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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Romans 15

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. XV.

The strong must bear with the weak. We may not please ourselves, for Christ did not so; but receive one the other, as Christ did us all, both Jews and Gentiles. Paul excuseth his writing, promiseth to see them, and requesteth their prayers.

Anno Domini 58.

THE Apostle, in the 7th verse of this chapter, having exhorted the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome to a cordial union, from the considerationthat Christ had received both into his church,naturally turned his thoughts to an objection which might be made to this doctrine; namely, that if Christ had meant to receive the Gentiles, he would have preached to them himself. To this the Apostle replied, that the Lord Jesus Christ was born among the Jews, and preached to the Jews only; because thereby, in the end, he most effectuallyaccomplished God's promises to the fathers, concerning the blessing of the nations in Abraham's seed, Romans 15:8-9.—Farther, because the Jews were unwilling to be united with the Gentiles in one church, the Apostle quoted various passages from their own prophets,foretelling that the Gentiles, in future times, would be Messiah's subjects, and join the Jews in worshipping the true God, Romans 15:9-12.—Wherefore, God having determined from the beginning to make the Gentiles his people, the Jewish believers were bound to acknowledge such of them as were converted, for their brethren and fellow-heirs of the promises of God, notwithstanding they did not obey the law of Moses. And, having thus established the title of the Gentiles to all the privileges of the people of God under the Gospel dispensation, the Apostle prayed that God would fill them with all joy and peace, through the firm belief of their title to these great blessings, Romans 15:13.

Both the doctrinal and practical part of this Epistle being now finished, the Apostle makes a very handsome apology to the believing Romans, for writing so long a letter to persons with whom he was not personally acquainted. He told them, that, having a good opinion of their grace and knowledge, Romans 15:14.—he had, on that account, written tothem with the more freedom, to bring things to their remembrance: and that he haddone this likewise, because he was both qualified and authorised to teach them by virtue of the apostolical office which God had conferred on him, for the purpose of converting the Gentiles, Romans 15:15-16.—Then, to prove his apostleship to the Romans, he told them that he had good reason to boast of his success in converting the Gentiles, and in presenting them to God as an acceptable offering, Romans 15:17.—But that, in this his boasting, he would speak, not of the things which Christ had wrought by others, to make the Gentiles obedient, but of the success which he himself had had in converting them through divine grace by his own preaching and miracles, Romans 15:18-19.—Moreover, to give the Romans a just idea of his character and success as an Apostle, he informed them, that he had always made it a rule, not to preach the Gospel where it had been preached before, lest he might have appeared an inferior workman, who built on a foundation laid by another: but that he had gone to the most ignorant and barbarous nations, that the prophesies concerning the conversion of the Gentiles might be fulfilled, Romans 15:20-21.—And that his resolution of not preaching where the Gospel had been preached before, was the reason of his not visiting Rome hitherto, Romans 15:22.—But now having no more opportunity of that sort in the parts from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and having long had a desire to see the Romans, he would certainly come to them in his way to Spain, Romans 15:23-24.-At present he was going to Jerusalem with the collections which he had made for the poor of the brethren in Judea, Romans 15:25-27.—But when that service was finished, he would come to Rome, Romans 15:28-29.—In the mean time, he earnestly begged their prayers, that he might be delivered from the disobedient in Judea; and that the service he was performing to the brethren in Jerusalem might be acceptable to them, Romans 15:30.—Lastly, because there had been great dissensions among the Romans about the method of justification, and about the obligation of the law of Moses, he wished the God of peace to be with them all, Romans 15:33.; thus adapting his apostolical benediction to their particular circumstances.


Verse 1

Romans 15:1. We then that are strong, &c.— According to our translation, one would suppose that this verse is an inference from the latter part of the foregoing chapter:—as if it were, We therefore who are strong, &c. whereas it is in the Greek, But we who are strong: and it stands in immediate connection with the last verse of the former chapter, by way of opposition; thus: "The weak brother, who puts a difference between meats, is condemned, if he eateth without observing a distinction: But we who are strong,—meaning the Gentile Christians,—are so far from being condemned, if we bear the infirmities of the weak, that we are bound in duty to do it." Therefore these two verses cannot be separated without destroying the sense. To please ourselves, signifies, to follow our own humours. See Locke, Heylin, and the last note.


Verse 3

Romans 15:3. As it is written In Psalms 69:9. That this psalm was undoubtedly spoken of the Messiah, we learn from Romans 15:22 applied to Christ, John 19:28-29 and from the former part of the verse here cited; namely, The zeal of thine house hath confirmed me, applied to Christ, John 2:17. And the Jews themselves confess that the things contained in this psalm shall be accomplished in the days of the Messiah. The passage maybe paraphrased respecting our Saviour, "I have placed myself in a world, where I have been afflicted with the wickedness of mankind; which I have continually seen and heard about me, and which has been, through the whole course of my life, my continual grief and burden." See Whitby, and on Psalms 69:9.


Verse 5

Romans 15:5. Grant you to be like-minded The original properly signifies, "To agree in an harmonious and affectionate manner;" and might be read, Grant you or give you the same mutual affection, according to the example of Jesus Christ. See Raphelius, and Galatians 4:28, 1 Peter 1:15, Ephesians 4:24.


Verse 6

Romans 15:6. That ye may with one mind, &c.— It does not appear how this can be otherwise understood than of public worship; and it shews, that glorifying or praising God for his grace in Christ Jesus, is a principal part of Christian worship, in which all should join with one mind and one mouth.


Verse 7

Romans 15:7. Wherefore receive ye one another This cannot mean, "Receive one another into church communion;" for there is no appearance that the convert Jews and Gentiles separated communion in Rome, on account of differences about meats and drinks, and days. We should have heard more of it from St. Paul, if there had been two separate congregations; that is, two churches of Christians in Rome divided about these indifferent things. Besides, directions cannot be given to private Christians to receive one another in that sense; therefore the receiving here, must be understood of receiving, as a man does another into his company, converse, and familiarity. He would have them, Jews and Gentiles, lay aside all distinction, coldness, and reserve, in their conversation one with another; and, as domestics of the same family, live friendly and familiar, notwithstanding their different judgments about those ritual observances. Hence, Romans 15:5 he exhorts them, "Be united in friendship one to another; that, with one heart and one voice, ye may conjointly glorify God; and receive one another with the same good-will that Christ has received us, the Jews,— εις δοξαν του Θεου, to the glorifying God for his truth, in fulfilling the promises he made to the patriarchs;—and has received the Gentiles, to glorify God for his mercy to them: so that we have reason, both Jews and Gentiles, laying aside these little differences about things indifferent, to join together heartily in glorifying God." The phrase, glory of God, for glorifying God, is of the same kind with that used ch. Romans 3:22; Romans 3:26 where he uses the faith of Jesus, for believing in Jesus. The thing to which St. Paul here exhorts them, is, to the glorifying of God with one accord, as is evident from the words immediately preceding; and what follows, Romans 15:9-11 is to the same purpose: so that there is no room to doubt that his meaning in these words is, "Christ received or took us, believing Jews, to himself, that we might magnify the truth of God; and took the Gentiles thatbelieve, to himself, that they might magnify his mercy." See Locke.


Verse 8

Romans 15:8. Now I say that Jesus Christ, &c.— The connection of this and the next verse is evident, by only repeating in our own minds the words,I say, at the beginning of the 9th, Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision, on account of the truth of God, to confirm, or make good the promises given to the fathers: Romans 15:9. And I say that the Gentiles, on account of mercy, should glorify God; meaning in union with the Christian Jews. The Gentile must allow the Jew a primary and eminent right to all the glory and privileges of the Gospel; because the truth of God was engaged, by the promises to Abraham, &c. to send the Messiah to the Jewish nation, to make his appearance, and to exercise his ministry among them for their salvation: therefore the believing Gentile had undeniable reason to own and receive the believing Jew, and to join with him in the divine praise; Romans 15:5-6. And as God had extended his mercy in Christ Jesus to the believing Gentiles, how could the Jews refuse the Gentiles a share in solemn thanksgivings to God for so great a favour? Could the Jews stint or deny the mercy of God to the Gentile world? And if he allowed God's mercy to them in the Redeemer, must he not allow them to bear a part in solemn acknowledgments of his goodness; especially, considering that the Scriptures do expressly foretel, that the Gentiles should have their share in this joyful work?—Accordingly, as it would be more difficult to persuade the Jew, he lays before him several quotations from Scripture to that purpose. What it was that Christ ministered to the Jews, we may see by the like expression of St. Paul applied to himself, Romans 15:16 where he calls himself a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God. See Matthew 15:24. What is said, Romans 15:9-11 confirms what we have observed upon Romans 15:6 namely, that praise and thanksgiving to God for his mercy in Jesus Christ is a principal part of Christian worship. See Hebrews 13:15. Locke.


Verse 10

Romans 15:10. And again he saith, Rejoice, &c.— It would have been better to have rendered these words impersonally; Again it is said: for according to our version, it seems as if the words quoted in this verse were written by the same person as those in the preceding verse; whereas the former are from the book of Psalms, the latter from Deuteronomy.


Verse 12

Romans 15:12. In him shall the Gentiles trust Rather hope, says Mr. Locke: not that there is any material difference in the signification of trust and hope, but the better to express and answer St. Paul's way of writing; with whom it is familiar, when he has been speaking of any virtue or grace, whereof God is the author, to call God thereupon the God of that virtue or grace. So, Romans 15:13, he calls God the God of hope. See also Romans 15:4-5.


Verse 14

Romans 15:14. And I myself also am persuaded, &c.— In this part of the chapter, the Apostle, with much complaisance, and to open the way still farther for a candid receptionofthe sacred truths which he had delivered, apologizes for writing this letter, and for the freedom that he had used, particularly with the Gentile part of the Christians; which freedom he hoped they would place to the account of the Gentiles, Romans 15:14-17. He gives a general idea of the success and course of his ministry, Romans 15:18-21 signifies his great desire to make them a visit at Rome, Romans 15:22-24 acquaints them with the journey that he was going to take from Corinth to Jerusalem, to carry a charitable collection made among the Gentile converts for the relief of the poor Christians there; and desires their prayers, that he might be delivered from the malice of the infidel Jews; and that his charitable design might be kindly accepted, and have its intended effect among the Christian Jews, Romans 15:24-33.


Verse 15

Romans 15:15. In some sort ' Απο μερους . The word μερος is a part of any thing, or company of men; and may signify part of or a party among the people to whom the Apostle writes, or of whom he speaks; Romans 11:25, 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 2:5. That it has this sense here, and signifies the Gentile part of the church at Rome, is the more probable, because the Apostle assigns his commission as the Apostle of the Gentiles, for the reason of his boldness in writing. I have written more boldly unto you, because, or on account of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Now this would be an apology only to the Gentile part of the society; and therefore, to preserve the propriety of the Apostle's reasoning, we ought in this view to render απο μερους with respect to part of you. See the note on ch. Romans 1:5.


Verse 16

Romans 15:16. That the offering-up of the Gentiles, &c.— This sentiment seems to be taken from Isaiah 66:20. Themeaning is, "That the offering of the Gentiles to God, as a holy sacrifice, by my hands, may be acceptable to him; being sanctified and set apart by the Holy Spirit so plentifully communicated to them, in a rich variety of gifts and graces."


Verse 17

Romans 15:17. Things which pertain to God We have the same phrase, Hebrews 5:1 where it signifies the things that were offered to God in the temple ministration. St. Paul, by way of allusion, speaks of the Gentiles in the foregoing verse, as an offering to be made to God; and then here he tells them, that he had matter of glorying in this offering; that is, that he had had success in converting the Gentiles, andbringing them to be a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice to God; an account whereof he gives them in the four following verses. See Locke, and Raphelius.


Verse 19

Romans 15:19. Unto IIyricum Though it is evident from this passage, that St. Paul, before the date of this Epistle, which was about the year 58, had preached the Gospel in these regions, it is observable that St. Luke takes no notice hereof in the history of the Acts; where he also omits to mention the journey which the Apostle took to Arabia on his first conversion, and several other remarkable facts referred to in the 11th chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. And it is very possible, that the visit to Crete, when Titus was left behind to ordain elders, (Titus 1:5.) might be of this number. See Doddridge, Wall, and Calmet.


Verse 20

Romans 15:20. So have I lived to preach the Gospel, &c.— So have I been ambitious, &c. The Apostle could not mean that he scorned to come after any other Christian minister, especially after what we read of his going to preach the Gospel at Damascus, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It may signify, that, far from declining dangers and oppositions, which might be expected from his first planting the Gospel in any country, he rather felt a sublime ambition, as the Greek word signifies, in making the first proclamation of the Gospel in places where it had before been quite unheard of. And probablyhe might glance at those false Apostles, who crept into the churches which he had planted, and endeavoured to establish their own reputation and influence by alienating the affections of his own converts, while they built on his grand and noble foundation an edifice of wood, hay, and stubble. This is likewise a proof in favour of the Apostle's own sincerity, and of the miraculousness of his conversion. If his conversion, and the part he acted in consequence of it, was an imposture, it was such an imposture as could not be carried on by one man alone. The faith he professed, and of which he became an Apostle, was nothis own invention. With Jesus, who was the author of it, he had never any communication, except when going to Damascus; nor with his Apostles, except as their persecutor. As he took on himself the office of an apostle, it was absolutely necessary for him to have a precise and perfect knowledge of all the facts contained in the Gospels, several of which had only passed between Jesus himself and his twelve Apostles, and others more privately still, so that they could be known to very few: and as the testimony they bore, would have been different in point of fact, and many of their doctrines repugnant to his, either they must have been forced to ruin his credit, or he would have ruined theirs. It was therefore impossible for him to act this part but in confederacy at least with the Apostles. Such a confederacy was still the more necessary for him, as the undertaking to preach the Gospel did not only require an exact and particular knowledge of all that it contained, but an apparent power of working miracles; for to such a power all the Apostles appealed in proof of their mission, and of the doctrines they preached. He was therefore to learn of them by what secret arts they imposed on the senses of men, if this power was a cheat. But how could he gain these men to become his confederates? Was it by furiously persecuting them and their brethren, as we find that he did to the moment of his conversion? Would they venture to trust their capital enemy with all the secrets of their imposture? Would they put in his power to take away not only their lives, but the honour of their sect, which they preferred to their lives, by so ill-timed a confidence? Would men, so secret as not to be drawn by the most severe persecutions to say one word which could tend to prove them impostors, confess themselves such to their prosecutor, in hopes of his being their accomplice? This is still more impossible, than that he should attempt to engage in the fraud without their consent and assistance. Had he not availed himself of a confederacy with the Apostles to get at their secret doctrines, he might have gained a knowledge of them by pretending to preach among such persons as they had already converted: but by going to places where the Gospel was entirely unknown, he lost every opportunity of this kind; and though he lost all these opportunities, we find no one of the Apostles objecting to the doctrine which he planted, as inconsistent with what they had received from Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. His very success among such people was another proof of the reality of his conversion, and his divine mission. For among the Gentiles, who had not heard of the Gospel, he could find no disposition, no aptness, no bias to aid his imposture. It is evident, that there was not anyconfederacy between him and them, strong enough to impose either his doctrines or his miracles upon them, if they had been false. He was in no combination with their priests or their magistrates; no sect or party among them gave him any help; all eyes were open and watchful to detect his impostures; all hands ready to punish him, as soon as he was detected. Had he remained in Judea, he might at least have had many confederates, all the Apostles, all the disciples of Christ, at that time pretty numerous; but in preaching to the Gentiles he was often alone, seldom or never with more than two or three companions. Was this a confederacy powerful enough to carry on such a cheat in so many different parts of the world, against the united opposition of the magistrates, priests, philosophers, people, all combined to detect and expose their frauds? Let it be also considered, that those to whom the Apostle addressed himself, were not a gross or ignorant people, apt to mistake any uncommon operations of nature, or juggling tricks, for miraculous acts. The churches planted by St. Paul, were in the most enlightened parts of the world, among the Greeks of Asia and Europe, among the Romans, in the midst of science, philosophy, freedom of thought, and in an age more inquisitively curious into the powers of nature, and less inclined to credit religious frauds, than any before it. Nor were they only the lowest of the people whom he converted. Sergius Paulus the proconsul of Paphos, Erastus chamberlain of Corinth, and Dionysius the Areopagite, were his proselytes. Upon the whole, it appears beyond contradiction, that his pretension to miracles was not assisted by the disposition of those whomhe designed to convert, nor by any power and confederacy to carry on and abet the cheat: what less, then, than a divine concurrence could have rendered him successful in converting nations, which had not heard of the Gospel till he preached it to them? See Doddridge, and Lyttelton's Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul.


Verse 24

Romans 15:24. Into Spain It hence appears probable, considering the principle by which St. Paul chose to govern himself, of not building on another man's foundation, that no Apostle had as yet planted any church in Spain; which very ill agrees with the "Legend of St. James;" for, according to that, he had now been fifteen years in Spain, and had erected several bishopricks there. See Geddes's Miscell. vol. 2: p. 221.


Verse 25

Romans 15:25. But now I go unto Jerusalem He means (as appears from Romans 15:26-27.) to carry the money which he had collected among the Gentile Christians in Macedonia and Achaia, for the relief of the poor Christians at Jerusalem. This was an affair which lay near his heart, and about which he had taken much pains. See 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:9 : His design in the business is pretty evident from 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 where he says, The administration of this service nor only supplieth the wants of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God. While by the experience of this ministration, they [the Jews] glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men. The Jews were generally treated as objects of contempt and insult throughout the Roman empire. The Apostle was in hopes that this liberal contribution, sent by the Gentile Christians converted by St. Paul's ministry, would engage the affections of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, on their part much prejudiced against the reception of the Gentiles into the church and covenant of God, without submitting to their law. Most gladly would he have established asolid coalition between the Jewish and Gentile converts; being sensible that it was of great importance to the spreading of the Gospel. And this was one laudable device to accomplish the good end; namely, to procure a handsome present from the Gentiles to the poor saints at Jerusalem; which was a probable expedient to conciliate their affection and esteem, by affording them a pleasing taste of the good fruitsof St. Paul's ministry, and giving them reason to believe, that their nation would be regarded and honoured in proportion as the Gospel spread in the world. I make no doubt, that this is an instance of St. Paul's zeal and prudent endeavours to establish a good harmony between Christian Jews and Gentiles; and this shews, why he so earnestly requests the prayers of the Christians at Rome, that his service, which he had for Jerusalem, might be accepted of the saints, Romans 15:31-32. It is no objection to this, that St.

James, Peter, and John, had desired St. Paul to remember the poor, or to make a collection among the Gentile converts for the poor brethren at Jerusalem, Galatians 2:10 for he there tells us, that it was what he had intended to do, before they proposed it: and probably he first mentioned it to the Apostles of the circumcision.


Verse 28

Romans 15:28. When—I have performed this, &c.— Dispatched this affair, and have secured to them this collection. See Doddridge.


Verse 29

Romans 15:29. I shall come in the fulness of the blessing He may be understood to mean here, that he should be able to satisfy them, that the forgiveness of sins was to be obtained by the Gospel; for that he shews, ch. Romans 4:6-9. And they had as much title to it by the Gospel, as the Jews themselves; which was the thing that he had been proving to them in this Epistle. See Locke; whose paraphrase is, "I shall bring to you full satisfaction, concerning the blessedness which you receive by the Gospel of Christ."


Verse 30

Romans 15:30. And for the love of the Spirit "By that love, which is the genuine fruit of the Spirit." Some would explain this of the love which the Spirit of God bears to us, or the affection which we owe to that gracious Person. The words rendered strive together with me, signify, "That you join your utmost strength and fervency with mine; as those who fight and struggle together in the public games, or in the field of battle." See Elsner's Observat. vol. 2: p. 65.


Verse 31

Romans 15:31. That I may be delivered, &c.— How extreme their bigotry and rage were, appears from their behavior to him at the very time here referred to, Acts, xxi-xxiv. It was from a sense of the great importance of his life to the cause of Christianity, that he is thus urgent; else we may be assured, that he would gladly have given it up. See Philippians 1:21.

Inferences.—With what tenderness and self-denial should we behave towards our brethren in Christ! We should bear with the infirmities of the weak; study to please every one for his edification; receive into our affection and communion all whom Christ has received, to the glory of God; and unite in glorifying him, as with one heart and voice. What a noble pattern has our Lord set us of this excellent spirit, in denying himself; in the reproaches that he sustained for his Father's honour, and the good of his church; and in his condescending to act the part of a minister, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, that the Gentiles might glorify God, rejoice in him, and praise him, for making them equal heirs of all privileges and blessings with the Jews. What a rich treasure have we in the Holy Scriptures, which were written for our instruction and comfort, patience and hope! And how should we strive together in prayer, that the God of patience and consolation would enable us to make such use of them, according to the mind of Christ, as may fill us with all joy and peace in believing, and cause us to abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost! Blessed be God for his mercy to us Gentile Sinners! We, by the Gospel dispensation, are brought under the Messiah's reign; and he is proposed as an object of faith to us, who were utter strangers to him before, that we might trust in him; and that Gentile believers, and their services, might be acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, as a pure offering, which is sanctified by the Holy Ghost. And, oh, what an honour does our great Lord confer upon his servants! He puts them into the ministry of the Gospel; and makes them his instruments for the conversion of sinners, and for farther helping them that have believed through grace. And, oh, how delightful and advantageous is it to have the Gospel with the fulness of its blessings! And what a wide and glorious spread does it take; and what wonderful happy effects does it produce, when attended with the power of the Spirit, which resides in Christ, and is exerted by him! This gives the servants of Christ great occasion of glorying in the Lord: they ascribe all honour to him, and would take none to themselves; nor would they boast of any thing that he has not wrought by them; nor invade the province of their brethren: they are desirous to go and work wherever God calls them; and they submit all their own purposes and motions for his service to his will; they cheerfully encourage all sorts of benevolence, by the love of Christ and of his Spirit; they take pleasure in conversing with fellow-Christians, and recommend themselves, and all their labours, to their prayers; and they pour out their own hearts to God, with fervent desire that love and unity may abound among them, and that the God of peace may be with them. Amen.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle infers from what he had advanced in the foregoing chapter,

1. That, We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves; having compassion towards them; making every kind allowance for their prejudices and scruples; not provoked by their rash censures, and desirous to prevent them by foregoing our own pleasure for their profit. Let every one of us therefore please his neighbour for his good to edification; not complying with him in any thing that is sinful, but in all indifferent matters ready to yield to him, in order to insinuate into his confidence, for the advantage of his soul.

2. He enforces his exhortation by the strongest motive of Christ's example. For even Christ pleased not himself; when he was under no obligations to us, he freely submitted to all hardships and sufferings for our sakes; as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell on me; he willingly bore the contradiction of sinners against himself. And in this Scripture, as well as others, we are not to suppose that David speaks of himself, but of Christ, and with a view to the edification of his people. For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope; animated by the examples there set forth, to shew the same meekness, patience, and forbearance; revived by the views of the great and precious promises, and comforted in the hope of eternal life therein revealed to us. Note; (1.) Christ's pattern should be ever in our view. "Would the Lord Jesus in our situation have thus thought, spoke, and acted?" should be our inquiry. (2.) They are the truly wise who are learned in the Scriptures, and know the way to everlasting life. (3.) The Scriptures afford us the most powerful arguments for patience under all our trials and provocations, and furnish us with the most substantial comforts under our discouragements, both in the precious promise of present divine support, and in the prospect of the glory which shall be revealed.

3. He seconds his exhortations with his prayers: we can only speak to the ear; God must make our words effectual to the heart. Now the God of patience and consolation, who is so long-suffering towards us, and ready to comfort the afflicted, and is the source and author of all patience, and the giver of all consolation, grant you to be like-minded one towards another; united in sentiment and affection, according to Christ Jesus; copying his example, and obedient to his holy will; that ye may with one mind and one mouth, as if animated by one soul, in your religious assemblies, and in social converse, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; in spirit and conversation desirous to exalt his great and glorious name, and shew forth his praises. Note; (1.) Christians should, as far as possible, be united in one mind, and join in the same worship. (2.) Our prayers must follow our preaching, that God may give the blessing.

2nd, The Apostle returns to enforce his former exhortation, Wherefore receive ye one another, with brotherly affection, in friendly intercourse, and holy communion, as Christ also received us, whether Jews or Gentiles, notwithstanding all our infirmities, to the glory of God; as this was the end that he had in view, the same must we propose to ourselves.

1. Christ had received the Jewish converts. Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision; submitted himself to that bloody rite, and personally ministered to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, for the truth of God, to display his faithfulness to his covenant, and to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. Now as this put a peculiar honour upon the Jews, their Gentile brethren should not despise them, because of any weak attachment to the ceremonial institutions.

2. Christ had also received the Gentiles to the participation of the same privileges, and therefore this should engage the brotherly regards of their Jewish brethren, since the salvation that Jesus obtained was to extend to them, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy, who now at last looked with peculiar compassion upon them, and had called them into his visible church: as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. Because thou hast given me the heathen for my inheritance, I will declare thy word among them, and call upon them to offer their thanksgivings for the inestimable blessings of which in the Gospel they are made partakers. And again, in another prophesy, he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people; incorporated with them, sharing their privileges, and therefore happy in the experience of the same Gospel grace. And again, it is said, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and laud him, all ye people; joining your voices together in the great congregation, the partition-wall being taken down. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, the divine Messiah, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, exalted to the mediatorial throne, and extending his conquests over the souls of sinners to the ends of the earth; in him shall the Gentiles trust; placing their dependence upon him as their only Lord and Saviour. All which prophesies clearly shew, that the time should come, when the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body; and therefore the Jewish converts should with hearty affection embrace their Gentile brethren, as all one in Christ Jesus.

3. The Apostle adds his affectionate prayer for them both. Now the God of hope, who in Christ Jesus is the ground and author of our hope of all spiritual and eternal blessings, fill you with all joy and peace in believing; enabling you to lay hold of the promises, and giving you the abundance of divine consolations, and of that peace which passeth all understanding; that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost; possessing both the earnests and foretastes which the Spirit gives, in the light, strength, and comfort which he now communicates. Note; (1.) When faith is in exercise, then our souls will be happy, even here below. (2.) The Christian's hope never makes him ashamed. (3.)

They who would abound in hope, peace, and joy, should be much in prayer to him who is the giver of every good gift, and whose face none seek in vain.

3rdly, St. Paul, 1. Expresses the high estimation in which he held them. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, from the gracious testimony borne to you by those who are acquainted with your state, that ye also are full of goodness; enriched with every gracious fruit of the Spirit, with tender benevolence and sympathy, willing to bear and forbear, and united in love and peace, notwithstanding any lesser differences of opinion, filled with all knowledge, in the great essential points of the Gospel revelation; able also to admonish one another, and to communicate your gifts for mutual edification.

2. He elegantly apologizes for the freedom that he had taken in reproving, advising, and exhorting them, who were themselves so eminent in gifts and graces. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you, in some sort, as putting you in mind; rather as your monitor to refresh your memory, than setting up myself for your instructor, as if you were ignorant. The liberty that he used with them, was what his office obliged him to: because of the grace that is given to me of God; honoured by him with the apostleship; that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, discharging the office of a Christian minister with unwearied diligence, fidelity, and zeal; that the offering-up of the Gentiles, their spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, might be acceptable through Jesus Christ, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and thereby infinitely more excellent than any of the oblations that were ever made at the temple.

4thly, Having mentioned his office as the apostle of the Gentiles, he glories therein. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ, by whose grace I have been so supported, and who has given such eminent success to my labours, in those things which pertain to God, wherein his glory is so greatly concerned, and in the conversion of the Gentiles so highly exalted. Or the words may be rendered, I have therefore a rejoicing in Christ concerning the things of God; that is, the Gentiles, who are offered up to him as living sacrifices, in which he felt the most unfeigned satisfaction. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me; far be all arrogant boasts from me; nor would I ascribe the least honour to myself, but only to him whose mighty grace, under my preaching, has wrought powerfully, to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed; shewing forth by an open confession, and a becoming conversation, the reality of their conversion to God, through mighty signs and wonders, which were wrought in confirmation of my divine mission, by the power of the Spirit of God; whose mighty influence gives energy and demonstration to the word preached; so that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ; diffusing with indefatigable labours the light of truth through Syria, Lesser Asia, and Greece; and keeping back nothing of the whole counsel of God concerning the free and perfect salvation of sinners through the great Redeemer. Yea, so have I strived to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named; but with a holy ambition I went rather to the places where he was wholly unknown; lest I should build upon another man's foundation, and be thought to be inferior to those who went before, and to have borrowed my knowledge from them, and so should have wanted a signal proof of my doctrine and office, as immediately received from Christ himself. But as it is written (Isaiah 52:15.), so has it been fulfilled by my ministry; To whom he was not spoken of, that shall see: and they that have not heard, shall understand: the Gentiles, who lay in darkness, utterly ignorant of the Messiah and his kingdom, shall see the light of life, and be made wise unto salvation. Note; Whatever success attends our labours, God must have all the glory, who alone giveth the increase.

5thly, St. Paul had travelled far, but he intended still to extend his labours to a wider circle, and visit Rome also, and the regions beyond it.

1. He had long proposed to visit them, but his many avocations had hitherto prevented him. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you; but now having no more place in these parts, the Gospel being fully preached, and Christian churches planted throughout the country between Jerusalem and Italy, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you, that I might impart to you some spiritual gift, and be comforted by you; whensoever I take my journey into Spain, where I purpose, God willing, to erect the Gospel standard, I will come to you, and take you in my way; for I trust to see you in my journey, and, according to the kind reception I have met with in other churches, to be brought on my way thitherward by you, some of you going with me; and giving me such directions and necessaries as may conduce to the success of the expedition; if first I be somewhat, or in part, filled with your company; enjoying the satisfaction of their conversation, rejoicing in their steadfastness, and tasting a little of the sweetness of that communion of saints, which he hoped in the utmost perfection to enjoy with them in heaven. Note; (1.) When duty detains us from those whose company we most delight in, we are ever cheerfully to forego our own pleasure, for the sake of our Master's service. (2.) All our purposes should be formed in subordination to divine Providence. (3.) Christian fellowship is one of the greatest joys on earth, and a little foretaste of what we expect, when we shall join the spirits of the just made perfect.

2. He at present was obliged to return to Jerusalem with the collections of the several churches for their poor brethren in Judea, who by persecution and the famine were in great distress. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints, to distribute among them the generous contributions of their Gentile brethren; For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia, to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily, thus freely and liberally to contribute of their substance, and afford a noble example of Christian benevolence: and their debtors they are; gratitude as well as charity required this at their hands. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, and have been called to share in those privileges that were long peculiar to the church of Israel, their duty is also, in return, to minister unto them in carnal things, λειτουργησαι, honouring God by a conscientious and liberal supply of their wants.

3. When he had finished this work, he expresses his confidence that he should come to them. When therefore I have performed my present journey and service, and have sealed to them this fruit, careful that it be rendered up to them undiminished, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ; as a merchant vessel; richly fraught, bringing with me the inestimable treasures of the Gospel-word for your most abundant edification and comfort. Note; It is a happy meeting between a minister and his people, when he thus comes to them in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.

6thly, Having declared to them his purpose, he intreats their prayers, that he may be able to accomplish it.

Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, by every powerful argument which can be drawn from the grace which is in Him, whose I am, and whom I serve; and for the love of the Spirit, who visited your souls with his blessed influence; and as a proof of your being possessed of this divine principle, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; fervently and importunately joining me in my earnest cries to God, that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea, those most envenomed foes, his own infidel and wicked countrymen; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem, may be accepted of the saints; that all their prejudices against him and the Gentile converts might be removed, and this benevolence thankfully and cheerfully received, to the cementing of a nearer union between them. And also that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, having found success in this ministry, if the Lord so pleased; and may with you be refreshed, in the enjoyment of your company, and the communication of our mutual happy experience. And now, may the God of peace be with you all, uniting your hearts in love to his blessed Self, and to one another; and filling you with all peace and prosperity in your souls. Amen. I pray that this may, and trust that it will, be your happy case. Note; (1.) We are bound to desire each other's prayers, and should count these among the greatest obligations which can be conferred upon us. (2.) Our applications to a throne of grace must be fervent and agonizing, as becomes those who know the inestimable value of the prize for which they wrestle.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 15:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-15.html. 1801-1803.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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