What Does Romans 15:13 Mean?
This verse, which is both a blessing and a prayer, is often used at the close of a Christian service, but before we take a closer look at the meaning of Romans 15:13, let’s consider who wrote this text.
Who wrote Romans 15:13?
Saint Paul wrote this letter to the Christian community of Rome when he was staying in Corinth, in Greece, in the year 57 A.D. Paul hoped to visit Rome for the first time on his way to Spain.
What is the meaning of Romans 15:13?
‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him, so that you may overflow
with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ NIV
The verse begins with that wonderful phrase ‘the God of hope’. Faith in God is hope and the hope that God provides is not some wishy washy, fingers crossed, vague wishing, but rock solid assurance. Faith is hope and from divine hope flows divine joy and peace. The joy of faith is not some fleeting happiness like the opening of a present; it is immersion in a spiritual joy which adversity cannot taint. Likewise, the peace of God is not a doze on the beach, it is a perfect tranquility. All of this will be given to those who ‘trust in him’. Paul offers up this ecstatic prayer and blessing to the Christians of Rome and to us, so that we may ‘overflow’ with ‘hope’. Not just ‘filled’ with hope but ‘overflowing’, an image that seeks to convey the ‘power of the Holy Spirit’. These words from Saint Paul enact the very joy of which they speak.
Romans 15:13 King James Version
‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that ye may abound in hope,
through the power of the Holy Ghost.’
In the four hundred years since it was written The King James version of the bible has been the most widely read bible in the world and is the source of all modern versions. Its rolling rhythms and majestic language have, through the generations, found their way into the language we speak. The problem, for the modern reader, is that it is written in the English of 1611 and the word order and some of the words themselves are now confusing to us. The language of this verse, however, presents us with few problems. We recognize that ‘ye’ is an old form of ‘you’ and that ‘abound’ is perhaps a word that we no longer use very much. The phrase ‘Holy Ghost’ is another example of language use, which might puzzle a modern reader. In Elizabethan times the words ‘spirit’ and ‘ghost’ meant the same thing. Around fifty scholars worked on the King James Bible and some translated the Greek words ‘hagion pneuma’ as ‘Holy Spirit’ and some as ‘Holy Ghost’. These different translations remained in the finished version. Modern versions of the bible use the phrase ‘Holy Spirit’ because in the four hundred years that have passed since the KJV was published, the word ‘ghost’ has taken on a more specific meaning and now relates to the ‘supernatural’, rather than the divine.
Romans 15:13 New American Standard Bible
‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
You can see that the New American Standard Bible stays very close to the KJV, updating the archaic language but retaining the grandeur of the earlier version.
Romans 15:13 The Message
‘Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy,
fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives,
filled with life giving energy of the Holy Spirit,
will brim over with hope.’
There is much joy and energy in this modern English version of Romans 15:13, which seems to me to capture the rapturous spirit of Paul’s words. The word ‘hope’ has been supplemented by the adjective ‘green’, which suggests growth and fertility. I’m not sure that I think this is necessary but if it helps the reader access the full meaning of ‘hope’, in this context, then it’s well placed. What do you think? The phrase ‘believing lives’ seems to me a little awkward and confusing, but perhaps I’m being over picky. What do you think?
Romans 15:13 in context
Romans is the sixth book of the New Testament. It is Paul’s longest text and is regarded by scholars as his most important in terms of Christian doctrine. At its outset, Paul greets 26 people by name because he is concerned to personally enlist the help of individuals to spread the word of God. Paul describes the sinfulness of people but his focus is on how we can be saved by turning to God. Eleven chapters of doctrine are followed by five chapters of instruction as to how we can apply Christian principals to our daily life. Paul uses the word ‘hope’ more times in his letter to the Romans than in any of his other letters, perhaps because he was well aware of the tests their faith would face.
Reflections on Romans 15:13
The hope that faith brings, leads to joy and peace, and this simple equation is at the heart of being a Christian.
Read next: What Does Romans 8:28 Mean? "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is a verse that brings great comfort to Christians, but perhaps sometimes, for the wrong reason. What is its meaning?