Paul plans to visit Rome
Be patient with immature believers1Those of us who are strong believers need to be patient with those who are not. We can’t just go around doing as we please. 2Let’s do what we can to keep them happy and to help them grow stronger in their faith.
3The Messiah didn’t live a self-serving life. As the Bible says, “The insults hurled at you, hit me.”  4This Bible was written a long time ago, to encourage us with hope. That’s why it has endured all these years. 5May the God behind all of this endurance and encouragement give you whatever it is you need to live in peace with each other, as Christ Jesus wants. 6This way, with one united voice you can praise the God and Father of our leader, Jesus Christ.
7So accept your fellow believers just the way they are. Remember, the Messiah did that for you. So do it for others, as a way of honoring God.
Jesus is Messiah of the Jews, too8Let me tell you something. The Messiah came to help the Jewish people. He did it to show that God wasn’t lying when he made promises to Abraham and the other founders of the Jewish faith. 9The Messiah also did it so non-Jews would thank God for his mercy. As the Bible says, “This is why I will honor you in front of non-Jewish people, and sing your praises.”
10The Bible also says, “Non-Jewish people of the world, celebrate with God’s people.” 11The Bible says, too, “Non-Jews everywhere, praise the Lord. Nations of the earth, honor him.” 12The prophet Isaiah says, “Keep your eye on the root of Jesse’s family tree. It’s going to produce a descendant who will rule over the non-Jewish nations of the world. People everywhere will put their hope in him.”
13Here’s what I want for you. I want the God of hope to fill you with all the joy and peace that come from believing. I want you to experience this so you’ll burst with the hope that comes from having the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
My ministry is to non-Jewish people14Dear family, I don’t have any doubts that you are wonderful people. I’m also sure that you have the insight you need to teach one another.
15Even so, I’ve come at you pretty boldly with some of what I’ve written. I’ve done this to refresh your memory and because it’s something that God, in his kindness, has called me to do. 16I’m a minister who’s taking the news of Christ Jesus on the road, to non-Jewish people. It’s good news from God. I’m serving as his priest. I’m bringing him non-Jewish people as an offering that the Holy Spirit can purify, and for God to accept. 17Because of Christ Jesus, I’m proud of the work I get to do for God.
I'm bragging about Jesus18I’m not going to brag about anything I’ve done in this work. I’m going to brag about what Christ has done through me. Non-Jewish people are pledging their obedience to God. They’re doing it because of what they are hearing and seeing in this ministry. 19They’re seeing the power of God’s Spirit at work performing miracles and other wonders. I’ve done what I was called to do. I’ve preached the good news of the Messiah all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum.
20I’ve made it a practice to take the good news to places where people had not yet heard about the Messiah. That’s because I didn’t want to build my ministry on a foundation that someone else established. 21Instead, I did what the Bible says, “Those who hadn’t been told about him will see for themselves. Those who had never heard of him will understand.”
Paul’s prayer request: safety22This is why I haven’t been able to visit you yet, though I had planned to many times. 23But now I’m finally able to leave these regions and visit you, which is something I’ve wanted to do for many years.
24I’m planning to go to Spain. I’m hoping that along the way I can visit you and spend some time enjoying your company. Then I hope you will help send me on my way again. 25But at the moment I’m on my way to Jerusalem to do something for the believers there.
26Believers in the regions of Macedonia and Acadia  took an offering to help the poor folks among the believers in Jerusalem. 27They were happy to do it. In fact, they were obligated. If non-Jewish people are now allowed to share in spiritual benefits, they should be willing to help God’s people with the necessities of life. 28So when I’m done delivering this offering that was raised, I’ll leave for Spain and come to visit you along the way. 29I know that when I come to see you I’ll have the Messiah’s full approval.
30Now I’m asking you, dear family, to do something for me. Pray to God for me. Join me in praying fervently. I’m asking this because you and I have the same leader, Jesus the Messiah. And we share a love that comes from the Spirit. 31Pray that I’ll be protected from the people in Judea who don’t believe the way we do. And pray that the believers in Jerusalem will accept the offering I’m bringing to them. 32If God allows it, I hope to come and visit you. It would be a refreshing joy to spend some time with you. 33May God give you peace. Absolutely.
Paul quotes Psalm 69:9. This isn’t the kind of saying Jews typically connected to their version of a Messiah. Jews expected a warrior king like David to come and free them from their Roman occupiers. But after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul apparently saw in this psalm—that’s attributed to David—a description of what Jesus went through because of the sins of others.
Paul was talking about his Bible, which Christians today usually call the Old Testament.
Illyricum was a Roman province on the European coast along the Adriatic Sea, between what is now Italy and Greece.
Paul seems to know a lot of people in the church at Rome, as indicated by a long list of hellos he sends at the end of his letter, Romans 16. The list seems to include close friends, coworkers, prison mates, and relatives. So it might seem reasonable for him to expect the church to take an offering and send him on his mission trip to Spain.
Macedonia and Achaia were Roman provinces in what is now Greece.
Paul’s travel itinerary didn’t work out the way he had planned. He got arrested in Jerusalem. He spent the next two years in jail waiting for a trial that never happened. He appealed to the emperor’s supreme court, which was his right as a Roman citizen. And he got a military escort to a trial in Rome. The book of Acts, which reports the story, ends with Paul waiting for his trial. Some Bible experts say Paul was executed after that trial. Others say he was found innocent, traveled to Spain, got arrested again, and was beheaded in Rome in the AD 60s.
Most Bibles keep the original Greek word: Amen. Some ancient copies of this letter don’t include the word.
Paul has an insightful thought about the Jewish Bible, which Christians usually call the Old Testament or the First Testament. “This Bible was written a long time ago, to encourage us with hope. That’s why it has endured all these years” (15:4). Why do you think the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, have survived all these millennia? What is it about the Bible that makes people keep it around?
Paul certainly quotes a lot of Old Testament Bible verses in this chapter, and throughout the letter, that he says point to Jesus and to what happens in the world because of Jesus. Some folks would say Paul takes the Bible verses out of context and seems to see Jesus everywhere. How can we justify that to someone who says it’s not honest to take Bible passages like this out of context?
What do you think is going on in the section called “My ministry is to non-Jewish people,” Romans 15:14-21? Which of the following comes closest to your best guess?
- Paul is giving them his resume, so they will recognize his authority and welcome his visit.
- He’s telling them who’s boss.
- He’s setting them up to collect an offering that will buy him a ticket to Spain.
- He knows they’ve never met him and probably don’t know anything about him, so he wants to explain that he typically goes to places where people don’t know him.
What’s the value of prayer? Paul asked the people to fervently pray for him. He knew he was in trouble. He was on his way to Jerusalem at the time. During that same trip, apparently, he said this to some folks from Ephesus who came to meet him at a port city: “I know this too, my friends. Not one of you will see my face again—none of you whom I have taught about God’s kingdom” (Acts 20:25). We don’t know if Paul survived the trip. We do know he was arrested in Jerusalem and ended up spending two years in jail at Caesarea before getting shipped off to Rome for trial there. But we don’t know if he was released or executed during that trip. Paul asked for prayer and he got arrested and put in jail and possibly executed. What good did prayer do him and what good does prayer do us?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells the Christians in Rome, “Those of us who are strong believers need to be patient with those who are not. We can’t just go around doing as we please. Let’s do what we can to keep them happy and to help them grow stronger in their faith” (15:1-2). What do you think Paul is talking about? How do mature Christians keep immature Christians happy?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells mature Christians in Rome, “Accept your fellow believers just the way they are. Remember, the Messiah did that for you. So do it for others, as a way of honoring God” (15:7). If Paul said this to you while the two of you were enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch, what do you think you would say in response?