Paul has a few priorities for the last few chapters of his letter to the Romans. First, he concludes the section on bearing with others with a prayer that “…the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with each other…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is followed by another reminder that “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.”
The letter turns toward a conclusion in the middle of chapter 15, as Paul affirms his satisfaction for the Roman church, though on some points he has written to them “…very boldly by way of reminder…” He again affirms his desire to come to Rome, but cites his ambition “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” as a factor in his delay. It is apparent that he is still on his way to Jerusalem, after which he expects to visit them on the way to Spain, assuming he is “delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.” This fear is prescient, and we know from Acts that he does end up in Rome, though because of rather than in spite of those Judean unbelievers.
The final chapter is devoted primarily to greetings to and from fellow saints. He opens by introducing a patron, Phoebe, who could well be the letter’s deliverer. He then commends to them Prisca and Aquila, tentmakers who had fled Rome earlier and joined Paul in Corinth, taught Apollos in Ephesus, and were now apparently returning to their home. Among the other names there could have been additional travelling companions or brethren from around the city of hundreds of thousands of people. The greetings from Ephesus, including Paul’s scribe, host, and even the city treasurer, not only personalize the letter but place it squarely in history.
Pay attention to the final instructions and doxology. Last words in these epistles often possess a specific warning or challenge that Paul wants to make sure he includes. Today’s caution about those who cause divisions and create obstacles may be general, but connects with his instructions in the last half of this letter. And in case they need encouragement, he is confident that “The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under [their] feet.”
Our verse for this week is Genesis 1:1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Romans 15 and 16. Now let’s read it!
Romans 15 - 16
15:1 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. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.