Romans 15:1-13: Principles of Communal Living
March 23, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Paul continues to give some principles of communal living—all of which are based on the gospel that he has explained in this letter, and the example of Christ himself.
First, the strong should bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves. Of course, the question about this is: who are the strong and who are the weak. But the principle allows flexibility based on positioning ourselves as those who should take care of other people. In many ways it helps you to think of those who annoy you or are offensive to you as the “weak,” and motivates you bear with them and to accept them and not just do what would please yourself. You aim to be, as we would put it, the bigger person.
Second, following the example of Christ, we should aim to please our neighbors for their own good. Even Christ, Paul points out, did not aim to please himself, but gave himself for the salvation of other people. When Paul says we should aim to please our neighbors, he is not saying that we should be what we call “people-pleasers” (that is someone who has no backbone and will do whatever someone else wants). What he means is that we should aim to do what is best for those around us, rather than just what is best for ourselves. As Paul explains, this adduces an important doctrine: “everything that was written in the past [that is in the Old Testament] was written to teach us.” The Old Testament points to Christ, and it is also filled with moral instructions as it does point to Christ.
Third, Paul prays that we would have the necessary strength—endurance and encouragement—so that there may be unity as we glorify God. We may have one mind and one voice honoring Jesus, being united in Christ within community. We need the help of prayer and spiritual power; we need endurance and encouragement from God.
Fourth, accept other people as Christ accepted you, and this will bring praise to God. When we find it hard to accept someone else, use this rule: think of how Christ accepted you. And then when, based on Christ’s acceptance of us, we accept someone else, we will be bringing praise to God and his gospel because that is the power and reason for why we are acting as we do.
Finally, fifth, such acceptance of other people comes as we trust God. We may find it hard to trust certain people. But we can trust God, and based on his faithfulness, we can therefore act in love towards the people around us—even if we find it hard to trust them. And in this faith in God, Paul prays that we would be filled with all joy and peace and overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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