December 26 – Romans 15:5-6

This week we gathered online instead of in person, and you can find that service on our Youtube channel. Next week we’ll be back in person at all of our normal meeting times and locations, and we’ll be kicking off 2022 with our theme for the year in Philippians 3:20-21. But this week, here at the end of Advent and at the end of the year, we wanted to pause in Romans 15 and be reminded of Jesus’ unifying love at work among us.

Like most of his letters, Paul starts with truth before telling us how to live in light of that truth, which helps us see how our actions flow out of our beliefs and reminds us that mere behavior modification is a paltry view of what the gospel accomplishes in our lives. So the first section of Romans, chapters 1-11, is a rich theological lesson on the means by which we are made right with God, or justified. You’ll see Paul use language about justification, and specifically justification by faith, all throughout Romans (and his other letters). This is the core of the gospel message itself, that we can’t save ourselves and can only be saved by putting our faith in the work of Jesus on our behalf. This is Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”

So keep in mind, where Paul has arrived in the second section of Romans (chapters 12-16) is all in light of justification by faith. Thus he gets to chapter 12 and says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”(12:1) Based on the mercy we have received from God through Jesus we commit our entire selves to God as a “living sacrifice.” We live knowing that we are given, no longer our own, “bought with a price.”(1 Cor. 6:20) Anytime we think or talk about how we should live we should always do that in light of what God has said in his word, particularly in light of this great truth, that we are the undeserving recipients of God’s mercy through Jesus and belong fully to him.

In Romans 14:1-15:13 Paul addresses a specific issue in the early church that was causing some division, likely whether or not Christians should follow Jewish dietary laws. He exhorts the church in Rome to bear with one another, for those with a “strong” conscience (those who can eat non-Kosher food without feeling guilty) to see to the needs of those with a “weak” conscience (those who can’t eat non-Kosher food without feeling guilty), and to walk in peace, making sure not to cause one another to stumble or to pass judgment on one another. “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.”(14:15) We see here a practice of laying down one’s rights, whether the right to eat non-Kosher foods or other rights, when exercising such rights would do harm to the unity of God’s people.

That’s a long intro to the passage for this week, but the previous 14 chapters all go into understanding Romans 15:5-7. In fact, the language of welcome in verse 7 started in 14:3, “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” Even when people do things that we would normally despise and judge, welcoming others as Jesus has welcomed us is our code. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’ll never correct harmful behavior (Eph. 4:15) or challenge wrong belief (1 Tim. 3:16-17); we misunderstand the welcome of Christ if we think he doesn’t do either of those things. But we love and welcome one another best, living in harmony and glorifying God in our unity, when we remember our own undeserved welcome with our Father through Jesus.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Romans 15:5-7 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• Why do you think God is interested in us living in harmony with one another?

• How do you think our welcome with Jesus can teach us how to welcome others?

• What was convicting to you in this passage?

• How does Jesus supply what we need to live in harmony with one another?