The Failings of The Weak
Romans 15:1-3 ESV
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’”
The book of Romans was not written as a book with chapters and verses. It was written as a letter to the church in Rome, and chapters and verses were added much later. So, it is always important that we read Scriptures and interpret Scriptures in their context so that we don’t get the wrong message.
So, verse one here is a continuation of what was written in the previous chapter. Thus, “the weak” is not a reference to Christians (or professing Christians) who are deliberately living in sin (addicted to sin). It is a reference to those who, transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New were having a difficult time letting go of some of their practices.
But this was not a matter of believing that they needed to do certain things they did before under the Old Covenant in order to be saved from their sins. For, it is clear here that this is speaking of matters related to opinion or to personal conviction as to whether they could eat certain foods. And it was related to whether they should continue to observe the Sabbath (implied) or other religious holidays.
So, the ones who believed that they were to keep one day a week as holy were not to judge those who now saw every day alike, and vice versa. And the ones who had the freedom to eat meat were not to stand in judgment over those who felt they could only eat vegetables, and vice versa.
These were matters of personal conviction, and they did not step into the arena of false doctrine where the Judaizers were insisting that the Christians come under the Old Covenant, to a certain extent, in order to be saved. So, they were not to quarrel over such matters, but they were to accept one another in love.
So, when this says that we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, this is not speaking of us who are walking closely with the Lord needing to tolerate or to give a pass to those who are living in idolatry, spiritual adultery, and deliberate habitual sin against God.
What this is saying is that we are to be patient with, and considerate of, and loving toward those who have different beliefs regarding matters of personal preference or conviction which are not wrong in God’s eyes, but which are just a matter of our personal comfort at a certain point in our lives.
Written for Our Instruction
Romans 15:4 ESV
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
So, we don’t throw out the Old Testament. All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness. And much of what was taught in the Old Testament was leading us to Christ and was teaching the holiness and righteousness of God for our lives.
Yet, it doesn’t mean we are to live under the Old Covenant. We are not! It doesn’t mean that we who are Christians by faith in Jesus Christ are bound by Old Covenant liturgical and ceremonial laws, customs, and traditions. We are not! And we are definitely not to succumb to teachings which say we must obey the Old Covenant or else we will face the wrath of God.
But the Old Testament is rich in truth which is repeated for us again in the New Testament, under the New Covenant. And it is rich in prophecy regarding Jesus Christ, our Messiah, and the Messianic age, and the last days before Jesus’ return, etc. So, we can still learn much from the Old Testament writings which can be applied to our lives today.
But we must be discerning about this so that we don’t make the mistake of applying Old Covenant teaching to the lives of Christians today as though we must still live under the Old Covenant, to some extent. We are to live under the New Covenant, not the Old. But we can learn biblical principles from the Old which are repeated for us in the New, which are related to righteousness and holiness.
Endurance and Encouragement
Romans 15:5-7 ESV
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Again, we learn from the previous chapter what he means by living in harmony with one another. And again, this does not mean that we compromise truth and righteousness or God’s moral laws in order to be harmonious (unified) with others who claim to be Christians.
Unity with other humans is never to come at the cost of disunity with God. Unity with God must come first, and all else must flow from that unity. So, all unity and harmony with others, Christian or not, must be in accord (in agreement) with Jesus Christ and his divine will and purpose for our lives.
So, we don’t bend on holiness, righteousness, truth, or morality. We don’t make provisions for the flesh or for living in willful, habitual, deliberate, and premediated sin. And we don’t “make nice” with the world just so that they will not feel as though we are judging them.
We teach the truth of the Scriptures, in love. We do not dilute or alter the gospel to make it more acceptable to people. We stand strong on matters of biblical doctrine, morality, purity, righteousness, holiness, and truthfulness, but we don’t insist on our own way in matters of personal preference.
The goal of this unity is first of all that we be united in faith with Jesus Christ and with his will and purpose for our lives, and then we can be in unity with other believers who share that same goal and purpose. And in that way, with one voice we can glorify God the Father and Jesus Christ together.
We should be kind and loving toward all people, no matter who they are, or where they have come from, or where they are now. So, there is never any excuse for us to be mean or hateful to other people, though there are probably some people who will consider the gospel mean and hateful.
But when this tells us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God, then we need to consider in what way Jesus has welcomed us. It does not mean to accept sin or to tolerate sin. It does not mean to remain silent when we see a fellow believer living in sin, either.
Jesus received us as his own when we, by faith in him, died with him to sin and we were resurrected with him to newness of life in him. He continues to receive us as his own when we continue in that faith, and when we continue dying to sin and self, and when we follow him in obedience to his will.
So, we don’t welcome (receive or tolerate) deliberate disobedience, willful rebellion against God, and habitual sinning against the Lord. We speak the truth in love to one another that we might help one another to maturity in Christ, for that is for the glory and praise of God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:7; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10]
In Heavenly Love Abiding
Lyrics by Anna L. Waring, 1850
Music by Felix Mendelssohn
In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free;
My Savior has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
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