Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, to be building him up. 3 For even Christ didn’t please himself. But, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me (Romans 15:1-3, WEB).”
The Apostle Paul reiterates what he wrote in chapter 14 concerning the duty of mature believers to help new Christians and those who are vulnerable within society. This is a testament to what a pure and undefiled religion looks like: To visit widows and orphans in distress, and to be unspotted from the world. Widows and orphans are vulnerable groups that need the building up and constant encouragement Paul expresses here in this passage.
Furthermore, the Greek word for bearing here is βαστάζειν, which can literally or figuratively mean to lift or carry. This symbolizes what Christianity is all about. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, to love deeply, and equip others with the gospel of truth as they navigate through the complexities of life—this is being a good neighbor.
Paul reminds us that Christ, the King of kings, didn’t come into this world to please himself. Rather, the Lord took on human flesh and dwelt among us, not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28; Mk. 10:45). And as followers of Jesus, we are to imitate this type of servanthood attitude by being gracious, especially to those who reproach or disapprove our identity in Christ.
4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now the God of perseverance and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This passage is intended to encourage and exhort believers to continue persevering in the faith. Paul knows what it’s like to suffer persecution, the Jews and Gentiles he is writing to in Rome have also experienced tribulation, and of course, the Lord Jesus Christ endured the wrath of God for the sins of the world. Through adversity and trial, however, our faith is solidified.
Moreover, God has called us to be of one mind and one accord. The Greek word for accord is ὁμοθυμαδὸν. It expresses this notion of unanimous—fully in agreement. This divine unity is not like the world; for our commitment to the gospel is an everlasting covenant. Praise be to God!
7 Therefore accept one another, even as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Christ has been made a servant of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Therefore I will give praise to you among the Gentiles and sing to your name. Again he says, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people. Again, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Let all the peoples praise him. Again Isaiah say, “There will be the root of Jesse, he who arises to rule over the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles will hope. 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this passage, Paul quotes from Psalm 18 and the book of Isaiah from the Tanakh to express how God intends that both Jews and Gentiles praise Him. The common ground here is rejoicing and praising the Lord—for He has accepted and united all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
God doesn’t want us to simply have hope. He wants us to abound in hope. The word abound, περισσεύειν, declares one to super abound or excel in what they possess. As believers, God wants to fill us with so much hope and peace that it exceeds our expectations—the Lord wants to lavish us with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
14 I myself am also persuaded about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish others. 15 But I write the more boldly to you in part, as reminding you, because of the grace that was given to me by God, 16 that I should be a servant of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest of the Good News of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In this letter, Paul is persuaded that believers in Rome and throughout the world are full of goodness, knowledge, and able to admonish one another; this is because the power of the Holy Spirit gives them the ability to do so. Therefore, Paul is not rebuking them but rather reminding them to do what they already know is right.
He also calls himself to be a servant of Christ to the Gentiles. As you recall from Romans 1:16, Paul says that the power of salvation is for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. His word choice of first in the Greek means both chronologically and in emphasis. Thus, Paul desires that the Jews—natural branches from which he himself is part of—will hear this gospel since they are chosen by God.
At the same time, we see throughout the book of Acts, that he struggles to reach some of his Jewish friends. For example, in Acts 18:6, when Paul was being opposed by religious leaders, he said: “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” This doesn’t mean Paul gave up but rather shifted his ministry focus on the Gentiles, and that’s why I believe he calls himself a servant to the Gentile nations.
17 I have therefore my boasting in Christ Jesus in things pertaining to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any things except those which Christ worked through me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of God’s Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and around as far as to Illyricum, I have fully preached the Good News of Christ; 20 yes, making it my aim to preach the Good News, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build on another’s foundation. 21 But, as it is written, “They will see, to whom no news of him came. They who haven’t heard will understand (Isaiah 52:15).”
Paul uses the Greek word καύχησιν to express that his boasting, glorying, and exultation is not in his own academic accolades or anything that He has done; rather, his boasting is entirely focused on the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, he goes as far as saying that he would not even dare to speak anything except what Christ has told him to do through the gifts of God’s Spirit.
The Lord gifted Paul to be a pioneer for the gospel. He didn’t want to build on the work of other faithful brothers and sisters, not because it was wrong to do so. Instead, Paul saw his calling as a Christian missionary to the entire world. His zeal and love was to share the gospel—especially to those who have never heard it before. When Paul quotes Isaiah 52:15, he believes this is a prophecy concerning himself that finally the news will come to the Gentiles, and those who never heard before will truly understand the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
22 Therefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you, 23 but now, no longer having any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come to you, 24 whenever I travel to Spain, I will come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. 25 But now, I say, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. 26 For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem.
As you can tell, Paul traveled frequently. He went to Spain, Macedonia, Achaia, and Jerusalem to name just a few places. He had a desire to serve the saints and be a brother and pastor to those whom he ministered to. Paul’s evangelistic zeal and commitment to exhorting believers in the faith was a sure confirmation of his apostleship.
The Apostle encourages the church in Rome to make a contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. He specifies those saints because they were condemned by the Sanhedrin, opposed by the rulers, and persecuted by the people. They would have endured more hardship than the average believer, and this is why Paul has a desire to bless them with financial aid.
27 Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve them in fleshly things. 28 When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of the Good News of Christ.
Here, both Jews and Gentiles are to exhort, help, and edify one another in the faith. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem are in desperate financial need, and it is only appropriate that the Gentile Christians in Rome, who are better off financially, would be generous in their giving. As believers, the way we spend our money is a reflection of our spiritual connection with God.
We can’t love both God and money; this doesn’t assume one who loves God won’t gain material wealth. In fact, there have been many wealthy believers throughout biblical history. The key is not how much money you have, but what you do with it that matters the most.
30 Now I beg you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you in joy through the will of God, and together with you, find rest. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul was warned several times that going to Jerusalem would be dangerous (Acts Acts 21:10-14; 20:22-23). Consequently, he begs believers in the Lord to strive together with him in prayers. The Greek word for strive together is συναγωνίσασθαί. It expresses what Paul is experiencing: to partner and agonize in company with him for the gospel. This is the only place in the New Testament where this specific word is used.
Finally, Paul asks that they pray his service will be acceptable to the saints. He knows that the Jerusalem church was very conservative. They regarded men like Paul to be more progressive and were cautious of him when he visited. Therefore, Paul asks that they pray for his situation so that when he comes back to Rome, there will be great joy that the gospel has been successfully proclaimed in Jerusalem. Paul concludes this chapter with peace and will continue his personal greetings and final admonition in the next chapter.
Commentary written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)
Translation by World English Bible (WEB)—public domain.
I am so thankful for the World English Bible Translation. This is their mission statement: “The Holy Bible is God’s Word. It belongs to God. He gave it to us freely, and we who have worked on this translation freely give it to you by dedicating it to the Public Domain.”