Explore the Bible Series
February 12, 2006
Lesson Passage: Romans 15:1-13
God is not glorified by narrow, quarrelsome, divisive people. Belligerent Christians dishonor Christ and grieve the Holy Spirit. How would one measure the harm done to world evangelization by the inability and, in some cases, the unwillingness of believers to get along with one another? The Apostle Paul devoted more than three chapters of the Book of Romans to dealing with this issue, and, this week, the Sunday School lesson concludes this important section of the epistle. These verses, Romans 15:1-13, summarize this entire unit (Romans 12:1-15:13) with a final earnest appeal to love and unity.
Paul continued, in Chapter Fifteen, the themes he developed in the previous chapters. In a sense, his thoughts build on the injunction, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Much of Chapter Fourteen focused on the treatment of the “weaker brother”, and the first verses of our present text carried forward that thread of thought. The chapter break, in fact, seems unfortunate at this point in the development of Paul’s argument. 15:1-13 give the readers Paul’s motives for addressing the theme of Christian unity.
I. Paul’s Final Observations Concerning the “Weaker Brother” Principle (15:1-6): As stated previously, Chapter Fifteen continues the theme of the previous chapter, the proper treatment of the immature in the faith.
A. “bear with the weaknesses of those without strength” (v. 1):
1. “bear with”: This word means to raise up, bear aloft, carry, or tolerate. It denotes the willingness to bear a heavy load for the sake of those who are weak. Accommodating the weak may prove very burdensome, but the strong should willingly undertake this difficult assignment. The strong man may instinctively disregard the scruples of the weaker man, but this is not the mind and manner of the Savior.
2. “and not just please ourselves”: A mature believer must never so focus on his own desires that he causes a weaker brother to stumble.
B. “Let each of us please his neighbor for what is good to edification” (v. 2): God calls his people to selfless regard for others. This attitude will lead to the building up of the saints. Experience teaches that tearing up the body of Christ is an easy thing. Edifying the church proves more difficult.
C. “For even Christ did not please himself” (vv.3-4): Paul appealed to the example of Christ to move his readers to sacrificial living (See Psalm 69:9). Christ willingly endured suffering and reproach for the sake of others. This Old Testament passage captures the spirit of the Savior and demands that mature disciples follow their Master’s example.
D. “May God…grant you to be of the same mind” (vv. 5-6): Unity is a gift of God. Two qualities foster the kind of unity Paul outlined in these verses: perseverance and encouragement. “Perseverance” translates a word that denotes the quality of remaining under a burden. This word does not describe a passive quality that focuses on an irritable tolerance of the weakness of others; rather, it reflects an attitude of joyfully stamina in Christian love for all the brothers. Differences on secondary matters will not diminish godly, mature love. Verse six reminds believers that appropriate Christian unity glorifies God.
II. God’s Provision for Unity for the Jewish and Gentile Believers (vv. 7-13)
A. “Accept one another, just as Christ accepted us to the glory of God” (v. 7): The Lord glorified the Father by pardoning sinners and restoring wretched rebels to God. The believer’s actions, of course, do not have redemptive power, but disciples must follow the teaching and example of their Master. The word “accept” carries the idea of warm welcome and affectionate acceptance.
B. “Christ became a servant to the circumcision” (v. 8): The Gospels make clear that Jesus came first to the House of Israel (See, for instance, Matthew 15:24). The divine priority centered on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah’s ministry to the Jews.
C. “…and for the Gentiles to glorify God for his mercy” (v. 9): God’s purpose of grace, however, did not end with the Hebrew people. The next four verses demonstrate, from an array of Old Testament passages, that God’s intent of mercy extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. These verses reflect the same themes as Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven.
1. Psalm 18:49 (v. 9)
2. Deuteronomy 32:43 (v. 10)
3. Psalm 117:1
4. Isaiah 11:10
D. “May the God of hope fill you…” (v. 13): Paul concluded this section of his epistle with a profound prayer. He asks that God might fill his people with the following blessings of grace.
1. Joy: The precepts of the word of God will bring God’s people all joy, joy without stint or restraint.
2. Peace: The adjective “all” refers to both peace as well as his joy. This peace, it seems, relates to the spirit of love and goodwill that should characterize the fellowship of believers. Paul connected peace with believing.
3. Hope: Hope and faith are closely related, but they differ in some ways. Hope anticipates good from God, and it focuses on the fulfillment of divine promises. The hopeful soul sets its gaze forward to the culmination of the promises of a glorious inheritance in Christ Jesus. Christ endured the cross for the sake of the hope set before him. Likewise, the believer perseveres in the midst of hard and trying situations because of the promises of glory that awaits him. Notice that Paul attributes this hope to the power of the Holy Spirit.