A Voice in the
"But we, the strong ones, ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to please ourselves. For let each one of us please his neighbor for good, to building up. For also Christ did not please Himself, but even as it has been written, "The curses of those cursing You fell on Me." (vs1-3)
In another letter Paul writes, "Brothers, if a man is taken in some fault, you, the spiritual ones, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, that you not also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal6:1-2)
Due to the nature of the current apostasy, we often address many issues related to false prophets, pretend "christians", "leaven in the lump", etc. Frequently, as a result, e-mails come in from those who ARE false prophets and pretend "christians", chiding me for whacking away at "fellow-christians" or "judging brothers". Accusations that we should be "building up" our "brothers" rather than tearing them down with venomous hateful rhetoric.
Let us again, briefly, have clear understanding. There is a distinction. There are two categories of people; "saved" and "unsaved". There are MANY MORE unsaved (Mt7:13), and VERY FEW (Mt7:14) true Believers. When John exhorts, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God.." (1Jn4:1) he is not talking about the Mormons, Catholics, Masons, or any of the spiritist "heathen" beliefs from the "jungle". If a person knows even a little bit about these things, they are -OBVIOUSLY- not of God, when compared with Scripture. They are not even close! But where things are "believable" if one is not careful is WITHIN that which is called "christian". Not everything that is called "christian" is "Christian". (Rom9:6b) "Not all those of Israel are Israel." Paul warns that "out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things". (Acts20:30) This is COMING FROM OUT OF the entity originating as the True Church of Jesus Christ. These, he calls "grievous wolves". (vs29) They are NOT Christian christians. But they LOOK LIKE Christians, because, as ministers of satan, they "appear as ministers of righteousness". (2Cor11:13-15) Thus, when we speak of -these-, we DO NOT "bid them God speed" (2Jn11 -kjv), but rather "expose/reprove" their "works of darkness" (Eph5:11) and them for being the ministers of satan that they are. They are -NOT- "brothers".
But for those who ARE Believers, but are weak, we "make a distinction" as we "pity" them. (Jude22) The weak Brother, we "bear" their weaknesses. We bear one another's burdens.
What are some of the reasons a Brother is weak? In ch14 we considered the "memories" of one's past life in sin or idolatry, where some aspect of the past, while not necessarily being evil in itself, because of the context of the past, the person stumbles.
There are those who are yet "babies" in the Lord, and are still on "milk" (Heb5:13,1Pt2:2). They are still "growing up" in their knowledge of the Lord. (Eph4:15) And so the "whole body" joins in to help nurture those weak and immature parts. (vs16) The feet walk over to the table, the hands pick up the food, the mouth chews. If the feet get the body to the table, but the hands refuse to pick up the food, the mouth goes empty, and the -whole- Body suffers.
There are some who stumble and fall. Cuts, bruises, broken bones. And various disobediences that 'children' are often guilty of. Sometimes the parent comes into the act and gives a whuppin'. Cuts are treated with tenderness. Broken bones are confined within a cast until healed. If it's a sore 'bottom', the legs settle the person into the chair... 'gently'.
In Christ, Believers are all of One Body. We "mind the same thing among one another according to Christ Jesus." (vs5) We are of "one faith" and "one judgment (doctrine)." (Eph4:5,1Cor1:10) We are all growing from the same Vine, Jesus Christ. (Jn15) And "with one accord" we "glorify" God. (vs6)
Therefore we also "receive one another". (vs7) Fellowship. If we are walking "in the light" as Christ is, "we have fellowship with one another.." (1Jn1:7) Recall how when we are dealing with false prophets and pretend christians, we are NOT TO "receive him into the house". (2Jn10) Yes, it is proper to not allow JW "missionaries" in the house when they come to your door. But True Believers, we receive.
This includes the "love" Jesus spoke of. God is glorified when Believers love one another. This is because this love is a testimony to the world. The world knows we are Believers because of this love for the brethren. (Jn13:34-35) The world does not know this love. It hates and fights. So, when it sees Christians in love with each other, they see something wonderful and beautiful. "Behold! How good and how pleasant is the living of brothers, even in unity." (Ps133:1)
In the early Church, this oneness, unity and joy resulted in everyone pooling all their resources. (Acts4:32) Nobody was in -physical- need as they all cared for each other, fellowshiping from house to house (Acts2:46,5:42,20:20) both in physical eating, and in exhortation in the Word of God. And notice sandwiched in the middle there: All their possession were "common" (4:32) and "neither was anyone needy" (4:34) we see, "And with great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." (4:33) When the -Body- was functioning as a whole, made up of self-less individuals contributing to the whole, the Word of God spread. People were saved, and it says, "And the Lord added to the church those being saved from day to day." (2:47)
If we suggest that -we- are NOT "soul-winners", some people get rather irate. They will quote the odd passage where someBODY is "saving" a sinner, e.g. 1Cor7:16, somewhat out-of-context. They will say that the Lord "great commissioned" us to "MAKE disciples" (Mt28:19 -nkjv), and that since Acts records "thousands" coming to the Lord, we also should be concerned about "how many" -WE- WIN for the Lord. But notice again just -WHO- is doing the work. The -LORD- added to the Church. What was the Church doing? Functioning as they were supposed to: proclaiming, exhorting, nurturing, fellowshiping, loving. And as the unsaved saw this "living spiritual organism" growing and bearing spiritual fruit, the Lord is the One Who caused to "increase". (1Cor3:6)
Let us never forget this, and boast our position. We are merely the "branches". (Jn15:5) Branches -merely- "abide" in the Vine, Jesus Christ. And notice that the "Vinedresser" is the "Father". (Jn15:1)
As the branches are interlaced, as the Body lovingly cares for its various parts, the early Church brought together all their wealth. But obviously that only lasted for a brief time until they were scattered when persecution arose. (Acts8:1)
It seems as though they did things a bit differently in those days. He speaks of coming to them (at Rome) on his way to Spain, with the idea that they would provide for Him to go on further into Spain. (vs24) It doesn't seem to be the case that they would have "deputation" meetings with the "home churches" to raise their support first, and -then- go. They would go, being helped along the way as they went from church to church. To the Corinthians he speaks of how he didn't receive financial support from them, but from various churches in Asia Minor. (2Cor11:7-9) Now, Corinth, of all places, was most able to support him, being in the wealthiest region in the world at that time. But Corinth was "carnal", and hoarding their wealth to themselves.
Jesus spoke of the worker being "worthy of his hire". (Lk10:7) Go into a city, the Lord will provide support for sustenance. Paul teaches, "So also the Lord ordained those announcing the gospel to live from the gospel." (1Cor9:14) As he reviews the fact that he was sent to the gentiles, he is expressing how the churches in Macedonia and Achaia were sending "gifts to the poor of the saints in Jerusalem." (vs26) These churches felt indebted to those in Jerusalem, sacrificing to stay in Jerusalem where politics and economy were making it really tough to survive. "If 'they' are sacrificing, being the sending agency, so that 'we' can hear the Gospel and be saved, we owe it to them to help them out in their 'financial' need."
As Paul sends a "note of thanks" to Philippi for their giving he speaks of his own situation, how he knew how to survive on much, or on little. The other day (written in November) I happened past the TBN channel and Benny Hinn was speaking of financial prosperity, teaching from scripture-out-of-context how God "intends" for us to be wealthy. Well, notice that Paul says, "Not that I speak as to need, for I have learned to be content in whatever state I am. But I know to be humbled, and I know to abound;" (Phil4:11-12) Many people are not happy unless they have lots of money and many possessions. But Paul had learned "contentment" as he says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1Tm6:6) It is not a sin to be wealthy. But if you suddenly became poor, would you be just as happy in the Lord?
A friend who used to be well-enough-to-do, became a Christian. Is now in the Lord's work as a pastor, and often barely scrapes by making ends meet. But he would be in no other place than in the Lord's work. While I run my own business, business is slow. Things are "tight", and statistically the government would consider me to be at the "poverty level". But, if business wasn't so slow, I wouldn't always have the necessary time to write these lessons, and communicate with people's needs via e-mail. If you were to ask me, "If you could do ANYTHING, or be ANYWHERE -else-...what/where would that be?" 'know what my answer is? RIGHT WHERE I AM!
Yes, sometimes I worry. So does my friend. We are also 'human'. And we remind each other of Paul's other words to those he was thanking for their gifts, "But I have all things and more than enough...And my God will fill your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Phil4:18a,19)
But notice what Paul actually -asks- for. We don't see Paul asking anybody for money. Corinth he chides for their carnality, and lays a little "shame" on them by telling them how others give. But he never asks. Among other things, years ago when I sought the Lord's will as to what He would have me do in service, one reason I never pursued working under a mission board was because of the stipulation they all have for "fund raising". Going around to churches, presenting one's -self-, with the goal to get people to pledge to support financially. (I even hate having to ask customers for money!) But how many of these "ministries" do you see spending valuable time begging for money. Some even being so brazen as to "promise" the givers that their "seed money" will guarantee God's blessings upon them to where they can't contain it all.
The thing Paul -asks- for is "prayer". "Strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf.." (vs30) To what end? So that I will have enough money to pay the bills...? "..that I be delivered from the disobedient ones in Judea, and that my ministry...may be acceptable to the saints.." (vs31) The same warnings he always gave out to others about the "wolves" and, as we call them, "pretend-christians"; he was concerned about regarding himself. Even though he was so used by God, as was authenticated by the "power of miraculous signs and wonders" (vs19) (since he was an "apostle"), he did not view his "successes" in ministry to be a guarantee against slipping. Even though he penned most of the N.T. epistles, he was always checking up on himself to make sure he was doing right before God. He never considered his ministry to be a "slam dunk". He was always striving, "[controlling] himself in all things... lest proclaiming to others I myself might be rejected." (1Cor9:25-27)
Paul was the ultimate "apostle" and "minister"..."to the saints". (Col1:1-2, 2Cor9:1) For all his earnestness, when he met with the churches his desire was "that I may come to you in joy through the will of God, and that I may be refreshed with you." (vs32)
Here ends the main part of the book of Romans. Ch16 is a kind of "epilogue" or "P.S." So, his closing salutation, "And the God of peace be with all of you. Amen" (vs33)