Lesson 13: All the Rest is Commentary
Romans is the dearest book of the Bible to me, and I hope that as we end this quarter, you have discovered why. Paul has taken us on a journey from our own sinfulness (Rom. 1-3) to God’s astounding solution of righteousness by faith by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3-6), from enslavement to the law of our flesh (Rom. 7) to the glorious freedom to obey the law of life with no condemnation (Rom. 8), from the nature of the relationship between grace, faith, and obedience (Rom. 4-7) to the nature of the relationship between God, Jews, and Gentiles (Rom. 9-11), from the ways of sin and death (Rom. 1-2) to the character of peace, love, and joy the marks the life of the believing sinner saved by grace (Rom. 12-13). Now Paul bids farewell, with greetings, plans for future travel, and one final message: don’t let non-essentials get in the way of your or anyone else’s relationship with God (Rom. 14-15).
Christ didn’t come to save you alone; He came to save the Church, the body of believers who are willing to give Him their all. So you cannot pretend that your words and actions affect only your own well-being. That is, you shouldn’t think that whether you do evil or good only has impact in your own life. “Each of us,” Paul writes, “is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.” (Rom. 15:2). Paul discusses things that are a matter of conscience and not a matter of salvation, and discourages people from bickering and judging over these matters and thus cause other people to stumble. “But is this really a problem?”, you may ask. Consider the well-known fact that the number one reason that people leave the Church is not that they stop believing in God or that they disagree with the Church’s doctrine, but rather because of interpersonal conflict. Undoubtedly, some of this comes because of arguments and judgments over issues on which the Bible does not mandate obedience.
What sadness this must cause in the heart of God! “For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died . . . Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.” (Rom. 14:15, 20). This echoes the Jesus’ sentiments towards the holier-than-thou’s of His day who were dreaming up unnecessary commandments, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. . . . You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:46, 52).
Let us take care then to edify and rebuke our brothers and sisters into holiness, but leave aside matters that God Himself doesn’t put high importance on. If the behavior is not sinful, don’t attempt to conform all other Christians to your own thoughts of what a Christian lifestyle should be, lest you drive them away from Christ altogether.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”