Theres a secret to having Gods power that only a few seem to understand. The secret is this. He only blesses what He initiates. When we speak His words, theres anointing, when we do what He asks us to do, the miracles flow. No one understood this more deeply than Jesus. His all-absorbing desire was not to do His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him (Jn 6:38). He spoke what He heard the Father say (Jn 5:19, 20, 30; 6:38; 8:28; 12:49, 50; 14:10), and He did what He saw the Father do (Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38; 14:11). In other words, He constantly responded to and depended on the Holy Spirit. And God worked through Him in amazing ways. But the obstacle that prevents so many from experiencing this walk is that it requires great selflessness, humility and love. You have to care enough about others to earnestly wait on God, to seek His will, to guard the anointing and let nothing steal it. You have to be willing to pay any price to have His Spirit come and remain in power (Jn 1:32, 33). This is true for a person and its also true for a church.
God has very distinct criteria which must be met for this to happen, and theyre not what you might think. They have nothing to do with our abilities, none of the things the world relies on so heavily. They are the deep attitudes of our heart.
It was this anointing, this mighty work of God in Rome, that Paul was trying to protect. He pleads with them and prays for them to have one heart one mind, and one mouth. Lets see what he means, because we want to see God do a mighty work in our cities as well.
What did Paul say?
(14:20) If you lovelessly and stubbornly keep exercising your freedom to eat this controversial meat you may end up tearing down the church God has worked to build up. Yes, the right answer to your theological debate is that all food is clean, but thats only true for the person whose faith has matured to the point that he or she recognizes that pagan gods are a human invention, not true deities. The one who still thinks idols are real, and feels worried or guilty when they eat, is sinning by eating. Its evil for a person to do something their conscience forbids, even if they are technically mistaken about it being wrong.
(14:21) Its good for those of you who are mature to restrain your freedom to not eat that meat or drink wine or do anything that might cause your brother or sister to stumble. Ask yourself: what affect will my actions have on others if I do this? Your loving concern for those who are weak is what matters to God, not whether youre right on a non-essential issue like this.
(14:22) If you think others might be negatively affected in their walk with God by your example, exercise your freedom in private, before God. Because if youre loveless and selfish about it, youll end up causing others to stumble and bring Gods judgment on yourself. Blessed is the person who doesnt bring judgment on themselves by carelessly doing everything their conscience approves.
(14:23) Anyone whos debating in their mind about whether or not they can eat this type of meat is already under judgment because the doubts theyre feeling prove theyre not confident that their righteousness is a gift which comes only by faith. To some degree theyre still entertaining the thought that its necessary to earn it. Any religious behavior that tries to earn righteousness, rather than receive it by faith, is sin. No matter how sincere that person is, what theyre doing is just another form of works righteousness. No, its not wrong to set boundaries for yourself which help you avoid being drawn back into bondage, nor is it wrong to designate religious holidays to worship God. But if in any way the motive for doing so is unbelief, that action becomes sin.
(15:1) Those who are strong in faith owe a debt of love (Ro 13:8) to those who are weak, and to love the weak means patiently helping them overcome their weakness. The strong will have to be careful not to violate the conscience of the weak, and that will require setting aside some of their own freedoms. They wont be able to do some of the things they know God permits them to do.
(15:2) As a believer I need to be aware of how my example influences those who are watching me. I must be careful not to exercise my spiritual freedoms in such a way that I offend those with a tender conscience. My goal should always be to build a good relationship so I can help that person grow strong in faith.
(15:3) We should treat the weak the way Jesus treated us. He didnt selfishly focus on pleasing Himself. If He had He would never have left the glories of heaven to become a man or taken our sins and suffered on the cross. In Him we watch what it means for the strong to bear the weaknesses of the weak (v1, literal). We see someone willing to stand beside those whom others despise. In Psalm 69 David laments before God telling Him that many people, including family members, despised him, not because he had done anything wrong to them, but because he passionately worshipped God (Ps 69:1-12). He had been mocked and shamed because of his religious zeal. There had been times when he put on sackcloth and wept and fasted and word had gotten out and people mercilessly ridiculed him for it (Ps 69:10-12). So David asked God to stand beside him in his shame and loneliness and to defend him (Ps 69:18-28).
Pauls point in quoting this is to set before us the example of Jesus. Just as God came to Davids rescue, Jesus came to ours. The Son of God didnt despise us when we were weak and full of shame, but came and bore our reproach. And in doing so He showed us Gods heart. Those who are strong should stand beside and protect those who are weak, not criticize them.
(15: 5, 6) Then Paul prays a blessing over this diverse church. He asks, And may the God of patience and comfort give you the ability to think the same thing toward one another (Ro 12:16, Php 2:2) following after the example set for you by Christ Jesus. So that you may with one mind (Ac 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57
etc.) and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(15:7) Paul comes back to the word he used in Ro 14:1. There he told those who are strong in faith to take to themselves those who are weak, meaning to enter into true friendship with them. Now he applies this same word to us all. He says Take to yourselves one another, just as Christ took us to Himself to the glory of God (literal). Jesus said the same thing this way, Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34; 15:12)
A terrible question
Remember Paul spoke these words to a church that was highly diverse. There were Jews and Gentiles, strong and weak, those who ate meat sold in the market, and those who didnt, those who worshiped on Saturday and those who worshiped on Sunday, those who drank wine and those who didnt. And then to all he asked this terrible question, Will you tear down the work of God for your food? In other words, will you lift the anointing off your gatherings, will you destroy your witness and ministry as a Body because youve grown bitter in your controversies? At what point will you realize the damage you are doing and remember how Jesus has treated you? At what point will you put the winning of the lost in your city ahead of your own pride? At what point do they matter more than you being right?
Grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30-32)
Only God can build His church, we cant. But we can hinder Him. We can do things that grieve the Spirit and lessen His presence upon us, individually and corporately when we gather. We can hold onto wrong attitudes. We can refuse to repent. We can ignore the clear commands of Scripture and the inner conviction of the Spirit until we and our church are dry, few are saved, few are healed, few are set free, few are equipped for ministry, few are sent out. This is why Paul was so concerned. This is why he spent so much time talking to them about the way they treated each other. There were forces at work which were lifting the anointing, and the work of God would be destroyed. Youd think what really grieves the Spirit are our personal weaknesses, but its not, its our attitudes toward one another (Ps 133). Its lovelessness.
Pauls prayer (Ro 15:5, 6)
Paul asks God to give them these things.
1) One heart: to think the same thing toward one another
· to be impartial, unbiased, undivided
· to refuse to become bitter, prejudiced or proud
· to embrace anyone God puts across my path as my neighbor (take them to myself)
· to guard against anything that divides us by handling each matter Biblically
2) One mind: the same mind
· to genuinely agree as to your purpose and work together as one
· to refuse to withhold myself from the Body of Christ
· to humbly become that member of His Body (ear, eye, hand, foot...) Hes prepared me to be
· to work harmoniously with others so He can minister in our cities like He did in the towns and villages of Galilee
· when we work together the glory goes to Him, the ministry is not limited to our few gifts
3) One mouth: with one mouth
· to allow nothing to distort my proclamation of the gospel, to stay focused on the basics
· to refuse to be drawn into eccentric and controversial matters
· to declare what the Bible clearly teaches
Fulfilling our assignment (Jn 17:4)
Though Jesus ministered for only three and a half years, He fully accomplished everything the Father ordained for Him to do (Jn 17:4). No one can reach every lost person and no one can meet every need. But we dont have to. Our assignment is to do our assignment
to stay full of the Spirit, to do what we see Him doing and say what we hear Him saying. And for that to happen we must cherish His presence and guard it by loving one another, especially the weak.
1) Name something you dont do because your example might cause someone whos weak to stumble.
2) Who are you helping grow strong in their faith? How has this helped you?
3) Have you grieved the Spirit? What did that feel like? What did you do to repent?