Example Of Romans 15: 1-13 Analysis Essay
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Romans 15:1-13 Analysis
Romans 14 starts with a discussion about how those strong in the faith should not look down on those who are weak, or still developing in the faith. Paul uses the metaphor of eating certain foods over eating everything, and not judging those who can only eat one food (New International Version, Rom. 14:1-4). This means that liberty is a major issue within the church, and both chapters 14 and 15 address how Christians are to live in their newfound freedom in Christ. Because of this, most of chapter 14 is negative. There are a lot of things Christians are not to do. This includes things like passing judgment and creating stumbling blocks for those weaker in the faith. These passages fit into the usual structure of Pauline letters, as these are instructions promoting unity, but Paul does not end on a negative note. That is where chapter 15 falls into the overall narrative in Romans.
Chapter 15 contains the positive instructions on how to deal with Christian liberty, especially in light of the fact there are those who are both strong and weak in the faith. Chapter 14 says not to offend each other, and chapter 15 closes with instructions with a positive message about living in a community in Rome. The main topics addressed in Romans 15: 1-13 are pleasing others and praising God. The text is effectively divided up into two sections. Verses 1-6 are instructions about living together and pleasing one another, while verses 7-13 are all about praising and worshipping God together (DeSilva, 2004, p. 628). While the specific theme of pleasing and praising fits in well with chapter 14, it also fits in well with how Pauline letters are usually organized. Once again, these are specific instructions attempting to promote unity inside the church. Therefore, the one general, overarching theme of Romans 15 is unity (Moo, 2002).
There are several key verses in chapter 15. The first is verse two, which states, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up (Rom. 15:2).” This verse is the most direct in describing how Christians are to please their neighbors. This comes in the context of the previous chapter and how those strong in the faith should deal with those who are weak. In that context, this verse makes a lot of sense. This verse also touches on the theme of unity. Another key verse in this passage is verse 7. It states, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Rom. 15:7).” Once again, this verse touches on the theme of unity, pleasing each other, and transitions into the praising of God. Following verse seven, the main theme discussed is how the unified body should praise God. The key passage which explains this is verses 8 and 9. These verses explain how Christ came for both Jews and Gentiles, and because of it, all sides must cry out in praise to the Lord.
Romans 15:2 continues the theme of pleasing each other and unity within the body of believers. It is the logical follow up of verse 1, in that it builds on the message of how the strong and the weak can interact for mutual benefit. It is also noteworthy that the tone of verses 1 and 2 are distinctly different than that of chapter 14. These first two verses have been written in a positive tone, as a method of encouragement to show how great it is to function in the body of Christ. While chapter 14 had a very similar message as the first two verses, it focuses on the negative aspects, painting a picture of what not to do as a community. The beginning of Romans 15 is a sharp contrast to this picture.
The next verse explains the basic reasoning and justification for Paul’s call to action in the previous two verses. The reason why all Christians need to build each other up is due to Christ’s example. Paul writes, “For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me (Rom. 15:3).’’’ Looking at Christ’s example of how he lived his life in service to everyone around him, so to must the church follow in his example. Another noteworthy aspect of this verse is that Paul references Psalm 69:9 in the second half of the verse. This is showing how each of the testaments supports each other and that prophecies are fulfilled. Christ put the “insults” of all people on his shoulders so that everyone else could be set free (Henry, 1992, p. 603).
After verse three, Paul uses 4-6 to transition to his second major topic of the passage, and concludes his thoughts towards building each other up in the body of Christ. Romans 15:4 follows up on his reference to Psalm 69 by saying that “everything written in the past was written to teach us.” This builds the foundation that what Paul is saying is supported throughout the scripture and is not strictly his idea. Furthermore, he gives Christians living in Rome hope through the Holy Spirit. This theme continues in verse 5 as Paul reminds the Romans again to follow Christ’s example of treating one another. Finally, verse 6 transitions into unity and praise when Paul says, “so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father (Romans 15:6).” This is Paul’s final message on building the body, and the key words “one voice” and “glorify” set the tone for Paul to end with the uplifting message of praising God (Henry, 1992, p. 604).
The second section of the passage starts with verse seven. Paul once again appeals to the example of Christ to urge for acceptance to praise. What Paul is saying when we writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7),” is that the main point of all this unity is to praise God. For all those who are strong in faith and encourage those who are weak, the reason this must happen is ultimately to join in praise to God. With one united voice, Paul is urging believers to rise in praise to God.
Romans 15:8 makes reference to the Jews, and how God has fulfilled his promises to them. One of the major themes in the book of Romans is the issue of Jew verses Gentile and how the two sides should relate. Here, when Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that Jesus served the Jews to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament, he is showing the importance Jews are in God’s plan, and how vital it is that they join in praise. However, immediately following his reference to the Jews, Paul recognizes the Gentiles and their role to praise and glorify God. Furthermore, Paul shows how from the beginning, the Gentiles were part of God’s plan. Paul writes, “As it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name (Rom. 15:9b).’” The phrase in quotes in this verse is a reference to Psalm 18, once again tying in the Old Testament and showing the fulfillment of prophecies. Because of this, Gentiles clearly are important to God, and to Paul’s message in Romans.
The passage concludes with a benediction. Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). This is an uplifting passage that concludes both the two main points of chapter 15, but also 14 as well. Paul’s specific instruction to the Christians in Rome concludes with this verse, as the rest of the book describes Paul’s future plans and greetings.
Therefore, the main argument of Romans 15:1-13 is one of unity through building up the body, and in praising the Lord. Both Jews and Gentiles are to do this together, and the end of the passage really emphasizes the Gentiles role in praise. A common theme is Paul’s use of the Old Testament, which goes to show that what is writing has authority, both in Christ and in the fulfilled prophecies.
On the surface, this passage appears to simply be a set of guidelines and suggestions for the church in Rome. It also was specifically written for the Jew and Gentile division that was prominent all through early Christianity. This is not the case anymore. However, since the Bible applies to all times and all peoples, there is a message that even Christians living today in the 21st century can take out from Romans 15: 1-13. This passage contains several timeless messages, especially about unity and praise that can be applied to the church today.
The early church in Rome was very diverse, which is why Paul spends so much of his letter on the Jews and Gentiles. It was also made up of a diverse set of social classes and occupations (DeSilva, 2004, p. 607). Today, the situation is very much the same. The church is very diverse, both in America, and throughout the world. While most of the church today would be considered Gentile, the message for those strong and weak in the faith still can apply today. Paul called for those who are strong in faith to stand up and lead those who are weak. One of the dominant trends in 21st century culture is that of individualism. This is seeping into Christianity and it has led many Christians not to seek or place an importance on other people. Much of the focus is on themselves and their personal relationship with Jesus. While there is nothing inherently wrong with having this focus, it is only one aspect of being a child of God. Paul’s message in Romans 15 is one of unity and the importance of working together, building one another up.
There are so many challenges against faithfully serving Christ today. Whether it is materialism, sex, or idolatry, those who are strong in the faith must be in places of humble leadership. This is why the appointment of worthy leaders in the church is vital to the advancement of the church. Those who really understand God’s word and live their life in unquestioned service to God should be the ones in positions of authority. However, Paul makes sure to put those who are strong in the faith on notice too. He specifically mentions how they should not flaunt this strength, but help in a selfless, Christ like way. One form of doing this today is mentoring those of weaker or beginning faith. This is very important and rarely stressed today, but is something applicable to this passage. Paul is all about the serving of each other, both through aiding someone in need of a material possession, but also in terms of their spirituality. Only through mentoring and meeting together regularly can this be achieved, and the spiritual aspect of this should not be forgotten in a challenging world.
While building up the church and serving each other is one of the main applications of the text, Romans 15:1-13 really speaks more generally of unity. It is a fact that the church today is divided. One only needs to look at the countless numbers of denominations in the North American church to see that a lot of Christians do not agree with each other on a large variety of issues. The church is divided on issues of politics, race, wealth, and certain personal preferences on worship. In fact, worship style is one of the major factors in why churches split. Because of these facts, the church has come under attack as some question why Christianity should be followed when there is so much division.
Verses 7-13 really point out the necessity of putting aside these differences and joining with all Christians in praise to God. This is not to say that there should not be a theological debate ever on any issue, but it does say interaction is needed within the entire large Christian church. All those who believe in Jesus should be able to worship with each other in praise to God. Whether it is through combined interdenominational services, or traveling to other parts of the world, worshipping with other believers across the world helps build unity and further God’s kingdom. Trying out other unique styles of worship and praise to God can only help grow unity in the body of believers. All Christians today are Gentiles, and through the grace of God, have been given new life through Christ. At the very least, all Christians can join in praise of this fact, and thank God for what he has done. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christians throughout the world can join together, with peace and joy, to further the kingdom of God here on earth, while waiting for the coming of Christ.
DeSilva, D. (2004). An introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, methods & ministry formation. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Henry, M., & Church, L. (1992). The NIV Matthew Henry commentary in one volume: Based on the Broad Oak edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House.
Holy Bible. (2011). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Moo, D. (2002). Encountering the book of Romans: A theological survey. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
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