We are studying the section of Scripture that runs from 14:1 thru 15:13. The subject is not unity among believers; Paul is asking the "strong" who are believers to live according to the Jewish standard for righteous Gentiles so as to not offend the "weak" who are Jews that have not yet trusted in Yeshua as Messiah. Paul is seeking to reach the remnant of Israel with the Gospel. This section is all about evangelism of the Jew. Paul basically says, "Don't by your unloving behavior cause a Jew to stumble":
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. Romans 14:13 NASB
What Paul says here is very similar to Yeshua's teaching in Mark 9. The main theme of Yeshua's teaching in this section was how to be great:
And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." Mark 9:35 NASB
We think greatness is about having a position of power and prestige where we can be served. Yeshua says, "Greatness is about being a servant." From Yeshua's perspective, a great person puts everyone else before himself and takes on the role of a servant. Now notice what Yeshua says in verse 42:
"And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. Mark 9:42 NASB
Yeshua could be talking here about unsaved Jews who "believe" in Yahweh, but not in Him. He doesn't want any of His followers to cause those not following Him to stumble.
How many of you ladies have millstones at home? Since we're not too familiar with millstones, let me tell you a little about them. A millstone was used for the grinding of corn or grain, every household had one. The household millstones were about 2 feet across and 6 inches thick. It took two women to use it. It probably weighed between 75 to 100 pounds. How would you like to go swimming with that around your neck? You get the point, right? Well, this is even stronger than you may think. The Greek word used for millstone here is mulos onikos, which means: "a millstone belonging to a donkey." This was not the average household millstone, but one so large that a donkey was used to turn it.
When Yeshua spoke of a millstone hung around someone's neck, and that person being cast into the sea, He was using an illustration contemporary to His time. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, in his Antiquities, Judas the Galilean, an early Zealot leader who had led an insurrection, was drowned in a lake in this fashion. The Roman historian, Suetonius, mentions in his De Via Caesarium, a similar punishment being inflicted in another graphic case. No doubt, the apostles had seen the drowned bodies of victims attached to millstones.
Please notice that Yeshua says: "It would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea." He is saying that being drowned in the sea with a millstone hung around his neck would be a better fate than that which could occur for causing some to stumble.
We're beginning chapter 15 this morning, and the chapter division here is unfortunate. I think that you all understand that the verse and chapter divisions in the Bible were added centuries after the Bible was written. So be careful that you don't assume they divide the books in the best places. The chapter break at the beginning of chapter 15 is not in the best place. It would go much more naturally after Romans 15:13. The issue of the "weak" and "strong" continues from chapter 14 right on into chapter 15:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. Romans 15:1-2 NASB
Paul is not saying anything new here. This verse is a summary of chapter 14 and is addressed to the strong. We have seen it before. Romans 14:15: "If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love." Romans 14:19: "Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." Romans 14:21: "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble." So the point throughout has been: Be willing to forego your freedom in matters of meat and drink to avoid destroying a weak brother and instead seek to build them up.
"We who are strong--this is the first time that Paul labels the "strong." The first person plurals in verses 1 and 2 demonstrate that Paul counts himself among the "strong." The word "strong" here is from the Greek dunatos, which means: "powerful or capable." They are believers who understand their position in Christ.
The obligation is on the strong, they are responsible to make changes for the weak. The only change that Paul wants the weak to make is to trust Christ. The strong must make the adjustments to build up the weak.
"Ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength"--the word "ought" here is the Greek word opheilo, which is a very strong word, it means: "to be under obligation," "to be a debtor." Paul is telling the "strong" that they have a debt, and that debt is to "bear," which is the Greek word, bastazois. This doesn't have the idea of, putting up with or tolerating, but to get under and carry the load. It is used of carrying something, shouldering a burden. In Galatians, chapter 6 it talks about bearing one another's burden, it means: "to get underneath and put it on your shoulders."
The word "weakness" used here is from the Greek word asthenema. It is used of physical or mental weakness. What is the "weak's" weakness? It is that they do not have faith in Yeshua as the Christ. "Without strength" is the Greek word adunatos, which Paul only uses here and in:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3 NASB
Here "what" and "could not do" are adunatos. It's translated "impossible" four time in Hebrews. They are "without strength" because they do not believe in Yeshua. So the "strong" are under an obligation to help these non-believing Jews come to see the truth of who Yeshua is.
When the "strong" foregoes an action which he knows is right, but which the "weak" thinks is wrong, and he does it for the sake of not hurting that weaker believer, he limits his own freedom of action, denies himself something that is legitimately his. This is bearing the burden of the weak; they were to come alongside and nurture them along. That's what Paul himself did:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NASB
All that Paul did was to further the Gospel message. He gave up whatever he needed to in order to reach people with the Gospel. Can you say this of yourself? How much of what you do is to further the Gospel message?
The normal course of humanity is that the strong use their strength as a means of easing their burdens and making the weak bear them as well as their own. We're to be different! Paul goes on to say: "And not just please ourselves"--Have you ever heard a Christian say, "I'm free to do this, I'm free to do that." You may be, but the criterion for what we do is not our own pleasure. That's not a spiritual approach. We are not just to please ourselves. We're not to do things just because it pleases us. If our constant desire is to please ourselves, we are very selfish creatures. And MOST Christians are. Notice what Paul writes:
For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Yeshua. Philippians 2:20-21 NASB
Paul is literally saying, "there is no other Christian at Rome, apart from Timothy, upon whom he could count on at this time to care about the Philippians. Paul speaks here in the present tense --"They are all continually seeking their own interest." This is strong! He is contrasting Timothy's concern for the Philippians with the lack of concern by others for Christ. He doesn't say that others care for themselves and not for you, but others care for themselves and not for Christ. To be concerned for others is to be concerned for Christ, to love Christ is to love His people.
This is still true today, everyone seeks their own interest. Is it true of you? If we live only to please ourselves, we hinder evangelism. If everybody is designing his life and his attitudes and actions and responses only to please himself, we do harm to the caues of Chris:.
Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. Romans 15:2 NASB
The reference to "neighbor" here echoes:
'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18 NASB
This takes us back to Romans 13:8-10, where love is the standard of Christian living. When Yeshua was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" What was His answer? "The Samaritan!" Even those you can't stand, those you may even think are sub-human are your neighbor and are to be loved. Love is described here as pleasing one's neighbor.
They were to please their neighbor (the weak) and not themselves. But they were to please them "for His good to His edification". A genuine concern for the weak will not only limit liberty for their sake, but will also attempt to make them strong through teaching them the truth. The word "edification" means: "to build up":
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 NASB
They were not just to please their neighbors to be men pleasers, but to help them come to faith. The main interest here is in their spiritual life.
That seems very limiting, very binding. What this does is take the strong and makes him a servant to the weak. That's where we rebel, "I'm free, I'm not going to be his slave." If that's your response, which is quite natural, look at verse 3, which gives us the model of the Lord Yeshua the Christ:
For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME." Romans 15:3 NASB
In the Greek it is "the Christ" calling attention to His messianic status. Christ is the supreme example of one who did not please Himself. And specifically in reference to other's salvation as we will see from Psalm 69.
Christ was not in the world to please Himself. Scripture makes this abundantly clear. Let's just look at the forth Gospel.
Yeshua said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. John 4:34 NASB
He came not to please Himself but to please His Father:
"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30 NASB
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 NASB
Where would we be if Christ had pleased Himself?:
saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Luke 22:42 NASB
Yeshua didn't want to drink the cup and be made sin and lose the fellowship of the Father as He hung on the cross. But he said, "... not My will, but Yours, be done." Christ lived His life not pleasing Himself. That is the pattern of the Christian life. It's the pattern for the husband and wife in the home. It is the pattern for the parent and child. It is the pattern for the individual believer. If we were all Christlike at this point, what would our homes and churches be like?
Mark Twain once said, "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." Yeshua Christ is our pattern, example, and model. God wants us all to follow the example of Christ. Yeshua said to His disciples, "Follow me," and that command has not been changed. The whole matter of the Christian life is the matter of following Christ, to become more and more like Him.
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NASB
Are you walking as Christ walked?:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB
Walking as He walked and imitating Him means we don't do what pleases us, but we do what will please others to their edification.
It's not surprising that Paul uses Yeshua as an example, but what is surprising is where he goes to get an illustration of Yeshua's self-sacrifice. He could have illustrated from a dozen events in Yeshua's life where He was sacrificial in His love. But what does Paul do? He quotes Scripture written a thousand years before Christ came. Paul writes as an apostle of Christ, creating Scripture for us, and in his writing Scripture, he quotes the Hebrew Scriptures that are already written. At the end of verse 3 Paul quotes a Messianic Psalm:
For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. Psalms 69:9 NASB
Now, this is a Messianic Psalm. It's one of those Psalms that David wrote as a typical figure being an illustration of the Lord Yeshua who was to come. He was the Davidic King and our Lord is the Davidic King. David spoke of his experiences, his persecutions, the reproaches that were laid upon him because he represented Yahweh. And David wrote, "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on me," because I was standing for you. Notice verse:
They also gave me gall for my food And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Psalms 69:21 NASB
This Psalm focuses on the passion of Yeshua. This Psalm was widely used in the New Testament to interpret and explain the death of Yeshua. Making His death the supreme example of one who forsakes His own pleasures for the salvation of others. This is exactly what Paul is asking the "strong" to do. They are to make sacrifices for the sake of those who don't know Yeshua:
It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. Romans 14:21 NASB
Christ didn't please Himself. And the "strong" should not insist on pleasing themselves in the matter of liberty to the detriment of their Jewish brothers:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NASB
"For whatever was written in earlier times"--this is a reference to the Hebrew Scriptures which he had just quoted. Not only is Psalm 69 helpful to us, but all of the Hebrew Scriptures are helpful.
"Was written for our instruction"--who is "our"? In this context it is speaking of the "strong" who were predominantly Gentile believers. Old Covenant Scripture was written for New Testament people.Speaking of Israel in the wilderness Paul says:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB
Again it is Gentile believers that this was written to:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB
The Bible was not written to us, but it was written for us. Scripture instructs us.
Paul goes on to say, "So that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope"--the instruction which Scripture imparts is directed to "perseverance and encouragement." The word perseverance is hupomone, which means: "steadfastness, endurance." We gain endurance for life from the Scripture. The word "encouragement" is from the Greek word paraklesis, it means: "consolation, exhortation." The Word gives us encouragement. And endurance and encouragement are said to be the means of something more ultimate, namely hope. Christian hope is the assurance of realizing a goal, yet future, but which is certain because it is promised by God and will be accomplished by Him. The reason we have hope is because of what the Bible reveals. Would you have hope without the Bible?:
remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12 NASB
Apart from the promises of God, we would have no hope. Paul's point is: If we're going to be like Yeshua Christ, we need to learn about Him from Scripture. It alone reveals Yeshua the Christ. Where else are you going to see Yeshua?
Do you think that if the Lord Yeshua were here personally and you were able to live with Him physically by your side 24/7 your life would be different? Well, most of you would say, "Yes. My life would be considerably different."
What we need to understand is that through the Word of God we have that privilege. You have the privilege of being with our Lord Yeshua as He preached the great "Sermon on the Mount," to be with Him on the little boat on the sea of Galilee when the storms came, to be with Him as He went toward Calvary, to be with Him as He hung there upon the cross, to be with Him in His resurrection. All of these are privileges that are ours. And if we spend time in the Holy Scripture, immersing ourselves in the Word of God, it is in these experiences and in this edification that we are strengthened to face the things that we face in our daily life.
N.T. Wright states, "Scripture, it seems, is a means by which God works in the church; in Pauline language, as well as in late technical theology, it is a means of grace." Do you believe that? Do you believe that Scripture is a means of grace?:
"And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32 NASB
Do you know the context of this verse? Paul is saying goodby to the Ephesian elders.
Paul had most likely led these men to Christ and discipled them for three years. And now, he is saying, "I'm leaving." I can just imagine how they would feel. Paul's leaving. What are we going to do? And so Paul says, "I commend you to God." Now, that's a tremendous statement. "God will take care of you." "And to the word of His grace"--the word of God had taught them about the grace of God. In Paul's thinking, the Word of God was the word of grace. The word is a means of grace, because we cannot know grace apart from the Word.
We cannot understand Christianity if we do not understand grace. It is the distinguishing Christian doctrine, contrary to works of all kinds. Grace says salvation is of the Lord. The word "grace" means: "free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment."
In fact, the thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions is the principle of grace. No other system of truth that claims to bring man into relationship with God contains that principle of grace as Christianity does. All other systems of thought, all other religions, all other philosophies that claim to bring man into relationship to the Lord God are grounded in the principle of works or human merit. Christianity, in its purest form, is grounded simply in the grace of God.
All of the Christian life is a matter of grace. We are brought into God's eternal kingdom by grace; we are positionally and practically sanctified by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we receive strength to live the Christian life by grace; and we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace. The entire Christian life is lived by grace. And we learn all of this from the Scriptures themselves.
The collection of "endurance" and "hope" reminds us of Romans 5:3-5. Verses 5 and 6 constitute a prayer:
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Yeshua, Romans 15:5 NASB
This is a prayer to God... "God who gives perseverance and encouragement"-- point back to the terms "perseverance and encouragement" in verse 4, and mean that God is the source and author of these and He works through the Scripture. The close relation of God to the Scripture is clearly seen here. Perseverance and encouragement are derived from the Scripture, verse 4, and they are also from God. It is through them that God imparts patience and comfort that are His. If we are going to be Cristlike, it will only happen as we spend time in the Word of God and in prayer.
"Grant you to be of the same mind"--Paul prays that God would grant them to be of the "same mind"--this is the Greek word phroneo, which means: "to think"-- here, "to think the same way." We are to all have the mind of Christ:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5 NASB
Here "attitude" is phroneo. We can only get the mind of Christ from Scripture. It is the attitude of mind that seeks to please others above ourselves. I think that these verses suggest that if believers are gong to be like Yeshua, we must major in the Word and prayer. Think about this, If Paul had to pray to see his teaching change people, so must we:
so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ. Romans 15:6 NASB
Paul is praying for unity among Jews and Gentiles through faith in Yeshua the Christ so that they can worship the One. Trust God in harmony thus bringing Him glory.
"One accord you may with one voice"--their harmony is to be inward, "one accord" and outward, "with one voice." The unity of the Church brings glory to God.
Our consuming desire should not be our pleasure, but God's glory.
Notice who Paul says is to receive glory, "God even the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ"--he is linking Christ in essential nature to God, therefore proclaiming the deity of Yeshua. The only true God is the God who is the Father of our Lord Yeshua and that is to say that no man comes unto God, as Yeshua said, but by Me:
Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB
From A.D. 70 on there is no worship of God unless there is also a worship of the God who is the Father of the Lord Yeshua the Christ:
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Yeshua is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 NASB
"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father"--What does this say of modern day Judaism? They are antichrist! Modern day Judaism is a cult, they are covenant breakers, Christ rejecters, and are under the curse of God. Christian Zionism, which much of the Church today holds to, is blasphemy. It is a heresy. Christians have no theological stake whatsoever in the modern state of Israel. Israel is an anti-God, anti-Christ nation.
Paul is telling the "strong" in Rome Christ is our example, He bore our sins out of love for us. We are to bear the weakness of the weak and not to please ourselves. Brethren, we also are to follow the example of Yeshua, and not to please ourselves. How much of our life is geared toward evangelism? Does the way we live attract other to the Gospel of Christ?
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