Romans 14-15 – Christian Tolerance

Romans 14&15 spends a great deal of time expanding the idea of the how the weak and strong in faith should interact with each other (you can listen to last Sunday’s sermon on this passage here.) This section of scripture lays the foundation for what I believe has become an important ethos in the ministry of our church, namely people are accepted, loved and welcomed where they are at. Or as Paul puts it ‘Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters’ (14:1) or ‘We who are strong ought to bear the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves’ (15:1). We are to ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you’, which means on an individual level that you don’t have to be like me to be welcomed by me, and on a church level you don’t have to be like us to be a part of us. Jesus didn’t wait for us to change before He welcomed us, and we are to live in the same manner towards one another.

  • How easily does this sit with you?
  • Where/how have you seen this working or not working?

Rom 14:1 tells us not to quarrel over disputable matters, which helpfully reveals that there are disputable matters within the life of the church! Without doubt there are some core non negotiable truths and creedal statements, but there are also many ‘disputable matters’ that should not cause disunity between believers.

  • For the 1st century Roman church these disputable matters were to do with food and drink and sacred days, but what are the disputable matters of our day?
  • How do we go about accepting those who hold different views in these matters?
  • Are there grey areas between indisputable matters and disputable matters, if so can you think of any?
  • How do the strong go about bearing with the weak in these areas?
  • Have you been caused or felt pressure to stumble through other Christian’s ‘disputable matter’ beliefs? Share them so others may understand what the issues are.
  • How can we go about not causing others to stumble?

Rom 15:1 tells us that the strong in faith ought to bear with the failings of the weak.

  • Do you feel this could lead a church to sink to the lowest common denominator?
  • If so in what ways?

Rom 15:2 says we are to please our neighbour for their good to build them up. Which implies that the concern of the strong in faith should be the growth of the whole body in faith and not just their own individual spiritual development.
Rom 14:19 is a key summary verse of this whole section, ‘Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification’. We make every effort to do what leads to peace, accepting those who are weaker/different in disputable matters. And we do so with a desire and aim to see all edified because our goal is for everyone to grow in strength of faith.
This is the Jesus way!

  • Who’s responsibility is it to make every effort?
  • How do we go about making this happen?!

One Another Follow up

In the last blog we considered how we as a church and as individuals faired at living out the ‘One Anothers’ of the New Testament. A number of you completed the survey on your perspective of our strengths and weaknesses as a church and the results can be found here. There seems to be a trend emerging whereby we seem to think we are good at being kind and compassionate to one another and loving one another, but we seem to agree that we are not good at admonishing one another, confessing our sins to one another and submitting to one another.
So the next step is to consider how we can find ways as a church of developing these areas where we are weak in relating to one another……. over to you!

We also need to look at where our individual strengths and weaknesses lie in regards to these ‘One Anothers’. Where we are weak we need to consider how we can grow, and we also need to consider how we can encourage others and share what we are stronger at.

Romans 12 and onwards……

Romans 12 begins the last major section of Paul’s great letter. In these concluding chapters Paul gives practical teaching on how the theology of the gospel that he has outlined in Chapters 1-11 is put into practice in the lives of the people of the church. It is often the pattern in Paul’s teaching that he gives a theological explanation followed by practical application. This pattern shows that Christian life is dependant on, and flows from Christian doctrine. In the words of Douglass Moo ‘All theology is practical and all practice, if it is truly Christian, is theological’. We must never separate these two things, because if we do our theology will become purely academic and theoretical and our practical teaching will become moralistic and based on our effort not the grace of the gospel.

In order to make this gospel theology practical I’d like us to take some of the ‘one anothers’ of the New Testament (the teachings of the scriptures that speak on how to relate to ‘one another’ as God’s people – many of which are found in Romans 12). To do this I’d like us to consider a list of 15 ‘one anothers’, and ask the question how well we as a church, and also we as individuals, do with these things. I’ve put together a short survey to help us see what we feel our ‘one another’ strengths and weaknesses are as a church body. Take the survey by clicking here.
Once we have done this, over the next few weeks I’d like us to think creatively in our home groups how we can practically strengthen the areas that we are weak in as a church and also as individuals. This will involve finding new ways of loving one another and it will involve us taking action! In doing this by the grace of God the church will be richer and stronger, and ultimately more gospel and Christ centred.

15 One Anothers from the New Testament (there are more if you feel you have mastered these!)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom12:10)
Honour one another above yourselves (Rom12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Rom12:16)
Greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom16:16)
Be patient, bearing one another in love (Eph4:2)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph4:32)
Admonish one another (Col3:16)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph5:21)
Encourage one another (Heb 10:25)
Build each other up (1Thess5:11)
Confess your sins to each other (Jas5:9)
Pray for each other (Jas5:16)
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1Pt4:9)
Each should use whatever gift he has received to serve others (1Pt4:10)
Love one another (Jn13:34 and many more)

Romans 11 – Remnant Salvation

Just a quick thought for this week based on the beginning of Romans 11. You can listen to Sunday’s sermon here.

Are there things – things that have happened to you or the church – that cause you to ask the question ‘has God rejected his people?’

What is Paul’s emphatic answer to this question? (:1)

Where can you see God’s ‘remnant’ salvation around you? Where are there little signs of salvation hope that show that God is still with us/you?

Live in these signs of hope – God has not rejected His people.

Romans 9 – The Israel Conundrum

Romans 9 begins a new section of the letter (Rom9-11) which, if I’m honest, I’ve always found the most difficult. It is difficult because there are some things that are hard to understand and it is difficult because there are some things that are hard to hear. If the truth be told we probably wished some of these verses said something different so that they were less disturbing to us. But they don’t, and we need to hear what they are saying in order that we know the fullness of who God is and the riches of His gospel which brings salvation to us.

There is a tendency with difficult passages like these to reduce them to complicated academic doctrines that few people actually really understand or appreciate. However, we must keep in view that this is a pastoral letter written to a church. Discussions about Calvinism and Arminianism can be helpful, but the bottom line is that Paul wrote this to explain the gospel and in the end it should be something that changes our perspective and challenges our behaviour as we are transformed by the power of it.

Romans 9-11 continues to be all about the gospel, but the focus shifts to Israel and her role in the salvation story of God.

Before you read Rom 9 it is probably worth stopping to consider who we are talking about when we speak of Israel:
Who is Israel historically and biblically?
What was the role and relationship Israel had with God in the Old Testament scriptures?
What do we understand Israel to mean today – geographically, racially, in a religious sense and in any other way?

Read Rom 9

What do you find difficult or disturbing in this chapter? Write down or speak out the questions you have and things that you struggle with having read the chapter. You may well need to wrestle with these questions and difficulties with some time, but it is worth the struggle! As it was with Jacob (Gen32), through the wrestling we will gain a deeper appreciation of who God is.

A few questions for reflection

What does it mean that ‘not all that are descended from Israel are Israel’ (:6)?
What does the idea of a ‘remnant’ mean (:27)?
Can you think of Old Testament stories that describe this idea of only a remnant being saved?

Rom 9:10-13 are hard verses to read, how do you react to them?
The tendency is to see these verses highlighting the negative side of God’s election, but what is the positive side (:16)?

In Rom 9:22-23 Paul twice says ‘what if ….’, almost as if to say ‘even if this were the case who are you to argue with it?’! The two ‘what if’s in verses 22 & 23 are a challenge to our belief about God. They ask the questions, ‘Is God really like this? Has He really done this?’
So let us ask the question has God really done these things and if so how does it ‘make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy’?

In conclusion, one thing we must take away from this chapter is what the prophecies that Paul quotes from in Hosea and Isaiah point towards. Through the gospel of Jesus people from every nation are being chosen and saved by God.
Rom9:25-26 tells us that people from the previously rejected are now being chosen for salvation – the harsh rejection of Esau seems to not have been a complete rejection in the sense that the unloved are now loved.
Rom9:27-28 tells us that people from the rebellious and undeserving chosen people are still being chosen for salvation – God’s word has not failed (:6).

Thanks be to God!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ (Eph2:8-10)



Romans 8 – Security Services

The end of Romans 8 brings to a conclusion the themes and ideas that have been developed in Rom5-8, with Rom8:28-39 being a rich section of scripture that you could spend almost a lifetime digesting! One of the themes we find here is the often controversial idea of predestination and how it is connected with some of the most famous and popular verses in Romans.

Read Rom8:28-39

Rom8:29-30 describes a ‘chain reaction’ of things that God works, which originate in His foreknowing and predestining. With these words we find the idea that God already knows who He is and who He isn’t going to save, and the idea that He has chosen in advance some people to be saved and others not to be.
How do these ideas sit with you?
Are there implications of these concepts that are surprising to you?
Are there implications of these ideas that make you feel uncomfortable?

Regardless of your reservations (or not) about the idea of predestination is it possible for God to be God without the ability to foreknow or predestine things?

Rom8:28 says ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
How does the idea that we are called according to God’s purpose give us security in God working all things for the good?
What is meant by ‘all things’ here? Do we tend to narrow down the application of the scripture and if so in what way?
What do you think is meant by ‘good’ here? Do some of the other things mentioned in Rom8:29-30 help us understand this good more fully?

Rom8:31 says ‘If God is for us who can be against us.’
What do you understand this to mean – does it mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us, or does it mean that no opposition will ever overcome us, or does it mean something else!?
If you combine what Rom8:28 & Rom8:31 are saying are our enemies actually against us?
Compare and describe how this truth is revealed in the story of Joseph (Gen37-50, esp Gen50:20) and also in the opposition and suffering Jesus faced. How does this change our perspective on ‘defeats’ that we may suffer in our lives?

Listen to Sunday’s sermon here.



Romans 8 – Now but Not Yet

Romans 8:18-27 is a rare bit of New Testament writing where Paul connects our future hope with a future hope for all creation. He speaks of our future salvation having a cosmic significance. Rom8:19 says ‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.’ This revealing of the sons of God speaks of the time of resurrection from the dead of the God’s children. When this occurs creation itself will be brought into freedom, no longer subject to the slavery of decay, but brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. This is huge! The resurrection of Jesus points us towards a future where, not only are we resurrected in a renewed body but creation (animals, plants, communities, economies, towns and cities, forests and deserts, oceans and streams) is also renewed and restored. This amazing liberation for all creation is an ultimate reversal of the curse God pronounced after Adam sinned (Gen3:17-19). Adam’s sin not only brought death into the world but also curse on the ground. The decay that creation is currently subject to came as a result of mankind’s sin. It follows, therefore, that with mankind’s ultimate redemption there will also come a redemption for all creation. The salvation of mankind is intimately intertwined with the restoration of all creation!

Read Rom 8:18-27 & Is65:17-25

What does Is65:17-25 tell you about the scope of God’s salvation restoration to all creation?
Look at the description of the different aspects of creation that are redeemed in this passage. In what ways does this broaden your perspective of the future hope we have in Christ?

The idea that God will renew all creation at some point in the future could lead us to think that we don’t need to worry about the world and environment around us. If God is going to renew everything one day then surely it’s ok to use and abuse the world we have now, and squeeze everything we can out of it? Is this attitude and approach right? Why?
What is a gospel centred way of living in this world?

Should Christians be environmental friendly? Should churches get involved in the communities around them? Should the church get involved in politics? Should Christians fight for justice and work for peace in this world? Should Christians help serving the poor and disadvantaged in this world?
If so how what is a gospel centred way of going about these things? Take one or more of the above issues and consider how a gospel centred approach may differ or be in harmony with the way in which the world approaches them.

Find ways as individuals or as a group in which you can practically live out the signs of the future hope of the gospel in the creation around you.