Monday, September 11, 2006

The Romans 15 Preview

Romans 15 can be split down the middle to conclude Paul's primary teaching and begin his teaching conclusion. If that's not confusing enough, we'll study this chapter next Tuesday, September 19. Here is the text with some things to consider:

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on Me.’ [Psalm 69:9]

Do you consider yourself strong or weak? Notice, as we discussed in chapter 14, that we should strive to build one another up as opposed to tearing one another down. God is able to make us stand. And Jesus Christ serves as our great role model in this endeavor. He strived to build up those around Him. He did not strive to please Himself. But consider this: He will be pleased in the end. "For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2).

4For 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.

What a great thing to consider that "everything written in the past was written to teach us." 2 Timothy 3:16 supports this wonderful truth: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." The Scriptures are the means by which the Holy Spirit encourages us to endure in hope.

5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Verse 4 told us that the Scriptures encourage us to endurance; here in verse 5, it is God Himself who does that. John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Word is God, so it makes sense that both the Word and God Himself work in us for encouragement and endurance to hope. Paul hopes and prays for unity among believers, unity among the Body of Christ. We talked about this in chapter 14 as well. Unity hear is more like unanimity. We need to be unanimous - one heart, one mouth, stemming from one mind. For what purpose? The glory of God.

8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews [or circumcision] on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to Your name.’ [2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 18:49] 10Again, it says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.’ [Deuteronomy 32:43] 11And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to Him, all you peoples.’ [Psalm 117:1] 12And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, One who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in Him.’ [Isaiah 11:10] 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul reminds us once again of his teaching from Romans 9-11. He quotes 4 Old Testament passages to confirm that Jesus came to fulfill the promises made to the Jewish patriarchs in order that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy. Wow! Thank God for Paul's teaching. Verse 13 concludes Paul's primary teaching in his letter to the Romans. Fittingly, it is a prayer. May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace so that you overflow with hope. Hope leads to hope. We touched on that in Romans 5:1-11 and elsewhere.

14I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.

Paul shifts gears beginning in verse 14. He is beginning his conclusion with 4 points, and let's make them all start with the letter "e". His first point is an estimation of the Roman believers. And under this point, he notes 3 things about them. They are (1) full of goodness, (2) complete in knowledge, and (3) capable of teaching one another. Paul's second point is an explanation of his writing so boldly. None of us can deny that Paul's letter to the Romans is filled with boldness. The reason for this is to bring sanctification. Neither God nor Paul are satisfied with justification. We learned in our study of Romans 6-8 that justification and sanctification go hand-in-hand. Paul's third point is to exult in God for working through him. Paul was successful, but his success was solely based on the grace of God for the glory of God. And fourth, Paul evangelized throughout the region. He had covered a huge territory - 1400 miles from one end to the other. He had run the race marked out for him. Again, thank God for Paul.

20It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21Rather, as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’ [Isaiah 52:15] 22This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. 23But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

Adding a fifth "e" to the above 4 points, we could also say that Paul expedited his travel plans. Remember from Romans 1 that Paul had long desired to come to preach the Gospel in Rome. He had been kept from Rome by the Holy Spirit, and he was okay with that. But now that his territory evangelism has been completed, he wants to visit Rome not as an "end" (as it seemed to be in chapter 1), but as a "means" to the "end." He wants to stop by Rome on his way to Spain for several reasons - mutual refreshment, prayer, and financial support. And Paul says that he "will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." That means he's going to show the Roman believers Jesus Christ. They hadn't seen Jesus, but they were about to - in the person of the apostle Paul. Wouldn't it be great if we could say that to one another!?!

30I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Paul's final request - actually a command - of the believers in Rome: PRAY! He urges them to join him in his struggle. He asks for their prayers in 3 things: that he would be rescued from the unbelievers in Jerusalem, that his service to the saints there would be acceptable, and that he would get to come to Rome by the will of God. Did those 3 things come to pass? Acts 21:17 through the end of chapter 28 gives us the answers, and we'll talk about it Tuesday. Lastly, notice Paul's benediction: "May the God of peace be with you." What a wonderful thing for someone to say! It's even more wonderful when the statement is said by someone who knows God like Paul and means it as sincerely as Paul does.

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