NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lesson X)
15:9 Christ also did this so that the non-Jewish people could praise God the Father for the mercy He gives to them. The Scriptures say, “I will profess You among the people of other nations; I will sing praises to Your name.”
Now Paul emphasizes this truth to the congregants of Rome. Instead of the Jews resenting that the Gentiles had been allowed to become part of God’s family, they should be rejoicing and thanking God they had a part to play in the spreading of the Good News. This was a vital part of David’s Song of Praise: “I give thanks to you, ADONAI, among the nations; I sing praises to your name.”1 This was not lost on generations of Jews who followed. In fact, in the Targum2 on the Psalms we read: “For because of the miracle and deliverance that You will perform for Your Messiah, and for the remnants of Your people who will remain, all the Gentiles, nations, and tongues will confess and say, There is no God but the LORD, for there is none besides You; and Your people will say, There is none mighty except our God.”3
Several early church scholars give their views. Ambrosiaster points to the 18th Psalm [17th in the Septuagint Version (LXX)]4 that the Gentiles will be admitted to the grace of God in order to receive salvation. Now we hear Paul telling them that this prophecy has come true through the work of Christ.5 In other words, it could not happen until Christ came. Then Chrysostom comments on how we glorify God by manifesting unity. Foremost, it was by mercy alone that the Gentiles were saved. This should cause them to glorify God without any prompting. But even more glory is given to God when both Jews and Gentiles blended their voices together in united praise and worship of the One who redeemed them all. Also, when those He called and redeemed reach out and help those who are struggling to keep up because their burden is so, God gets even more glory.6 And Pelagius makes the point that Paul helps the Jews understand that since it was foretold by their own prophets that the Gentiles would be saved, they should be glad and rejoice that God’s Word has proven to be true. And the Gentiles should acknowledge their indebtedness to the Jews because without them there would have been no Messiah.7
Martin Luther writes that the Apostle Paul is pointing out to the Gentiles, that what the Psalmist said the Jews would do among the Gentiles was by Christ, in that, Christ is now among them and the Gentiles do sing praises to God along with the Jews. As Luther sees it, this is not an improper use of Scripture by Paul, nor is it a contradiction. Furthermore, seeing Jews and Gentiles declare Christ as their personal Savior to the glory of God the Father, is only possible by the work of Holy Spirit.8
For John Calvin, after talking about unity Paul now makes a second point on how God can be glorified among the Gentiles. Paul spends a lot of time on this subject because of its importance. In the opening line of this chapter Paul quote is taken from Psalm 18; which psalm is recorded also in 2 Samuel 22, where no doubt a prophecy is given concerning the Kingdom of Christ. From this, Paul establishes God’s promise of calling the Gentiles. That’s why a confession of thanks to the glory of God should be made among the Gentiles. Calvin notes that singing praises to God is one of the best ways of making Him known among those who’ve never heard of Him before. We can see how true this is today because Christmas carols such as Silent Night are sung in countries, such as Japan, and Christmas is celebrated where Christianity is a small minority. The point is to get the word out about Christ both in word and song.9
John Bengel sees the Psalm quoted by Paul as telling a story of why and how God will be glorified among the Gentiles, as well as, the Jews. Paul asserts God did for the Gentiles exactly what He said He would do in Psalms 18 and 22. In fact, God and Christ were using Paul to do their work among the Gentiles. To put this in simpler terms, Paul uses this Psalm to show that God had all along planned to have His Son bring the Good News to the Gentiles so that they could join the Jews in praising Him.10 In Psalm 22:22. the Messiah announces the name of the LORD to His brothers among the Gentiles. Then in Psalms 18:43. as soon as they hear of Him they bow before Him. Also, in Psalm 117 the Jews invite all tribes and all nations to worship Him. They say: Praise Adonai, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! His grace has overcome us, and Adonai’s truth continues forever. Hallelujah!11”12
Jonathan Edwards points out that the verb “confess” used by the KJV, signifies more than merely acknowledging something exists. It implies an establishing and confirming of facts with a personal testimony of an eye-witness, and is done with great esteem and affection.13 No doubt the Apostle John was convinced that this must be expressed with great force and passion: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.”14 That’s why Paul told the Corinthians that no one can proclaim from their heart and mind that Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit15.16
Adam Clarke takes note of something taught by Jewish Rabbis that he is sure the Apostle Paul knew about and something that the Jewish converts in Rome must have heard taught to them. It comes from their Talmud and speaks of how they have been taught that until they entered the Promised land, no matter what land they lived in it was proper to sing hymns of praise to God for all the miracles He did for them. However, once they entered the Promised Land, it was not considered proper to sing hymns of praise to God for His miracles. But then, when the people of Israel were sent into exile, the other countries they were once again qualified to sing hymns giving praise to God.17 In Clarke’s mind, the Jews were admitting that the Gentiles have a right to glorify God. So based on God’s word, Gentiles were predestined to be made partakers of His grace and mercy.18
On the subject of glorifying God for His mercy, Robert Haldane believes part of Christ’s purpose for coming into the world was that Gentiles, as well as, Jews might glorify God on account of His mercy. In other words, it was not a matter of luck or a last minute decision after the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He sees nothing here or anywhere else in Scripture that would suggest that mankind had any chance of meriting salvation by their own works. Salvation is of mercy and grace. In the preceding verse, Paul spoke of God’s truth, here, he speaks of God’s mercy. That which was given as truth to the Jews, having been promised to their fathers, was now mercy to the Gentiles who were allowed to join the children of Israel to participate in the blessings promised to Abraham. This the Apostle proves by the different passages he quotes which declare that the mercy of God was to be extended to all nations. Consequently, both Jews and Gentiles had every reason to love one another rather than to condemn or to despise one another. Why couldn’t they see that they were all united in Christ Jesus as prophesied by the Scriptures? Paul’s message to the Ephesians was certainly clear enough: “He is our peace, who has made us one, and has broken down the wall that divided us.19”20
On the hope that the Gentiles would see the merciful goodness of God, Charles Ellicott makes the point that the Jews had their covenant to appeal to, and the attributes of God were most clearly brought home to them in Christianity so that His truthfulness in fulfilling the promises contained in this covenant would be carried out. The Gentiles had no such covenant, and their admission to the blessings of Christianity was an act of pure grace and mercy, which they should thankfully recognize. The Apostle then proceeds to quote from the First Covenant a succession of passages that shined light on the ultimate reception and triumph of the Gentiles through Christ21.22
Jewish commentator David Stern shares his view that Yeshua the Messiah became a servant of the Jewish people. Stern says quite emphatically, “It is not true that Yeshua is the Christian Messiah, while the Jews are waiting for someone else. He is also the Messiah of the Jews. If He is not the Jewish Messiah, the Christians have no Messiah.” Paul focuses on two reasons for Yeshua’s becoming a servant of the Jews: to show God’s truthfulness and to show God’s mercy. God’s truthfulness, faithfulness, and reliability are certain.23 Though some Christians might question this because not all Jews have followed Yeshua, God will still make good on all His promises to the Patriarchs,24 and He will do this through His servant of the Jewish people, Yeshua the Messiah.25
1 2 Samuel 22:50 (See Psalm 18:49)
2 A Targum is a paraphrase of the original text with commentary.
3 Targum of the Psalms: An English Translation by Edward M. Cook, Psalm 18:32
4 Psalm 18:49
5 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 28
7 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 213
9 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 See Hebrews 2:12
11 Psalm 117:1-2 – Complete Jewish Bible
12 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 359
13 See Matthew 10:32; Philippians 2:11
14 1 John 5:1 – Living Bible
15 1 Corinthians 12:3
16 David S. Lovi. The Power of God: A Jonathan Edwards Commentary on the Book of Romans (p. 318).
17 Babylonian Talmud: Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Megillah, folio 14a
18 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 281
19 Ephesians 2:14
20 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 614
21 Psalm 18:49
22 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
23 See Romans 8:31-39
24 Cf. Romans 11:28-29
25 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.