|<< Romans 15 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
It may be of importance to state that between the last verse of the preceding chapter and the first verse of Romans 15, the Arabic version, some manuscripts 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.
1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
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, 1 Corinthians 9:22; 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 16:24.
2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
Please his neighbour - That is, all other persons, but especially the friends of the Redeemer. The word "neighbor" here has special 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 seek to secure for him indulgence in those things which Would be injurious to him, but in all those things whereby his welfare would be promoted.
To edification - See the note at Romans 14:19.
3For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
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 honor in heaven, but cheerfully came to "do the will" of God; Psalm 40:7-8; compare Hebrews 10:4-10; Philippians 2:6; John 17:5.
(2) 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 honors. 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 - Psalm 69:9. This psalm, and the former part of this verse, is referred to the Messiah; compare Romans 15:21, with Matthew 27:34, Matthew 27:48.
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. tie 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 be 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.
4For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
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 toward 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 connection 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 the notes at this place.
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 - Note, Romans 5:4. We may learn here,
(1) That afflictions may prove to be a great blessing.
(2) that their 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 1:2-11.
5Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
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 ... - Greek 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.
6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That ye may with one mind - The word used here is translated "with one accord;" Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1; Acts 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 honor 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 people, and to bring them to peace.
Even the Father ... - 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 honoring "such" a Father, we should lay aside contentions, and be united in the bands of love.
7Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
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 honor of God; compare 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 tiffs 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.
8Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
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 - Exercized his office - the office of the Messiah - among the Jews, or with respect to the Jews, for the purposes which he immediately specifies. He 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 ... - To "establish," or to show that the promises were true; see the note at Acts 3:25-26. 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 the note at Luke 24:47.
9And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
And that the Gentiles ... - 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 favor shown to them was a "great" favor.
For his mercy - Greek, On account of the mercy shown to them.
As it is written - Psalm 18:49. The expression there is one of David's. He says that he will praise God for his mercies "among" the pagan, or when surrounded "by" the pagan; 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 ... - Celebrate thy praise. This supposes that "benefits" would be conferred on them, for which they would celebrate his goodness.
10And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
And again ... - ; Deuteronomy 32:43. In this place the "nations" or Gentiles are called on to rejoice with the 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.
11And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
And again - Psalm 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.
12And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
Esaias saith - Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:10.
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; Revelation 5:5.
Of Jesse - The father of David; 1 Samuel 17:58. The Messiah was thus descended from 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 Septuagint 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 ... - 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 Romans 10-11.
13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
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 ... - That your hope may be steadfast and strong.
Through the power ... - 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.
14And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
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 nonessential 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 ... - 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; compare Romans 1:8; Romans 16:19; 1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Philippians 1:3-7; Hebrews 6:9; 2 Peter 1:12.
15Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,
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 especially called to the function of instructing the Gentiles.
In some sort - ἀπὸ μέρος apo meros. 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, 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 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; compare 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 ... - Because God has conferred the favor on me of appointing me to this function; see the note at Romans 1:5.
16That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
The minister - λειτουργὸν leitourgon. This is not the word which is commonly translated "minister" διάκονος diakonos. 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 11:11. It is however applied to the ministers of the New Testament, as discharging "substantially" the same offices toward the church which were discharged by the Levitical priesthood; that is, 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 still used in a larger sense in Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12.
To the Gentiles - Compare Romans 1:5; Acts 9:15.
Ministering - ἱερουργοῦντα hierourgounta. Performing the function 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 connection. 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, endeavoring to secure the acceptableness of the offerings which the Gentiles make to God."
That the offering up - The word here rendered "offering up" προσφορά prosphora commonly means "a sacrifice" or an "expiatory" offering, and is applied to Jewish sacrifices; Acts 21:26; Acts 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 people; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:10. It does not always mean "bloody" sacrifices, but is used to denote "any" offering to God; Hebrews 10:5, Hebrews 10:8,Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18. 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; Acts 11:17.
17I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.
I have therefore ... - 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" καύχησιν kauchēsin, the word usually rendered "boasting"); James 4:16; Romans 3:27; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 9:3-4; 2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Corinthians 11:10, 2 Corinthians 11:17. It means also "praise, thanksgiving," and "joy;" 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 2 Corinthians 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 honored 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 - Compare Hebrews 5:1. The things of religion; the things which God has commanded, and which pertain to his honor and glory. They were not things which pertained to "Paul," but to "God:" not worked 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 honor 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 upon people.
18For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
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 what 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 people to Christ as their public ministry.
19Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Through mighty signs and wonders - By stupendous and striking miracles; see the note at Acts 2:43. Paul here refers, doubtless, to the miracles which he had himself performed; 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 "center" of his work; the center 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; compare the note at Luke 24:49.
And round about - καί κύκλῳ kai kuklō. In a circle. That is, taking Jerusalem as a center, he had fully preached round that center 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 center, 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 labors of one indefatigable man There is no where 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 used here means properly "to fill up" πεπληρωκέναι peplērōkenai, "to complete," and here is used in the sense of "diffusing abroad," or of "filling up" all that region with the gospel; compare 2 Timothy 4:17. It means that he had faithfully diffused the knowledge of the gospel in all that immense country.
20Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
Yea, so have I strived - The word used here φιλοτιμούμενον philotimoumenon means properly "to be ambitious, to be studious of honor;" 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 ... - 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 function to make known the name of the Saviour where it was not before known. This work was particularly adapted to the ardor, zeal, energy, and bravery of such a man as Paul. Every man has his proper gift; and there are some particularly suited to "found" and establish churches; others to edify and comfort them; compare 2 Corinthians 10:13-16. The apostle chose the higher honor, involving most danger and responsibility; but still any office in building up the church is honorable.
21But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
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 honor to be the instrument of carrying this prediction into effect.
22For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
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.
23But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
But now ... - 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 ... - See Romans 1:9-13.
24Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.
Whensoever I take my journey into Spain - Ancient Spain comprehended the modern 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 ... - 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; Acts 17:14-15; Acts 20:38; Acts 21:5; 1 Corinthians 16:6, 1 Corinthians 16:11; 3 John 1:8.
If first ... - 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.)
25But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
But now I go ... - 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 defense before Felix Acts 24:17, "Now after many years, I came to bring alms 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.
26For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
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; 2 Corinthians 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 16:1.
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.; compare Acts 18:5; Acts 19:21; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 1 Thessalonians 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 the note at Acts 18:12. This place is mentioned as having been concerned in this collection in 2 Corinthians 9:2.
The poor saints ... - The Christians who were in Judea were exposed to special trials. They were condemned by the sanhedrin, opposed by the rulers, and persecuted by the people; see Acts 8:1, etc.; 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 Romans 14; 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 set about some purpose "to do them good," or to unite "with" them in doing good.
27It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
Their debtors - The reason he immediately states; compare 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 what 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.
28When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.
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 ... - This was Paul's full purpose; but it is not clear that he ever accomplished it; Note, Romans 15:24.
By you - Taking Rome in my way.
29And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
I am sure - Greek, I know; expressing the fullest confidence, a confidence that was greatly confirmed by the success of his labors elsewhere.
In the fulness of the blessings ... - 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 the notes.
Of the gospel of Christ - Which the gospel of Christ is suited to impart. Thus, every minister of the gospel should wish to go. This should be his everburning desire in preaching. Paul went to Rome; but he went in bonds; Acts 27; 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.
30Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
For the Lord Jesus Christ's sake - Greek, By or through διά dia our Lord Jesus Christ; It means probably out of love and regard to him; in order to promote his honor and glory, and to extend his kingdom among people. Paul desired to be delivered from the bands of the Jews, that he might promote the honor of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles.
And for the love of the Spirit - διά 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 pagan, that they may be kept from the many dangers to which they are exposed in their journeying in pagan lands.
31That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
That I may be ... - 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 special dangers. His fears, as the result showed, were well founded. They evinced all the opposition to him which he had ever anticipated; Acts 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, Acts 21:26-27.
(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.
32That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
That I may come to you - That I 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; compare 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.
33Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
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 labored in his journey to Judea, and which he had been endeavoring 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 what 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.