by David & Stephen Olford
Text: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written. The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me" (Romans 15:1-3).
Thought: In these verses the Apostle Paul concludes his treatment of the subject of general tolerance in the life of the Church. In the previous chapter he has shown that Christian tolerance manifests the love of Christ toward others: now he proceeds to unfold the fact that Christian tolerance magnifies the life of Christ. So in the paragraph before us we have portrayed the example of Christ. Observe that:
Tolerance within the Church reflects the pleasure of Christ (vv. 1-3). To fulfill the pleasure of Christ we must know a selfless duty to others-"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves" (v.1). If we know anything of Calvary's love then we will want to carry our weak brethren, rather than criticize them. It is a further exhortation to a life of selfless delight in others-"Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification" (v.2).
A Christian really knows the life of victory in Christ when his delight is to "Please his neighbor" as he seeks to please God. Unfortunately, the reverse is usually the case in the average local fellowship. But more than this, it is written, "the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me" (v.3). There is a sense in which the purpose of the coming of the Son of God into this world was to defend His own, despite all manner of reproaches, and He did so even to the death of the cross. To be able to follow our Master in this life of utter selflessness we need the patience and comfort of the Scriptures (v.4).
Tolerance in the Church reveals the purpose of Christ. "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus" (v. 5). To accomplish God's purpose, the Lord Jesus came to unify and then satisfy a people who had been separated and starved by sin; so verses 5-13 are a glorious doxology to this mighty work which He performed through His Calvary passion and triumph.
We cannot understand this eternal purpose without receiving one another, even as Christ also received us to the glory of God (v. 7). This, in turn, guarantees not only oneness in Christ (vv 5-6) but also fullness in Christ (v. 13). From that point onward social or national differences are transcended by a fellowship that can glorify God "with one mind and one mouth" (v. 6).
Thrust: "Look not every man on his own things, but also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:4).
David Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's
Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee