Today’s passage is a continuation of chapter 14. In chapter 14 Paul talked about how they should deal with problems that occurred in the church as a result of the friction between the people of strong faith and the people of weak faith in the Roman church. In today’s passage we can see that the desires of Paul overflowed into prayer in verses 5 and 6.
The problem of unity in the church is a really important problem. That is because the church is the body of Christ. In the section about how to practice the Christian life which Paul begins talking about from chapter 12 on, the percentage of space given to this problem is huge. In the closing too, he brings up this problem and adds an explanation. Today I would like to talk about three points of church unity.
I. Bearing with the failings of the weak (vs. 1-3)
First let’s look at the point that those “who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak” (1) Let’s look at verses 1 to 3.
“We who are strong” (1) refers to the “strong in faith” of chapter 14. This type of people were completely freed from the law of the Old Testament and believed that by the grace of Christ they were set free. On the other end, “the weak” (1) weren’t able leave behind the laws of food and days. This type of people thought that even if you believed in Jesus Christ, that still you had to follow such commands or you weren’t saved. They had a delicate faith so that when they saw people who didn’t follow the commands, they stumbled. Here Paul says, “We who are strong” (1) so Paul considered himself as belonging to the group of those who were strong. And also he said that such people “who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (1) This is the principle of faith. Those “who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak” (1) “To bear with” (1) means “to accept as one of your own”. It is to carry together the weaknesses of the weak person. The best example is our Lord Jesus. In verse 3 it says “For even Christ did not please himself”, but instead it is written in Psalm 69:9 “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” This is the Passion of Jesus. Christ was strong, but he bore the weaknesses of the weak.
Jesus used his body to show us what it means to bear the weakness. He bore our sorrows in our place; he took upon himself all our sins. “Christ did not please himself.” (3) He bore “with the failings of the weak” (1) and carried their weaknesses for them. If we look at the life that Christ walked in this world, there wasn’t even one time when he pleased himself. Jesus performed many miracles, but not one time did he do it for himself. When he fed the 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, it was not because he was hungry, but to fill the hunger of the crowds. Christ forgot about sleeping and eating and healed the sick, and met the needs of those who were struggling with troubles. When we look at such a model of Jesus, we know that we should not live to please ourselves, but “ought to bear with the failings of the weak” (1) and live to please them. This is the calling of those who are powerful, who are strong.
Why has God given you health? It is so that you can bear those who are weak from lack of health. Why have you been given financial and material blessings? That is not so that you can live in luxury, but so that you can help others. Why have you been given the gift of faith? It is so that you can support others by that spiritual gift. This is the calling of those who are powerful. We are given joy by giving.
The measure that you use for other people will be measured to you. When I look at the lives of missionaries, their lives are continuously full of troubles. To give up your life and go to serve the people on the mission field is not easily endured. Even so those people who work in missions often say, “Evangelizing is joy”. Even though they had huge troubles, and made huge sacrifices, they say “Evangelizing is joy” because the measure that you use for other people will be measured to you. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38) When you pour what you have out, you won’t be dried up, but instead will be enriched is the principle of the kingdom of God.
II. By the endurance and encouragement that the Bible gives (vs. 4,5)
Even so for the people with strength to bear with the failings of those without strength brings a lot of problems. Next let’s look at what is necessary to follow this command. Please look at verses 4 and 5.
Paul quotes from Psalms in the Old Testament and then teaches about the use of the Bible. In other words, the Bible gives us endurance and encouragement and provides us with hope. We read the Bible so that by what is written there we will receive endurance and encouragement and have hope.
Our life of faith certainly can’t always endure troubles. However, in order to keep the unity in the church endurance is needed. There is no way unity can be kept if you tell each other everything that you want to say or do everything that you want to do. This can be seen in our relationships as a marriage couple. There are times when you want to say something, but by not saying anything and enduring even though it’s not always your own way of doing it and it is different, by being understanding and accepting, unity is born. If you can’t do that then there will be only confusion and destruction.
However, here when it says, “endurance”, it doesn’t mean just enduring. This “endurance” means that people, who have the ability to find a solution, hold on to a hope in what the solution will bring. The Bible provides the endurance.
Also, for weak people to be comforted, encouraged, and given strength they need someone to stand by their side and encourage them. You don’t have to do anything, just be with them. Being by their side is a big comfort and encouragement. You don’t have to say anything. The word of God gives the comfort and the encouragement.
What is important for weak people is for them to have hope. When they are depressed and in despair, there is no other solution but to encourage them by giving them hope. The Bible gives hope. By the endurance and encouragement that the Bible gives, they are able to hold onto hope. Therefore, verse 4 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”
In our life there are many troubles, sadness, pain, and trials. However, in the midst of these, we experience God’s endurance and encouragement being given to us. More than anyone else Paul experienced this. He believed in Christ and because he preached the Gospel of Christ he was stoned, put in prison, experienced every kind of trouble, flogged severely, had trouble with bandits, had trouble with his own countrymen, was shipwrecked, and met every kind of hardship, but even in the mist of these troubles, he learned well that God is the God of endurance and encouragement. Even in the midst of these circumstances, he followed God, and he learned that the Word of God gave him endurance and encouragement.
We are the same. In our homes and in our church, there are difficulties and agonies that we can’t express in words. However, the God of endurance and encouragement makes us of “the same attitude of mind toward each other as Christ Jesus had.”（５）He gives us unity.
III. For the glory of God (vs. 6)
Those who are strong accept the weak, and have one heart so that God will be glorified. Please look at verse 6.
We have one mind, one heart, and one will, so that with “one voice” (6) we can sing and praise God and testify to God. Sometimes when I am preaching, without realizing the sermon turns into a prayer. Here Paul too wrote about many things. While saying many things it gradually turned into a prayer. More than that Paul was compelled to pray.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5.6)
Paul’s prayer is that the church would be unified. It’s o.k. for there to be many different kinds of people. It’s o.k. for there to be people from many backgrounds and thinking. However, he wanted the church to fundamentally have “the same attitude of mind” (5) and “with one mind and one voice” (6) praise God and witness to God. This became his prayer.
This was the prayer of Jesus too. In John 17:21 it says. “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” This was just before the cross. After Jesus talked to the disciples from his heart he prayed that just as he was one with the Father that the church would be one with Christ and that the church members would be unified. That is so that by that “the world may believe” (John 17:21) that there is a God, that the Gospel is true, and that Jesus is the Savior. It is so that people will believe and receive eternal life and so that they might glorify God the Father.
“With one mind” which appears here in verse 6 is used only once in the whole book of Romans. However this word is used over and over again in the book of Acts. Amazingly in Acts whenever the word “With one mind” is used there is always amazing works of God and blessing overflowing and the church moves forward. One example is Acts 2:46 and 47
When the believers met together in the temple courts and were together with glad and sincere hearts in their homes, when they were praising God, they enjoyed “the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Also according to Acts 4:24-32, when Peter and John were released after being brought before the Sanhedrin for healing a man who had been crippled from birth, the Christians “raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:24) “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) Also in Acts 5: 12 to 14,”The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their numbers.” When believers are “with one mind” (6) praise God, God’s magnificent glory appears.
The events of Acts 13 Paul will never forget. Paul was ministering in the Antioch church at that time with Barnabas. Barnabas, whose name means “a child of encouragement”, had the gift of encouragement and encouraged those who hurting. Barnabas had encouraged the Antioch Church to accept Paul the Pharisee that had persecuted the Christians. “For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.” (Acts 11:26) In the Antioch church there were many different kinds of people. First of all there was “Simeon called Niger” (Acts 13:1 Niger may indicate his dark complexion. Next is “Lucius of Cyrene” (Acts 13:1) As a result of the persecution of Stephen many Christians were scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. These Christians spread the Gospel to only the Jews. According to Acts 11:20, later a second group of preachers came to Antioch. Some of them were from Cyrene, the capital of Libya, who “began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus”. (Acts 11:20) Lucius was probably one of them. Many Greeks and Gentiles turned to the Lord. The ministry of Lucius and such preachers was probably one reason “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) Also there was Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch. In present day that would be like being raised with the emperor. He was of high society. There were such people in the church, but their unity in the faith went above all their societal positions and ranks. They sent Paul and Barnabas out to do world missions. Just because they had a person of high ranking doesn’t mean that this can be done. Just because you have compatible friends that doesn’t mean that can be done. They were able to do this because they had an unity of faith. It is only by overcoming human prejudices and obstacles that this can be done. This Antioch Church had unity by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when they prayed together in one mind, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Then they prayed and sent Paul and Barnabas out. When the church prays “with one mind” (6), the awesome works of God and His glory appear.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice” you may praise God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we glorify God. In order to do that let’s bear one another’s failings, and “with one mind and voice” (6) let’s praise the Lord.