THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST BRINGS GLORY TO GOD BY UNITING
JEWS AND GENTILES TOGETHER IN PRAISE AND HOPE
Thomas Schreiner: Throughout the letter the relationship between Jews and gentiles has been a major concern of Paul. Now he calls on both to accept one another for the glory of God. The summons to mutual acceptance should not be restricted to the horizontal level. Toleration of one another is mandated because thereby God’s name is glorified, and the primal sin of Rom. 1:21, where God is not glorified and thanked, is reversed by the harmony expressed in worship, in the community. Indeed, Rom. 15:8–12 reveals that the inclusion of Jews and gentiles together in the church fulfills God’s covenant promises given to Abraham and David. . .
By no means, then, is Paul’s goal merely to establish sociological peace between Jews and gentiles. The goal of his mission is to bring Jews and gentiles together in fervent worship and praise of God. The emphasis on praise provides the clue for the emphasis on hope in verses 12–13. Human beings place their hope in what will bring them the greatest happiness in the future. That is, the supreme object of our hope is also the object of our praise and worship. Thus Paul prays that believers will be filled with hope, because those who put their hope in God find him to be the delight and joy of their hearts.
John Toews: Paul returns to the opening imperative, welcome, but now broadens it (v. 7a). In 14:1 the imperative was to welcome the weak person. Here it is to welcome one another. Paul broadens his exhortation to include everyone. Christians are to practice mutual acceptance of people with different theologies and values, specifically those who eat different foods and observe different holy days.
Frank Thielman: the opening lines (15:7–9a) recall the opening lines of the main section (14:1–3) by reusing the term “welcome” (προσλαμβάνεσθε) and recalling the concept of imitating the welcome God has given all kinds of people across the social barriers that otherwise divide them from one another. In 15:3 Paul had extended the idea of imitating the welcome of God from 14:3 to include the imitation of Christ’s unselfishness. When Paul recalls this theme in 15:7–9a, it is again Christ who provides the example.
Now, however, Paul uses Christ’s example not merely to demonstrate to the weak and strong in Rome how they ought to act toward one another but also to make a point about the significance of Christ for all history. This is the move that ties 14:1 – 15:6 into the argument of the letter from 1:1 forward. Paul argues that Christ’s welcome of both the weak and strong in Rome accomplished on a small scale something that God was doing in Christ on the much larger scale of salvation history. Nonobservant believers in Rome should not hold law-observant believers in contempt or ignore their scruples because at the gospel’s center stands the Jewish Messiah, born of the seed of David, promised beforehand in the prophets (1:2–3). The gospel is for the Jew first (1:16), and the Jewish people form the cultivated olive tree onto which gentile believers have been grafted and from whose privileges gentile believers derive nourishment (11:17–24). The balance between Jew and gentile in 15:7–13, then, reflects the balance between Jew and gentile in the argument of Romans from the first sentence forward (1:2–5, 16–17; 1:18 – 4:25; 9:1 – 11:36; 14:1 – 15:6).
Main Idea: When the strong and the weak in Rome welcome each other despite their differences over observance of Jewish customs, they not only follow the example of Christ but play a practical role in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel in the Scriptures. God had promised Israel he would restore them to full fellowship with himself, and he had described their restoration as part of bringing all the nations of the earth together to worship him. The united worship of Jews and gentiles in Rome, orchestrated by Christ himself, is part of the fulfillment of this universal divine plan.
I. (:7) PLEA FOR MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE (DESPITE DIFFERENCES) BASED ON THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST
“Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
J. Ligon Duncan: This whole discussion that Paul is having with us here assumes that the church is made up widely different constituencies. It is diverse. There are people with different ideas about life, there are people from different backgrounds, and there are people from different socioeconomic groups. There are people from different political persuasions. There are people from all over the map. They are different. They are not the kind of people that would have just naturally drawn together out of all those normal socioeconomic impulses that draw us together with people that are like us. The church is not a collection of people that are like one another naturally and sociologically. That is one thing that is underlining the discussion here. The church is not a homogonous people group. It’s not a collection of all sort of people who are all the same. It’s a collection of all sorts of people, many of whom are really different.
Thomas Schreiner: Believers should accept one another just as Christ has accepted us, despite our hostility to him, in order to bring glory to God. In the same way that Christ has accepted us, despite our weakness and sin (5:6–10), we too should accept one another. The pronoun “you” (ὑμᾶς, hymas) in the clause “Christ has accepted you” demonstrates that both the strong and the weak are designated here. Christ has accepted both the strong and the weak, and thus they should accept one another with all their differences.
Steven Cole: “Accept” means much more than merely to tolerate. It has the notion of warmly welcoming others, especially those who are different than you are, into the fellowship of the local church.
Douglas Moo: Just as he exhorted the strong to “accept” the weak (14:1) and rebuked both weak and strong for rejecting each other when God had “accepted” them (14:3), so now he urges them to “accept one another … just as Christ accepted you.” Through such mutual acceptance God will be praised. For God sent Christ to the Jews so that Gentiles also might be able to praise God (15:8–9a), and the Old Testament likewise predicts that Gentiles will join with Jews in worshiping God (15:9b–12). The balanced emphasis on God’s faithfulness to Jews along with the inclusion of the Gentiles sums up a key motif in Romans. In a sense, then, these verses bring closure not only to the section on the strong and the weak, but to the entire body of the letter. To “accept” one another means not just to tolerate other believers but to welcome them as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. The “just as” (kathos) introducing the next clause in 15:7 may suggest Paul is drawing a comparison: We should accept one another in the same way as Christ has accepted us. But kathos probably has a causal sense here: We are to welcome one another because Christ has welcomed each one of us. What right do we have to refuse fellowship with a person whom Christ himself has accepted into the body? “In order to bring praise to God” may be the purpose of Christ’s accepting people. But this phrase more likely depends on the ruling idea of the verse, namely, that we accept one another.
James Dunn: “Praise/ glory be to God” (Luke 2:14; 19:38; Rom 11:36; Gal 1:5; Phil 4:20; 1 Clem 20.12; 50.7; cf. Rom 4:20). . . The phrase can go either with the main clause (Cranfield, Wilckens) or with the καθώς clause (e.g., SH, Schmidt).
Steven Cole: I agree with those who say that it applies to both phrases. God was glorified when Christ accepted us and He is glorified when we accept one another.
II. (:8-9a) PURPOSE OF THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST TO BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES
Douglas Moo: Structure:
I say that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth,
(a) in order to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs; and
(b) in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
Thomas Schreiner: It seems more natural grammatically to understand the infinitive clause in verse 9 to be parallel to the second infinitive clause in verse 8. The flow of thought would be as follows: Christ became a minister of the circumcision “to confirm the promises to the fathers and so that the gentiles would glorify God for the sake of his mercy.” In this construction both the infinitives βεβαιῶσαι (bebaiōsai, to confirm) and δοξάσαι (doxasai, to glorify) express purpose.
A. Ministry of Christ
“For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision
on behalf of the truth of God”
James Dunn: As in 3:30 περιτομή means “the circumcised”—the Jewish people identified by one of their most distinctive features. It would occasion no surprise that after focusing so much on the Jewish distinctives of food laws and holy days Paul reverts once again to the other striking identity marker of the diaspora Jew, circumcision (see on 2:25). The use of the perfect tense (γεγενῆσθαι) must mean that Paul intends to describe Jesus as “servant of the circumcised” not merely during his earthly ministry (cf. particularly Gal 4:4), but as still so (Lietzmann, Barrett, Cranfield, Wilckens), referring not simply to the continuing result of his time on earth (Käsemann). So presumably his ministry (almost exclusively to the Jews; cf. Matt 15:24) and death are in view (as again the echo of Mark 10:43–45 would imply), but also Jesus in his exaltation (Schlier). The priority of the Jews is thus underlined not simply as a temporary factor now no longer operative (as Williams’s alternative rendering, “servant from the Jews” [“Righteousness,” 286–88] could imply), but as a factor which continues to shape the purpose of God—“Jew first and also Gentile” (see on 1:16; cf. SH; Ljungman, 50–52; Wilckens).
B. Twofold Purpose
- (:8) Purpose to the Jews – Confirming OT Covenant Promises to the Patriarchs –
“to confirm the promises given to the fathers,”
James Dunn: Paul’s whole point is that Christ became servant of the circumcised not with a view to their salvation alone, but to confirm both phases of God’s saving purpose: to Jew first but also to Gentile (cf. Nabadan, 115–18).
- (:9a) Purpose to the Gentiles – Causing Praise for God’s Mercy for Inclusion –
“and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy;”
Frank Thielman: When gentile believers in Rome glorify God alongside Jewish believers, this unified group testifies, on one hand, to God’s faithfulness to his promises to Israel and, on the other hand, to his merciful character in sparing from his judgment even gentiles to whom he had made no promises. Their unified worship of God is one of the primary purposes for which Christ welcomed them both into his people (15:7) and should be a powerful incentive to them to welcome each other.
Thomas Schreiner: The fulfillment of the promises to the fathers doesn’t exclude the gentiles but includes them; from its inception, the covenant with the fathers pledged that “all nations” would receive God’s blessing (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4). By definition, then, the fulfillment of the promise to the fathers widens the circle to include the whole world. This is certainly Paul’s understanding of the promise; Abraham is “heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13) and thus the father of Jews and gentiles (4:9–17). Christ’s purpose in coming, then, was not only to certify the promises to the Jews but also to include the gentiles in the circle of his mercy. The word “mercy” (ἐλέους, eleous) resounds with covenant overtones, reaching back to God’s חֶ֫סֶד (ḥesed, faithful love), which, though not identical with God’s covenant, is closely tied to it in the OT (cf. Zobel, TDOT 5:44–64). The gentiles glorify God for his covenant mercy by praising him because they were the undeserved recipients of his saving kindness. We are once again drawn into the themes unfolded in Rom. 9–11. Since both Jews and gentiles have been blessed in such a singular way, they should extend acceptance to those in the community who differ from themselves.
Michael Bird: The net point is that God, by bringing Israel’s covenantal history to its appointed climax in the Messiah, has opened the way for the Gentiles to join his renewed people. . .
Assuming this entire scheme — Messiah, patriarchs, Gentiles, mercy, praise, etc. — it would be utterly unthinkable for the believers in Rome to prosecute any prejudice against their Christian brothers and sisters. Gentile Christians should not despise Jewish Christians for they are the ones to whom the Messiah came to serve. Jewish Christians should not judge Gentile Christians for he has brought them into God’s mercy to be praisers of God’s glory. The Messiah accepts each group and God approves of them as his servants. In response, they must show acceptance of each other. Paul thus brings together the many themes of the letter: justification by faith for Jew and Gentile, the redemptive-historical story fulfilled by the Messiah, divine mercy, mutuality, and a united people of God devoted to each other as they engage in a common worship.
III. (:9b-12) PROPHETIC SUPPORT FOR GENTILES BEING INCLUDED IN MUTUAL WORSHIP – 4 OT QUOTATIONS:
Frank Thielman: Paul then demonstrates that the pattern he has just outlined of Christ serving the Jews in order to bring Jews and gentiles together in the worship of God is a pattern (καθώς) found in Scripture (15:9b–12). He demonstrates this with four quotations, all of which support the notion that Jews and gentiles will worship God together, and the first and last of which support Paul’s claim that Christ, in his role as the Jewish Messiah, will orchestrate this unified praise (15:9b, 12). The last and most important of Paul’s quotations (15:12) describes gentiles placing their hope in a descendant of David who will rise to rule over them.
Thomas Schreiner: What follows in verses 9b–12 are scriptural citations from the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms that substantiate the thesis that gentiles and Jews together were to be recipients of covenant blessing. The word καθώς (kathōs, just as) introducing the scriptural catena should be understood as a ground, supporting the notion that gentiles as well as Jews were to be the beneficiaries of God’s covenant mercy.
Douglas Moo: God intends for his mercy to Israel to spill over to the Gentiles so that they can join together in praising his name. Paul cites each of the three sections of the Jewish Scriptures: the Torah (Deut. 32:43 in v. 10), the Prophets (Isa. 11:10 in v. 12), and the Writings (Ps. 18:49 in v. 9b; Ps. 117:1 in v. 11). Each quotation refers to the Gentiles, and two of them (vv. 10, 12) make clear that their presence in the people of God depends on the Jews. Two of them also speak of praising God (vv. 9, 11).
John Schultz: Paul’s quotations are taken from the Septuagint, which explains the slight differences between the Old Testament text and the quotations in this epistle.
A. (:9b) Psalm 18:49; 2 Sam. 22:50
“as it is written, ‘Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Thy name.’”
Thomas Schreiner: Paul understands gentiles as joining Jewish believers in singing praise to God’s name.
B. (:10) Deut. 32:43
“And again he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.’”
James Dunn: in accordance with God’s original purpose and promise the covenant made to Israel is now open to all who believe.
C. (:11) Psalm 117:1
“And again, ‘Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him.’”
Frank Thielman: The peoples of the earth are not pictured in two categories, Jews and gentiles, but as a multiethnic assembly in which all are equal before the God whom they worship (cf. Rom 2:11; 3:29; 4:11–12, 16–17; 11:30–32).
D. (:12) Isaiah 11:10
“And again Isaiah says, ‘There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.’”
Frank Thielman: Isaiah 10:5 – 12:6 prophesies God’s judgment on Israel for its godlessness (10:5–6), God’s mercy on a remnant (10:20–23; cf. Rom 9:27), and finally the restoration not only of Israel but of the whole earth under the reign of King David’s descendant. This “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (11:1; cf. 1 Sam 16:1–13; Acts 13:22) will provide righteousness and equity for the poor and meek, and the peoples of the earth will live in peace under his reign (11:1–9). . .
In Romans 15:7–13 Paul encourages Christians to step across ethnic boundaries and worship God together as a testimony to God’s desire to receive praise from “all nations” and “all the peoples” (15:11; Ps 117:1). As his climactic quotation from Isaiah 11:10 shows, he understood this unified worship of God as part of God’s plan to bring fairness, justice, faithfulness, and peace to the earth (Isa 11:1–9).
Thomas Schreiner: A reference to Jesus’s resurrection is present in the words “raising up” (ἀνιστάμενος, anistamenos, Rom. 15:12; against Cranfield 1979: 747; so Dunn 1988b: 850; Hafemann 2000: 186; Lohse 2003: 388). Hafemann (2000: 185–87) puts the accent on the future fulfillment in Jesus’s return. Though the future isn’t excluded, Paul emphasizes that the Isaianic promise is being fulfilled now in Jesus’s rule over gentiles, as they put their hope in him (rightly Schnabel 2016: 795n271).
James Dunn: Paul takes OT language, which might more naturally hold out hope of (now dispersed [v 9]) Israel’s ultimate dominance over the Gentiles (under the royal Messiah, [v 12]), in fulfillment of God’s covenant faithfulness (v 11), and acknowledged (submissively) by the nations (v 10); and by setting it in different sequence and in the different light cast by the Christ event, he transforms it into an expression of the ideal of a humanity (Gentile with Jew) united in worship of the same God and by hope in the same Christ.
J. Ligon Duncan: Paul’s point is simple. Why would they be praising the God of Israel, if the Old Testament were not teaching us to hope for the salvation of the Gentiles through the Messiah of Israel. In verse 12, he quotes from Isaiah 11:10, he says look, the one who is the root of Jesse is also the Savior of the Gentiles. In other words, the Savior of the Gentiles was a Jewish descendant from Jesse. So he piles up examples here that Jesus is the Messiah, not only of Israel, but He’s the only hope of the Gentiles.
IV. (:13) PRAYER FOR JOY AND PEACE STIMULATING ABUNDANT HOPE
A. Joy and Peace in Mutual Faith
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,”
Michael Bird: Paul is cued by the mention of hope in v. 12 to launch into a prayer about hope in v. 13. Hope has been a recurring theme in Paul’s exhortations throughout the letter. The reason is, perhaps, that a constant and common hope of an assured future is what they need to sustain them. Hope is the anticipation of future salvation (8:24), a hope of glory (5:5), amidst the futility and afflictions of this age (8:20; 12:12). The sign that hope in faith has taken root is the effusion of joy and peace that bubbles up in the believer by the Holy Spirit (14:17; 15:13).
B. Stimulating Abundant Hope
“that you may abound in hope”
C. Accomplished by the Power of the Holy Spirit
“by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
J. Ligon Duncan: The ability to experience the gospel, to experience unity in the church, depends upon the work of God in us. It’s not something that comes to us naturally. The hope that we have to have to go on doesn’t come naturally within us. It comes from the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Frank Thielman: Paul’s concluding prayer asks God, who is able to supply the eschatologically oriented hope described in the final quotation, to give that hope in abundance to the Jews and gentiles in Rome who believe the gospel (15:13).
Thomas Schreiner: Joy and peace both stem from faith and are by-products of believing in God’s great promises. It also follows that the worship described in verses 9–12 is joyful and full of peace. Moreover, faith and hope are functioning here as virtual synonyms, for the God who gives hope does so by increasing faith, which results in joy and peace. Paul again emphasizes that hope is not produced by human beings. The source of such hope is “the power of the Holy Spirit.”