The theme of brotherly love in Romans is strong and continues as we read chapter 15. Putting others first, particularly fellow believers, is a practice to remember in context of these verses. When you add the concept of the weak and the strong to this idea, the burden of assistance naturally falls to the strong. There is a sense of community that Is fostered among God’s people here in the first part of the chapter. We should follow the lead of Christ, who, as the strongest, as our advocate, bears the great burden of our sins. He experiences the reproaches due us and does so willingly, lovingly, and with divine intent. Our place, then, is to seek unity, and recognize what a great example we have in Christ in terms of how to treat our brothers and sisters in the faith. Patience and love are the keystones here. Praising and glorifying God as we see the result of following Him will be the natural result.
The message in verses 7- 13 are important to behold in the context of Jesus Christ as a gateway to God for both Jews and Gentiles. For the Jews, Jesus confirms the promises made to the fathers. For the Gentiles, He provides a path to God. Passages from II Samuel, Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah are quoted to illustrate the idea that yes, the salvation offered by Jesus is accessible by the Gentiles. It is likely not a coincidence that the admonition of the strong supporting the weak and living together in peace were placed so closely together with this reminder that God offers redemption to both Jews and Gentiles through Christ. There would have likely been many Jews with contempt for Gentiles. The encouragement, motivation, and inspiration from Christ to give one another leeway in things of little consequence would have went a long way towards establishing the healthy, holy, godly community that God has in mind for His kingdom.
Paul continues on and demonstrates confidence in the Roman Christians. After all of the useful (albeit challenging) guidance, Paul builds them up, supplying them with the compliments and confidence they need to accomplish the goals. The people are full of goodness and knowledge and capable of encouraging each other. Paul takes his responsibility to teach and preach very seriously and he feels compelled to say these things, so that “I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Paul has a duty to the Gentiles. Likewise, he is trying to express to the Jews hearing his message that they also have a duty to the Gentiles, one of patience, tolerance, teaching, and understanding.
Paul’s ministry has the bold and appropriate goal of reaching those people that have not yet been preached Jesus Christ. The chapter is concluded with Paul telling them of his plan to visit them in Rome. He has plans to bring the gospel to Spain and wants to visit them in Rome at that time. Also in this section we have the Biblical precedent of one church’s saints helping another group of believers in need: “For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” Paul describes a very nice transaction with these words. The Jews in Jerusalem were in need, and poor. But they had the knowledge and the ability to educate newly believing Gentiles on the history of God and His interaction with man. In kind, the materially blessed Gentiles were in a position to help the Jews in Jerusalem and both parties benefitted from the relationship, inspired by the love exhibited by Jesus Christ. This example is no doubt just the kind of interaction that God desires among His people of all stripes. It forces us to ask ourselves, how can I follow these examples? How can my family and I be the patient, loving members of God’s kingdom that He would have us to be? It is definitely a matter of effort and of prayer.
Paul, ever the humble servant, concludes this section with requests for prayers on his behalf. These are prayers that his ministry is successful and that he may be able to visit them, eventually.