Exposition of Romans 14-15 (Romans 15:9b)
We now come to Paul’s proof from the Old Testament Scriptures that Christ became a minister of the Circumcision in behalf of the truth of God, namely, to establish the promises of the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify for his great mercy in this gracious dispensation of God!
When we look at all these references from the Old Testament Scriptures it strikes us that these were certainly the things which were written before hand, and that, too, for our learning and instruction, that we might, as Gentiles and Jews, have hope in God! For without this ministry of Christ there is neither hope nor comfort for either of these groups. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
We also notice, when we take a rather careful study of these quoted Scripture passages here in the verses 9-12 of this fifteenth Chapter of Romans, that this matter of the Christ being made a servant of the circumcision is not simply the isolated teaching of certain passages, but that they constitute what is the very warp and woof of the teaching of Scripture, the more sure Word of prophecy of the God of our salvation. For proof of this we have but to notice the very beautiful account of the discussion on the way between Jesus and the two travelers to Emmaus in Luke 24. In the verses 25-27of this well-known chapter we read: “And he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken : Ought not the Christ to have suffered all these things, and enter into his glory ? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (en pasais graphais ta peri eautou). Besides, does not Jesus say to the unbelieving Jews of his day, who perish with the Scriptures as a closed book in their hands, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
Surely the entire Old Testament Scriptures in their Theological Christological meaning are all centered around the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, his death and resurrection. Does not Peter write, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow . . .” I Peter 1:10-11.
Paul has, therefore, in a certain sense, but to select at random!
However, when we take careful notice of these passages, it becomes increasingly evident that they are such passages which speak particularly of the truth that “salvation is out of the Jews” also for the Gentiles. That the promise is to Abraham, “In thee and in thy Seed shall all nations be blessed.”
That is singularly and uniquely taught in these passages.
We shall, therefore, give more than usual and casual attention to these passages. It is imperative that we notice these passages in the Old Testamental and historical setting in the history of salvation (Heilsgeschiedenis) noticing particularly the prophetical perspective of each of these passages. In thus doing we are not to forget the point of argument of Paul in Romans 14-15, namely, that we are to receive each other even as Christ received us to the glory of God.
In this essay we would call attention to the words from both II Samuel 22:50 and Psalm 18:50 where we read:“Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.”
In order to properly interpret these words from II Samuel 22:50 as Paul would have them applied to the situation referred to in Rom. 14-15, we should bear the following in mind:
1. That this Psalm is found literally in two different chapters of the Bible. It is found in II Samuel 22 and in Psalm 18. In both of these David, as the “sweet-singer in Israel” is heard to utter glad and prophetical strains!
2. That this Psalm was uttered by David, evidently, when the throne is established to him in Jerusalem according to God’s sure promise, and such was inherent in his being anointed by Samuel as King in Israel, a man after the heart of God! For David sings of deliverance and salvation. For we read literally in II Samuel 22:1 : “And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.”
3. Further, we may be certain that David sings this Psalm “being a prophet.” He is “David, the Son of Jesse, the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel,” II Sam. 23:1. And, as such an anointed one, he sings of the greatness of God in his covenant mercy to Israel and in the calling of Israel among the nations! God’s promise stands to David and to His great Son forever. For the Lord has said to his Lord, “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy foot-stool,”Psalm 110:1. That David speaks as a prophet is quite evident, first of all, from what we read in II Samuel 23:2 : “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” David too belongs to the prophets, to the “holy men” who spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost (II Peter 1:21). He too, in the Spirit of Christ, searched out the time or what manner of time of the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow! Angels were desirous to look into the things of which he spake!
4. Therefore both II Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 are intensely prophetical of the sufferings of Christ in the saints of the Old. Testament and of the glory and the deliverance to follow. It was suffering for righteousness’ sake with Christ in order to be glorified with him (Romans 8:17-18). It is true that David suffered in the Old Testament Dispensation on the plane of the earthly. Yet, his suffering was typical of the suffering of Christ. And just as his suffering was typical of the suffering of Christ, so was also his deliverance from the hands of his enemies and from the hand of Saul a type of Christ’s deliverance from and victory over all His foes and the powers and demons of hell! For thus does the Psalm end: “Great deliverance giveth he to his King, and showeth lovingkindness to his anointed, to David and to his Seed forevermore”!
And this prophetical-Christological Psalm, when it is fulfilled in Christ in the fullness of times, comes to stand before us thus that Christ came to be the greater David, the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God as depicted here in this Psalm. And thus mercy comes to the Gentiles! Such is the mystery of godliness.
More particularly concerning this Psalm we should notice the following:
1. That this Psalm is Jehovah-centered. This means that this Jehovah of the Old Testament is the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” only He is such in the Old Testament terms, and is here sung of in poetical strains. Sings David: “I love thee, O JEHOVAH, my strength.” All is of Jehovah. He is David’s all in all. He is the great deliverer, v. 1.
2. That roughly speaking this Psalm (both in II Samuel 22and Psalm 18) is divided into three parts. In the verses 4-6 David speaks of his great distress, and he couches this distress in terms as “cords of death”, “floods of ungodliness”, “cords of Sheol”, “snares of death” and “all that would swallow me up!” And all this distress is represented, as far as David is concerned, in David’s enemies, even in the persecutions of his father-in-law, Saul! In the verses 7-19 David speaks of Jehovah’s great deliverance which he wrought for David simply because “he had delight in” David! See verse 19 where we read: “He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me because he delighted in me.” The terms and phraseology here in the verses 7-19 remind one of the glory, majesty of Sinai, which caused even Moses to tremble. Notice: “then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the mountains quaked. He bowed the heavens and came down, and thick darkness was under his feet!” Here we have a description of the Divine Theophany, Jehovah’s presence to protect David. And in the higher sense it refers to the Theophany of God in Christ. He dwelt among us, and “we have seen His glory, glory, as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”! Did not God deliver his Son on the Cross through his death and resurrection, because He delighted in Him. Does God not say from heaven: “This is my beloved Son in whom is all my goodpleasure, (delight) Hear ye Him”? And in the verses 20-27 David sings of the righteous cause which is his. All is justice. Mercy and justice kiss each other. David has a righteous cause, and he will be strong to put down all his enemies. This really refers to David’s exaltation first of all upon the Throne, and principally to the exaltation of Christ upon the Throne on the right hand of the majesty of God on high. This is really the exaltation spoken of in Hebrews 1:2-3: “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the expressed image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he hath by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high, being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
We may, therefore, conclude from the foregoing observation concerning this Psalm of David, that we are here dealing with the Spirit of Prophecy, in which David from the earthly plane of his own suffering and experience rises to the more glorious and distant suffering of the Man of Sorrows, the man of God’s infinite delight. Thus we understand too that the “issue” between David and Saul was not merely one of the rivalry of two kings, but it was the true man of God being persecuted by the false. Saul is, therefore, really one with the nations. Was he not chosen by the people to be a king “to judge like all the nations”? (I Sam. 8)
And is this not repeatedly brought into bold relief at the various encounters of David and Saul when Saul seeks David like a roe upon the mountains? In I Samuel 24:4-7 when David is at Engidi, David cut only the “skirt of Paul’s robe.” Was David intent to kill Saul? God forbid! He says, “Jehovah forbid that I should do this thing unto my Lord . . . seeing he is Jehovah’s anointed.” David waits for the Lord’s exalting him. Thus we read in I Samuel 26:9 that David stayed the hand of Abishai against Saul saying: “Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless? David said furthermore, As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish.”
Even in the mouth of Saul and emphatically from the mouth of Jonathan the exaltation of David as the LORD’S anointed is certain. Does not Jonathan have a rendezvous with David in the wilderness of Ziph, and does not Jonathan “strengthen his hand in God” and tell him: “. . . and thou shalt be king over Israel . . .”? And does not Saul say once and again in effect: “And now I know that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thy hand.” See I Sam. 24:20; I Sam. 26:25.
And when David interprets this history, this great deliverance in the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of prophecy, he sings of the greater redemption which will come forth from his great Son and Lord, the Christ. Thus through His deliverance he will sit on the Throne and the Christ will come and sit upon the throne of his father David forever.
If such be written before hand for our instruction shall we not heed it and receive those whom Christ has thus mercifully received?
For the reception is no after-thought. It is the promise made to the Fathers, and which is established in Christ’s ministry as the truth of God in all the Scriptures and thus mercy has come to us, the Gentiles.