) The whole chapter describes the Messiah, and the passage quoted describes the preaching of his name to new regions.

To whom—The sense will be clearer if those is placed before to whom.

They that have not heard—A sublime surprise at the strange announcements of the blessed Gospel shall come upon the Gentiles. It was the gladness and glory of the apostle to be the announcer and surpriser.


Verse 22

22. For which cause—From his being occupied in heralding the unheard of Gospel in new regions. Rome had no claim to be a new land.


Verses 23-33

2. His long-hindered visit to Rome will be on his way to Spain, Romans 15:22-33.

23. No… parts—Corinth and southern Greece, where the apostle now was, had become old. Nay, by the whole east rumours of Christ had been heard. The apostle must look to the far West for virgin soil.


Verse 24

24. Nothing less will do than a journey into Spain—Says Lange upon the passage: “As ancient Spain embraced the whole Pyrenean peninsula, it undoubtedly has for the apostle the still further significance of a symbol of the whole West extending beyond Rome. To him Spain meant the Western world. But Spain itself was a proper object, because there the two preliminary conditions of missionary labour already existed—Jews and Jewish synagogues, and Grecian and Roman civilization.”

That his purpose of a journey into Spain (fully promised in Romans 15:28) was accomplished commentators doubt. If at all, it took place between his first and second imprisonment, if two there were. But we may here note that no commentator supposes that the non-fulfilment of these words is any disparagement to their inspiration. And this may indicate that even a similar mistake with regard to the coming of our Lord in his own day would be no such disparagement. (See our sup. note, vol. i, p. 301. See also Alford on Romans 13:11.)

Come to you—Rome then was an incident, a stopping place by the way. He had no ambition to be a metropolitan Bishop or preacher even in the metropolis of the civilized world. It is the call for the Gospel in the distant West that draws his soul.

Somewhat filled—Partly satisfied. A delicate hint that it was no want of love that prevented his dwelling with them. He hoped only to be partly satiated with the society of his Roman friends, and then for the broad fields of Spain!


Verse 25

25. Now his face is directly the opposite way.


Verse 27

27. Spiritual… carnal—or secular. The apostle gave his services to the Church, but he fully believed that the minister was as truly entitled to his compensation as the attorney or the carpenter. It may be his duty to God to go; but man has no right to claim his services for nothing. It is doubtless a great injustice that pays the merchant and the politician a fortune, but pays to the teacher and preacher a pittance on which he painfully economizes in mid-life with a prospect of penury in age.


Verse 28

28. Sealed—Secured to them as if with a seal. So, says Chrysostom, kings were accustomed to place a seal upon their treasury as a firm security.


Verse 29

29. Fulness of the blessing of Christ—Best reading omits of the Gospel.

(See note on Romans 1:11.)


Verse 30

30. Your prayers—Solemn fore-boding already existed in the apostle’s heart in view of his journey to Jerusalem. (See notes on Acts 21:1; Acts 21:13.) No prescience was bestowed by inspiration what the result would be. Yet protected he would feel himself if he knew that he went forth panoplied in the prayers of his Roman brethren. He might be on the shores of Syria, and they in the prayer room at Rome, but no distance could affect the power of their faithful and living intercession. Prayer is a telegraph that disregards space.


Verse 31

31. Do not believe—His presentiment of danger was from unbelievers; his fear of nonacceptance was from the Jerusalem Church. The last fear, through the prayers, doubtless, of himself and fellow Christians, was obviated; the former was terribly yet graciously verified.


Verse 33

33. God of peace—In the midst of these scenes of strife and danger.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 15:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-15.html. 1874-1909.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology