Romans 15:1-6

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 23, 2009


Paul has moved through his doctrinal section in Romans and has been talking about the practical side of things.

Good doctrine leads to right living.

We’ve been talking about how to handle differences of opinions on the “gray” areas. There are many things that are clearly “black and white” for the Christian, but there are also many things that might be okay for some and not okay for others. What do we do when we come up against someone who has different convictions about one of these “gray” areas than we do?

We’ve seen that in these “gray” areas, there are people Paul classifies as “strong” and others who are “weak”.

The “strong” ones are the ones that don’t have a problem with the gray areas.
They look at a piece of chocolate cake and think, “I can eat it and still feel like I’m a good person”.
The “weak” ones are the ones that do have problems with some of those gray areas.
They look at a piece of chocolate cake and think, “I’m afraid God will be disappointed in me if I eat that cake”.

To the strong ones, Paul encourages them to be careful not to stumble those who are weak:

(Rom 14:21 NKJV) It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
In other words, “Don’t eat chocolate cake in front of a weaker brother”.

To the weak ones, Paul encourages them to not ignore their conscience:

(Rom 14:22-23 NKJV) Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. {23} But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Chapter 15 continues the same subject.

:1-6 Carrying the weak

:1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak,

strongdunatos – able, powerful, mighty, strong

scruplesasthenema – infirmity; of error arising from weakness of mind; the “work or result of weakness”

weakadunatos – (“not” + “strong”) without strength, impotent, powerless, weakly, disabled

You could translate this phrase, “We who are strong ought to carry the weaknesses of those who are not strong”

to bearbastazo – to take up with the hands; to take up in order to carry or bear, to put upon one’s self (something) to be carried

The word is used in:

(Gal 6:1-2 NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. {2} Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.


Carry the weak.

(Mark 2:1-5 NKJV) And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. {2} Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. {3} Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. {4} And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. {5} When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."
The house that Jesus was at would have been the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. There is a little house in Capernaum that many think could have been the actual place where this took place. There are good reasons for thinking so. It is the only eight-sided (octagonal) structure in Capernaum. By the time a couple hundred years had passed, ancient churches all had one thing in common, they were built with eight sided walls. Some have suggested that this was because of this strange house in Capernaum.

The Roman Catholic church has even built a giant structure over the house, it looks like a space-ship.

It wouldn’t take too many people to fill up the house and crowd the streets.
The man who needed Jesus was paralyzed. He couldn’t get to Jesus on his own. Without his friends to carry him, he would have never been healed.
His four loving friends cared enough to carry him to Jesus, no matter what. They let nothing stop them. Even the crowds couldn’t stop them. They found a way to bring Him to Jesus.
Note: These friends didn’t just carry the fellow around town, they took him to Jesus.

Sometimes we can get good at carrying the weak ones, but where do we carry them? Carry them to Jesus. You do no good by just carrying them around on your back. You’ll wear out. Carry them to Jesus.

:1 and not to please ourselves.

to pleasearesko – to please; to accommodate one’s self to the opinions desires and interests of others

This is going to be one of the key words in our passage tonight. We’ll see it pop up three times.

:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

pleasearesko – to please

neighbor – when Jesus was discussing the command of loving your neighbor, a man got a little concerned…

(Luke 10:29 NKJV)  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

By telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus defined the “neighbor” as whoever you run into.

goodagathos – useful; pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy; excellent, distinguished; upright, honorable

edificationoikodome – (the act of) building, building up; the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness

We don’t just want to make people happy when we “please” them. We want to seek to build them up in the Lord.

:3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me."

pleasearesko – to please

reproachesoneidismos – a reproach; from oneidizo –revile; shame

Paul is quoting from a Psalm of David, one that was known to be prophetic, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. One of the verses would speak prophetically of the crucifixion:

(Psa 69:21 NKJV) They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

The verse Paul quotes is:

(Psa 69:8-9 NKJV) I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother's children; {9} Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

The passage is speaking of people who are mad at God, and so instead of yelling at God, they yell at people who they connect with God.
The insults and rebukes that Jesus faced ultimately came from people who were mad at God.
Yet He faced them anyway.
There are going to be people that you and I will encounter who are simply mad at God. And because you are someone who follows God, you’ll get an earful.

The point is that Jesus gave us an example to follow.


Who do you do it for?

Who are you trying to please?
Why do we do things? Why do we do our “Christian” things?
Your motivation is important.
Jesus said that motivation was the difference between the “shepherd” and the “hired help”
(John 10:11-14 NKJV) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. {12} "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. {13} "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. {14} "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

The hireling watches sheep to get a paycheck. The shepherd watches the sheep because they are his, he has a sense of ownership.

The hireling is out to fleece the flock. The shepherd is out to feed the flock.

The hireling is working with the flock for what he can personally get out of it. The shepherd works for the flock for the sake of the flock.

Sometimes some of the good things we do are quite selfish. We are out to get something. It might not be a paycheck, but perhaps the pat on the back, the admiration of others, simply the attention.

A shepherd is doing things for the sake of the flock.

This was how Paul lived, looking to do what would build others up and not just do things for his own sake. Look at another passage where he talks about another set of “gray areas”. The cheaper meat was found at the meat markets behind the temples of the idols. Some people had difficulty with eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.
(1 Cor 10:31-33 NKJV) Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. {32} Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, {33} just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

I guess you could call Paul a “people pleaser”.

But his motivation wasn’t to please people so they would like him.

His motivation was to please people so they would listen to the gospel and be saved.

Are there things you might be willing to limit in your life if it meant that someone would come to the Lord?
That’s the right kind of “people pleasing”

:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

were written beforeprographo (“before” + “to write”) – to write before (of time)

Paul is saying that there are things in the Bible that were prophetic, they were written about things before they would take place.

learningdidaskalia – teaching, instruction

patiencehupomone (“under” + “to remain”) – steadfastness, endurance; the characteristic of a person who doesn’t change direction, even the greatest trials

comfortparaklesis – exhortation, encouragement; urging to action.

hopeelpis – expectation of good

Hope is our goal. Hope is what we all want.

Paul gives us a clue as to some of the things that lead to hope. He kind of gives us a formula that looks like this:

learning + endurance + action = hope



Pay attention to the Bible. Learn what it says.
Paul found that some of the stories out of the time of Moses were great examples to learn from:
(1 Cor 10:1-13 NKJV) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, {2} all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, {3} all ate the same spiritual food, {4} and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Paul’s point is that the people in the time of Moses had some pretty cool advantages. They had seen God work in a powerful way, first hand.
{5} But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. {6} Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
These people had great advantages, but they didn’t use their advantages, they wasted them.
{7} And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."
Paul’s talking about the people worshipping the golden calf.
{8} Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
Here he’s talking about how the young men of Israel started shacking up with the pretty young Moabite girls.
{9} nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; {10} nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Several times we read about the people complaining in the wilderness.
{11} Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
These aren’t just nice little stories. They were written for our sake, that we would learn from them.
Sometimes we don’t learn our lessons unless we learn them the hard way – we have to stumble ourselves.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We can learn some of our lessons the easy way – by learning them from the Scriptures, paying attention.

{12} Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Pride and self-confidence are the quickest steps to taking a tumble.
When I hear a person say confidently, “Well, it’s been two hours, and I’ll never take another drink”, I start to cringe. The truth is you are always only a step away from falling.
{13} No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Giving in to temptation is not inevitable. You have a choice. Look for the exit.



You don’t receive the blessings if you don’t stay with it.
You’ll never win any race if you don’t stay in the race. You may not win first prize, but you won’t win any prize if you drop out of the race.
Trials exercise the muscle called “patience”. James uses that “hupomone” word to talk about it:
(James 1:2-4 NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, {3} knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. {4} But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
God’s goal in allowing trials into our lives is to help us build up the muscle of patience.
We live in a sinful, fallen world. There are going to be plenty of difficulties all around us, whether we are Christians or not. But God wants His people to be those who aren’t drowned in their trials. He wants His people to be able to swim through them. He wants us to show others how to swim. God doesn’t promise to take away the choppy seas, He teaches us how to swim.
Endurance builds up our stamina, it helps us get through the difficulties of life that we all face.
When you get out of shape, it’s easy to get winded. If you get on the exercise bike you might find it difficult to pedal for ten minutes. But you get on it every day and keep at it and your endurance builds up. Stay at it.
You might get winded. You might drop. You might fail. Just get back at it.



Listen from the Scripture
Let it comfort you. Let it encourage you. Let it urge you to action.
It’s hard enough to read the Bible, but sometimes we settle for just learning facts instead of gaining guidance.
Put things into practice.
Jesus told the parable about the two men who built their houses on different kinds of land and how they survived the storm.
One man built on sand, the other built on the rock. The guy that built on the rock survived the storm.
Jesus tied the whole story to what you do with what He says:

(Mat 7:24 NKJV) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

It’s not just hearing what Jesus says that helps you, it’s doing it.

It’s taking the “urge to action” seriously.


The result is hope

When I put these elements into place, I find hope.
I find that others have walked the road I’m on and not only survived, but have thrived.
Here’s how Paul’s example works:
Things like what Paul has quoted from the Psalms in verse 3 were written to help encourage us to find hope.

If Jesus was willing to bear insults as an example of one who didn’t seek to please Himself, then maybe I could learn from Him.

And even more important, this principle was spoken of before Jesus was born! God thinks this principle is so important, that He spoke of it before it even happened!

God is really serious about me learning not to please myself, but to learn to build others up.

Even though Jesus suffered insults, God knew all about it beforehand. Nothing was a surprise to God. Nobody got God’s purposes for Jesus off track. Everything was right on target.

There’s hope in knowing that God is in control.

As you stay in God’s Word, you’re going to find lots of things jumping out of the page into your heart. That’s the way it is supposed to work. As you read the whole Bible, you’ll find yourself identifying with the various people and drawing encouragement from their examples. You’ll find hope. If they could do it, so can you.

:5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,

If we need endurance and encouragement, He’s the one to give it to us.

patiencehupomone (“under” + “to remain”) – steadfastness, constancy, endurance; the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

comfortparaklesis – a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment


Get it from God.

It’s a shame that we don’t go to the One who has what we need.  Think of His patience towards us.  He’s got LOTS of it to give.

like-minded – lit. “same minded”

Learning to get along with each other

mindedphroneo – to have understanding; to have an opinion of one’s self; to be of the same mind i.e. agreed together, cherish the same views, be harmonious

:6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

one mindhomothumadon (“rush along”) – with one mind, with one accord, with one passion; the word gives an image that is almost musical; a number of notes are sounded which, while different, harmonize in pitch and tone.

As the instruments of a great concert under the direction of a concert master, so the Holy Spirit blends together the lives of members of Christ’s church.

We need to learn to get along together so we can praise the Lord in unison, together, not in just a bunch of noise.


A few weeks ago a gal went on the British version of American Idol, “Britain has Talent”.  Her name is Susan Boyle.  When she first appears in the clip, she’s back stage eating a sandwich.  She’s 48 years old, a spinster, never been kissed.  She apparently was born with some learning disorders.  But she’s learned to sing.  She sings in church.  When she got on stage, the audience was kind of chuckling at her appearance.  She was asked what her dream was – it was to sing professionally.  The looks on the audience’ faces were “yeah, right”.  But then she began to sing.  The cameras showed the judges faces.  First their jaws dropped.  Then big grins broke out.  The audience was on their feet cheering.  It was absolutely beautiful.

When we learn to work at unity, music we make is beautiful.  We may be a bit ugly ourselves, but there’s a beauty that comes from unity.


The blessing of unity

(Psa 133 NKJV) Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It’s a good thing when we learn to get along with each other.
{2} It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
We call the oil running down Aaron’s beard his “anointing”. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit being on his life.
There is a greater sense of “anointing” when we learn to get along in unity.
{3} It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing; Life forevermore.
Mount Hermon is the mountain to the north of Israel. It has snow on it most of the year. It’s melting snow is what results in the Jordan River and what waters the entire nation of Israel.
The blessing of unity is refreshing.
It’s cool when we get to worship together and give God glory.
It’s even better when we’re working at getting along with each other.