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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Romans 15:4-5 – Using the Bible

It may look at first glance that this verse is out of sync here because Paul seems to move from dealing with a specific issue – coping with weak believers – to a general use of the Bible. We will see why he does so later on, but before we do, we should observe from his words why we have been given the Bible.
The main reason why we have been given God’s Word is that we will have hope. In the New Testament the concept of hope is usually connected to what will happen when Jesus returns. It is good for us to think about what will happen then. Many wonderful experiences will be enjoyed including the resurrection, the reunion of believers, and the renewal of the cosmos as their dwelling-place forever.
Paul reminds his readers that waiting for that wonderful future requires endurance, the determination to stay the course and not give up. And many encouragements are given to us in the Bible, whether by promises or by descriptions of what will happen when Jesus returns. As mentioned above, we have the New Testament, but we should note that there are also plenty details connected to our hope mentioned in the Old Testament. Surely Paul is calling us to feed our souls on what God has promised in order for us to strengthen our hope. It would do us good if we were to spend five minutes a day looking at biblical passages that describe our wonderful future.
What does reference to the wonderful future have to do with how we live in the church at present with those who are weak brothers? It is not hard for us to imagine that we will need endurance to keep doing so because, at times, the demands on us will be quite difficult. Yet in addition to having endurance in this matter, there are many encouragements for doing it according to God’s Word. What are some of the encouragements?
First, we will have participated positively in the sanctification process of the weak brothers. It is our responsibility to do what we can to promote one another’s growth in grace and not to do anything to hinder it. We are all climbing the mountain of holiness together and we need help from each other, even if some of us are more competent than the others.
Second, we will have been serving Jesus as we did so. In the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, Jesus mentions several practices in which his followers engaged with one another. As part of his explanation, he said that whatever was done for his brothers was also done for him. We often wonder how we can serve Jesus. Here is one obvious way – help his people who for some reason are weak in a particular area.
Third, we will get a reward from Jesus for having done so. Because the believers in that parable did what they did out of brotherly love, they did not notice or recall what they had done. I suppose we do things in our families spontaneously whereas when we do them for other people we are more likely to recall them. The prospect of a reward from Jesus, receiving his commendation, should cause us to want to help his people. After all, it will be a means of expressing love to the ones that he loves.

Fourth, we will see those we helped receiving a reward from Jesus. Maybe when we meet a weak Christian, we may conclude that their notions will prevent them serving Jesus effectively. Yet because we persevered with them they became very effective believers in a wide variety of ways as their witness and service developed. Think of the wonderful moment when such a person hears Jesus say to him, ‘Well done.’ And one reason why that will happen is because you took the time to help by not insisting on your freedom to do something which at that time would have stumbled the weak brother.

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