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For I say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that He might confirm the promises unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy--
Here Paul defines in a single phrase our Lord's character as a "minister," in His earthly life: He was a "minister of the circumcision." That is, He came "unto His own." He said, "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," (Matthew 15:24). Tell this to the ordinary professing Christian, and he regards you with amazement, if not with anger. When our Lord sent out the Twelve, in Matthew Ten, He said, "Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Now people resent that, because of their sad ignorance--both of the Divine sovereignty, and revealed plan. So, the first thing to clear away in our minds is the uncertain or false teaching, about the mission of Christ on earth. He was made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God; that He might confirm the promises unto the fathers.
Now we know that Christ came to declare the Father--to reveal God as He is. Also He came to give His life a ransom for many, to become "the propitiation for the whole world." Thus He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."
But, if we are to understand the story of His ministry, in the Gospels, we must remember that He was first a "minister of the circumcision,' as the Jewish Messiah, fulfilling, "confirming" the Divine promises of the Old Testament to that nation. [It is essential to understand and submit fully to this remarkable expression concerning our Lord's ministry to Israel, taking great care, however, that we do not allow ourselves to be drawn into the high folly of the Bullingerites, and others, who, because Christ was made a "minister of the circumcision," therefore regard as "transitional," and as not concerning the Church, the Body of Christ, the Gospels, the Acts, the present Epistle (to the Romans), the Corinthian Epistles,--in fact, all but the "prison epistles"! Some of these mistaken teachers, indeed, do not go to this length, but many are even more extravagant than this, claiming that Christ did not begin to build His Body on the day of Pentecost, but that there was a "transitional" time and state, after Pentecost, with a "Jewish Body"; and that the Body revealed by Paul in Ephesians and Colossians begins with Paul's revelation of it in "the prison epistles"! Now everyone knows that there was a gradual entering upon the full truth of what Gentile grace was, upon the part of the twelve apostles,--as witness Peter in Acts 10; and the Council of Acts 15. But to say that because they did not know fully the calling and hopes of the Church until Paul had revealed them (as indeed was true, by Christ's appointment) therefore the Body of Christ did not exist from Pentecost on, is idle, shallow folly! The object of the devil in causing these delusions, is practically the same as in his inspiring "higher criticism" and "modernism." It is to break the moral effect upon the conscience of certain books and certain passages of the Bible, by teaching believers to say, "That Scripture is not for us--it is not for the Church." Now the account of the creation is not "Church Truth," yet Paul takes great comfort from it, saying, "It is God that said. Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God, in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). Paul also takes great delight in pointing out, in quoting Genesis 2:24, that a man's leaving father and mother to cleave to his wife, was a type and picture of, and really concerned the union of, Christ and the Church! (Ephesians 5:29-32.) The book of Job was not written "for the Church," yet we learn in that great book filings of our God and of His ways not fully revealed elsewhere. I deem it not only folly, but presumptuous wickedness to speak as do these self-appointed wise men of our Lord's earthly ministry as "not concerning the Church," saying we must therefore leave the gospels and go to the epistles alone for instruction. Paul, on the contrary, continually quoted even the Old Testament Scriptures; even adducing the Law for our "instruction" (although telling us we are not under it; 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Corinthians 14:34; Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:2). Likewise the Psalms: Of course they were written with Israel's Messiah in direct view,--His sufferings, (and the Remnant's) with His ultimate earthly Kingdom-triumph in the 1000 years. Yet, recalling always the facts of our heavenly calling and place, the Psalms become full of blessing to the spiritual mind! The Holy Spirit makes them the quickened vehicle of guiding us into unexpected truth. And the four Gospels;-- "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" have a use and beauty of blessing for us, "all the greater because we know we are enlifed in, and risen with, Christ, new creatures in Him, and seated with Him in the heavenlies, in Christ Jesus! Indeed, we find our Lord, in John 17, praying for that marvelous oneness which was realized in the Church as revealed in all Paul's Epistles: "that they may be one--even as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee." There is no higher truth about the Church than this! "The Mystery," the Church as such, was not yet revealed,--as it begins to be in Romans and onward: but we have the great petitions that made the Church possible, here in John. When we step into The Acts, only those who leave the simplicity of Christian consciousness (as does Bullinger) dare affirm that in those earliest Christians there was not the very life and unity belonging to the one and only Body of Cnrist which it was later given Paul to "minister," as to its character, calling, destiny, and walk. Of course Romans is as much "church truth" as Ephesians! Avoid Bullingerism as you would the plague! The Church did begin at Pentecost; there is but one Body of Christ known in Scripture,--and no special "Jewish" Body; the Lord's words to the Seven Churches of Revelation 1-3 are solemn warnings to present assemblies, and not imaginary "Jewish" assemblies, after the Body of Christ is raptured to heaven, as Bullinger teaches! How anyone can be captured by such fantastic nonsense, is only explainable by the appalling ignorance of Pauline truth, and the hunger for it, (an ignorance and hunger of which Bullinger takes advantage!) Bullinger called the great Welsh Revival of 1904-5 "Spiritism,"-- attributing to the devil what the whole Church of God knows was God's work. (See Bullinger's Foundations of Dispensational Truth, p. 259.) And he taught "Soul-sleeping," calling Sheol and Hades "only gravedom." (See on Revelation, Chap. 1.) To follow such a presumptuous and blind leader, is to fall into the ditch. Only, Bullingerites think everyone but themselves in the ditch: and that they are mountain-top dwellers! Have you heard of a Bullingerite Bible conference for the deepening of the spiritual life? No; and you will not: for they are "sick about questionings, and disputes of words" (1 Timothy 6:4). The reason we warn of Bullingerism so repeatedly is, that it endangers the earnest souls who, desiring to escape the intolerable bondage of Protestant denominational ecclesiasticism (now daily becoming more Romish in fact and papal in process), hail Bullinger's system as freedom. But it is a much worse danger than what they have escaped! You may call it dispensational modernism, or modernistic dispensationalism; for it is both. It is difficult to deal in patience with presumption that takes an attitude much like that of Theosophy, of a "higher wisdom." It is a striking thing, (though from history it might be expected) that these errorists like others, are consumed by their error! They must harp on it at all times!] And what was this "ministry of the circumcision?
What was it meant to accomplish? Paul here says, It was for the sake of God's truth, God's faithfulness. His veracity, "to confirm the promises that had been given to the fathers"-- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was on God's behalf, to show that when God makes commitments and promises, He forgets them not, but fulfils them. He had promised a Messiah to Israel, and He sent the Messiah.
But God had made no promises, no commitments, to the Gentiles. Consequently, upon Israel's rejection of their Messiah, mercy, sovereign mercy, flows out to us Gentiles: and for this we glorify God, for that is the purpose of this mercy--that God may be glorified.
The prophet Micah, in the last verse of his prophecy (Micah 7:19, Micah 7:20), illustrates exactly this distinction between "the truth" of God toward Israel, and "the mercy" of God toward the Gentiles: "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the loving kindness [or, mercy] to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old." To Jacob the blessings were announced by God (above that ladder of Genesis 28) with the words: "I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac" (Genesis 28:13). The birthright which Esau despised and forfeited, Jacob had; and the promises were to be fulfilled in faithfulness. But to Abraham it was sheer mercy. His father was a Chaldean idolater, and probably he had been so (Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:3; Joshua 24:14; Joshua 24:15). But "the God of glory" appeared to him out of hand, without cause, right in the midst of Chaldean iniquity there at Ur. This was mercy (Acts 7:1). Jehovah "redeemed" Abraham (Isaiah 29:22).
Now for the present a "hardening in part" has befallen Israel, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," as we saw in Chapter Eleven.
It is striking that in the present passage, Chapter 15:9-29 (Romans 15:9-29), Gentiles are named ten times, the Gentile number! Five of these instances are from the Old Testament prophecies themselves. Let us study these quotations with especial attention:
9 Therefore will I give praise unto Thee among the Gentiles, And sing unto Thy Name (Psalms 18:49). 10 And again He saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people (Deuteronomy 32:43). 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; And let all the peoples praise Him (Psalms 117:1). 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 (Isaiah 11:10).
There are three remarkable points about these passages:
They are selected from the three great divisions of the Scripture: the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44).
There is a progress in the selections.
1. Christ Himself gives praise unto God from among the Gentiles. The quotation is from Psalms 18:49, where David becomes a distinct type of Christ, David's coming Seed, as see next verse. See also Psalms 22:22, where, after the awful description of the cross in the first part of that Psalm (Psalms 22:1-21)--the Divine forsaking, pierced hands and feet, parted garments--the Lord begins thus the resurrection praise:
"I will declare Thy name unto My brethren:
In the midst of the assembly will I praise Thee."
This "assembly" began, of course, with those Jewish believers in that upper room, to whom He first appeared; but that "assembly" shortly included Gentiles (Acts 10 and on). But we note here in Romans 15:9 that Christ Himself is celebrating Jehovah's work,--giving praise "among the Gentiles."
2. Verse 10:
The next step is, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people. Now, in Scripture, "His people" are always Israel; and, for awhile, as we find in the Acts, the Gentiles were "rejoicing with His people": it was with Jerusalem as the center, and the apostles and elders there recognized even by Paul, even after preaching to the Gentiles had begun (Acts 15). [Of course, the Church, the Body of Christ, was begun at Pentecost, But, though God would by and by send Paul to show the heavenly calling and character of the Church, yet God, in great patience and grace, called upon Israel first to repent and believe (Acts 3:26). So that, for a while,--even to Paul's officially closing Israel's national door, in Acts 28:25-28,--the Gentiles rejoiced "with" God's people Israel: it was "to the Jew first." But it is not so now! "There is no difference between Jew and Greek" must be preached, if God's Word is to be followed. Movements that put the Jew, now, in a place of preference, as "first," do the poor Jew,--a common sinner, undistinguished from the Gentile,-- the greatest disservice possible! They protect him from judgment as guilty before God (Romans 3:19). Instead, Paul went about to "provoke to jealousy" the Jews, by boasting in Christ, as himself the very "chief of sinners," saved by grace, not by the Law!]
3. Verse 11:
The next passage calls for direct praise from the Gentiles, with no distinct notice taken of Israel as a people; for the Greek reads: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and let all the peoples [plural] praise Him (as the R.V. correctly translates).
There is a looking forward to the Millennial reign in the quotation from Isaiah 11:10 : the Root of Jesse, He that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles. On Him [who shall thus reign] shall the Gentiles hope. Gentiles, thank God, may now freely "hope," and look to Him who will rule all the earth, during the Millennium. All nations then will be directly dependent upon the Lord, enthroned in the Millennial temple at Jerusalem. How blessed is the Gentile who now learns to "hope in Christ" (Ephesians 1:12) before He "arises to reign"! Verily there will be a reward!
As Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8 : "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the Seed of David, according to my gospel." How few Christians connect their Savior with David! They remember Romans 1:4, but not Romans 1:3. So they forget His royal earthly claims!
In this passage we saw (in verse 8) a setting forth of Christ as a "minister of the circumcision"; but this ministry was duly accomplished. It did not extend to the Gentiles, for no promises had been made to the Gentiles. Consequently, Gentiles are brought under Divine "mercy," and "hope" in Christ, wholly apart from Jewish connections; though recognizing our Lord's past and future ministry to the circumcision. [God had made arrangements with Israel at Sinai, had given them promises conditioned on their obedience. This limited God's action to the fulfilment of these commitments to Israel. "Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." But, at the cross, all was ended. Sin rose to its height, and transgression of the Law to its climax. When the Jews "killed the Lord Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:16), that Law which distinguished the "circumcision in the flesh" was "abolished" (Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14). God having thus wound up matters with Israel, and being, of course, entirely tree from any covenant with or commitment unto the Gentiles, could act according to the movements of absolute Love, which He is. The highest action of Love, consequently, succeeded the highest action of human sin: man crucified God's Son; God sends the Holy Ghost, baptizing believers into vital union with that Son raised from the dead and glorified. The Church, the Body of Christ, stands in the nearest possible relation to God of any creature!]
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.
Look at this great thirteenth verse: how it blossoms out before us! Here is a verse packed full!
1. The name here given to God thrills our hearts: The God of Hope. Hope looks forward with exultation for ever and ever! We remember Chapter 5:2 (Romans 5:2): "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God"; and Chapter 12:12 (Romans 12:12): "rejoicing in hope"; and also that hope, along with faith and love, abides forever, for God will be opening up new treasures of grace to us through all the ages to come! See Ephesians 2:7.
God is called the "God of peace" in Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; and in Philippians 4:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Hebrews 13:20; and, of course, peace is fundamental: Christ made peace by the blood of His cross. But we are not to be content with peace alone. Many would stop at Romans 5:1, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." But in this present verse God speaks as the God of hope; and He wants us filled with all joy as well as peace, so as to be abounding in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, if God is the God of hope, looking forward with expectancy and delight to the certain, glorious things of the future, then a dejected, depressed, discouraged saint of His is yielding to a spirit directly contrary to His will, which is, for each of us, that we abound in hope.
2. It is God Himself alone who can fill us with all joy and peace, making us to abound in hope. We cannot transform ourselves!
3. It is by the power of the indwelling Spirit that we are to "abound in hope." Some human beings are naturally introspective and gloomy. Others are naturally jovial and buoyant: but the joy in which we as believers are to abound does not in any wise flow from nature, but from the direct, inworking energy of the Holy Ghost. Some of the most naturally "happy" people of the world, "have been thrown into desperate trouble of soul either by the Spirit's convicting them of their sin, or, perhaps, by the withdrawal of natural supports on a death-bed without hope; while some of those whose tendency was discouragement and despondency almost to hopelessness have, "by the power of the Holy Ghost," been filled with all joy and peace, and have abounded in hope day by day and hour by hour!
4. It is in a believing heart that these blessed results are brought about. When asked by the Jews in the Sixth of John, "What must we do that we may work the works of God?" our Lord replied, "This is the WORK of God [the one thing He asks of you], that ye BELIEVE on Him whom He hath sent." The "believing" of Romans 15:13 is, of course, that "living by faith in the Son of God" of which Paul speaks in Galatians 2:20. It is stepping out on the facts God reveals about us; and learning to live the life of trust.
The verse we are considering is the highest development of Christian experience revealed in this great, fundamental Epistle of Romans. Deeper things will be elsewhere unfolded,--as, for instance, the Indwelling Christ of Ephesians 3:14-21. But, as Judges 1:20 tells us, we must "build up ourselves on our most holy faith." Paul declares that the "law" that prevails in this dispensation is a "law of faith" (Romans 3:27); and that the obedience into which we are called is the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26).
5. It is the will of God that you and I--all believers--be "filled with all joy and peace in believing,"--blessed spiritual state! that we may "abound in hope in the power of the Holy Ghost." Some are content if they merely find the way of salvation through faith in the blood of Christ. They are much given to talk about being "saved by grace," but they are not much exercised about holy living. A second class of believers become deeply exercised as to a life of "victory over sin." These, of course, if instructed aright, accept the wondrous fact that they died with Christ, and are now on resurrection ground, freed from sin, and from that which gave sin its power,--the Law. A third class go further, to the Twelfth of Romans, and enter on true Christian service, by presenting their bodies a living sacrifice to God; and discovering thereby His good, acceptable, and perfect will for them--whatever measure of faith He may give them, and to whatever gift or peculiar service He may call them. But here, in this great fountain of water in Chapter 15.13 (Romans 15:13), we find that a daily, hourly life "filled with all joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope," is the normal state for every one who is in Christ!
It will not do for us to make excuses for ourselves: God is the God of hope! His yearning is to fill you and me with all joy and peace, if we will just launch out and believe. Others just as unworthy as we have believed; we will never become "more worthy" of believing. "This poor earth is a wrecked vessel," as Moody used to say. Man is drifting on into the night, and judgment is coming. All the more, then, may the God of hope fill YOU with all joy and peace in believing, that YOU may abound in hope!
Many cherish their doubts, even adducing them as a proof of their humility, which is sad indeed. As Charles F. Deems used to say, "Believe your beliefs, and doubt your doubts; most people believe their doubts, and doubt their beliefs." You can believe. What a wonderful thing to be among those (sadly few!) believers who are filled with all joy and peace, and abound in hope!
We can enter into the benefit of our great apostle Paul's benedictory prayer in this matter: "Now the God of hope fill you"--for Paul yearned over, prayed over, and had effectual prayer, even, for "those that had not seen his face in the flesh" (Colossians 2:1); and we may assume that God will answer this mighty believing prayer of his on our behalf. And our Great High Priest, who moved Paul to pray, is at God's right hand, making constant intercession for us!
14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye, yourselves, are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able to admonish one another. 15 But I wrote the more boldly unto you in a measure, as putting you again in remembrance on account of the [especial] grace that was given me of God, 16 that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, administering
as priest the gospel of God; that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit
Although Paul had never been in Rome, he kept track of believers throughout the whole Roman world! Now he had said in our first Chapter (Romans 1:8) that he "thanked God through Jesus Christ for them all, that their faith was proclaimed throughout the whole world." This was a remarkable condition,--it was early freshness and vigor of faith! Our present verse has especially to do with those inner engiftments of the Spirit which enabled them with loving hearts and discerning knowledge to look after one another's spiritual needs without any apostle's help. For neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any apostle, had as yet preached the gospel at Rome! Of the Corinthian church also, Paul testifies: "In everything ye were enriched in Christ, in all utterance and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift." Now he says of these believers at Rome that he is persuaded that they are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and therefore really able to admonish one another! But Paul takes the very occasion of their remarkable pristine vigor in the Spirit, to bring before them that special and wonderful commission given him of God to the nations.
The ministry of the chosen apostle to the Gentiles was just as needful to establish the Romans (Romans 1:11, Romans 1:12; Romans 16:25) as it was for the Corinthian church, of which Paul himself was directly the "father." So Paul says to the believers at Rome, as he retraces in his mind the contents and manner of the great Epistle God has enabled him to send to them,--and which he is preparing to close:
Verses 15, 16:
All the more boldly, therefore, in a measure, I wrote unto you [in this epistle] on account of the [peculiar] grace that was given me of God, that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, officially administering the gospel of God; that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
And now Paul is reminding these Roman Christians--"putting them again in remembrance," of this great special grace that had been given him of God, that he should act toward the Gentiles as God's official administrator, ministering as such the gospel of God. This "grace" was God's mighty outfitting of His servant Paul for this ministry among the Gentiles, or nations, to whom he was sent.
Paul always carried about the consciousness that he was Christ's chosen vessel to the Gentiles. Most people are ignorant that he was so, and regard Paul simply as "an apostle," "one of the twelve," and so forth. But observe that the words of verses 15 and 16 go far beyond mere apostleship.
The word which characterizes Paul's ministry here is, in Greek, leitourgos. It is difficult to convey the meaning of it by any one English word. Alford renders it "ministering priest" (of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles); Darby, "an administrator officially employed"; Thayer, in his Lexicon, shows its original meaning to be, "a public minister, a servant of the state." The simple translation "minister of Christ Jesus" will scarcely do, because every preacher (and in a sense rightly) would deem himself to be thus described. [We cannot press the liturgical meaning In the sense of a literal priestly function here; for the same Greek word is used in Chapter Romans 13:6 concerning public officials they are said to be God's ministers (leitourgoi). Again, in verse 27 of our present chapter (15), we find that the Gentiles owed it to the Jerusalem saints "to minister unto them in carnal things." Here the verb form of the same word is used. See its use further in 2 Corinthians 9:12, and Philippians 2:17; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:30. But that its use here makes Paul a special official of God no one should doubt.]
1. It is evident from Peter's preaching, in Acts 10:35; Acts 11:18, that Gentile salvation had begun,--apart from Jewish things altogether. "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable unto Him": though not, of course, accepted, saved, except through the preached name and work of Christ (Acts 11:14). "To the Gentiles also God hath granted repentance unto life."
2. It is also evident from Paul's words in Romans 15:16, that he had a special ministry toward the Gentiles: that I should be a minister (leitourgos) of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles. Just as when Israel, already God's people while in Egypt, had sent to them Moses, who brought them out, and with whose ministry they were Divinely connected by God; so Paul was sent to the Gentiles, to whom the door of salvation had already been opened. And as God laid Israel on Moses, so laid He the Gentiles on Paul. Paul it is whose gospel, without mixture of even those Jewish things permitted in measure back at Jerusalem (Acts 21:20), was administered in priestly fashion among the nations, telling of the One Great Offering for sin for the whole world (and not for Jews only); that the offering up (prosphora) of the Gentiles might [thus] be made acceptable (euprosdektos). This last is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 6:2 : "Now is the acceptable time": the time when God freely accepts, without Law, convenant-conditions, or religious forms, any and all!
3. It is also evident from Romans 15:16 that apart from this full-grace gospel of Paul, the offering up of the Gentiles could not be "gladly acceptable" by God. For Israel had had a Law, with forms and ordinances. The Gentiles had had nothing: and to them as having nothing, Paul's grace-gospel came,--asking nothing, but bestowing everything!
4. Finally, it is evident that this acceptance of the Gentiles involved the presence and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. This began at Cornelius' house in Acts Ten: "The Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the Word." It was continued in Samaria, in Acts Eight. Paul's question to those at Ephesus in Acts Nineteen was: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" Even of the Galatians, mixed up in mind as they were, it was said: "He that supplieth to you the Spirit"!
Ah, we do not realize our privileges! Such an apostle as Paul-- is not only ours, but God laid us Gentiles upon this man as He laid Israel upon Moses. Alas, Moses complained of the burden (Numbers 11:11-15). But Paul complained not, even of "that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 11:29). Paul it was who "most gladly would spend and be spent out for our souls" (2 Corinthians 12:15). Paul it was who longed "for fruit in us also, as in the rest of the Gentiles"; who also "prayed with agonizing for as many as had not seen his face in the flesh" (Colossians 1:2, .Gr.).
So, as God hearkened to Moses regarding wretched Israel at Sinai (Exodus 32:7-14),--for he had made Moses responsible for them, may we not believe that God yet remembers the prayers for the Gentiles of this devoted servant Paul?
We know, from Romans Eleven, that the day will come when Gentiledom will be "cut off" as the sphere of God's direct blessing (through their unbelief and refusal of Divine "goodness"), and Israel, the natural branches, will be grafted in again. But we cannot but feel that some (and that in prominent places) are forgetting Paul with his "offering up of the Gentiles," and turning slavishly back, with flattering words, to Jews,--if not to Judaism! The glorious grace of the Pauline gospel to the Gentiles may be corrupted, despised, rejected, by fawning upon the Jew as being a special being,--different from common sinners. When God said, "There is no distinction" between Jew and Greek, that matter was settled! The wall of partition is down,--broken down by God! Woe to those who, under any claim, build it up! When God's time comes, after "His whole work"--of indignation toward Israel, He will Himself build up Zion. Meanwhile hearken to Paul! [A certain Jewish mission worker declared that when God caused the birth of Isaac from barren Sarah, He "infused into the blood-stream of his descendants new life," which differentiated them from the rest of the human race! Now this is not merely twaddle, but an accursed lie, which denies the whole gospel of God in this book of Romans! For if God iterates and re-iterates one thing, it is universal equal human sinnerhood! Nay, it there are special sinners in Romans they are Jews: "For the name ot God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Jews).]
Romans 15:16 has been passed lightly over at this Gentile end of the dispensation. Gentiles have taken over "religious" things, such as the Jews and heathen had, and have not regarded that peculiar "offering up" of them, through Paul's priestly ministering of the Gospel of God to them. But this is a great verse. It must not be "spiritualized" away into mere figurative speech.
The necessity of bowing to this Scripture's teaching that the unclean Gentiles are "sanctified by the Holy Spirit" through their being offered up by Paul, by means of the Gospel, is brought out in Chapter 11:17 (Romans 11:17). Today, the Gentiles feel as proud and self-sufficient before God as the Jews of old came to be. And just as the Israelitish branches were "broken off," so will the Gentiles be, by and by, according to the passage just referred to. When the Gentiles are broken off, and the natural branches (Israelites), grafted in again to the root of promise and blessing in Abraham, then, as formerly, the Gentiles, not being "sanctified by the Holy Spirit," can no more worship God as they do now, freely; but they will have to go up from all over the earth, to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and be subordinated to the priestly nation of Israel. This is brought out in Zechariah 14:16-19.
Ministering the good news of God, and thus making the offering up of the Gentiles acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit,--must cease when the Church is raptured and the gospel which Paul preached has ended its ministry. The Gentiles then are immediately, as before, far away, unclean; Israel. forgiven, cleansed, restored, becomes the priestly nation, unto which the nations must resort as of old for the knowledge of the true God. Not today do the nations have to come "as crawling things licking the dust before Jehovah's glory," as they will do in the Millennium. Words fail us to express the glory of the privilege that today prevails in the humblest gospel meeting as a means of access to God, with an amazing free gospel-welcome to God direct, through the shed blood of Christ, that will cease instantly upon the rapture of the Church, when the Gentiles will no longer be under the astonishing blessing which has been theirs during the present gospel dispensation through the apostle Paul. In priestly ministration of the gospel he offered up [Meyer thus comments here: "In priestly fashion administering the gospel of God. The gospel is not indeed the offering, but the Divine institute, which is administered (is in priestly fashion served) by the presenting of the offering. The Gentiles, converted, and through the Spirit consecrated as God's property, are the offering which Paul, as the priest of Jesus Christ, has brought to God."] the Gentiles, by which God made them "acceptable"; and upon believing, "sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (not as Israel had been, by circumcision and outward religious ordinances).
In view of this astonishing ministry of Paul, it is no wonder that he writes "boldly,"--very boldly, to the Christians in Rome, although he had not been there. Being "full of goodness and knowledge," they would be ready to be "put in remembrance" that there was one, although absent, who had, as their apostle, acted on their behalf in a general offering of them to God, as Gentiles; and now was lovingly and particularly concerned about their condition as saints,--such an one as made continual prayer concerning them and longed after them (Romans 1:9-11).
17 I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ did not work through me, in order to the [believing] obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, 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 [lit. fulfilled] the gospel of Christ; 20 yea, making it my ambition so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation; 21 but, as it is written, They shall see, to whom no tidings of Him came,
And they who have not heard shall understand.
The word therefore refers us to that peculiar ministry of verse 16 just described: I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. How different from that of Moses was Paul's ministry! Moses operated under God, beneath the eye of all the nations, humbling the proudest of them, and leading Israel in the wilderness, by a marvelous, continuous, physical miracle, for forty years; with God defending him publicly even to opening the earth to swallow his opposers! There is something overwhelmingly magnificent, outwardly, about Moses' whole life and ministry. Not so with Paul! He shared (and gloried in it) the place of earthly rejection and despising His Lord had; his great desire being to be "conformed unto His death" (Philippians 3:10). Therefore it requires spiritual discernment to see Paul's place and ministry. Over and over Paul makes statements like that of the present verse, insisting that he and his glorying were before (the unseen) God, and not before men. "God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son"; "We persuade men, but we are made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences" (2 Corinthians 5:11).
Here then, is this "least of all the apostles,"--nay, "less than at least of all saints," to whom God has given this greatest place of all (as Christ promised to the "least"); not only a ministry of being "an apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), "a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1 Timothy 2:7); but also the official presentation of the Gentiles to God, "offering them up." No wonder that Paul has a "glorying in Christ Jesus" in these things,--things "pertaining to God" indeed! There was no outward pillar of cloud and fire, no visible temple or formal worship; but just as really as God committed Israel to Moses' hands, so did God give this liturgical ministry toward the Gentiles to Paul, a priest-like office exercised by this "unknown" though "well-known" apostle. This explains the verses which follow:
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ did not work through me, in order to the [believing] obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed--Paul means to indicate here the absolute distinctiveness of his calling and work. He does not confuse it with or take glory for, the wonderful work of God at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and thereafter (Acts 2 to 12) by the twelve apostles, whose ministry was to the circumcision: of which twelve Paul was not! (1 Corinthians 15:5). He will speak only of what Christ has done through him, through preaching, and attesting miracle, and the attending presence and power of the Holy Spirit. An example of the "signs" of verse 19, was the "special miracles" at Ephesus: Acts 19:11; Acts 19:12; and an instance of a "wonder" was Paul's shaking off the viper which had bitten him: Acts 28:3-6. All these things set seal to the gospel which Paul preached, as of God. The whole passage needs to be compared with its parallel in 2 Corinthians 10:13-17.
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 [lit., fulfilled] the gospel of Christ.
What a marvelous, absolutely tireless love-laborer was this man Paul. Illyricum was the next province to Italy. Between Jerusalem and Illyricum lay the province of Syria, with its capital at Damascus, but its spiritual capital Antioch; and next to it Cilicia, with its great center Tarsus, Paul's own home, whither he had been sent by the brethren away from Jerusalem persecution (Acts 9:30) ; and whence Barnabas brought him to the work at Antioch (Acts 11:25; Acts 11:26) ; next province Pamphylia with Perga and Attalia; and above that Pisidia, centered at another Antioch; then Lycaonia, and above that the great and difficult Galatia with the churches Paul founded there; next proconsular Asia, centered at Ephesus, of course, and the mighty work there and the "fighting with beasts"; then at Troas across the Agean came the call from Macedonia, and its cities Philippi, Berea and Thessalonica, the saints of which lay so close to the apostle's heart; then Achaia, centered at Corinth, whence he wrote this present letter to the Romans--vast city, vast wickedness, but much people for the Lord. And so we arrive at Illyricum. And through all these regions just traced, Paul has fulfilled the gospel of Christ; insomuch that verse 23 informs us that he had no more any place in these regions.
Yea, making it my ambition so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation; but, as it is written, They shall see, to whom no tidings of Him came, And they who have not heard shall understand.
Wherefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you: but now, having no more any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come unto you--
Hindered--These many labors from Jerusalem to Illyricum had "hindered" Paul from seeing Christians at Rome as he longed to do. In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 he said, "We would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us,"--by some direct, desperate stand. But here, multitudinous labors have hindered. Compare Romans 1:13.
These many times shows how continually Roman Christians were on his mind and in his desire.
And now let us enter into the astonishing statement of verse 23, having no more any place in these regions. Everybody converted? No. All the saints established and perfected? No. Yet there was the urge to go on where no tidings of Him had come. This is the highest, deepest, widest, most Christ-like emotion that ever filled a human breast. How we should weep over our far departure from the whole spirit of Christ and His great apostle in this matter of preaching on and on and on? Instead of the passion to pay our debt to every creature by carrying the good tidings to them, we are rather churlish if they do not come to the buildings we have set up. We say, Why do they not come to church? and we talk of the "unchurched masses."
But God did not tell them to "come to church." He told us to carry the glad tidings to them! Let us cease chiding men for failing to come to hear the gospel, instead of our obeying the Lord and going with it to them where they are! The church at Jerusalem "settled down," until God drove the saints out after Stephen's martyrdom, so that they "went about preaching the Word." It is, indeed, the unusual Christian who has written in his soul, as had Paul, the ambition to carry the gospel where the name of Christ had never been on the tongue, and thus, not merely to build on an already laid foundation! To such missionaries verse 23 is fulfilled? When they return to England, or America, or Sweden, it is ever in their hearts, "I have no more any place in these regions." [A letter from a missionary just returned "on furlough" from China, reads: I asked the Board as a special favor to allow me to take a short furlough, and I am hoping to return to China in September. My heart is longing more every day to get back to China. The things I miss here in others, the ways in which I see time, energy, and money wasted for the things that do not satisfy,--all these things and others make me realize more than ever how subtly Satan works to seal away our hearts and keep us from God's best, and makes me desire more than I ever did in my life that I shall not fail of His grace, and that as He works in me and deals with me, these days I may respond fully, so that as I go back to China, if He wills it so,--I may go in the fulness of the grace of Christ, to fulfil all His will in and through me. How the world needs Christ!"--L. S.]
And, by the way, a longing to come unto any field (prayed over persistently), will probably land one in that field! So it was with Paul.
Whensoever I proceed [on my course) unto Spain for I hope [proceeding thus] to see you, and by you be brought on my way thither, after I have in some measure satisfied my long-cherished desire for your company.
Proceed unto--The same Greek word is used of Christ's pursuing His path: "He set His face to proceed [on His course] to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51); "I must proceed [on my course] today and tomorrow" (Luke 13:33): "The Son of Man proceedeth [on His course] as it is written of Him" (Luke 22:22).
We see here Paul's consciousness of his "course," appointed by the Lord, which he had not finished even at his first imprisonment (Philippians 3:12-14); but which he had finished at his second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:8).
Unto Spain--Paul's purpose to go to Spain, where Christ had not been named, is re-affirmed as a fact in his Divinely-purposed course, in verse 28: "I will go on by you unto Spain." Meanwhile his longing to have fellowship with, and be a blessing to, those who were already believers at Rome, is very strong. He cannot bear to go on to Spain without being, for a while, at least, comforted with their fellowship. In some measure ["In some measure' (apo merous) is an affectionate limitation of emplestho, implying that he would wish to remain much longer than he anticipated being able to do," says Dean Alford.] --Paul's meaning is evidently not brought out in either the A.V. or R.V. Conybeare's rendering is, "After I have in some measure satisfied my desire for your company," or, "I must to some extent at least have my fill of your company." It is a wholly loving expectancy!
Paul also hopes, not only to see these Christians at Rome, but, to be brought on my way [to Spain] by you. Thus was the Gospel "furthered" in those days,--yea, and even yet! For we find today companies of saints who by prayer and gifts, send the preacher on to other fields! ["This phase, brought on the way,' or sent forward,' refers to a semi-official custom of the apostolic churches in furnishing an escort to go some or all the way with a departing minister or missionary. Paul is here most likely asking that one or more of the Roman brethren be sent with him to Spain. See Acts 15:3; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6-11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Titus 3:13; 3 John 1:6"--Stifler. Paul is not asking for a "collection" from the Roman believers, but asking that blessed fellowship in all things of the Spirit which pertained then and now pertains to every servant of Christ and to all believers; to set forward in every way those who are going forth with the blessed gospel.]
25 But now, (I say), I am proceeding unto Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints. 26 For [the saints in] Macedonia and Greece have gladly undertaken to make a certain Contribution for the poor among the saints that are in Jerusalem. 27 Yea, they have gladly done it; and they are indeed their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jewish] spiritual things, they owe it also to minister unto them in earthly matters. 28 When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain. 29 And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
Paul now announces the purpose of his visit to Jerusalem (to carry a love-gift to the saints there), which was brought out only in a general way in Acts 24:17. This was no hasty journey. In 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:2 he had written to the Corinthians in Greece:
"As touching the ministering to the saints, I know your readiness, . . . that Greece hath been prepared for a year past; and your zeal hath stirred up very many of them"
(Christians north of them, in Macedonia,--Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea).
It was a deliberate act of love on the part of the Gentile saints. It is called a special "grace" from God at least six times by Paul in II Corinthians Eight and Nine. It led the Gentile Christians into special consecration. Paul himself, together with other brethren, took this great offering back to Jerusalem, to seal in person unto them this fruit of the blessed gospel! This was probably in God's sight the highest act of Paul's whole ministry, fulfilling our Lord's words: "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them"; "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Not only was this offering for the poor in Jerusalem the "good pleasure" of the Gentile Christians, and gladly given, but Paul recounts that in Macedonia this grace of grateful giving to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, whence the gospel first came, led to their "beseeching Paul with much entreaty" to take what they gave--"of their own accord and even beyond their power"; "in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality!"--they first, "having given their own selves to the Lord"--evidently in special meetings for prayer and consecration to this ministry of giving!
Here, then, we have the original order of "foreign" missions: The grace of God so abounds in the hearts of those in the unreached lands when they hear the gospel, that they joyfully insist, amidst persecution and poverty, on sending back, to those whence the gospel first went forth, a ministry of money, in grateful love! Instead of asking to be "supported" from the "home field," they entreat to be permitted to send back a love gift for any poor saints there! [One wonders what the re-action would be in some comfortable church in America or England, Holland or Scandinavia, if some morning it were publicly announced, "Gifts for the poor among us have just arrived from the persecuted, poor, but happy saints in China, and India, to whom we have sent out the gospel!" Would we really have humility enough to receive such gifts? On the other hand, as regards the poor among the saints at Jerusalem, Olshausen trenchantly remarks that the community of goods of Pentecostal days "evidently had not lasted long!" However, in answer to this, let us remember that even in those days absolute right of possessing private property was recognised: "While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?" (Acts 5:4); and that the community of goods was evidently Divinely set forth at the time as a sign to the Jews of the power of the love of Christ which completely set aside private claims; and, finally, that the epistles of Paul, which are the charter of the Church of God, indicate the path for "them that are rich in this present age, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate" (1 Timothy 6:17; 1 Timothy 6:19). They may continue, in comparison to others, rich, having thus the responsibility of stewards, as some must have. Finally, we must remember our Lord's words: "The poor ye have always with you." But would even poor saints here be willing to be known as having received contribution from "the foreign mission field"?]
Yea, they have gladly done it; and they are indeed their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jewish] spiritual things, they owe it also to minister unto them in earthly matters.
Here then is the reason for our special ministry toward Jewish Christians, and, as Gentiles, to help the Jews in any way possible: we have been made partakers of their "spiritual things." It is not that they are at present recognized, nationally, by God: they are not. But we are "their debtors." So we should be ready to "minister" to them, as we are able.
"Their Spiritual things" does not mean that our calling is Jewish or earthly, in any sense. See Chapter Eleven.
Here is announced also the principle which Paul states concerning himself to the Corinthians: "If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?" . . . And although he "did not use this right," he declares that "the Lord ordained, that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 9:12). To the Levites only, among the tribes, was given no inheritance, Jehovah saying, "I am their inheritance." But others were to minister unto them of their substance, so that, when the Israelites were faithful, the Levites had plenty; and when Israel forgot Jehovah, they forgot the Levites.
When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain.
Note Paul's confidence of the success of his ministry; also that giving is regarded as the proper "fruit" which "seals" to other believers the reality of our confession. See 2 Corinthians 9:13 about this same matter: "Seeing that through the proving of you [Grecian Christians] by this ministration they [the Jerusalem poor] glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ." Confession of Christ that does not result in ministering to others, is not an obedient confession.
And I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
This verse should put to silence those who claim that Paul was "below" his apostolic calling in this journey to Jerusalem. First, Paul had a holy, inspired knowledge that he would get to Rome; second, he had the same knowledge that when he should come, it would be not on a lower plane than his full apostolic message, but "in the fulness of the blessing of Christ."
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive [lit., agonise] together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judea, and that my ministration which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; 32 that I may come unto you in joy through the will of God, and may refresh myself in your fellowship. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Here Paul makes the most solemn appeal for the supplications of the saints to be found in all his epistles. "Prayer changes things!" And many things needed to be wrought by God, if Paul's Divinely-guided journey to Jerusalem was to be successful.
First, there was the inveterate hatred of the Jews toward Paul as the minister of grace to the Gentiles; the Jews were indeed "disobedient." Paul describes them in 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. ["The Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always; but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."]
Second, there was the natural disinclination even on the part of Jewish Christians, through prejudice and pride, to accept for their poor an offering at the hands of Gentiles.
Third, there was the constant willingness on the part of the Roman governors of Judea to "gain favor" with the Jews by yielding as far as possible to their demands in matters of their religion. All these difficulties had to be overcome,--and by what means? By God's appointed way--through prayer.
Paul therefore in verses 30-33, beseeches and that by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and by the love wrought in believers by the Holy Spirit, that they agonize (Greek, agonidzo, the word used of contestants wrestling in Greek games), together with Paul in their prayers to God for these things: for, the Jews being entrenched in Satanic opposition to Christ and His gospel, Paul asks the Christians at Rome to pray that he may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judea; again, he asks them to pray that his ministration for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; and that, that he may come to the Roman Christians in joy through the will of God, and together with them be refreshed.
Now God answered these prayers, though bearing long; for Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea two years: and came a prisoner to Rome, suffering shipwreck by the way! Yet in due time all three things were brought about by prayer! [It is astonishing (and the more so the more we study it) how God makes His work in this world depend on the prayers of His saints! Even His processes of judgment wait for "the prayers of the saints" (see author's Revelation, p. 121). And we know, from 1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:2, that the saints' living "a tranquil and quiet life, in all godliness and gravity" is brought about through their faithful prayers "for all men, for kings, and all (hat are in high place." Alas, how sadly this duty has been neglected,--and with consequences of what dire national unrest and trouble and disturbance of that outward tranquility and quietness wherein the gospel best is proclaimed, and the church built up! (Acts 9:31.) Paul begs the Prayers of all the churches to whom he writes (except the Galatians!) "Doors for the word" were to be opened through their prayers; "boldness," "utterance," that the gospel might be "made manifest,"--all waited on their prayers! Epaphras, the Colossian, was a good example of what kind of praying we should do! See Colossians 4:12; Colossians 4:13 : "A bondservant of Christ Jesus, always agonizing for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God."]
The beautiful benediction of verse 33, The God of peace be with you all, shows how fully at peace was the apostle's heart, and how fully in God's will! Also, His overflowing love for the saints. For the "God of peace" to be with us, is more than salvation: it is to be conscious of him--in peace! Amen!
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Newell, William. "Commentary on Romans 15". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent