With the chapters 15 and 16 Paul wraps up his letter. He will put finishing touches on his extended command about accepting one another, his proposed mission plans (which he hopes the Roman church will help him with), an extensive list of people to greet, a warning against divisive brethren, final greetings from his fellow workers, and a blessing to them all.
Accept one another’s opinions, not sins — Romans 15:1-13 (esp. v.7)
Paul’s lesson to the Romans about accepting one another, despite our differing opinions about some things, flows over into the first part of chapter 15 (poor divisions by those who “chaptered and versed” the Bible, they weren’t inspired), and it is here that he makes the very strong points that 1) we must not seek to merely please ourselves, 2) we must instead work at unity, 3) realize that with all of our idiosyncrasies and quirks Jesus accepts us, and 4) unity must be forged even between Jew and Gentile. The unity between Jew and Gentile was a major part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and in Ephesians Paul puts this stress on the need to work at unity this way: Ephesians 4:2-6 “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
But this, it must be emphasized, is not a command to unite despite sin. Quite to the contrary, the inspired Paul and other apostles ordered and required the church to separate themselves from those who were unrepentantly doing evil (e.g., Romans 16:17ff; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15; 2 John 10; and others). This is important in modern times, when acceptance and tolerance are the virtues above all others — even moral virtues. I’ll not go into great detail here, but sadly sometimes people religious people will confuse the difference between opinion and sin — the Pharisees confused the difference between their traditions and God’s commands; and this is why we must study the Scriptures to get to know the real differences.
For his good — Romans 15:2
Here is a great teaching about love. Christian love is not just doing what others would like you to do — what they’d like you to do might be sinful or might enable them in a dysfunctional way or might be letting them sinfully manipulate things! We need to please our neighbors for their good, to their edification.
Written in earlier times — Romans 15:4
Paul is saying this as a sort of a parenthetical reminder regarding a quotation from Psalm 69:9 — that these early Christians needed to know what we call the Old Testament (the New Testament was still being written). Some of the Gentiles might have argued that now that the church had prophets and those with miraculous spiritual knowledge (see 1 Cor. 12:8-11) these Jewish texts were less important. Modern Christians make a very similar argument today: we have the New Testament, why study the OT? The answer is, Romans 15:4 “For 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.” Yes, OT study is important.
Glorify God with one voice — Romans 15:5,6
The church is a motley crew. We’ve gotten beyond the Jew-Gentile thing these days; but the church will always be composed of men and women, the rich and poor, the young and old, the educated and uneducated, and every other difference of humanity you can think of. There are people in our congregation I would probably never have know, I would never have traveled in their circles ordinarily, but we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And because of Christ we now are more than an association, more than friends, more than a club, we are family; and not just family, forever family! And every Sunday we glorify God with one voice. Such a thing can’t be done in the world; only in the Lord.
Turn away from divisive folks — Romans 16:17-20
When we think of sins that could be committed, we often list hate, murder, lying, adultery, witchcraft, materialism, stealing, etc. Seldom will you see someone list division, and yet here it is in Romans 16, a command to withdraw from those who cause division — whether by false teaching, by spreading dissatisfaction, by gossiping, or any of the other myriad ways people divide one against another. It is a typical characteristic of the world and it is wrong in the church. The church is about healing, forgiving, uniting, and loving one another
Erastus — Romans 16:23
In Corinth a first century paving stone advertising the person who had paid for the street paving (a common expectation of those who desired political office) was found with the name Erastus.
It is widely thought that this is the same Erastus mentioned here in Scripture who was city treasurer. The Bible does know what it’s talking about.
Obedience of faith — Romans 16:26 / 15:18
Too often theologians and preachers will do violence to the Scripture by divorcing obedience from faith. But what God has joined together here and in many other passages (e.g., James 2:14ff) let no man put asunder. Obedience is always the proper response to saving faith, and James challenges us by saying, James 2:18 “…show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
See you tomorrow, Lord willing