Summary: Looking at Romans 15:1-3 in light of its context in Romans 14 as well as broader applications to ministering to the needs of the weak, spiritually and physically.
1. Tonight we return to a passage in the book of Romans. Remember that chapter 14 deals with differences in judgment about whether or not certain things were right or wrong. Some of Paul’s readers esteemed certain days above others. Probably this refers to Jewish Christians who still wanted to keep the holy days and feasts of Judaism. Others looked at every day being the same. Some did not eat certain foods while others believed that it was okay to eat anything they wanted. Each one should be fully persuaded in his own mind. These should not be matters where one brother tries to bind his judgment on another [Romans 14:1-12]
2. However, some Christians are “weak in faith” [Romans 14:1] while others are stronger. Those who are stronger in their faith must be careful not to put stumbling blocks in the way of their weaker brothers [Romans 14:13]. Romans 14:19 sets out the principle which should guide our behavior in dealings with our brothers and sisters – “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”
3. The subject continues as our reading takes us over into chapter 15. In this study, we will pay attention especially to Romans 15:1-3 (NKJV), “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." That is the reading of the New King James Version. You’ll notice that it says the strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak. There’s a little interpretation there. I believe it is a correct interpretation based on the context of chapter 14, but still it’s interpretation. Let’s look at verse 1 in other translations:
a. KJV, ASV – “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak”
b. ESV – “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak”
c. CSV – “We who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength”
Greek authorities indicate that those translations give an accurate rendering of what Paul wrote. We see that there can be a broader application than simply dealing with weak brethren in a way that considers their consciences.
I. HELPING THE WEAK IN PHYSICAL MATTERS
A. Those who are strong physically should help those who are weak physically. I admit that is not the context of Paul’s teaching in Romans 14-15, but it is a Bible truth.
1. We should bear one another’s burdens [Galatians 6:2].
2. When we visit the sick and the elderly we should be doing more than having a conversation with them. I know a brother in Christ who was the school superintendent in the city where he lives from many years. In recent years, he has served as an elder in the church. Now he has retired from the school district and is devoting much of his time to working for the Lord. One thing he has been doing is cutting grass for some needy widows in the church who don’t have family nearby and who don’t have funds to hire someone to do their yard work. Here’s a well-educated professional man who’s used to being an executive with several hundred employees – pushing a lawn mower because he understands that’s a part of his Christian duty in “visiting orphans and widows in their trouble” [James 1:27].
B. We have an obligation to help those who have not done very well helping themselves. Jesus said “you have the poor with you always” [Matthew 26:11]. That simply means that we are never going to have such a strong economy and do such a good job educating and motivating people so that poverty is completely eradicated. Forty years ago, we had a “war on poverty.” Living conditions are better in some ways, but we still have poverty. There are still people who need help with the daily necessities of life.
C. Christians should not “pass the buck” to the government and say that it is not our responsibility. We may not be able to feed and clothe every person in need, but we should try to do as much good as we can. Jesus went about doing good [Acts 10:38]. We should do the same thing [Galatians 6:10 (NKJV) Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.] We need to use wisdom and judgment in the way we offer help. Those who will not work should not eat [2 Thessalonians 3:10]. Nevertheless, Christians have an obligation to do what we can to help those who are physically needy.