Romans.15:1–29. The World-view of a First Century Pioneer.
Christ Welcomed You.
Key Notes: Five benedictions. The Gentiles are a sacrifice? The Gentiles of America.
In this chapter, Paul shifts gears from teaching us about the strong and the weak, to his perspective as the first world missionary. He thinks of the issues in ways we will find quite strange but the perspective will give us new insights into God’s strategy for the world and our part in it. We think of the Church as a modern, established world-wide phenomenon, the product of two millennia of spreading the Gospel. We have no idea how difficult it was for Jews to share their spiritual secrets with the heathen world, and how revolutionary Paul’s perspective was, only 20 years after Christ died. How tiny the seed was! We also have little idea of how much work was done just in the last two centuries.
15:1–7 Paul’s second summary of his discussion of weak and strong believers focuses on Christ’s ministry. Since He did not come to please Himself, we must also suffer with the failings of the weak. He may extend his meaning of the weak beyond the scrupulous to include the poor, elderly, minorities, etc. He quotes from Psalm 69:9, a psalm of the sufferings of the Messiah.
He repeats the message of ICor. 10:1–13 that whatever was written before was written for our learning, to give us steadfastness, encouragement and hope. Other passages may be included: Heb.3:5–11which teaches lessons on conduct from Israel's experience in the wilderness . Heb.9 compares ritual OT worship with Christ's sacrifice. and IITim.3:16 tells us that the OT is full of teaching on spiritual issues.
Then he gives the first of five benedictions. May God grant you to live in harmony so that you can together bring glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can look on each of the five benedictions (15:5–6; 15:13; 15:33; 16:20; 16:25–27) as a full stop, perhaps like a “Selah” in the psalms. But then he goes on to another point.
15:8 The next point is how the Gentiles come into the picture of Paul’s mission. Christ welcomed the Gentiles during His ministry: the Syro-phoenician woman (Mk.7:26); the demon-possessed Gadarene (Lk.8:26–27); the Greeks (Jn.12:20–23), and the centurions (Matt.8:5; Lk.7:6). He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.10:6) but did not stop there, confirming Paul’s dictum that the Gospel is to the Jew first and also the Gentile. (Rom.1:16)
How far would the Gospel “also to the Gentiles” go?
Christ became a servant--“deacon”-- to the Jews
* to show God’s truthfulness
* to confirm the promises to the patriarchs
* so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. He speaks of “Gentiles ” (Gr."ethne"-- the nations). A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew. That takes in a lot of people.
15:9 “Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles and I will sing to Your name.” (from David, IISam.22:50)
15:10. “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people (laos).” (from Moses, Deut.32:43)
15:11 “Praise the Lord, all Gentiles and let all the peoples (laos) praise Him” (from an anonymous writer, Psa.117:1)
15:12 “The root of Jesse shall come, He who rises to rule the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles hope”. (from Isaiah 11:10)
There is a perceived movement of Israel from the focus to the periphery in these passages.
David singing in the midst of the Gentiles
Gentiles rejoicing with Israel
Gentiles praising the Lord
Christ coming to rule the Gentiles
The detachment of Israel from the center of God’s plan is spelled out in Romans 9:25–33; 10:18–21 and 11:7–10.
15:13 His second benediction is for our hope, through the God of Hope and the power of the Holy Spirit, filling us with all joy and peace in believing.
15:14–21 Paul’s Romans letter is a reminder of the Gospel to the believers in Rome. (See Rom.1:7–10.) This bears out the idea that Romans is a review of the plan of salvation.
His primary purpose is to act as a minister in priestly service of the Gospel, to make the offering of the Gentiles acceptable to God. He does not want to speak of anything else than what Christ has done through him to win obedience from the Gentiles.
Paul uniquely speaks of evangelism of the Gentiles in priestly and sacrificial terms, "the offering of the Gentiles," and uses five terms commonly associated with sacrifice.
We do not think of ourselves as a sacrifice offered to God--by someone else. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for us. Paul has asked us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom.12:1, but it is clear that Gentiles are considered here primarily as objects, not subjects: we are not acting; we are acted upon. We may not like to think of someone winning obedience from us, but it is not our program. Salvation has been done to us, not by us. Paul has sacrificed his life to bring it about, but that is not what he is saying. He is not the sacrifice. We are. Imagine a Jew offering up Gentiles as a sacrifice to God to win their obedience? It is his great contribution to the Kingdom. We are humbled. Surely God is pleased that His servant has carried out his assigned work.
Paul outlines his vision. He has traveled over Asia Minor, Greece and approached the Balkans (Yugoslavia and Albania). He wants to get to Italy and Rome and hopes to reach Spain. He would like to spend time with the Romans and enjoy their company. He has to bring a money gift to Jerusalem first. The Gentiles should share their material blessings with the Jews as the Jews shared their spiritual blessings with the Gentiles. He asks for fervent prayer to escape from the ungodly Jews in Jerusalem.
God moved Paul steadily westward along the coast of the Mediterranean, the cradle of western civilization. From the four peninsulas (Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain), the Gospel will spread northward and into the British Isles. Who could have dreamed that the Gospel would spread all over the world and to every nation? There are 189 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, varying in population from a few hundred to a thousand million. All but one of these is a Gentile nation. The world is 99.75% Gentile.
“The root of Jesse shall come, He who rises to rule the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles hope.”
No country is without some Christian witness. Is our Country included in any mental image of Gentile Nations? Is any Gentile country ruled by Christ?
Let us put our country’s name in place of the word "the Gentiles" and reread the text.
David will praise God among the Americans and sing to your Name.
Moses says Americans should rejoice with saved Jews.
The Psalmist says the Americans should praise Him.
Isaiah says Americans will be ruled by Christ and they will hope in Him.
Paul is the minister of Christ to Americans so that the sacrifice of the USA may be acceptable in the Holy Spirit. It is his intention to win Americans to the obedience of faith. Did it happen?
The United States has the highest proportion of Christians of any nation on earth.
Evangelical Christianity loomed large in the early years of our country.
“’This was the largest, and most formidable, subculture in American society. No other organized promoter of values, no other generator of print, no other source of popular music or compelling public imagery, no other comforter (and agitator) of internal life—none came anywhere close to the organized strength of the evangelical churches in the three-quarters of a century after the dawn of the republic.” (America’s God. M.Noll; Oxford, 2002, p.197.)
In 1860 a comparison was made between the evangelical churches and the US Postal Service, then the largest branch of the Federal Government and highly regarded as efficient and productive. In 1860 there were 28,000 post offices and 54,000 churches, 30,000 postal employees and 55,000 pastors. The Postal revenues were 8.5 million, and the church revenues 25 million. As a means of communication, the churches had greater strength than the official government service and their voluntary contributions were three times larger.
The Church was understood to have an important moral impact on the Country. John Adams, in 1796, said “’No other institution’ was as effective as ‘the Christian Religion’ in dispensing moral education through an entire society, pressing home ‘the Sanctions of a future Life,’ and showing how ‘the Observance of civil and political as well as domestic and private Duties ‘ were ‘the means and Conditions of future as well as present Happiness.’” (Noll, p.204)
“By the early nineteenth century, evangelicalism was the unofficially established religion in a nation that had forsworn religious establishments.”
“More ministers were agreeing with Ezra Stiles’s assertion of 1783 that the blessing promised to Israel were ‘allusively prophetic of the future prosperity and splendor of the United States.’”
Abraham Lincoln described his country as “the world’s last, best hope.”
There was a time when Christ ruled the Gentiles of the United States of America. He still does. There was hope in‘60 and there is hope now. We pray for preachers of righteousness like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John Wesley to turn our people back to God. We hope and pray for God’s Kingdom to be on earth as it is in Heaven.
And you can be a part of it.