In the section of Romans 15 beginning with verse 7 and ending with verse 13 Paul sums up the argument, giving the Theological-Christological reason why the saints in the New Testament church at Rome should receive each other; the weak in faith are to receive the strong in faith and the strong in faith are to receive those who are weak.
The first ground and incentive, as well as the pattern of such receiving of each other we have in Christ, the Servant of God, who came not to be ministered to but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many. Thus Paul teaches in verse 7 where we read in part “. . . . even as the Christ received us (you?) unto the glory of God.”
Paul further elucidates upon this subject of what Christ did to receive us, pointing out exactly the relationship in which Christ stood to both the Jews (Circumcision) and the Gentiles, as this was necessitated in the dispensation of God! Here is the wisdom of God in Mystery! Christ became a minister of the Circumcision, he was made under the law, being born from a woman. For salvation is out of the Jews, John 4:22b. Compare further Romans 9:3-5 and. Rom. 3:1.
The reason why Christ must thus become a minister to the Circumcision is that the promises of God contained in Moses, the Psalms and all the Prophets may be made steadfast to the Seed. For all God’s promises are yea in Christ and in Him Amen to the glory of God the Father, II Cor. 1:20. Thus the Jew has the truth of God made sure to him in the Cross of Christ and in His resurrection. He was delivered for her offences and raised for her justification, that is, for those who are not merely out of the Circumcision, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham,Rom. 3:12, and 3:24, 25.
And thus salvation comes to the “Gentiles”! It comes as pure mercy which God sovereignly gives to whomsoever He will. Thus it comes to the Gentiles through the promises made steadfast to the Circumcision. The one is not without the other! And since these are thus inseparably connected in the design and counsel of God, in the coming and ministry of Christ, let not man make a separation over “adiaphora” of meat and drink, but patiently wait for the perfecting of the work of Christ, when all shall be one, even as God and his Son are one!
We need not receive this great and crucial point in Paul’s argumentation from Paul himself, but we must receive it from the clear teaching of Moses, the Psalms and all the Prophets, which for faith are the end of all contradiction, the sole rule of faith! For whatsoever was before written was written for our teaching, that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope in God 1 (See verse 4.) It is by the operation of the Spirit and through the clear and perspicuous teaching of the Scripture that God grants us patience and consolation! God conveys this grace through admonitions! (Canons III, IV, 17.) Let it not be forgotten!
It is, therefore, that Paul refers the readers to the Old Testament Scriptures, the accepted Canon!
And the passages which Paul selects, at first glance, seem to be taken rather at random. Yet upon closer study we notice that they are rather carefully selected and outstanding and representative passages from the Old Testament. They show that the people to whom theOracles of God were entrusted (Rom. 3:1), had they understood the Scriptures, certainly could not read the Scriptures but what they would always have to ask with the Ethiopian Eunuch, when reading these Scriptures, “I pray thee of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?” And does not Jesus say to the Jews in John 5:46, “For had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me: for he wrote of (peri) me”? The subject of all that Moses wrote is Christ, his office, that in Him the promises are sure! And thus Paul reasons here from the Scriptures!
The passages which he quotes are Psalm 18:49 (II Sam. 22:50), which contains the Song of David. Verse 9b. This passage reads: “For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” The second passage quoted by Paul is found in Deut. 32:43 in the Song of Moses which he sang prophetically, just before he ascended Mount Nebo to die, seeing the promised land from afar! This passage reads: “Rejoice O ye nations with his people.” Further, we notice, that the third passage is quoted from Psalm 117:1where Israel sings in the songs of ascent, “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him all ye peoples.” And lastly, but not the least clear passage Paul quotes from Isaiah 11:10, where the prophet foretells the blessed coming of the Christ in the words, “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek,” or as Paul quotes it from the Septuagint translation, “There shall be a Root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall they hope (trust).”
To this all Paul adds a prayer that the God of hope fill the saints with all joy and peace, causing them to abound in the hope through the power of the Holy Spirit! Verse 13.
When we look at the wealth of material here, the great scope of these quoted passages from the Old Testament we notice that they elucidate upon the entire plan of salvation, the mystery of God! And each passage quoted by Paul does so in. its own milieu of the history of salvation (Heilsgeschiedenis). And each passage does so in a critical period of the history of God’s people of the Old Covenant (Circumcision), when it becomes obvious that shall the people of the Old Testament have meaning and a mission in the realization of the promises of God, it can only have such a mission in the promise to Abraham: “In thee and in thy Seed shall all nations be blessed.” Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth! When this is clear then also the question of “meats” and “days” will be seen from the vantage-point of our relationship to this Christ, who is Lord of the living and of the dead!
It will, therefore be necessary for us to proceed rather slowly and carefully, and point out the genius of the history of Israel as here taught by Paul.
Let us then take notice, first of all, of verses 7-9a, where we read: “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the father: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy . . .”
Concerning this passage I would point out the following salient points:
1. That Paul here draws an inference, the only possiblespiritual-ethical alternative from the foregoing phrase, “. . . in order that with one accord in one mouth ye should glorify God, even the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Such is the like-mindedness which Paul prays the God of patience and consolation to give to these churches. And such like-mindedness will manifest itself in singing and glorifying God in one accord. When this fruit of the lips is a continual burnt offering unto the Lord, then the end of God in Christ is attained in the saints, his own work perfected in us. The term “in one accord? (homothumadon in Greek) is a beautiful word-picture. It really means with one ardor and glow, with one spontaneous impulse of the ten thousands and thousands of hearts, as wrought by the Holy Spirit and led by the “sweet singer in Israel,” Christ! This term “in one accord” is employed in Scriptures both for the sinful impulse in which the wicked act in unison, and for the good, spiritual-ethical impulse, of the righteous in their spiritual unity. For the former see Acts 7:58, 12:20. And for the unity of the saints in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, see Acts 1:14, 2:46, 4:24, 8:26, 15:25, etc.
2. We should notice that this inference is put in a spiritual-ethical injunction: receive ye one another. Incidentally, we should notice that, although it is true, and as we have pointed out earlier in this series of essays, that dogmatics and ethics are not, identical, it is equally true that there is no foundation for Christianethics, unless it be founded on the dogmatical truth of the person and work of Jesus Christ! Even in philosophic ethics metaphysics determines one’s ethics, the question concerning right and wrong, good and evil! And thus it is ever too in Scripture. Because Christ is and does what the Scriptures teach therefore as Christians we are to live a life which is spiritually-ethically accordingly. In this case it means that wereceive one another. The term to receive employed here in the text really means in the original Greek: to take to one’s self, to take as one’s companion, to grant one access to one’s heart! (Thayer.) Only thus will they be able to praise God in one accord, out of one mouth! Singing together, if it proceeds from faith, is spiritually-ethically possible only when we receive each other in the fellowship of saints! Behold, how pleasant and how good! (Psalm 133:1.)
3. Shall this be a reality in us then certainly it must be according to the standard, the measuring-rod of Christ’s having tenderly and lovingly taken us to his heart, both in his labors in the state of humiliation and now in his state of exaltation! Wherefore Paul writes, “. . . as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” Christ received us. There is also a reading which has “Christ received you.” To our mind it makes really no essential difference, which reading we choose. There are those who interpret the reading “you” as indicative of referring to the Gentiles in distinction from the “Jews,” including Paul. We fail to see this. Paul is here not distinguishing Jew and Gentile, but includes both in this exhortation. Both are received by Christ, each in his own way dispensationally. And that, too, whether we read “you” or “us”! Now if Christ has “received” both tenderly in love, who are we to act contrary to this very unifying work of Christ?!
4. In receiving both Christ must needs do one thing, first of all. He must confirm the promises made unto the fathers. And this promise(s) is, “In thee and thy seed shall all nations be blessed,” Gen. 12:18. However, historically covenantally the Circumcision was “in the commonwealth of Israel.” And when Christ came he came to his own things. He is born a Jew, under the law! He is circumcised on the eighth day, Luke 2:21. And he is a minister in the things of the house of His Father, Luke 2:49. And He is not sent but for the lost of the house of Israel. See Matthew 15:24; Acts 3:25. For only thus does Israel have a peculiar purpose in the Old Testament as a people and nation. And, therefore, Christ became a minister to the Circumcision that the promises made to the Fathers might be established. When Christ comes he takes the place of (huper in Greek) the promise. He is the promised one. He is the Seed! In Him all nations are blessed, and we really see Israel in its theocratic nature, that is, we see the Root of David. He is what makes Israel “Israel.” He conquers, being valiant with God and man.
5. And thus mercy comes to the Gentiles. Thus Pentecost can fully come. The promise of the, Spirit is upon all flesh. And the Gentiles receive a new song. And the Circumcision sings its old Psalms in a newmanner. Both are led by him who sang the Psalms in humiliation, and now places these songs upon our lips in faith, singing the mighty works of God in Christ.
6. Thus all is to God’s “glory.” The splendor and majesty of God’s virtues, who calls out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
And this all Paul will demonstrate from the Scriptures.
D.V. we will continue this in the next issue.