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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Romans 15

Verses 1-33

Romans 15:1

'There's a text wants no candle to show't; it shines by its own light It's plain enough you get into the wrong road in this life if you run after this and that only for the sake o' making things easy and pleasant to yourself. A pig may poke his nose into the trough, and think o' nothing outside it; but if you've got a man's heart and soul in you, you can't be easy a-making your own bed an' leaving the rest to lie on the stones. Nay, I'll never slip my neck out of the yoke, an' leave the load to be drawn by the weak uns.'

Adam Bede, in George Eliot's Adam Bede.

All men need to have near them, allied in close association with them, either a force to strengthen their weakness or else a weakness which insists upon some demonstration of their strength.

John Oliver Hobbes, in Robert Orange.

References. XV. 1. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 271. XV. 1-3. R. W. Church, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 263. J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2nd Series), p. 84. XV. 2. W. H. Stephenson, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 191. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 337. Llewelyn, Davies, The Purpose of God, p. 116. XV. 3. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xi. p. 47. XV. 4. H. H. Henson, The Value of the Bible, p. 39. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2753. F. Bourdillon, Plain Sermons for Family Reading, pp. 11 and 22. R. Boyne, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xiv. p. 976. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 353. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxxviii. p. 371. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 17. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 406. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 5. R. W. Church, Village Sermons, p. 1. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 11. C. Parsons Reichel, Sermons, p. 193. R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 267. H. D. Rawnsley, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 1104. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Notes of Sermons for the Year, pt. i. p. 7.

Romans 15:5

Nature never hurries: atom by atom, little by little she achieves her work. The lesson one learns in fishing, yachting, hunting, or planting, is the manners of Nature; patience with the delays of wind and sun, delays of the seasons, bad weather, excess or lack of water patience with the slowness of our feet, with the parsimony of our strength, with the largeness of sea and land are must traverse, etc.


References. XV. 5, 6. J. M. Gibbon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 187. XV. 5, 15, 33. A. Maclaren, After the Resurrection, p. 229. XV. 7. A. P. Stanley, Canterbury Sermons, p. 172. XV. 8. Exspositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 411; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 361. XV. 11. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 117.

An Old Testament Portraiture of the Saviour

Romans 15:12

How infinite is Jesus! And with what almost infinite variety of depiction He is set forth in Holy Scripture! Here are four views rich in suggestion and most uplifting to the contemplator.

I. The Scriptural Jesus. It is eminently characteristic of Paul that he delighted in the Jesus of the Old Testament. And it is very congenial to him that ardent lover of the Bible to say, as here he says, 'Isaiah saith'. Paul revelled in the prophetic delineation of the Saviour. The Christ of prophecy evoked all his intellectual and spiritual passion.

The Old Testament and Jesus mutually enhance each other. It glorifies Him. How stately, pathetic, tender, winsome, is the Jesus of the Old Testament! And truly He glorifies it. I think little of the Old Testament when the Saviour is ejected from it. But when I see my Saviour there it becomes an astral book: old, yet ever new; remote, yet sweetly near.

II. The Human Jesus. The primary allusion of Isaiah which Paul quotes is mysteriously profound. 'There shall be the root of Jesse' (R.V.). Some have explained this as meaning the branch which grows out of Jesse's root. But the Bible has a marked capacity for saying what it means, and meaning what it says. Otherwhere it declares Jesus to be a branch of Jesse. But here it says 'the root' and not the branch. And this is not the only place in which our Incarnate Lord is called the root of Jesse. You may always trust Scripture to differentiate between a root and a branch.

'There shall be the root of Jesse.' The origin of Jesse shall be historically originated. The Creator of Jesse shall be born in the latter days. But Jesse lived and died long spaces back. How can his 'root' come to 'be' in after years? Can the father of David's father be a descendant of David? This is indeed a great mystery the Creator described as He who 'shall be'!

If any object to this view of the human Jesus as insuperably mysterious, I would urge that it is infinitely more helpful on the practical side than any merely humanitarian view of Jesus can be. I far prefer Isaiah's mysterious concept to the Unitarian Jesus. If I cannot comprehend it I feel it meets my needs. Only a Saviour-God can cope with my guilt and sin. If I am to have a human Redeemer He must also be Divine. A Jesus whose personality and birth I could readily understand would be a Jesus to whom I dared not believingly commit myself. Oh let us adoringly receive this so mysterious and so merciful Saviour, who is 'the Root of Jesse'. A darkness to the intellect, He is the Light of Life to the heart.

Bengel aptly says, 'Divine worship is implied here as due to Christ even in His human nature'. Most truly it is. His human nature is Divinely miraculous. Late in time he cometh, but it is 'the root of Jesse 'who is born of the Virgin Mary.

III. The Kingly Jesus. Isaiah, as quoted by Paul, further describes the Saviour as 'He that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles' (nations). He is a King then. He is the rightful if unacknowledged Sovereign of the nations. I told you the Jesus of the Old Testament is a stately figure. He is more; He is regal.

'He that ariseth,' in God's decree, and in the course of human history, is to 'rule over the nations'. The kingly Jesus pervades both Testaments with a delightsome pervasiveness. The Jesus of the Nativity was peculiarly the kingly Jesus. Gabriel, in his great annunciatory message to Mary, emphasised His kingliness, 'And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and to His kingdom there shall be no end'. A scholar has superbly retranslated that latter sentence, 'And to His kingdom there shall be no frontier'. A kingdom unlimited by remotest frontier! An empire universal! It was an inspired instinct which led the Magi to inquire, 'Where is He that is born King?'

Jesus is the King of the nations. He arose at Bethlehem to be this. Of all the earth He is the predestinated Monarch. His rule is sadly retarded, and has long been. Sin and hell have set themselves to arrest it. Many of the nations do not submit themselves to their rightful King. Even the nations which are supposed to be His loyal subjects have a religion which is rather a veneer than a passion. But His rule is ultimately sure. He will do what He arose to do, 'rule over the nations'. We must always distinguish between the immediate outlook and the final outlook, or we shall be whelmed in depression. Jesus shall reign. The end is sure, though the way be rough and long.

IV. The Believed Jesus. Isaiah adds that 'in Him shall the Gentiles trust'. Faith is the factor which unites men to Christ We are not obedient subjects of the Saviour-King till we trust in Him. Loyalty begins in faith. In that remarkable biography to which I have alluded we are told of a Bechuana convert, who said, 'Faith is the hand which receives the gifts Christ offers us,' and a great theologian declared it to be one of the finest descriptions of faith he had ever known. The nations shall yet put out their hands to receive the gifts Christ offers them. Have you put out your hands for those precious gifts? No other power but faith in Christ can perfectly renew the nations. It is not finally by legislative or other programmes, but by individual faith in the Saviour-God that the nations shall be transfigured. A new earth will only come by spiritual processes.

Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 17.

Joy and Peace in Believing

Romans 15:13

It is a question that we ought seriously to ask ourselves, at the approach of a Communion season, if we are in possession of the joy and peace which form the benediction of our text Can we truly say that we know in our own hearts what the Apostle calls joy and peace in believing? Is this the deepest result of that religion which we profess and in which we have been bred? And is it so, not only on the Sabbath, and under the calming influences of the sanctuary, but amid the cares, the worries, the distractions that await every worshipper tomorrow?

I. Contrast, for instance, joy and peace in believing with joy and peace in working. Most of us can say with perfect truth that we have experienced joy and peace in working. Not always, certainly, for sometimes work is wearisome, and sometimes it is ill-suited to our bent. And there are days, and sometimes there are years, when men are physically unfit for duty. But granting that, is it not the case that we have experienced joy and peace in working, and that if our work were taken away, much of our joy and peace would also go? Of working, we can say that in sincerity. What I want to ask is, can we say it of believing? Is there anything in our religious life that answers to that feature in our active life?

II. Or think again of joy and peace in loving. There are few who have not had experience of that Perfect love casteth out fear, for fear hath torment. Think, for example, of the Christian home, that beautiful creation of the gospel. Imperfect though it must necessarily be, is it not the dwelling-place of joy and peace? And all the joy of it and all the peace, which are deeper and truer than any passing shadow, rest on, and are continually refreshed by, the presence in the Christian home of love. Deeper than all rebellion of the child, is the child's love for father and for mother. Mightier than any care or worry, is the love of the mother for her children. And that is the secret of the Christian home, however poorly it be realised; it is the sphere above all other spheres where there is joy and peace in loving. Now Paul does not speak of joy and peace in loving. He speaks of joy and peace in believing. And the one we know. We have experienced it. It has been ours in childhood and in manhood. But the question is, what about the other? Have we known anything of it at all?

III. Think for a moment of the kind of people to whom these words were originally sent. They were sent to a little company of Christians, whose lot was very far from being easy. Separated from us by wellnigh two thousand years, we are prone to think of them as dim and shadowy. If our own woes grow dim with passing years, how much more those of centuries ago. Yet they had sorrows as intense as ours, and trials that were very dark and bitter, and they had hearts which were as full of sin as any that are throbbing here today. They were called to be saints, and yet they were not saints. They were just poor and faulty men and women. And some were slaves, and some were city merchants, and some were mothers in undistinguished homes. Yet Paul when he thought of them made no exceptions. Not one of them was excluded from the blessing. And not one of us within this church today is excluded from the blessing either.

IV. The notable thing is that on the page of Scripture joy and peace are in the closest union. Wherever we light upon the one, we are not long in coming on the other. We sometimes say of inseparable friends that when you find the one you find the other. United in a comradeship of hearts, the one will not long be absent from the other. And so, remember, is it with joy and peace, as joy and peace move on the page of Scripture; the two are linked in a most holy wedlock, and whom God hath joined, let not man put asunder.

(1) Sometimes it may be we lack this inward comfort because we have lost the wonder of salvation.

(2) Sometimes, too, we fail in joy and peace because we meddle with things that are too high for us. We vex ourselves, and vex ourselves in vain, over the hidden things of the Almighty. It is our duty to cast our burden on the Lord, and the burden of many today is intellectual. It is our duty to honour Jesus Christ, if we would not have Him be ashamed of us. And we honour Him when amid all the darkness we believe that all is well for He is King; we honour Him not with a darkened heart, but with a believing full of joy and peace. The night is dark and we are far from home, but we are certain He is in command. And so we serve Him, and we help our brother, and for His sake we do the little we can do; and there we leave it till the morning comes.

G. H. Morrison, The Return of the Angels, p. 65.

Christian Hope (For Second Sunday in Advent)

Romans 15:13

In today's Epistle we have a concise summary of the purposes of Christ's first Advent.

I. To bring Hope. By 'patience and comfort' of the Scriptures which speak of Him. In what the Sermon on the Mount says of Him is all our hope. To Jew and Gentile alike.

II. To bring Unity. To make us by His Spirit and example 'like-minded one to another'.

a. Unity of thought ('like-minded ').

b. Unity of feeling ('with one mind and one mouth').

c. Unity of purpose ('the glory of God ').

III. To bring Joy and Peace in Believing. 'As this passage begins, so it ends, with Hope. Christ bring it: the Holy Ghost gives it, with joy and peace in believing.

Romans 15:13

Principal Rainy quoted this text in his Moderator's address at the Union Assembly of the Scottish Churches in 1900. He said: 'Let us hope continually. We have been brought to this point remarkably; why should the Church of Christ stint her expectations? Without this gracious dispensation we cannot thrive. Not earnestness, not diligence, not sacrifices will supply the want of it. The whole New Testament is full of hope, as a disposition without which prosperity and progress are not to be expected. The very God of Hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost!'

Romans 15:13

We continually hear of the trials, sometimes of the victories, of faith but scarcely ever of its pleasures.... Set to any work you have in hand with the sifted and purified resolution that ambition shall not mix with it, nor love of gain, nor desire of pleasure more than is appointed for you; and that no anxiety shall touch you as to its issue, nor any impatience nor regret if it fail.... Resolve also with steady industry to do what you can for the help of your country and its honour, and the honour of its God; and that you will not join hands in its iniquity, nor turn aside from its misery; and that in all you do and feel you will look frankly for the immediate help and direction, and to your own consciences, expressed approval, of God. Live then and believe, and with singleness of answer proportioned to the frankness of the trust, most surely the God of peace will fill you with all joy and peace in believing.

From Ruskin's Pleasures of England, 2

'Since Saturday last,' writes Boston in his Memoirs, 'I have had most sensible experience of the solid joy and peace in believing God to be my God in Christ. I find it is a blessed means of sanctification. It strengthens to duty; for I have been helped in my work of visiting since that time. It nourishes love to the Lord; and consequently love to and desire of the thriving of His work in people's souls. It creates a sweet calm, and quiet of mind, in doubtful events;... it sweetens other enjoyments, and carries above things which at other times are irritating and create disgust. I have compared flashes of affection with a calm, sedate, tender love to the Lord; and I prefer the latter to the former, and have been, and am, happy in it.'

Christianity... has not penetrated into the whole heart of Jesus. She is still in the narthex of penitence; she is not reconciled, and even the Churches still wear the livery of service, and have none of the joy of the daughters of God, baptised of the Holy Spirit.


I bent before Thy gracious throne,

And asked for peace on suppliant knee;

And peace was given not peace alone,

But faith sublimed to ecstasy.


Live greatly; so thou shalt enjoy unknown capacities of joy.

Coventry Patmore.

References. XV. 13. Bishop Moule, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 292. A. Tucker, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 33. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 5. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons in Outline, p. 213. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 120. C. Bradley, Faithful Teaching, p. 187. Phillips Brooks, The Mystery of Iniquity, p. 187. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 30; vol. xii. No. 692; vol. xxiii. Nos. 1332 and 1384, and vol. xlv. No. 2626. XV. 15. Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 139. XV. 15-21. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 21.

Romans 15:14

If a reverent ignorance is to be the last word of thought about religion, not only will Christ have died in vain, but science will have toiled to little real purpose.

C. H. Pearson.


Romans 15:16

There are some who preach a salvation from sin's consequences; but you and I want to be delivered from sin's tyranny; that is much more than being delivered from hell, from the consequences of sin. Some people look upon salvation as a kind of lifebuoy by whose aid they may enter safely into the harbour of heaven; but salvation is far more than that. The salvation which God offers you and me is not only to free us from the penalty of sin the consequences of sin but also from the power of sin. 'He shall save His people, His redeemed ones, from their sins.' When we put our faith in Christ and Him crucified, we are saved eternally and completely, because 'He hath redeemed us with an eternal redemption'. But I want to live for Christ. I do not only want to die a Christian death, but to live for Christ here, to show forth in my life the power of Christ; I want Christ to be formed in me. This is sanctification, and the work of God the Holy Ghost The cross means for us not only deliverance from sin, but it means the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I. The first work of the Holy Spirit in the redeemed soul is the work of cleansing, of purifying. It is the mission of God the Holy Ghost to come into the heart of the believer and purify the very 'springs of being' that have been poisoned by sin, so that out of us shall flow pure and life-giving streams, and we shall be a blessing to others because of the outflow of the Holy Ghost that dwelleth within us.

II. But there is not only the thought of cleansing, there is the thought of strengthening. He is the Comforter. The word 'comforter' means one who stands by your side to strengthen you (the Paraclete) to help you. In the margin of the Revised Version the word 'helper' is used one ever at our side to help us in living the Christian life. We not only want inward cleansing, we want comforting, cheering; we want a champion some one has translated the word 'Paraclete 'as 'champion' one who stands for our defence.

III. Again, there is not only the cleansing of the Holy Ghost, and the comforting of the Holy Ghost, but there is the gift of courage to witness for God. This is a special gift of the blessed Spirit. Think of what happened at Pentecost. Think of the cowardly nature of Peter, then look at him after the baptism of fire, after the cleansing fire had gone through his soul and burned out all the fear. It is no good talking religion unless you are living true.

T. J. Madden, Church Family Newspaper, vol. xv. p. 244.

References. XV. 16. L. D. Bevan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. p. 326. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 79. XV. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1332. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. pp. 231, 236. XV. 20. R. C. Cowell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 516. XV. 21. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 365. XV. 22-28. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. p. 65.

Romans 15:26

'The great problem of human life,' says Mr. P. G. Hamerton, 'is the reconciliation of poverty and the soul.'

Macchiavelli once said that 'the kingdom of the clergy had been long before at an end, if the reputation and reverence towards the poverty of friars had not borne out the scandal of the superfluities and excesses of bishops and prelates'. Bacon, who quotes this in The Advancement of Learning, adds: 'So a man might say that the felicity and delicacy of princes and great persons had long since turned to rudeness and barbarism, if the poverty of learning had not kept up civility and honour of life.

References. XV. 26. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 390. XV. 27. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 332. XV. 28, 29. Bishop Cabrera, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 77. XV. 29. J. W. Houchin, The Vision of God, p. 119.

The Holy Spirit's Love

Romans 15:30

The phrase employed by St. Paul in the text is to be understood as denoting, not the love which we bear to the Spirit, nor yet the love which is produced in us by the agency of the Spirit and which is called the fruit of the Spirit, but the love which the Holy Spirit manifests towards us. We shall limit ourselves on this occasion to four aspects of His love.

I. His Restraining Love. Everywhere sinful men are acting under the dominion of base selfish passions; but men everywhere are conscious that those passions are not allowed to work their evil ways unchecked or unrestrained. In heathen as well as in Christian countries, the universal consciousness testifies that there are mysterious, mighty, persistent forces in active operation on the hearts of men, curbing, restraining, suppressing their malignant passions. Explain it as you please, ascribe to whatever agency you think fit, the fact is undeniable: for every man is a living witness of it. To deliver man from the thraldom of these usurping forces of evil we must have a spiritual agency of authority and power. The economy of redemption supplies such an agency in the Person of the Holy Spirit whose office it is to subdue and expel these ruling powers of evil.

II. His Convicting Love. The gracious provision made by Christ Jesus is ample and adequate to meet the exigencies of a lost world; but when we proclaim its all-sufficiency, a formidable difficulty meets us at the very outset man does not feel his need of it. Blind to his peril, he fondly imagines that he can do without redemption. Logic can never lodge in any heart that conviction of sin which issues in genuine repentance. The economy of redemption provides for this difficulty by the appointment of the Holy Spirit as an abiding active Personality, to work upon conscience, heart, and will a conviction of sin.

III. The Forbearing Love of the Spirit. Why is the sinner pursued in his wanderings, reasoned with in his rebellion, striven with in his obstinacy for years together? The only reason in the universe is the forbearing love of the Spirit, who is long-suffering usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

IV. The Condescending Love of the Spirit. The condescending love of the Spirit is revealed in His selection of the human heart with all its vileness as the material on which to show forth the might of His grace.

Richard Roberts, My Jewels, p. 187.

References. XV. 30. Bishop Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 79. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 157. XV. 30-33. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1887.

Romans 15:33

When Horace Bushnell was dying, he murmured one day slowly, and in great weakness, to those around his bed, 'Well now, we are all going home together; and I say, the Lord be with you and in grace and peace and love and that is the way I have come along home'.

Reference. XV. 33. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i. No. 49.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 15". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.