The book of Romans was not originally written as a book, nor did it originally have chapter and verse divisions. It was written as a letter from Paul to the church (the believers in Jesus) in Rome. And, it was intended to be read in whole, not in segments, I would suspect. So, no matter where we are reading in the book of Romans, we need to consider the context of the letter, as a whole, and the context of preceding and succeeding verses, too.
Romans 15:1-4 NASB
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
The thoughts expressed at the beginning of this chapter are a continuation of the thoughts which were expressed by Paul in chapter 14. The subject matter deals with what Paul called “disputable matters” (NIV). This has to do with things which are neither right nor wrong, righteous nor unrighteous, and neither moral nor immoral. The right and the wrong of it, thus, deals mainly with how we treat others whose opinions are different from ours.
In this case, the “weak” is not a reference to those who are living in sin or who are regularly and consistently giving way to the lusts of the flesh. The “weak,” in this context, has to do with the Jewish Christians who had difficulty accepting that freedom in Christ meant they no longer were restricted by or bound to Jewish laws with regard to what they ate or with regard to the Sabbath and ceremonial laws and religious celebrations.
For some of us, it could have to do with growing up believing we had to go to some building called “church” on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m. and that we had to wear our very best clothes, and that the “sanctuary” was where God’s Spirit dwells, and that it should be treated as “holy ground.” For some people, that is really hard to break away from, because it is so ingrained in them. I believe these people could be regarded as those who are “weak.”
For many of those traditional thoughts originated from the Old Testament Jewish temple, and probably some traditions also came from the Roman Catholic Church, which were carried on even after the Reformation.
Yet, when we study the scriptures, we realize that we, the people, are the church, not the building, for God’s Spirit lives in us. We recognize that Sunday is really no different from any other day in the week, and that we don’t have to go to some specific place to gather with the body of Christ, for we can gather anywhere on any day of the week and at any time of day. And, the church sanctuary is in our hearts, for it is in the hearts of Jesus’ followers where God dwells, not in buildings built by human hands.
So, if you feel you have to dress up on Sundays and go to a specific location at a specific time of day, there is nothing wrong with that. That is your personal preference. But, others have the liberty to meet with the body of Christ on any day of the week, at various locations, at any time of day or night. And, that is biblical. But neither should condemn the other on matters of opinion or personal preference.
What we are to be concerned about is the spiritual development of one another, and that we all walk in accord with God’s Word and in the Spirit of God. If we are concerned for the edification of one another, i.e. for the good of one another, then we should be sharing with one another what is useful for the building up of one another in our walks of faith with Jesus Christ. For, many people are good at holding to traditions while they live fleshly lives in rebellion against their Lord God.
Romans 15:5-7 NASB
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
With One Voice
The only way in which we are going to be of the same mind with one another, and with one voice glorify our God, is if we, individually, are first and foremost of the same mind with Jesus Christ. And, the only way in which we can be of the same mind with Jesus Christ is first of all through death to sin and living to righteousness, through submission to Jesus Christ as Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and in his power and strength.
And, to be like-minded with Christ means to hate what he hates and to love what he loves. He hates sin. He hates lies and adultery and false accusations, etc. He hates abuse of power and people taking advantage of one another. And, he loves purity, righteousness, faithfulness, morality, kindness and integrity. And, what we truly hate and love will be obvious by how we live our lives, not just by the words which we speak.
As well, in this context, “accepting” one another is never accepting sin. It is not “I’m ok, you’re ok.” This is in the context of matters of opinion where we need to learn to accept one another, not in matters of sin, i.e. where things are clearly stated as wrong and right (in scripture). Jesus Christ doesn’t accept sin. He died to remove sin from our lives, not to placate it. The way in which Jesus Christ accepts us is via his blood shed on a cross for our sins, and via our faith in him, which involves dying with him to sin and living with him to righteousness.
Romans 15:14-16 NASB
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Admonish One Another
To admonish one another is not light and fluffy. It is not about making everyone feel good while they continue in their sins. It is about warning, rebuking, and cautioning one another about sin and its consequences. And, it is about urging, encouraging and insisting on holy living, purity and godliness for the one who calls himself a Christian. It also involves correcting wrong thinking and appealing to reason and to justice (fairness), too.
We, as followers of Jesus, and as members of his body, are to be doing this with one another. Yet, so many do not. They say only what they feel will be pleasing to others and what will get them liked by them, regardless of whether or not the other person is trapped in sin’s deceitfulness and may be straying from his or her pure devotion to Jesus Christ. And, that puts self above others rather than sacrificing self for the good (purity) of others.
It is not unloving to be bold in what we say, either. It is not unloving to speak the truth in love to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are wandering off into sin’s deceitfulness and are buying into Satan’s lies. We are not called to be “nice.” We are called to be kind, but the kindest thing we can do ever for each other is to speak the truth, but in love. For, it is the truth which will set people free. Lies and silence will only give them permission to continue in their sinful lifestyles, not encourage them to seek God’s face for deliverance.
What you hear me saying over and over again is what the scriptures teach over and over again. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. His grace to us is not freedom to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. His grace commands that we say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts, and that we live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s soon return.
For, if we walk (in lifestyle) according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, not live with Christ for eternity. If we make sin our practice, heaven is not our eternal destiny. If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk in sin, we are liars who do not live by the truth. We will reap what we sow. So, please make sure today that you are living for Jesus and not for the flesh.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Hymn lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, pub. 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
*copyright status is public domain
Saturday, September 22, 2018 – Thank You, Jesus, that by your grace we are set FREE from our bondage to sin so that we can walk in your holiness.