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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Romans 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

Romans 15:1-3. We then that are strong — Who have attained a greater degree of knowledge in spiritual things, have a clearer judgment, and are free from these scruples; ought to bear the infirmities of the weak — To accommodate ourselves to their weakness, so far as not to use our liberty to their offence and hinderance in religion; and also to bear with them in their failings, consequent on their ignorance or weakness, and not to condemn or despise them; and not to please ourselves — Without any regard to others. On the contrary; let every one of us — Without exception; please his neighbour for his good — Comply with his opinion in indifferent matters, so far as may tend to his advancement in holiness. For even Christ pleased not himself — Had regard to our advantage more than his own. “Christ might in his own life-time have declared the law of Moses abrogated, and have eaten of all kinds of meat indifferently, and have freed himself from the burdensome services enjoined by the law. But because his doing so would have been premature, and, by bringing reproach on the gospel, might have marred its success among the Jews, he abstained from the meats forbidden by the law, and performed the services which it enjoined;” and thereby, as well as by many other and much greater things, showed that he did not make it an object to please himself, “but in all his actions studied to promote the honour of God, and the happiness of men.” But as it is written — In words which may well be applied to him; The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me — The punishment due to the wicked, who, by their speeches and actions, had dishonoured God, was laid on me. See note on Psalms 69:9, the verse here quoted. That this Psalm is a prophecy concerning Christ, we learn from John 19:28, where their giving Jesus vinegar to drink on the cross is represented as a fulfilment of the 21st verse of it. In like manner, Romans 15:9, The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up, was applied to Jesus by the disciples, John 2:17. Paul, therefore, hath rightly interpreted Romans 15:22-23, of the same Psalm, of the Jews who crucified Christ. See note on Romans 11:9-10.


Verse 4

Romans 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime — In the Old Testament; were written for our learning — As if he had said, Though this may seem to concern David or Christ only, yet it, and all other parts of Scripture, whether containing promises or threatenings, whether speaking of rewards or punishments, were intended to be useful to God’s people in after ages; and by this passage in particular, we may learn to bear with the infirmities of others, a matter of great importance in religion; nay, of absolute necessity, considering that we ourselves, and all around us, not excepting the wisest and holiest Christians, are compassed about with infirmity; that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures — By learning and exercising such patience as the Scriptures prescribe, especially in bearing with the infirmities of others, and by obtaining those comforts the Scriptures hold forth to us; we might have hope — Might be confirmed in our expectation of eternal life, or that through the consolation which God gives us by the Scriptures, we might have patience and a joyful hope.


Verses 5-7

Romans 15:5-7. Now the God of patience and consolation — From whom all these gracious and seasonable provisions proceed; grant you to be like- minded one toward another — That is, to be united in peace and love; according to Christ Jesus — His doctrine, command, and example, and for his honour and glory. Or, as το αυτο φρονειν εν αλληλοις may be properly rendered, to have the same disposition toward one another; the verb φρονειν, signifying to care for, as well as to think, Philippians 2:2 : a disposition, therefore, to live in peace with one another, and to bear one another’s weaknesses, according to Christ’s precept and example, is here prayed for on behalf of the Romans. Having in the preceding verse mentioned the patience and consolation of the Scripture, the apostle here calls God the God of patience and consolation, to show that the patience and consolation of the saints proceeded from him. In like manner, having in Romans 15:12 said, In him the Gentiles shall hope, he calls God, Romans 15:13, the God of hope, to show that the hope which the Gentiles entertained of salvation, proceeded from him. So also Romans 15:33, the God of peace, and elsewhere, the God of glory, the God of order, &c. That ye — Both Jews and Gentiles; believing with one mind — And confessing with one mouth, or with united hearts and voices, may glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — Who hath sent his beloved Son into the world, to unite our hearts in love to each other, and in gratitude to him for his unspeakable love to us. Wherefore receive ye one another — Weak and strong, into communion with mutual love, without despising or judging one another; as Christ also received us — Whether Jews or Gentiles, to be members of his body the church, and joint heirs with him of eternal felicity; to the glory of God — Namely, of his truth to the Jews and mercy to the Gentiles.


Verses 8-12

Romans 15:8-12. Now — To show more fully what I mean in saying Christ received us, I observe, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision Or vouchsafed to be a servant of the Jews, in preaching the gospel among them; for the truth of God — To demonstrate his faithfulness in fulfilling the promises made unto the fathers — Of sending them the Messiah; and therefore, 1st, The believing Jews, though weak, ought not to be despised by the believing Gentiles, though stronger. And, 2d, It is no objection to Christ’s receiving the Gentiles, that he never preached to them, for he became a minister of the circumcision, not only in order to the salvation of the Jews, but also that, by converting them, and sending them to preach to the Gentiles, he might accomplish the promises made to the fathers concerning the blessing of all nations. And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy, as it is written, Psalms 18:49; where the Gentiles and Jews are spoken of as joining in the worship of the true God, the God of Israel. To explain this more fully, “Jesus Christ was born a Jew, and exercised his ministry among the Jews, in order that the truth of God’s promises to the fathers, concerning the blessing of the nations in Abraham’s seed, might be confirmed by the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles. For as the Jews were the only people on earth who worshipped the true God, and had his revelations in their hands, it was absolutely necessary that the gospel, in which all the former revelations terminated, should be first preached to them; that a sufficient number of them receiving it, might preach it to the Gentiles, as the fulfilment of the former revelations, of which their nation were the keepers. The gospel being thus offered to the Gentiles, as the word of the same God who anciently spoke to the fathers of the Jewish nation by the prophets; that circumstance, with the miracles which accompanied the first preaching of it, so powerfully demonstrated it to be from God, that multitudes of the Gentiles, receiving it, turned from idols to worship the living and true God; whereby the truth of God’s promise to the fathers, concerning the blessing of the nations in Christ, was illustriously confirmed, and the Gentiles had an opportunity of glorifying God for his mercy in their conversion.” It may be proper to observe further here, that “conversion to the true God being the mercy, or blessing, which God promised to bestow on the Gentiles, it is particularly mentioned here, not only to make the Gentiles sensible that they ought not to despise the Jews, through whom they had received so great a blessing, but also to persuade the Jews to acknowledge the Gentiles as the people of God, equally with themselves.” — Macknight. And again Moses saith, (Deuteronomy 32:43,) Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people — Implying that the time would come when the Gentiles should become the people of God as well as the Jews, and should join with them in the worship of God, and rejoice in a sense of his goodness to them. And again, (Psalms 117:1,) Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, for the mercy vouchsafed to you; therefore they shall know God, and obtain mercy; and Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse — See note on Isaiah 11:10. The apostle here follows the translation of the LXX., because, though it differs in expression from the Hebrew, it represents the prophet’s meaning with sufficient exactness to prove the point for which he quotes it, which was to show that the Gentiles should become the people of God by believing, and confiding in the Messiah, and therefore should be united in the same church with the believing Jews. And the apostle’s design in this part of his epistle being to persuade the Jewish and Gentile converts to a cordial union in the public worship of God, it was of great importance to show the Jews that this coalition was foretold in their own Scriptures; for which purpose the apostle, with great propriety, quotes the various passages here adduced.


Verse 13

Romans 15:13. Now the God of hope — A glorious title of God, but till now unknown to the heathen; for their goddess Hope, like their other idols, was nothing, whose temple at Rome was burned by lightning. It was indeed built again not long after, but was again burned to the ground. It is with great propriety that Jehovah is termed the God of hope, for there Isaiah , 1 st, In his nature and attributes; 2d, In the relations in which he stands to mankind in general, as their Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Governor, and Judge; and to his own people in particular, as their Redeemer, Saviour, Friend, and Father; 3d, In what he hath already done for them in giving his Son for their redemption, and in sending them the gospel light, and his Spirit’s aid; and, 4th, In what he hath promised still further to do for such as do not reject his counsel against themselves; — there is, in these particulars, a most sure and glorious foundation laid for the most firm, lively, enlarged, and blessed hope, for all who will be persuaded to come to it and build thereon, by true repentance, living faith, and new obedience. And we may assure ourselves beyond a doubt, that

“No man too largely from his love can hope, If what he hopes he labours to secure.”

He is also called the God of hope, because, by raising his Son from the dead, and bringing life and immortality to light by the gospel, he hath presented to our view the most glorious object of hope possible to be presented to us; and because, by adopting believers into his family, regenerating them by his grace, constituting them his heirs, and giving them an earnest of their future inheritance in their hearts, he hath begotten them again to a lively hope of an incorruptible inheritance, an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. Fill you with all joy — True spiritual joy, at all times, Philippians 4:4; and in all things, 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; joy arising from the sources mentioned in the note on Romans 14:17 : and peace, of all sorts, in believing — In or by the exercise of your faith in God and Christ, and the truths and promises of the gospel. That ye may abound in hope — In a lively expectation of eternal life, felicity, and glory, and of continued, increasing grace, to help you in every time of need — And of all things necessary for life and godliness. Through the power of the Holy Ghost — Enlightening and quickening, renewing, strengthening, and comforting you.


Verses 14-17

Romans 15:14-17. And I myself am persuaded of you — The apology which the apostle here offers for writing to a church with which he was not personally acquainted was the more necessary, because, in his letter, he had opposed some of their strongest prejudices, and had rebuked them for certain irregularities in their conduct. But he was entitled to instruct and reprove them, by virtue of his apostolic office, (Romans 15:15;) the truth of which he proved by his success in converting the Gentiles; (Romans 15:16-17;) and by the miracles he had wrought among them, and by the gifts of the Spirit he had communicated to his converts, in all the Gentile countries which he had visited. That ye — Some among you, by being created anew; are full of goodness — Of kindness, so as to forbear giving unnecessary offence to, or censuring one another; filled with all knowledge — A large measure of knowledge in all needful points, through your long experience in the ways of God; able also to admonish — To instruct, and confirm; one another — In all things of importance. There are several conclusions of this epistle: the first begins at this verse; the second, Romans 16:1; the third, Romans 15:17; the fourth, Romans 15:21; and the fifth, Romans 15:25. Nevertheless, brethren — Notwithstanding your grace and knowledge; I have written the more boldly unto you — Have used the greater freedom and plainness in writing; in some sort — απο μερους, in part, or partly; as putting you in mind — That is, setting before you, and inciting you to the practice of what you know already; because of the grace that is given to me — That is, because I am constituted an apostle of the Gentiles. Whitby thinks, that by the expression, in part, in the former clause of the verse, the apostle meant to signify the Gentile part of the Church of Rome to whom he wrote, to put them in mind of God’s great goodness to them. But it seems more probable he intended thereby to insinuate, that his design in writing was, besides calling things to their remembrance which they knew, to instruct them in some things which they did not know. That I should be the minister — The servant; of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering, preaching, the gospel of God — In order to their conversion and edification; that the offering up of the Gentiles — To him, as living sacrifices; might be acceptable — In his sight; being sanctified by the Holy Ghost — Plentifully communicated to them, not only in a rich variety of gifts, but in his regenerating, purifying, and comforting influences; making them wise and good, holy toward God, and useful to their fellow-creatures. I have therefore — Having, by the blessing of God upon my labours, been instrumental in converting many of them, whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ — In and through whom all my glorying is; in those things which pertain to God — In the success of my ministry, wherein the glory of God is so much concerned.


Verse 18-19

Romans 15:18-19. For I will not dare to speak, &c. I will not glory of more than is true and has been really done by my ministry; to make the Gentiles obedient — To bring them to the faith, and to the worship and service of the true God; by word and deed — By preaching and miracles. The apostle would not speak of what Christ had not wrought by him, but by his disciples, for making the Gentiles obedient; though he might have claimed some praise also from their success. But he would speak only of what Christ had wrought by him personally; namely, that he had preached the gospel with the greatest success, in many of the Gentile countries. Through mighty signs and wonders — It does not appear that the apostle intended by these different names to express different things, as some have supposed, namely, that the σημεια, signs, were the miracles intended to prove the truth of the doctrine asserted, or message brought by the miracle-worker; and that τερατα, wonders, were such miracles as were intended to astonish, and terrify, and draw the attention of beholders; of which sort was the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira with death, and of Elymas with blindness: he doubtless meant miracles in general, by both expressions. In the gospels, the miracles of Christ are commonly called δυναμεις, powers, or mighty works, to express the great power exerted in the performance of them. By the power of the Spirit of God

Enlightening men’s minds, and changing their hearts, and thereby rendering the miracles wrought, and the word preached, effectual to their conviction and conversion. So that I have fully preached the gospel of Christ — Have made a full declaration thereof, not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God; not keeping back any thing that I had reason to believe would be profitable to my hearers: from Jerusalem, round about unto Illyricum — This phraseology implies, that he had propagated the gospel, not in a direct line from Jerusalem to Illyricum, but far and wide, on every hand, through the interjacent countries. “Illyricum was a country in Europe, lying between Pannonia and the Adriatic sea. It is now called Sclavonia. In the history of the Acts, there is no mention made of Paul’s preaching the gospel in Illyricum. Nevertheless, as that country, on the south, bordered on Macedonia, where Paul often preached, he may, on some occasion, have gone from Macedonia into Illyricum. Yet this supposition is not necessary, as the apostle does not say he preached the gospel in, but only as far as Illyricum: which country, it appears, at the time he wrote this epistle, was the boundary of his preaching westward.” — Macknight.


Verses 20-22

Romans 15:20-22. Yea, so have I strived to preach — Greek, ουτω δε φιλοτιμουμενον ευαγγελιζεσθαι, literally, being ambitious; or, it being the object of my ambition; namely, so far as Providence would permit me to indulge it; to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named — Had been preached before by others: that is, This way I took, as to my choice of places where to preach, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, and so decline the difficulties which attend the settlement of new churches, or should assume to myself the credit due to others. He generally, though not altogether, declined preaching where others had preached, having a holy ambition to make the first proclamation of the gospel in places where it was quite unheard of, in spite of all the difficulty and danger that attended the doing of it. And the providence of God seemed, in a special manner, to prevent his preaching where others had preached, (though not entirely,) lest his enemies, who sought every occasion to set light by him, should have had room to say that he was behind other apostles, not being sufficient for planting churches himself, but only for preaching where others had prepared his way; or that he declined the more difficult part of the ministry. But as it is written

According to that prophecy which is now fulfilling in my ministry; to whom he was not spoken of — Namely, the Gentiles; they shall see — See on Isaiah 52:15. And they that have not heard — In former times; shall understand — And obey the gospel. For which cause — That I might not build on another man’s foundation; I have been much hindered from coming to you — Among whom Christ had been named. Or he means, that he had been hindered by the important work of planting the gospel elsewhere.


Verse 23-24

Romans 15:23-24. But now, having no more place in these parts — Where Christ has now been preached in every city; and having a great desire — On various accounts; to come to you — I will attempt to put it in execution. Whensoever — At whatever time; I take my journey into Spain — Greek, εαν πορευομαι εις την σπανιαν, if I go into Spain; I will come to you — Namely, if God shall so permit. But this zealous design, it seems, was hindered by his imprisonment. It appears probable, from hence, considering the principle that Paul chose to govern himself by, of not building on another man’s foundation, that no apostle had yet planted any church in Spain. For I trust — I hope; to see you in my journey thither — But he was not assured hereof by any divine revelation. Indeed this, among other instances, is a proof that, in speaking of what he meant to do afterward, the apostle did not make known any determinations of God revealed to him by the Spirit, but his own resolutions and opinions only. For there is no evidence that he ever went to Spain. And be brought on my way thitherward by you — By some of your church; if first I be somewhat filled — Satisfied and refreshed; with your company — Your society and fellowship. The Greek is only, with you. How remarkable is the modesty with which he speaks! They might rather desire to be satisfied with his company. He says, somewhat satisfied, intimating the shortness of his stay, or perhaps that the presence of Christ alone can thoroughly satisfy the soul.


Verses 25-27

Romans 15:25-27. But now I go unto Jerusalem — Of this journey the apostle gave an account to Felix, Acts 24:17; to minister unto the saints — To perform the office of carrying some contributions to them for their relief. For it hath pleased them — That is, the Christians; of Macedonia and Achaia, particularly the brethren at Philippi, Thessalonica, Beræa, Corinth, and in every other city of these provinces, where churches were planted by the apostle; to make a certain contribution κοινωνιαν τινα, literally, some communication, namely, of money; for the poor saints — For their believing brethren; which are at Jerusalem — Exposed to peculiar persecution and affliction. It hath pleased them, I say, and their debtors they are — That is, they are bound in justice, as well as mercy. “This repetition is very emphatical, especially as the apostle immediately explains the obligation under which the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia lay to make these collections for the poor of the brethren at Jerusalem. And his intention in this, no doubt, was to show the brethren in Rome that they ought to follow the example of the Macedonians and Achaians in that matter.” For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things — That is, the gospel, and the blessings of it, which were first declared to the Jews, and were spread abroad from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, throughout the world, Acts 1:4-8. Their duty is also — They are under an obligation by the great benefit received from them to recompense them in some sort, and (which is the only way they can recompense them) to minister unto them carnal things — Things needful for the body. “By calling the knowledge of the gospel, which was imparted to the Gentiles by the Jewish preachers, spiritual things, and the money, which the Gentiles were sending to the Jews, carnal things, the apostle hath declared the true nature of both, and showed the great excellence of the one above the other; money procures conveniences only for the flesh; but the gospel improves the spirit, and fits it for a blessed immortality.” — Macknight.


Verse 28-29

Romans 15:28-29. When, therefore, I have performed this journey and service, and have sealed to them — Safely delivered to them, without diminution, as a treasure under a seal; this fruit — This contribution, which is a fruit of their brethren’s faith and love; I will come by you into Spain — Such was his design, though it seems it was never accomplished. There are often holy purposes in the minds of good men, which are overruled by the providence of God, so as never to take effect; and yet they are precious in the sight of God. And I am sure — οιδα, I know; that when I come to you, I shall come to you in the fulness, &c. — I shall be a means of communicating to you abundance of gospel blessings. It is evident from this, and from the 28th verse, as well as from Romans 1:10-11, that Paul wrote this epistle while he was at liberty, and before Christ had told him, as is mentioned Acts 23:11, that he must testify of him at Rome; and before he was constrained to appeal to Cesar, as is related Acts 25:11; for in this epistle he speaks still of his journey to Rome as of a voluntary undertaking, not supposing that he should be sent thither as a prisoner.


Verses 30-33

Romans 15:30-33. Now I beseech you for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake — That is, by all which he has done for you; and for the love of the Spirit — That is, by the love to God, and Christ, and his saints and servants, which is the fruit of the Spirit: that ye strive συναγωνισασθαι, that you agonize together with me; or, as Doddridge renders it, that you join your utmost strength with mine — In your prayers to God for me; the original expression being derived from a word which signifies exerting the greatest strength and agility, such as the combatants exerted in the Grecian games. They must pray for themselves, who would have others strive together with them in prayer. Of all the apostles, Paul alone is recorded as desiring the prayers of the faithful for himself; and this he generally does in the conclusions of his epistles; yet not without making a difference. For, he speaks in one manner to them whom he treats as his children, with the gravity, or even severity of a father, such as Timothy, Titus, the Corinthians, and Galatians; in another, to them whom he treats rather like equals, such as the Romans, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Hebrews. That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea — “The unbelieving Jews at Jerusalem had got notice of Paul’s success in converting the Gentiles, to whom he preached salvation, without requiring them to obey the law of Moses. And being falsely informed that he taught all the Jews which were among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, &c., (Acts 21:21,) they were exceedingly enraged against him.” Of this the apostle being well apprized, and knowing of what importance the preservation of his life was to the church, is thus urgent in his requests for the continued, fervent prayers of the brethren at Rome, that he might be preserved from the power of these enemies of Christ and his servants; and that his service in making the collections might be well received by the saints there. These were evidently the grand reasons why he was so earnest in desiring the prayers of the faithful for him; for, had his own personal safety alone been the object of his solicitude, independent of the prosperity of God’s work, and the salvation of the souls of the Gentiles, he doubtless would have desired to depart, and be with Christ, which he knew would be far better than remaining longer in the body, in this world of sin and sorrow. That I may come unto you with joy — “As the apostle proposed to visit the Romans after delivering the collections at Jerusalem, he earnestly wished that that service might be acceptable to the brethren there; because, if it was well received, it would have great influence in producing that happy union of the Jews with the Gentiles, which he had so much at heart to accomplish, and make him come to Rome in great joy. But how much he was disappointed in his generous design, and in what disadvantageous circumstances he came to Rome, the history of the Acts informs us.” See chap. 21.-26. Now the God of peace — Who is at peace with us, being reconciled to us in Christ, and causes us to know, by experience, that the fruit of the Spirit is peace, — even a peace passing understanding, — be with you all — Whether I am present or absent. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 15:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-15.html. 1857.

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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