1Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
There are those who are weak in strength because of an error arising from a weakness in the mind. Their faith is weak because of a lack of understanding of the purposes and will of God. Those who have understanding and are assured of their liberty in matters pertaining to Christian conscience must bear the weaknesses. It doesn’t say to bear with the weaknesses as if to tolerate them, but it means to take upon the shoulders as to carry. Thus, as with taking up our cross, we deny ourselves, look out for the welfare of the weak, and carry them along by loving them despite their incomplete understanding and weak faith. We don’t just please ourselves and force our ways upon them, for such would cause them to sin.
2Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
Our goal as believers in Christ is not to be self-seeking but to be seeking the good of others for the purpose of helping them become more like Christ. We can’t do this if we make them sin or violate their conscience. They need sound teaching at the right time, right place, and in the right way. They do not need to be forced to do something that they don’t feel that they should.
3For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME."
Referencing Psalm 69:9, Christ modeled preferring others ahead of Himself by letting those who would mock Him or question Him go right ahead and do it. He could have gone along with what would have looked good and drawn the least derision, but He chose to love the sinners and bear with the weak even though it cost Him His life.
4For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
This is an important verse affirming the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. All that had been written that had been considered given by God was to be taken as that which was indeed given by God for the purpose of instructing us. Of course, we believe that Paul was inspired of God, thus showing us that the letters of the apostles were also inspired and able to instruct us. Not all that is recorded in the Old Testament is for the purpose of showing us how to do things, for many times the flaws of people are recorded which show us what not to do. Thus, we must read the Scripture and learn what God wants and does not want. Then we will be able to persevere in faith as we obey Him, knowing Who He is, how He works, and what He wants from us. There is also great encouragement to be found in the Scripture because we can see how God has been faithful to keep His promises. We see the mercy of God, the power of God, and the unfailing love of God. The Old Testament needs to be studied and known, not bypassed as lesser or inferior. It complements the New Testament and vice versa. The New Testament writers cite verses from the Old Testament over and over again, showing how Christ has fulfilled the Law and the prophets. If the apostles saw the importance of the Old Testament, so too should we. Yet a proper understanding of much that is in the Old Testament is only possible through the lens of Christ and the New Covenant.
5Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
6so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Christ accepted us by calling us His children (John 1:12) and friends (John 15:15) and enabling us to house the glory of Christ in our hearts. Thus we are to accept other believers as family and friends showing them the kindness likened to family. This kindness is necessary for unity so that we can be of the same mind as the Son and the Father as one (John 17:21). If we do this, then we will be able to jointly glorify God with a corporate voice that is pleasing and honoring to God. God is not a God of strife and division by of love and unity. This unity can only happen through Christ and by the transformation of His Word according to right doctrine and truth. Unity is not a tolerance of error or sin. Unity is a gift of God because Paul says that it is granted to us by God. Thus, we must each live by faith, giving preference to one another in love, and growing in perseverance and encouragement according to the study and appropriation of the Scriptures. We need the instruction of the Scriptures for our maturity, unity, and ability to glorify God individually and corporately. Thus, a misuse or minimization of the Bible will lead to division and destruction of the church.
8For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,
9and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,
"THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES,
AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME."
10Again he says,
"REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE."
"PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES,
AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM."
12Again Isaiah says,
"THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE,
AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES,
IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE."
God had promised blessing for the nations through Abraham. His promise to bring the praise of God even to the Gentile nations was fulfilled through Christ. Christ ministered to the Jews while He was on the earth, discipling twelve Jewish men who would be those who propagated the church. He did this for the sake of fulfilling God’s promises in the Old Testament, particularly to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in light of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3). He also did this so that the Gentiles would have hope of eternal life and be able to glorify God. Thus, as the Jews hardened their heart, the gospel went by the grace of God to the Gentiles. Christ clearly fulfilled all of the promises in the Old Testament about a descendent of the line of David being the One Who would give the Gentiles hope, joy, and the ability and desire to praise God.
13Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes believers wonder why they lack all joy and peace. They may have some, but they are not experiencing the abundant life that God has promised (John 10:10). God is a God of hope, and He wants to fill us with all joy. But we will not experience this fullness unless we yield our lives to the filling of the Holy Spirit in faith. We must believe that God will do what He says He will do. If we put our faith completely in the promises of our Lord, we can expect to have an abundance of hope that will carry us through even the darkest of days. Our certainty stems from the fact that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), that God’s promises stand the test of time, and that He has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell us.
14And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Paul speaks now directly to his readership telling them that he believes that they are full of goodness. They are new creations in Christ with new hearts, able to glorify God and house the perfect Holy Spirit of God. They are not infallible, for they still have flesh and can be deceived into living as if they are in the old self. But Paul believes that these believers are living victoriously, being controlled by the love of Christ, filled up with the goodness of God. They are walking in holiness as God is good. They are also filled with all knowledge, as we have all things pertaining to life and godliness in Christ (2 Peter 1:3). These believers have been taking in the Word of God so that they are growing to maturity, being ready and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). They know the Word well enough to be teachers of others and to correct others in the Lord when necessary. These are very high compliments from Paul.
The fact that these believers were godly, faithful, and maturing in Christ enabled Paul to plunge the depth of the issues that are addressed in this letter. If these believers had still been infants in Christ, as the writer of Hebrews encountered (Hebrews 5:11-13) with his readership, he would have had to limit what he was able to say, rather spending time correcting and rebuking, like Paul did with the Corinthians. Christians should come to the place where they can reason and apply Biblical truths to all areas of life. They should be able to ask the tough questions and provide answers.
15But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God,
16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul did give a few rebukes here and there in this letter, but by and large he was able to instruct. These were simply reminders to them because of his calling by the grace of God to be a minister to the Gentiles. He had a burden to explain that the Gentiles indeed are grafted into the vine of Christ and should be accepted as such. He also spent time then dealing with how to handle the differences between the customs of Jewish believers and those of the Gentiles. As the Old Testament priests brought offerings before God, Paul, like a priest, was bringing the gospel to the Gentiles as His sacrifice and service to God. We, too, as believers are priests who are to live both as those who perform the sacrifices (1 Peter 2:9), offering the gospel of Christ, and being the offering by yielding our lives up to Christ and His call (Romans 12:1-2).
17Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.
18For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,
19in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Paul does not boast here in himself or in his own inherent goodness or ability but in Christ, in the gospel of Christ, in Christ working through Him, in Christ Who is his life, and in God’s faithfulness to carry His gospel through Him to the Gentiles. Christ is His boast, and thus he only speaks of what Christ has accomplished through him by making the Gentiles obedient to Christ. They have obeyed in word, by confessing Christ as Lord and trusting in His sacrifice for sins, and in deed, repenting of their sin and obeying the commands of God. These are signs of true conversion and lasting, genuine change. Paul doesn’t brag about numbers of converts, letters written, or dollars earned in the ministry, which for him was only what he made by making tents. He boasts in what God has done for the sake of His glory and for the kingdom. To boast in these things when we know that what God has accomplished through us is clear evidence of His power and not of our own sufficiency is not wrong. Affirming his apostolic authority along with the twelve disciples, Paul makes it clear that he saw signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit. He worked miracles and saw healings that were clearly supernatural. He had been faithful to preach to Jerusalem and well beyond to Illyricum, which is a region near Italy and Greece close to modern day Serbia.
20And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation;
21but as it is written,
"THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE,
AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND."
Paul’s purpose in ministry, which was in line with God’s call for him, was to preach the gospel where it had not been preached before, namely to the Gentiles. He didn’t have others’ foundations to build on. He had to take a message to those who had never heard before.
22For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you;
23but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you
24whenever I go to Spain--for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while--
25but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints.
Because of his travels abroad which clearly took most of his time, he had been unable to visit the church at Rome which he would have liked. Yet he viewed his mission completed in terms of taking the gospel to these regions, so he was hopeful that he would be able to fulfill his desire to stop by Rome and visit the Christians there. His plan was to stop by when he took a trip to Spain. He desired to be helped there by them, as he would need supplies, food, and housing along his journey. He would plan to spend some time there to fellowship. His present purpose was to go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints there.
26For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
27Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
28Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain.
29I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
The Christians at Macedonia and Achaia (near Greece), had gladly given a donation to be distributed to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Those who are rich in the church need to look out for the welfare of those who are in need. The Macedonians and Achaians were glad to give to Jerusalem. Paul argues that since salvation is from the Jews in Jerusalem that the Gentiles who received this salvation should at least be willing to give back financially to Jerusalem. Eternal life far outweighs a financial donation to those in need, so it was no burden to them to give to the needy of those who had blessed them in such a way already. Paul was going to go ahead and send the money with the letter which had his seal. He would later meet up with the believers there en route to Spain.
30Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,
31that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;
32so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.
33Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul asks the believers to pray for him in the name of Christ and out of the love of the Spirit. He urges them to do this, asking them to strive with him in prayer on his behalf. He was urgently pleading for prayer, obviously confident in its power. He hopes that he will be kept safe on his journey and be able to come to Jerusalem as he desires. There were many Jews in Judea that were hostile to Paul and the gospel as he once was. Thus, he knew he might be endangered. Getting to Jerusalem would bring him great joy if God so willed, which he did (Acts 21) though he was eventually imprisoned. He would be able to be refreshed and encouraged in their presence. The church should indeed be a place of security, a place that we know will pray for us in our time of need, and a place of peace and rest rather than strife and division. A godly church makes sure to take care of the needs of the household of God first (Galatians 6:10). Paul blesses them by wishing them peace in the name of Christ.