Joy and Peace in Believing

Romans 15:1-13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

This verse sums up what we will be working toward today: hope!

Our God is a God of hope.

By the power of the Holy Spirit we can abound in hope.

Our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ is at the root of being filled with all joy and peace in believing.

Psalm 69 contains prophecy about our Lord Jesus. It is the Psalm most often quoted in the New Testament. John 2:17 quotes it when Jesus cleared the temple. John says that it is written about Jesus, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” In this verse, John is quoting Psalm 69:9. 
For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. (Psalms 69:9 ESV)

Paul also quotes Psalm 69:9 in Romans 15:3, but he quotes the last half of the verse. "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me."

While these verses point to Christ, they come out of experiences in the life of David. David experienced unjustified persecution, and this Psalm speaks of both his pain and his hope in those circumstances. 

Since Paul quotes this Psalm in Romans 15, I want to look at some of the context of what is being said in the Psalm. Psalm 69 says:
More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. (Psalms 69:4-13 ESV)

David is talking about going through some deep stuff. He wept. He humbled his soul with fasting. He made sackcloth his clothing. The internal suffering in these verses is authentic, deep and personal.

Many of you have hidden pain; pain that no one else knows about, not even your family. Your spouse or your closest friend might have some idea, but you are alone in your pain. You are not alone in the sense that there are no others with similar pain, but alone in that you are not in touch with those who share your pain.

What is worse, if you share your pain in church, you will be judged.

Sometimes, even well-meaning people can make the most insensitive comments.

At times, after I have opened my mouth and spoken words that I immediately realize are insensitive, I feel like the scarecrow in the “Wizard of Oz,” “If I only had a brain...”

Romans 15:1 starts out the chapter with this statement:
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1 ESV)

A number of questions come to my mind regarding this passage. The first of which is “What are the failings of the weak?” 

I wonder if opening my mouth and speaking incentive words is not a failing of my weakness. 

Romans 14 has just finished admonishing us not to judge our fellow believers. Romans 14:22 says:
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.

Heaven knows that we have a tendency to judge each other, and the Scriptures warn us quite a few times not to judge each other. In regard to judging, I have another question about Romans 15:1. 

Who are the strong that this Scripture is addressed to?

They must be the one’s who, according to Romans 14:22,  have “ reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.” 1 John 3:21 puts it in these words:
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 John 3:21 ESV)

So, if our heart does not condemn us and we know we are right with God, when our brother or sister condemns us, we have an obligation to bear with their weakness, and not to please ourselves. 

Romans 15:2 says:
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2 ESV)

According to this verse, as the strong ones, it is up to us to please our neighbor. However, our English word “please” is misleading in this context. This does not mean make our neighbor happy. The word used in the original Greek means to willingly render service. 

Pleasing ourselves would be to put the offending weakling in his/her place.  Something like, “Do you know what I have been through today, and you want to quibble over drinking coffee/wearing make up/my hair style...!

People often do not understand or have any concept of what you have gone through or are going through and their insensitive words can hurt deeply. However, it is important for you, the strong one, to hold on to your hope, the hope you have in Jesus Christ. 

You know that God disciplines the child He loves. Pain does not make our faith weak. Honestly, as horrific as it sounds, if God did not love you, He would not trust you with trials. Romans 15 asks us to consider the sufferings of our Lord Jesus as our example. Verse 3 says, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 

The weak will reproach the strong.

It is the one without understanding who says, “You must have sinned and that is why you have cancer.” 

If someone says this to you, take a deep breath and resisting the impulse to kill, gently explain the gospel of Jesus Christ and how His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 15:4 gives us this encouragement:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)

This passage is why I said we who are strong must hold onto our hope. The Scriptures give us encouragement. We must endure and we find the strength to endure through the encouragement found in Scripture.

Verse 5 encourages us to live with the same mind. The ESV translates it harmony. However, in this case the NIV captures the meaning of the original much better than the ESV. The NIV says:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. (Romans 15:5 NIV)

As verse 5 has stated, God gives endurance and encouragement through the Scriptures. Our hope is in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. The attitude of bearing with the failings of the weak is the attitude that Jesus lived with. He bore our sins and our sorrows. However, He bears with our weakness for a purpose - to build us up. 

Romans 15:2 has said:
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2 ESV)

Remember, to please our neighbor in this context means to willing do service. Romans 5:8-12 is an illustration of how Christ became a servant to both the Jews and the Gentiles for the glory of God. 

Romans 15:6-7 speak of how we will glorify God by following the previous instructions. In other words, by living for the building up and strengthening of others, we glorify God. Next, verses 8-12 illustrate this truth through the example of Jesus. This parallels the teaching of Philippians 2:1-11 that we should have the same attitude that Jesus had, and that as a result of what Jesus did, God has highly exalted Him.

Romans 15:8-12 speaks five times of the nations glorifying God because of Jesus Christ.

We are His Church. He commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. Nations here is the same word as Gentiles. Our whole purpose is to see the Gentiles glorify God because of Jesus Christ. What we are talking about here is a very important part of the Church fulfilling its mission.

The strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak; not to give the weak control but to help them grow.

When God does a mighty work in your life with suffering like Jesus went through, He does it for the purpose of strengthening His Body, the Church. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)

2 Corinthians speaks of comfort and how we as believers receive comfort from God. Romans 15 speaks of hope. Romans 15:4 says that the Scriptures give us hope. Romans 15:12 says, “ him will the Gentiles hope.” 

We offer hope to the world; hope that there is salvation in Jesus Christ, and hope that they can find comfort and help for their pain, lostness or suffering. What better way to offer hope than to be an example of what hope does in a person’s life!

We are not perfect, but we are being perfected in Christ. The strong ought to help the weak. I am afraid though that we mistake who is strong and who is weak. A person can be physically very strong and spiritually very weak. A person can be intellectually very strong and spiritually very weak.

Holding onto our hope in Jesus Christ and gently teaching others to do the same leads to joy and peace in believing. Romans 15:13 says:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

If we live for the building up or strengthening of others rather than to please ourselves, we will experience this joy and peace in believing. The joy of the Lord will be our strength and we will be filled with hope.


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