We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (Rm. 15:1,2).
As God has ordained it, his church is comprised of many people of many varying strengths and degrees of faith (cf. Rm. 12:3). And in spite of these variances, God has ordained that his church be one Body, united for the sake of his glory. And as such, the attainment of unity in the church for the sake of God’s glory must come through love and longsuffering, for the church at present remains in a fallen world and will, because of the variance within it, contain those who fail.
For this reason, the apostle calls the strong in the church to bear with the failings of the weak. For it is the strong who have the greater ability for love and longsuffering, and it is the strong who give to the church strength and maturity, and they who have such strength and maturity have the greater responsibility in the church for the accomplishment of unity.
And though there is this goal of unity through longsuffering, it must be accomplished through proper means with the proper end. What that proper end is not, the apostle writes, is “to please ourselves.” For a semblance of unity can be obtained in the church because of selfishness, whereby the strong bear the weak for the sake of their personal gain. This personal gain can manifest itself in filled pews, large offerings, and the lack of strife out of absence of accountability–all of which are done not for the sake of the weak but for the sake of the strong. This unity in the church obtained by selfish desire is not a unity that is glorifying to God, and it is not a unity that grows and strengthens the weak.
The proper end of unity through longsuffering, however, is, as the apostle writes, the “pleasing of his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” In other words, the strong are to bear the failings of the weak, not for selfish reasons, but so that the weak might obtain their good, which is to be built up in the church and in faith. And this is to be accomplished by “pleasing our neighbor.” In the context, this is not the pleasing of our neighbors in all things, but it is, as Romans 14 teaches, the pleasing of our neighbors in those things which are matters of opinion. It is, as the apostle writes, “not to destroy the work of God for the sake of food” (Rm. 14:20). For there are things that are not to be suffered in the weak that pertain to holiness and godliness, but convictions concerning days and festivals and foods and drinks, etc. are not to be among them. And since it is the strong who have the greater understanding that “everything is indeed clean,” they are to endure the present misunderstandings of the weak, so that they who are weak might one day become strong.
Therefore, those who are strong, for the sake of the weak, must keep the faith that they have between themselves and God and not place in front of the weak a matter which may cause them to stumble. “For,” as the apostle writes, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rm. 14:17), and unity must be obtained through the longsuffering and love of the strong.
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study