The Bible Encourages Us
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Rom. 15:4c (Holman) . . .and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.
Scripture teaches us (v. 4a), strengthens us (v. 4b), and as we now learn, encourages us. When tidal waves knock us down, when weakness brings us low, Scripture helps us rise again.
“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy Word hath quickened me” (Psalm 119:50). “Unless Thy law had been my delight, I should then have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92).
The Book is a friend who sits up with us all night when we are in pain. It is a companion that never leaves our hospital room. Even if the physical book itself is removed, its precious truths are hid in our hearts and we recall them for our help.
When beneath a load, Scripture whispers encouragement to us. God has not forsaken us. We are not in a fatalistic world, pawns of luck and chance. Our loving Father is guiding and guarding.
Scripture teaches us; nothing comes to us but from our Father, and for our good. We do not always understand, but must acquiesce. Even in a thorn’s pain we know a rose is near. God is close. We cannot see all, but cling to Him who can.
Rom. 15:4d . . .so that we may have hope.
Scripture anchors us. Our life is a voyage; hope is the anchor (Heb. 6:19) that keeps us from being lost at sea. If the wind is calm and the sea quiet, we do not sense a need for hope, but stay close to our Bibles. Storms will soon assail and the waves will roll. Then we will need the anchor to keep us from losing our way.
Hope, our confidence regarding the future, is made possible by the teaching, strengthening, and encouragement we find in Scripture. Note this. Scripture links trouble to hope. Without the Holy Spirit guiding us, as taught in Scripture, trouble leads to fatalism or despair. Scripture lets us receive “as from a Father’s hand” and recover.
Rom. 15:5a Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you. . .
In this verse, Paul shifted from admonition to prayer. Faithful preachers water their sermons with prayers because only God gives increase. Speakers reach ears; only God can carry a message to the heart.
Paul wanted the Romans to comfort, and have patience with, each other. Hence, the Apostle cried out to the Source of these traits. God is the Author of endurance and encouragement. They spring from Him and are built on Him.
In verse four, these same two traits were ascribed to Scripture. God uses His Word to teach us what endurance and encouragement are, and to show us where to find them. Once we look to the Lord as directed by Scripture, God uses His Spirit to instill them in our hearts.
Rom. 15:5b . . .to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, . . .
Paul was not linking “live in harmony” to being in total agreement about every issue. He was speaking not of doctrine, but of the attitude we should have in dealing with others.
This was a plea for social harmony among believers. Paul wanted everyone to act in the same way, patterning themselves after the example of Christ.
“According to the command of Christ Jesus” is the key to a peaceful fellowship. Jesus is the standard. All of church life must be lived in light of Him. It is possible to have harmony, but only if everyone decides to love as Christ loved.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
“Behold, how these Christians love one another!” was the constant testimony of the world about early believers. Such Spirit-wrought, Christ-imitating love is by far the main social need within USA churches today.
Rom. 15:6 . . .so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.
The ultimate purpose of Paul’s prayer was that God would be glorified. This is the same spirit expressed in Jesus’ words, “Hallowed be Thy Name.”
When believers live in harmony with each other they give the world a proper view of God. But instead of living up to our potential, we are usually known for disagreements, the very things that turn people away from God.
Christ-followers do not have to agree on everything, but do have to love in everything. We have the right to disagree and discuss differences, but even in the midst of divergent opinions, we must learn to love one another.
God cannot be glorified in a church unless its members love one another. However ornate a worship center, or how beautiful the music and preaching, all is vanity if there is disharmony. Let us love one another that God may be glorified. May the God we know be the God we show.
“God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is descriptive. “God” places emphasis on Jesus’ human nature. “Father” calls attention to Jesus’ divine nature, reminding us the Son is of the same essence with the Father.
We are to unite our voices in one cause, to glorify God. We are not to backbite and devour one another. All quarrels are to be laid aside. Do not waste our voices on contention and arguing. Praise needs to be lifted to the Father.
When speaking of Christian unity, we must avoid two common errors. One, that there must be an external expression of unity brought about by all belonging to one denomination. True unity never has been, and never can be, brought about by an outward organization.
Two, that believers must have absolute unanimity on all points of doctrine. The unity of the Spirit is to be kept now with all possible endeavor (Eph. 4:3). Unity of faith and knowledge will come in the future (Eph. 4:13).
Because of these two false suppositions, the blood of martyrs has flowed
in rivers. Christian unity must ever be a matter of the heart.
Rom. 15:7 Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.
“Accept” points to friendship and interpersonal relationships. It means to take to one’s self, to grant a person access to our heart.
Again the emphasis is on the heart. We are to welcome one another into our hearts. Once this is accomplished, it becomes easier to welcome each other into our churches and homes.
We are to “accept one another” in a specific way, “as the Messiah also accepted” us. How did Christ accept us? He took us in freely and heartily when we were weak and guilty.
We were not gentlemen or equals who did honor to Jesus by coming to him. We were broken down and crippled, but Jesus healed us. We were lost and astray, but He took us into His fold as sheep.
We were prodigals, but He took us into His household as servants. We were strangers, but He brought us into His fellowship as beloveds. We were enemies, but he accepted us in His communion as friends.
We were dead, but He adopted us into His family as sons. We were rebels, but He received us into His arms to make a marriage-covenant with us.
Paul, in pressing his point home, remained close to his strongest argument, the example of Christ. Since the Lord has done this for us, we must do it for others. We dare not have the audacity to reject one whom Christ has accepted.
If we abide in the bosom of Jesus we had best receive into our bosom everyone else in His bosom. This really is not asking that much of us. Jesus holds us all. We are merely asked to receive those few we have contact with.
In order to accept someone else, we do not merely overlook a person’s flaws and weaknesses. We see all their warts, but love them anyway.
Christ has a curious army. People of all sorts are piled together in it, and each is expected to receive all the other varieties.
Within the fellowship, some are weak, some are strong; some are pleasant, others obnoxious; some are sweet, others sour; some are generous, others are skinflints; some are congenial, others repulsive; some have depth of character, others are like Euclid’s definition of a point, “position without magnitude” (that means they merely take up space).
All these have been accepted by God. Therefore, such estimations do not matter when it comes to loving the brethren. We are to accept them all and treat each one as if they were as good as anyone else.
In fact, the ones hardest to receive are those who need it the most. The person who says, “Do not worry over me, I am tired and weak, others are more important,” is the one we quickly accept. Everyone rushes to be his or her nurse and helper. Their pleasant spirit makes them easy to minister to.
The people who demand our attention and remind us we owe them our attention—they are the ones difficult for us to endure. Nevertheless, we must accept them also.
“To the glory of God” carries a double thought here. First, Jesus received us, thereby bringing glory to God. Second, when we receive one another we also bring glory to God. This is our purpose—to cause people to think well of God.