About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 15:1 - 13

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The Weak And Strong - continued (ch. 15:1 - 13)


In chapter 15, verse 1 Paul says that, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak."  Once again, who are the strong, and who are the weak?  Paul counts himself as strong.  He eats meat, drinks wine, and considers all days to be the same.  It may seem hard to understand why Paul makes this judgment, and a judgment it is, but he does.  After making this judgment he tells his readers not to please themselves, not to think of themselves first.  As I've said before, Christians today have a wrong concept of judging.  Paul tells his readers not to pass judgment but here he passes judgment.  It's thus clear then that there is indeed a time and place to make a judgment and it appears that this is one of those times.


In verse 2 Paul tells his readers to please their neighbours, including the weak in faith.  According to Paul this was the mission of Jesus (verse 3).  Jesus' life was an example of pleasing others.  We should understand the word "please" here not in terms of doing everything and anything another would want us to do for him.  Pleasing, according to the Greek word translated as "please" here (aresko) suggest that we are to be pleasing to others.  That's a bit different than pleasing others, that is, fulfilling all of their wishes and desires.  We should think in terms of serving others without violating the truths of Scripture so that we can be a pleasing type of person.  In short, Christian must be pleasing to others as they serve them, but, in the process of serving, we are not door mats.  We may serve others but first and foremost we serve God.  Our service to others must be conducted in relation to our service to God.   


In verse 3 Paul quotes Psalm 69:9 that is prophetic of the insults that had fallen upon Jesus.  Paul seems to be implying that even though Jesus was insulted, even unto death, He still served others over Himself.  We must note though that the reason why He served others, despite the insults, was that God told him to do so.  So, the bottom line for Jesus was that He was doing God's will. 


In verse 4 Paul says that everything written in the past, that's the Scriptures in the Old Testament, was written for all of us to learn from.  Understanding the Old Testament is thus necessary if we are ever to understand the New Testament.  In fact, as Paul says here, it will help us to endure and be encouraged in whatever comes our way.  In the end, we will have hope, all from our understanding of what was written in the Old Testament.  Most modern day Christians are Biblically illiterate and especially so when it comes to the Old Testament.  This is a sad commentary on the church and it shows through clearly in the unbiblical way many Christians live.  


One of the most misunderstood things in Christendom is how the New Testament relates to the Old Testament.  Another way to put it is, "How do New Testament Christians live in light of the Old Testament?"  This is a subject in itself that I will not speak to now since I've done that elsewhere.      


Notice that in verse 4 Paul says that understanding the Old Testament, that he calls Scripture, helps us endure and gives us encouragement in times of trials.  Of course, if one does not know or understand the Old Testament, as many don't today, one will miss out on the encouragement that the Old Testament provides during times of trials where we need to endure.    


In verses 5 and 6 Paul goes on to say, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement, give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and one mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  The unity that Paul speaks of here is far from reality in our church today, and really, has never been a reality from the beginning.  The unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 will not come about until Jesus Himself brings it about when He returns, or so I believe.   


I believe the reason why Paul encourages the believers to be unified here is due to the Jewish believer Gentile believer conflict that was mostly over compliance to the Law of Moses.  That's really the background of chapters 14 and 15.  


Paul says that we should glorify God with one heart and one mouth.  What does this mean?  Does this mean that we need to all believe the same thing, thus speaking the same thing?  That would certainly be nice, and that should be our goal, but I donít think it will happen.  It might not even be what Paul was talking about since he has already said that we should agree to disagree when it comes to disputable issues.  


Paul says we should be unified in our hearts.  I believe that suggest, because of the union we have in the Holy Spirit, our goals and motivation should be united in one purpose.  As we work together to further the Kingdom of God on earth and as we preach the gospel as we were commanded, we should speak the same thing in the process of our mission.  I don't think that means speaking the same thing in all aspects of Christian doctrine.  Our mouths should simply confirm we have a common goal, a common direction, and a common motivation. 


Therefore, in verse 7 we read, "Accept one another" and by so doing we will give praise to God.   Accepting one another in Paulís day was difficult to do, as it is in our day.  The Jewish/Gentile problem still persisted in Rome as we've seen.  Paul says that this acceptance of one another will bring praise to God.  If that is so, then the opposite is true.  If we don't accept one another, then we bring disgrace to God, and that is what the church has done so much of over the years with all of our divisions.  Our open division defeats the very purpose why the church has been called.  It defeats the reason for our existence.  It hinders us from reaching our goals.  It simply hurts the name of the Lord which we are to uphold and reverence before the world.  


In verse 8 Paul says that Christ has become a servant of the
Jews on behalf of Godís truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs.  The word "patriarchs" is a reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The promises Paul speaks of are all the promises in what we call the Abrahamic Covenant.  That is the covenant that God made with Himself and spoke to Abraham.  These promises were later confirmed to Isaac and Jacob.  They include such things as the nationhood and greatness of   Israel , which included a promised portion of land.  The promises also stated that God would bless the whole world through Abraham's descendents.  This last promise is what Paul is talking about in verse 9 when he speaks of the Gentiles praising God.  Israel was meant to be God's priest among the nations according to Exodus 19:6.  Israel has never fulfilled her calling but she will when Jesus returns to rule the nations from Israel.  At that point, Israel will indeed be the priest to the nations as was God's original intention for her.   


The promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant were confirmed throughout the Old Testament prophetic writings.  So, when Paul speaks of the promises, I also believe that would include the promises that are seen as prophecies.


Verse 9 is a restatement of Paul's point in chapter 9 through 11.  God honoured His promises to the patriarchs of Israel that resulted in the salvation of the Gentiles.  This came true in the promises made to the offspring, who is Jesus.  Remember, the promises were made to Abraham, his descendents Israel, and his offspring Jesus.      


Verses 9 through 12 give Old Testament Scriptures showing that the Gentiles indeed will some day become under the authority and rule of the Lord God.  God's name will be praised throughout the Gentile nations, which as I've already stated, will take place after Jesus returns to earth, sits on David's throne, and restores Israel to her original God given place among the nations. 


Verse 12 is a quote from Isaiah 11:10.  We see the name Jesse there.  Jesse was King David's father.  The "Root of Jesus" is a Messianic prophecy that speaks to the future rule of the Jewish Messiah over all the world.  Of course we know Him to be the Lord Jesus Christ.  Note that although Jesus will rule in Jerusalem after He returns to earth and be the King of Israel, He will also be the King of the world as this verse states.                   


These Old Testament passages that Paul quotes need to be understood in their context.  Remember, chapter 14 and 15 appear to be one continuous unit of thought.  These chapters speak of the division between Jewish believers and Gentile believers concerning obedience to the Law of Moses.  Paul is saying in these verses that the Gentile believers have a place in the economy of God.       


Paul ends this section in verse 13 by saying, "May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in Him."  Remember, trust is another word for faith.  As we trust Jesus with all aspects of our lives, the Holy Spirit will give joy, peace, and hope in the midst of anything that comes our way.  The joy, peace, and hope we have will overflow.  These qualities will not just be for our own benefit but will be for the benefit of those we are called to serve. 


Some Christians don't put much stock in hope because they view hope as being weak faith, but that's not the Biblical definition of hope.  The Bible doesn't view hope as the world does.  The world views hope as in, "I hope I win the lottery, but I probably won't."   That hope is uncertain.  It's vague.  Biblical hope is a certain expectation that at some future date what you hope for will in deed come about.        

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