Romans 15

Chapter fifteen actually finishes the teaching on strong and weak believers from the previous chapter. Rather than causing weaker Christians to stumble in their faith, stronger Christians “ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1-6). This is essentially further teaching on the proper outworking of love from the Christian perspective on ourselves and others that Paul introduced in chapter twelve.

Romans 15:7-13 helps clarify the previous section on strong and weak Christians. While those tensions are certainly true within the mass of Gentile believers, they were especially strong between believing Gentiles and Jews. The Acts and Paul’s earlier letters show that the early Jewish Christians had a difficult time breaking away from the Mosaic Law, even after their salvation. In fact, an entire doctrinal council was held addressing this issue and, more narrowly, specific requirements within the Law (Acts 15). In this short paragraph, Paul urged the Jews and Gentiles to love and build up each other, even though they held many differences when it came to which practices were acceptable for Christians. Paul quoted from Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah to remind the Jews again that believing Gentiles had always been a part of God’s plan, and that they were not “messing things up” by not embracing the Mosaic Law.

The rest of the chapter is much more personal, showing that Paul was drawing to a close. His first comment was to the Jews in his audience (Romans 15:14-21). Admitting that he was specifically sent to the Gentiles, Paul noted that he wrote a little more boldly to the Jews than he normally would have, because of the great overlap between them in his particular themes in this letter. He mentioned again his desire to finally visit them, but that he ultimately wanted to go all the way to Spain, where he believed the gospel had not yet reached, and he expected that the Roman believers would help him on that journey (Romans 15:22-24). In the meantime, he was headed back to Jerusalem, carrying the money he had collected for the famished saints there (Romans 15:25-29). Little did he know that he would certainly find himself in Rome, but as a prisoner rather than a free traveler (Acts 21-28). He did, however, know that trouble was awaiting him in Jerusalem, so he asked that the Romans would pray for his safety, so that he could come to them (Romans 15:30-32). As Acts records, their prayers were answered but not in the way they asked or could have imagined.

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Daniel Goepfrich

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