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.
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.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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