Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Mission
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 15:1-33 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: If there were no chapter break at Romans 15, it would be easy to see how the end of Chapter 14 moves right into this chapter. In fact, many see Romans 14 properly ending at Romans 15:13. This seems to be the logical completion of Paul’s statement on this topic. Some have even suggested that you could begin at Romans 1:15 and go right to Romans 15:14 and that this block would be a coherent whole.It seems there is value in viewing Romans 14 as an intentional build up that draws the reader into Romans 15.
Last week, we looked at how Paul is pleading with those who are strong (most likely the Gentile Christians) to be more welcoming to those who are weak (most likely the Jewish Christians). This issue is not about quality of faith, but about cultural differences. The question we might ask is, “Why?” Why is it necessary for us to consider this? We know it must be important since Paul has, from the start of the letter, woven this thread through his writing. Generosity to others is important.
Romans 1-11 shares the meta-narrative that this world is broken and that God’s solution for it, for the universe, and for each of us is the Messiah—none other than Jesus Christ. Romans 12-16 provides a reminder of how we might follow Jesus Christ. Paul begins with Romans 12 (in the church), pointing out that we need to have intelligent faith and genuine love. He moves on in Romans 13 (in the world) to the idea that we will, whenever possible, respect those in authority for the sake of sharing the Gospel—also making sure to put our allegiance to God first. In Romans 14 (in the tension), he explains that we need to triage our theology so that we can be more welcoming. Romans 15 (in the mission) calls us to our mission, one that will unite us. This is an unusual approach, since Paul see the mission as being in Jesus.
When we are fractured as followers of Jesus we tend to discuss unity. We focus on elements that seem to provide “common ground.” We define boxes and see if we can bend and mold them into spheres. We then hope that those spheres will intersect in a classic Venn diagram where we can identify a common space and call it “common space unity.” Timothy Keller in his commentary, Romans 8-16 for You: For Reading, For Feeding, For Leading, captures the essence of Paul’s vision when he describes unity as a “supernatural gift.” He writes:
Verses 5-6 are a prayer—a prayer for the unity that will be established and preserved as the strong and the weak live out Paul’s teaching of chapter 14 and 15:1-3. This unity is, ultimately, a supernatural gift. It is a spirit that God must “give you” (v. 5). No method can create it; it is from Him. And it comes from a common following of Christ. God gives it “as you follow Christ Jesus.” This real unity does not come when we seek it directly. Rather, it is a by-product of seeking something other than unity; namely, seeking to follow Christ. Passive Christians will not experience much unity. Only believers who are following hard—setting priorities for Christian growth and ministry—will experience deep unity.
Recalibrate: Why do we like to focus on “byproducts” instead of “products”? What “product(s)” in life deserve more of our attention?
Respond: Pray for the strength to focus on the source of inspiration.
Research: Read Psalm 69. What does it teach you about the “product”?
Remember: “We, the ‘strong’ ones, should bear with the frailty of the ‘weak,’ and not please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
There is much your child can’t do on their own. Eat, sleep, play, walk, talk, etc. As a parent, you are strong for them. You see their weaknesses and care for them. You do not hold weakness against them. When your child is learning to brush their teeth, you don’t judge them for not being able to do it well the first time. You help them along the way until they get it (mostly) right. Paul tells us the same thing is true for those in our faith communities. We need to carry those who are weaker. We need to do this in joy—not holding a grudge against them—because we love them.
Do you have any siblings or cousins? Are they older or younger than you? Have you helped a younger family member or close friend before? What did you help with? Have you ever been helped by someone bigger or stronger? Maybe you were not quite tall enough to reach something, or a bag was just too heavy for you to carry on your own. The Bible tells us that we should look out for people who are a little weaker than we are so we can help them. Read your Words to Remember out loud. What do you think Paul means when he says “strong ones?” Do you think he means they have big muscles? Or do you think he is talking about them being strong in Jesus?
I am a forgetful person. I will lose my keys, only to find them in my hands. I will lose my bright yellow 32-ounce Hydroflask, and then someone else will find it for me because no one else at my college campus has such a beat up-looking Hydroflask. I have been known to lose my wallet on multiple occasions, but somehow I always find it at the bottom of my backpack. (Word to the wise— if you lose something, check your backpack first. I speak from experience.) Even worse, I often forget who I am. I forget that I am a child of God. Before the world was even created, God chose me. God risked everything just to be with me. And God has chosen you too. When Christ died for you, He brought you into His family. The coolest part is that you don’t have to do a thing to earn this family membership. It is so easy to forget this because the world fills us with insecurities. We compare our grades to those of others, we wish our Instagrams were as beautiful and trendy as someone else’s, we look at other people’s families and wish ours was as hip as theirs, or we look to other people’s spiritual lives and wonder how they know just how to speak and act with such perfection. The world causes us to feel insecure about who God created us to be in so many ways. That is why it is so important to spend time in God’s Word! It reminds us who we are and who God says we are in Him. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV). If you find yourself feeling forgetful, remember the Bible declares that God has chosen you.