v. 1-2 “We who are strong…” Who do we perceive as “strong?” How does Paul describe the strong in Christ early on? (cf. 14ff) Are the strong those who strive to be humble? How are the strong described in these verses?
• Bear with those who fail
• Don’t please themselves
• Seek the good of others
• ‘We’ build others up
I say ‘we’ because our calling is to be strong in Christ, this is fulfilled in relationship with others.
Is being “strong in Christ” a willingness to resist our tendency to be critical and resentful, especially toward those who maintain a different perspective than ours on non-essential issues?
Paul has established that there are two perspectives: ‘strong’ and ‘weak.’ Although both believers, they have different convictions or views on non-essential issues related to their Christ life.
When do we refuse to reach out the hand of fellowship and support? Does the “strong” reflect a brother who takes initiative to build bridges, mend fences, love others?
“Ought” Harrison (1986) explains that this word is not the same as “should” or “a recommendation.” The term carries a flavor of obligation. Therefore, Paul is calling us to “…bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (cf. Gal 6:2)
The strong bear with the scruples of the weaker brethren. This is easier said than practiced! Our flesh likes to be “right” and shout it from the rooftops. Moreover, we like to point out when someone is ‘wrong,’ mostly to elevate ourselves, if we are honest. For me, it is a daily process to mortify this sinful process and yield to the Spirit.
We have learned through Romans (cf. 6-8) that only “in Christ” through His indwelling power is this interpersonal process (bearing with/carrying the burden) possible.
False humility, resignation, and condescension reflects our human depravity, but supernatural love for our neighbor reflects Christ!
How hard is it to live an “other pleasing” life? Is it easier to do so with those who are like-minded?
v. 2 Our goal as believers whether ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ is to humbly and supernaturally extend beyond the narrow circle of like-minded brethren to all with whom God brings into our sphere of influence. Hence, In Christ we genuinely care about the “good” of others and desire to “build up” in the faith.
Charles Hodge said, “we are not to please ourselves, but others; the law of love is to regulate our conduct… it is not therefore, a weak compliance with the wishes of others, to which Paul exhorts us, but to the exercise of an enlightened benevolence; to such compliance as have the design and tendency to promote the spiritual welfare of our neighbor.”
v. 3 Christ is our example! Phil 2:1-11 When the going gets tough: do we please ourselves and go our own way? Do we avoid conflict and speak what people want to hear or conform to the world? Jesus said, “I always do what pleases him” (Jn 8:29). Therefore, we seek the good of others even when it is difficult! (Psalm 69:9).
v. 4 The Scripture is for our instruction, especially as we struggle in this life. We have not been left to our own devices, God deliberately planned for our edification through the Scripture. Moreover, through the power of God the Holy Spirit, our minds are illuminated to understand the Scripture, especially grace that brings salvation through Christ!
v. 5 Furthermore, reading and meditating on Scripture promotes “endurance” and “encouragement.” Where does endurance and encouragement come from? A gift from God and mediated through the Scriptures.
Does God individually appropriate according to His will? (cf. Heb 2:4) Do some ‘realize’ more than others? Does God illuminate some more than others? Do some fail to completely understand the grace of God and freedom given “in Christ?”
It is obvious that some are clearly gifted with greater insights and deeper realization of the depths of Scripture. In the body of Christ, there are differences in interpretations of non-essential texts, some have stronger conviction, and may even disagree about what is essential.
In fact, God has raised up great thinkers, gifted men throughout church history (e.g., Hodge, Wesley, Calvin, etc.,). who were united on essentials, yet were very different in some areas of theology.
Therefore, among our diversity we need to be unified on essentials, especially as we fix our attention on Christ! Paul calls the weak and the strong to unity!
What do I need to do to make this a reality in my sphere of influence?
v. 6 “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our goal is to minimize individual differences and focus on essentials, looking to Christ to unify the body.
Harrison (1986) said, This does not mean that believers are intended to see eye to eye on everything, but that the more Christ fills the spiritual vision, the greater will be the cohesiveness of the church.”
v. 7 “Accept one another,,,” (cf. 14:1) Here Paul is not only talking to the strong, but both weak and strong. It is clear that Christ accepts the ‘weak’ and the ‘strong.’ (cf. 14:3). The primary objective is to bring praise to God!
v. 8-9 God, in Christ is servant…. so too we are called to “be servants” which goes against our nature. However, we have a “new nature” in Christ and can choose to yield to the Spirit and serve others everyday.
Who are the patriarchs? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christ is the fulfillment: first for the Jews and then the Gentiles.
v. 10-12 We can “intentionally serve” and glorify God because of His mercy! Therefore, we praise with the psalmist even today as we wait for the appearing of our glorious Savior. (cf. Psalm 46:10, 47).
v. 13 No matter what happens, we know the “God of hope…” Hope overflows as we trust our gracious God. Joy, Peace… also overflows through our Christ life by the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Finally, as we adhere to loving each other and stay committed to applying Scripture to our interpersonal relationships, God will empower us to bear/carry the burden of our neighbors and stay united in Christ!
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. (1976). F.E. Gaebelein (ed.)
Hodge, Charles, http://lawtonprecepts.org/digital_library/HOD_ROMA.PDF
NIV Study Bible (1984).