The fourteenth chapter of Romans presented to us our duty towards those who are weak in the faith, and who have excessively conscientious scruples with regard to things that are in themselves of no consequence. We are not judges of one another, but must all appear before [Christ's] judgment seat. If we have more knowledge than our brother, we are not arbitrarily to bring him to our standard, any more than he is to bring us down to his. Our greater knowledge rather throws upon us the responsibility of exercising the greater charity and patience.
The sum of it all is contained in these verses: "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God."
The Duty of Helping One Another Romans 15:1-7
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus; 6 that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
Receiving One Another. The verses composing this chapter supplement the instruction given in chapter fourteen, and are a continuation of that. Thus, that chapter opens with the exhortation, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye." The last verse of our present study is, "Wherefore receive ye one another."
How Are We to Receive One Another? The answer is, "As Christ also received us." This again emphasizes the statement that the apostle had not the slightest intention in any way of depreciating any one of the Ten Commandments when in the fourteenth chapter he said: "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Christ did not in the slightest degree make any concessions in the commandments in order to accommodate those whom he would receive. He said, "Think not that I came to destroy the law, or the prophets." Matt. 5:17. Again, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:10. Christ's commandments and those of the Father are the same, because he says, "I and my Father are one." John 10:30. When a young man wished to follow him, he said to him, "Keep the commandments." Matt. 19:17. Therefore it is evident that in making concessions for the sake of peace and harmony, no concession is to be made in respect to keeping the commandments of God.
How to Please Others. This is still further shown by the exhortation, "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification." We are never exhorted to aid a brother to sin, in order to please him. Neither are we exhorted to close our eyes to a brother's sin, and allow him to go on in it without warning him, lest we displease him. There is no kindness in that. The exhortation is, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in anywise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him." Lev. 19:17. The mother who would be so fearful of displeasing her child that she would not stop it from putting its hand into the blaze, would be exhibiting cruelty instead of kindness. We are to please our neighbors, but only for their good, not to lead them astray.
Bearing Others' Weaknesses. Going back to the first verse, we find this lesson still more strongly emphasized: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." "For even Christ pleased not himself." Compare this with Galatians 6:1, 2: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such on one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." In bearing the infirmities of the weak, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. But to bear another's burdens does not mean to teach him that he can safely ignore any of the commandments. To keep the commandments of God is not a burden; for "his commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:3.
How Christ Bears Our Burdens. Christ bears our burdens, not by taking away the law of God, but by taking away our sins, and enabling us to keep the law. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." Rom. 8:3, 4.
He Says "Come." One blessed thing in the service of the Lord is that he does not say, "Go," but, "Come." He does not send us away to labor by ourselves, but calls us to follow him. He does not ask anything of us that he does not himself do. When he says that we ought to bear the infirmities of them that are weak, we should take it as an encouragement, instead of a task laid upon us, since it reminds us of what he does for us. He is the mighty One, for we read, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty; I have exalted One chosen out of the people." Ps. 89:19. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Is. 53:4, 6.
Why the Task Is Easy. This is what makes it easy to bear one another's burdens. If we know that Christ bears our burdens, it will become a pleasure for us to bear the burdens of others. The trouble is that too often we forget that Christ is the Burden-bearer, and, being over powered with the weight of our own infirmities, we have still less patience with those of others. But when we know that Christ is indeed the Burden-bearer, we cast our own care upon him; and then when we make the burden of another our own, he bears that too.
"The God of All Comfort." God is "the God of patience and consolation." He is "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Cor. 1:3, 4. He takes upon himself all the reproaches that fall upon men. "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." Of the children of Israel it is said, "In all their affliction he was afflicted." Isa. 63:9. The words of Christ are, "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor." "Reproach hath broken my heart." Ps. 69:19, 20. Yet in all this there was no impatience, no murmuring. Therefore, as he has already borne the burdens of the world in the flesh, he is fully able to bear ours in our flesh, without complaining; so that we may be "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness." Col. 1:11.
The Gospel According to Moses. It is this lesson that is taught us throughout all the Scriptures: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." In the book of Job this is made manifest. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." James 5:11. In the writings of Moses it is as clearly set forth. Christ says: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not the writings, how shall ye believe my words?" John 5:46, 47. If the gospel according to Moses is neglected, it will be of no use to read the gospel according to John, because the gospel can not be divided. The gospel of Christ, like himself, is one.
How to Receive One Another. Finally, "Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." Whom does Christ receive? "This man receiveth sinners." How many will he receive? "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
How will he receive them? "All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." And if they come, what assurance have they? "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Let us learn of him; and remember that, wherever you may open the Scriptures, they are they which testify of him.
Standing on the Threshold. Our study of the book of Romans, while there have been many articles, has not been exhaustive. Indeed, it is impossible to have an exhaustive study of the Bible; for no matter how thoroughly we study any portion of it, we shall still find ourselves but upon the threshold. The more we study the Bible, the more will our best study seem to be only preliminary to further study that will be seen to be necessary. But although we can not expect ever to exhaust the truth, so that we can say that we have it all, we may be sure that as far as we have gone we have only the truth. And this assurance arises not from any wisdom that we have, but solely from adhering closely to the word of God, and not allowing the alloy of human ideas to mingle with its pure gold.
"All Joy and Peace in Believing" Romans 15:8-14
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers: 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root out of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Ghost. 14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
"A Minister of the Circumcision." Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision. Bear this in mind. Shall we learn from it that he saves only the Jews? By no means, but we must learn from it that "salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22. "Jesus Christ our Lord" was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh." Rom. 1:3. He is the "root of Jesse," which stands "for an ensign of the people," to which the Gentiles seek. Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12. The Gentiles who find salvation must find it in Israel. None can find it anywhere else.
"The Commonwealth of Israel." In writing to the brethren at Ephesus, Paul refers to the time before they were converted as the time when they were "Gentiles in the flesh," and says, "At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Eph. 2:11, 12.
That is, outside of Israel there is no hope for mankind. They who are "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" are "without Christ," and "without God in the world." In Christ Jesus we are brought to God. But being brought to God we are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Vss. 18, 19. Therefore we have two things most clearly and positively taught, namely, That none are saved unless they are of the house of Israel; and, That none are of the house of Israel except those who are in Christ.
Confirming the Promises. "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." That shows that all the promises of God to the fathers were made in Christ. "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen." 2 Cor. 1:20. "To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Gal. 3:16. There was therefore never any promise made to the fathers which was not to be obtained only through Christ, and therefore through the righteousness which is by him.
Christ Not Divided. Jesus Christ is declared to be a minister of the circumcision. Suppose now we hold that the promises to the fathers mean the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we should then be shut up to the conclusion that only those natural descendants, those who are circumcised, can be saved. Or, at least, we should be driven to the conclusion that Christ does something for them that he does not do for the rest of mankind.
But Christ is not divided. All that he does for one man he does for every man. All that he does for any he does through his cross; and he is crucified but once. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Therefore since Christ is the minister of the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, it is evident that those promises included all mankind. "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him" Rom. 10:12. "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." Rom. 3:29, 30.
The "Tabernacle of David." At the time when the apostles and elders were assembled in Jerusalem, Peter told how he had been used by the Lord to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Said he, "God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:8, 9.
Then James added, "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:14-18.
That is, the house of David is to be built up only by the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, and the taking from them of a people for God. And this was the purpose of God from the beginning, as the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43.
"The Blessing of Abraham." Again we read that "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; . . . that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Gal. 3:13, 14. The curse that Christ was made for us, was the cross, as is stated in the words omitted from the text just quoted.
Therefore we learn that the promises to the fathers were assured only by the cross of Christ. But Christ tasted death for every man. Heb. 2:9. He was "lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14, 15. Therefore the promises made to the fathers were simply the promises of the gospel, which is "to every creature." By the cross, Christ confirms the promises made to the fathers, in order "that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy."
"One Fold, and One Shepherd." In the tenth chapter of John we find some of the most beautiful, tender, and encouraging words of the Lord Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the gate by which the sheep enter into the fold. He gives his life to save them. Then he says, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd." Vs. 16. Therefore when his work is completed, there will be but one fold, and he will be the Shepherd. Let us see who will compose that flock.
The Lost Sheep. In the fifteenth chapter of Luke, that wonderful bouquet of blessed illustrations of the love and mercy of the Saviour, Jesus represents his work as that of the shepherd going to seek the lost and wandering sheep. Now who are the sheep that he is seeking? He himself gives the answer: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. 15:24. This is emphatic. Therefore it is evident that all the sheep whom he finds, and whom he brings back to the fold, will be Israel. And so it is just as evident that the "one fold" will be the fold of Israel. There will be no other fold, since it is to be "one fold." And he will be the Shepherd. To-day, as well as in the days of old, we may pray, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth." Ps. 80:1.
The Characteristic of the Sheep. Those who are following Christ are his sheep. But he has "other sheep." There are many who are not now following him, who are his sheep. They are lost and wandering, and he is seeking them.
What determines who are his sheep? Hear him tell: "The sheep hear his voice." "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice." "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice." John 10:3, 16, 26, 27. When he speaks, those who are his sheep will hear his voice, and come to him. The word of the Lord is the test as to who are his sheep. Every one therefore who hears and obeys the word of the Lord is of the family of Israel; and those who reject or neglect the word, are eternally lost. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
"One Faith." We may now stop to see how this that the apostle has said connects with what he has said in the fourteenth chapter, about Christ's being the minister of the circumcision, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, in order that the Gentiles might glorify God.
"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Mark this: They who are to be received "as Christ also received us to the glory of God," are those who have the faith. Now there is but "one faith," as there is but "one Lord." Eph. 4:5. And faith comes by hearing the word of God. Rom. 10:17.
Since there is to be but one fold, and Christ, the one Shepherd, is not divided, there must be no division in the fold. Disputings, which come from human wisdom and human human ideas, are to be left out, and the word of God alone followed. That allows of no disputing, since it tells ever one and the same thing. This is the rule: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." 1 Pet. 1:1-3.
Faith, Hope, Joy, and Peace. "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Here we have faith and hope, joy and peace. The God of hope is to fill us with all joy and peace in believing, and this is to be by the power of the Holy Ghost. This connects the present instruction with that of the fourteenth chapter, where we are told that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Paul's Successful Gospel Outreach Romans 15:15-33
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, 16 that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. 17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation; 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. 22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. 23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; 24 whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. 25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. 27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. 28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. 29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. 30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; 32 that I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
The Gospel Commission. When Jesus was about to leave this world, he told his disciples that they should first receive power by the Holy Spirit, and then, said he, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8. "To the Jew first, and also to the Greek," but to all alike, and the same gospel to all. So Paul declared that his work as a minister of the gospel consisted in "testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21. So in our text he tells us that as "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God," he had "through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God" "fully preached the gospel of Christ" "from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum."
Partaking the Same Spiritual Things. The apostle, speaking of his desire to visit the Romans, said that he hoped to see them when he took his journey into Spain. "But now," said he, "I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."
A very simple statement, but it shows that the Gentiles received nothing spiritual except that which came from the Jews. The spiritual things of which the Gentiles had been made partakers came from the Jews, and were ministered to them by Jews. Both partook of the same spiritual meat, and therefore the Gentiles showed their gratitude by ministering to the temporal necessities of the Jews. So here again we see but one fold and one Shepherd.
The God of Israel. Many times in the Bible God is declared to be the God of Israel. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, immediately after the healing of the lame man, said to the people, "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus." Acts 3:13. Even in this age, therefore, God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel.
God desires to be known and remembered, and so we read his words, "Speak
thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall
keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations,
for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel
forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh
day he rested, and was refreshed." Ex. 31:13, 16, 17. God is the God of
Israel. True, he is the God of the Gentiles also, but only as they accept
him, and become Israel through the righteousness by faith. But Israel must
keep the sabbath. It is the sign of their connection with God.