To the Romans 15:1-33
be perfected into one: Or “be completely unified.” In this verse, Jesus connects perfect unity with being loved by the Father. This is in harmony with Col 3:14, which says: “Love . . . is a perfect bond of union.” This perfect unity is relative. It does not mean that all differences of personality, such as individual abilities, habits, and conscience, are eliminated. It does mean that Jesus’ followers are unified in action, belief, and teaching.—Ro 15:5, 6; 1Co 1:10; Eph 4:3; Php 1:27.
unitedly . . . with one voice: Lit., “like-mindedly [of one mind] . . . with one mouth.” Just as Jesus prayed for his followers to be united, Paul prayed for his fellow believers to be united in thought and action. (Joh 17:20-23; see study note on Joh 17:23.) In this verse, Paul uses two terms to emphasize this unity. The word rendered “unitedly” is used several times in the book of Acts to describe the remarkable unity among early Christians. (Ac 1:14, “with one purpose”; 2:46, “with a united purpose”; 4:24, “with one accord”; 15:25, “unanimous”) The expression rendered “one voice” shows Paul’s desire that the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Rome congregation join their voices to glorify God harmoniously.
welcome: Or “accept; receive.” The Greek word used here conveys the idea of receiving someone kindly or hospitably, such as into one’s home or circle of friends. The same word can be rendered “receive . . . kindly” (Phm 17; Ac 28:2) or “took . . . into their company” (Ac 18:26).
minister: Or “servant.” The Bible often uses the Greek word di·aʹko·nos to refer to one who does not let up in humbly rendering service in behalf of others. The term is used to describe Christ (Ro 15:8), ministers or servants of Christ (1Co 3:5-7; Col 1:23), ministerial servants (Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:8), as well as household servants (Joh 2:5, 9) and government officials (Ro 13:4).
a minister: Or “a servant.” In the Bible, the Greek word di·aʹko·nos is often used to refer to those who humbly render service in behalf of others. (See study note on Mt 20:26.) Here the term is used to describe Christ. In his prehuman existence, Jesus served Jehovah for untold ages. However, at his baptism, he entered a new ministry, which involved filling the spiritual needs of sinful humans. It even included giving his life as a ransom. (Mt 20:28; Lu 4:16-21) Jesus is here described as a minister to the circumcised Jews in behalf of God’s truthfulness because his ministry involved fulfilling the promises God had made to the Jewish forefathers. This included the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed by means of his offspring. (Ge 22:17, 18) Therefore, Jesus’ ministry would also benefit people of the nations who would “rest their hope” on him.—Ro 15:9-12.
just as it is written: Paul often used this phrase (Greek, ka·thosʹ geʹgra·ptai, form of graʹpho, “to write”) to introduce quotes from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. (Ro 2:24; 3:10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:26; 15:3, 9, 21; 1Co 1:31; 2:9; 2Co 8:15) In his letter to the Romans, Paul quoted more than 50 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and made numerous other references or allusions to them.
Just as it is written: In this context (Ro 15:9-12), Paul quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures four times, showing that Jehovah had long foretold that people of all nations would praise Him. Therefore, along with the Jews, Gentiles benefit from Christ’s ministry. This reasoning supports Paul’s admonition to the international congregation of Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome to “welcome one another.”—Ro 15:7; see study note on Ro 1:17.
among the nations: Paul is apparently partially quoting Ps 18:49, where the Hebrew text reads: “I will glorify you among the nations, O Jehovah.” (2Sa 22:50 reads similarly.) The main text reading of Ro 15:9 has strong manuscript support, but a few manuscripts read “among the nations, O Lord.” According to existing copies of the Septuagint, some later copyists apparently expanded the quotation at Ro 15:9 to include the complete text as it appears at Ps 18:49 (17:50, LXX) and 2Sa 22:50.
Jehovah: In this quote from Ps 117:1, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.—See App. A5 and C.
the root of Jesse: Paul uses this quote about “nations” who would “rest their hope” on “the root of Jesse” to show that people of the nations would have a place in the Christian congregation. Jesse was the father of David. (Ru 4:17, 22; 1Sa 16:5-13) The apostle Paul here quotes from the Septuagint rendering of Isa 11:10, where it was foretold that the coming Messiah would be called “the root of Jesse.” (Compare Re 5:5, where Jesus is called “the root of David”; see also Re 22:16.) A root of a tree or of a plant normally comes before the trunk or the branches. So it might seem more logical that Jesse (or his son David) would be spoken of as the root from which Jesus would eventually come, since the Messiah was a descendant, not an ancestor, of Jesse (or David). (Mt 1:1, 6, 16) However, there are other Bible passages that support the idea that Jesus is the root of Jesse. Since Jesus is immortal, it is by means of him that Jesse’s genealogical line stays alive. (Ro 6:9) Jesus has been empowered as Judge and heavenly King, which bears on his relationship even with his ancestors. (Lu 1:32, 33; 19:12, 15; 1Co 15:25) David prophetically called Jesus his Lord. (Ps 110:1; Ac 2:34-36) Finally, during the coming Millennium, the life-giving benefits of Jesus’ ransom will extend also to Jesse, whose life on earth then will depend on Jesus. At that time, Jesus will serve as “Eternal Father” to Jesse and David.—Isa 9:6.
set apart: The Greek word a·pho·riʹzo, “to separate,” is here used in the sense of selecting or appointing a person for a specific purpose. In this case, Paul refers to his assignment to declare God’s good news, the message about God’s Kingdom and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. (Lu 4:18, 43; Ac 5:42; Re 14:6) In the book of Romans, Paul also uses the expressions “the good news about his [God’s] Son” (Ro 1:9), “the good news of God” (Ro 15:16), and “the good news about the Christ” (Ro 15:19).
to whom I render sacred service: Or “whom I serve (worship).” The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically describes the act of serving. As used in the Scriptures, it refers to serving God or performing an action in connection with the worship of God. (Mt 4:10; Lu 2:37; 4:8; Ac 7:7; Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; 12:28; Re 7:15; 22:3) Paul here connects his sacred service with the good news about [God’s] Son. So when disciples of Jesus preach this good news, it constitutes sacred service, that is, an act of worship to Jehovah God.
a public servant: The Greek word lei·tour·gosʹ is derived from the words la·osʹ, “people,” and erʹgon, “work.” The word was originally used by the ancient Greeks to refer to a person performing work or service under the civil authorities, usually at personal expense, for the benefit of the people. There was a similar arrangement under the Romans. As used in the Bible, the term usually refers to one who is serving in sacred office. The related term lei·tour·giʹa is frequently used in the Septuagint to refer to “duties” (Nu 7:5) and “service” (Nu 4:28; 1Ch 6:32 [6:17, LXX]) carried out by the priests at the tabernacle and at Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Here Paul uses the term lei·tour·gosʹ with regard to himself, “an apostle to the [Gentile] nations” who proclaimed the good news of God. (Ro 11:13) This preaching would be of great benefit to the public, particularly to people of the nations.
engaging in the holy work: The Greek verb hi·e·rour·geʹo occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures and denotes being involved in a sacred work or duty. “The holy work” that Paul engaged in was in connection with proclaiming the good news of God, the Christian message to people of all nations. (See study notes on Ro 1:1; 1:9.) By using this term, Paul showed that he appreciated the sacred and serious nature of that work. The expression Paul uses is related to the verb rendered “serving as priest” (hi·e·ra·teuʹo) at Lu 1:8 and to the term for “temple” (hi·e·ronʹ) used at Mt 4:5 and in many other verses. Perhaps because of this connection, Paul alludes to the sacrifices offered by priests at the temple when he compares those nations who accepted the message to an offering made to God. That offering was approved by God and blessed with his spirit.—Ro 1:1, 16.
wonders: Or “portents.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word teʹras is consistently used in combination with se·meiʹon (“sign”), both terms being used in the plural form. (Mt 24:24; Joh 4:48; Ac 7:36; 14:3; 15:12; 2Co 12:12) Basically, teʹras refers to anything that causes awe or wonderment. When the term clearly refers to something portending what will happen in the future, the alternate rendering “portent” is used in a study note.
wonders: Or “portents.”—See study note on Ac 2:19.
God’s spirit: Some ancient manuscripts read “holy spirit” or simply “the spirit,” but the main text reading chosen here has strong manuscript support.
in a circuit as far as Illyricum: Illyricum was a Roman province and region named for the Illyrian tribes living there. It was located in the NW part of the Balkan Peninsula along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. (See App. B13.) The borders and divisions of the province varied greatly throughout the Roman rule. It is uncertain whether the original Greek term rendered “as far as” means that Paul actually preached in Illyricum or merely up to it.
untouched territory: Paul was intensely interested in expanding the evangelizing work. He greatly desired to preach in areas where the good news had not yet reached. (Compare 2Co 10:15, 16.) In the following verse, Paul expresses his intention to extend his missionary work W, toward Spain. Paul wrote these words near the end of his third missionary tour, at the beginning of 56 C.E.
Spain: Paul mentions Spain twice in his letter to the Romans, here and at Ro 15:28. Whether Paul ever reached Spain is not certain. However, Clement of Rome stated (c. 95 C.E.) that Paul came “to the extreme limit of the W[est],” which may have included Spain. If Paul reached Spain, his visit probably occurred between his release from his first imprisonment in Rome (c. 61 C.E.) and his second imprisonment there (c. 65 C.E.). At that time, Spain was under Roman rule. In this land that Paul apparently viewed as “untouched territory,” Latin was more widely spoken than Greek.—Ro 15:23.
Achaia: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, Achaia refers to the Roman province of southern Greece with its capital at Corinth. In 27 B.C.E., when Caesar Augustus reorganized the two provinces of Greece, Macedonia and Achaia, the name Achaia applied to all of Peloponnese and to part of continental Greece. The province of Achaia was under the administration of the Roman Senate and was ruled through a proconsul from its capital, Corinth. (2Co 1:1) Other cities of the province of Achaia mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures were Athens and Cenchreae. (Ac 18:1, 18; Ro 16:1) Achaia and Macedonia, its neighboring province to the N, were often mentioned together.—Ac 19:21; Ro 15:26; 1Th 1:7, 8; see App. B13.
Macedonia: See Glossary.
Achaia: See study note on Ac 18:12.
I am a debtor: Or “I owe a debt; I am under obligation.” In the Scriptures, the Greek word for “debtor” and other terms related to being in debt refer not only to financial debts but also to obligations or duties in general. At Joh 13:14 (see study note), “should” is rendered from a Greek verb that means “to be in debt; to be under obligation.” Paul here indicates that he owed a debt to each person he met, a debt that he could repay only by sharing the good news with that person. (Ro 1:15) Paul was so deeply grateful for the mercy he had been shown that he felt compelled to help others benefit from the undeserved kindness of God. (1Ti 1:12-16) In effect, he was saying: ‘What God has done for mankind and for me personally obligates me to preach the good news eagerly to everyone.’
they were debtors: Or “they were indebted; they owed it; they were under obligation.” In the Scriptures, the Greek word for “debtor” and other terms related to being in debt refer not only to financial debts but also to obligations or duties in general. (See study note on Ro 1:14.) Paul’s point here is that Gentile believers were in debt to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem because of having benefited from them spiritually. Therefore, it was only proper that they assist their poor Jewish brothers materially.—Ro 15:26.
contribution: Lit., “fruit.” Here the word “fruit” is used in the sense of “result; outcome; product” and apparently refers to the money that had been collected for the brothers in Jerusalem.
relief: Or “a relief ministration.” This is the first recorded instance of Christians sending relief aid to fellow Christians living in another part of the world. The Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa, often rendered “ministry,” is also used in the sense of “relief work” at Ac 12:25 and “relief ministry” at 2Co 8:4. The use of the Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa in the Christian Greek Scriptures shows that Christians have a twofold ministry. One aspect is “the ministry [form of di·a·ko·niʹa] of the reconciliation,” that is, the preaching and teaching work. (2Co 5:18-20; 1Ti 2:3-6) The other aspect involves their ministry in behalf of fellow believers, as mentioned here. Paul stated: “There are different ministries [plural of di·a·ko·niʹa], and yet there is the same Lord.” (1Co 12:4-6, 11) He showed that these different aspects of the Christian ministry all constitute “sacred service.”—Ro 12:1, 6-8.
my ministry: The Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa, often rendered “ministry,” is here used in the sense of “relief work (or, ministry),” as at Ac 11:29; 12:25; 2Co 8:4; 9:13. The congregations in Macedonia and Achaia had shared in a “relief ministry,” gathering together a contribution for Paul to take to the needy brothers in Judea. (2Co 8:1-4; 9:1, 2, 11-13) Instead of di·a·ko·niʹa, a few ancient manuscripts use the word do·ro·pho·riʹa (bringing of a gift) here. Some suggest that this was the result of a scribe’s attempt to explain what kind of “ministry” Paul was referring to.—See study note on Ac 11:29.
The book of Acts records many of Paul’s earlier travels, including three missionary tours and his journey to Rome from Caesarea. However, Paul’s letters provide clues about his travels after his first imprisonment in Rome (that is, after c. 61 C.E.), information not recorded in Acts. For example, Paul wrote about his plans to “journey to Spain,” though it is not clear whether he was able to fulfill this desire before his second imprisonment (c. 65 C.E.). (Ro 15:24) During his first confinement in Rome, Paul wrote that he wanted to return to Philippi and also to visit Colossae. (Php 2:24; Phm 22; compare Col 4:9.) In letters to Titus and to Timothy, written after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, Paul provides other details about his travels. He could have been in Ephesus with Timothy during this period. (1Ti 1:3) Tit 3:12 shows that Paul decided to spend the winter in Nicopolis. This map shows some of the locations that Paul may have visited.
1. Spain—Ro 15:24 (after c. 61 C.E.)
2. Crete—Tit 1:5 (c. 61-64 C.E.)
3. Miletus—2Ti 4:20 (before c. 65 C.E.)
4. Colossae—Phm 22 (Compare Col 4:9 with Phm 10-12.) (after 61 C.E.)
5. Ephesus—1Ti 1:3 (c. 61-64 C.E.)
6. Troas—2Ti 4:13 (before c. 65 C.E.)
7. Philippi—Php 2:24 (after 61 C.E.)
8. Macedonia—1Ti 1:3 (c. 61-64 C.E.)
9. Nicopolis—Tit 3:12 (Paul was possibly arrested in Nicopolis c. 64 or 65 C.E.)
10. Rome—2Ti 1:17 (Paul’s second imprisonment, likely 65 C.E.)
Years in parentheses mean sometime during this period