The Strong

[taken from my commentary on Romans, Chapter 15]

As there are times the Spirit pulls on our hearts to stay in prayer a bit longer for reasons made immediately evident to the faithful, Paul is not finished writing in Chapter 15 about the relationship between the strong and the weak in Christ that he spoke of last chapter. For his literary masterpiece, which continues through Romans 15:13, God inspired one more brushstroke, past chapter 14, these 13 verses, before Paul would say, Yes! That’s it! This is my heart! This is all of it!Paul’s message of a grace that invites us to come to the Savior [Matthew 11:28] or seek God’s mercy [Hebrews 11:6] is offered to all—all classes and all races and all nations and all peoples [Romans 4:17]. Whosever may come [John 3:16].

This cannot be a salvation dependent on some condition or achievement or grade or religion or ethnicity—you get the point—because many who want salvation would, on that basis, not qualify for it. In parable, Jesus, disclosed God’s heart in the matter: He does care where you came from, how good or bad you’ve been or what language you speak or if you have to limp along or are handicapped in some way and need someone’s help; He just doesn’t want any empty seats at His banquet [Luke 14:23]. As much as this should be received with great anticipation, some are offended. They are offended out of some kind-of prejudice. I am to be seated next to …him!! [You fill in the details.]

The only requirement is to trust God [faith]. But for reasons hard to understand, there are many excuses why some will not come—excuses that sound rational. For some so much has been invested in trying to live the right way [as they see it], they are like the migrant worker spending all day in the hot sun and getting no more for their efforts than the fellow who shows up an hour before quitting time. The sun is setting and the evening breeze affirms the end of the day [Matthew 20:10] and everyone has the same amount in their pay envelope! Not fair!

Grace is hard to wrap our brains around. That, in itself, is a chief reason we must accept God’s mercy by faith alone This is the Epistle to Rome.. But if you have been reading Romans as an historical essay on the spiritual journeys of the believers in Rome, you are too close. They are but one tree in a forest of religious prejudice, of denominational distinctives and theological positions. Step back to see the forest, the relevance of it all to us, to our church, to our fellow believers. Maybe we are not as ethnically diverse as the persons to whom Paul immediately wrote, but certainly we are as spiritually diverse as they were.

The Weak and The Strong

There are the spiritually weak: persons who do love God but somehow still think that one has to work at being saved. The strong simply enjoy their salvation effortlessly following Jesus without self-deprecation and without the fear that unless they keep apologizing to God—asking for His forgiveness—He might be offended. The weak seek assurances through effort, working at being good. The strong simply enjoy following Jesus which is why the Beatitudes call them “Happy” [Matthew 5:3-12]. Sadly, the weak depend mostly on the religious structure that has been built around them. This is their security. The strong live dangerously [abandoning all to His will and their own faith in Him] knowing God will provide for their protection and sustenance.

Watch what you say, God, in Your Word! Some are reading it! And taking You literally! They are like soldiers itching for a fight, aching for a chance to please You, Lord! Watch what You say! They have not learned the art of rationalizing away what You said—making it all sound meaninglessly irrelevant.

Who are these spiritual giants of the faith among us? They are not distinguished by age or how long they have been Christian [1 Timothy 4:12]. They are not identified by university degrees or even how successful life has been for them [1 Corinthians 1:27a]. And oddly enough, when it comes to money, they seem to wear poverty amazingly well (some, like a badge of honor, according to their testimonies). They are crazy content even without [1 Timothy 6:8]. And if you can do that, you can go anywhere and do anything—money is truly no object [Hebrews 13:5].

The strong saint needs no particular Bible translation read or song sung or religious routine followed … those kind of things, if I understood Romans 14:5 correctly. They have it in their heads that if all this changes—even, on-a-dime—they’ll follow whatever their Lord wants, no questions asked. I even think they’re hoping for this! The weak find change difficult.

God has reserved a task for the strong which is perfect for their spiritual talents: “bear the infirmities of the weak” [Romans 15:1]. Here we begin our study, if we are among the weaker saints, not to achieve academic excellence but to see if we might by God’s grace one day join the ranks of the strong, of so honorable an assembly [Hebrews 11].

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