Romans Bible Study Lesson 60

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Paul’s Unique Message

Romans 15:8—21


After Paul admonishes believers to stop judging each other and to show love to all, he switches gears and deals with some dispensational issues. These issues come up because Paul has just told us that we need to accept one another just as Christ has accepted us (Gentiles). We know Israel was the favored nation with all the spiritual benefits (Romans 9:4—5) so how did it come about that we Gentiles have now been accepted by Christ?

Verses 8—12

With the focus on Christ’s earthly ministry, Paul explains that Jesus Christ came as a minister to the Jewish nation (the circumcision). He instructed His Disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). When the Syrophoenician woman implored Jesus to cast out the demon from her daughter Jesus explained that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24). His ministry focused on Israel leaving the Gentiles out in the cold, so to speak. If any Gentile wanted to approach Jesus they would have to do so through the Jews. The Gentiles Jesus dealt with were ones who understood their place in the Kingdom program—Jews on top, Gentiles underneath.

The truth of God is specifically the truths given to Israel. His coming and work confirm the promises given to the fathers. The promise given to Abraham was that in him would come a blessing to all people (Genesis 12:3). This was fulfilled through Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:6—8). In fact, where Jesus was to be born, where He was going to be reared, how He was going to die and that He would rise from the dead are all promises (prophesy) made to the fathers (Israel). Someone came up with well over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s first coming. These promises of a coming savior given to Israel’s fathers were confirmed in the person of Jesus Christ. There was no way that Israel could miss their Messiah except that their hearts were not right.

There is a second reason that Christ came, so the Gentiles could glorify God for His mercy because He made a way of salvation directly to them. God showing mercy to the Gentiles is not a part of the Mystery, but God going directly to the Gentiles with the Gospel of Grace was. The Gentiles were to be blessed through the Jewish nation (Zechariah 8:22—23; Isaiah 60:1—3; Mark 7:28) but from Paul we find out they will be blessed apart from Israel. Instead of being blessed through Israel’s glory they would be blessed through Israel’s fall. When Jesus came to earth, He came to the Jews (John 1:11). His ministry was to Israel. After Israel rejected their Messiah, Paul was raised up to be an apostle to the Gentiles with the message that was hidden from BEFORE the foundation of the world (contrasted with SINCE in Matthew 13:35), until it was revealed to him (Romans 11:13; 16:25; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:25—27).

Note that there were no promises given to the Gentiles, only to Israel’s fathers. But there were promises concerning the Gentiles. We see some of these in verses 10—12 where Paul picks out Old Testament verses that show that the Gentiles did have a future hope before Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was raised up.

Verse 13

Paul sums up this last section with encouragement for every believer. It is from God through whom we can abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ do not have this sure hope. Joy and peace are the result of believing in Christ. Those who have not put their trust in Christ cannot have a true joy or peace.

Verses 9—12 show how Gentiles will be blessed through Israel. We can’t take these verses as promises for today because Israel rejected their Messiah.  Since Israel was temporarily set aside it is impossible for the Gentiles to be blessed through Israel today. Instead of hope, we should despair because our hope was wrapped up in Israel’s prophetic program.

With Israel’s rejection of their Messiah came a new program revealed to the Apostle Paul directly from Jesus Christ. This Dispensation of Grace bypassed Israel and went directly to the Gentiles. God is no longer making a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. He is no longer working with nations. He is now coming to us as individuals with the Gospel of the Grace of God. Our hope lies in being able to come to God outside of the covenants given to Israel and outside of prophecy. We can now come to God as individuals by accepting the message of reconciliation.

Verse 14

As believers, we are to be filled with joy, peace, hope (from verse 13), goodness and knowledge. It appears that the Roman believers were filled with goodness and knowledge but were lacking in joy, peace and hope. As believers they had these things available to them but they had not appropriated them. All of these things are available to all believers.

Verses 15—16

Paul was continually defending his ministry of the Mystery. The Mystery was revealed to Paul by God’s grace so he would be a minister to the Gentiles. He calls himself a priest in his ministry of the Mystery of God. A priest acts as a go-between, in this case he received the Mystery message from God and distributed it to the Gentiles. We can see his seriousness in accepting this role as priest of the Mystery when he tells Timothy to hold fast to the doctrine that was given to him (2 Timothy 1:12—14; 2:2).

Paul uses the term “Gospel of God” six times (Romans 1:1; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9). It is also used in Mark 1:14 and 1 Peter 4:17. In Mark, Jesus was preaching the Gospel of God. By comparing this verse with Matthew 4:23 we can see that Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Peter uses the term in relation to the coming judgment upon Israel. Since the Body of Christ will not experience God’s wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) we can see that it is in reference to the Tribulation period when God’s wrath will be poured out on Israel (Mica 1; Zechariah 13:7—9). Peter is warning Israel (the household of God) that they need to obey the Gospel of God (Gospel of the Kingdom).

So, the Gospel of God is the Gospel of the Kingdom AND the Gospel that Paul was preaching (the Gospel of Grace—Acts 20:24). Both gospels came from God but one was the good news that the promised Kingdom was about to be set up and the other was the good news that God’s grace was to replace His wrath for the time being. Paul also called the good news given to him from God the Gospel of His Son (Romans 1:9) and the Gospel of Christ (Romans15:19). He also called it my Gospel (Romans 2:16; 16:25) to distinguish it from the Gospel of the Kingdom. If he had received the same Gospel as the 12 Disciples then he would have called it the Gospel and would have had no need to explain what Gospel he was preaching at the counsel at Jerusalem in Galatians 2.

Verses 17—18

How often do we serve the Lord in our own power and/or boast about how well we did? Paul was careful to put self aside and allow God to work through him so he could say he would boast only in Christ. He realized that the work he was doing was actually God working through him (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Verse 19

It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through Paul that made his ministry so effective. The Holy Spirit’s power was made obvious by signs and wonders. Paul performed many miracles (Acts 19:11) to show the 12 Disciples that his message was from the Lord. God trained Israel to look for signs in Egypt. This carried through to the days of Jesus when the Pharisees asked Jesus to prove Himself by giving them a sign (Matthew 12:38). God gave Israel a sign that Paul was His chosen vessel through the many miracles he performed.

Although I believe the signs and wonders performed by Paul were mostly for the benefit of Israel, it also confirmed to the Gentiles the truthfulness of what he was saying. Paul spread this message from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum (north of Macedonia in Greece).

Verses 20—21

It was Paul’s desire not to build on another person’s foundation. Many understand this to mean that he only would preach in areas that have not heard the gospel but his statement does not say that. His preference or desire was to preach where Christ was not known. Many knew Christ from His earthly ministry but many were ignorant of Him from His heavenly ministry. This heavenly ministry was revealed to Paul and is known as the Mystery (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1—3, 9; Colossians 1:26).

Paul was the foundation of the Mystery and his foundation was built on Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11). Peter was the foundation of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19) also built on Jesus Christ. Paul was not commissioned to build on the Kingdom program but was given a completely different program when the Mystery was revealed to him. The Kingdom program was put on hold when Israel rejected the offer of their Messiah at the stoning of Stephen.

He does not want to build upon another man’s foundation. Was this only a private taste of Paul? No! Was it his independence or an idiosyncrasy which finds it hard to do teamwork with others? Was he what the Germans call an einspanner? No! Did he esteem himself better than others? Thrice no! He knew full well he was the “wise masterbuilder,” called to lay the doctrinal foundation for all others. He was not called to build upon the foundation of others, but others are called to build upon his foundation in a doctrinal sense, as we are clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 10:11-18.

Harry Bultema, Romans, Truth in Paradox Page 110.