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Romans 15:31 New International Version

Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there

Did Paul label the Pharisees and others as unbelievers and they were not the Lord's people?

Did this prayer come true?

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  • Could you please clarify how "the unbelievers" are specifically Pharisees and not just those who chose not to accept the teachings of Christ?
    – agarza
    Jul 24 at 15:31
  • I added to clarify. Thanks.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 24 at 15:58
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Did the prayer in Romans 15:31 come true?

Partially. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers says this:

(31) From them that do not believe.—This prayer of the Apostle was, perhaps, it may be said, partially granted. He escaped with his life from his unbelieving countrymen (Acts 23:27), but only to be delivered over to the Romans. He was naturally in fear of the party to which he had himself once belonged, and who would regard him as one of the worst of apostates. But it is to be observed that he expresses no apprehension of the Judaising Christians, as might have been expected if their antagonism had really been as violent as some would make out.

As noted, Acts 23:27 tells us that he did escape the Jews:

This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.

So, where in the time stream are these two events?

The entry of "Paul" in Smith's Bible Dictionary helps us determine the timeing:

Third missionary journey, including the stay at Ephesus. A.D. 54-58. (Acts 18:23; Acts 21:17)--The great epistles which belong to this period, those to the Galatians, Corinthians and Romans

St. Paul's imprisonment: Jerusalem. Spring, A.D. 58. --He who was thus conducted into Jerusalem by a company of anxious friends had become by this time a man of considerable fame among his countrymen . . . The account In the (Acts 21:34-40) tells us with graphic touches how St. Paul obtained leave and opportunity to address the people in a discourse which is related at length.

The voyage to Rome and shipwreck. Autumn, A.D. 60. --No formal trial of St. Paul had yet taken place. After a while arrangements were made to carry "Paul and certain other prisoners," in the custody of a centurion named Julius, into Italy; and amongst the company, whether by favor or from any other reason, we find the historian of the Acts, who in chapters 27 and 28 gives a graphic description of the voyage to Rome and the shipwreck on the Island of Melita or Malta

So the prayer was answered in that Paul did not fall into the hands of the Jews but was instead taken into custody by the Romans.

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The answer to this question depends on our understanding of the verb ἀπειθέω = disobey, be disobedient (BDAG). The word occurs 14 times in the NT. It is never applied to those who have NOT heard the Gospel; it is only applied to:

  • People familiar with the Scripture such as the Jews, Acts 14:2, 19:9, Rom 10:21, 11:30, 31, 15:31, Heb 3:18, 11:31.
  • People who have heard the Gospel message of Jesus but refused to believe, John 3:36, Rom 2:8, 1 Peter 2:8, 3:1, 20, 4:17.

In Rom 15:31, Paul is quite specific about those he intends by the word ἀπειθέω - the unbelieving in Judea, ie, Jews antagonistic to the Gospel.

After writing this letter to the Romans, Paul traveled to Jerusalem and the series of events are recorded by Luke in Acts 21-26. After arriving in Jerusalem, (Acts 21:17), Paul was mobbed by Jews who wanted to kill him (Acts 21:31).

  • Paul was saved from the murderous mob by Roman soldiers saved him (Acts 21:31-36) by being chained and confined to the barracks.
  • Again, the mob tried wanted to kill Paul (Acts 22:22) but was prevented from doing so by Roman soldiers.
  • Yet again, there was a plot to assassinate Paul (Acts 23:12-15) but this was foiled by Paul nephew informing the Roman commander (Acts 23:16-35) who then arranged for Paul to be taken to Caesarea.
  • The Jews tried to arrange for Paul to to be brought back to Jerusalem (Acts 24) by using a paid lawyer at a trial with Felix, but this failed.

There were presumably other attempts by the unbelieving Jews to remove Paul during the two years (Acts 24:27) he was imprisoned under Felix. Later he was tried before Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26) and sent to Rome.

Thus, it appears that Paul's prayer for protection from the Jewish "unbelievers" was answered to the extent that his life was preserved on numerous occasions so that he could preach in Rome (Acts 28).

The Cambridge commentary succinctly observes:

Rom 15:31. that I may be delivered, &c. This prayer was granted, though not in the way expected. See Acts 21:31-32; Acts 23:12-24; Acts 25:2-4; Acts 25:12.—The words here (cp. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2,) are among the many proofs of St Paul’s naturally anxious and sensitive character, and that his faith and zeal had always this secret obstacle to struggle with. His life-long victory is the more admirable, and the more illustrates Divine grace.

APPENDIX - Cause of Antagonism

Barnes makes an interesting observation as to the cause of the Jews' antagonism to Paul in his comments in Rom 15:31 -

That I may be ... - The unbelieving Jews in Judea had been opposed to Paul's conversion. They could not forget that he had borne letters of commission from them to persecute the Christians at Damascus. They regarded him as an apostate. They had heard of his success among the Gentiles; and they had been informed that he "taught all the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake the laws of Moses;" Acts 21:21. Hence, the apostle could not but be aware that in returning to Judea, he exposed himself to special dangers. His fears, as the result showed, were well founded. They evinced all the opposition to him which he had ever anticipated; Acts 21.

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Romans 15:31

Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there

Did Paul label the Pharisees and others as unbelievers and they were not the Lord's people?

In that context, yes. In another context, no.

Acts 23:6Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. It is because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”

Paul calls himself a Pharisee and he is a believer.

Did this prayer come true?

The second part of the prayer definitely came true. As for the first part, Paul has only prayed according to the promises of Jesus to him.

Acts 26:15 ‘Who are You, Lord?’ I asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16‘But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen from Me and what I will show you. 17I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles.

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