In chapter fourteen, Paul preaches to the Romans about being accomodating to one another's differences "without passing judgment on disputable matters," instead being careful "not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." He tells them that he is convinced that "no food is unclean in itself but if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean." They should not be overly concerned with others' dietary habits because "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit...anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." This continues in chapter fifteen with his exhortation that those "who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." He prays that God will give them "a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus," and tells them that "Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." "For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God his mercy." He tells thems that he is convinced that they are "full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." He acknowledges that he has "written boldly on some points" and he did so "because of the grace that God gave [him] to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles."
He finishes chapter fifteen by sharing his plan to go to Spain and his hope and intention of visiting them while passing through. At the time, however, he was on his way to Jerusalem "in the service of the Saints there." He urges them to pray for him. In chapter sixteen, he closes with specific greetings to individuals, such as "our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea." He warns them "to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned." He shares with them the greetings of Timothy and three of his (Paul's) relatives, and we learn that Tertius was the scribe who wrote down the letter. He ends with a benediction.
Thoughts, questions, issues
- A wonderful sermon throughout, in this letter Paul lays out the fundamental beliefs of the church. Jesus died on the cross in atonement for our sins, and through his sacrifice, we are all saved for life with God. There's no question why this is such a treasured letter, and why it has pride of place as the first canonical epistle.
- One of the things that I love about this epistle is the closing passage with the individual greetings and the scribal acknowledgement. It bears all of the unmistakeable accents of historical accuracy. And we know that Paul got to Rome in the early 60s AD, within 30-35 years after the crucifixion. This all makes for a compelling counter-argument against the position that the doctrines of Christ as the son of God, salvation through the taking on of sins for mankind and salvation by faith are late additions and corruptions.
The last chapter of the book of Proverbs begins with these "sayings of King Lemuel," and ends with an "Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character." The eight verses attributed to Lemuel are fairly standard proverbial material - "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute" - albeit too short to really make much of. They are clearly presented as things that "his mother taught him."
The Epilogue is as set of sayings on the activities and virtues which mark a wife as being of noble character, and the benefits that accrue to her and her family as a result of those activities and virtues. And, as the book started with the fear of the Lord associated with wisdom, so it ends, as the penultimate verse reads "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."
Sayings of King Lemuel
1 The sayings of King Lemuel—an oracle his mother taught him:
2 "O my son, O son of my womb,
O son of my vows,
3 do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
4 "It is not for kings, O Lemuel—
not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what the law decrees,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;
7 let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."
Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.