Here Paul continues to tell brethren how to act toward each other. The strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength. We love the weak ones. We think about their weaknesses when we do things. We must not just please ourselves. We do not want to do anything which will hurt the weak brother (Romans 14:21).
We must not do what we want to do if it may cause our brother to sin. Each one is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. It won’t hurt the strong brother to stop eating meat or observing days. But to eat meat when it causes a brother to sin against his conscience is very bad. We can destroy our brother if we are not careful (Romans 14:15).
It is more important to please your neighbour than to please yourself. Why? Because if I please myself, I do not do good to others. If I please my neighbour, I help him please God.
However, Paul is talking about things which are right in themselves. If I please anyone by doing the wrong thing, I am not doing what Paul says to do. We must please God before we please our neighbour, because we must love God more than we love our neighbour. When we give in to the pressure of brethren or friends and do what they want us to do when we know it is wrong, we sin greatly. This becomes a real problem when brethren introduce things into the worship or organisation or work of the church which is not authorised by God. We must not cooperate with such brethren when they are doing wrong.
Paul uses Jesus as the example of one who did not please Himself, but rather pleased others.
3 For even Christ did not please Himself. He uses the words of Psalm 69:9 to prove this: “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”. When David wrote this he was talking about himself. Here Paul applies the words to Christ. With Jesus it was the same as with David. When Jesus was persecuted because He did the will of God, the reproaches (insults) were against God. Jesus pleased God, not Himself, even though the Jews hated him for it. And when Jesus pleased God, He did that which helps the people God loves.
Christ suffered the insults and persecutions, but He was the One who won the victory. The scriptures give us the hope which Jesus had. Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Those things gave encouragement and perseverance to Jesus, and they give us courage, too.
Christian, you need to study the Old Testament. Its history helps us greatly. There are good examples which we should follow, and there are bad examples which warn us. We see God’s love and care for His people, and we see how He hates sin and punishes the sinner. Those scriptures encourage the Christian to seek the good of others rather than the good of himself. They help the Christian to stay strong. They give him comfort and wisdom. They give him hope.
This is the language of prayer. It is addressed to God who gives perseverance and encouragement. Paul wants God to grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus. The Christians in Rome were divided; the weak and the strong were not treating each other as they should. And some of the Jews had insisted that the Gentile Christians accept the law of Moses and be circumcised. Paul taught on these things. Now he prays for them to be likeminded toward one another. They must accept one another. The Jew must accept the Gentile and the strong must accept the weak. They are all beloved of God. Jesus is the Saviour of them all. Each stands equal before the Lord to receive blessings from Him, and each must follow Him in everything He says.
Therefore, with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is not one God to the Jew and another God to the Gentile. He is the same God to all Christians, both Jew and Gentile. The thing the Christian wants most to do is to glorify God. This is why God created us.
In order to accept one another, brethren must be of one mind in their faith and feelings. When we accept one another we can praise God in worship with one mouth. Then God is glorified. This shows how serious it is for the children of God to be divided. Those who cause division contrary to the doctrine of Christ (Romans 16:17) will be punished by God.
Christ received both Jews and Gentiles. He has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers. When He died on the cross, He died for the Jews; and all the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were fulfilled for the faithful among the Jews. And he has become a servant for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy. The promises to Abraham included all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). So Jesus died for the Gentiles. Now Jews and Gentiles together glorify God for showing mercy to them.
Paul quotes the words of Psalm 18:49 and 2 Samuel 22:50, “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Your name”. These are the praises of David to God. He saw the day when God’s people would include the Gentiles. He saw that God’s people would be both Jews and Gentiles and would sing to God together.
Here Paul quotes other verses of the Old Testament. They all point to the time when Jesus would come and bring the Gentiles and Jews together in one body. These verses say that the Gentiles will “rejoice”, “praise the Lord”, and “hope”. These verses should convince the believing Jews that they must accept the Gentiles. There must be no prejudice in their hearts against them. These verses should help them to see that they must not tell the Gentile Christians to be circumcised and keep the law.
The joy and peace which Paul wants them to have comes in believing. This means that joy and peace do not come directly from God through some special act of the Holy Spirit. They come from God indirectly, through understanding and believing the gospel. If we believe what Paul wrote in this letter we will have joy and peace. This will cause us to abound in hope. The power of the Holy Spirit to give us hope is in the word which He has revealed. Paul said in chapter one that the gospel is the power of God to salvation (v. 16). This gospel is from the Holy Spirit, and it has power to give us an unshakeable hope.
Now Paul shows his faith in them. He is sure that his instructions in this letter will heal every division. They are full of goodness. Now that Paul has taught them the things they need, they are filled with all knowledge. As a result they are able also to admonish one another. If we study this book carefully we also can use the knowledge it gives to admonish (warn) one another.
It is necessary to be clear and bold in our teaching. Paul wrote very boldly on some points because they needed teaching on those things. He taught with the authority that was given him from God. So we must teach with the authority of the scriptures. I have heard preachers teach the truth in such a timid and general way that only a few were able to understand the truth they were teaching. This is not the way Paul taught.
Paul was appointed an apostle. He considered this a high honour. He therefore was careful to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He took his job seriously and gave his attention to it. He ministered as a priest the gospel of God. As an Old Testament priest offered up incense or the sacrifice of an animal, Paul offered up the preaching of the gospel of God. This was so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable. He was giving the Gentiles to God. He did this by giving them the gospel of God. When they accepted it, Paul was able to present the Gentiles to God because they had been sanctified by the Holy Spirit. God can accept only a holy (sanctified) sacrifice. In order for Him to accept the Gentiles, they had to be sanctified. They were sanctified when they heard the gospel which came from the Holy Spirit, and when they believed and obeyed that gospel. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Paul was happy in what God had done with Him. God made him the apostle to the Gentiles, and Christ was with him in his preaching. Paul was in many dangers, but Christ saved him from them all. When Paul preached, the Holy Spirit gave him the power to perform signs and wonders. Paul boasted about these things, but he was not boasting about himself or his power. They were the things pertaining to God which Christ had accomplished through him.
The reason Paul performed signs and wonders was to confirm (prove) the word he preached (Mark 16:20). The only way Paul could offer up the Gentiles to God was for them to be sanctified by hearing and believing and obeying the gospel. Therefore he preached and performed signs and wonders to convince the hearers that he was preaching the truth.
Paul preached over a wide area. He always tried to go to new places “so that I would not build on another man’s foundation”. The foundation of the word of God was laid by preaching the gospel. Paul laid the foundation at Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:10-11) by being the first to preach the gospel there. He preached in these many places because he wanted to carry out the job which Christ had given him. He was preaching so that “They who had no news of Him shall see, And they who have not heard shall understand” (Isaiah 52:15, especially as translated into Greek in the version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint).
Though the Bible has gone throughout the world, the true gospel is today unknown in many, perhaps most, places. Oh that men, many men, would make it their aim to preach Christ where he is not truly named! Christ needs men who are not building on other men’s foundations.
Paul was not going to stop in Rome. He would come to them on his way to preach in Spain, a place where he would be able to lay the foundation by preaching the word of God to them for the first time. Until Paul wrote this letter he had been busy preaching in the areas which are now the countries of Turkey and Greece. There was no further place for me in these regions so he wanted to go to another place, Spain. Rome was on the way to Spain, so he planned to stop with the brethren there, preach to them, and be helped on his way by them.
We do not know whether Paul ever went to Spain. He did go to Rome, but when he got there he was a prisoner of the Roman government (See Acts 21-28).
Paul wrote this letter when he was on his third preaching journey. On that journey he asked Gentile churches in Galatia, Asia, Macedonia and Achaia to make contributions for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:13-14: “For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality”. There was a great need for money to supply the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem. It was a temporary need. When the need was supplied, no more giving would be necessary. Later a need might arise among the Gentile churches. Then perhaps the Jerusalem church would be in position to send money to them. This is the pattern of churches helping one another.
Note: The money was not sent to some institution which was set up to permanently take care of the poor or the orphans or the widows of an area. The money was sent to the church where the poor were found, and it was sent only as long as there was a need.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Paul gave instructions for gathering the money. He wrote in verse 2: “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come”.
This collection was made for saints, not non-saints. It was sent to the church where the poor saints were, not to some institution taking care of all poor. It was sent while there was need and would stop when the need was taken care of. This is the pattern for church benevolence.
Individuals are told to do good to all men, to take care of their own widows, and to visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:16; James 1:27). The verse in 1 Timothy shows that there is a clear difference between what individuals must do and what the church must do.
Paul here gives a reason why the Gentile churches were giving money for the Jerusalem saints. “For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things”. They were thankful that the gospel had come from Jerusalem. They were happy to send money to their beloved brethren.
In order to finish this, Paul was going with the messengers of the churches to take the contribution to Jerusalem. He wanted to put my seal on this fruit of theirs. This was very important to Paul. Prophets told him that he would go to prison in Jerusalem. He continued on his way, saying that he was ready to die if necessary (Acts 21:13). Paul wanted the Jerusalem brethren to understand the love that the Gentile brethren had for them. Just as he wrote the book of Romans to bring the Jewish and Gentile Christians together in unity, so he went to Jerusalem with the contribution for the poor saints hoping to bring the Jewish and Gentile brethren closer together in unity.
Paul expected the Roman Christians to help him on his trip to preach in Spain. It is wonderful that he could expect that. He understood that their love for all men would lead them to give money so that he could preach in still another place.
When he came he expected to come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. He was able to do this (Acts 28:17-31). God blessed him because he was doing the work of Christ.
Paul begs them because of the cause of Christ and because of the love which the Holy Spirit gives. He begs them to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. They love the cause of Christ and they love one another because of the word of the Holy Spirit. This unites them with Paul and he calls on them to work in prayer for him.
These words show that God works things to answer prayer. This does not require Him to perform miracles. In His providence He sees that certain things are done, all in answer to our prayers. It is important to strive together in your prayers to God. God listens to the prayers of righteous men (James 5:16). Note also, praying is work. We are working together when we pray for one another.
Paul asked them to pray for two things. First, that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea. This prayer was heard. When he was attacked by the mob in the temple, Roman soldiers rescued him (Acts 21:27-40). Later when there was a plot to kill him, his sister’s son warned him and he was rescued again (Acts 23:12-35). Finally he was delivered from the hands of the Jews when he was sent to Rome for trial (Acts 27:1).
Second, Paul asked them to pray that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints. This was why it was important for Paul to go to Jerusalem with the money. Even some of the believing Jews did not completely trust Paul. This prayer, too, was heard when the brethren received him gladly (Acts 21:17-20).
Paul also came to the brethren in Rome in joy, even though he was a prisoner (Acts 28:15).
His final words are full of love and meaning. “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” May this be our continuing prayer for one another.