The apostle here returns to his exhortation to Christians. What he says here (Rom. 15:7) is to the same purport with the former; but the repetition shows how much the apostle’s heart was upon it. “Receive one another into your affection, into your communion, and into your common conversation, as there is occasion.” He had exhorted the strong to receive the weak (Rom. 14:1), here, Receive one another; for sometimes the prejudices of the weak Christian make him shy of the strong, as much as the pride of the strong Christian makes him shy of the weak, neither of which ought to be. Let there be a mutual embracing among Christians. Those that have received Christ by faith must receive all Christians by brotherly love; though poor in the world, though persecuted and despised, though it may be matter of reproach and danger to you to receive them, though in the less weighty matters of the law they are of different apprehensions, though there may have been occasion for private piques, yet, laying aside these and the like considerations, receive you one another. Now the reason why Christians must receive one another is taken, as before, from the condescending love of Christ to us: As Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Can there be a more cogent argument? Has Christ been so kind to us, and shall we be so unkind to those that are his? Was he so forward to entertain us, and shall we be backward to entertain our brethren? Christ has received us into the nearest and dearest relations to himself: has received us into his fold, into his family, into the adoption of sons, into a covenant of friendship, yea, into a marriage-covenant with himself; he has received us (though we were strangers and enemies, and had played the prodigal) into fellowship and communion with himself. Those words, to the glory of God, may refer both to Christ’s receiving us, which is our pattern, and to our receiving one another, which is our practice according to that pattern.
I. Christ hath received us to the glory of God. The end of our reception by Christ is that we might glorify God in this world, and be glorified with him in that to come. It was the glory of God, and our glory in the enjoyment of God, that Christ had in his eye when he condescended to receive us. We are called to an eternal glory by Christ Jesus, John 17:24. See to what he received us-to a happiness transcending all comprehension; see for what he received us—for his Father’s glory; he had this in his eye in all the instances of his favour to us.
II. We must receive one another to the glory of God. This must be our great end in all our actions, that God may be glorified; and nothing more conduces to this than the mutual love and kindness of those that profess religion; compare Rom. 15:6; That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God. That which was a bone of contention among them was a different apprehension about meats and drinks, which took rise in distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Now, to prevent and make up this different, he shows how Jesus Christ has received both Jews and Gentiles; in him they are both one, one new man, Eph. 2:14-16. Now it is a rule, Quae conveniunt in aliquo tertio, inter se conveniunt—Things which agree with a third thing agree with each other. Those that agree in Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, and the great centre of unity, may well afford to agree among themselves. This coalescence of the Jews and Gentiles in Christ and Christianity was a thing that filled and affected Paul so much that he could not mention it without some enlargement and illustration.
1. He received the Jews, Rom. 15:8. Let not any think hardly or scornfully therefore of those that were originally Jews, and still, through weakness, retain some savour of their old Judaism; for, (1.) Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision. That he was a minister, diakonos—a servant, bespeaks his great and exemplary condescension, and puts an honour upon the ministry: but that he was a minister of the circumcision, was himself circumcised and made under the law, and did in his own person preach the gospel to the Jews, who were of the circumcision—this makes the nation of the Jews more considerable than otherwise they appear to be. Christ conversed with the Jews, blessed them, looked upon himself as primarily sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, laid hold of the seed of Abraham (Heb. 2:16; margin), and by them, as it were, caught at the whole body of mankind. Christ’s personal ministry was appropriated to them, though the apostles had their commission enlarged. (2.) He was so for the truth of God. That which he preached to them was the truth; for he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, John 18:37. And he is himself the truth, John 14:6. Or, for the truth of God, that is, to make good the promises given to the patriarchs concerning the special mercy God had in store for their seed. It was not for the merit of the Jews, but for the truth of God, that they were thus distinguished—that God might approve himself true to this word which he had spoken.—To confirm the promises made unto the fathers. The best confirmation of promises is the performance of them. It was promised that in the seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth should be blessed, that Shiloh should come from between the feet of Judah, that out of Israel should he proceed that should have the dominion, that out of Zion should go forth the law, and many the like. There were many intermediate providences which seemed to weaken those promises, providences which threatened the fatal decay of that people; but when Messiah the Prince appeared in the fulness of time, as a minister of the circumcision, all these promises were confirmed, and the truth of them was made to appear; for in Christ all the promises of God, both those of the Old Testament and those of the New, are Yea, and in him Amen. Understanding by the promises made to the fathers the whole covenant of grace, darkly administered under the Old Testament, and brought to a clearer light now under the gospel, it was Christ’s great errand to confirm that covenant, Dan. 9:27. He confirmed it by shedding the blood of the covenant.
2. He received the Gentiles likewise. This he shows, Rom. 15:9-12.
(1.) Observe Christ’s favour to the Gentiles, in taking them in to praise God—the work of the church on earth and the wages of that in heaven. One design of Christ was that the Gentiles likewise might be converted that they might be one with the Jews in Christ’s mystical body. A good reason why they should not think the worse of any Christian for his having been formerly a Gentile; for Christ has received him. He invites the Gentiles, and welcomes them. Now observe how their conversion is here expressed: That the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. A periphrasis of conversion. [1.] They shall have matter for praise, even the mercy of God. Considering the miserable and deplorable condition that the Gentile world was in, the receiving of them appears more as an act of mercy than the receiving of the Jews. Those that were Lo-ammi—not a people, were Lo-ruhama—not obtaining mercy, Hos. 1:6, 9; 2:23. The greatest mercy of God to any people is the receiving of them into covenant with himself: and it is good to take notice of God’s mercy in receiving us. [2.] They shall have a heart for praise. They shall glorify God for his mercy. Unconverted sinners do nothing to glorify God; but converting grace works in the soul a disposition to speak and do all to the glory of God; God intended to reap a harvest of glory from the Gentiles, who had been so long turning his glory into shame.
(2.) The fulfilling of the scriptures in this. The favour of God to the Gentiles was not only mercy, but truth. Though there were not promises directly given to them, as to the fathers of the Jews, yet there were many prophesies concerning them, which related to the calling of them, and the embodying of them in the church, some of which he mentions because it was a thing that the Jews were hardly persuaded to believe. Thus, by referring them to the Old Testament, he labours to qualify their dislike of the Gentiles, and so to reconcile the parties at variance. [1.] It was foretold that the Gentiles should have the gospel preached to them: “I will confess to thee among the Gentiles (Rom. 15:9), that is, thy name shall be known and owned in the Gentile world, there shall gospel grace and love be celebrated.” This is quoted from Ps. 18:49; I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen. A thankful explication and commemoration of the name of God are an excellent means of drawing others to know and praise God. Christ, in and by his apostles and ministers, whom he sent to disciple all nations, did confess to God among the Gentiles. The exaltation of Christ, as well as the conversion of sinners, is set forth by the praising of God. Christ’s declaring God’s name to his brethren is called his praising God in the midst of the congregation, Ps. 22:22. Taking these words as spoken by David, they were spoken when he was old and dying, and he was not likely to confess to God among the Gentiles; but when David’s psalms are read and sung among the Gentiles, to the praise and glory of God, it may be said that David is confessing to God among the Gentiles, and singing to his name. He that was the sweet psalmist of the Gentiles. Converting grace makes people greatly in love with David’s psalms. Taking them as spoken by Christ, the Son of David, it may be understood of his spiritual indwelling by faith in the hearts of all the praising saints. If any confess to God among the Gentiles, and sing to his name, it is not they, but Christ and his grace in them. I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; so, I praise, yet not I, but Christ in me. [2.] That the Gentiles should rejoice with his people, Rom. 15:10. This is quoted from that song of Moses, Deut. 32:43. Observe, Those who were incorporated among his people are said to rejoice with his people. No greater joy can come to any people than the coming of the gospel among them in power. Those Jews that retain a prejudice against the Gentiles will by no means admit them to any of their joyful festivities; for (say they) a stranger intermeddleth not with the joy, Prov. 14:10. But, the partition-wall being taken down, the Gentiles are welcome to rejoice with his people. Being brought into the church, they share in its sufferings, are companions in patience and tribulation, to recompense which they share in the joy. [3.] That they should praise God (Rom. 15:11): Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles. This is quoted out of that short psalm, Ps. 117:1. Converting grace sets people a praising God, furnishes with the richest matter for praise, and gives a heart to it. The Gentiles had been, for many ages, praising their idols of wood and stone, but now they are brought to praise the Lord; and this David in spirit speaks of. In calling upon all the nations to praise the Lord, it is intimated that they shall have the knowledge of him. [4.] That they should believe in Christ (Rom. 15:12), quoted from Isa. 11:10; where observe, First, The revelation of Christ, as the Gentiles’ king. He is here called the root of Jesse, that is, such a branch from the family of David as is the very life and strength of the family: compare Isa. 11:1. Christ was David’s Lord, and yet withal he was the Son of David (Matt. 22:45), for he was the root and offspring of David, Rev. 22:16. Christ, as God, was David’s root; Christ, as man, was David’s offspring.—And he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles. This explains the figurative expression of the prophet, he shall stand for an ensign of the people. When Christ rose from the dead, when he ascended on high, it was to reign over the Gentiles. Secondly, The recourse of the Gentiles to him: In him shall the Gentiles trust. Faith is the soul’s confidence in Christ and dependence on him. The prophet has it, to him shall the Gentiles seek. The method of faith is first to seek unto Christ, as to one proposed to us for a Saviour; and, finding him able and willing to save, then to trust in him. Those that know him will trust in him. Or, this seeking to him is the effect of a trust in him; seeking him by prayer, and pursuant endeavours. We shall never seek to Christ till we trust in him. Trust is the mother; diligence in the use of means the daughter. Jews and Gentiles being thus united in Christ’s love, why should they not be united in one another’s love?