Romans 16:25-27 Paul’s Final Blessing


Paul’s letter to the Romans is the most closely reasoned and compelling book of the New Testament. Its massive theology, so ably argued in the first eleven chapters, logically proceeds from the statement of the gospel in the opening verses in chapter 1 to the need for the gospel because of man’s sin in chapters 1-3. Next it describes the provision of the righteousness that comes by faith in chapters 3-4. Then our position in Christ is beautifully described in chapter 5. The secret of spiritual victory is mapped out in chapters 6-8. And finally, in chapters 9-11, a vindication of God’s work in history is provided. As Paul concludes his argument, his foundational theology gives way to an appropriately rousing doxology in 11:36 – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” There is simply nothing like the first eleven chapters of Romans.

Then what follows is the properly compelling call to practical Christian living in chapters 12-15. In logical succession Paul encourages us to practice our theology by using our gifts to serve one another in love. We are to subject ourselves to the authority over us, living by the law of love in the Church, offering all of life to God. This section also concludes with a doxology: “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen” (15:33). Then, as we saw in the last chapter, Paul gives his greetings to all the saints in Rome and closes with another doxology: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (16:20b). These are the magnificent structures of the greatest theological treatise ever written. There is nothing like the book of Romans!

Now comes the end. His friends have chimed in with their greetings, and Paul takes the pen in his own hand and writes the last few lines. What did he write? Another doxology, of course, the longest of all his doxologies and one of the most beautiful Paul has written. Paul’s final praise is a model for all times, a model for our song in the Lord. Essentially there are two broad categories of praise: (1) praise for God’s work (vv. 25-26) and (2) praise for God’s wisdom (v. 27).

Paul begins by praising God for His work in strengthening His children (v. 25a). The thrust here at the end of the great theological foundation of Romans is that spiritually God is able to make us stand strong and steadfast. He props His people up so they will not fall. Perhaps Paul is considering his readers’ life in Rome now and in the future, seeing their struggles. Though he cannot do anything for them, he knows God is able to make them stand, and for this he offers doxology. God can establish us and make us strong and steadfast in any circumstance. When He so chooses, He demonstrates this in the physical realm as well.

As Paul further expresses his thought in verse 25, he tells us how God establishes us: “according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” We were established initially through Jesus Christ, and we are maintained continually by Him. The key to standing is making Jesus the center of everything. Moreover, the story of Jesus should be our constant meditation, as it was for Paul. Then we will be able to stand, for it is Jesus who establishes us. If you have been teetering, focus on Jesus, read about Him, think about Him, and make the Gospels your spiritual meat and potatoes, the sustenance of your life.

The second aspect of our being established is given in verse 25b where Paul says, “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” In other words, we are established when and as the ancient mystery is opened to us. How is this so? Part of the answer lies in the word “mystery,” which in the New Testament does not mean mysterious (as the English word suggests) but rather a secret that was once kept dark but is now revealed.

Here in Romans a great and ancient secret has been thrown wide open to believers by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the mystery of Jesus, which Paul calls the “mystery, which is Christ” in Colossians 1:27. God has given Jesus to us through the virgin birth, through His absolutely perfect earthly life, through His vicarious death for us, through His breaking the bonds of death and ascending to the right hand of the Father. Thus the mystery has been opened to us. We cannot understand everything, for even in eternity the wonder of it will continue to unfold. There follows from this the grand mystery of the Church, which is like marriage. Ephesians 5:32 says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” The marriage relationship illustrates the great mystery of the personal relationship that exists between each believer and Jesus.

The spiritual understanding of the mystery of the Church, the inner secret that was hidden and now is made known, can be more fully apprehended by meditating on the tiny word “in.” Paul uses this word twelve times in the first fifteen verses of Ephesians concerning us and Jesus Christ: “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1), “in Christ” (v. 3), “in him” (v. 4), “in the Beloved” (v. 6), “in him” (v.7), “in Christ” (v. 9), “in him” (v. 10), “in him” (v. 11), “in Christ” (v. 12), “in him” (twice in v. 13), “in the Lord Jesus” (v. 15). This amazing reciprocal truth is the signature of the Christian life: I am in Christ, and He is in me. No other religion knows anything of this. It is our mystery. The mystery is nothing less than a miracle. God’s salvation extends to all races, and those who receive it are “in” Christ, and He is “in” them. Moreover, all Jewish and Gentile believers are brothers and sisters together.

What a mystery, what a miracle, and what a call to praise God! God is able to prop us up. Actually He is able to do even more. He is able to establish us. His way of doing this is Jesus! When Jesus is the subject of our proclamation, our conversation, our meditation, we stand! And as we live and grow in Jesus, the mystery opens wider and wider, and we become more firmly established. The unfolding mystery of God Incarnate assaults our souls and draws us up to glory. Thus we stand strong! The mystery of our union in the Lord Jesus Christ as bride and groom opens wider and wider. This is not hopeful thinking. This is no pious rhetoric. It is true! Jesus is in me and you, and we are in Him. And this mystery that makes us stand is for all the world. Through Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles stand together and will be established for eternity. This is Paul’s doxology!

Paul fittingly ends Romans with praise to God for His wisdom (v. 27). Our God is the only God. There is none but Him. He is incomprehensible. Our God is also the only wise God. In affirming this, we are reminded that whatever God is He is infinitely. Therefore, God is infinite wisdom. Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by perfect means. This our God does without limit. In His wisdom He made it possible for those who were once bound to earth by their own sinful depravity to be loosed from their sins and to know the throne of God as eternal home. He has made it possible for men who were lower than the angels to rise higher than the angels. He has made it possible for us to become His own sons and daughters. For all this there can only be doxology – “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Romans 16:25-27 Study Questions:

What main themes from the whole letter, reviewed in verses 25-27, have stayed in your mind and heart the most?

What has changed in your life since studying the letter to the Romans?

Spend time praying through verses 25-27. Praise God for all He has done. Praise God for specific ways in which He has changed people through this study.

What does Scripture seem to indicate about Paul’s activity after he wrote this letter?

Romans 16:17-23 Paul’s Protective and Contagious Heart


Paul is more forceful here in verses 17-20 then he has been so far in his approach to the Romans. Paul briefly suggests three protective measures that need to be taken by a Christian church. First, in verse 17a he says: “watch out for those who cause divisions.” Paul has no sympathy with theological sleepiness. Christians are to make a mental note of those who are off-base. Second: “avoid them” (v. 17b). Heretics are to be spurned. Third: “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (v. 19b). This is an echo of Jesus’ saying in Matthew 10:16: “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” This is good advice because our tendency is to be as wise as doves and innocent as serpents.

This no-nonsense advice eloquently demonstrates the second aspect of Paul’s horizontal love: it is protective. The connection is clear: When you really love people as much as Paul loved the Romans, you protect them. This is a great example for all of us. We need to love in such a way that we really put it on the line for others and speak the truth in love. Paul’s heart is a loving, protective, and contagious heart.

I picture the scene in chapter 16 like this: As Paul nears the end of dictating his letter to the Romans, his friends gather around him in the home of his gracious host, Gaius. Tertius is writing down Paul’s words, and Timothy, Jason, Lucius, and Sosipater really get into the long recitation of greetings to real people. Their hearts are warmed, and all three interrupt: “Say hi for.” “Me too!” So Tertius writes verses 21-23. We see here that a heart that is filled with love is by nature contagious.

Though Paul was the supreme intellect of the Early Church, and though Paul had a heart that burned for the glory of God, as few have in the history of the world, he would not have been used like he was if he had not had a heart for people. The truly revolutionary heart is not just a visionary heart with great dreams, but a heart that loves people, a heart that remembers names, a heart with a good word for his brothers and sisters, a protective heart, and finally a contagious heart.

The beautiful Greek and Latin names in Romans 16 were names of real people. Each name had its joys and sorrows, its cares, its hope, its trials. All drank of the common cup of human experience. These were, and are, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Someday we will walk with them in radiant white. One of the primary human reasons this is so is that Paul loved them. May we have such a heart so that future generations may say the same of us!

Romans 16:17-23 Study Questions:

What is the main point Paul wants the church in Rome to understand in verses 17-20?

How can we use Paul’s guidance here to discern “false teaching” in the church today?

Paul sends greetings in verses 21-23 from friends of his to the Roman believers. How might these greetings have affected the Roman church?

What has Christ accomplished through you? How have others encouraged you as you have served the Lord?

Romans 16:1-16 Paul’s Loving Heart


None of our lives would be as they are today had it not been for the missionary heart of the Apostle Paul. As we continue the study of Paul’s great heart, we should bear in mind the four qualities we have already considered (liturgical, glorifying, visionary, and praying) were essentially vertical, whereas in this chapter we will see the horizontal aspects of his missionary heart.

The first characteristic of Paul’s heart described in this chapter is that it overflowed with personal love. If the long list of names and greetings in these verses teaches us anything, it is that Paul had a diffusive love for people. The word “greet” appears nineteen times and seventeen of them are by Paul. Our text features thirty-three names. Twenty-four were in Rome (seventeen men and seven women). In addition, the apostle mentions two households, the mother of Rufus, and the sister of Nereus. Nine of the people mentioned were with Paul in Corinth (eight men and one woman). Obviously Paul maintained a remarkable amount of affectionate relationships.

We may not normally think of Paul this way. We may naturally assume that though he was a great man, his greatness made him a forbidding companion. Having read through Romans, and knowing of his massive intellect, most of us would feel somewhat intimidated if we knew we were to spend an evening alone with him. We probably would spend a day brushing up on memory work, wading through the Minor Prophets, or clarifying some points in theology. No doubt such time would be well spent, but our fears unfounded, for Paul was a “people person” par excellence. Moreover, he did not determine his friendships on the basis of intellectual capability or theological literacy.

As we look at the list of greeting and the kind words in the first sixteen verses, we cannot escape the sense of genuine affection contained there. In verses 1-2 Paul mentions Phoebe, whom he gives four endearing names: “sister,” “servant,” “saint,” and “a patron.” In verses 3-4 he greets Priscilla and Aquila, who had “risked their necks” for him in Ephesus. This graphic phrase undoubtedly recalled a warm flood of memories in Priscilla and Aquila. In verse 5 he greets Epenetus, his first convert in Asia. What Christian worker can forget his first convert? In verse 7 Paul sends greetings to Andronicus and Junia, who spent time in prison with him. In verse 10 he greets Apelles who is approved in Christ. Tryphena and Tryphosa in verse 12 were probably twins who were given names that go together. Their names mean “dainty” and “delicate.” Paul employs some playful irony here because he calls them “workers in the Lord,” using a word that means to labor to the point of exhaustion. Dainty and delicate, yes – but dynamite comes in small packages.

Who was the “Rufus” of verse 13? Mark 15:21 identifies Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Couple this with the fact that Mark wrote his gospel to Rome and we conclude that Rufus was the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus’ cross. The parade of names in closing chapter of Romans repeatedly affirms Paul’s affection for his Christian brothers and sisters in Rome. The best exposition of this horizontal affection was given by Paul himself in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8.

How Paul loved the Church! Paul’s loving example challenges us. If our hearts beat with something of the pulse of the Apostle Paul, we will be “people persons” who are affectionate to each other. This is the plain meaning of verse 16, which completes Paul’s individual greetings to Rome: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” It is Biblical to express love and affection, even to the point of an embrace and a kiss. What a difference authentic Christian affection can make in a cold and indifferent world.

We must note before we move on to the next section that though Paul was a great giver, it all came back to him! In Galatians 4:15 Paul testifies that there were some in the Church who loved him so much they would have plucked out their eyes for him. Here in verse 13 of our text, when he greets Rufus and also greets Rufus’s mother, who he says “has been a mother to me as well.” When did she “mother” Paul? In Antioch when he was getting started? In some small town after a beating? At times Paul no doubt felt he could use a little mothering. Paul received back more than he gave. The richest people in town are always those who love the most. “People persons” – the affectionate – those who remember names and pray for them – receive the most. So we see from the list in verses 1-16 that Paul’s heart overflowed with a diffusive love.

Romans 16:1-16 Study Questions:

What observations do you make from the list of greetings in verses 1-16?

What do you notice about the house churches in Rome and their leadership?

Phoebe is the letter-bearer, entrusted with the fullest and most remarkable letter of Paul. What can be learned about Phoebe from verses 1-2?

The “holy kiss” (v. 16) became a key feature of Christian liturgy very early on, but it was not meant to replace normal expressions of affection; in many parts of the Middle East and elsewhere a kiss on both cheeks is a normal greeting between men as well as women. How does even this simple gesture reinforce the main themes Paul has written about throughout Romans regarding the Church?

Romans 15:17-33 Paul’s Missionary Heart


Part of Paul’s missionary heart is in glorifying God. In verses 17-19 Paul does some sublime boasting, sublime because he is boasting about God. Paul mentions here at least three marvelous happenings in his life: (1) Gentiles came to belief, (2) signs and wonders accompanied his ministry, and (3) he himself preached the entire 1400 miles from Jerusalem to Illyricum, which is present-day Yugoslavia. Not bad – especially in sandals! But Paul takes no credit. Christ did it through him. Paul made this very clear to the Galatians: “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14), he also told the Colossians that Christ “is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). God was everything to Paul. That is the way it has been for the great missionary hearts that have followed in Paul’s footsteps as well. If we are to have lives like Paul’s, our hearts must not only see our ministry as entirely sacred, but we must give all glory to God. This is so fitting, so right; it is the way we were designed to live.

Another aspect of Paul’s missionary heart is that it dreams. We must first note that Paul had dreams and visions of incredibly large proportions (vv. 20-21). Basic to Paul’s dream was the obsession to preach where the gospel had not been preached. He voices this explicitly in 2 Corinthians 10:16. This was an immense obsession, in verse 24 of our text he indicated he even wanted to go to Spain. No one really knows why – probably because Spain and Britain were seen as the end of the world.

Verses 23-29 relate Paul’s dreams to real life. If Paul had his way, he would have immediately set sail for Rome. However he first had to complete the important business of taking an offering to the poor in Jerusalem that he collected from the Gentile churches. His main motive in this was to cement the relationship between Jewish believers and new Gentile converts. The Book of Acts tells us that things didn’t go as planned, however. He did deliver the offering with great success, but he was almost killed by an unruly mob and escaped by night with Caesar’s soldiers. Then he underwent shipwreck and deprivation before arriving in chains in Rome. As to his vision to go to Spain, we really cannot say for sure whether he ever got there. Modern scholarship inclines to say that he did not, though church tradition says he did.

It is important that we have hearts with dreams and great visions of what God can do with us. We need our “castles in the sky” – our Spains. We need to dream of victories and accomplishments for God. Not all of us will meet our dream’s end, but that is all right because God is more interested in the process than the prize, in the journey than the road’s end. May we learn to travel as Paul did.

Paul concludes this section on a positive note: “I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ” (v. 29). Such optimism! Paul was sure he would come to Rome in blessing. Little did he know his arrival would be in chains, and yet it was in joy. What a way to go – “in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”

The final aspect of Paul’s missionary heart is, he believes in prayer. Verses 30-32 contain his call to prayer. He asked two things: (1) “that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea” and, (2) that his service in Jerusalem “may be acceptable.” Both prayers were answered. In Acts 21:17-20, it records his offering’s joyous reception and the resulting solidarity of the churches. In addition, Paul was granted a spectacular deliverance that could only be attributed to God, as Acts 21-23 makes clear. The prayers of the Roman church brought great power to bear in Paul’s life. Paul called them “to strive together with me” in prayer – literally “to agonize together with me” – and that is what they did.

To those with Pauline hearts, the request, “Brother, pray for me,” is not a cliché, and neither is the response, “I will pray for you.” The missionary heart is a heart that believes in prayer.

To summarize this study: A missionary heart is a heart that sees its mission as entirely sacred. The sacredness of the work comes from seeing oneself as a priest offering up his or her service as a fragrant offering to Christ. Therefore, it regards its own life, however mundane, as a liturgy. Let us ask God to help us see all of life as glorifying Him. A missionary heart is a heart that gives God the credit for everything. Let us pause for a moment and give God the glory for what is happening through us. A missionary heart is a heart that is visionary. Do we have a dream – a Spain? If not, let us ask God for one. A missionary heart is a heart that prays passionately. In God’s Kingdom the great heart passionately strives in prayer. Nothing would be the same for any of us were it not for Paul’s remarkable heart for God.

Romans 15:17-33 Study Questions:

There is no evidence that Paul ever got to Spain. But his desire to go there and, perhaps, establish a new “home base” was one of the reasons he wrote the letter to the Romans. Paul may not have gotten to Spain, but what mattered then, and has mattered enormously in the whole history of the Church, is that, as part of his plan to go to Spain, he wrote Romans. What lesson is there for us in the fact that Paul wrote Romans in preparation for a dream that he may never have realized?

How does the collection for the poor Christians of Jerusalem reinforce what Paul has been saying throughout Romans about the Church?

What does it mean for Jewish Christians to be family with Gentiles and Gentile believers to be family with the Jewish believers?

Why is it so crucial for Paul to enlist the prayers of the Roman church for the journey ahead of him?

Romans 15:14-16 Paul’s Priestly Ministry


Have you ever come to the end of something that has been exceptionally nice and found yourself feeling a bit sad about it, like maybe a vacation? We have something like that now. We are coming to the end of our study of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In it Paul has unfolded the Christian doctrine of justification by faith in all its many ramifications. He has demonstrated its necessity, described what God did to bring it about through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, explained how it works itself out by the power of the Holy Spirit in individual lives to give a permanent and sure salvation, and answered objections rising from the failure of the majority of Jews to believe the gospel. He has unfolded practical applications of this theology in such areas as yielding our minds to Jesus Christ, a proper evaluation of ourselves and others, matters of church and state, how believers are to live in light of the imminent return of Christ, and the need for Christians to accept and value one another.

With Romans 15:14, Paul begins to wrap this up, turning in his final paragraphs to his reasons for writing the letter, suggesting what his future travel plans might be, and sending greetings to people he knew in Rome. But even though he is ending, he still has quite a bit to say. Paul tells the Roman Christians in the opening sentence of his personal remarks that they are doing all right and that he is convinced this is so (v. 14). Paul said something along these lines in the first chapter when he took note of their strong faith and of the fact that it was being talked about all over the world (Rom. 1:8).

He is renewing his comments along these lines because he had been developing his doctrinal arguments fully and forcefully – the next verse acknowledges that he had written “quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again” – and he knew that they might think that he somehow considers them to be deficient. Paul is aware that his confidence in these believers, whom he has never seen, might nevertheless be misunderstood. So he compliments them directly, using the terms appearing in verse 14: “full of goodness,” “complete in knowledge,” and “competent to instruct one another.” If this is Paul’s way of complimenting the Roman church on being what a church should be, then he is also giving us three criteria by which we can evaluate ourselves or any local gathering of believers.

Christianity has only one priest, Jesus Christ. He alone has made atonement for our sins by His death on the cross, and He alone makes intercession for us before the Father. That is why the church’s preachers, pastors, or ministers are never called priests in the New Testament. In light of this we find something very striking in verses 15-16. Here Paul is writing of his ministry to the Gentiles, a ministry given to him by Jesus Christ, and he speaks of his “priestly duty.” This is striking because the words are not used in that way elsewhere and also because in other places Paul explicitly disclaims interest in what are usually thought of as normal ministerial functions. He is making a contrast between what priests are normally thought of as doing and what he was actually called to do as minister to the Gentiles. Priests stand between men and God and offer sacrifices. The priestly duty to which Paul refers is to proclaim the gospel.

Verses 15-16 teach that the nature of the Christian ministry is to proclaim the gospel. The positive expression of what Paul was doing appears in his words to the believers at Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1). This does not mean that Paul only preached so-called salvation messages or that he failed to relate his teaching to what the Corinthians were dealing with as part of their culture. But he did not attempt to add to Christ’s work. He preached Christ and Christ only.

In this text Paul writes about the goal of his ministry: “so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Gentiles were considered to be unclean by Jews, but, according to Paul, they are to become an offering sanctified to God by the Holy Spirit. The word sanctified means to be set apart to God and dedicated or concentrated to Him. Paul said this at the very beginning of the letter (Rom. 1:7). How are people sanctified? The first way is simply by their becoming Christians, for all who become Christians also become saints, since Christians are by definition people set apart for God. The second way is by their offering their bodies to God “as living sacrifices,” which is what Paul urged at the start of this final section of the letter (Rom. 12:1). We sense what Paul has in mind is a dedicated, effective, hardworking, God-glorifying Gentile Christian church.

Romans 15:14-16 Study Questions:

Paul moves in verses 14-24 to consider his longing to visit the Roman church and his calling as an apostle. How does Paul see himself as an Old Testament “priest” in ministry of the gospel?

What is Paul’s special calling and vocation?

The situation in Rome was a bit complicated for Paul. There were Jewish Christians who had left Rome some years previously and had now returned. Some of them had been members of churches Paul had founded and had actually worked alongside Paul as trusted friends and colleagues. Some of them, though, were native Roman Christians who had embraced the faith when it had been previously proclaimed by others, perhaps even Peter. What seems to be Paul’s concern in coming to visit and minister in Rome?

What are some areas in which you have Christian freedom but need to exercise more restraint? What are you prepared to sacrifice for the sake of others?

How could Paul be so sure the Roman Christians were capable of teaching each other in the faith?

Romans 15:1-13 Christ Our Example


The quality of our unity either attracts or repels the world. Unfortunately, while the Apostolic Church had some brilliant successes regarding unity, it failed miserably in many places. The church in Galatia was ravaged by legalism. The church in Corinth chose up sides as to what to do about one of its members who was committing incest (1 Cor. 5:1-3). Pergamum was being divided and diluted by Christians’ marriages to unbelievers (Rev. 2:14). And the Lord said in effect that the church at Laodicea made Him sick (Rev. 3:16). The Apostolic Church sometimes fell far short of Christ’s explicit teaching and prayer.

Paul now turns to the supreme example, our Lord Jesus Christ in verses 1-6. Paul writes to the Roman church: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (vv. 1-2). If you are prone to judgmentalism and exclusiveness, this is a big pill to swallow. If you are the kind of person who is sure he is right and must have his way, you will not like this at all. The call here is to please others and not ourselves is directed to the “strong” – those who have a broader, more Biblical understanding of their freedom in Christ. This, of course, does not mean the “weak” are exempt from the responsibility of accepting and being patient with the strong, because verse 7 subsequently indicates that both strong and weak are to be accepting. In God’s household strength denotes obligation. An unwillingness to forgo our rights for others indicates we are not so “strong” after all.

We are not to try to be “nice guys” who accommodate men’s sinful ways. There are many who would be pleased if we would flatter and patronize their wrongdoing. So what does Paul mean by pleasing others? It is a determined adjustment of our lifestyle that will contribute to our brother’s “good, to build him up” (v. 2). This is not to be done with a spirit of resignation or an air of condescension. It is to be done with humble love, sympathy, and patience. Such a path is not optional. Our text says we “have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak” (v. 1). Perhaps God has been speaking to you about something you need to change in your lifestyle, and you are sensing it is your obligation. If so, do it by all means!

So intensely concerned is Paul that we be willing to forgo our rights for the sake of unifying and building up our brothers and sisters that he does something he has not done in any of the preceding fourteen chapters of Romans. He holds up the example of Christ to enforce his argument: “For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, ‘The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me’” (v. 3). How was it that Christ didn’t please Himself? Though Christ existed in indescribable glory from all eternity and was daily rejoicing in the fellowship of the Godhead in perfect holiness, He left all that for the sake of lost humanity.

For Paul, Christ’s example carried immense power. The problem for many of us is that we think Christ’s earthly actions are not quite real to us. But what Christ did is really true! This is what Jesus was, and is like! He really didn’t please Himself. He really did “please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (v. 2). And we are called to follow His example. What is even more remarkable is that He is not only the pattern, but the power. We can do this by Jesus’ power. Thus if we say, “I cannot” we are saying, “I will not.” If God is calling us to change something in our lives for the sake of Christian unity, we can do it through Him.

Paul has made his point powerfully. But having mentioned Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament in Psalm 69:9, he cannot resist adding how helpful the Scriptures are in verse 4. The application is inescapable: believers are to be well acquainted with the Old Testament Scriptures. The ultimate result will be “hope,” that which most strikingly distinguishes the true Christian from his pagan neighbor.

Then in verses 5-6 Paul returns to his main theme with a prayer-wish. First he prays for unity, then for worship. Verse 5 contains his desire for unity. The emphasis here is not that we see everything eye to eye, but rather that we regard one another with minds that are filled with and focused on the Lord as we follow Jesus Christ. In verse 6 his prayer-wish is expressing his desire for unified worship. The apostle understands that worship will not be what it is meant to be unless there is unity. We impoverish our worship and offer poor praise to God by stubbornness and lack of love to fellow believers. But, oh how beautiful the worship is when we worship together in unity. It’s no small thing to be asked to forgo legitimate rights for the building up of brothers and sisters. This is demanding, but perfectly reasonable and possible because Christ did it. And, secondly, it is indispensable to true worship.

In concluding this long exhortation on Christian unity, which began in chapter 14, Paul moves from the call to be willing to deny ourselves in order to please others to the call to accept one another. Again Christ is the example (v. 7), and the primary example here is Christ’s acceptance of the Jews (v. 8). Christ’s becoming a “servant” to Israel reveals the length to which He went to meet the Jews’ needs. But He also accepted the Gentiles. In verses 9-12 Paul quotes four Old Testament Scriptures that predicted that the Gentiles would respond to God’s grace and acceptance.

Christ’s astounding example gives mighty force to Paul’s challenge to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (v. 7). How did Christ welcome you and me? He welcomed us with our many sins, prejudices, and innumerable blind spots. He welcomed us with our psychological shortcomings and cultural naiveté. He welcomed us with our stubbornness. This is how we are to welcome one another. Christ made us one by His willingness not to please Himself.

Are there some legitimate, good things, rightful things that God is asking us to forgo for the good of our brothers and sisters? Then by all means let us forgo them. Are there some believers whom we have been unwilling to accept because they are not our type? God says we must accept them and love them. Let each of us covenant to do this now!

Romans 15:1-13 Study Questions:

In verses 1-6, Paul continues his line of thought from chapter 14 about the “strong” and the “weak.” In this context how does Paul exhort us to follow the example of Christ?

Because he draws on a passage from the Old Testament (Psalm 69:9), Paul briefly discusses his view of the role of Scripture. What is that role?

What do the Old Testament references in verses 7-13 have in common? (They are found in Ps. 18:49, Deut. 32:43, Ps. 117:1, and Isa. 11:10.)

How do these truths, especially as seen in verse 7, help us to mutually welcome Christians from different backgrounds, values, cultures and ethnicities?