The first few verses of this chapter conclude the sub-section of 14:1-15:3, and continue with several summary statements.
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
The "strong" in this context includes Paul as this includes both Jew and gentile in Yeshua. (Though his instruction is directed toward gentiles within this sub-group.) Paul's instruction is to "bear the infirmities of the weak" and "to please his neighbor," for the purpose of "edification."
Again, note that it is the "strong" (the gentiles he is addressing), who have the responsibility, as part of their faith, to understand and respect the halakha of the Jews, even to the extent of modifying their own behavior as to not offend them as this may permanently drive them away from Yeshua, and even inadvertently blaspheme God. (See notes to Romans 14:16.)
The term "edification," is oikodomee in the Greek, and has to do with the "act of building." This is consistent with Paul's message here and in his other letters (i.e., Ephesians) where he is concerned with the Jewish and gentile followers of Yeshua, coming together as "stones" that build up the body of Messiah.
Note that Paul refers to the "weak" as the "neighbor" to the strong, establishing a link back to Romans 13:9-10.
3 For even Messiah pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
The model for gentile believers to follow is Messiah Himself, who did not exercise His rights, serving others instead so they would be built up. The "ability" of the "strong" carries with it an obligation. Gentiles are not to to "slaves of sin" (asserting their "right" to act any way they want within their faith), but are to be "slaves of righteousness" who are able to please their "neighbor" (the Synagogue Jew), by observing dietary lawas, thereby building them up.
In this way, these Jews (the "weak"), will see the grace of God that has come to the gentiles through Yeshua, giving validity (in their eyes) to Paul's ministry, resulting in more of them coming to faith. (Refer to Romans 11:11-13 where Paul's desire to "provoke" these Jews to jealousy is tied directly to "magnifying his office.")
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
The "things written aforetime for our learning" is the Tenakh (the "Old Testament"), which was the only "Bible" at the time the letter of Romans was written.
Paul's comment resembles that which he made in his letter to Timothy, where he instructed him that the Scriptures were all Timothy needed for his faith. Thus, the entirety of faith in Yeshua in Messiah is based in the Tenakh. The Tenakh was all the disciples used to preach Yeshua from. When Paul praised the Bereans (Acts 17:11), for checking the Scriptures to see if what he taught about Yeshua was true, it was the Tenakh they were looking at.
When Yeshua, Paul or any of the other "New Testament" writers, speak of "the Word of God," it is the Tenakh they refer to. When both Paul and James said we are to be "both hearers and doers of the Word," they meant we are all to learn God's Torah from the Tenakh, and make it part of our lives. When John wrote (1 John 2:2-4) that that those claiming to be of the faith yet not following his "commandments" were liars, he meant those who did not follow the Torah.
Another way to consider this is as follows. If any first century gentile heard Paul preach about Yeshua, and asked the apostle, "What am I to learn and do, now that I want to follow the Messiah?", that gentile would have been told to attend the Sabbath services at the local synagogue as this was the only place he would hear the Scriptures taught (i.e., Acts 15:21). There was no "New Testament" written yet -- Paul did not have any "What Would Jesus Do?" booklets to hand out. Faith in Yeshua remained the faith of Israel with its Torah. Gentiles were now welcome to be part of this with it (Torah) ordinances (Ephesians 10:10-13), not some new Torah-less faith.
It is ta strange twist of history, that today, when someone comes to "Jesus," their entire faith is based not on the Tenakh, but on some interpretation of the "New Testament" which typically stands in opposition to what the Tenakh teaches. (i.e., We no longer follow the faith of Israel and God's Torah, but a replacement faith not grounded in Torah.) How many churches actually hand out paperback "New Testaments" (without the Tenakh), to "new believers?" The cart is continually placed in front of the horse.
The book of Romans and the rest of the books of the "New Testament" were never meant to be read outside of the context of a Hebrew understanding of the Tenakh. (See, Not Subject to the Law of God? in the YashaNet Library.)
The Shema is the foundation behind the verses in this section. Gentiles are to learn from the Hebrews Scriptures the instruction needed so they could be of "like mind in Yeshua," worshipping God with the faithful of Israel in one voice. (Re: 4:1-25)
This portion is really the climax of the entire letter. Paul's vision is for a body of unified Jews and gentiles that fulfills the eschatalogical promises of Scripture.
8 Now I say that Yeshua the Messiah was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
In these sumamry verses, Paul defines how Yeshua establishes Torah and is its goal. Yeshua has become a servant to the gentiles and so must the "strong" (i.e., gentile believers, see 12:1-4, 15:1-3.)
Again, key to understanding these verses is Paul's view of the Shema. Paul illustrates from scripture that the eschatalogical expectation of gentiles worshipping in the midst of Israel had begun. God is to be the One God of the Jew (first) and also the gentile (i.e., Romans 1:16).
The theme in these verses is one of (gentile) obedience. Paul preaches a gospel that is to result in the obedience of faith. We see a further appeal to oneness in Yeshua and Torah. Paul mentions his bold reminder again, so his offerings of the gentiles may be acceptable and sanctified, and he again speaks (boasts) of obedience of the gentiles as a result of his proclaiming of the Gospel (echoing 1:5).
16 That I should be the minister of Yeshua the Messiah to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Yeshua the Messiah in those things which pertain to God.
18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Messiah hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed.
Paul reiterates his opening statement from chapter 1, that his mission to the gentiles is one of teaching them "obedience." The reference to "word and deed" in verse 18, is the same as taught by Paul, earlier in this letter and also by "James" (Jacob!) in his espistle -- We are to be both hearers and doers of the Torah.
What will make the gentiles "acceptable" is a humble faith that looks to the higher purpose of God, particularly with regard to Israel.
20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Messiah was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
This is an interesting sequence of verses. In verses 20 and 21 Paul states how his mission has been to "preach the gospel" in various places. In verse 22, he says this has also been his plan for those in Rome -- yet these are already "believers." Why would they need to hear "the Gospel?"
Clearly, something has been "missing" from what they are practicing -- that being a proper Torah-based foundation, as the Roman congregation seems to not have ben founded by one of Yeshua's direct disciples, but rather came up on its own, following the events of Acts, chapter 2.
Paul clarifies his desire in verse 29, below.
29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Messiah.
The "fulness of the blessing of the Gospel" is the key term. Although the congregation knows of Yeshua, they do not have the "entirety" of what they need -- that being the complete message of the relationship of their faith to the destiny of Israel.
It is interesting how many lessons are taught in Christianity, that are based from Romans. The book of Romans is considered by many to be the doctrinal bastion of the Christian faith. The message for Christians is taught primarily out of chapters 1 through 8. Rarely if ever, does one hear a sermon preached on the themes found in chapters 9 through 11, or one on any part of Romans as interpreted in the context of chapters 9-11.
The "fulness" of the gospel has been lost and replaced by something alien to Paul, Yeshua, and the faith of Israel.
RETURN TO THE ROMANS INDEX