In Romans 14, Paul wrote about the need to live a life of love – not lording my theological conclusions over those of others. Instead, he concludes here in Romans 15, those who are strong should be considerate about those who are sensitive about controversial issues. Our rule of life is to be that of Jesus: living not to please ourselves, but for the glory of God. which means helping others do what is right; building them up in the Lord. Isn’t that precisely what Jesus did?
Paul’s prayer for the Romans is just as relevant for us today. He asks that God – who gives patience and encouragement – would help them – and us – live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Jesus. If we are living out of love for one another, then we can truly praise and glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In all we do, we should remember Christ the servant of God. He came in fulfilment of God’s promises to the Jewish patriarchs. And he came so that we who are not of Jewish descent might also give God glory for his mercy towards us.
But why did Paul write to the Roman church? This was an established congregation. What he wrote wasn’t new to them. He wasn’t writing to rectify a serious problem. This wasn’t even a church that Paul had established! In fact, he knows that this is simply a reminder to them – they are themselves qualified to teach each other all that he has written.
I believe Paul wrote Romans for two reasons.
First: because he was Jesus’ apostle to the Gentiles. By presenting Jesus to the Gentiles – including those in Rome – he sought to present them as an acceptable offering to God, made so by the Holy Spirit. Paul is interested in seeing the Roman Christians grow in their knowledge of and walk with the Lord.
The other reason Paul wrote is to introduce himself and his testimony to the Roman church. Having preached throughout the immediate vicinity, Paul was on the lookout for “virgin ground”. He anticipated going to preach in Spain, which would make Rome a great place to stop off for mutual encouragement and also for supplying his journey. Paul knows that the Roman church loves him because of the Holy Spirit. He is sure that they will pray for him in his mission. He wants to inform them of his plans.
Of course, we know that Paul never made it to Spain. His donation was accepted by the Jerusalem believers. And Paul was rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God… but that rescue saw him being brought to Rome a prisoner. Spain would have to await another disciple.
Two things strike me from this passage. Firstly: Paul’s insistence that we live not for ourselves, but – like Jesus – for God. Our goal should be building others up in the faith. Certainly that is what motivated Paul. Secondly, Paul never reached a point where he thought I’ve done enough. He was always on the lookout for new ways to share the good news of God with the world.
Oh, that I would be more like Christ, and that I would never be arrogant enough to think that God doesn’t have more work for me to do… even if I’m not always right about what it is.
Lord Jesus – author of my hope – please fill me with your joy and peace. Fill me completely. I trust you. Help me to overflow with confident hope through the Holy Spirit’s power. And I pray this not just for me, but for my church. Make us your people, make us more like you.