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Bible Commentaries

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books

Romans 15

Verse 1

Now ["Now" is progressive; it means, "to proceed with the matter in hand"] we [It is a characteristic of Paul’s to identify himself with those on whom he lays especial burdens] that are strong ought [1 Corinthians 9:19-22 . Strength in the gospel always brings upon its owner the obligation and command to serve (Galatians 6:2), and the one who would truly serve must eliminate his self-conceit and arrogance] to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Verse 2

Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying.

Verse 3

For Christ also pleased not himself [The strong ought to give way to the weak because strength can yield better than weakness, since in so doing it in no way violates conscience and because this forbearance tends to build up the weak and make them strong. But this rule applies, of course, only to matters that are indifferent; in things that are erroneous or wrong we have no choice or discretion, but must stand for the right as God would have us. The only objection that the strong can urge against yielding to the weak is that to do so involves them in great sacrifice. In answer to this argument Paul sets forth the example of Christ. How can he that is self-pleasing, and that shrinks from sacrifice, make claim to be the disciple and follower of the One whose life was the supreme self-sacrifice of the annals of all time? Had Christ pleased himself hell itself might well shudder at the consequences]; but, as it is written [Psalms 69:9], The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me. [When Christ bore the heavy burden of our reproaches and disgrace--our sin, and its consequences--can we not, as his disciples, cheerfully bear each other’s light foibles and infirmities? We must not only be unselfishly fair; we must be self-denyingly generous, if we would be Christlike.]

Verse 4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.

Verse 5

Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus [I cite the Scripture as written for the instruction of the unborn church, for all Scripture, as it outlines what Christ would do sacrificially, also establishes what we should do as imitators of him. It also affords us, in our perusal of it, patience and hope in the doing, for God, the original source back of all Scripture, will not fail in administering aid and comfort to you in your effort toward that spirit of unity and concord which is according to Christ; i. e., according to his desire, will, commandment and example]:

Verse 6

that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Beautiful picture! When in concord the whole church as a harmonious choir renders praise to God, the Father of our Lord, as one mouth! And how this will glorify our Saviour, Christ, showing the perfection of his work in us! Unanimity of inward feeling can not but result in harmony of outward expression, whether in doctrine, worship or praise.]

Verse 7

Wherefore receive ye one another, even as Christ also received you, to the glory of God. [Against the trifling, selfish enjoyment of personal liberty, the apostle sets the supreme end and joy of life; viz., the glorification of God (Matthew 22:36-38; John 4:34). As Christ, suppressing all selfish promptings to assert his own rights and liberties, and ignoring all distinctions in his favor, however pronounced or impossible (Philippians 2:5-8), received us in all loving compassion to affect that glory; so also should we mutually receive one another in full love and fellowship to that end, excluding all unworthy selfishness, and all social, national or racial antipathies. Unity glorifies God, as the amity of a household reflects honor on its head.]

Verse 8

For ["for" introduces the explanation as to how Christ’s coming and ministry was for the purpose of glorifying God by receiving each party, Jew or Gentile] I say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers,

Verse 9

and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy [In order that he might vindicate the veracity of God in confirming and in keeping the promises of the covenant given unto the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: (now these covenant promises contained blessings for the Gentiles-- Genesis 22:18; these blessings thus coming to them through the circumcision people and covenant-- John 4:22; therefore Christ became the minister of the circumcision for the sake of the Gentiles also, that the Gentiles might also be received) and that they might glorify God for his mercy. If Christ, then, the Lord and Master, was a minister (Matthew 20:27-28) unto each for purposes of unity and concord (Ephesians 2:11-22), with what lowly humility should his servants receive and serve each other to effect these results]; as it is written, Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, And sing unto thy name. ["Sing" (psalloo) means, literally, "strike the harp to thy name." This quotation argues that the use of that instrument, as a means of divine praise, is innocent and permissible.]

Verse 10

And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

Verse 11

And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; And let all the peoples praise him.

Verse 12

And again, Isaiah saith, There shall be the root of Jesse, And he that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles; On him shall the Gentiles hope. [The quotations found in verses Romans 15:9-12 are presented to confirm Paul’s teaching that it was God’s original, eternal purpose to include the Gentiles in Israel, the passages forming a parenthesis elucidating the idea of verse 7; viz., "even as Christ received you." The first passage is from Psalms 18:49; and introduces David as confessing and praising as theocratic King under God not apart from, but among, the Gentiles. In the second, taken from Deuteronomy 32:43; Moses exhorts the Gentiles to rejoice in God together with all his people, or Israel. The third, from Psalms 117:1; repeats the thought of the second; while the last, from Isaiah 11:10; is a definite announcement of the reign of Messiah as the root of Jesse, or head of the Davidic dynasty (and hence Jewish) over the Gentiles also, and that not as a foreign oppressor, but as a hope-fulfilling native king. The great prophetic fact forecast in all these quotations is a coming day of joint praise for Jew and Gentile. What a consolation and what an aid toward patience these Scripture quotations must have been to Paul, in his work as apostle to the Gentiles! (See v. 4.) The trend of the argument toward his apostolic ministry forms a transition leading to the epistolary conclusion which follows the benediction of the thirteenth verse.]

Verse 13

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit. [The apostle concludes the hortatory part of his letter with this solemn petition for his readers’ welfare. Note what beautiful names for God are derived from the attributes which he inspires. "God of hope," "God of patience" (Romans 15:5), "God of peace"-- Romans 15:33]

Verse 14

The apostle, having finished his didactic and doctrinal instruction, turns to renew the personal tone with which his letter opened. He presents: (1) An apology for the liberty taken in so plainly admonishing them, reminding them of his office as apostle to the Gentiles which laid such a duty upon him (Romans 15:14-16; comp. Romans 1:14-15). (2) An explanation concerning his labors and his failure to visit them (Romans 15:17-24; comp. Romans 1:11-13). (3) A statement of his present and future plans, and a request for prayer (Romans 15:25-33). (4) Commendations and salutations (Romans 16:1-24; comp. Romans 1:7). (5) Doxology (Romans 16:25-27; comp. Romans 1:1-2).

And I myself also am persuaded of you [as to you], my brethren, that ye yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. [These Roman Christians were by no means "babes in Christ," yet even men, and that the best instructed, need apostolic preaching. But Paul’s confidence in their understanding is shown in the quality of this letter which he wrote to them. Compare a contrary feeling in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3), and in milder form the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:11-12). Moreover, the list of names of church leaders contained in this epistolary conclusion proves the efficiency of this Roman church, its goodness, and its ability to impart knowledge and admonition.]

Verse 15

But I write the more boldly unto you in some measure, as putting you again in remembrance [Thus suggesting that the matter of his Epistle was not wholly new to them: comp. 2 Peter 1:12-13], because of the grace [i. e., apostleship: comp. Romans 1:5; Romans 12:3; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:7-11] that was given me of God,

Verse 16

that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles [I have not carefully weighed my words as a stranger should, but have used some measure of boldness because it is my duty to so speak as your apostle commissioned by God’s grace. "As though he said, ’I did not snatch the honor for myself, nor rush upon it first, but God laid this upon me, and that by way of grace, not a setting apart a worthy person to this office. Be not therefore offended, for it is not I that rise up against you, but God that has laid this upon me’"-Chrysostom], ministering [Greek, "ministering in sacrifice." He speaks in metaphor, assuming to himself the office of priest] the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. [Christians are nowhere in the New Testament spoken of as literal priests, yet the idea of priestly sacrifice is forcefully used in a figurative way. (Comp. Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17) Paul here speaks of himself metaphorically as a priest, not of the Levitical order with its material temple and tangible altar, but as pertaining to the gospel with its spiritual cleansing in Christ. As priests offered many offerings at the great festivals, so Paul, as apostle to the Gentiles, came before God in the festal hour or time of the glad tidings or the gospel of salvation, with the multitudinous offering of the myriads of the Gentiles. As carnal offerings were first cleansed by water before being offered, so these Gentiles, as victims of grace, were first made acceptable offerings by being cleansed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, after which they offered themselves as daily sacrifices. Compare his metaphor to that used by Isaiah in describing the final gathering of Israel (Isaiah 66:19-20). At Romans 12:1 the apostle began by exhorting members of the Roman church to offer themselves as living sacrifices. He then proceeded to elaborate the things wherein self-sacrifice was demanded of them. Now in the verse before us he presents himself as a priest presiding officially over their sacrifice and presenting it to God, which was, figuratively speaking, his duty as apostle to the Gentiles.]

Verse 17

I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. ["Therefore" refers back to verse 15. I have therefore a right to address you boldly in things pertaining to God, for I am not contemptible in such matters, being able to glory, not in myself, but in reference to Christ Jesus in that I am called by him to be his apostle. My boldness in glorying, therefore, is not in myself, but in my apostleship and its resultant spiritual duties and powers. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:1-13; Colossians 1:25-29]

Verse 18

For I will not dare to speak of any things save those which Christ wrought through me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed,

Verse 19

in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ [I, as I have intimated, would not dare to glory in anything that I find in myself, but I glory in the manifest powers of the Holy Spirit, both in speech and miracle which have been mine by reason of my apostolic office, and which have enabled me to convincingly preach the gospel, not in any limited field, but far and wide in that great curve of the earth which begins at Jerusalem in the east and ends at Illyricum in the west. "Chrysostom observeth," says Trapp, "that Plato came three times to Sicily to convert Dionysius the tyrant to philosophy, and could not. But Paul set a great compass, converted many souls, planted many churches: and why? Christ sat upon him as one of his white horses, and went forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2)." Paul began preaching at Damascus, but took a second start at Jerusalem under special commission to the Gentiles (Acts 9:19-20; Acts 9:27-29; Galatians 1:17-18; Acts 22:17-21). Acts makes no direct mention of Paul’s labors in Illyricum. However, the Romans incorporated Illyricum as part of Macedonia, and hence the journey thither may be included in the trip described at Acts 20:1-2 . Note the calm, sane way in which Paul speaks of his miraculous powers as a trust from Christ and a seal of his apostleship, both being mere accessories to that all-important task, the preaching of the gospel];

Verse 20

yea [yes, so full was the spiritual power imparted to me that I thought it an honor and recognition due to my office and to those powers to use them only on the hard, unbroken soil of utterly unenlightened paganism], making it my aim so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation [Had Paul done otherwise he would have used his supreme powers as though they were secondary, and he would have been choosing the easy tasks, leaving to others those harder undertakings for which Christ was hourly fitting and equipping him (1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 10:12-16). It ill becomes a ten-talent man to seek a one-talent position. The pressing needs of the field also forbade the waste of time in resowing. Had Paul’s example been followed, what needless overlapping of missionary effort might have been avoided. Sectarianism has caused and committed this sin, and it has been especially reprehensible where it has been done to foster points of difference which are matters of indifference, as is the case where factions of the same sect compete in the same field];

Verse 21

but [on the contrary, I preach as following the program outlined by the prophet], as it is written [Isaiah 52:15], They shall see, to whom no tidings of him came, And they who have not heard shall understand. [This verse, which speaks of the original enlightening of the Gentiles, might well appeal to the one commissioned to be their apostle, inciting him to be ever the first to rush to their relief.]

Verse 22

Wherefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you:

Verse 23

but now, having no more any place [territory where Christ is not known] in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come unto you [Because of the many benighted places in the unevangelized east, I have hitherto been held back from visiting you, but now the work here being finished, leaving me free, I find the very principle which once detained me in the east now impels me to seek those of the west, thus permitting me to visit you in passing (comp. Romans 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 7:7-11; Philippians 1:8), and I purpose to so do. As Rome was a place already founded in Christ, Paul’s principle limited his stay there to a mere visit, but as it was the center of all influence in his Gentile field, it was fitting that it rest under his instruction. To compass this instruction Paul wrote this Epistle],

Verse 24

whensoever I go unto Spain [We have no contemporary record stating that Paul visited Spain in his lifetime, but his noble wish was in large measure gratified, for he visited Spain in later centuries by his Epistles, which wrought so mightily that the Inquisition could only stamp out his influence by stamping out all the influenced] (for I hope to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first in some measure I shall have been satisfied with your company) ["Brought on;" proempthenai means primarily "to accompany, to go with." (See its use at Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Corinthians 1:16) Paul thus delicately suggests, but does not deliberately ask, pecuniary and other aid to his journey. He also makes it plain that his stay will be merely a visit--a tarrying to satisfy his hungry desire for their fellowship. But the counsels of God decreed that Paul’s stay should be lengthened greatly (Acts 28:30) so as to let his influence over the Gentiles radiate from the great Gentile center, and so as to fully gratify his longings for a fellowship which was as loyal and as loving as any that ever refreshed his soul-- Acts 28:14-15]

Verse 25

but now, I say, I go unto Jerusalem, ministering unto the saints. [Despite the earnestness of my desire to see you just at present, I can not come, for duty calls me to Jerusalem. Verses 31 and 32 show that Paul anticipated danger and trouble at Jerusalem, but joy and rest at Rome. His anticipations were, however, partly mistaken, for he found rest while a prisoner at Cæsarea perhaps more than at Rome (Acts 24:23). Thus it often happens that along the dark road toward duty we find the sunniest spots in life.]

Verse 26

For it hath been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem. [It was quite natural that there should be many Christians in Jerusalem, for Palestine was filled with poor, and it was to that class that the gospel was especially preached (Luke 7:22), and it was among that class that it was everywhere successful (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). But it is also likely that these poor, being converted, lost their employment because of their faith, for such petty persecution has been common in all ages (James 2:4-7; Galatians 2:10; 1 Peter 4:15-16). But, unhappily, these cruel distinctions, when made by Jews against Jewish Christians, did not cause the latter to affiliate with Gentile Christians. On the contrary, Jerusalem became the center of a vast and practically worldwide enmity cherished by Jewish against Gentile Christians, by reason of racial and educational prejudice. To break down this prejudice and hatred, that the partition wall might be removed between Jew and Gentile, Paul conceived the idea of inducing the Gentile Christians to send an offering to the poor Jewish Christians at Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3), hoping thereby to make each faction think more kindly of the other. In this he partly succeeded (2 Corinthians 9:12-15). The Bible accounts of this collection lead us to think that it was quite large. See Acts 19:21; Acts 24:17; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24 through 2 Corinthians 9:1-15]

Verse 27

Yea, it hath been their good pleasure [The apostle twice notes the free-will or "good pleasure" nature of this offering. It dropped as the ripe fruit of the orchard; it was not squeezed as cider in the mill]; and their debtors they are. [The Gentiles are indebted to the Jews, and hence their offering is but a proper expression of gratitude.] For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things. [Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). If, therefore, the Gentiles received eternal and heavenly treasure from the Jews, how small a matter was it that they make return of temporal and earthly treasure to such benefactors. The Gentile still owes this debt to the Jewish race, for of it came the Christ and the Scriptures. The law here announced might well be remembered by many rich congregations in dealing with their ministers in questions of salary, vacations, etc. (Comp. Luke 16:9) By mentioning this offering, Paul sowed good seed in the heart of the Roman Church--seed promising a harvest of liberality.]

Verse 28

When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain. ["Seal" is a figurative expression for "deliver safely." Compare its use at 2 Kings 22:4; where it is translated "sum"; i. e., count out. Our English word "consign" is a similar figure. Paul wished to complete a good work for them: to insure to them the benefit of a noble deed fully accomplished.]

Verse 29

And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ: [Paul had no doubt about the favorable conditions in the Roman church, nor about his kindly reception by the Christians at Rome. He felt that they would so receive him that he would be able to greatly enrich them in instruction and in all other spiritual blessings. "Beyond these blessings," says Lard, "he had nothing to bestow, nor they anything to ask." Far other were his presentiments as to Jerusalem, as he immediately shows us. For a like expectation of an evil reception, see 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 12:20-21; 2 Corinthians 13:1-2]

Verse 30

Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me [Paul appeals to no natural love such as is provoked by environment, propinquity, social or fleshly ties, but to a love induced by the Spirit of God toward one whose face they had never seen. As Christ has power over you, and the Spirit prompts love within you, pray with me and for me. The word "strive" suggests the force of opposing spiritual powers which resist the accomplishment of the things prayed for, and the necessity of ardent prayer to overcome it. The prayer was granted, but by other means than those praying anticipated. With Paul position raised no presumption: neither visions, revelations, miraculous gifts, inspiration nor apostleship lifted him above praying for their prayers. "Spiritual beggary," says Trapp, "is the hardest and richest of all trades. Learn with Paul to beg prayer with all earnestness. ’Pray for me, I say; pray for me, I say,’ quoth Father Latimer. ’Pray for me, pray for me, for God’s sake pray for me,’ said blessed Bradford"];

Verse 31

that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judæa, and that my ministration [offering] which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints;

Verse 32

that I may come unto you in joy through the will of God, and together with you find rest.

Verse 33

Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. [The prayer is fourfold. (1) Personal safety. (2) A successful mission with the offering. (3) Divine permission to reach Rome. (4) Joyful rest in Rome. The prayer designates as "saints" those thousands of believers whose prejudice against Paul amounted to hatred (Acts 21:20-21). As to these Paul asks prayer that they may fully appreciate the offering which the Gentiles have made them, and that they may be properly softened and broadened by it. This prayer, as we have seen (Romans 15:26), was answered. He describes as "disobedient" those Jews who were beyond all hope of conversion. Paul was already filled with dark forebodings and painful presentiments as to these latter, and like feelings were soon expressed by others (see Acts 20:22-23; Acts 21:4-14); yet God, who restrains the wrath of men (Psalms 76:10), caused the very illwill of these disobedient to provide for Paul the long rest at Cæsarea and the free journey to Rome, attended with no greater hardship than usually accompanied his travels. Here, too, prayer was answered. He closes with his prayer for them, which is, as Lard remarks, "the sum of all prayers, the embodiment of all good wishes."]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
First published online at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Romans 15". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.