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The Strong and the Weak

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God sustains the work of His kingdom among us despite differences in culture and opinion.

Law/Gospel Focus

God sustains the work of His kingdom among us despite differences in culture and opinion.

The Strong and the Weak

According to authors Alan and Cheryl Klaas, nearly 100,000 ministers in the United States are experiencing career “burnout.” Constant battles and bad attitudes among church members have contributed greatly to this problem. Many congregations have trouble calling or retaining a pastor because they cannot be at peace.
shows Paul dealing with practical issues that were causing serious problems among the house-churches at Rome. These matters involved dietary practices and worship days observed by Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul’s wisdom and insights provide practical guidelines for embattled congregations today.
1. Why is Paul, an outsider, able to speak so directly about this matter? Read .
Romans 15:15–16 ESV
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul speaks from His calling as a minister of Christ. He bases His authority in God and God’s mission.
Having laid the doctrinal basis for the Christian life, Paul directly addresses and describes the problem in .
Romans 14:1–8 ESV
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
2. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” ( NIV; read 2:1; 14:13).
Romans 14:4 ESV
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
I’m a brother with a bad attitude and have no basis in myself for condemning someone else!
3. In your own words, summarize Paul’s point in .
Romans 14:7–8 ESV
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
We belong to the Lord; therefore, we belong to one another.
4. “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?” ( NIV; read 14:1–3).
Romans 14:10 ESV
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;
They’re fighting about vegetables, but also matters of conscience.
5. How does the title Paul uses to describe a congregational member (, , ) ease tensions and emphasize the need to resolve the dispute?
Romans 14:10 ESV
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;
Romans 14:15 ESV
For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
Romans 14:21 ESV
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Paul describes the members as “brothers,” emphasizing their family relationship with the heavenly Father.
gets to the heart of the matter and borrows words from Paul’s earlier teaching. The kingdom of God or God’s rule stands in sharp contrast to the rules of men and their results. Though Paul wants members of the congregation to be sensitive to one another (14:15, 20–21), he also points out the truth that Christians are free because Christ has set them free and filled them with peace and joy.
Romans 14:17 ESV
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Paul encourages peace and mutual edification in light of such problems: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak . . . live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” ().
Romans 15:1–6 ESV
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. How can one distinguish between a “disputable matter” (14:1) and a genuine threat to congregational life? Read .
Romans 15:4 ESV
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Paul refers the Romans to Scripture, which provides endurance and encouragement for their life together.
7. Without reopening controversy, briefly reflect on issues that have troubled your congregation. How might you “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification” in the future? What unifying activities does Paul describe in , ?
Romans 15:6 ESV
that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:9–11 ESV
and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”
Answers will vary. Activities include united confession of faith, praise, and singing together.

Ministry to the Gentiles

Paul rounds out his “reminder” to the Romans with a mission appeal. God calls His people not only to faith and sanctification but also to mission, so that others might receive the benefits of the Gospel. Once again, the pattern of living sacrifice appears.
8. What expressions of sacrifice does Paul use in ?
Romans 15:16 ESV
to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Paul describes his mission as a priestly duty. He will “sacrifice” the Gentiles to the Lord.
9. Describe Paul’s “boasting” and “ambition” in verses . Where does Paul say these things come from?
Romans 15:17–22 ESV
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.
Paul boasts about the success of the mission to the Gentiles, attributing all glory to Christ.
10. As an apostle, Paul’s preaching of the Gospel was accompanied by what power? Read also .
2 Corinthians 12:12 ESV
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
The power of signs and miracles was evidence of apostolic calling and authority.
11. How does Paul describe prayer in ? What implication might this have for your practice as a congregation?
Romans 15:30 ESV
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,
By praying, the congregation joined Paul in his struggle. This highlights the importance of prayer for the mission of the Gospel. Those who are infirm or isolated in their homes or nursing homes should take special note of this passage and their mission opportunity.
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