Romans 15 – Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

Circus Maximus: Rome’s entertainment center.
The Circus Maximus is an ancient arena and mass entertainment center located in Rome, Italy. It was first built about 600 BC. Situated in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, it met the demands of the Roman people for mass public entertainment on a lavish scale, primarily chariot races, but also wild beast fights and naval battles. Julius Caesar expanded the Circus around 50 BC, after which the track measured approximately 1800 feet in length, and 750 feet in breadth and could accommodate an estimated 150,000 to 350,000 seated spectators.

In the previous chapter, Paul had been addressing the division and dispute among the Jew and Gentile members of the church at Rome concerning 1) the problem related most probably to the Gentiles eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, which would have been offensive to the Jews (an issue he had to speak to elsewhere as well) and 2) the “esteeming” of one day over another (probably the Gentiles’ objection to the Jews who still observed the feast days from the old Law).  Having already spoken to this, he admonishes them further, as he did the brethren at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10, that they must think about their brethren and their souls as well as their consciences and help each other bear their own weaknesses.

As for the Old Testament Law, he says in verse 4 that “…whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  This was to say that we have much that is profitable to learn from the old Law.  But while all should be  sensitive to the consciences of others, this does not give those others license for imposing those matters on their brethren, but rather they should all live in harmony, and “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.”   He finishes this section of the chapter in verses 8-13 by reminding them that “Christ became a servant”  for the sake of Jews and Gentiles alike, according to God’s plan.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he had not yet been there, but he had taken the gospel from Jerusalem clear over into Illyricum. He planned to visit and preach in Rome one day and hoped to continue to take the gospel farther west, even to Spain.

Paul then speaks of his ministry to the Gentiles for the gospel of Jesus, and it becomes clear how passionate he was about that important mission.  He speaks of the collection for the poor of the church in Jerusalem – which he is preparing to deliver now; and he is proud of the Gentiles stepping up as they have done to help their Jewish brethren.  It is important to Paul, and it is important to the Gentiles themselves, as well as to their unity with Jewish brethren everywhere, as many will see it as symbolic of the entrance of the Gentiles into the kingdom (verse 17-18).   Of that mission, Paul says in verse 19 that he had traveled preaching the gospel from Jerusalem to the Roman province of Illyricum (later called Dalmatia).   He said he had done all of that as it was written in Isaiah 52:15, which he quotes in verse 21: “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul finishes this chapter in verses 22-33 by telling the brethren in Rome that he plans to finally come to visit them on his way to Spain after he goes to Jerusalem.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

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Romans 3 – God’s Righteousness Upheld

Appian Way – most famous of the Roman roads, built (312 B.C.) under Appius Claudius Caecus. It connected Rome with Capua and was later extended to Beneventum (now Benevento), Tarentum (Taranto), and Brundisium (Brindisi). It was the chief highway to Greece and the East. Its total length was more than 350 mi (563 km). The substantial construction of cemented stone blocks has preserved it to the present.

After telling the brethren of the Roman church in chapter 2 that the Gentiles are now true Jews by way of the Spirit, Paul then addresses the question that would naturally come from the Jews.  Was there no advantage or value of being a Jew, or of being circumcised?  Paul says that indeed there was.  The Jews had been the keepers of the “oracles of God” (verse 2) – the Scriptures; and in that capacity at least, they had remained faithful.  God’s word, as He would make certain, had been preserved; and just as importantly, God had remained faithful to His promises to them, despite the unfaithfulness they had shown to Him.

In verses 10-18, Paul says that “it is written…” and follows that with quotations from several passages.  Verses 10-12 are from Psalm 14:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 7:20.  Verses 13-14 are from Psalm 5:9 and Psalm 10:7.  Verses 15-17 are from Isaiah 59:7-8, and verse 18 is from Psalm 36:1.   He is making it clear that the Jews among them are no better off than the Gentiles (verse 9) because all are “under sin.”  The phrase “…no one does good, not even one…” in verse 12 can be understood by the first part of the verse “All have turned aside.”  Nobody is without sin.  And verse 18 finishes with the reason for it all – “there is no fear of God before their eyes.”  That brings to the mind of this blogger the words of the wisest man (Solomon) in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Paul illustrates again the old with the new, and provides a good summary of God’s plan for salvation – the Law and the Prophets bear witness to  “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (verses 21-22) – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (verse 23).  The word “propitiation” in verse 25 means that the sacrifice Jesus made was an offering to appease God’s wrath and turn it to favor.  This was necessary for the forgiveness of sins, and it is what now gives favor to Jews and Gentiles alike, making no distinction between them.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Romans 2 – God’s Judgment and the Law

Colosseum, Rome, Italy.
Many gladiators and wild beasts were killed here to entertain the Roman people. Tradition says that this was the site where many Christians were martyred, especially under the Emperor Nero.

In this chapter, Paul addresses the Jews of the church at Rome, as their self-righteousness threatens the unity of the church – just as it did in Galatia and elsewhere.  But here again, the applications to all people are clear.  He again states that the Gentiles are without excuse, for just as the evidence for God abounds, he also says “the law is written on their hearts.”  So even though they did not have prophets who wrote the law as the Jews knew it, the Gentiles knew enough “to do what the law requires” (verses 14-15).

But the Jews, who had the law and were circumcised, were warned that they who pass judgment on others are not without sin themselves.  So they should not boast and be judgmental because if they know the law and additionally are circumcised, but still live in sin they are just as guilty – for God shows no partiality.  They are not favored of God for their knowledge of the law or for their circumcision.  Though it is still admirable that they keep the law of circumcision, it is no longer required anyway, and it is of no value to them in their sin.

Paul is not speaking of baptism here, nor is he comparing it to circumcision.  But as Christians today we would do well to remember this passage when it comes to others.  Being “raised in the church,” knowing and even reading their Bible, and even having been baptized are all of no value if we live in sin anyway.  In that case, we will be just as lost as those who never obeyed the gospel.  As it was true then of being a Jew and being circumcised, it is living a life that is consistent with faith in (and commitment to) the Lord that has value.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Romans 1 – God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

Paul opens this letter affirming his apostleship, as was his custom with letters to churches that were not so familiar with him. He reinforces that in verses 4-6 by stating that, through Jesus, he and the other apostles “received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…”    The long introduction also affirms that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he was descended from David, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy (verse 4); and he declares the mission to the Gentiles (verse 13).  He also expresses, at some length, his eagerness to go to Rome for fellowship and sharing the gospel with them.

The Arch of Titus from outside the Forum, Rome, Italy. Located at the highest point of the Via Sacra which leads to the Roman Forum, this triumphal arch, with only one passageway, commemorates Titus’ conquest of Judea which ended the Jewish Wars (66-70). Engaged fluted columns frame the passageway.

Not much is known for certain about the church at Rome.  But by virtue of it being in Rome, its fame would have been considerable and, like the other churches, it was composed of both Jews and Gentiles.  The remainder of this chapter focuses on the need for righteousness on the part of the Gentiles, and Paul does not mince words in pointing out the history of unrighteousness on their part.  But as the letter continues, it will become apparent that McGarvey’s assessment is largely correct.  He writes:

“The Judaizing tendencies which had recently appeared in Corinth and Galatia were sure eventually to appear in other churches, perhaps ultimately in all, and the attitude assumed by a church already so influential and destined to increase in power was sure to carry great weight in deciding the controversy. Therefore, to set the church of Rome right as to the design and nature of the gospel was a work of supreme importance…”

Heading off such a crevasse in this church was of great concern, to be sure.  McGarvey further expounds most aptly:

“The purpose of the letter is to set forth, as Baur rightly expresses it, ‘both the relation of Judaism and heathenism to each other, and the relation of both to Christianity;’  primarily, for the instruction of the Christians in Rome, and, secondarily, for the benefit of all the churches by the establishment of peace between their Jewish and Gentile elements, and, ultimately, for the enlightening of the kingdom of God in all ages.”

Though verses 18-24 are here specifically directed at those Gentiles, they contain some of the most profound (and certainly definitive) statements applicable to all people everywhere concerning God’s existence, and thus they provide the very basis of sound apologetics.  The “wrath of God” in verse 18 represents his holiness, judgment, and yet loving response to the unrighteousness of mankind.  When Paul says that all mankind knows God, he is not speaking of the concept of a god or of deity in general.  Man knows the one true and living God because the evidence abounds in everything He created, yet he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.  His attributes, including His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world, so that everyone is without excuse.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. Gen 1:9

Man has always tended to be full of himself because of the material knowledge he acquires, only made possible by God; and “claiming to be wise, they became fools…”  Man’s desire for sin and all that is an abomination to his Creator moves him to exchange the truth about God for a lie (verse 25) and worship the creature rather than the Creator even to this day.  People who deny Him do so by conscious choice in a futile attempt to justify their own unrighteousness.  The “shameful acts” Paul lists as driving this begins with unnatural relations of men and women with others of the same gender, and in verse 29 runs from gossips to murderers and “all manner of evil” in between – as God makes no distinction between what man considers “small” or large sins.

Any claim by someone who says they would believe if the evidence was there is hogwash.   Blindness to the more than substantial evidence is entirely willful.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.