Romans Bible Study Lesson 59

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Constrained Freedom

Romans 15:1—6

From chapter 14 we can see that we are free to do anything we want as long as we are doing it for the Lord (verse 6). However, there are times when it would be better for us to not exercise our freedom. We may have the freedom to do something but there are times and circumstances when we should constrain our freedom for the good of the Body. Not only are we not to judge someone’s freedom or lack of freedom, but we must also limit our own freedom if it would cause someone to fall. The weaker brother (who sets limits on his freedom in Christ) cannot go beyond his self-set limits of freedom because that would be a sin to him. Only when these self-set limits are removed, through a full understanding of the freedom he has in Christ, can this weaker brother do things without sinning.

So it is up to the stronger brother to be sensitive to the weaker brother and give up some of his freedoms for the sake of the unity of the body.

Verses 1—2

The stronger must support the weaker and make sure that anything he does will not cause the weaker brother to fall into sin. Both strong and weak brothers are saved and both are able to please the Lord in what they do or do not do. It is the stronger Christian who knows he cannot live for himself but will please the Lord by watching out for others. We are all responsible to live a life of peace, edifying and encouraging each other but it is the stronger Christian who is to come alongside the weaker and help them grow in the knowledge of who we are in Christ so that they can live a life of freedom and better able to build up another Christian. We are not told to tolerate each other but to love each other.

Philippians 2:4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

1 Corinthians 10:23—24 23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor (literally another who is different from you).

Verse 2 tells us to please his neighbor. This word can refer to those we know or our friends. It can also refer to other members of the Body of Christ. In context, I believe Paul is instructing believers how to get along with each other and therefore I believe neighbors means Christians with whom we interact. We can see neighbors being used in this way in Ephesians 4:25 where we are to speak truth to one another.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.


Verse 3

Our ultimate example is Jesus Christ who never did anything to please Himself but always put Himself under the will of the Father. He did this even to the point of silently bearing rebuke and scorn from His enemies. If Christ can do this with those who hated Him then we certainly can get along with other members of the Body of Christ.

Philippians 2:5—8 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

It is through Scripture that we receive encouragement, even in the Old Testament. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is profitable.

Verse 4

As we read Scripture we can see the example of the perseverance of the saints and from that we can take courage in our Christian walk. Scripture is generally the only way God speaks to us today so it is important for us to find out what He is saying. We need to study and meditate on His Word in order for us to understand God’s will for us.

Verse 5

I believe most translations incorrectly point to God as giving us perseverance and encouragement. Just as the previous verse shows His Word (the Bible) as containing perseverance and encouragement so this verse shows God as having perseverance and encouragement. Young’s Literal Translation says it well:

Romans 15:5 And may the God of the endurance, and of the exhortation, give to you to have the same mind toward one another, according to Christ Jesus; (YLT)

Just think if God did not have perseverance (demonstrate patience) when we sin or in reaching out to mankind with His offer of salvation? What if He wasn’t One to have encouragement? Just as He is a God of love, He is a God of perseverance and encouragement.

Verse 6

Our purpose on this earth is to bring glory to God in all we say and do. God’s wonderful redemptive power is displayed in us and through us so that we can glorify Him. The idea here is that instead of nit-picking each other’s faults, our focus is to be on Christ and everything we do should be done to bring Him glory. If we can bring Him glory by judging other believers then judge away. Paul seems to make it clear that when we are focused on each other’s faults that we cannot effectively serve God and accomplish the work He has laid out for us to do.