Paul's final words in the letter to the Romans include a sober warning and practical advice. While God is at work bringing together and unifying his children, there are others in opposition to God who will try to destroy the body from within with deception and false teaching.
Chapter 16 of Romans opens with a list of names that we may not appreciate until we consider that each one represents a real person, with a real story, and a real relationship. Collectively they show us a portrait of how God is bringing together His people to create a community that is supernaturally joined together as a new kind of family.
Paul's letter to the church at Rome is filled with important truth to ensure that this church is well grounded in solid doctrine. As Paul now draws to a close, he summarizes his motivation for sending this letter and reveals what drives his life of ministry.
In Chapter 15, Paul reminds the believers that we have an obligation to bear with each other and for those who are strong to help strengthen the weak.
As we continue in this chapter, it's important to keep verse 7 in view that "welcoming one another, as Christ has welcomed us, is for the glory of God." It's to God's glory that his children are unified, reconciled and living in harmony worshiping him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). To that end, God sent his Son into the world to become a man, not just to be our example, but to redeem us from our fallen condition.
At the beginning of chapter 15, Paul reminds the strong believers of their responsibility to bear with (or support) the weaker believers. Paul stresses this as an obligation for them to work to maintain unity and help those who are weak to grow strong. Paul then focuses on the important role that the scriptures play in this growth and achieving unity.
As we enter the final chapters of Paul's epistle to the church at Rome, Paul continues to remind believers of their responsibility to encourage and strengthen each other.
Paul has clearly established that Christians are free from the restrictions of the law and that we have liberty in our faith. However, we should never exercise that liberty or freedom in a way that trips up a weaker believer.
Paul begins chapter 14 of Romans by challenging believers not to quarrel over differences of opinions. The word opinions has been translated as doubtful things, disputable matters or even gray areas. These are issues where the bible has not given clear instruction for believers.
This conflict over differences in opinions, Paul says, comes from conflict between those who are stronger and weaker in faith. Weakness in the body can come from a variety of causes. It can come from being immature or ignorant. It can come from bad teaching, and it can also come from lack of exercise.
The end of Romans 11 wraps up Paul's discussion of Israel and God's plan to restore and redeem His people.
In scripture a mystery is something that has been hidden until God reveals it. Here in Romans 11, God reveals this mystery and tells us that Israel's future is mysteriously connected to His plan for the Church.
"...a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."
Fortunately, this hardening is not complete, and it is not permanent.
Paul tells us in Romans that because of Israel's rejection of the Messiah, God has brought salvation to the Gentiles. But the story does not end there. Believers are invited and expected to play a role in Israel's restoration. How? Paul says that God's blessings have come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous and to draw them back to Him.
Did you know that your Father in Heaven will never reject you?
God loves us because he chooses to love us in spite of our failures. He loved us while we were still sinners, (Romans 5:8) and he will never stop loving us.
In the beginning of chapter 10, Paul reminded us that God is clear on process of salvation. It is a free gift that does not involve any work. (How's that for a reminder on Labor Day?!)
At the end of chapter 10, Paul turns the focus to the importance of sharing message of God's gospel--His plan for righteousness. That is the "good news" of our salvation by faith in Jesus.
But if people are going to respond to God's call to righteousness, they must first be told about Jesus so they can believe.
We are continuing our study in the book of Romans. Last week we looked at how people can be zealous or passionate for God, but can lack understanding about how to come before him.
God has prescribed how we are to approach him and how we are to be saved. It's important that we understand that ALL the work of salvation was done on the cross, and all we have to do is "confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, and we will be saved." It's truly as simple as that!