Romans 15:1-7

As you read these first seven verses of Romans 15, it is quite clear that this is not a new topic, but a continuation of the message of chapter 14. Paul now summarizes his points, draws some conclusions, and explains some solutions concerning how to deal with these conflicts over non-essential issues. He encourages each of us on how to love those who disagree with us. Every one of us will have those times of disagreement with our spouse or our friend over one of these non-essential issues. How should you deal with them? How should you treat someone when this disagreement occurs?

What are Paul’s conclusions about the responsibilities of the strong?

Paul instructs us by writing, We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’ For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:1-7). What then are our responsibilities toward those who struggle with these non-moral and non-essential issues? Paul gives us several clear instructions.

1. The strong ought to bear with the weaknesses of other believers.

Whenever the topic of strong and weak Christians comes up in a conversation, have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have weaknesses like that person?” Possibly you have never heard someone say something like this, but have you ever thought it? I have found that when it comes to weaknesses, no one wants to raise their hand and say, “I am a weak believer.” Yet the reality is we all have weaknesses in our faith and our obedience with some issue. If anyone says they don’t have weaknesses, it is like they are saying, I don’t ever struggle with my sin nature. We all know that is not true! We are all sinners, and we will all battle with our sin nature until we die. But the question is, do you know where your weaknesses are? Also, do you see where you are strong in your relationship with the Lord? Many times, when you go for a job interview, people will ask, “What are your strengths?” People love to talk about these. Then, invariably the question comes, “What are your weaknesses?” There is usually an uncomfortable silence at this point. However, knowing what your weaknesses are is very important to growth in your life.

Some of you reading this should be able to say, “I am a people person,” or, “I’m not a people person.” Or, “I’m a good conversationalist,” or, “I’m not.” Or, “I’m a detail person,” or, “I’m not detail oriented.” It is just as important to know if someone has computer skills and is a good typist. These are important things to know about yourself, so when an employer hires you to be a sales person, or someone who sits at the front desk to greet people, or a typist, you can confidently say, “I can do that job.” If you can’t identify what your strengths and weaknesses might be, ask your spouse or a close friend. Tell them, “Don’t spare my feelings, or flatter me – be honest with me!” Others can usually see your strengths and weaknesses before you can. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you to apply for jobs you are well suited for, and keep you from failing in many pursuits in life.

There are also weaknesses in your Christian walk. I personally have plenty of these weaknesses. My wife knows my weaknesses well, and I know hers. One of my biggest weaknesses is struggling with a car salesman or an auto-mechanic. I struggle with these individuals, because I’ve worked on cars since I was fourteen years old. The problem is that I have been taken advantage of by individuals in these fields, so I have a natural dislike for them. When my wife and I are in the car, and I’m about to get an estimate on some car repair, my wife will say to me, “Honey, I want you to pray before you go into that shop. Ask God to give you a good attitude.” Knowing your weaknesses can really help you to be prepared and keep you from many conflicts.

Knowing these truths is why Paul wrote that each of us, “who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Rom. 15:1-2). In other words, true Christian maturity and love are what should motivate you to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The word bear means to carry or pick up an unpleasant burden and to endure it for love’s sake. This is the same word used when Jesus bore His cross to be crucified for our sins (John 19:17). It is also the same word used when Jesus commanded us to bear the cross for Him and to deny ourselves (Luke 14:27). This is exactly what Paul is asking each of us to do by not pleasing ourselves in regard to non-essential issues that come up. To bear with the scruples of the weak is done by love. Loving like this is what edifies others and keeps us from creating conflicts over non-essential issues.

If you are the one who is weak in an area, you need to guard yourself. When you are feeling weak in any area of your life, go to God in prayer and let Him help you with your weakness. Remember what Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Depending on your fleshly abilities is never a good idea. Why? Because Jesus said the flesh is weak. It has always been weak, and will always be weak. So, pray! Prayer is where you invite the power of the Spirit to come and to help you with your weaknesses. Let the power of God strengthen you to resist temptation and to love others who are struggling around you.

2. What should you do if you consider yourself a strong Christian?

To summarize Paul’s instruction on this topic, let me ask you some questions. If you consider yourself to be a strong Christian, how should you respond toward those who are weak? By considering this question in this way, you may discover some of your own weaknesses. What will true love cause you to do as a believer? Here is what Paul has taught us so far.

These are the specific things in our text that Paul encouraged us to do if we want to love a weaker brother or sister. Is this your general attitude and behavior toward others?

For another perspective on this topic of becoming strong in your faith and conduct, consider in general what Scripture teaches. Exactly how do you become strong as a believer?

The above principles are essential for every believer who wants to become strong in the Lord. As you walk in love and faith, trusting in God’s grace, you will find the strength to care for others. Without His strength it will be impossible.

3. Selfishness is the real problem.

Notice, Paul also addresses in these verses the source of the problems that these believers were having. In verses 1-2, Paul declared, We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” Paul makes it clear that the reason for these conflicts over non-essential issues was rooted in selfish behavior. This is why Paul commands them to not please themselves. Selfish people could care less about whether or not they are stumbling someone else, but a loving and thoughtful person will always be concerned about other people’s scruples and weaknesses.

James taught that selfishness is at the root of every problem between people. He declared, For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16). When James was discussing why there were conflicts among his readers, he put his finger right on the core issue. Envy and self-seeking are some of the root causes of conflict, and must be addressed if you want to find harmony with others. Note that even envy is selfish at its core. When someone is envious, they want or are jealous of what someone else has. Selfishness is what causes a person to refuse to listen or care about what others might stumble over. Selfishness will refuse to limit your own freedom. Selfishness insists on having your own way. These decisions will always cause conflict with others. It is the attitude that declares, “I only care about myself.” This is the attitude that will always divide people. 

Let me give you an example from my own life that shows how selfishness can cause you to stumble others. Many years ago, I went to India on a mission’s trip. Several pastors and I were doing Inductive Bible Study Seminars to train local pastors how to study the Bible. After a long trip of over twenty-five hours of travel we finally arrived at our hotel. It was a two-story building with about 15 rooms. This hotel was in a rural area in a small village. The temperature was about 95 degrees; it was humid, and there was no air conditioning in the building. It was dinner time, so I slipped on a pair of gym shorts and went down stairs to the restaurant. As I walked into the restaurant, I noticed that people were staring at me. Then one of the other men I had traveled with, who had been to India many times said to me, “Steve, you can’t wear shorts in public.” I said, “What do you mean I can’t wear shorts here, my legs don’t look that bad, do they?” He responded, “It is not how your legs look, it’s that you shouldn’t be showing your legs at all. The reason people are staring at you is because to them, you are wearing your underwear. Men don’t wear short pants in public.” Well, you can imagine how I felt. I wanted to crawl under the table. But after I thought about it for a minute, I started to get angry thinking, This is their problem. But, moments later I realized I had an attitude, and knew I was stumbling these people and their culture. So, I got up and went upstairs and changed into long pants. Now, I could have insisted on doing what I wanted, and I would have been the talk of the town, but not in a good way. I had to deal with my selfishness which wanted to be cool in the stifling heat. I realized that this is what it means to bear with the scruples of the weak. If I had not addressed my selfishness, I would surely have continued to offend these people and would have been ineffective in sharing Christ with these Hindu people. The lesson is, never forget to consider how your actions are affecting other people.

What are Paul’s solutions?                                                                                                                                    

The second issue that I want to explain from these passages of Scripture are the solutions Paul reveals. Paul has diagnosed the problem in this church with them being selfish and uncaring toward weaker believers, and judging and disputing with their brethren. Now consider some essential solutions to these issues.

1. Make Christ your example.

The first solution is simply to make Christ your ultimate example in everything. Paul said in Romans 15:3, “For even Christ did not please Himself.” One of the best rules to follow when considering what you should do in any given situation is to look at Christ’s example. When Paul teaches about the husband-wife relationship, he tells husbands to sacrificially love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25). Christ is always your ultimate example for any behavior. He lived unselfishly in all that He did. Jesus could have looked at the mess this world was in and said, “I am sorry that you disobeyed Me, but this is your problem, you handle it. You made your bed, now sleep in it.” But, thank God that He didn’t have this response. He came and offered Himself unselfishly to take the penalty for our sin. He suffered for you and me, and rose again from the grave. He then daily and unselfishly works to transform our lives to make us like Himself. He has been unselfish from beginning to end. Then Jesus commanded each of us that, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Clearly Jesus wants us to follow His example and deal with our own selfish behavior!

If you want to see the most visibly unselfish and humble act that Jesus did, it would be when He laid aside His garments and washed the disciple’s feet. He took the position of a slave and demonstrated what true leadership looked like. Then Jesus said to His disciples, For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Therefore, you should consider every aspect of your life, and determine if Jesus is the example you are following. Do you follow His example in service to others, not pleasing yourself in regard to non-essential issues? Are you walking in love toward those who are weak in their faith? Following Christ’s example is the only way I can truly say that I am His follower!

2. Seek the Scriptures to find the wisdom, patience, and comfort to become likeminded.

The second solution Paul gives us in verses 4-6 where he wrote, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:4-6). Do you read the Scripture each day to find hope, wisdom, direction, and encouragement? This is what God offers to those who seek Him! It is important to notice that the word patience means endurance, and the word comfort means encouragement. This is exactly what happens when you open the Word of God every day. You will find endurance when things are difficult, and encouragement when you want to give up. How can this be the result of studying the Scripture? Because God is the God of patience and comfort, and when you come in contact with Him to hear His voice, you will become like Him. The question is, did you find this endurance and encouragement from your study time in the Word of God this week? If not, then you are missing the whole point of spending time in the Word. If you don’t experience His endurance and encouragement when you read the Scripture, you won’t continue reading very long. You will consider this a worthless exercise.

Why would a believer not experience endurance and encouragement? There are several reasons to consider.

1. Discipline yourself to a certain time of the day to read. (Example: early morning, lunch time, or in the evening after others have gone to bed). Establishing the habit of a certain time of day, helps you to be consistent. Paul encouraged a struggling Timothy to, “Exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). The word exercise means to train or discipline yourself.

2. Next, find a place where you will not be distracted by people or noise. This helps in concentration and your receptiveness to the Word of God and its message.

3. Begin by reading one chapter at a time. Don’t jump from place to place in the Bible, but read from the beginning of a book to the end. Start in the New Testament and read all the way through to the book of Revelation. When you finish, turn around and read the entire Bible again from the beginning. This enables you to grasp the full context of the Bible and its message.

4. After reading one chapter, pick out one or more verses that interest you. God will open your eyes to specific verses that He wants to use to reveal His truth to you. Solomon said that if you were open to God’s instruction, the Lord promised that He would, “Pour out my Spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (Prov. 1:23). God makes His Word known to you in this manner. As you read, certain verses grab your attention and cause you to stop and observe them more carefully. This is the Holy Spirit revealing God’s Word to you. Write these verses out on a piece of paper. Leave space on your paper for answering the following questions.

5. First, write one sentence, describing in your own words, what you have observed the verse is saying. By doing this you are making an observation concerning exactly what God is saying. Why is this so important? If you don’t correctly observe what God has said, you cannot make a correct interpretation of what He has said.

6. With this same verse ask yourself, Why is this passage important? Does it reveal something about the character of God? Does it reveal a responsibility you have? Is there a promise given? Is this a command? Is this an example you should follow? This is how you begin to interpret what you are reading. Do the same with any additional verses.

7. Next, ask yourself how you can apply this truth in this one verse to your life. This requires careful thought and consideration. What action should you take? Do you need to confess a sin? Do you need to stop a certain behavior? Should you start doing a different behavior? Should you ask forgiveness? How will you obey this command? Must you surrender your heart? Specifically, how will you carry out these changes in your actions or attitudes? Write these conclusions on your paper.

8. Now pray and ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to put into your heart what is necessary to completely obey His Word.

9. Follow these steps with any additional verses.

10. For new believers, be sure to read through the New Testament several times before reading the Old Testament. This will help you to better understand the Old Testament.

11. If you desire to take a more in-depth approach to your Bible Study, go to the link below and take my free eight-week course in the Inductive Bible Study Method.

For those of you who do not read your Bible on a regular basis, do you realize that you are missing out on the encouragement and comfort of God? You are missing the solutions and answers to the questions you have in your life. You are essentially shooting yourself in the foot, and hindering your own walk with God. You are missing the strength and sustenance that comes from planting God’s Word into your heart every day. Jesus is the One who said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Job agreed when he said, I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Would you ever think that you could go to work each day without eating any food? If you tried to do this you would grow weaker and weaker every week until you would become emaciated and die. But this is exactly what many Christians do when they don’t value God’s Word more than their necessary food. They make sure they eat three meals a day, but refuse to feed on the Word of God. If you try to do this you will be drained of your spiritual strength very quickly.

If you are struggling with depression, go to the Word of God. If you have failed miserably in your life, go to your Bible and open it up and read. If you are hard-hearted and need conviction to turn from your sin, go to the Scriptures and let God speak to you. God will speak and guide you into His will for your life. Remember, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God has inspired the message written down in the Old and New Testaments to teach you, reprove and convict you, so that you might correct your behavior, and discipline your life toward righteousness. God will do all this in your life, so you will be ready for every good work that He wants to do through you. As the Lord does this work inside you, then you will be able to, “with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Don’t miss this blessing!

3. Pray and ask God to grant you to be like-minded.

Paul now reminds the Romans in verse 5 what God’s ultimate desire is for the church. He declares, Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another.” The Father wants His people to be walking in love toward one another and having a like-mindedness with each other, so there won’t be judging or disputing over non-essential issues. But how does the Lord grant you this like-mindedness? Isn’t this blessing and all His blessings granted to you when you ask for them in prayer? Jesus was the One who promised, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).

Essentially, what Paul is teaching in this passage is that we should pray. If you want patience, endurance, and encouragement, go to the Lord in prayer, and He will grant it. Only then will the Holy Spirit rule inside you to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Consequently, I remind you, if you don’t study the Word of God or seek Him in prayer, you are hindering your ability to ever be strengthened by God. Failure to pray will prevent you from receiving anything from the Lord. James said, You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). God’s blessings don’t come simply because you go to church on Sundays. God’s blessings don’t come just because you own a Bible or know how to pray. They come when you humble yourself before God and acknowledge your need of Him and His power. Cry out to Him in faith and He will grant you your petition! 

Many have said to me, “Is like-mindedness really possible with other people?” I have husbands and wives that ask me this in counseling on a regular basis. They say, “I’m so different from her,” or a wife says, “I’m completely opposite to my husband; how can we ever become like-minded?” But, think about this question. Everyone who is in the church you attend are totally different people too. How can a church remain a loving and caring fellowship of like-minded people? We all come from different homes and different upbringings. We are males and females which make us different anatomically and hormonally. We all have different likes and dislikes. Is it really possible that marriage partners or those in a church could ever become like-minded? How does that happen? It is a work of the Spirit of God bringing people together through common beliefs in the Word of God, with a common end in heaven that we are all seeking, and with the common love that fills each of our hearts. Paul said it this way in Philippians 2:1-4 when he wrote, Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” In these verses Paul explained how he believed people can become like-minded with one another. When believers are filled with the Spirit of God and the love of God, they become humble and unselfish, which brings a like-mindedness and a sense of being of one accord. This is how it works in a church and in a marriage. The question is, are we truly willing to humble ourselves and love others in this manner?

4. Choose to receive one another.

Finally, Paul says in verse 7, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” This encouragement takes us back to Romans 14:1. There Paul said, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Paul began this teaching with the command to receive one another, and now he ends his teaching with this same command. Now remember that the word receive means to accept or to welcome and take someone by the hand as a friend. This means that we are to be loving, compassionate, and welcoming toward others. One of the best examples of a couple who lovingly accepted and welcomed another who was weaker in the faith, was Aquila and his wife Priscilla. In the book of Acts, we read the story of how a man named Apollos met up with Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos was a very dynamic and bold preacher, but he only had a basic understanding of the truth concerning Christ. He was a believer, but would be considered weak in his understanding of the truth. Aquila and Priscilla fully understood who the Messiah was, and what He had done. One day they heard Apollos preaching, and they realized that he didn’t fully understand the Scriptures concerning Jesus. Notice what the Scripture says they did. In Acts 18:24-26 it declares, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Notice that Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. The phrase, “took aside” is the same Greek word as receive here in our text in Romans. Note that this couple took Apollos by the hand in a loving and sensitive way to talk with him. They didn’t contradict him in public, but they took him aside privately. This reveals the love and gentleness of the Spirit of God working through Aquila and Priscilla. This is also the way each of us should handle sensitive situations where someone might feel questioned or attacked. Come in a humble and loving way, and it will most likely be received in that manner. Treat others as you would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). 

Note also that Paul said we should receive one another just as the Lord received us. So, how did Jesus receive you? He received you with open arms. You were once His enemy, but through His compassion and forgiveness you are now His friend (Rom. 5:10; John 15:15). Jesus freely forgave your sins (Luke 7:42). The word freely means for nothing. This means you can do nothing to ever deserve His forgiveness. The Lord also freely justified you and declared you righteous in His sight (Rom. 3:24). Not only did God do these things for you, but He has also freely given you His Holy Spirit that you might experience His life (Rev. 21:6; Rev. 22:17). In other words, God has received you with such love and compassion it should change your hearts so you will love others in the same way. This is Paul’s point. He wants you always thinking of what Jesus has done for you, so you will do the same thing toward others. May God grant you this mindset every day!