The Expository Files

 


Any Friend Of His…

Romans 15:1-7



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.” 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. 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. (Romans 15:1-7, ESV)

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to 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 things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7, NKJ)

This passage in Romans 15 cannot be separated from the previous chapter. Romans 14 is about how Christians unite, work together, serve each other and treat each other right, in spite of cultural, ethnic and other background issues where sin is not involved. Jews and Gentiles who obeyed the gospel found themselves suddenly together in local churches, and the challenge was to treat each other as brethren, though they were very different. Some thought they were strong and those different from them were weak. Along with this, there was the bad habit of people engaged in a running commentary of critical judgment against everybody about everything. Romans 14 was written to address that with bold statements like, “Who are you to judge another's servant?”

Romans 15 follows up on this same subject. Christians who consider themselves to be strong, “ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” If your brother is really, spiritually weak, guilty of sin, by all means, help him by reaching him, speak to him, pray with him, teach him and bring him back to the Lord if he will come. But if his “weakness” only lies in your perception and from your personal position, put up with it! Get over it. “Bear with the scruples of the weak,” and forget about the self-pleasing act of changing him into your image! It might please you to get him to give up his “scruples,” but there is no need to trouble him about it. Bear with it.

Instead of trying to impose yourself on him, “please” him “for his good, leading to edification.” Set yourself to know him without changing everything about him. Act toward people in such a way as to build them up spiritually, not pressure them to conform to you.

“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me'.” ”Strong” and “weak” Christians live together with each other by imitating the Master, who “did not please Himself.” He was devoted to the best and highest interests of others, even those who were against Him. It is that love, that interests in others, that enables us to conquer the immature impulse to change everybody into our image. “If Christ, the very Son of God, did not order his life so as to please himself, how much more should we forego all personal advantage and follow the path of the Suffering Servant,” (Mounce, The New American Commentary, Robert Mounce).

Paul inserts a parenthesis here. Right after he quotes what was “written” about Jesus Christ bearing reproaches to save people, he plugs in this statement about the value of Old Testament scriptures: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” (v.4). What was written in days gone by helps us today to form right attitudes and treat people with respect.

Paul prayed that we might adopt these principles of conduct: ”Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If each of us will pray this prayer and think and act as Christ did, the result is - we glorify “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, that's what life is all about for Christians, and that high aim involves our treatment of each other.

So, or “therefore,” Paul says: ”…receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” Even if the Christian next to me on the pew is very different (looks different, sounds different, eats different, etc.), if Christ has received Him (if he is living a growing, obedient life to Jesus Christ), I need to receive him, “to the glory of God.” He may be a different color, have a different menu, do some things consciously that I think are not required, or abstain from things I believe are fine. Still, if Christ has received both of us - my treatment of that person must be as Christ treats me. And this approach will result in “the glory of God.”

“We might say, 'Any friend of His is a friend of mine'.” (Robert H. Mounce).


 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 18.10; September 2011 

 

 

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