Summary: In Romans 15:1-13, Paul encourages all of us to follow the example of our Lord in putting the good of others before our own interest, and he encourages us to seek a unity that will enable us to effectively praise God with one heart and one voice.
A. The story is told of a little boy who got into an argument with two boys twice his size.
1. The little boy drew a line in the sand and dared the two boys to cross it.
2. The two bigger boys accepted the challenge and crossed over the line.
3. Immediately, the little boy’s face lit up with a smile and he said, “I knew I could get you to come over to my side of the argument!”
4. Don’t you wish it was that easy to move people over to our side?
5. Don’t you wish that conflict resolution was that easy?
B. I don’t like conflict! How about you?
1. I much prefer to get along with the people in my life, don’t you?
2. But it seems to me that I could get along with everyone much easier if everyone was more like me and thought like me, don’t you think?
3. It’s our differences that account for our disagreements, right?
4. The truth of the matter is that we all have different backgrounds and have had different experiences.
5. This leads to different ideas, different opinions, different perspectives, and different values.
6. And, of course, most of us are convinced that our way of looking at things is right.
7. So when we encounter people who don’t agree with us, we may feel obligated to try to convert them to our way of thinking, and the result is often conflict.
8. And let me say it again, it seems that we would all be able to get along with each other much more easily if everyone thought like I think…just sayin’!
C. Even though I am joking about the fact that if everyone thought like me we could get along better, one of Paul’s challenges to the Romans in Romans 15 is that they should have one mind and heart – God’s.
1. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul laid a theological foundation of the need of salvation for everyone, both Jew and Gentile.
2. And then, since chapter 12, Paul has been focusing on the call of discipleship that includes a complete spiritual offering of ourselves to God expressed in a sincere love for each other.
3. In chapter 14, Paul directly addressed the conflicts and divisions in the church at Rome.
4. Paul challenged them not to judge or look down on each other, nor do anything that would cause other Christians to stumble and fall into sin, but to do what builds others up.
5. As we turn to chapter 15, we see that Paul is not only wrapping up this discussion of handling differences in the body, but he is bringing his entire letter to a conclusion.
6. We will see that Paul encourages all of us to follow the example of our Lord in putting the good of others before our own interest, and he encourages us to seek a unity that will enable us to effectively praise God with one heart and one voice.
7. Let’s work our way, verse by verse, through today’s section and then draw some applications for our lives and for the body of Christ as a whole.
D. Paul wrote: 1 Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself. On the contrary, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:1-3)
1. Although Paul had already indicated his agreement with the thinking of the strong group in Rome (14:14, 20), here in verse 1, we see that he identifies himself with them by using the first person plural.
a. He says, “we who are strong have an obligation” and so he includes himself in the strong group and obligates himself along with them to bear with the concerns of the weak.
b. Paul and others at Rome don’t see any problem with eating meat or drinking wine, and so forth, but there are those whose consciences are weak and will not allow them to do so.
2. When Paul says that the strong should bear the weaknesses of the weak, he is not asking them simply to be “put up with.”
a. The verb “bear” has the same force here that it does in Galatians 6:2, where Paul urged believers to “bear one another’s burdens” – not just put up with, but help carry.
b. The strong are to moderate their own conduct to accommodate the needs of the weak.
3. Why would or should the strong do that? Because the mature in Christ understand that the main goal is not pleasing themselves, but doing what is best for others.