Day 345 Romans 14-16

Day 345
Romans 14-16

The believers in the church of Rome were trying to navigate the transition between the Law of Moses and the New Covenant in Christ. As a result, significant tensions developed between Jews and Gentiles, not over doctrinal convictions but disputable matters. As it happened, the believers in the church in Rome were quarreling over whether it was appropriate to eat meat or only vegetables (2) whether to observe holy days (i.e. Sabbath, Passover, and Feast of Booths, 14:5-6) and whether to drink wine (v. 21). The Jewish believers were refusing to buy meat or wine at the marketplace out of concern that they had been offered to idols. The Gentile believers, who were eating meat and drinking wine, insisted that it didn’t matter because they had not participated in making pagan offerings in the first place.

In order to help the church steer its way through these disputable matters, Paul told the believers to do five things. First of all, he urged them to stop passing judgment on one another (3, 4, 10, 13). Second, he said that they should cease doing those things that might cause another person to act contrary to their conscience (13, 14). Third, he said that they should pursue whatever builds others up and encourages one another in their faith. Fourth, he said that matters of food and drink don’t ultimately matter. Therefore, they were not worth destroying God’s work. Finally, he urged both groups to welcome or accept one another. Love was to defer to others amid such disagreements.

Paul identified two different groups in the church referred to as the weak and the strong. In relationship to these particular disputes, the weak were those whose consciences were overly sensitive. The strong were those whose consciences tended to be more lenient. Paul said that God accepted the stronger person who showed more tolerance on the disputable issues. Both groups were pleasing God as long as they acted according to their conscience and their desire was to please God. In addition, Paul reminded the believers that they will stand before God one day and give an account for their lives (10-12). This reality is the basis for Paul commanding the believers not to pass judgment on one another over these disputable matters. Such scrutiny belonged to God.

Paul stated, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord that nothing is unclean in itself” (14). Personally, Paul belonged to the group that said it doesn’t matter whether a piece of meat might have been offered to Zeus. However, he added, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (17). Paul sided with the strong theologically, but he chose to defer to the weak practically (19-21). Ultimately, the goal for the church was not to demand uniformity, but to pursue peace.

The strong must bear with the weak and help them press on to maturity through love and patience. Believers were not to live in order to please themselves. Instead, every Christian was to follow the example of Christ who did not live to please Himself (15:1-7). Over the course of redemptive history, God worked through the Jews in order to reach the Gentiles. In he same way, God uses Gentile believers to reach others. Overall, the Gentiles owe a tremendous debt to the Jews and should pray for them, witness to them, and share their material wealth with them, just as Paul collected gifts from among the Gentiles to help the Jewish believers.

The two benedictions were not the end of the letter (15:5, 13). Before closing, he expressed his concern that the tone of his letter might feel harsh to them. As he brought his monumental letter to a close, he first drew up his intinerary which, God-willing, included a visit to Rome via Jerusalem before, God-willing, he went on to Spain (23-33). Secondly, he commended Phoebe, the carrier of his epistle and greeted his friends (3-16). Gaius provided a place where Paul could work and write. There were stories behind every name, including Andronicus and Junia who were once imprisoned with Paul, and Rufus’ mother who was like a mother to the Apostle. In his third and final benediction, having asked for their prayers, he prayed for them again. He called upon the God of shalom (a Jewish blessing) to be known by the Gentile believers.

Dear Lord, thank You for this journey through the book of Romans. May the truths of this book illuminate our minds. May the practical instructions mark our lives. May love be the motivational factor behind all we do. May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in in hope. In Jesus Name, we pray, Amen.