NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIFTEEN (Lesson XXVII)
Adam Clarke (1760-1831) gives a summary of what he’s read so far in this epistle, and especially as it applied to his day and age in England, which also finds relevance to our day: In the preceding chapters Paul encourages believers to work hard as it relates to the necessity of looking out for one another, helping each other, and trying one’s best to share opinions and let others share their opinions on those religious matters which are not essential to the salvation of the soul. Most of the disputes among Christians concern procedural points – rites, rituals, and ceremonies. Even the simplest issues have contributed their part in promoting such animosity as to divide congregations. Forms of worship and methods of carrying out ordinances such as baptism and communion have been influential in causing this type of disturbance.
Clarke observed that when one person believes that another person who holds such and such an opinion is wrong, they feel compelled to pity them as being misguided them and try to set them straight if at all possible. On the other hand, if those being disciplined believe the one trying to correct them is wrong because they do not see things the right way either, chances are both are standing precisely in the same spot on the same ground but looking in opposite directions. That is when mutual respect and patience are called for. What makes this so hard is that the longer the belief was held, the more difficult it is to let go. Jesus found this out when He came and Paul discovered the same thing. And, needless to say, what Clarke experienced in his day is still true today.1
In Paul’s benediction here at the end of chapter fifteen, Robert Haldane sees an echo of the angelic host that greeted the arrival of God’s Son on the day of His birth in Bethlehem. It is this peace which the angel, with the heavenly host singing behind him, celebrated the event by saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The Aramaic Version reads: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good hope for men.” The Apostle writers expressed this in their salutations by saying, “Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”2 However, it is important to notice that Grace is placed first because without which there would be no Peace. Paul employs here the title, “the God of peace.” It indicates that the people of God enjoy free access to the Lord and the assurance that their petitions will be heard.
We might ask, is there anything God’s children cannot get from the One who laid aside all His wrath and breathes out only grace and peace upon them? The answer is: only if it’s contrary to His will. Such things are most often selfish requests for oneself or a plea for retribution and punishment on someone who tried to hurt them. If and when anyone says something meant to embarrass us or make us look silly, just thank them for giving you the opportunity to suffer for your Lord who suffered for you. We see, then, the efficacy of the peace of God, and what consolation believers experience and what confidence they have toward God in their prayers as a result. This comes by knowing for sure that they are praying to the God of peace.3
On the doctrinal aspects of what Paul says here in these verses, Charles Hodge points out that the effects of prayer, especially intercessory prayer, are real and are an important source of power and strength. Not only in its influence on the mind of the one praying, but also in securing the blessings for which they pray for themselves and others. Paul directed the Roman Christians to pray for the exercise of the divine providence in protecting him from danger, and for the Holy Spirit to influence the minds of the brethren in Jerusalem. This he would not have done were such petitions not given to God with earnestness and sincerity.4
Hodge then notes that there were people who were prejudiced against him, but that was no reason for him not to extend his ministry to them. The Jewish Christians were ready to denounce Paul and list him a persona non grata. Yet he went to all the trouble of collecting contributions for them and was very concerned that they should accept his services. The danger is neither to be courted nor fled from but engaged with humble trust in God. We should pray for others in the same way as they enter into their trials and conflicts and believe that our prayers, when sincere, are a real and great assistance to them. It is a great blessing to have confidence in the prayers of the righteous.5
Puritan preacher Charles Simeon told his listeners that they should strive in prayer for others as though they were wrestling for their own lives. They should be assured, it is not a few lukewarm petitions that God expects from them, nor any dry, rehearsed addresses to God composed for one’s own benefit. So he pleaded with them to be earnest in living for the Lord Jesus Christ. And for their own soul’s sake to strive with God in prayer, and never to let Him go till they obtained from Him the desired blessing. Plead with Him for mercy through the Redeemer’s blood; plead with Him for a more abundant outpouring of His Spirit upon their souls; plead with Him, to continue the good work He began within toward the goal of perfecting it to the end. Then will all these blessings descend upon them and God will be glorified in their everlasting salvation.6
It is interesting to note that somewhere before 107 AD, and approximately forty years after Paul was martyred in Rome, one of the Apostolic leaders, Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, where Paul received his ordination to go out as a missionary to the Gentiles, was able to visit Rome but for an entirely different reason. Ignatius was so intent in dying as a martyr for Christ as his greatest act of discipleship, that he wrote the church in Rome and shared his heartfelt anticipation of going to Rome to die.
Ignatius told them that through prayer to God he was granted by his captors the privilege of seeing their most worthy faces for which he earnestly begged God to grant him. For as a prisoner for Christ Jesus’ sake he hoped to greet them personally, if it was indeed God’s will, and be considered worthy of attaining the end he sought, that being to die as a martyr for Him. He noted that his arrest and becoming a prisoner started just as God planned it, and he prayed that he might obtain His grace without giving up or being hindered in completing his goal. He expressed concern that their love for him might end up being a disadvantage in that it might tempt him to want to stay alive. He told the Romans that it was easy for them to accomplish what their goals in serving Christ, but it would make it difficult for him to complete what he started out to do for God if their love for him proves too big of a barrier in carrying out his plan. What a contrast to Paul’s request from this same church when he faced possible martyrdom in Jerusalem.7
Paul closes here with a benediction. His words indicate that he fully intended to visit Rome and stay there for some time so that he could have some needed rest.
THE END OF CHAPTER FIFTEEN
1 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 289
2 See 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 1:3; Revelation 1:4
3 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 632-633
4 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 689
5 Hodge: ibid. pp. 690-691
6 Charles Simeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Eds. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, Ch. 1, pp. 146-147