As Paul deals with the issue of the “weaker” brother, he makes an important point about unity and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in all believers. Unity is a work of the Holy Spirit bringing individuals together through their shared faith.
- The Holy Spirit is God’s agent of change in this world.
- Broadly speaking, his work can be categorized as: universal and individual.
- The universal work of the Spirit is the work the Holy Spirit does in every believer to give us saving faith.
- The individual works of the Spirit are the gifts and opportunities to serve the kingdom of God that the Spirit gives one believer but not another.
- Revelation is an individual work of the Spirit given to God’s chosen messengers, such that they can explain God’s word to the rest of us.
- Understanding is the receptivity to embrace and believe God’s message as wisdom, which is a universal work given to all believers.
- Most of the discussion of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament concerns the individual work of the Spirit empowering particular individuals as judges or kings to protect, defend and guide Israel, or as prophets so that they can proclaim God’s word to His people.
- However, both Testaments speak of the need for God to transform His people through the work of the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance in the kingdom of God and he is the mark that guarantees we belong to God.
- As the Holy Spirit strengthens each individual in faith that draws us together as a community.
1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:1-4
- Paul is addressing a disagreement in the early church. Some think God has put no restrictions on what we believers may eat and others think that we should eat only vegetables.
- This debate has a cultural and religious layer to it as it is probably a dispute between Jewish and Gentile believers.
- Each side views the other with some disdain and judgment.
- Paul sees the people on both sides as believers.
- Paul agrees that we have the freedom to eat all things.
4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. – Romans 14:4-5
- Rather than judging or dismissing each other, Paul argues they should view each other as concerned about the things of God.
- Paul says focus on the fact that you are both grateful to God, and let that be the basis for mutual respect and acceptance.
13Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. – Romans 14:13-19
- Summary: Those who feel the freedom to eat anything should not pressure those who don’t to join you. Neither should you flaunt your freedom or imply that they are deficient because they don’t join you in eating. It’s wrong to pressure them to violate their conscience. You eat because you believe you are being obedient to God. But if you pressure them to eat and they do eat, they will think they are being disobedient to God. Rather than convincing them to join you in obedient freedom, you are pressuring them to be disobedient and to disregard what they sincerely believe God requires.
1We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4For 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. 5May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Romans 15:1-7
- Paul argues those with a more accurate understanding should be concerned about others and what their actions are communicating to the others
- He gives Christ as an example of one who pleased his neighbor rather than himself by quoting Psalm 69:9.
- In Psalm 69, David is suffering ridicule because he follows God (e.g. Psalm 69:4-9).
- Psalm 69:9 is also quoted in John 2:17. Jesus has thrown the money changers out of the temple. His disciples are alarmed because the Jewish leadership is increasingly furious with Jesus (John 2:14-22).
- In Psalm 69, David, the first in the line of God’s anointed kingship, suffers because of his obedience to God. Then, Jesus, the final and perfect Davidic king, is ultimately killed for following God.
- Psalm 69 pictures the cost a believer might pay for following God. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of that picture in his faithfulness unto death.
- Likewise, we should be willing to follow God even if we suffer and especially if it only means changing our eating habits for a time.
8For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:8-13
- Paul’s praying for a unity based on a deep personal commitment to the gospel.
- Remember what God is doing in both of you, and let that bring you together.
- God empowers believers to believe, persevere and grow in hope through the universal work of the Spirit. That work is the basis for Christian unity.
- Unity is not conformity. Nor is it imposed from the top down. Unity results from the power of the Holy Spirit at work in believers.
- Compare with Ephesians 3:14-17 and Colossians 1:9-11
- Unity is a work of the Holy Spirit brought about in individual believers through the strengthening of their faith and personal hope.
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Next: 10 Holy Spirit: Baptism
Series: Who is the Holy Spirit?
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