NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lesson VIII)
On the subject of brothers and sisters in Christ treating one another with respect, Robert Haldane first points out that this does not mean to pity them or feel sorry for them. Rather, it means that believers are to accept one another into their fellowship because Christ has accepted them into His fellowship. Christ receives, and has received, all who believe the truth even in the simplest manner. He accepts those who have the lowest degree of faith in Him. That’s why He listened passionately to the burdened father with the afflicted son, who said, “Lord, I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” Christ receives those who have not been taught many things, especially how to have faith in Him. The most ungodly are saved by Him the moment they believe; Christians are received by Him even after making many mistakes and not following His will all times. Yet, He is willing to forgive and be reconciled with them. So the question now becomes this: If Christ still gives His attention to people in spite of their ignorance in not following His will and doing things their way, ought we not then do the same for our fellow believers no matter how uncomfortable and time-consuming it may be?
Charles Hodge makes the point that when Paul says to the Gentile believers in Rome that they should receive one another as Christ also received us, he could have said, “you should receive the Jews.” This would have made it clearer that he was exhorting the Gentile converts not to be impatient with their Jewish members. After all, even though they were Gentiles and not part of the commonwealth of Israel, Christ had received them too. Perhaps Paul was giving a hint to the Gentile church members that he was converted as a Jew. Then Christ appointed him as an Apostle to the Gentiles. So in a way, Paul was saying, “accept us,”
On the subject of how our receiving one another as Christ received us brings glory to God, Albert Barnes notes that Paul makes it clear here that God redeemed us, called us, chose us, sanctified us, and empowered us in order to promote His honor and glory. So now, it’s our turn to promote His honor and glory. Just as Christ has received us in order to promote the glory of God, so we ought to treat one another in the same fashion for the same reason. The exhortation in this verse is directed to a congregation that before their conversion was totally divided on all points pertaining to Jewish rites, rituals, and regulations. Yet, Christ received both groups equally. So in order to enforce this spirit of fellowship between the Jews and Gentiles, Paul proceeds to show, in the ensuing verses, that Christ made reference to both groups in His ministry. He shows this in reference to the Jews Romans 15:8 and to the Gentiles Romans 15:9-12. Thus, he illustrates his argument by using the work of Christ.
On the subject of Christ’s acceptance of us and how we, in turn, should be accepting of others, Frédéric Godet believes that the compassionate welcome which Christ has given to all the members of His royal Body ought to be perpetually reproduced in the welcome of goodwill and tenderness which they give one to another in all their relationships in life. And if there is some concession to make, some disagreement to overcome, some difference of opinion to allow, or some injury to forgive, one thing ought to help us surf the waves of such inconveniences, is this: We are doing this for the glory of God, who received us in grace through Jesus Christ. Mutual love ought to reign supremely in a church wholly composed of the Lord’s beloved.
On Paul’s request that the believers in Rome be open and willing to fellowship unconditionally with one another in the same way Christ provided their being able to fellowship with our Father in heaven, Charles Spurgeon explains that Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, or because He could see no fault in us, or because His kindness would cause us to serve Him out of obligation. Absolutely not! It was in spite of our faults, failures, and hopeless condition He welcomed us as His children without our having to prove we were good enough to deserve such an honor. It is in this same manner, and with the same purpose, that we should receive one another.
H. A. Ironside sums up this portion of Chapter 15 by noting that Paul closes this section with a prayer that the God of patience and assurance will help the saints to become of one mind toward each other. And if they all followed the blessed example of Christ, which he cited, it would unite them in glorifying God, even the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Mind and heart must be in agreement for us to testify that we are saved. And so he exhorts them to receive one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God. If Christ embraced us in grace – whether weak or strong – to make us ready to glorify our Father in heaven, surely we can be cordial and Christ-like in our fellowship one with another. Again, it is not a question of accepting converts into the Christian family that is the point here, but the recognition of those already in the family.
On the subject of Paul’s encouragement to be receptive to fellow believers in Christ, John Stott sees what Paul says here as the result of a long, thoroughly reasoned argument involving practical theology about the strong and weak. We find it sandwiched between two cries: Accept them in Romans 14:1, and Accept one another in Romans 15:7. Both are addressed to the whole congregation, although the first request urges the church to welcome the weak brother or sister, while the second urge all church members to welcome each other. Both Paul’s reasoning also involved doctrinal theology. The weak believer is to be accepted since God has already accepted them, and the members are to welcome each other just as Christ accepted all of us. Moreover, Christ’s acceptance of us was also in order to bring praise to God. The entire credit for the welcome we have received goes to Him who took the initiative through Christ to reconcile all of us to Himself and to each other.”
15:8 What I’m telling you is that Christ became a servant of the Jews to show that God has done what He promised their great ancestors.
Paul now focuses on the important role Jews were given as a channel through which the Good News would reach around the world, telling even the non-Jews that they too were included in the promise to Abraham of becoming right with God. But what was happening in the church at Rome is something that has haunted the body of Christ and continues to this day. That is, people set their eyes on the historical past instead of the spiritual present and find it hard to accept that the Jews did anything good for the Gospel of Christ. But Jesus made it clear that He was initially sent to bring the good news to the chosen descendants of Abraham before it would spread to the rest of the human race.
The Jews had this concept that the coming of the Messiah would result in the in-gathering of all exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end to wickedness, sin, and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service. But Jesus put it this way: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve — and to give His life as a ransom for many.” This was the message of Peter and John in the Temple: “It is to you first that God has sent His servant whom He has raised up, so that He might bless you by turning each one of you from your evil ways.” And when Jesus did not follow that pattern, John tells us that they rejected Him as being the Messiah they expected. This was echoed by Paul and Barnabas: “We were to preach the Word of God to you first. But because you put it aside, you are not good enough for life that lasts forever. So we will go to the people who are not Jews.” This of course made some of the Jews hatred and disdain for the Gentiles even more bitter.
But how could this be? Didn’t they recall the wonderful message of the Psalmist: “Sing to ADONAI, bless His name! Proclaim His victory day after day! Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples!” That’s why Isaiah called out: “In the east, honor ADONAI, in the coastlands, honor the name of Adonai, the God of Isra’el. From the farthest part of the earth we have heard them sing, ‘Glory to the Righteous One!‘” This praise and worship were not meant only as a rallying cry for the dispersed Jews, but also as a witness to the Gentiles around them of the grace and mercy of God.
Jesus hinted at this long before He commissioned Paul as His messenger to the Gentiles when He told His disciples: “I have other sheep which are not from this sheep-pen. I must bring them also. They will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock with one shepherd.” This then was the message Paul took to the Gentiles: “At one time you were far away from God. Now you have been brought close to Him. Christ did this for you when He gave His blood on the cross. We have peace because of Christ. He has made the Jews and those who are not Jews one people. He broke down the wall that divided them… He made of the two people one new kind of people like Himself. In this way, He made peace. He brought both groups together to God. Christ finished the fighting between them by His death on the cross… Now all of us can go to the Father through Christ by way of the one Holy Spirit. From now on you are not strangers and people who are not citizens. You are citizens together with those who belong to God. You belong in God’s family.”
Paul would go on to tell them, “Let me tell you that the Good News is for the people who are not Jews also. They are able to have a life that lasts forever. They are to be a part of His church and family, together with the Jews. And together they are to receive all that God has promised through Christ.” And the Apostle Peter shared the same good news with his readers: “You are a chosen group of people. You are the King’s religious leaders. You are a holy nation. You belong to God. He has done this for you so you can tell others how God has called you out of darkness into His great light. At one time you were a people of no use. Now you are the people of God. At one time you did not have loving-kindness. Now you have God’s loving-kindness.”