24 Dec 2018

24 December 2018 |

A Commentary by John Stott

Romans 15:5-6. (ii) Because Christ is the way to united worship.

Verses 5-6 are in the form of a benediction. Paul’s prayer is that *the God who gives endurance and encouragement* (through Scripture, as we have seen) may *give you a spirit of unity among yourselves*, or literally, ‘may give you to think the same thing among yourselves (5a). This can hardly be a plea that the Roman Christians may come to agree with each other about everything, since Paul has been at pains to urge the weak and the strong to accept each other in spite of their conscientious disagreement on secondary matters. It must therefore be a prayer for their unity of mind in essentials.

For Paul’s petition is this: *May…God…give you a spirit of unity…as you follow Christ Jesus* (5b), literally ‘according to Christ Jesus’. This seems to indicate that Christian unity is unity in Christ, that the person of Jesus Christ himself is the focus of our unity, and that therefore the more we agree with him and about him, the more we will agree with one another. But what is the purpose of this unity of mind? It is in order that (*hina*) we may engage in the common worship of God: *so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ* (6). Thus, the one mind (5) is expressed through the one heart and the one mouth (6); indeed without this unity of mind about Christ unity of heart and mouth in worship is impossible.

(iii). Because Christ accepted you (7).

With verse 7 Paul returns to the beginning, to his original and positive appeal for acceptance. Indeed the long, closely reasoned, theological-practical argument about the strong and the weak (14:2-15;6) is sandwiched between the two cries, *Accept him* (14:1) and *Accept one another* (7a). Both are addressed to the whole congregation, although the first urges the church to welcome the weaker brother, while the second urges all church members to welcome each other. Both also have a theological base. The weak brother is to be accepted *for God has accepted him* (14:3), and the members are to welcome each other *just as Christ accepted you* (7a).

Moreover, Christ’s acceptance of us was also *in order to bring praise to God* (7b). The entire credit for the welcome we have received goes to him who took the initiative through Christ to reconcile us to himself and to each other.

(iv). Because Christ has become a servant (8-13).

With verse 8 Paul slips almost imperceptibly from the unity of the weak and the strong through Christ to the unity of Jews and Gentiles through the same Christ. Further, in both cases the unity is with a view to worship, ‘so that’ they ‘may glorify God’ together (6, 9ff.). The grammar of verses 8-9 is uncertain, however. Here is the NIV text: *For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs (8) so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy* (9a).

What is clear is that there are two complementary clauses, the first about *the Jews* and *God’s truth* (i.e. truthfulness), the second about *the Gentiles* and his *mercy*. But what is the relation between them? Many commentators suspend both clauses on the solemn opening words, *I tell you*. But because the context highlights the work of Christ, it seems better to suspend them on a longer introduction, namely, *I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews…*. Then his role as a servant of the Jews, that is, as the Jewish Messiah, is seen to have two parallel purposes, first *to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs* and secondly to incorporate the Gentiles as well. His ministry to the Jews was *on behalf of the God’s truth*, to demonstrate his faithfulness to the covenant promises, whereas his ministry to the Gentiles was on account of *his mercy*, his uncovenanted mercy, For, although the Old Testament contains many prophesies of the inclusion of the Gentiles, and indeed the promise to Abraham was that the nations would be blessed through his posterity, yet God had made no covenant with the Gentiles comparable to his covenant with Israel. Consequently, it was in mercy to the Gentiles, as it was in faithfulness to Israel, that Christ became a servant for the benefit of both.

Tomorrow: Romans 15:8-13. (iv) Because Christ has become a servant.
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The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Romans. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.