Epistles: Jews and Gentiles Together (Romans 15:4-13)
Some people might wonder why Paul uses the Old Testament so much. He has already used it dozens of times, but now he explains: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (v. 4). Paul isolates two lessons we can draw from the Old Testament: endurance and encouragement. We need to endure difficulties, and God is faithful to us.
Gentiles praising God
Paul includes a brief prayer: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 5-6). That is, may God give you the attitude of service that leads to worship together.
Paul concludes: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (v. 7). Just as Jesus gave up his privileges to serve us, we should be willing to give up some of ours, so people will praise God. Reconciliation with God should lead us toward reconciliation with other people.
“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth…” (15:8). Paul mentions this because of the situation in Rome: He is asking the strong (primarily Gentiles) to restrain their freedom when with the weak (primarily Jews). He now begins to defend his ministry to the Gentiles.
Why did Christ serve the Jews? Paul explains: “So that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (vv. 8-9). It is only through Christ that people may be forgiven and thereby receive the patriarchal blessings. But Christ’s purpose extends beyond the physical descendants of Abraham — he also wants Gentiles to bring glory to God.
Paul now presents a series of Old Testament prophecies about Gentiles joining the Jews in worshipping God. He begins with Psalm 18:49: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” Then he moves to the Gentile response to the good news: “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people” (Romans 15:10; Deut. 32:43).
Then the Gentiles join in the praise: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples” (v. 11; Ps. 117:1). Paul concludes with a quote from Isaiah 11:10, showing that this praise comes through the nations accepting the Messiah, the descendant of David and Jesse: “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope” (v. 12).
Then Paul gives another short prayer, a benediction good for believers everywhere: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (v. 13). Through faith in Christ, we have tremendous hope.
Things to think about
- What scruples do weak-faith Christians have today, and in what way should we bear with them? (v. 1)
- How do the Old Testament scriptures encourage us? (v. 4)
- In v. 7, Paul uses Christ as a model we should follow. Are there aspects of Jesus that we should not follow?
- Do we “overflow” with hope when we trust in Christ? (v. 13)
Author: Michael Morrison, 2004, 2011