Receive One Another! (Exposition of Romans 15:1-13)

This passage is the conclusion of the larger section beginning at 14:1 dealing with the differences in the Roman church between the Jewish and Gentile believers. There are some right ways and some wrong ways to deal with differences. I read about a family from New York who bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy Q, one son liked the Flying W, and the other wants Lazy Y. So we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy Q Flying-W Lazy Y,”

“But where are all your cattle?” the friends asked. To which the man replied, “None survived the branding.”

In this Romans 15:1-13 Paul provides three compelling reasons why we should receive one another. This is the correct way to deal with differences!

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” 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. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us,[2] to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“ For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”
10 And again he says:
“ Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
11 And again:
“ Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”
12 And again, Isaiah says:
“ There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:1-13

I. Receive One Another For the Edification of the Saints, vv. 1-2.
Paul begins his final appeal that believers should receive one another by calling upon the “strong” to bear with “the scruples of the weak, and not to please” themselves. Instead, we are to please our neighbor for his good. In other words, we are not to do anything that would be spiritually harmful to another believer. Whatever we do should be for the edification (“building up”) of our brothers or sisters in Christ! These first two verses are a concluding summary of the argument of Romans 14:13-23.

Notice that Paul does not say we are to be men-pleasers. In fact, Paul would condemn any compromise of the gospel or any clear teaching of Scripture merely in order to please man. In Galatians 1:10, this same apostle Paul stated, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” The issue in this text are things which are morally indifferent (practices that are not explicitly spelled out in Scripture). It is on these matters that Paul calls upon believers to seek to please our neighbors.

Paul’s life and ministry clearly gives us a great model for where we can agree to disagree and where we must fight! In Galatia, the truth of the gospel was at stake and Paul fought for that truth. Here in the church at Rome, the disagreements were over matters of Christian practice that were not clearly spelled out in Scripture. Therefore, Paul urges mutual acceptance over these type of issues. As Paul said himself in 1 Corinthians 10:32-33,

Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 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.

This is the attitude that Paul is calling the Roman Christians to have toward each other in Romans 15.

II. Receive One Another Because of the Example of the Savior, vv. 3-7.
Next Paul gives a powerful reason why we should receive one another. This reason is the example of our Savior. In his earthly ministry, He never pleased Himself to the harm of others. As evidence of this a verse from the Messianic Psalm 69 is quoted: “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me” (v. 9). Instead of pleasing Himself, Christ bore our reproaches!
Think for a moment with me about how differently the life of Christ would have looked had He only pleased Himself. He wouldn’t have gone to the cross, that’s for sure. He would not have said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Aren’t you glad that Christ didn’t please Himself?

Now, do you remember Paul’s admonition to please our neighbor and not please ourselves? It is grounded in this truth: “For even Christ did not please Himself.” If Christ did not please Himself, neither should you when the spiritual good of your brother is at stake!

In verse four, Paul gives us a basic principle of Bible interpretation to explain why he used Psalm 69:9 in the preceding verse. Whatever has been written in Scripture is for our learning! As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:11,

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.

Or as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

In verses five and six, Paul issues a prayer for Christian unity. This prayer expresses Paul’s main concern in this entire section. He wants the church at Rome to be unified, not split into Jewish and Gentile factions! Notice that he addresses his prayer to “the God of patience and comfort” just as verse five refers to “the patience and comfort of the Scriptures.” There is a vital link between what the Scriptures tell us and the God who is revealed though them!

But ultimately, Paul’s desire for unity, that is the occasion for his call for mutual acceptance, is a desire for God’s glory. He desires unity in the church in order that the church (made up of both Jews and Gentiles) will lift up their voices with one voice to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”! Paul wants the Romans to see what is at stake in their petty disputes. It is nothing less than the worship of the one true and living God! Likewise, this is what is at stake over our own petty disagreements! Paul’s conclusion is verse seven: “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

III. Receive One Another Based on the Exposition of the Scriptures, vv. 8-13.
Finally, Paul urges the believers in Rome to receive one another based on the Exposition of the Scriptures. His point is to show from the Old Testament Scriptures (which was all they had at this point) that both Jews and Gentiles are included in God’s purpose of redemption. He shows this by declaring that Jesus Christ came in order to fulfill the promises made to the Patriarchs and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. The promise which Christ’s coming has fulfilled is the promise first made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 which states “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” The first promise to Father Abraham (the father of the Jewish people) was that God would bless all nations through him! In other words, God’s purpose has always included both Jews and Gentiles! As Paul explains in Galatians 3:8,

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”

The result of the fulfillment of God’s promises to the fathers is that the Gentiles are made to glorify God for His mercy! In other words, Paul’s exhortation to these Romans Christians is to tell them they are a part of something big! They are a part of the outworking of God’s eternal global plan of salvation that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, receive one another!

In conclusion, Paul strings together a series of four quotations from the Old Testament that clearly demonstrate that God’s saving purpose has always included both Jews and Gentiles. Paul intentionally uses verses from all three of the major divisions of the Hebrew Bible (the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings) to make his point.

  • The first quotation is from Psalm 18:49. Notice the emphasis on worship!
    “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name.”
  • The second quotation is from Deuteronomy 32:43. “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
  • The third quotation is from Psalm 117:1. “Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!”
  • The fourth and final quotation is from Isaiah 11:10. “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”

Aren’t you glad that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves!?!? We’re a part of God’s eternal plan of redemption. God purposed from all eternity to make us one body in Christ. Why, then, do we get hung up over petty disagreements? Note Paul’s concluding prayer in verse 13:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What a fitting conclusion to this section! May God grant this prayer for us today!

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