NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lesson XIII)
When it comes to Paul’s assertion, in line with what is said in the Scriptures, about the Gentiles being destined to accept the Messiah, Robert Haldane points back to the root of Jesse. That is a definite allusion to one particular person of the family of Jesse. Christ is called a branch in the same chapter of Isaiah 11. But here He appears here to be called a root, or a particular shoot from the root, as He is elsewhere called a root out of dry ground.1 This limits the origin of the human nature of the Messiah to the family of Jesse. Furthermore, according to what Isaiah says, the Messiah will also be King of the Gentiles as well as King of the Jews. The passage quoted speaks of Him as a rally banner for the Gentiles. This the Apostle Paul interprets as a ruler; because soldiers follow the banner of their captain. This strictly asserts that the Gentiles would trust in a spiritual leader named Jesus of Nazareth descended from Jesse.2
On the subject of reasons for Gentiles to join Jews in glorifying God, Jewish writer David Stern points out that God’s mercy is demonstrated by causing the Gentiles to glorify Him. Paul has not yet dealt with this, so he opens, as he did with God’s truthfulness, by citing Scripture texts as evidence. We see that Paul takes them from all four major sections of the Tanakh: from the Earlier Prophets (2 Samuel 22:50), the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:43), the Writings (Psalm 117:1) and the Later Prophets (Isaiah 11:10). Every part of the Tanakh – the Jewish Bible, gives witness to the inclusion of Gentiles in the people of God.3
15:13 I pray that the God of hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in Him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here we have Paul’s prayer for the believers in Rome. He asks God to give them hope, joy, and peace through the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Paul believed that these spiritual qualities were indestructible because they have their source in Christ who is always with us. Because Christ will never leave us, our spiritual blessings are secure as long as we are in Him and He is in us.
Several early church scholars commented on the joy and peace that comes to every believer. Origen is not sure how all of this can be done so that they may be filled with all joy and peace. Even the Apostle Paul, when talking about the Gifts of the Spirit, said that he knows in part and prophesies in part.4 But I think that believers can have the fullness of peace when they are reconciled to God the Father by faith. For if someone who believes is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, it is certain that they will always have the fullness of joy and peace.5
Then Chrysostom makes the point that a person may overcome the heartlessness of others and yet not be burdened down with depression. This can be achieved by holding onto hope, which is the key to patience that is willing to wait for all the good things that come through the working of the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit is not expected to do all the work, each believer must do their part also. That is why Paul adds the words “trust in Him.”6 And for scholar Constantius, Paul shows that because God does not fill anyone with the gift of grace apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Father and of the Holy Spirit is one and the same.7 Then Pelagius notes that every believer should be filled with joy when they place their hope in things to come. That joy comes from having peace with God and each other. There is little joy in disharmony because it spawns so much heartache. So it’s no wonder that Paul was so prayerful that the believers in Rome would learn how to get along with each other so they could experience the joy God wanted them to have as they then hope for even greater things.8
As it relates to hope, Martin Luther sees the expression “the God of Hope” is indeed unique. Nevertheless, by this expression, the Apostle Paul distinguishes between the true God and false gods. The idols are gods over things that are tangible. They rule over those who have no hope but rely solely on material things to help them get by. But whoever trusts in the true God forsakes all these earthly things and lives by faith and hope. Therefore, the expression “the God of Hope” means the same as “the God of those who have hope.” In short, God is “the God of Hope” because He is the Giver of hope, and He has everything a believer could hope for. Wherever there is hope, it’s there that God is worshiped.
Then, as it relates to joy, Luther also notes that the Apostle Paul places joy first and then peace because it is joy that gives peace, relaxing the heart of a person who has obtained peace through faith in Christ, then it will be easy for them to live in peace with others. To have joy and peace is possible only to the person who believes because joy and peace do not rest upon material things, but on those things stored away for the future in heaven that are the object of our hope. Otherwise, God would not be the God of Hope, who promised these blessings. Sometimes these invisible blessings are made manifest in us today such as love for the unlovable, peace in the midst of persecution, and joy in times of sorrow. The individual who does not have these invisible gifts will not survive during the times of storm and sorrow when all their tangible possessions in which they trust are taken away or destroyed. These blessings are only made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we would be too weak and helpless in times of persecution.9 Through Him we will obtain the victory and also become stronger and triumphant.10
John Calvin points out that most times when the Apostle Paul offers a prayer, it is how he brings the topic on taking care of each other and promoting unity among the body of believers to a conclusion. So here Paul tells the Romans he prays that the Lord will fill them with all joy and peace so that they may abound in hope as both Gentiles and Jews praise God for bringing them together at the cross. As Calvin sees it, in order that peace may be approved by God, everyone must be bound together by real and genuine faith. That means they were to cultivate peace for the purpose of believing. And the same thing applies today. That’s what it will take to stand firm in our beliefs. Having peace in our hearts and love for one another it then helps us to relax and learn more about God and His plans for us. And though the peace we have with God and each other, we can move forward to even better things on the higher ground of faith.11
John Bengel shares some interesting facts with us here. He notes that in the preceding verse Paul used Isaiah to emphasize “hope.” The God of Hope, a name glorious to God, but a name unknown to the Gentiles in this manner. But they did know about Hope, in that one of their false gods, whose temple, Livy mentions in his history, was struck by lightning. Then, later on, it was burned by fire.12 Here’s how it reads: “A phantom navy was seen shining in the sky; the Temple of Hope in the vegetable market was struck by lightning.”13 Then, “All the buildings [in Rome] between the Salinae (saltworks) and the Porta Carmentalis (a double gate in the Servian Walls), including the Aequimaelium, the Vicus Jugarius, and the temples of Fortune and Mater Matuta were burned to the ground. The fire traveled for a considerable distance outside the gate and destroyed much property and many sacred objects.”14
Adam Clarke believes that once the Jews and Gentiles both realized that it was God who caused them to have hope in the gracious promises that He made to Abraham, and the fact that He had fulfilled them in the most punctual and circumstantial manner, this should give them true spiritual happiness in their souls, peace in their heart, and unity among themselves. Not only could they believe that the promises were theirs, but also believe that it was through Christ Jesus that these promises, which are Yes and Amen reached them. Clarke sees Paul wanting all believers to realize that this should make them excited about getting a better understanding of the salvation which God has provided them, and then be able to see that great expectations can be fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit. This will then enable them to hope and believe to even greater dimensions. That will certainly will help seal the fulfilling of the promises of God upon their hearts.15 That same excitement, hope, and joy should be ours today in the same fullness.
Writing about our hope, Robert Haldane says that Paul was inspired to make the point that God is called the God of Hope because He is the source and object of all our well-grounded hope. Now it must be recognized that the world has their version of hope. Unfortunately, it is most often false hope because it is grounded in wishful thinking. The believer’s hope is anchored in a God who never changes nor goes back on His promises. But the world’s hope is tied to things that change all the time, and that often comes after promises are broken. Not only is God the author of all true hope, but He does not let that hope slip away in times of sorrow and despair. This allows Him to reach down and pick up even the most despondent and discouraged and help them walk and hope again. He can also comfort the guilty by reminding them of His grace and forgiveness that will bring relief to their troubled soul. Just think about the thief on the cross, and with the three thousand who were saved on the day of Pentecost!16
Charles Ellicott comments on Paul’s prayer that the Roman believers would be filled with hope, joy, and peace by God. He sees hope, joy, and peace as a triad formed to represent the attitude of the Christian in looking towards the future, so far as that future reflects back on the present. Hope may be taken as including joy and peace as it is upon the certainty of the Messianic promises that all three depend, just as it is through the constant energizing power of the Holy Spirit that they are kept alive.17
1 Isaiah 53:2
2 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 616-617
3 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 1 Corinthians 13:9
5 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 28
7 [Pseudo-]Constantius: On Roans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 See Romans 8:26
10 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 214-215
11 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 360
13 The History of Rome: by Titus Livius, Bk. 21, Ch. 62
14 Ibid. Bk. 24, Ch. 47
15 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 282
16 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 617
17 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.