by Mike Ratliff
1οφειλομεν δε ημεις οι δυνατοι τα ασθενηματα των αδυνατων βασταζειν και μη εαυτοις αρεσκειν 2εκαστος ημων τω πλησιον αρεσκετω εις το αγαθον προς οικοδομην 3και γαρ ο χριστος ουχ εαυτω ηρεσεν αλλα καθως γεγραπται οι ονειδισμοι των ονειδιζοντων σε επεπεσαν επ εμε 4οσα γαρ προεγραφη εις την ημετεραν διδασκαλιαν εγραφη ινα δια της υπομονης και δια της παρακλησεως των γραφων την ελπιδα εχωμεν 5ο δε θεος της υπομονης και της παρακλησεως δωη υμιν το αυτο φρονειν εν αλληλοις κατα χριστον ιησουν 6ινα ομοθυμαδον εν ενι στοματι δοξαζητε τον θεον και πατερα του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου 7διο προσλαμβανεσθε αλληλους καθως και ο χριστος προσελαβετο υμας εις δοξαν του θεου Romans 15:1-7
The Example of Christ
Christ-likeness is what we call the desired outcome of our sanctification. Even as we remain in our renovation from sinful, flesh-bound yet redeemed believers to spirit-filled, obedient, and mature believers we will begin to manifest Christ’s character in our walk. God seems to enjoy surprising us in our testing when we respond to that which is unreasonable with grace and patience. This, of course, is part of the fruit of the spirit that is manifest through the spirit-filled.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)
As we have looked at the marks of the genuine Christian in this study we have looked at the differences and responsibilities of the more mature believers, the strong, and those that are not mature, the weak. There have been questions asked about how far the stronger believers should bend in their support of the immature in regards to worship and other things pertaining to how church is done. The answer to that is we should bear each other’s burdens as Christ did in His earthly ministry.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 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 15:1-4 ESV)
The strong here are the mature believers, the spirit-filled. The Greek word translated as “to bear” here means “to pick up and carry a weight.” God is calling the mature believers not only tolerate the weaknesses of the immature believers, but to help them carry or shoulder their burdens. How? They are to love them and show it through practical consideration for them.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22 ESV)
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:2-4 ESV)
Jesus Christ’s ultimate purpose was to please God and fulfill His will. He bore the reproaches of those who hate God and, therefore, hate Him. He bore them willingly. In this context, Paul is showing us our example. The stronger, more mature believers are to bear with the weaker, less mature believers in love and patience just as our Lord does for us all day, every day.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5-7 ESV)
Paul is calling all believers, the strong and the weak, to put aside their differences in how they view the non-essentials of our faith by pursuing a loving, spiritual harmony, especially about things about which the Bible is silent. Our unity is more than just vocal, it is rooted in the truth and our faith in our Lord and His Word. We are to be unified to please God for His glory. Lastly, our example for bearing with each other in love and patience is our Lord. He is perfect and sinless, but He was willing to bring us, sinners, into God’s family. He bears with us daily in our spiritual immaturity. Therefore, shouldn’t we warmly embrace each other even when we disagree about issues of the conscience?
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. (Matthew 10:24 ESV)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29 ESV)
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)