Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of our study of “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans.” Romans 15 presents us with a portrait of sincere love and compassion, while Romans 16 follows with a series of loving salutations from Paul on behalf of the saints who were in his company. Our devotional will be taken from Romans 15.
Continuing his exhortation for believers to extend grace and love to the brethren, Paul exhorted the “strong” [i.e., mature in the faith] to “bear [endure; receive] the infirmities [weaknesses] of the weak [i.e., weak in the faith; immature], and not to please [i.e., boast; think better of]” themselves (15:1).
In my opinion, Romans 15:1 defines one of the great failings of Bible-believing churches in the late 20th century. While weaker, immature believers struggled with carnality (worldliness), those older in the faith judged and condemned them. In the absence of mutual love and understanding, carnal, immature believers have accused their elders of being legalists, and the elders have judged and condemned the carnal.
To both the weak and the strong, Paul wrote: “Let every one of us please [i.e., soften the heart of] his neighbor for his good [to benefit his character] to edification [build up spiritually]” (Romans 15:2). Like “iron sharpeneth iron” (Proverbs 27:17), believers are tasked with the responsibility to focus on the “good to edification” of one another (15:2). In other words, we are to build up each other in the faith.
Perhaps in defense of the boldness exhibited in his letter, Paul reminded the believers he was called “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” (15:15-16). Bearing the weight of the ministry to which he was called, Paul declared: “For I will not dare [presume] to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought [worked; accomplished; fashioned] by me, to make the Gentiles obedient [submissive; in subjection], by word [speech] and deed [i.e., good works; action; behavior]” (Romans 15:18).
Paul aspired to preach the Gospel, and give God glory for what He accomplished through him. He was determined that his life, words and deeds, would serve as a testimony of the Gospel he preached.
Closing thoughts – The 21st century has seen the rise of spiritual leaders who have avoided the “legalist” label, and accommodated a generation of “weak,” carnal believers. Instead of edification that requires reproving, rebuking, and exhorting “with all longsuffering and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:2), pastors, school administrators, and faculty have pacified the worldly appetites of the carnal. Sadly, shallow, spiritually anemic preaching has given rise to a carnality that is a cancer in our homes, churches, and institutions.
I close with Paul’s admonition we should all heed: “17Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
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