The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 15

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 6, 2016

Text in red are my additions.

A summary of Rom 15:1-13. Not only should the strong Christian avoid scandalizing the weak, but all should try to bear with one another, and by positive acts help to bear one another’s burdens. This must be done to the end that God may be glorified; for all are one in Christ, whose example we must imitate. 

Rom 15:1. Now we that are stronger, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

We that are strong in the faith ought to bear with the infirmities of those that are scrupulous and weak in faith, i.e., with their faulty judgments and erroneous ideas and scruples (Rom 14:1-2; 2 Cor. 12:10). St. Paul enlarges the range of his theme here, and includes himself in the general exhortation, but he does not insist on his own example, as when writing to his own converts (Parry).

Not to please ourselves by selfishly resting in our thoughts and judgments, glorying in our firm faith and despising our weak brethren.

Rom 15:2. Let every one of you please his neighbour unto good, to edification.

Every one of you. The best MSS. have “of us.” Here again the larger range is brought out; not only the strong, including the Apostle, but all the Christians should consult the welfare and wishes of their neighbour, i.e., of all men. We ought to try to please all men, not for the sake of vain popularity and glory (Gal. 1:10), but for the good and edification, i.e., for the spiritual advancement and interest of all (1 Cor. 10:33).

The vestrum of the Vulgate should be nostrum, according to the best Greek MSS.

Rom 15:3. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written: The reproaches of them that reproached thee, fell upon me.

We should imitate the example of Christ, who, for our salvation and the glory of His Father, submitted Himself to the reproaches that were heaped upon God. The citation is from Ps. 69:10, according to the LXX. Directly the Psalmist is speaking of the just who says that the reproaches of those that reproach God fall upon him. The Psalm is certainly Messianic, and the just man suffering is a type of Christ suffering in Himself the reproaches heaped upon God (Rom 11:9-10; Matt. 27:27-30; John 2:17; 19:29). 

Rom 15:4. For what things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope.

The reason for the above citation of Scripture is now given. What things soever were written, i.e., in the Old Testament, were intended for our instruction as Christians ( 1 Cor 10:11; 2 Tim 3:16). And the purpose God had in giving us the Scriptures, with their sublime examples of patience and all other virtues, their manifestations of God’s goodness and promises of reward, was to inspire us with hope for our future rewards. 

We might have hope. Better, “We may have hope.” In the Vulgate per should precede consolationem, to agree with the Greek. 

Rom 15:5. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ.

St. Paul now passes from Scripture to its Author, God, who enables us to endure, and who encourages us by the Scriptures; and he expresses the wish that God, by His grace, will enable the Christians all to avoid discord and cultivate unity of peace, having the same thoughts and sentiments according to Jesus Christ (or, “Christ Jesus,” as in the best Greek), i.e., according to the will of Christ (Cornely); or in the spirit and according to the example of Christ (Lagr., S. H., etc.). 

Rom 15:6. That with one mind, and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the desired unity is that, by oneness in faith and charity, the Christians may praise and glorify God with one heart and one mind. 

God and the Father. Better, “the God and Father,” etc., as in the Greek. God is the God of Christ’s human nature, and the Father of His divine nature (2 Cor 1:3; xi. 31; Eph 1:3; Col 1:3). 

Rom 15:7. Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God.

This verse is a restatement of verses 5 and 6. Each and all the Christians are asked to do for one another what above the strong were requested to do for the weak, and this in imitation of Christ who has brought all to Himself, in spite of their differences and sins, to the end that God may be glorified. 

Rom 15:8. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.

The great and fundamental argument in favor of the unity St. Paul is urging for the Roman Christians is to be found in the fact that all, both Jewss and Gentiles, have been received by Christ with the view to form one people for the glory of God. The Apostle begins here to speak of what God has done for the Jews.

Jesus is not in the Greek. 

Minister of the circumcision, i.e., minister of the Jews, whom our Lord served by His preaching (Cornely). The Saviour came to minister to all men (Matt 20:28); but He was in a special manner the servant of the Jews, to whom His personal mission directly pertained (Matt 15:24), to whom He gave His heavenly teaching, and whose Law He observed. This service Christ rendered the Jews for the truth of God, i.e., in the interest of God’s truthfulness, to confirm, by fulfilling, the faithfulness and veracity of God’s promises, which were primarily made to the Patriarchs and their descendants. 

Rom 15:9. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. 

But that the Gentiles are to glorify God, etc. A better rendering would be: “But the Gentiles to honor God,” etc. The infinitive “to glorify” (δοξασαι) of this verse, like to confirm (βεβαιωσαι) , of the preceding verse, being dependent upon εις το, marks a further result of Christ’s ministry to the Jews. Note: “The Gentiles are to glorify God” is a statement of fact, but St Paul wishes to emphasize this fact’s connection with Christ, i.e., as a further result of his ministry to the Jews, which was “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (vs 8. see nest paragraph). 

Christ was minister of the circumcision, etc., for a twofold purpose: (a) in order to confirm, by fulfilling, the promises made to the Patriarchs; and (b) in order that the Gentiles should glorify God for His mercy in calling them to the faith, independently of any merits on their part. St. Paul is admonishing the Gentile converts not to despise their Jewish brethren on account of any obsolete and scrupulous practices of the latter, (see Rom 14:13-23), because, as he says, Christ preached only to the Jews in fulfillment of the promises made to their ancestors, but with the further intention that the Gentiles should later be objects of God’s mercy and, through faith, become heirs of the promises originally made to the Jews. Thus has Christ embraced all, both Jews and Gentiles, for the glory of God. What an incentive to unity and charity among the Christians themselves. (Here you may wish to read what St Paul has to say in 9:1-11:36). 

As it is written. The Apostle now (verses 9b-i2) cites several texts of the Old Testament to prove that the praise which the Gentiles render to God was foretold of old. 

Therefore will I confess, etc. The quotation is from Ps 17:50 (18:50 in most modern translations) and 2 Kings 22:50, almost literally according to the LXX. The Psalmist is singing the praises of God who has helped him to triumph over his enemies and establish his throne, so as to glorify the name of Yahweh among the heathen. David was a type of Christ, and hence St. Paul, understanding the words of the royal Psalmist in their typical sense, puts them on the lips of the Saviour and makes Him say: I will confess, etc., i.e., I will praise the mercy of God among the Gentiles who, through the Apostles, shall be converted to the faith and render thanks to God for the mercy He has shown them. 

Rom 15:10. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

This second quotation is from Deut 32:43, from the Song of Moses, according to the Septuagint. Moses calls upon all the pagan peoples to unite with the people of Israel in praising God for His mercies to all. 

Rom 15:11. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him, all ye people.
Psalm 117:1 is now cited according to the LXX. The Psalmist invites the Gentiles directly to praise the Lord for His mercies and faithfulness, which one day they will experience in their call to the faith. 

Rom 15:12. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope.

This fourth citation is from Isaiah 11:10, freely according to the LXX. The Hebrew of this passage reads: “In that day there shall be the root of Jesse, who shall be raised as an ensign for the people; him the Gentiles shall beseech.” The root of Jesse is the Messiah who would be an ensign or standard around which the Gentiles would rally, and whose authority they would obey. The Gentiles shall hope in Christ, because they shall know His designs of mercy to save them, although they are outside His chosen people. 

Rom 15:13. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Apostle terminates the Moral Part of his Epistle with the ardent wish that the Christians may ever possess that joy and peace which are the consequences of the hope that God has given them. The idea of hope was suggested by the end of the preceding verse. 

The God of hope, i.e., the God who is the source of all our hope. 

Fill you with all joy, which comes from hope in God’s infinite mercy and goodness that have reconciled you with Him and given you that peace which springs from the true faith. 

May abound, etc., i.e., may ever increase in hope of eternal life. 

In the power, i.e., through the power or charity of the Holy Ghost, who is the cause of this desired increase in hope.

A Summary of Romans 15:14-33
The Dogmatic and Moral Parts of the Epistle being finished, the Apostle subjoins an epilogue (Rom 15:14-16:27) in which only personal matters are treated. At first (verses 14-21) he apologizes for the freedom with which he has written them and offers a justification. He is the Apostle of the Gentiles and wishes to make known in the Eternal City the contents of his preaching to other Gentiles. Next he says (verses 22-29) that, after visiting Jerusalem, he hopes to realize his long desire to see Rome on his way to evangelize Spain. Meanwhile he ardently implores (verses 30-32) their prayers for protection against his enemies in Jerusalem. Verse 33 is his final salutation.
Rom 15:14. And I myself also, my brethren, am assured of you, that you also are full of love, replenished with all knowledge, so that you are able to admonish one another.
With this verse the Apostle begins to explain why he has written at such length and so openly to the Romans. It was not that he doubted the purity of their faith or the sanctity of their lives; for he is assured (perhaps through letters sent him by Aquila and Priscilla) that they are full of love (αγαθωσυνης = agathosynes) , i.e., of moral goodness and kindliness; and that they are replenished with all knowledge, i.e., with a profound and accurate understanding of the truths of faith, so as to be able to admonish, i.e., to warn, to instruct one another (αλληλους νουθετειν = allelous nouthetein).
In the Vulgate bonitate(goodness) would be more literal than dilectione (love); etiam (also) should precede alterutrum (one another). The final clause should read: “so that you are able (etiam) also to admonish one another.”
Rom 15:15. But I have written to you, brethren, more boldly in some sort, as it were putting you in mind: because of the grace which is given me from God.
St. Paul wrote to the Roman Church more boldly in some sort, i.e., in terms somewhat bold (τολμηροτερως = tolmeroteron) , at times, not to teach them any new doctrines, but only to put them in mind, i.e., to remind them of things they already knew. This he felt to be his duty because of the grace, i.e., because of the commission, given him as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom 1:5; Rom 12:3).
Brethren (Vulg., fratres) supposes the less probable reading αδελφοι (adelphoi).
Rom 15:16. That I should be the minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles; sanctifying the gospel of God, that the oblation of the Gentiles may be made acceptable and sanctified in the Holy Ghost.
Here the Apostle describes the nature and purpose of the grace and commission he has received. His Apostolate to the Gentiles was a kind of priesthood which, as Gospel-priest, he exercises under Christ.
The minister (λειτουργον = leitourgon) means here the priest as discharging the sacred ministry. The object of this ministry is the Gentiles. The word is related to liturgy.
Sanctifying the gospel. The word  ιερουργουντα (hierourgounta) implies the act of fulfilling a sacred function, and especially the offering of sacrifice. Thus the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles is here represented by the Apostle as a sacrifice. The preacher is the priest (Greek: hiereus), the Gentiles are the victim to be offered (seeRom 12:1), and preaching is the act by which the victim is brought to the altar and prepared for immolation. By preaching the Gospel the Apostle is performing a sacrificial act, the purpose of which is to prepare and dispose the Gentiles to be an oblation acceptable to God. For other sacrificial terminology Paul uses in relation to his ministry see (Rom 11:3;Philippians 2:17).
Sanctified in the Holy Ghost. As in the ancient sacrifices the victim, before being immolated, had to be cleansed and purified so as to be pleasing to God, so the Gentiles, in order to become an oblation acceptable to God, should first be purified from their moral unfitness. This purification of the Gentiles by which they became acceptable to God was finally effected through Baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit.
In the Vulgate sanctificans evangelium (sanctifying the gospel) should rather be operans (in a ritual sense, i.e., ministering) evangelio = gospel (Lagrange).  The et (and) before sanctificata (being sanctified) should be omitted; consequently also the and in English.  The end of the verse should read: that the oblation of the Gentiles may be made acceptable, being sanctified in the Holy Ghost; not made acceptable and sanctified.
Rom 15:17. I have therefore glory in Christ Jesus towards God.
Therefore (ουν = oun) shows we have here a deduction from the contents of the preceding verse. Since he is engaged in a work for Christ and acting under Christ’s direction, the Apostle has spoken more boldly than he would have done had he been acting on his own account (Parry).
Glory. The glory and fruit that come from the Apostle’s ministry are due, not to him, but to Christ whose minister and instrument he is.
Towards God, τα προ τον θεον (ho pros ton theon), i.e., for that which regards the work of God, namely, the preaching of the Gospel.
Rom 15:18. For I dare not to speak of any of those things which Christ worketh not by me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed.
The Apostle briefly and modestly alludes to the fruits of his Apostolate. The verse is made awkward and obscure by the double negative (the dual use of the word “not”), but the sense is: I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ worketh through me, as if they were my own, etc. If St. Paul speaks of what he has done, by word and action, in fulfillment of his commission to preach the Gospel and bring the Gentiles to the obedience of faith, it is only because this redounds to the glory of Christ.
By word and deed, i.e., by his spoken and written words—his preaching of the Gospel, and by his example and miracles.
Rom 15:19. By the virtue of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Ghost, so that from Jerusalem round about as far as unto Illyricum, I have replenished the gospel of Christ.
St. Paul now shows the means by which his preaching was confirmed, and indicates the vast area over which the course of his labors extended.
Signs and wonders both mean miracles.
Virtue and power (δυναμει = dynamei) also mean miracles; but here δυναμει means both the power to work miracles and to manifest the Holy Ghost (Lagr.). The words virtue and power in verse 19 translate δυναμει (dynamei). The word indicates a strong power, force, action, etc. Our word dynamite is derived from it.
So that (ωστε = hoste). Through the help of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost the Gospel has been preached in the whole Orient (the east), beginning from Jerusalem (Acts 9:28 ff.) and its environs on the southeast, and extending to Illyricum on the northwest. Illyricum was the name given to the western districts of the province of Macedonia, bordering on the north-east shore of the Adriatic. We have no record of St. Paul preaching in this district, hence it marked the westernmost boundary of his missionary labors up to the present time. Throughout all this extended region, from Jerusalem and its environs on the east to Illyricum on the west, St. Paul had replenished, i.e., had fully preached the Gospel in all the principal centres. He does not say that he had converted all the pagans, or even the greater number of them; but he had sufficiently promulgated the good news so that all might learn thereof.
Rom 15:20. And I have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.
Rom 15:21. But as it is written: They to whom he was not spoken of, shall see, and they that have not heard shall understand.
The Apostle explains the principle which determined the choice of the regions in which he preached. It was not his practice to preach the Gospel where Christ was already known. This is not contrary to his desire to evangelize the Romans (Rom 1:15), because, first of all, he was well aware that the Roman Christians were thoroughly grounded in the knowledge of the faith (Rom 1:8; Rom 15:14), and secondly he had no intention of appearing at Rome as the Apostle of that Church, but only of paying a visit there (verses 22-24).
I have so preached. Literally, “I so make it a principle to preach,” etc. It was the Apostle’s rule not to preach where Christ was known already, because he did not want to build upon another man’s foundation (1 Cor. 3:10; 2 Cor. 10:15, 16). It was his office to lay the foundations of new Churches, and leave to others the continuation of his work (1 Cor. 3:10; 1 Cor 12:28).
As it is written, in Isa 52:15, cited according to the LXX. The Prophet says that the Gentiles who have not heard the Messiah spoken of shall hear of Him and shall understand. St. Paul identifies the Messiah with our Lord, and applies to himself the fulfillment of the Prophet’s words in making Christ known to the pagans who before had not heard of Him.

The Apostle (in verses 22-32) says that the completion of his work of founding Churches in the Orient has finally left him free to undertake his visit to Rome on the way to Spain. First, however, he must go to Jerusalem with the collections that have been made for the poor there. He beseeches the Christians at Rome to pray that he may escape the hands of his enemies in Jerusalem.

Rom 15:22. For which cause also I was hindered very much from coming to you, and have been kept away till now.

 For which cause, i.e., because I was continually engaged in the establishing of Churches in the east (Rom 1517-20).

And have been kept away till now. These words are not in the Greek or ancient versions, and are wanting in some copies of the Vulgate. They are considered as a gloss from Rom 1:13. The corresponding words of the Vulgate should be omitted.

Rom 15:23. But now having no more place in these countries, and having a great desire these many years past to come unto you,
Rom 15:24. When I shall begin to take my journey into Spain, I hope that as I pass, I shall see you, and be brought on my way thither by you, if first, in part, I shall have enjoyed you:

23, 24. No more place, etc., not that there is nothing further to be done, but that, having established Churches in all the principal cities and centres, his work of founding Churches in the East is finished.

When I shall begin to take my journey into Spain, etc. The Gospel had surely not been preached in Spain and the Apostle, on his way thither, would make his long-desired visit to the Romans.

And be brought on my way, etc., i.e., be accompanied by some of the faithful at Rome for a certain distance when departing, as was the custom after visiting a community (Acts 20:38; 21:5).

If first, etc. The Apostle modestly expresses the wish that he may first enjoy the company of the Romans for a little time, before going to Spain.

Rom 15:25. But now I shall go to Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints.

The subject of the preceding verse is suddenly changed, as the Apostle remembers the necessity of his going first to Jerusalem. He is very anxious to visit the Gentile Christians of Rome, but he is also solicitous for the Jewish faithful in Jerusalem: his great heart embraced them all, because all belonged to the one Church of Christ.

Rom 15:26. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor of the saints that are in Jerusalem.

This explains why St. Paul must go to Jerusalem. He must take there the collection of alms which the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia have contributed for the poor in the Holy City (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15; Acts 20:3; 21:17). The poverty of the Christians in Jerusalem was due partly to the fact that many had transferred all their possessions to a common fund (Acts 4:32), and particularly to the persecutions which they suffered, during which their common possessions were often plundered and confiscated (Acts 8:1; Heb. 10:34).

Rom 15:27. For it hath pleased them; and they are their debtors, For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they ought also in carnal things to minister to them.

The alms contributed by the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia were given out of the abundance of their love and charity, as St. Paul says,  ευδοκησαν (= eudokesan, “it hath pleased them”); and yet they had only fulfilled their duty and paid a debt that they owed. They, like all the Gentiles, had been made partakers of the spiritual benefits of the Gospel, which primarily came from the Jews and through Jewish messengers; and if they had thus shared in the spiritual goods of Israel, it was only just and right that the latter should be assisted in their need by some of the temporal blessings and riches of the Gentiles. “By praising the Corinthians for their charity, the Apostle also delicately reminds the Romans of the debt of kindness they owe to their fellow Jews” (Origen).

The expression λειτουργησαι (= leitourgesai), to minister, here means to render a service from man to man; it has not the sense of a sacred service (Lagrange, Parry against Cornely).

Rom 15:28. When therefore I shall have accomplished this, and consigned to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

Consigned to them this fruit. Literally, set my seal for them on this fruit, i.e., when I have securely conveyed to them this fruit. The seal was primarily a mark of ownership and authenticity, and then secondarily of security and correctness. St. Paul set his seal on this collection for the poor in Jerusalem to prove that the alms were the fruit of the charity of the Gentiles (Cornely); or that they were the product of his own Apostolic labors (Julicher).

Rom 15:29. And I know, that when I come to you, I shall come in the abundance of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

St. Paul feels assured of the conditions that shall attend upon his arrival in Rome. His mission to Jerusalem safely finished, he will bring to the Romans the blessing of Christ (Comely, S. H., Lagr., etc.).

Of the gospel (Vulg., evangelii), is not the best MSS.

Rom 15:30. I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God,

I beseech shows the state of supreme tension and anxiety which prevailed in St. Paul’s mind. He knew that the Judaizers, together with the unbelieving Jews, must now be at the flood tide of their animosity and hatred for him, seeing the success that had crowned his labors in the Orient; and yet he must discharge his duty to the faithful in Jerusalem regardless of the results to his own person (Acts 20:22-25; 21:4, 13)- He appeals to the prayers of the Romans through our Lord Jesus Christ, their and his common Master and Head, to whom they are all united by the charity of the Holy Ghost.

The words Holy and your, and the corresponding sancti and vestris of the Vulgate, are not in the Greek of the best MSS.

Rom 15:31. That I may be delivered from the unbelievers that are in Judea, and that the oblation of my service may be acceptable in Jerusalem to the saints.

The Apostle is beset with two fears. First, there is the implacable hostility of the unbelieving Jews who, before he left Corinth, had planned to kill him on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:3); and secondly, there were the Jewish Christians themselves to whom he was bringing the collection, but on whose friendship he could not fully depend, because of their zeal for the Law (Acts 21:20) and their consequent possible dislike for one who had made so little of the Law. Speaking thus he shows that he feels the Romans are animated by a very different spirit in his regard (Lagrange).

And that the oblation, etc. Better, “And that my ministry at Jerusalem be acceptable,” etc.

Rom 15:32. That I may come to you with joy, by the will of God, and may be refreshed with you.

It is the Apostle’s hope to go to Rome with joy, if it be the will of God; and as he will bring to the faithful there the blessing of Christ, he trusts that he himself will find the visit a source of rest and spiritual repose. Little did he know that he would be captured by his enemies at Jerusalem and taken to Caesarea, there to be retained in prison for two whole years before being allowed to go to Rome, and that, when at length he would arrive in the Eternal City, it would be as a fettered and guarded prisoner.

Rom 15:23Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

A final salutation implores the God of peace to be with all the Roman Christians. The implication is that peace prevails in the community as a whole, and that discord is far removed from them. This is a characteristic salutation which St. Paul is accustomed to place at the end of his letters (cf. 1 Thess 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Cor. 16:24; 2 Cor. 13:13; Phil. 4:23).


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