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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Romans 15

Verses 1-3

Romans 15:1-45.15.3

Against Self-pleasing.

I. We ought not to please ourselves. "We": who are the we? Christians, but not that alone. Among Christians, the strong. "We that are strong." The strength here indicated is not the general strength of the Christian character, although that in a measure is implied, but strength in the one respect of a broad intelligent faith as to the lawfulness of all kinds of food, and as to the complete abrogation of the Mosaic law. It is very noticeable that the Apostle has no corresponding exhortation to the weak. I suppose he foresaw that very few would be willing to accept the terms as descriptive of themselves and their state that for one who would go and stand under the inscription "the weak" there would be ten ready to stand under the name and inscription of "the strong." As to self-pleasing, it is never good in any case whatever. (1) It is of the essence of sin. (2) It always tends to meanness of character. (3) It tends to corruption, just as the stagnant water becomes unfit for use. (4) It always inflicts injury and misery on others. (5) It is enormously difficult to the self that is always seeking to be pleased, so difficult, in fact, as to be ultimately quite impossible of realisation.

II. If not ourselves, then whom?" Let every one of us please his neighbour." But here comes a difficulty, and yet no great difficulty when we look at it more fully. It is this. If the neighbour is to be pleased by me, why should not the neighbour please me in return? If there is to be an obligation at all, it must surely be mutual. Here is the safeguard in the passage itself. "I am to please my neighbour for his good to edification." The one of these words explains the other. "Good to edification" means good in the spiritual sense, religious good; the building up of the character in spiritual life. That is to be the end and aim of any compliance with his wishes that may be made. We are both to borrow, each from each, and then act for the best. If the spirit be good, there will be but little of practical difficulty in settling the limits of concession in each pleasing his neighbour for his good to edification.

III. To help us to do this we ought to consider much and deeply the example of Christ. When He was here He never spared Himself. He never chose the easier way, never waited for the weather, never postponed the doing of a duty. Here is an example, high and glorious, and yet near, and human, and touching. And we are to do as He did, and be as He was. Even Christ pleased not Himself.

A. Raleigh, The Little Sanctuary, p. 176.

References: Romans 15:2 . S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Upper Norwood, p. 250; H. W. Beecher, Forty-eight Sermons, vol. i., p. 22; G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 1; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 6th series, p. 39.

Verses 2-3

Romans 15:2-45.15.3

Christ not Pleasing Himself Christian and Social Tolerance.

I. Note, first, the rule of forbearance as laid down by the Apostle. We have to learn that, within the limits of what is not positively wrong, every one has the right to be himself, to develop his own nature in his own way, and that he cannot be forced into the mould of another without losing his capacity of highest enjoyment, and his power and greatest usefulness to his fellow-men. Our duty under God is to be true to our own nature, but to grant this privilege also to every other, and where we seek to influence them to do it in accordance with the laws of their nature. The question may arise here again, Is there no limit to our self-surrender? and it is pointed out. We are to please our neighbour "for his good to edification." This is the end, and the end prescribes the limit. Our great object must be not to please our neighbour any more than to please ourselves, but to do him the highest good, and gain an influence that may lead up to truth and duty and God.

II. This forbearance is illustrated by Christ's example. To prove the disinterested forbearance of Christ, Paul cites a passage that shows His self-devotion to God. He offered Himself to bear the reproach cast on that great name, and thought nothing of self if the honour of God was maintained. There is a broad principle taught us here also viz., that right action toward men flows naturally from right feeling toward God. If self-pleasing has been sacrificed on the Divine altar, it has received its death-blow in every other form. He who has truly, deeply, entirely given up his will to God is not the man to force it harshly and capriciously on his fellow-men. This is what the Apostle would have us infer regarding Christ in His human bearings. The forbearance of Christ is illustrated (1) in the variety of character which His earthly life drew around it; (2) He interposed to defend others when they were interfered with.

III. Note the advantages that would result from acting on this principle. If we wish those we are influencing to become valuable for anything, it must be by permitting them to be themselves. This is the only way in which we can hope to make our fellow-creatures truly our own. And in pursuing such a course we shall best succeed in elevating and broadening our own nature.

John Ker, Sermons, p. 197.

Verse 4

Romans 15:4 , Romans 15:13

The Twofold Genealogy of Hope.

I. We have here the hope that is the child of the night and born in the dark. "Whatsoever things," says the Apostle, "were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience" or rather, the brave perseverance "and consolation" or rather, perhaps encouragement "of the Scriptures might have hope." The written word is conceived to be the source of patient endurance which acts as well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the encouragement it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of both is hope. Scripture encourages us, (1) by its records, and (2) by its revelation of principles. Hope is born of sorrow; but darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a witness to a future glory. Sorrow has not had its perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock and builds only on things that can be shaken, unless it rests on sorrows borne by God's help.

II. We have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of sunshine and gladness, and that is set before us in the second of the two verses which we are considering. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope." (1) Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it to the proof we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple faith fills the soul with all joy and peace. (2) The joy and peace which spring from faith in their turn produce the confident anticipation of future and progressive good. Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth. Here "tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after-pang of bitterness. It is not true of this gladness that "Hereof cometh in the end despondency and madness," but its destiny is to remain as long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and to be full as long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, June 24th, 1886.

Reference: Romans 15:13 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 240.

Verse 4

Romans 15:4 , Romans 15:13

The Twofold Genealogy of Hope.

I. We have here the hope that is the child of the night and born in the dark. "Whatsoever things," says the Apostle, "were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience" or rather, the brave perseverance "and consolation" or rather, perhaps encouragement "of the Scriptures might have hope." The written word is conceived to be the source of patient endurance which acts as well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the encouragement it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of both is hope. Scripture encourages us, (1) by its records, and (2) by its revelation of principles. Hope is born of sorrow; but darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a witness to a future glory. Sorrow has not had its perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock and builds only on things that can be shaken, unless it rests on sorrows borne by God's help.

II. We have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of sunshine and gladness, and that is set before us in the second of the two verses which we are considering. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope." (1) Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it to the proof we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple faith fills the soul with all joy and peace. (2) The joy and peace which spring from faith in their turn produce the confident anticipation of future and progressive good. Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth. Here "tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after-pang of bitterness. It is not true of this gladness that "Hereof cometh in the end despondency and madness," but its destiny is to remain as long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and to be full as long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, June 24th, 1886.

Reference: Romans 15:13 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 240.

Verse 4

Romans 15:4 , Romans 15:13

The Twofold Genealogy of Hope.

I. We have here the hope that is the child of the night and born in the dark. "Whatsoever things," says the Apostle, "were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience" or rather, the brave perseverance "and consolation" or rather, perhaps encouragement "of the Scriptures might have hope." The written word is conceived to be the source of patient endurance which acts as well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the encouragement it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of both is hope. Scripture encourages us, (1) by its records, and (2) by its revelation of principles. Hope is born of sorrow; but darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a witness to a future glory. Sorrow has not had its perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock and builds only on things that can be shaken, unless it rests on sorrows borne by God's help.

II. We have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of sunshine and gladness, and that is set before us in the second of the two verses which we are considering. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope." (1) Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it to the proof we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple faith fills the soul with all joy and peace. (2) The joy and peace which spring from faith in their turn produce the confident anticipation of future and progressive good. Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth. Here "tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after-pang of bitterness. It is not true of this gladness that "Hereof cometh in the end despondency and madness," but its destiny is to remain as long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and to be full as long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, June 24th, 1886.

Reference: Romans 15:13 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 240.

Verse 13

Romans 15:4 , Romans 15:13

The Twofold Genealogy of Hope.

I. We have here the hope that is the child of the night and born in the dark. "Whatsoever things," says the Apostle, "were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience" or rather, the brave perseverance "and consolation" or rather, perhaps encouragement "of the Scriptures might have hope." The written word is conceived to be the source of patient endurance which acts as well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the encouragement it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of both is hope. Scripture encourages us, (1) by its records, and (2) by its revelation of principles. Hope is born of sorrow; but darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a witness to a future glory. Sorrow has not had its perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock and builds only on things that can be shaken, unless it rests on sorrows borne by God's help.

II. We have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of sunshine and gladness, and that is set before us in the second of the two verses which we are considering. "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope." (1) Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it to the proof we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple faith fills the soul with all joy and peace. (2) The joy and peace which spring from faith in their turn produce the confident anticipation of future and progressive good. Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth. Here "tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after-pang of bitterness. It is not true of this gladness that "Hereof cometh in the end despondency and madness," but its destiny is to remain as long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and to be full as long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, June 24th, 1886.

Reference: Romans 15:13 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 240.

Verse 29

Romans 15:29

Christian Confidence.

Consider the sources of our confidence in our Christian influence.

I. There is the constancy of Christ Himself. The constancy of Christ is as much an article of our confidence as His beneficence. His image in the gospel story is that of one without variableness or shadow of turning. When He was on earth, not weariness, nor want, nor scorn, nor cruelty, nor the neglect of His people, nor the imperfections of His disciples, could shake His fidelity, or change the current of His unvarying grace. And now that He has passed away from the gloom and trouble of earth into the serene air of heaven; now that He has laid aside the weakness of humanity, while He retains manhood's tender sympathy and helpful purpose; now that He has established His kingdom in the world and only lives to direct and to advance it; what room is there for fears of His inconstancy to cross and cloud our souls? We have no such fears. We rise into the region of certainty whenever we approach the Saviour.

II. Christ is not only the object of Christian trust; He is the spirit of the Christian life. The measure of our Christian confidence determines the measure of our Christian usefulness; spiritual influence is only the outward side of Christian character. The heart prepares its own reception. We take with us the atmosphere in which we mix with others. Nothing can finally withstand the affectionate purpose of benediction, the spirit that, daunted or undaunted, cries still, "I have blessed thee, and thou shalt be blessed." The fact that we have human souls to deal with, each one wrapped in its own experience, often wayward, often perverse, can no more avail than our consciousness of our own imperfection and instability, to suppress the confidence of Christian believers: "I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."

A. Mackennal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 284.

References: Romans 15:29 . J. Vaughan, Sermons, 6th series, p. 1; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 1.Romans 15:33 . J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 293.Romans 16:7 . E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 51.Romans 16:10 . G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 426. Romans 16:23 . A. Maclaren, Week-day Evening Addresses, p. 124.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 15". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/romans-15.html.