Paul spent the bulk of his third missionary journey in Ephesus. There he announced that after delivering the contribution for the saints in Jerusalem, “I must see Rome as well!” (Acts 19:21). After leaving Ephesus, Paul spent three months in the area around Corinth and composed the Epistle to the Romans (Acts 20:1-3). Paul’s thesis that both Jews and Gentiles should humbly receive the righteousness of God by faith in Christ alone surfaces in the final two chapters of the letter. What Paul hoped his letter would do for the church in Rome, he planned to do personally for the church in Jerusalem by taking a financial gift from Gentile churches in the Mediterranean world to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Paul intended their gifts to win the acceptance of the Jewish Christians and build a bridge across ethnic barriers for the gospel.
In Paul’s mind, even this had theological underpinnings. In Rom 15:27, he noted that the Gentiles were spiritually indebted to the Jews so sharing financial blessings with their Jewish brothers in Jerusalem was the right course of action. Paul portrayed his third missionary journey and the collection as the conduit for spiritual harmony in the Jerusalem church. From the Romans, Paul needed not money but prayer that he would be rescued from any opposition in Jerusalem (Rom 15:30-32). Paul’s generous, unifying ministry was not well received by non-Christian Jews that formed the majority populace in the temple when Paul arrived there (Acts 21:15-36), setting in motion a series of events that would lead him to visit Rome as a prisoner (Acts 28:11-31). The storyline of Scripture compelled Paul to unify Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
(1) In Rom 15:3, Paul quoted Ps 69:9 to illustrate Jesus’ endurance for the church and to call his audience to follow Jesus’ example. In Psalm 69, David cried for the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. Paul cited Ps 69:22-23 in Rom 11:9-10 to describe the hardened state of Israel. Paul returned to Psalm 69 in Rom 15:3. The psalmist proclaimed that he was suffering because of devotion to God, even acting as a substitute for God by taking upon himself the insults that the unfaithful hurled toward the Lord (Ps 69:9). Paul’s point with Ps 69:9 was that Jesus did not please Himself. Since Christ demonstrated such unselfishness, those who follow Him should do the same. This was the thrust of Paul’s prayer in Rom 15:5-7, which says, “Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice. Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.”
(2) In Rom 15:9-12, Paul quoted from the various genres of the Old Testament to establish that God intended Gentiles to praise Him along with Jews in Christ. Paul wished for the Jews in his hearing to take up the theme of David’s psalm of praise in 2 Sam 22:50. Near the end of David’s life, the king looked back at God’s faithfulness and said, “I will praise You, LORD, among the nations; I will sing about Your name.” In Rom 15:8-9, Paul used David’s phrase to exhort the Jews in his audience to recognize their fulfillment in Christ and testify of God’s greatness with their Gentile brothers. In Rom 15:10, Paul cited Deut 32:43, which says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people!” Moses indicted Israel’s rebellion and prophesied of a day when God would save them from their enemies. Moses proclaimed that the nations who respected Israel would likewise rejoice in God’s salvation. Paul employed Moses’ words to call the Gentiles to rejoice in God with their Jewish brothers. In Rom 15:11, Paul cited Ps 117:1, writing, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; all the peoples should praise Him!” The second, and final, verse of the Psalm, “For great is His faithful love to us,” functions as an explanatory clause for the command in the first line of Ps 117:1. Paul employed Psalm 117 to urge the Gentiles to rejoice in God because of His faithfulness to Israel. Paul wished for the Gentiles in Rome to humble themselves before their Jewish brothers, recognizing that their place in Christ was due to God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promise to send the Messiah to Israel. In Rom 15:12, Paul called his readers to consider Isa 11:10, writing, “The root of Jesse will appear, the One who rises to rule the Gentiles; in Him the Gentiles will hope.” In Isa 11:1-10, the prophet argued that despite the current rise of Assyria, the Lord would one day send His people a leader who would resemble David and rule in justice. Because of God’s faithfulness to His promises to Israel, the Gentiles could find hope in God.
(3) In Rom 15:21, Paul quoted Isa 52:15 to express his motivation to take the gospel to peoples who had never heard it. In Isa 52:13-15, Isaiah prophesied that when the Lord’s wise and exalted servant appeared, kings and nations would understand with certainty that he was from the Lord. Isaiah’s language accentuated the degree to which those who received the Lord’s servant would recognize him as one sent from God—even if they had no prior knowledge of his coming. So, when Paul presented the state of his current ministry and plans to take the gospel where Christ had not been named (Rom 15:14-33), Isa 52:15 illustrated his missions strategy.