Paul's letter to the Romans
Paul's own plans
Those of us who have sturdy consciences must allow for the sensitivities of
weaker people, and not just consider ourselves. We must
be concerned for our neighbour and think what is for their good and what
will build up life together. Christ, you will
remember, did not consider himself. He could well have
said, with scripture: 'those who reproached you reproached
me' (Ps 69:9). Those ancient writings were
provided for our instruction. They communicate something about
hope, from the way those who did not give up were helped by
God. I pray that God the giver of encouragement and strength
will keep you in harmony with one another after the pattern of Christ
Jesus. May it be with one voice that you praise the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To summarize, befriend one another as Christ has befriended
us, to the glory of God. He gave himself to Jews in
order to maintain God's integrity and fulfil the promises to the
patriarchs, and at the same time to give Gentiles reason to praise God
for his kindness. To quote scripture again: 'Therefore
I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing to your name
(Ps 18:49)' and 'Gentiles rejoice along with his
people (Deut 32:43 LXX)' and 'Let all the
Gentiles praise the Lord, let all the peoples praise him
(Ps 117:1)'. Isaiah says: 'There will appear the
root of Jesse, rising up to rule the Gentiles and to be their
hope. (Is 11:1,10)'
The more insight we get into Paul's way of thinking, the more significant this approach to the Romans turns out to be. God's plan, already in its final stages through the revelation of the resurrection of Jesus, absolutely demands the salvation of Israel alongside salvation for Gentile Christians. The token redemption of Israel represented by the minority Jewish Christian community is not enough. Nor will it be adequate if Jewish and Gentile Christians keep each other at arm's length, in mutual disregard. The collection for the poor in Jerusalem, which Paul will speak of shortly, is for him a vital gesture of reconciliation and gratitude. Likewise, he sees it as essential that Gentile and Jewish Christian communities at the heart of the empire should be in a positive relationship. Harmony, between Gentile and Jewish Christians now, builds the platform for a discovery of the salvation in Christ by Israel as a whole.Friends, I am very confident that you are people of good will and good understanding and well able to guide one another. But the reason I have written to you in this way, perhaps rather strongly in places, is to underline some things for you, because God has given me a particular gift and responsibility. He has made me especially the servant of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles. It is my God-given task to proclaim to them the gospel, and to lead Gentiles to him as an offering, consecrated by the Holy Spirit. I am pleased with what I have been able to do, in Christ Jesus, for God. I dare to speak, of course, only of those things in which I have been Christ's instrument to win Gentiles. There have been signs and wonders, and the power of the Holy Spirit has been manifest. At this stage I have completed the proclamation of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum. My aim now is to carry that gospel to places where the name of Christ has not even been heard. I don't want to build on foundations already laid. I am guided by the scripture: 'those who have not been told about him will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand (Is 52:15)'.
That is why I have for so long been prevented from visiting you, though I have longed to see you. But now that there is nothing more for me to do in this region I am planning to continue my work in Spain, and I am hoping to call on you on my way there. I would like to have some time with you, and then continue the journey with your blessing. But I have a prior duty to perform. I must take a monetary contribution to the Christians in Jerusalem. Macedonia and Achaia have decided to send a generous gift for the relief of the poor amongst God's people there. And it certainly should be a generous gift because it is in a real sense repaying a debt: Jewish Christians have shared their spiritual treasure with the Gentiles, and Gentiles are bound in return to offer material support. So when I have done that, and handed the money over, I will set out for Spain and visit you on the way.
I do plead with you, my friends, by our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit, to help me through the dangers of that mission by praying for me. Pray for my protection from unbelievers in Judaea, and that my action in Jerusalem may be well received by God's people there. Then, in God's providence, I will be in good spirits when I come to take a break with you. The God of peace be with you all! Amen.
paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis