Saturday, 4 January 2014
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1
Chapter 15 begins with a note admonishing those who are strong in the faith – “We then who are strong…” This obviously includes Paul himself and he is speaking out in plea to those who are like him. Being strong in the faith is described in the previous chapter and he now brings the thought of those words into a request for harmony within the church.
Those who understand their freedoms and who aren’t challenged by the “disputable matters” that arise should “bear with the scruples of the weak.” Matters of diet and days of observance are not to be treated as if they were to be the end of fellowship and a source of division. Rather, the stronger in the faith have the onus on them to accept those who practice differently or who fail to see the complete freedom found in the finished work of Jesus. Instead of lording their knowledge and freedom over the weak, they are to bear with their habits and not merely please themselves. This is the heart of love which he writes about elsewhere, such as 1 Corinthians 13.
And as a case demonstration of this, Paul writes these words to the Corinthians in his first letter to them –
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-22
Throughout Acts, Paul is shown to be empathetic to those who were lesser informed or who were weaker in the faith. However, he also stood against heresy and those who would put confusion into the minds of believers. He had a balanced approach to his handling of such matters. When someone was not following the faith in a proper manner because of a lack of knowledge, he stooped down to their level and worked within their state to edify them and also instruct them. However, when someone wasn’t following the faith in a proper manner but who should have known better, he challenged them openly (see Galatians 2:11-16 where he confronts Peter head on).
This is the proper way to conduct affairs and this is what Paul appeals to today
Life application: Determine the situation concerning a challenge to right doctrine and act accordingly. If the person is ignorant of a matter, handle them as you would your own child – with love and instruction. If the person is aware of what is right and acts contrary to the truth, handle them as a trouble-maker, with bold determination to not let them harm others’ faith.
Lord, what does it profit me to have all the knowledge in the world and to not have love? Help me to use Your word as an implement of instruction to those who are lacking knowledge, as a guide to those who have lost their way, and as shining light to those who grope in darkness. I know it has the power to open eyes, minds, and hearts. Give me the wisdom to use it sensibly. Amen.