Have you ever noticed, how much easier it is much easier to destroy something beautiful and worthy than to build it? Building up and tearing down is at the heart of Romans 14-15. Paul’s going to encourage us to build each other up and remind us that this building takes a lot longer to accomplish, than does tearing down.
In Romans 1-8 Paul explained the glory of the gospel and the greatness of God — how no one can be saved by keeping the law. We can only be saved by trusting that God, because of the blood of Jesus Christ, will forgive us and solve the problem of sin in our lives.
In Romans 9-11, he argued that God did not fail Israel, nor reject them and that proves He will be faithful to Gentile believers as well.
In Romans 12, he turned practical. He says, “It is only reasonable that we worship this God with our bodies.” The rest of the book then discusses how the gospel should make our lives different.
In Romans 13, he told us to submit those in authority, keep ourselves free from debt, and free from darkness, so that we are free to serve God.
In Romans 14-15, he discusses the favorite indoor sport of Christians: trying to change each other.
- Romans 14:1-12 – What you should not do
- Romans 14:13-24 – What you can do
- Romans 15:1-13 – What happens when you handle it the right way
Romans 14:1 opens “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (NASB).” In the areas that are debatable — areas where God has not spoken about what is right or wrong — we are not to judge each other and question “how can you be a Christian and do that?”
Paul says accept each other for two reasons. 1) We are not to judge because it is not my responsibility to change my sister. She is not my servant., she is God’s servant. It is his job to grow each of us in the faith. 2) God can see what I can’t see: the inner conviction of the heart.
Instead we are to judge ourselves and how our actions are affecting other people. It is more important that we have peace and unity and righteousness, than that we exercise our freedom in an area.
- The idea of “upbuilding” (14:19) means to construct something. It is investing your life, striving to create something sturdy that will withstand whatever hurricane comes along.
- The word “destory (14:20) means to tear something down.
- In 14:20 Paul makes the unambiguous statement that all food is clean. But just knowing that all food is clean does not mean we know how to live. So, he gives us two examples.
- First, in 14:22 is the person who does not make his brother stumble by the exercise of his freedom. Before you take an action in a certain area, examine your heart and your convictions and your motivations before God.
- Second in 14:23, is the person who does not act in accordance with his convictions. If you violate your conscience in order to have the approval of your circle of friends, then it is sin, even though what you are doing in itself isn’t wrong.
- Paul’s examples highlight the importance of asking not just what people are doing but why are they doing it.
- Building a church community that loves each other with passion and generosity and builds each other up is a long, hard process. It takes a long time to build and can be torn down in minutes.
- This is the first time Paul has referred to the strong. The argument until this point is that both the weak and the relatively less weak have the same problem.
- By “strong” he means those who have maturity and character and humility, who have learned to walk with the Lord and grow wise in His ways.
- The strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, despite the tendency is to want to please themselves.
- The “weak” are not going to change overnight. We will find we need endurance in this area.
- We are to glorify God together.
- Romans 15:7 summarizes the section: We are to accept one another as Christ has accepted us.
- He says to the Jews who are in Rome receiving this letter, “Christ became a servant of the Jews, but not because you particular Jews in Rome were superior or worthwhile. Rather because he made promises to the patriarchs.”
- He says to the Gentiles, “You don’t deserve anything you have received, but a merciful God is going to include you as well.”
- Then he goes quotes from Psalms and Deuteronomy and finally Isaiah. Notice the progression.
- 15:9 “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” [Psalm 18:49] – We hear one singer who knows God standing in the midst of the Gentiles singing praise to God’s name as they listen.
- 15:10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” [Deut. 32:43] – Now there are two groups rejoicing together. Not a singer singing amidst the Gentiles, but both Gentiles and Jews together are allowed to sing.
- 15:11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” [Psalm 117:1] – The Gentiles are directly invited to sing his praise, without reference to whether anybody else is singing or not.
- 15:12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” [Isaiah 11:10] – Finally, the focus is not on who is singing but on the one being sung to.
To sum up, what Paul has said to us is:
- Do not deliberately stumble or shock your brother or sister. Do not deliberately do things that will offend them.
- Give up your right when it threatens the peace or hinders the growth of another individual. Be alert to judge yourself in that area.
- Never act from doubt. Act only from conviction, by the Word, and by the Spirit of God.
- Choose to please your neighbor rather than yourself.
- Be careful that your giving in does not confirm your neighbor in his weakness, but encourages him to grow in the Lord.
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