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Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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ROMANS Chapter 15

It may be of importance to state, that between the last verse of the preceeding chapter and the first verse of this, the Arabic version, some Mss., and many of the Greek fathers, as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, etc., have introduced Romans 16:25-27. Why this was done has been a matter of controversy. The discussion, however, is of no practical importance, and most critics concur in the opinion that the present arrangement of the Greek text is genuine.

Verse 1. We then that are strong. The apostle resumes the subject of the preceding chapter; and continues the exhortation to brotherly love and mutual kindness and forbearance. By the strong here he means the strong in faith in respect to the matters under discussion; those whose minds were free from doubts and perplexities. His own mind was free from doubt, and there were many others, particularly of the Gentile converts, that had the same views. But many also, particularly of the Jewish converts, had many doubts and scruples.

Ought to bear. This word bear properly means to lift up, to bear away, to remove. But here it is used in a larger sense; to bear with, to be indulgent to, to endure patiently, not to contend with, Galatians 6:2; Revelation 2:2, "Thou canst not bear them that are evil."

And not to please ourselves. Not to make it our main object to gratify our own wills. We should be willing to deny ourselves, if by it we may promote the happiness of others. This refers particularly to opinions about meats and drinks; but it may be applied to Christian conduct generally, as denoting that we are not to make our own happiness or gratification the standard of our conduct, but are to seek the welfare of others. See the example of Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:19,22; see also Philippians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 13:5, "Love seeketh not her own;" 1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth." Also Matthew 6:24.

{c} "to bear the infirmities" Romans 14:1; Galatians 6:2

Verse 2. Please his neighbour. That is, all other persons, but especially the friends of the Redeemer. The word neighbour here has especial reference to the members of the church. It is often used, however in a much larger sense. See Luke 10:36.

For his good. Not to seek to secure for him indulgence in those things which would be injurious to him, but in all these things which his welfare would be promoted.

To edification. See Barnes "Romans 14:19".

{d} "neighbour for his good" 1 Corinthians 9:19; Philippians 2:4,5

Verse 3. For even Christ. The apostle proceeds, in his usual manner, to illustrate what he had said by the example of the Saviour. To a Christian, the example of the Lord Jesus will furnish the most ready, certain, and happy illustration of the nature and extent of his duty.

Pleased not himself. This is not to be understood as if the Lord Jesus did not voluntarily and cheerfully engage in his great work. He was not compelled to come and suffer. Nor is it to be understood as if he did not approve the work, or see its propriety and fitness. If he had not, he would never have engaged in its sacrifices and self-denials. But the meaning may be expressed in the following particulars:

(1.) He came to do the will or desire of God, in undertaking the work of salvation. It was the will of God; it was agreeable to the Divine purposes, and the Mediator did not consult his own happiness and honour in heaven, but cheerfully came to do the will of God, Psalms 40:7,8. Comp. Hebrews 10:4-10; Philippians 2:6; John 17:5

Christ, when on earth, made it his great object to do the will of God, to finish the work which God had given him to do, and not to seek his own comfort and enjoyment. This he expressly affirms, John 6:38; John 5:30:

(3.) He was willing for this to endure whatever trials and pains the will of God might demand, not seeking to avoid them, or to shrink from them. See particularly his prayer in the garden, Luke 22:42.

(4.) In his life he did not seek personal comfort, wealth, or friends, or honours. He denied himself to promote the welfare of others; he was poor that they might be rich; he was in lonely places that he might seek out the needy and provide for them. Nay, he did not seek to preserve his own life when the appointed time came to die, but gave himself up for all.

(5.) There may be another idea which the apostle had here. He bore with patience the ignorance, blindness, erroneous views, and ambitious projects of his disciples. He evinced kindness to them when in error; and was not harsh, censorious, or unkind, when they were filled with vain projects of ambition, or perverted his words, or were dull of apprehension. So, says the apostle, we ought to do in relation to our brethren.

But as it is written. Psalms 69:9. This psalm, and the former part of this verse, is referred to the Messiah. Comp. Psalms 69:21 with Matthew 27:34,48.

The reproaches. The calumnies, censures, harsh, opprobrious speeches.

Of them that reproached thee. Of the wicked, who vilified and abused the law and government of God.

Fell on me. In other words, Christ was willing to suffer reproach and contempt in order to do good to others. He endured calumny and contempt all his life, from those who by their lips and lives calumniated God, or reproached their Maker. We may learn here,

(1.) that the contempt of Jesus Christ is contempt of him who appointed him.

(2.) We may see the kindness of the Lord Jesus in being willing thus to throw himself between the sinner and God; to intercept, as it were, our sins, and to bear the effects of them in his own person. He stood between us and God; and both the reproaches and the Divine displeasure due to them, met on his sacred Person, and produced the sorrows of the atonement--his bitter agony in the garden and on the cross. Jesus thus showed his love of God in being willing to bear the reproaches aimed at him; and his love to men in being willing to endure the sufferings necessary to atone for these very sins.

(3.) If Jesus thus bore reproaches, we should be willing also to endure them. We suffer in the cause where he has gone before us, and where he has set us the example; and as he was abused and vilified, we should be willing to be so also.

{e} "Christ pleased not himself" John 6:28
{f} "The reproaches of them" Psalms 69:9

Verse 4. For whatsoever things, This is a general observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that all the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.

Were written aforetime. That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.

For our learning. For our teaching or instruction. Not that this was the only purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful now in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety towards God and man.

Through patience. This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience of the Scriptures; but it means, that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connexion with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The tendency of patience, the apostle tells us, (Romans 5:4,) is to produce hope. See Barnes "Romans 5:4".

And comfort of the Scriptures. By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered comfort means also exhortation or admonition. If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means comfort, then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.

Might have hope. See Barnes "Romans 5:4". We may learn here,

(1.) that afflictions may prove to be a great blessing.

(2.) That the proper tendency is to produce hope.

(3.) That the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible. By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, we may learn to suffer, and may not only be instructed, but may find comfort in all our trials. See the example of Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11.

{g} "whatsoever things" 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16,17

Verse 5. Now the God of patience. The God who is himself long-suffering, who bears patiently with the errors and faults of his children, and who can give patience, may he give you of his Spirit, that you may bear patiently the infirmities and errors of each other. The example of God here, who bears long with his children, and is not angry soon at their offences, is a strong argument why Christians should bear with each other. If God bears long and patiently with our infirmities, we ought to bear with each other.

And consolation. Who gives or imparts consolation.

To be like-minded, etc. Gr., To think the same thing; that is, to be united, to keep from divisions and strifes.

According to Christ Jesus. According to the example and spirit of Christ; his was a spirit of peace. Or, according to what his religion requires. The name of Christ is sometimes thus put for his religion, 2 Corinthians 11:4; Ephesians 4:20. If all Christians would imitate the example of Christ, and follow his instructions, there would be no contentions among them. He earnestly sought in his parting prayer their unity and peace, John 17:21-23.

{h} "one toward another" 1 Corinthians 1:10
{1} "according to Christ Jesus" or, "after the example of"

Verse 6. That ye may with one mind. The word here used is translated "with one accord," Acts 1:14; 2:1; 4:24. It means unitedly, with one purpose, without contentions, and strifes, and jars.

And one mouth. This refers, doubtless, to their prayers and praises. That they might join, without contention and unkind feeling, in the worship of God. Divisions, strife, and contention in the church prevent union in worship. Though the body may be there, and the church professedly engaged in public worship, yet it is a divided service; and the prayers of strife and contention are not heard, Isaiah 58:4.

Glorify God. Praise or honour God. This would be done by their union, peace, and harmony; thus showing the tendency of the gospel to overcome the sources of strife and contention among men, and to bring them to peace.

Even the Father, etc. This is an addition designed to produce love.

(1.) He is a Father; we then, his children, should regard him as pleased with the union and peace of his family.

(2.) He is the Father of our LORD; our common Lord; our Lord who has commanded us to be united, and to love one another. By the desire of honouring such a Father, we should lay aside contentions, and be united in the bands of love.

{i} "one mind" Acts 4:24,32

Verse 7. Wherefore. In view of all the considerations, tending to produce unity and love, which have been presented. He refers to the various arguments in this and the preceding chapter.

Receive ye one another. Acknowledge one another as Christians, and treat one another as such, though you may differ in opinion about many smaller matters. See Romans 14:3.

As Christ also received us. That is, received us as his friends and followers. See Romans 14:3.

To the glory of God. In order to promote his glory. He has redeemed us, and renewed us, in order to promote the honour of God. Comp. Ephesians 1:6. As Christ has received us in order to promote the glory of God, so ought we to treat each other in a similar manner for a similar purpose. The exhortation in this verse is to those who had been divided on various points pertaining to rites and ceremonies; to those who had been converted from among Gentiles and Jews; and the apostle here says that Christ had received both. In order to enforce this, and especially to show the Jewish converts that they ought to receive and acknowledge their Gentile brethren, he proceeds to show, in the following verses, that Christ had reference to both in his work. He shows this in reference to the Jews Romans 15:8 and to the Gentiles Romans 15:9-12. Thus he draws all his arguments from the work of Christ.

{k} "received us" Ephesians 1:6

Verse 8. Now I say. I affirm, or maintain. I, a Jew, admit that his work had reference to the Jews; I affirm also that it had reference to the Gentiles.

That Jesus Christ. That the Messiah. The force of the apostle's reasoning would often be more striking if he would retain the word Messiah, and not regard the word Christ as a mere surname. It is the name of his office; and to a Jew the name Messiah would convey much more than the idea of a mere proper name.

Was a minister of the circumcision. Exercised his office--the office of the Messiah--among the Jews, or with respect to the Jews, for the purposes which he immediately specifies. Hie was born a Jew; was circumcised; came to that nation; and died in their midst, without having gone himself to any other people.

For the truth of God. To confirm or establish the truth of the promises of God. He remained among them in the exercise of his ministry to show that God was true, who had said that the Messiah should come to them.

To confirm the promises, etc. To establish, or to show that the promises were true. See Barnes "Acts 3:25", also Acts 3:26. The promises referred to here, are those particularly which related to the coming of the Messiah. By thus admitting that the Messiah was the minister of the circumcision, the apostle conceded all that the Jew could ask, that he was to be peculiarly their Messiah. See Barnes "Luke 24:47".

{l} "confirm the promises" Acts 3:25,26

Verse 9. And that the Gentiles, etc. The benefits of the gospel were not to be confined to the Jews; and as God designed that those benefits should be extended to the Gentiles, so the Jewish converts ought to be willing to admit them, and treat them as brethren. That God did design this, the apostle proceeds to show.

Might glorify God. Might praise, or give thanks to God. This implies that the favour shown to them was a great favour.

For his mercy. Greek, On account of the mercy shown to them.

As it is written. Psalms 18:49. The expression there is one of David's. He says that he will praise God for his mercies among the heathen, or when surrounded by the heathen; or that he would confess and acknowledge the mercies of God to him, as we should say, to all the world. The apostle, however, uses it in this sense, that the Gentiles would participate with the Jew in offering praise to God, or that they would be united. This does not appear to have been the original design of David in the psalm, but the words express the idea of the apostle.

And sing, etc. Celebrate thy praise. This supposes that benefits would be conferred on them, for which they would celebrate his goodness.

{m} "For this cause" Psalms 18:49

Verse 10. And again, etc. Deuteronomy 32:43. In this place, the nations or Gentiles are called on to rejoice with tile Jews, for the interposition of God in their behalf. The design of the quotation is to show that the Old Testament speaks of the Gentiles as called on to celebrate the praises of God; of course, the apostle infers that they are to be introduced to the same privileges as his people.

{n} "Rejoice, ye Gentiles" Deuteronomy 32:43

Verse 11. And again. Psalms 117:1. The object in this quotation is the same as before. The apostle accumulates quotations to show that it was the common language of the Old Testament, and that he was not depending on a single expression for the truth of his doctrine.

All ye Gentiles. In the psalm, "all ye nations; but the original is the same.

And laud him. Praise him. The psalm is directly in point. It is a call on all nations to praise God; the very point in the discussion of the apostle.

{o} "Praise the Lord" Psalms 117:1.

Verse 12. Esaias saith. Isaiah 11:1,10.

There shall be a root. A descendant, or one that should proceed from him when he was dead. When a tree dies, and falls, there may remain a root which shall retain life, and which shall send up a sprout of a similar kind. So Job says, (Job 14:7,) "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease." So in relation to Jesse. Though he should fall, like an aged tree, yet his name and family should not be extinct. There should be a descendant who should rise, and reign over the Gentiles. The Lord Jesus is thus called also the "root and the offspring of David," Revelation 22:16; 5:5.

Of Jesse. The father of David, 1 Samuel 17:58. The Messiah was thus descended front Jesse.

He that shall rise. That is, as a sprout springs up from a decayed or fallen tree. Jesus thus rose from the family of David, that had fallen into poverty and humble life in the time of Mary.

To reign over the Gentiles. This is quoted from the Lxx. of Isaiah 11:10. The Hebrew is, "Which shall stand up for an ensign of the people;" that is, a standard to which they shall flock. Either the Septuagint or the Hebrew would express the idea of the apostle. The substantial sense is retained, though it is not literally quoted. The idea of his reigning over the Gentiles is one that is fully expressed in the second psalm.

In him, etc. Hebrew, "To it shall the Gentiles seek." The sense, however, is the same. The design of this quotation is the same as the preceding, to show that it was predicted in the Old Testament that the Gentiles should be made partakers of the privileges of the gospel. The argument of the apostle is, that if this was designed, then converts to Christianity from among the Jews should lay aside their prejudices, and receive them as their brethren, entitled to the same privileges of the gospel as themselves. The fact that the Gentiles would be admitted to these privileges, the apostle had more fully discussed in chapters 10 and 11.

{p} "There shall be" Isaiah 11:1,10
{q} "of Jesse" Revelation 5:5; 22:16

Verse 13. Now the God of hope. The God who inspires, or produces the Christian hope.

All joy and peace. Romans 14:17. If they were filled with this, there would be no strife and contention.

In believing. The effect of believing is to produce this joy and peace.

That ye may abound, etc. That your hope may be steadfast and strong.

Through the power, etc. By means of the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit. It is by his power alone that the Christian has the hope of eternal life. See Ephesians 1:13,14; Romans 8:24.

{r} "all joy" Romans 14:17

Verse 14. And I myself also. The apostle here proceeds to show them why he had written this epistle, and to state his confidence in them. He had exhorted them to peace; he had opposed some of their strongest prejudices; and in order to secure their obedience to his injunctions, he now shows them the deep interest which he had in their welfare, though he had never seen them.

Am persuaded. He had never seen them, (Romans 1:10-13,)but he had full confidence in them. This confidence he had expressed more fully in the first chapter.

Of you. Concerning you. I have full confidence in you.

My brethren. An address of affection; showing that he was not disposed to assume undue authority, or to lord it over their faith.

Are full of goodness. Filled with kindness or benevolence. That is, they were disposed to obey any just commands; and that consequently any errors in their opinions and conduct had not been the effect of obstinacy or perverseness. There was indeed danger, in the city of Rome, of pride and haughtiness; and among the Gentile converts there might have been some reluctance to receive instruction from a foreign Jew. But the apostle was persuaded that all this was overcome by the mild and humbling spirit of religion, and that they were disposed to obey any just commands. He made this observation, therefore, to conciliate respect to his authority as an apostle.

Filled with all knowledge. That is, instructed in the doctrines and duties of the Christian religion. This was true; but there might be still some comparatively unimportant and non-essential points, on which they might not be entirely clear. On these the apostle had written; and written, not professedly to communicate new ideas, but to remind them of the great principles on which they were before instructed, Romans 15:15.

Able also, etc. That is, you are so fully instructed in Christian principles, as to be able to give advice and counsel, if it is needed. From this verse we may learn,

(1.) that when it is our duty to give instruction, admonition, or advice, it should be in a kind: conciliating manner; not with harshness, or with the severity of authority. Even an apostle did not assume harshness or severity in his instructions.

(2.) There is no impropriety in speaking of the good qualities of Christians in their presence; or even of commending and praising them when they deserve it. The apostle Paul was as far as possible from always dwelling on the faults of Christians. When it was necessary to reprove them, he did it, but did it with tenderness and tears. When he could commend, he preferred it; and never hesitated to give them credit to the utmost extent to which it could be rendered. He did not flatter, but he told the truth; he did not commend to excite pride and vanity, but to encourage, and to prompt to still more active efforts. The minister who always censures and condemns, whose ministry is made up of complaints and lamentations, who never speaks of Christians but in a strain of fault-finding, is unlike the example of the Saviour and of Paul, and may expect little success in his work. Comp. Romans 1:8; 16:19; 1 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 9:2; Philippians 1:8-7; Hebrews 6:9; 2 Peter 1:12.

{s} "persuaded of you" Hebrews 6:9; 2 Peter 1:12
{t} "able also to admonish" 1 Corinthians 8:1,7,10

Verse 15. Nevertheless. Notwithstanding my full persuasion of your knowledge, and your purpose to do right. Perhaps he refers also to the fact that he was a stranger to them.

The more boldly. More boldly than might have been expected from a stranger. The reason why he showed this boldness in declaring his sentiments he immediately states--that he had been specially called to the office of instructing the Gentiles.

In some sort, (\~apo merouv\~). In part. Some have supposed that he referred to a party at Rome--the Gentile party. (Whitby.) Some refer it to different parts of his epistle--on some subjects. (Stuart.) Probably the expression is designed to qualify the phrase more boldly. The phrase, says Grotius, diminishes that of which it is spoken, as 1 Corinthians 13:9,12; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2:5; and means the same as "somewhat more freely;" that is, I have been induced to write the more freely, partly because I am appointed to this very office. I write somewhat more freely to a church among the Gentiles than I even should to one among the Jews, because I am appointed to this very office.

As putting you in mind. Greek, Calling to your remembrance, or reminding you. Comp. 2 Peter 1:12,13. This was a delicate way of communicating instruction. The apostles presumed that all Christians were acquainted with the great doctrines of religion; but they did not command, enjoin, or assume a spirit of dictation. How happy would it be if all teachers would imitate the example of the apostles in this, and be as modest and humble as they were.

Because of the grace, etc. Because God has conferred the favour on me of appointing me to this office. See Barnes "Romans 1:5".

{u} "because of the grace" Ephesians 3:7,8.

Verse 16. The minister, (\~leitourgon\~). This is not the word which is commonly translated minister, (\~diakonov\~). This word is properly appropriated to those who minister in public offices or the affairs of the state. In the New Testament it is applied mainly to the Levitical priesthood, who ministered and served at the altar, Hebrews 10:11. It is, however, applied to the ministers of the New Testament, as discharging substantially the same offices towards the church which were discharged by the Levitical priesthood; i. e., as engaged in promoting the welfare of the church, occupied in holy things, etc. Acts 13:2, "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted," etc. It is used in a larger sense still in Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12.

To the Gentiles. Comp. Romans 1:6; Acts 9:15.

Ministering, (\~ierourgounta\~). Performing the office of a priest in respect to the gospel of God. The office of a priest was to offer sacrifice. Paul here retains the language, though without affirming or implying that the ministers of the New Testament were literally priests to offer sacrifice. The word used here occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Its meaning here is to be determined from the connexion. The question is, what is the sacrifice of which he speaks? It is the offering up--the sacrifice of the Gentiles. The Jewish sacrifices were abolished. The Messiah had fulfilled the design of their appointment, and they were to be done away. (See the epistle to the Hebrews.) There was to be no further literal sacrifice. But now the offerings of the Gentiles were to be as acceptable as had been the offerings of the Jews. God made no distinction; and in speaking of these offerings, Paul used figurative language drawn from the Jewish rites. But assuredly he did not mean that the offerings of the Gentiles were literal sacrifices to expiate sins; nor did he mean that there was to be an order of men who were to be called priests under the New Testament. If this passage did prove that, it would prove that it should be confined to the apostles, for it is of them only that he uses it. The meaning is this: "Acting in the Christian church substantially as the priests did among the Jews: that is, endeavouring to secure the acceptableness of the offerings which the Gentiles make to God."

That the offering up. The word here rendered offering up, (\~prosfora\~), commonly means a sacrifice or an expiatory offering, and is applied to Jewish sacrifices, Acts 21:26; 24:17. It is also applied to the sacrifice which was made by our Lord Jesus Christ when he offered himself on the cross for the sins of men, Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:10. It does not always mean bloody sacrifices, but it is used to denote any offering to God, Hebrews 10:5,8,14,18. Hence it is used in this large sense to denote the offering which the Gentiles who were converted to Christianity made of themselves; their devoting or dedicating themselves to God. The language is derived from the customs of the Jews; and the apostle represents himself figuratively as a priest presenting this offering to God.

Might be acceptable. Or, approved by God. This was in accordance with the prediction in Isaiah 66:20, "They shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations," etc. This does not mean that it was by any merit of the apostle that this offering was to be rendered acceptable; but that he was appointed to prepare the way, so that their offering, as well as that of the Jews, might come up before God.

Being sanctified. That is, the offering being sanctified, or made holy. The sacrifice was prepared or made fit to be an offering, among the Jews, by salt, oil, or frankincense, according to the nature of the sacrifice, Leviticus 6:14, etc. In allusion to this, the apostle says that the offering of the Gentiles was rendered holy, or fit to be offered, by the converting and purifying influences of the Holy Spirit. They were prepared, not by salt and frankincense, but by the cleansing influences of God's Spirit. The same idea, substantially, is expressed by the apostle Peter in Acts 10:46; 11:17.

{1} "offering up" or, "sacrificing"
{v} "up of the Gentiles" Isaiah 66:20
{w} "sanctified by the Holy Ghost" Acts 20:32

Verse 17. I have therefore, etc. I have cause of glorying. I have cause of rejoicing that God has made me a minister to the Gentiles, and that he has given me such success among them. The ground of this he states in Romans 15:18-22.

Glory. Of boasting, (\~kauchsin\~ the word usually rendered boasting,) James 4:16; Romans 3:27; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 8:24; 9:3,4; 10:15; 11:10,17. It means also praise, thanksgiving, and joy, 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 7:4; 8:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:19 This is its meaning here, that the apostle had great cause of rejoicing or praise that he had been so highly honoured in the appointment to this office, and in his success in it.

Through Jesus Christ. By the assistance of Jesus Christ; ascribing his success among the Gentiles to the aid which Jesus Christ had rendered him.

In those things which pertain to God. Comp. Hebrews 5:1. The things of religion; the things which God has commanded, and which pertain to his honour and glory. They were not things which pertained to Paul, but to God; not wrought by Paul, but by Jesus Christ; yet he might rejoice that he had been the means of diffusing so far those blessings. The success of a minister is not for his own praises, but for the honour of God; not by his skill or power, but by the aid of Jesus Christ; yet he may rejoice that through him such blessings are conferred on men.

{x} "glory through Jesus Christ" 2 Corinthians 12:1
{y} "which pertain to God" Hebrews 5:1

Verse 18. For I will not dare to speak. I should be restrained; I should be afraid to speak, if the thing were not as I have stated. I should be afraid to set up a claim beyond that which is strictly in accordance with the truth.

Which Christ hath not wrought by me. I confine myself strictly to what I have done. I do not arrogate to myself what Christ has done by others. I do not exaggerate my own success, or claim what others have accomplished.

To make the Gentiles obedient. To bring them to obey God in the gospel.

By word and deed. By preaching, and by all other means; by miracle, by example, etc. The deeds, that is, the lives of Christian ministers are often as efficacious in bringing me to Christ as their public ministry.

{z} "make the Gentiles obedient"

Verse 19. Through mighty signs and wonders. By stupendous and striking miracles. See Barnes "Acts 2:43". Paul here refers, doubtless, to the miracles which he had himself wrought. See Acts 19:11,12, "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul," etc.

By the power of the Spirit of God. This may either be connected with signs and wonders, and then it will mean that those miracles were performed by the power of the Holy Spirit; or it may constitute a new subject, and refer to the gift of prophecy, the power of speaking other languages. Which is its true meaning cannot, perhaps, be ascertained. The interpretations agree in this, that he traced his success in all things to the aid of the Holy Spirit.

So that from Jerusalem. Jerusalem, as a centre of his work; the centre of all religious operations and preaching under the gospel. This was not the place where Paul began to preach, (Galatians 1:17,18) but it was the place where the gospel was first preached, and the apostles began to reckon their success from that as a point. Comp. See Barnes "Luke 24:49".

And round about. (\~kai kuklw\~) In a circle. That is, taking Jerusalem as a centre, he had fully preached round that centre until you come to Illyricum.

Unto Illyricum. Illyricum was a province lying to the northwest of Macedonia, bounded north by a part of Italy and Germany, east by Macedonia, south by the Adriatic, west by Istria. It comprehended the modern Croatia and Dalmatia. So that, taking Jerusalem as a centre, Paul preached not only in Damascus and Arabia, but in Syria, in Asia Minor, in all Greece, in the Grecian Islands, and in Thessaly and Macedonia. This comprehended no small part of the then known world; all of which had heard the gospel by the labours of one indefatigable man. There is nowhere in the Acts express mention of Paul's going into Illyricum; nor does the expression imply that he preached the gospel within it, but only unto its borders. It may have been, however, that when in Macedonia, he crossed over into that country; and this is rendered somewhat probable from the fact that Titus is mentioned as having gone into Dalmatia, (2 Timothy 4:10) which was a part of Illyricum.

I have fully preached. The word here used means, properly, to fill up, (\~peplhrwkenai\~), to complete, and here is used in the sense of diffusing abroad, or of filling up all that region with the gospel. Comp. 2 Timothy 4:17. It means, that he had faithfully diffused the knowledge of the gospel in all that immense country.

{a} "signs and wonders" Acts 19:11
{b} "I have fully preached" Romans 1:14-16

Verse 20. Yea, so have I strived. The word used here (\~filotimoumenon\~) means, properly, to be ambitious, to be studious of honour; and then to desire earnestly. In that sense it is used here. He earnestly desired; he made it a point for which he struggled, to penetrate into regions which had not heard the gospel.

Not where Christ was named. Where the gospel had not been before preached.

Lest I should build, etc. That is, he desired to found churches himself; he regarded himself as particularly called to this. Others might be called to edify the church, but he regarded it as his office to make known the name of the Saviour where it was not before known. This work was particularly adapted to the ardour, zeal, energy, and bravery of such a man as Paul. Every man has his proper gift; and there are some particularly fitted to found and establish churches; others to edify and comfort them. Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:13-16. The apostle chose the higher honour, involving most danger and responsibility; but still any office in building up the church is honourable.

{c} "lest I should build" 2 Corinthians 10:13-16

Verse 21. But as it is written. Isaiah 52:15. This is not literally quoted but the sense is retained. The design of quoting it is to justify the principle on which the apostle acted. It was revealed that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles; and he regarded it as a high honour to be the instrument of carrying this prediction into effect.

{d} "To whom he was not spoken of" Isaiah 52:15

Verse 22. For which cause. I have been so entirely occupied in this leading purpose of my life, that I have not been able to come to you.

Much hindered. Many ways; not many times. I had so frequent and urgent demands on my time elsewhere, that I could not come to you.

From coming to you. Where the gospel has been preached. I have desired to come, but have been unable to leave the vast region where I might preach the gospel to those who had never heard it.

{1} "much hindered" or, "many ways" or, "oftentimes"
{e} "from coming to you" 1 Thessalonians 2:18

Verse 23. But now, etc. Having no further opportunity in these regions to preach to those who have never heard the gospel.

In these parts. In the regions before specified, he had gone over them, had established churches, had left them in the care of elders, (Acts 20:17) and was now prepared to penetrate into some new region, and lay the foundation of other churches.

And having a great desire, etc. See Romans 1:9-13.

Verse 24. Whensoever I take my journey into Spain. Ancient Spain comprehended the modem kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, or the whole of the Spanish peninsula. It was then subject to the Romans. It is remarkable, even here, that the apostle does not say that his principal object was to visit the church at Rome, much as he desired that, but only to take it in his way in the fulfillment of his higher purpose to preach the gospel in regions where Christ was not named. Whether he ever fulfilled his purpose of visiting Spain is a matter of doubt. Some of the fathers, Theodoret (on Philippians 1:25; 2 Timothy 4:17) among others, say that after he was released from his captivity, when he was brought before Nero, he passed two years in Spain. If he was imprisoned a second time at Rome, such a visit is not improbable as having taken place between the two imprisonments. But there is no certain evidence of this. Paul probably projected many journeys which were never accomplished.

To be brought on my way, etc. To be assisted by you in regard to this journey; or to be accompanied by you. This was the custom of the churches, Acts 15:3; 17:14,16; 20:38; 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6,11; 3 John 1:6.

If first, etc. If on my journey, before I go into Spain.

Somewhat. Greek, In part. As though he could not be fully satisfied with their company, or could not hope to enjoy their society as fully and as long as he could desire. This is a very tender and delicate expression.

Filled. This is a strong expression, meaning to be satisfied, to enjoy. To be filled with a thing is to have great satisfaction and joy in it.

With your company. Greek, With you; meaning, in your society. The expression to be filled with one, in the sense of being gratified, is sometimes used in the classic writers. (See Clarke on this verse.)

{f} "brought on my way" Acts 15:3; 3 John 1:6
{1} "with your company" "with you"

Verse 25. But now I go, etc. I am about to go now. The mention of this intended journey to Jerusalem is introduced in several other places, and is so mentioned that Dr. Paley has derived from it a very strong argument for the genuineness of this epistle.* This intended journey is mentioned in Acts 19:21, "Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome." See also Acts 20:2,3. That he went to Jerusalem, according to his purpose, is recorded in his defence before Felix, (Acts 24:17,) "Now after many years, I came to bring aims to my nation, and offerings."

To minister to the saints. To supply their necessities by bearing the contribution which the churches have made for them.

{*} Paley's Horae Paulinae, chap 2, no 1.
{g} "go unto Jerusalem" Acts 19:21

Verse 26. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia. That is, they have done it cheerfully and voluntarily. See their liberality and cheerfulness commended by the apostle in 2 Corinthians 8:1-6; 9:2. Paul had been at much pains to obtain this collection, but still they did it freely. See 2 Corinthians 9:4-7. It was with reference to this collection that he directed them to lay by for this purpose as God had prospered them, on the first day of the week, 1 Corinthians 16:2.

Of Macedonia. That is, the Christians in Macedonia--those who had been Gentiles, and who had been converted to the Christian religion, Romans 15:27. Macedonia was a country of Greece, bounded north by Thrace, south by Thessaly, west by Epirus, and east by the AEgean Sea. It was an extensive region, and was the kingdom of Philip, and his son Alexander the Great. Its capital was Philippi, at which place Paul planted a church. A church was also established at Thessalonica, another city of that country, Acts 16:9,etc.; comp. Acts 18:5; 19:21; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:1,7,8; 4:10.

And Achaia. Achaia, in the largest sense, comprehended all ancient Greece. Achaia Proper, however, was a province of Greece, embracing the western part of the Peloponnesus, of which Corinth was the capital. See Barnes "Acts 18:12". This place is mentioned as having been concerned in this collection, in 2 Corinthians 9:2.

The poor saints, etc. The Christians who were in Judea were exposed to peculiar trials. They were condemned by the sanhedrim, opposed by the rulers, and persecuted by the people. See Acts 8:1, Acts 12:1, etc. Paul sought not only to relieve them by this contribution, but also to promote fellow-feeling between them and the Gentile Christians. And this circumstance would tend much to enforce what he had been urging in chapters 14 and 15 on the duty of kind feeling between the Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity. Nothing tends so much to wear off prejudice, and to prevent unkind feeling in regard to others, as to see about some purpose to do them good, or to unite with them in doing good.

{h} "Macedonia and Achia" 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:2,12s

Verse 27. Their debtors. The reason he immediately states. Comp. Romans 1:14.

Of their spiritual things. Have received the gospel by the instrumentality of those who had been Jews; and were admitted now to the same privileges with them.

Carnal things. Things pertaining to the flesh; that is, to this life. On this ground the apostle puts the obligation to support the ministers of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:11. It becomes a matter of debt where the hearer of the gospel receives, in spiritual blessings, far more than he confers by supporting the ministry. Every man who contributes his due proportion to support the gospel may receive far more, in return, in his own peace, edification, and in the order and happiness of his family, than his money could purchase in any other way. The gain is on his side, and the money is not lost. The minister is not a beggar; and that which is necessary to his support is not almsgiving. He has an equitable claim--as much as a physician, or a lawyer, or a teacher of youth has--on the necessaries and comforts of life.

{i} "duty is also to minister" 1 Corinthians 9:11.

Verse 28. Have sealed to them. That is, have secured it to them. To seal an instrument of writing, a contract, deed, etc., is to authenticate it, to make it sure.. In this sense it is used here. Paul was going himself to see that it was placed securely in their hands.

This fruit. This result of the liberality of the Gentile churches-- the fruit which their benevolence had produced.

I will come, etc. This was Paul's purpose; but it is not clear that he ever accomplished it. See Barnes "Romans 15:24".

By you. Taking Rome in my way.

{k} "I will come by you into Spain" Philippians 4:17.

Verse 29. I am sure. Greek, I know; expressing the fullest confidence, a confidence that was greatly confirmed by the success of his labours elsewhere.

In the fulness of the blessing, etc. This is a Hebrew mode of expression, where one noun performs the purpose of an adjective, and means with a full or abundant blessing. This confidence he expressed in other language in Romans 1:11,12. See Barnes "Romans 1:11"

Of the gospel of Christ. Which the gospel of Christ is fitted to impart. Thus every minister of the gospel should wish to go. This should be his ever-burning desire in preaching. Paul went to Rome; but he went in bonds, Acts chapters 27 and 28. But though he went in this manner, he was permitted there to preach the gospel for at least two years; nor can we doubt that his ministry was attended with the anticipated success, Acts 28:30,31. God may disappoint us in regard to the mode in which we purpose to do good; but if we really desire it, he will enable us to do it in his own way. It may be better to preach the gospel in bonds than at liberty; it is better to do it even in a prison, than not at all. Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim's Progress to amuse his heavy hours during a twelve years' cruel imprisonment, If he had been at liberty, he probably would not have written it at all. The great desire of his heart was accomplished, but a prison was the place in which to do it. Paul preached; but preached in chains.

{l} "I come unto you" Romans 1:11,12

Verse 30. For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake. Greek, By or through (\~dia\~) our Lord Jesus Christ. It means, probably, out of love and regard to him; in order to promote his honour and glory, and to extend his kingdom among men. Paul desired to be delivered from the hands of the Jews, that he might promote the honour of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles.

And for the love of the Spirit, (\~dia\~). By the mutual love and sympathy which the Spirit of God produces in the minds of all who are the friends of God. I beseech you now to manifest that love by praying earnestly for me.

That ye strive together with me. That you unite with me in earnest prayer. The word strive denotes intense agony or effort, such as was used by the wrestlers in the Greek games; and then the agony, or strong effort, which a man makes in prayer, who is earnestly desirous to be heard. The use of the word here denotes Paul's earnest desire that they should make an intense effort in their prayers that he might be delivered. Christians, though at a distance from each other, may unite their prayers for a common object. Christians everywhere should wrestle in prayer for the ministers of the gospel, that they may be kept from temptations; and especially for those who are engaged, as the apostle was, in arduous efforts among the heathen, that they may be kept from the many dangers to which they are exposed in their journeyings in pagan lands.

{m} "love of the Spirit" Philippians 2:1
{n} "together" Colossians 4:12

Verse 31. That I may be, etc. The unbelieving Jews in Judea had been opposed to Paul's conversion. They could not forget that he had borne letters of commission from them to persecute the Christians at Damascus. They regarded him as an apostate. They had heard of his success among the Gentiles; and they had been informed that he "taught all the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake the laws of Moses," Acts 21:21. Hence the apostle could not but be aware that, in returning to Judea, he exposed himself to peculiar dangers. His fears, as the result showed, were well founded. They evinced all the opposition to him which he had ever anticipated, Acts 21:21.

And that my service. My ministry; or the act of service which I am going to perform for them; referring to the contribution which he was bearing for the poor saints at Jerusalem.

For Jerusalem. For the poor Christians in Jerusalem.

May be accepted of the saints. That the poor Christians there may be willing to receive it. The grounds of doubt and hesitation, whether they would be willing to receive this, seem to have been two:

(1.) Many, even among Christians, might have had their minds filled with prejudice against the apostle, from the reports constantly in circulation among the Jews, that he was opposing and denouncing the customs of Moses. Hence, in order to satisfy them, when he went up to Jerusalem, he actually performed a vow, in accordance with the law of Moses, to show that he did not intend to treat his laws with contempt, Acts 21:22,23,26,27.

(2.) Many of the converts from Judaism might be indisposed to receive an offering made by Gentiles. They might have retained many of their former feelings--that the Gentiles were polluted, and that they ought to have no fellowship with them. Early opinions and prejudices wear off by slow degrees. Christians retain former notions long after their conversion; and often many years are required to teach them enlarged views of Christian charity. It is not wonderful that the Christians in Judea should have been slow to learn all the ennobling lessons of Christian benevolence, surrounded as they were by the institutions of the Jewish religion, and having been themselves educated in the strictest regard for those institutions.

{o} "that I may be delivered" 2 Thessalonians 3:2
{1} "do not believe" or, "are disobedient"

Verse 32. That I may come unto you. That I may not be impeded in my intended journey by opposition in Judea.

With joy. Joy to myself in being permitted to come and producing joy to you by my presence.

By the will of God. If God will; If God permit. After all his desires, and all their prayers, it still depended on the will of God; and to that the apostle was desirous to submit. This should be the end of our most ardent desires, and this the object of all our prayers, that the will of God should be done. Comp. James 4:14,15. Paul did go by the will of God; but he went in bonds.

And be refreshed. Greek, May find rest or solace with you.

Verse 33. Now the God of peace. God, the author or promoter of peace and union. In Romans 15:13 he is called the God of hope. Here the apostle desires that the God who gives peace would impart to them union of sentiment and feeling, particularly between the Jewish and Gentile Christians--the great object for which he laboured in his journey to Judea, and which he had been endeavouring to promote throughout this epistle. See 1 Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 13:20.

This is the close of the doctrinal and hortatory parts of this epistle. The remainder is made up chiefly of salutations. In the verses concluding this chapter, Paul expressed his earnest desire to visit Rome. He besought his brethren to pray that he might be delivered from the unbelievers among the Jews. His main desire was granted. He was permitted to visit Rome; yet the very thing from which he sought to be delivered, the very opposition of the Jews, made it necessary for him to appeal to Caesar, and this was the means of his accomplishing his desire. (See the closing chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.) God thus often grants our main desire; he hears our prayer; but he may make use of that from which we pray to be delivered as the means of fulfilling our own requests. The Christian prays that he may be sanctified; yet at the same time he may pray to be delivered from affliction. God will hear his main desire, to be made holy; will convert that which he fears into a blessing, and make it the means of accomplishing the great end. It is right to express our desires--all our desires--to God; but it should be with a willingness that he should choose his own means to accomplish the object of our wishes. Provided the God of peace is with us, all is well.

{p} "peace be with you all" 1 Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 13:20

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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 15". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <>.  


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