May the G-d of hope fill you with favor and wholeness, peace, stability and firm structural integrity inside the depths of your belief, faith, trust; so that you will prosper in hope, (not by your own power but) by the power of the Holy Spirit. --Romans 15:13
An examination of Romans 15.
The opening verses (1-6) of Romans 15 conclude the theme of Romans 14. This is a reminder to the modern reader that chapter and verse markers are not present in the original Greek manuscripts and that this is a theological letter rather than a book. In verses 1-6 Shaul/Paul points once more to the Author and finisher of our faith, naming Yeshua Himself as the ultimate example of one who bears the weaknesses of others.
15:1 Now we who are strong (in emunah/trust/faith) ought to bear the weaknesses (feebleness) of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
Strength here refers to strength of faith born of Yeshua and increased by the washing of ha-D’var--the Word. Weakness here refers to burgeoning faith, vulnerable and still trapped in certain superstitious beliefs. Those who consider themselves strong and yet look down upon those who appear to be weak, are in fact weak. Therefore we should not please ourselves—which is an act of weakness—but should consider the well being of our neighbor (brothers and sisters in Messiah.)
A literal rendering of this verse could read, “But we, the able, are obligated to support the stumbling of the unable.” (Quoted from the NRSV annotated Jewish New Testament).
2 Each of us is to please his neighbour for his good, to his edification. 3 For even Messiah did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” (Tehilim/Psalm 69:9)
The p’shat, or plain meaning of this psalm explains the unjust treatment of a servant of G-d. Shaul/Paul sees in these words a remez, or hint, of Messiah. Messiah is seen here to be taking the reproach of those who reproach G-d Himself. The wider context shows that for the sake of salvation He suffered rejection from His own brothers (fellow Jews).
“I became a stranger to my brothers, and a foreigner to my mother’s children. For zeal for Your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproached You have fallen on me.” –Tehlim/Psalm 69:8-9
With Messiah as our example we are to accept reproach rather than destroy the feeble faith of others.
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 tikvah—hope. 5 Now may the G-d who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Messiah Yeshua, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the G-d and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
Shaul/Paul continues, as in Romans 14, to speak to both the Jews and Gentiles of the Roman ecclesia. When he says, “you,” here, it’s in reference to the plural, “you,” of the Roman ecclesia, both Jew and Gentile. We must keep in mind that these verses are part of chapter 14’s conversation and conclude here with the admonition to love one another. This based on the example of Messiah.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Messiah also accepted us to the glory of G-d.8 For I say that Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision (Jews) on behalf of the truth of G-d…
Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah who has come as a servant of the Jewish people in order to proclaim the truth (gospel) of G-d.
to confirm the promises given to the fathers,
Yeshua came to confirm the promises made to Avraham, Isaac and Jacob; the promises made to Yosef, Moshe, Yehoshua and David. G-d cannot break His promises because of His righteous nature. We know this, that, "G-d cannot lie.”
9 and for the Gentiles to glorify G-d for His mercy; as it is written,
The good news is, the Salvation (Yeshua) of HaShem which has brought chesed (mercy) to the nations. Shaul/Paul had set up the premise for the proceeding Scripture quotations in verse 4.
“Therefore I will give praise to You among the Nations,
And I will sing to Your name.” (2 Sh’muel/Samuel 22:50)
10 Again he says,
“Rejoice, O Nations, with His people.” (Devarim/Deut. 22:43)
11 And again,
“Praise HaShem all you Nations,
And let all the peoples praise Him.” (Tehilim/Psalm 117:1)
12 Again Isaiah says,
“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Nations,
In Him shall the Nations Tikvah—hope.” (Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 11:10)
Note that Shaul/Paul quotes from every major section of the Tanakh. Firstly from the early prophets, then from the Torah, then the Writings (Psalms) and finally from the latter prophets, in fact he finishes with the prophet who Yeshua quoted most, Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah. From the fullness of G-d’s word, the Word of G-d, Who is Himself the one Who fills G-d’s word, brings the assurance of G-d’s chesed (mercy) to the nations.
Of special significance is the understanding gleaned from the Isaiah passage. By reading it in its p’shat, plain context, we find a subtle variance in the plant analogy used by the writer:
“And there shall come forth a rod (choter, a strong, straight, solid staff) out of the trunk (geza, trunk, tree stock) of Yeshai (I possess) and a (natzer, sprout, shoot, branch) shall grow out of his roots (sheresh, lowest point or beginning of the root feeding system, permanence, firmness).” –Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 11:1
“In that day there shall be a root (sheresh, lowest point or beginning of the root feeding system, permanence, firmness) of Yeshai (I possess) which shall be lifted up as a sign of the people (Israel--am rather than goyim); The Goyim (nations) shall seek Him and find a glorious resting place in Him.”—Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 11:10
Notice that Yeshua is described in this passage as:
a.) Choter; a strong, straight, solid staff, come from the, geza, trunk, tree stock of Yeshai, one who possesses,
b.) Natzer, sprout, shoot, branch,
c.) Sheresh, root, feeding system, permanence, firmness.
Yeshua, the one in Whom the nations will find hope, is first of all the strong staff of the trunk of the tree representing the ancestors (patriarchs of Israel) of the one who possess (Yeshai, David’s father; David who is a prefigure of the Messiah) and is the source for the root of that same tree, the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end, the sheresh (root) and the natzer (sprout, progeny). The life giver Who entered life.
13 Now may the G-d of tikvah (hope) fill you with all ratzah (joy, favour) and shalom (peace) in believing, so that you will abound in tikvah (hope) by the power of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
“May the G-d of hope fill you with favour and wholeness, peace, stability and firm structural integrity inside the depths of your belief, faith, trust; so that you will prosper in hope, (not by your own power but) by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Shaul/Paul, having finished assuring the Gentile believers of the hope they have in Messiah, by confirming it to them from the Hebrew Scriptures; now turns to his own people once more. Using the plural brothers, he addresses his Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah Yeshua.
14 And concerning you, my fellow Jewish believers, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
You’re responsible to keep each other accountable and to encourage each other as Jewish believers. The former quotes refer to the nations, but they are born of the Jews through the root and branch of Yeshai Himself, Yeshua.
15 But I have written very boldly (strongly, frankly) to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the chesed (grace, mercy) that was given me from G-d,
Throughout his letter Shaul/Paul has called the Jewish believers to be accountable to their high calling in Messiah. At times some of the things he’s said may have seemed harsh/bold, however his intention has always been to relay the ultimate chesed, mercy, grace of HaShem toward His chosen people Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) and to encourage them to rejoice in their calling to be a light to the nations.
16 to be a minister of Messiah Yeshua to the nations, ministering the gospel (truth) of G-d as a priest, so that my offering of the nations may become acceptable, sanctified by the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
Shaul/Paul is speaking of both the soul harvest and the monetary offerings of the nations that he will offer up to HaShem in Jerusalem, as a priest on behalf of the nations. In this act He is imitating Messiah.
17 Therefore in Messiah Yeshua I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to G-d.
Shaul/Paul isn’t disobeying his own teaching against boasting, rather he is boasting in Messiah pertaining to G-d and not of himself. Note: Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 66:20-23
18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Messiah has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the nations by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel (truth) of Messiah. 20 And thus I aspired to preach the gospel (truth), not where Messiah was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but as it is written,
The above description almost precisely mirrors the words of Isaiah 66:20-23.
“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard shall understand.” (Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 52:15)
This passage connects to the messianic quote in verse 3 from Psalm 69. The entire portion of Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is intended, which is one of the most significant foreshadowing texts regarding the Messiah in the Tanakh.
22 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you;
Paul/Shaul, has taken on his role as minister to the nations very seriously. This has meant he has been unable to take the time he might have liked to take to fellowship with his fellow Jewish believers in Rome.
23 but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you 24 whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while-- 25 but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the believers/holy ones/sacred ones.
After making Aliyah (going up) to Jerusalem to encourage, serve and offer gifts to the holy ones, sacred ones, saints, messianic believers. Shaul hopes to visit Rome on his way to Spain.
26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the holy ones, messianic Jews, saints in Jerusalem.
The Gentile ecclesia of Macedonia and Achaia had decided of their own free will, to send a monetary gift to the poor among the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.
Shaul/Paul is conveying to his Jewish brothers and sisters in the Roman ecclesia, the generosity of the Gentile believers toward the Jewish believers and acknowledging that because salvation has come from the Jews, that the Spirit of G-d indwelling Gentile believers had inspired a kind of giving that made them pleased to give to the people through whom G-d had chosen to reveal His Son.
This is not an admonishment of the Gentile believers but an honoring of their practical emunah (faith, trust) and the gratefulness of their hearts toward G-d because of the gift of His son. A gift far greater than material possessions.
28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Messiah. 30 Now I urge you, Jewish brothers and sisters, by our Lord Yeshua ha-Mashiyach and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to G-d for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the holy ones, messianic believers, saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of G-d and find refreshing rest in your company. 33 Now the G-d of shalom (peace) be with you all. Amen.
Shaul/Paul, is aware of those non believing Jews in Judea who would seek to persecute him. He is also aware that while the Leaders of the ecclesia in Jerusalem are delighted by his ministry, there were those among the messianic Jews who continue to struggle to accept the idea of the nations being saved without full conversion to Judaism through brit milah (circumcision). He therefore asks for prayer from his messianic Jewish brothers and sisters in Rome, who are in the best position to understand the issues that have arisen among the Jews due to the spread of the gospel.
As we journey with Yeshua in the calling placed on our lives, may we too find rest in Him among like minded believers.
Now the G-d of shalom be with you all. Amen.
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.