I’ve learned so much in our study in Romans from the 12th chapter on! We’ve learned how Christians are to live together and in the world in light of offering our entire lives in sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1–2) as is our true and proper worship. We’ve found that if we love others the way Christ loves us, we will forgive them and give others the same undeserved grace we have received, culminating in the bullet point commands he gave us:
- Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.
- Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord.
- Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
- Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
- Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.
- If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
- Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay’, says the Lord.
- But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
- Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
We learned that we are to “submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom 13:1-2).
Why are we to live this way? Because we aren’t to owe anyone anything except the love we are commanded to give so that others will know that we are truly disciples of Jesus. (Rom 13:8-10) We are to keep eternity in mind so that we are always aware that time here on earth is short.
Instead of distracting others by watching us resist God-instituted authority, we are instead to “discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:12-14). We aren’t to think of what we want; we are to keep our eyes on the Lord’s kingdom agenda and walk as Jesus did.
We’re told to accept other believers, whether or not they fully understand the daily implications of grace. “Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about disputed matters.” (Rom 14:1) And we are to accept without judgment (Rom 14:3–9). Those of us who are stronger in faith should help to bear another’s burden by helping to build them up (Rom 15:1-2), which fulfills the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). We are to depend upon the Lord to grant us endurance and encouragement to live in harmony with one another (Rom 15:5-6), so that we glorify the Lord together (Rom 15:7-13).
Paul goes on to say, “My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced about you that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” (v 14) This statement seems to be a continuation of his thought that we are to live in harmony together as believers, not arguing over details that don’t matter much in the scheme of things, perhaps even be able to have discussions about why we believe one way or another so that we can instruct one another. But then Paul seems to come upon a Columbo moment; where he has just one more thing to discuss. Yes, you’re doing great, but… we have much more to learn and much more good to do (v 15).
You know it’s true, we always have more to learn because we are still here on earth and haven’t yet been perfected (Phil 3:12). Paul adds his purpose in writing to them: so that the offering of their lives to God, as Gentile Christians, might be acceptable to God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit (v 16). Paul wants to boldly remind us that it’s his purpose to share the gospel with the Gentiles and remind us that he only boasts in what Jesus Christ has done through him. All his authority as an apostle and teacher comes from God, not from the excellence of his own mind or study or achievements.
Paul models for us how believers can be proud of our work while still walking in humility (vv 17-18). In short, Paul refuses to take personal credit for his accomplishments. Christ has accomplished this work through him. He is proud of what God has used him to accomplish—bringing the Gentiles to obedience. Paul emphasizes the obedience of the Gentiles here and not their faith.
He has been clear throughout Romans that belief in Christ itself is an act of obedience to God (Rom 1:18–23). Faith in Christ leads to greater obedience to God in all areas of life as we walk in the Spirit. Paul reminds us that Christ has accomplished this work through him, beginning with “word and deed” and by the power of signs and wonders and by the power of the Spirit of God (vv 18-19). All of this exemplifies Paul’s earlier bold suggestion that we honor and glorify God together! To God be the glory!