Here we come to the end of Romans, where Paul sums up his argument for unity in the Church.
After his comments on “food and drink,” and how Jews shouldn’t pass judgment on Gentiles, and how Gentiles should not flaunt their freedom in the faces of their Jewish brothers, Paul makes his final appeal to Gentile believers: “We who are strong should bear the weakness of those who aren’t strong,” but at the same time…we should not live to please ourselves. Instead of judging and mocking each other, Paul wants the Jewish and Gentile believers resolve to please their neighbors (i.e. each other) for the good of building them up (v. 1-2).
Again, Paul appeals to Christ as the ultimate example (v. 3-4). And then, finally, Paul makes his final encouragement and appeal: “Through endurance and encouragement, may God give you the same mind among one another in keeping with Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify together the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one voice” (v. 5-6). In case it’s not emphasized enough, let’s be clear: Paul is emphasizing the unity of the Church, so that the Church in Rome can truly be the People of God in Rome.
This section is the ultimate conclusion of the whole argument of Romans. It is straightforward and simple: Welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God (v. 7). After all, they are God’s people, not your people! Look to Christ, who became a servant for the circumcised (i.e. Jews) on behalf of the truth of God—in order to make good on the promises He made to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)—and who became a servant for the uncircumcised (i.e. Gentiles) on behalf of mercy—in order to glorify God.
We need to remember that the whole purpose of God’s covenant with Abraham was so that He could eventually bring salvation and blessing to all nations. That promise, Paul is emphasizing, is being fulfilled in Christ and the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With that, Paul unleashes a litany of Old Testament passages that serve as a final “Yeah God!” for fulfilling His promises:
- 17:50 (I will confess you among the Gentiles….)
- Deuteronomy 32:43 (Rejoice, Gentiles, with His people!)
- Psalm 117:1 (Praise YHWH, all you Gentiles….)
- Isaiah 11:10 (The one who rises to rule the Gentiles will be the root of Jesse, and the Gentiles will place their hope upon him).
And so, with his argument made, Paul finishes with 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in having faith, in order for you to overflow in that hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. The actual argument of the letter ends here. From here on out, Paul then turns his attention to more practical/personal matters.
Wrapping Things Up (Romans 15:14-16:27)
The end of Paul’s letter contains a number of practical concerns Paul has that he wants to share with the church in Rome. In regards to the rest of chapter 15, in 15:14-22 he talks a bit about his ministry; in 15:23-29 he talks about his future plans (he hopes to make it to Rome; he plans to go to Spain; he talks about his journey to Jerusalem); then in 15:30-33 he asks them to pray for him.
In 15:14-22, Paul portrays himself as a “priestly servant,” and describes his ministry in Jewish-priestly terms. The Gentiles are the offering that he is presenting to God, as if he were a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. And using that “temple language,” Paul is trying to explain what exactly is happening with the Gentiles—they are being “brought into the Temple of God” and being made holy by the Holy Spirit. Of course, for Paul and the rest of the New Testament writers, the true Temple of God is the Church itself! But in any case, it should tell you how the early Church understood salvation—it wasn’t just some abstract “Get people saved” idea; it was seen against the backdrop of the Jewish Temple—salvation was “building up” the temple of the Holy Spirit.
In 15:23-29, Paul discusses his future plans. He wants to come to Rome, not really to stay there, but so that it can be the “sending church” so he can go on to Spain. Simply put, it’s “missionary strategy” stuff. Making contact and establishing a friendship with the church in Rome will help Paul in his plans to spread the Gospel to Spain.
In 15:30-33, Paul briefly mentions what he expects to happen when he visits Jerusalem to offer the Gentile gift. Simply put, he expects trouble in Jerusalem when he offers the Gentile gift. He realizes that he’s been rejected by unbelieving Jews, but at the same time, accepted by the “saints” in Jerusalem (i.e. Jewish-Christians).
Chapter 16 simply is a laundry list of greetings and the like. There really are only a few interesting things to note…especially for women.
- First, in 16:1-2 we have the mention of Phoebe. She is described as a deacon of the church in Cenchreae—she is a leader…and a woman. The church there meets in her house, and she is a benefactor of many Christians. Since she was going to Rome on business, Paul gave her the letter to carry to Rome.
- In 16:3-5 we have the mention of Prisca and Aquila. The wife (Prisca) is mentioned first—nowhere in ancient literature is this found. Hence, it is extremely rare to find this. In their house-church in Rome they were “co-workers” and the church there was understood to be equally theirs. Paul’s letter was to be read in their house-church first.
- In 16:7 we have the mention of Andronicus and Junia. In some earlier English translations, “Junia” was translated “Junias.” Why? Because Paul says that these two people were “great among the apostles.” The name “Junia” is clearly a woman’s name, and some translators with an anti-woman bias did not like the idea of a woman being called an apostle. (Now, “apostle” was not designated to only the Twelve until Revelation; throughout the first century, an “apostle” was anyone who had first-hand contact with Jesus). And so, they changed it to “Junias.” There is only one problem—there is no known “Junias” anywhere in ancient literature! In other words, there’s no such name as “Junias”! It’s a completely made up name. In any case, the more recent translations are being faithful to the actual Greek, and are translating it as “Junia.”
But that really is it to Romans. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through Paul’s letter to the Romans. Much more can be said as to how apply this letter to our day and age, but I’ll leave that as a challenge to anyone who reads this.