Zoom Sunday School Classes – 16 June 2024 at 09:00 AM EST

Meeting ID: 848-9423-0612
Pass Code: 669872
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84894230612?pwd=Zk1ESitzbGZwTlJyV21UZXY5aTVPZz09
Hope Amidst Differences
(Empowered Servants)
Romans 15:1-13
Devotional Reading: Luke 22:25-30
Background Scripture: Romans 15:1-13

 

Daily Bible Readings

 

Monday: Servant Leadership – Luke 22:25-30
Tuesday: You Shall Receive Power – Acts 1:1-11
Wednesday: Anointed By God – Isaiah 61
THURSDAY: How Pleasant to Live in Unity – Psalms 133-134
FRIDAY: Bear One With Another in Love – Ephesians 4:1-7
SATURDAY: Embrace the Mind of Christ – Philippians 2:1-13
SUNDAY: Prayer for Hope, Joy and Peace-  Romans 15:1-13

AIM FOR CHANGE:

DENOUNCE selfish pleasures,
CONTRAST the Christian concept of empowerment with secular concepts of that term, and
IDENTIFY ways to react to common failings of a weak Christian. 

KEEP IN MIND:

"May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5-6, NRSV). 

Background:

     In Romans 12:1 through 15:13 Paul deals with the Christian’s obligations to God and man in view of the divine mercy he has received.  Our obligation to God is a sacrificial life of worshipful service.  That service is to be manifested within the church by the exercise of our spiritual gift and within our human relations by the exercise of love (Romans 12).  We are obligated to abide by the laws of the land and to live by the law of God (chapter 13).  The law of love is exhibited toward our weaker brethren by allowing him to hold his own convictions on matters of Christian liberty, and by refraining from exercising any personal liberties which might occasion the stumbling of a less mature saint (chapter 14).

     In the first 13 verses of chapter 15, Paul puts his finger on the central issue in the responsibility of the strong to the weak in the faith.  He then gives three incentives for the strong Christian to give up his rights for the good of the weak. From verse 14 on, we are privileged to read Paul’s personal correspondence for great insight into that which makes a great man of God dis­tinct from the ‘run of the mill’ Christian.


LESSON COMMENTARY:

Words Concerning the Strong and the Weak (15:1‑13, NRSV)

1We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.

     Although 1 Corinthians was written to those who were obviously weak in their Christian faith, such is not the case in Romans, for here Paul speaks of himself and his readers as those who are ‘strong’: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).

     The central issue of these first two verses is that we must set ourselves upon pleasing our weaker brethren rather than ourselves.  At the heart of the friction which exists between the strong and the weak is selfishness.  Paul does not demand that the weak ‘shape up,’ but that the strong ‘put up’ with those who are less mature.  More than this the strong must be willing to lay aside personal liberties which do not help the strong get stronger, but which do hinder the weak.

At the heart of the matter is the issue of self‑discipline and self‑denial.  This is evident in the epistle of 1 Corinthians (especially 9:24‑27).  The only reason why a strong Christian would refuse to yield to the sensitive scruples of the weak is because he is leaning on his own satisfaction.

     Now the surrender of our Christian liberties to the weaker brother is not necessarily unconditional.  First of all, it is the surrender of Christian liberties, not of Christian liberty. That is, we are to surrender the use of our rights which cause a weaker brother to stumble, not to surrender the liberty we have from the Law to legalism which insists on salvation by faith plus works.  Second, we are to endeavor to please our neighbor in that which is both for his good, and for his upbuilding or edification: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Romans 15:2).

     Just as a wise parent refuses to give in to every whim of their children, so the wise Christian refuses to surrender to every whim of the immature.  Only when our surrender of liberties builds up the weaker brother and is for his ultimate good, do we give in to his weakness.  Here, as in every area of Christian experience, there are no formulas for us to follow which tell us when to surrender and when to stand fast. It is a decision of faith for which we must ask divine wisdom.

Empowered Servants (Romans 15:3-12, NRSV)

3For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."
4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might 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 confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name";
10and again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people";
11and again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him";
12and again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope."

     In verses 3‑12, there are three specific motivations for the surrender of our personal liberties to our weaker brethren.  In verse 3 there is the motivation we find in the example of our Lord.  In verses 4‑6 there is the motivation we receive in the exhortation of the Old Testament Scriptures.  In verses 7‑12 there is the motivation we find from the existence of a divine plan to save Gentiles as well as Jews.

     The first factor in Paul’s incentive program is a reminder of the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord did not choose to please Himself, that is, to satisfy fleshly appetites, but rather to suffer reproach and persecution of men to bless us with salvation.  Most seem to emphasize the similarity of our situation with that of Christ.  We are to choose to please others by our self‑denial, just as the Lord Jesus Christ sought to please us by His self‑denial.  Our Lord Jesus was willing to suffer the reproaches of dishonor toward God, reproaches totally unjust and unmerited.  

     How can the Scriptures produce hope?  And even more perplexing, what relationship does hope have to the present matter of surrendering Christian liberties?  First, we must begin by defining the word ‘hope.’ Webster says, in part, that hope is, “… desire accompanied by anticipation or expectation.”  Biblically, we would want to be more exact than this.  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.

     Paul is exhorting the stronger brother to forsake the enjoyment of certain liberties for the present time because it may cause a weaker Christian to stumble.  Hope is what makes the Christian so distinct from those of the ‘now generation’ who suppose they ‘only go around once’ and thus must ‘grab all the gusto they can get.’  Christians don’t have to ‘grab for gusto’ as the television commercial suggests because we don’t go around only once.  The confidence of greater blessing in the future enables us to forsake the relatively insignificant pleasures afforded by our Christian liberties.  Just as the athlete has his attention fixed on the winning of a wreath and so denies himself of present luxuries, so the Christian with his eye fixed on the hope before him says no to what hinders his brother’s spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 9:24‑27).     

     Hope, then, is essential in forsaking the pleasures of certain Christian liberties in the present.  But how does the Old Testament help to produce hope?  Chapter after chapter of the Old Testament Scriptures remind us of the great men of faith who, because of the hope set before them, denied earthly pleasures in order to experience the hope promised by God.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill‑treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:24‑27).

     It is little wonder that the little word hope is so frequently employed in this chapter. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).  Hope fastens our attention on future blessings far greater than the passing pleasures of this age, and the Old Testament Scriptures rivet our attention on Christian hope.

     With this assurance the apostle shifts from the exhortation of verse 4 to petition in prayer in verses 5‑6.  He prays that the God Who is the source of perseverance and encouragement would glorify Himself by the united praise brought forth as it were by one mouth, the united praise of the strong and the weak.

     In verse 7 we are brought back to the central theme introduced in chapter 14, the acceptance of one another by the strong and the weak.  “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).  When Paul emphasizes the salvation of the Gentiles, in verses 8‑12, he does so with a distinct purpose in mind.  By reminding the ‘strong’ Gentile believers that God has chosen to save Gentiles he prompts a heart‑felt sense of gratitude.  But when Paul reminds these Gentiles that God’s primary purpose in history is to save Israel, he calls forth an attitude of humility.  If the Gentiles wish to be proud of their being stronger than their weaker Jewish brethren let them remember that God’s primary interest has been in keeping His promises to the Jews.  God has purposed that Jews and Gentiles rejoice in unison, so let them do so.  “And again, he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people’” (Romans 15:10).

1.      How can we even begin to compare the sacrifice of fleshly desires to that sacrifice of our Lord?

Abounding in Hope (Romans 15:13, NRSV)

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

     Paul concludes this section with another prayer, a prayer for hope, for joy, for peace, from God through the Holy Spirit.  “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). 

Paul doesn’t pray that you will have a little bit of joy and peace trickling into your life now and then.  Rather, he prays that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace so that you will abound in hope.  He piles up these superlatives to show us what God can give us and wants to give us.  Paul wants our “jugs” of joy and peace to be overflowing so that we are continually abounding in hope in God.  Again, while we all fall short of this, don’t settle for an empty or partially full jug.  Ask God to fill you to the brim with His joy and peace and hope.

It’s also important to understand that the joy and peace that Paul is talking about are not a “Pollyanna positive” outlook that denies the reality of sorrow, grief, or genuine concern.  Paul had great sorrow and unceasing grief in his heart over the great number of Jews who were rejecting Christ (9:2), yet he could write here about being filled with all joy.  Paul says, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16).  Paul described himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10).  In Philippians, where Paul was in prison and being wrongly criticized by fellow believers, he was rejoicing always in the Lord.

We also need a realistic view of Spirit-produced peace.  It does not mean that we casually shrug off concern for difficult problems.  Paul was filled with peace and yet he mentions the daily pressure on him “of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).  So, we’re not talking about a “who cares, whatever” kind of peace, where a person irresponsibly shrugs off every concern.  Biblical peace comes from taking all of our anxieties to God in thankful prayer (Phil. 4:6-7): “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Discuss the Meaning:

  1. When we do for others what they should do for themselves, we actually do more damage than good.  Are you prone to this tendency?  How can we know when we cross that line?
  2. What are some contemporary examples of cultural differences that tend to segregate churches? How can we overcome these?
  3. Are you putting the priority on godly relationships that the Bible does? Is there a strained or broken relationship that you need to try to restore? What should you do next?
  4. Why is it crucial to keep God’s glory as our primary aim in our relationships, rather than our happiness as the primary aim?
  5. Paul says (1 Cor. 15:19), “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Why must our hope be anchored to eternity rather than to this life only?
  6. Paul says that we are to please others, not ourselves. But obviously, there is a balance point where we need time for ourselves or we will burn out. How do we determine that point?

LESSON IN OUR SOCIETY:

     This assurance of future blessing is vital to the subject at hand.  Paul is exhorting the stronger brother to forsake the enjoyment of certain liberties for the present time because it may cause a weaker Christian to stumble.  Hope is what makes the Christian so distinct from those of the ‘now generation’ who suppose they ‘only go around once’ and thus must ‘grab all the gusto they can get.’  Christians don’t have to ‘grab for gusto’ as the television com­mercial suggests because we don’t go around only once.  The confidence of greater blessing in the future enables us to forsake the relatively insignificant pleasures afforded by our Christian liberties.  Just as the athlete has his attention fixed on the winning of a wreath and so denies himself of present luxuries, so the Christian with his eye fixed on the hope before him says no to what hinders his brother’s spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 9:24‑27).

NEXT WEEK’S LESSON: 23 June 2024

God Is Trustworthy
(Full Assurance)
Hebrews 6:9-20
Devotional Reading: Psalm 23
Background Scripture: Hebrews 6:9-20

SOURCES: Romans

Achtemeier, Paul J. Harper's Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

Biblical Studies Press: The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Brown, Raymond E., S. S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J.; Roland E. Murphy, O Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Dummelow, J. R., M.A. Rev. The One Volume Bible Commentary. New York: The Macmillan Company Publishers, 1961.

Dunn, James, D. G., Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 38b, Romans 9-16. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2014.

Gaebelein, Frank E., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans - Galatians Vol.11, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 2007.

James Orr, M.A., D.D., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Edition, Parsons Technology, Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 1998.

Keck Leander E., The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Volume IX: Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, New York: Abingdon Press, 2015

Morris, William, ed., Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.

Mounce, Robert H., New American Commentary: Romans, An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Volume 27. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: Romans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004

Strong, James, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska. 2003.

Vine, W.E. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Edited by Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr., Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.