Paul had accomplished the purposes for which he penned his letter to the Roman Christians. He had explained the basis for justification that God has made possible in the gospel, that all men can be justified ONLY by faith in Christ. In doing so he not only showed how the Gentiles could be saved without observance of the Law, but also answered Jewish objections and questions about how the “chosen” people could still be lost. Furthermore, Paul detailed the benefits that are found in Christ, the new life and new Spirit that belongs to those who are in Him. He reflected on the Jews’ rejection of the gospel, longing for their salvation and revealing how God’s plan would bring about the salvation of “all Israel,” that is all the Gentiles and Jews that would have faith in Christ. Paul then sought to make application of the wonderful truths of the gospel, namely that Christians should give themselves completely to the will of God (i.e. living sacrifices) and that they should pay particular attention to each other, respecting each others conscience.
As Paul concluded his letter, he gave these Christians a glimpse into why he wrote to them, why he was going to Jerusalem and why he hoped to see them. Everything Paul did was “because of the grace given me by God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus…” (15.15-16).
Paul’s Work As A Minister Of Christ Jesus (15.14-33)
Romans probably was not an easy letter to pen. Paul loved his brethren dearly, whether they were Jew or Gentile. He had a special commission to the Gentiles (vss. 15-16), but he also longed for the salvation of his kinsmen (see Romans 10.1). Within this letter Paul had to say some hard things to his kinsmen, all the while warning the Gentiles of any arrogance on their part. As Paul said, “on some points I have written to you very boldly,” but the reason for Paul’s boldness was his gracious call to be a minister of Christ. Being a minister of Christ meant that Paul needed to write these things to the Roman Christians, no matter how difficult it was for him to do so.
Paul’s call to be a minister of Jesus also dictated where and how he preached the gospel. His desire was to “preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named,” (vs. 20), but in new territory. Paul said that was the reason he had not yet been to Rome (vs. 22), but his hope was to go to Rome and ultimately make his way to Spain (vss. 23-24). As far as we know, Paul never made it to Spain, but he would make it to Rome, just not in the way he foresaw.
Paul could not go to Rome at the time, because he was going to Jerusalem bearing a contribution for the needy saints there (vss. 25-28). We know of this collection from other passages, namely 1Cor. 16; 2Cor 8-9, but here we get a glimpse into what Paul hoped this contribution would achieve: harmony between Gentile and Jewish Christians. After all, the Gentile Christians had shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, so they should help in their physical needs. Paul was going to put his “seal on this fruit of theirs,” (vs. 28) and hoped that this service would “be acceptable to the saints,” (vs. 31).
But there were dangers. The Jews had persecuted Paul everywhere he had been, and he knew there could be trouble in Jerusalem when he arrived. For that reason, he urged the saints in Rome to pray for him, that he would be “delivered from the unbelievers in Judea,” (vs. 31). As we know from Acts 21-28, things did not go as Paul hoped. He was “rescued” from a Jewish mob, imprisoned by the Romans and ultimately arrived in Rome wearing chains. Yet, through it all, Paul remained a “minister of Christ Jesus.”
Most of the names in this passage are unknown to us. Prisca and Aquila were known companions of the apostle (see Acts 18-19) and Rufus could be the son of Simon who bore Jesus’ cross (see Mark 15.21). However, a point needs to be made from this section. We know of the work Paul did because of what Luke records about him in Acts and because of Paul’s own letters. But there were many others engaged in the work, doing whatever they could in the cause of Christ. We don’t know what they did, but as was said of Persis, they “worked hard in the Lord.” (vs. 12). Our names will most likely not be remembered in 100 years, probably not in 60. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we also work hard in the Lord.
One other note: you may notice that several of the Gentile brethren Paul greets are named after pagan gods (Hermes and Olympas for example). I point this out only to emphasize the cultural gap that would have existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the church.
Warning Against False Teachers (16.17-20)
Paul had gone to great lengths to explain the truth of the gospel to these saints, but he knew that false teachers would try and pervert the truth. It is likely that Paul had Judaizing teachers in mind, like those we read about in Acts 15 who wanted to compel Gentile converts to accept circumcision and the Law.
We should share in Paul’s wish for all Christians, that we “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil,” (vs. 19), realizing that the only way we can do that is to follow in the Word that has been clearly delivered from God. We have every reason to believe that the NT authors delivered God’s Word to us. Let’s stand on them, and not give heed to the latest fad teaching that makes its way around.
Greetings From Paul’s Co-Workers and Concluding Doxology (16. 21-27)
- Brief historical note, the Erastus in vs. 23 may be the same Erastus mentioned in this Corinthian inscription: “Erastus in return for his aedilship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.”
It is fitting that Paul concluded this letter with a doxology, a word of praise to God. Significantly, Paul phrased the gospel as the means by which God should be praised. The gospel is what could strengthen them, it is what has now been made known to all nations, it is what compels the men to have obedient faith. Thus, the gospel is reason to glorify God! “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
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