Romans Chapter fifteen

VERSES 1-4 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Of course there were no chapter breaks in Paul’s letter – and his reference to the strong and weak, as it follows on from chapter 14, is in regard to those who are strong or weak in their faith. We also noted (from the previous chapter) that everything that does not come from faith is sin (verse 23).

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:11-16).

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).

As people begin their new life as a believer, they cannot be expected to immediately be well informed according to the word of God and the Lord will show them mercy and grace where they may act in ignorance.

The writer to the Hebrews referred to the atonement that was made under the old covenant for the sins the people had committed in ignorance (Hebrews 9:7).

As ambassadors of the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ – who is Lord and King of kings, we have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom and to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us (Matthew 28:20).

Faithfulness to God comes through being informed by the word of God, i.e. the teaching of Jesus Christ, we tends to be forgetful and even presumptuous at times and so our minds must continually be renewed with the knowledge of the word of God.

…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:9-13).

A person’s faith may be weak when they are infants in the faith with much to still learn – but others may be weak in their faith because they are still so entangled in sin and the distractions of the world, neglecting to gather regularly with other believers to pray and study the Scriptures.

It says of the first Christians that: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common (Acts 2:42-44).

Jesus told a parable of workers who were hired to work in a vineyard:

“The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:9-15).

The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:2) which foretold the coming of the Messiah-King to whom all people would be called to obey.

The Jews had tried through their observance of the Law to keep themselves separate from the pagan nations who opposed God’s plan of redemption and salvation which he was to bring about through his chosen people, (the Saviour was born from the tribe of Judah – and God’s salvation is from the Jews [John 4:22]).

However, when large numbers of gentiles were included among the redeemed people of Israel through their faith in Jesus, many Jewish people became indignant and jealous – and they even tried to exert their authority by showing how they were more informed about the Law of Moses – but faith is not based on the Law.

The Law was given to restrain sinners while at the same time holding forth the hope of redemption through the coming of the Messiah at which time the righteousness which comes through faith was destined to be made known and revealed in Jesus the Saviour:

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law (Galatians 3:23-25).

The Law once kept Jews separate from “gentile sinners” – and now that there was a flood of Gentiles coming into the church – how would the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ keep themselves as a separate assembly from the idolatrous, pagan nations – and also from the reckless, false brothers who were abusing their new freedom in Christ by their changing the grace of our God into a license for immorality as they also denied the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

People whose faith was weak often looked for the security of hard and fast rules and regulations as were found in the Law of Moses.

Even the apostle Peter and Barnabas were led astray from the new covenant faith when they were intimidated by religious Jews who came to Antioch from Judea – and they reverted to the old Jewish customs through which they also then separated themselves from the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-21).

We have been set free from the Law of sin and death – but we are not lawless, for in having been set free from the written code, we have also received God’s new covenant Law, which is the love of Christ, written upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

As Paul wrote:…some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you (Galatians 2:4-5).


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law (Galatians 5:1-3).

However, just as after a bird has been caged for a very long time, it is usually very reluctant to leave the security of its cage even when it is set free, those whose faith is weak, still feel that they need to observe religious days, including Sabbath days and various rules concerning clean and unclean food etc. while their new faith is still weak.

But there are also other who observe such rules in hypocrisy and to make a good outward impression of their being more legalistically righteous than most other Christians who may seem to be less informed by the old covenant external Law of Moses.

But when they [the false brothers] arrived, he [Peter] began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the Law, because by observing the Law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:12-16).

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation (Galatians 6:11-15).

There are strict legalists who are false brothers and hypocrites as they try to undermine genuine faith and freedom which we have in Christ and the effectiveness of the internal, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit which has also set us free from the external written code.

But there are also others who undermine genuine faith by changing the grace of God into a license for immorality and they promise people freedom — but even when they are not led by the Holy Spirit nor governed by the new covenant Law of the lover of God written upon our hearts.

These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” 3:1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles (2 Peter 2:17 – 3:2).

We need to be discerning – that we are not led astray by false brothers who are really hypocrites who are intent upon infiltrating our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves {under the Law]. 5 We must not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with us (Galatians 2:4-5).

We need to also be discerning that we are not led astray by other false brothers – who also infiltrate our ranks as they secretly slip in among us to undermine all authority and all Law, both old covenant Law and the genuine law of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

And then, with both of these groups sowing destruction as they distort the word of God, we must also be very discerning to recognize those genuine believers among us who are still weak in their faith so that they are being tossed to and fro by false teachers who do not understand the true faith and who therefore also distort the word of God.

We may at times need to be quite forthright as Paul was with Peter and in the manner in which Paul rebuked false teachers – but we must also take care that we do not become conceited and harsh which may cause those who are weak in their faith to become confused, unsettled and to stumble.

Those who sinful, reckless and neglectful will be weak in their faith – as will also those who are simply young in their faith and still quite ignorant of the word of God, but the attitude of those who are weak in their faith is not the same for all.

Some are humble and eager to learn, while other are stubborn, proud and conceited and although always learning, yet never able to really faithfully take hold of the truth.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (James 1:5-8).

This is why verse 4 is so very important: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Charismatic, eloquent speakers may be quite persuasive especially when they are quite bold – and often even presumptuous, puffed up by so-called knowledge – speaking of visions which they have supposedly had from God through revelations and prophecies etc. – but which often go beyond what is written and what has been entrusted to us through Jesus and his apostles.

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:6-7).

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did–and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

VERSES 5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 1:27 – 2:4).

Before the divide between western and eastern Christianity – and before the Reformation – it may have appeared that the Church throughout the world was united in the faith, however, from the beginning the elders needed to contend for the truth and refute many heresies which always threatened to cause division and to lead believers astray.

Jesus prayed for the unity of his Church – but we can only ever be properly united in the truth – and there will always be differences to show who are in the genuine faith – and our genuine faith will be evident by the love and mercy of God and by our holding to the truth of his word as it was entrusted to us by the prophets and apostles (see 1 Corinthians 11:19 and 2 Timothy 2:15).

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one… 20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:11;20-23).

Paul urged us to be discerning and full of mercy, not ignorant and conceited, but humbly but also firmly established in the Scriptures according to the apostolic authority – so that the church may be one and united in the truth.

As we will see in the next chapter (verses 17-19), Paul again warns about divisions caused by false teachers, as he also did when he left the church at Ephesus:

“I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:27-35).

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:24-29).

We must contend for the faith that has been once for all entrusted to us (Jude verse 3) – that faith has been revealed through the Scriptures – and we have the word of God in its fullness in the closed canon of the Scriptures – we must take care that it is neither distorted nor that anything is ever added to it. Those who insist that there should still be any division between Jew and gentile – or that some are still under the old covenant, while others are under the new covenant, have not understood the word of God and their distortions lead to divisions within the body of Christ – even as many try to cling to the old covenant and to Jewish customs.

VERSES 7-9 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

There was a time when the Jews were humiliated in being scattered among the nations due to their disobedience under the old covenant – but now, through faith in Jesus Christ, all who believe, whether formerly Jew or gentile by birth, are being gathered into unity in the Name of Jesus the Messiah and the King of kings.

While scattered among the nations under the old covenant – the Jews did not have the faith nor confidence to sing praises to God, but they hung their heads in shame and disgrace.

However, it was through being redeemed through faith in Christ that they were cleansed of their sin – and being filled with the Spirit, they could sing new songs of praise confidently – even while scattered among the nations. “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

 PS 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
PS 137:2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
PS 137:3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
PS 137:4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
    while in a foreign land?
PS 137:5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
PS 137:6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
PS 137:7 Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
PS 137:8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us–
PS 137:9 he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Not only will the redeemed Israel of God, the church, sing praises among the nations, but many foreigners would be joined to Israel through faith in Christ and join in the songs of praise.

VERSES 10-12 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” 12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

The apostle James quoted from the prophet Amos – the prophetic word was fulfilled through the gentiles being engrafted into Israel through their faith in Jesus – to become a temple in which God dwells by his Spirit – offering up songs of praise to his holy Name.

Jesus Christ, of course, is the Root of Jesse – and he has sprung up through being the first one whom God raised from the dead.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

VERSE 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-14).

VERSES 14-21 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

Jesus is the King of kings and his dominion spreads throughout the world and through all generations – his light has shone among the nations – and he reigns by putting his Spirit in us to lead us according to his good and perfect will.

VERSES 22-27 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).

The church grew from Jerusalem and expanded throughout the rest of the world. The believers in Jerusalem were the first to be persecuted for their faith in Christ, both from the Romans and also from their own fellow-Jews who were blinded by national and religious pride and who refused to believe the gospel and so be saved.

It was for the persecuted church in Jerusalem that Paul took up a collection from the churches throughout the world – but even this practice has now been distorted as people are being persuaded to give towards the unbelieving Jews in Israel as they try to take hold of the inheritance while rejecting Jesus the King.

And now, quite ironically, many Palestinians, (non-Jewish Christians), have been forced to flee from Israel due to persecution from Muslims and unbelieving Jews.

One in every three refugees in the world is Palestinian. There are approximately 7 million Palestinian refugees in the world. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “We should do whatever it takes to prevent the Palestinians from coming back to their homes. The old will die and the young will eventually forget.”

VERSES 28-33 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. 30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.