NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lesson XI)
15:10 There are other Scriptures: “You people of other nations should be happy together with God’s people.”
Based on early scriptures in the Torah, Paul points out that God called on His people to rejoice with other nations when they heard the Good News of what God had done for them. Paul does not include the whole verse in Deuteronomy which reads: “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people.”1 The Apostle wanted to focus on the last line that speaks about God atoning for His people. The point here is that His message of salvation was meant for the world, not just Israel.
We can see where this same message was included in another Hymn of Praise that it was meant to exalt the Lord for allowing this message to go into all the world: “God, be gracious to us, and bless us. May He make His face shine toward us, (Selah) so that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples give thanks to You, God; let the peoples give thanks to You, all of them. Let the nations be glad and shout for joy.”2 And that is due to the fact that: “The LORD has made His saving power known. He has shown to the nations how right and good He is. He has shown His loving-kindness and how beautiful He is to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of our God.”3
Chrysostom comments on Paul’s call to the Gentiles to rejoice with their Jewish brethren. Paul has taken the time to point out the Scriptures that give them enough reason to be united and glorify God together. But he wanted the Jews to learn humility so they wouldn‘t think they were better than the Gentiles, especially in light of the fact that God clearly said they were to be included. He also wanted to humble the Gentiles by pointing out that if it were not for God’s love, grace, and mercy they would not be included in the promises of His kingdom.4
Martin Luther believes that this call for the Gentiles to join God’s people went forth from Jerusalem, from God’s people to all peoples. The Gospel did not reach the Gentiles until it was first preached in Galilee and Judah. Therefore, by Paul using this Psalm he was indicating that this passage was meant to predict the Messiah’s lordship among all nations.5 And now that the Gospel had reached the Gentiles, they too were to join their Jewish brothers and sisters in sending out the call to the rest of the world. God did not send His Son to be Lord over only one nation, but all nations.
Many Bible scholars take this quote by Paul as being part of Moses’ Song in Deuteronomy,6 Calvin disagrees. For him, Moses’ purpose was to terrify the enemies of Israel by displaying God’s greatness, rather than invite them to join in their rejoicing. That’s why Calvin believes that Paul was quoting from Psalm 67:4, where it is written, “Let the Gentiles be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the Gentiles with equity and guide the nations of the earth.” And Paul then adds, with his people, and he did this by way of explanation; for the Prophet in that psalm no doubt connects the Gentiles with Israel and invites both alike to rejoice, and there is no joy without the knowledge of God.7
Robert Haldane takes issue with Calvin over his preference of a Psalm over the Torah. As far as he’s concerned, this would be a very unsafe and presumptuous mode of reasoning. We must stand on Paul’s authority, rather than on the authority of Calvin, as to what Moses’ intentions were in the passage quoted. If Moses intended to strike terror into the enemies of Israel, why would Gentile believers be excited about rejoicing with the Jewish people because of the victories of the Messiah over them as His enemies? The quotations from the Psalms that Paul uses are obvious in the application he is making here about Gentiles being invited to join with the Jews in praising God once they hear about all the good things God has done for His people and the world. Besides that, the passage alleged by Calvin as the quotation that Paul should have used does not correspond with the words of Paul without twisting the meaning. Why exclude a passage where the words are easily found, and select a passage where you have to guess its meaning?
Haldane is sure that the authority of Paul as a commentator on Moses should prevail. In fact, the quotation is as applicable to the Gentiles as to the Jews. As this passage by Paul is understood, can we not see that the Gentiles in the church at Rome were interested in the Jews as a nation coming to the Messiah as well. Just look at how much Paul prayed that they would. Certainly, that would give them a reason for them to rejoice. The Jews should indeed rejoice in the glory of God and the happiness of seeing Gentiles come into the knowledge of His saving grace. But the Gentiles, in addition to this, are to rejoice in it as part of their own salvation.8 As a matter of fact, the Complete Jewish Bible agrees with Haldane by referencing this quote by Paul to Deuteronomy 32:43. And Calvin should not be faulted because he was looking for harmony on the subject, not the text.
On Paul’s call for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy, Charles Spurgeon preached that if there was any joy or hope for the chosen people of God, we as believers should rejoice as well. Let’s rejoice with the people of Israel who were redeemed out of Egypt, led through the Red Sea, fed with quail and manna, drank water out of a rock and brought to the borders of Canaan. We certainly have every reason to rejoice with them over the celebration of Passover, and delight with them on the Day of Pentecost. Did not the Lord say: “Rejoice, you Gentiles, rejoice with His people.”9 Their joy can become our joy.10
15:11 The Scriptures also say, “Praise the Lord all you people of other nations; all people should praise the Lord.”11
The Apostle Paul does not want the Gentiles to feel like second class citizens in the Kingdom of God, nor did he want the Jews to have that “Members Only” attitude. He wants both to know that this inclusive idea of binding Jews and Gentiles together into one family was God’s plan from the beginning. It is contextually evident that the Psalmist was calling on all Jewish people around the world to sing a new song to the Lord by the fact that back then the Gentiles did not have access to the Psalms. Yet their rejoicing would be over the news that they had been given the pleasure of carrying the Gospel message of salvation to all nations around the world.
Early church scholar Ambrosiaster commented on Jews and Gentiles now being joint-heirs to God’s promises to Abraham. As he saw it, God did not wait to the last minute to include Gentiles in His plan of salvation, He decreed that by the intervention of His mercy. That way, Jews and Gentiles would be united. The Gentiles would be granted grace to become fellow heirs with the Jews, who by the grace of God were long ago named as His people. While the Jews were noble, the Gentiles were ignoble, but now by God’s mercy the Gentiles have been made noble as well, so that all may rejoice together by acknowledging the truth.12
John Calvin also has an issue with how this quote by Paul from Psalm 117:1 is interpreted. For him, this passage is inaptly applied because how can they who know nothing about God’s greatness be called on to praise Him? They could no more do this than to call on His name when they didn’t even know what His name was? It is then a prophecy most suitable to prove the Gentiles would be called. And their calling would be for the reason that they would finally be able to thank God for His truth and mercy.13 In other words, when this Psalm was written and the writer wanted the Gentiles to join in with the children of God in praising God, he was not thinking of them doing so then and there, but “someday.” Now Paul is saying to the believers in Rome, that day has come.
Robert Haldane takes on Calvin’s thinking without quoting him directly. By using Psalm 117 it implies that salvation would be extended to all nations of the earth. But they must wait for that call because it is impossible to praise God without knowing who He is. They ought to praise God. But this praise ought to be in faith, as well as for many other reasons. There is no danger in calling on sinners to observe the whole law of God, as long as we keep in mind that no obedience in any degree can be given to God except through faith in His Son. This is quite a different thing from making prayer and praise a preparatory process to conversion.14 In other words, this psalm expresses a hope that someday the Gentiles would get to know God as Israel did so they could praise Him too.
So how does all of this apply to us today? The days of Gentiles as one big group has slipped into the shadows as far as the rest of the world is concerned. However, the Jews have kept it alive in their hearts, that’s why they refer to all non-Jews, regardless of race or color, as Goyim. This Hebrew word actually means “nations.” But even the Jews were part of a nation. And that’s where the mystery is solved. There are many nations in the world, but for God, there was only one nation He called His people – Israel. Breaking down that wall between Jews and Goyim will only be done by an act of God. But here is where we can rejoice. Paul, by using these Scriptures, was not limiting this transformation to his day and age. God’s promises of all nations of the world coming together to worship the One True God is still part of prophecy. And there is no religion on earth that has done a better job of bringing people of all races, colors, ethnicities, and customs together in churches all over the globe who meet to give glory and honor to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit for their salvation than the Goyim. And it will continue until Christ returns to set up His Kingdom here on earth for a thousand years. Amen!
1 Deuteronomy 32:43 – Aramaic Version
2 Psalm 67:1-4 – Complete Jewish Bible; Cf. 68:32; 97:1; 98:3
3 Psalm 98:2-3; Cf. 42:10-12
4 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 28
5 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 213
6 Deuteronomy 32:43
7 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 615-616
9 Deuteronomy 32:43
10 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Psalm 117:1
12 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 616