A Verse by Verse Study of Romans 15:1-21
What does the Bible mean to be a blessing to others? What exactly must be done to bless others and why does the Bible command it?
This blog post is all about how to be a blessing to others.
The Bible tells us that God blesses those who bless others, meaning that we are blessed so that we can bless others. What does this look like? According to Romans 15, it means living for others and not for yourself.
Live For Yourself?
As I preparing to write this post, it surprised me how prevalent the opposite view was – that we should live for ourselves and not for others. The common message seems to be that we should live to please ourselves and not worry about pleasing others. The premise of this view is that we shouldn’t put others’ wishes, happiness, and dreams ahead of our own. We come first. Our own happiness should take priority.
This seems to completely contradict the message of the Bible, yet it is so pervasive in society’s way of thinking, that no one questions its value or truth.
Now while we shouldn’t allow other’s views or opinions dictate our choices and how we live, Romans 15 tells us that we also should not live for ourselves.
In the last blog post, we studied Romans 14 in which Paul talks about not judging other Christians, particularly weaker Christians and Christians who have legalistic tendencies. Although we have the freedom to live by our own convictions and consciences, we shouldn’t use our lack of guilt as an excuse to justify obvious sinful behavior, and we shouldn’t allow our behavior to cause another Christian to stumble.
Now in Romans 15, Paul continues along the same line of thinking which is, we should not live for ourselves, just as Jesus did not come to live for himself.
Blessing Others Means Bearing Others
In verse 1 Paul is talking to Christians who are strong in their faith. If we believe that our faith is strong, then Paul says that we need to use that strength to serve other Christians, rather than just to serve and please ourselves.
The New Living Translation (NLT) uses the words “be considerate” while the New King James Version (NKJV) uses the words “to bear“. The Greek word used here is bastazo (bas-tad’-zo), which means “to take up with the hands, to take up in order to carry or bear, to put upon oneself to be carried.”
The word considerate, as used in the NLT, doesn’t really give a clear picture of what Paul is talking about. And this is a good example of when it’s a good practice to compare Bible translations and look up their meanings, so that you can fully understand the writer’s intended meaning.
Bearing one another’s burdens, lifting each other up, is more than being considerate. It requires going out of our way, maybe even out of our comfort zones, to help others.
I can be considerate by holding the door open as an elderly lady struggles with her bags of groceries on her way out to her car. Or I can carry her bags to her car for her. Considerate and bearing one another have different meanings.
Paul explains how we can bear others in verse 2. Here he is saying that the stronger Christian must lift up the weaker Christian – help them along their way until they themselves become strong. Build them up and share in their burdens as Jesus does for us.
How to Recognize Those That Need to be Blessed
Have you ever encountered those Christians who are always asking for personal prayer? They may be struggling with fear, anxiety, or even personal issues, but they are always requesting others to pray for them?
What about the Christian who is always asking questions, or making statements at your Bible study, church group, or even workplace. You might recognize their lack of understanding of Christian theology or the Bible.
These could be signs of a weak Christian in need of being blessed. You might also look out for newcomers at your local church.
I once heard another church member comment, that people who leave right after the church service is over, lack love for other Christians and community. Rather than assume that these Christian aren’t interested in community and connecting with Christians, you might recognize that they might be a weaker Christian who has not yet experienced the love of a church family. They may be skeptical or feel a reservation about being vulnerable.
There are all sorts of ways to spot weaker Christians. In fact, we all need support from other brothers and sisters in Christ, and we all need to keep growing in our faith. So you could say, we all could be considered the weaker Christian at some point.
Now, how do we build them up?
3 Steps to Build Up and Bless Others
1. We should always start by asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit can give us wisdom into each situation to know how we can approach each person in the right way that is sensitive and unassuming. Even if we recognize that an individual is in need of support, they might not recognize that need themselves. They might not even want it!
2. Start off by offering friendship. Be authentic and vulnerable with others. Cultivate meaningful relationships. We don’t need to jump right in with advice or offer help that was not asked for.
3. As you grow in your relationship with others, offer support through prayer and start conversations that lead you back to God’s Word. Talking about the truths of the Bible doesn’t usually come up naturally, but everyday life is addressed in the Bible. The Bible holds all the answers that we need, so leading conversations back to the Bible is always possible, it just may take some creativity. We always want to align our lives with the truths of the Bible.
Jesus Came to Bless Others that Didn’t Want to be Blessed
In verses 3-4 Paul reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate example of one who didn’t live to please himself, but put others first. Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9 in the Septuagint (or the Greek translation of the Old Testament).
‘The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.’Romans 15:3 (NLT)
In this verse, David is talking about himself, but it serves as prophetic typology (true stories in the Bible used to symbolize or picture future events) about how Jesus would endure insults for our sake.
This passage encourages us to continue doing what is right even when it is difficult. The Bible tells us that, as followers of Jesus, we won’t be winning any popularity contests, and even worse, we will get persecuted for Jesus’ sake. But Jesus himself, came to bless others that didn’t want to be blessed. He didn’t live his life for himself, but for others. As followers of Jesus, we are called to follow Jesus’ example.
God Gives Us the Power to Live Our Lives for Others
Paul begins verse 5 with writing ‘May God’. He does this because he recognizes that the work of living for others in harmony with one another, is a work that the Holy Spirit must do inside us, rather than something that can be forced through our own efforts. Paul doesn’t just say: live in harmony with one another. Paul recognizes that each person must be in agreement with this same like-mindedness of allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work.
Next, Paul speaks of patience that comes from God. Paul is telling us here that God doesn’t work things out over night. God often seems to work slowly, but there are purposes in his delays. Complete harmony within our Christian communities may not happen quickly, but we need to rest assured that the Holy Spirit is working in each Christian and that God is faithful.
The above 3 steps to build up and bless others takes time and patience. Authentic relationships don’t happen overnight.
Why God Wants Us to Live for Others in Harmony
Now the purpose of harmony within the body of Christians, is not simply to make life easier and happier, but it’s so that we can glorify God together. Here Paul uses the phrase ‘with one voice’ which makes us think about praise and worship. This may be part of it, but even more important is the fact that when we are united in like-mindedness and harmony, we can more effectively serve God and give him the glory in our service.
When the world sees Christians fighting and disagreeing over many issues, it puts Christianity in a negative light which unfortunately reflects on our faith and beliefs in the Bible. But when Christians can work together in harmony, this brings God the glory and honor he deserves.
Living for Others Means Accepting Each Other in Grace
In verses 7-13, Paul talks about how we must be filled with love for others and joy and peace by the Holy Spirit.
In verse 7, Paul is saying that, rather than let issues divide Christians, we need to accept one another just as Christ has accepted us through his grace. Jesus did not accept us because we were perfect, and so we need to accept other brothers and sisters in Christ, because we all share the same faith in Jesus and his work on the cross.
In verses 8-9, Paul is referring to the dispute between Christian Jews and Christians Gentiles during his day.
Paul says that Jesus came to the Jews first, but also to the Gentiles. Paul quotes from these three passages in the Old Testament: Psalm 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, to show that God intends that the Gentiles praise him.
Paul also quotes Isaiah 11:10 (from the Septuagint) to remind us that Isaiah prophesied about how the Gentiles would accept Jesus as their Lord and place their hope in him.
Paul’s point in using these passages is that, rather than dividing over points of disagreement, Christians should unite in Jesus over the common ground of praise. We may view certain doctrines differently or disagree on how a Christians should gather and what they should do in that gathering, but we all share the common ground of praising God.
God is the Source of Hope, Joy, and Peace that We are Called to Share with Others
In verse 13, Paul reminds us that God is our source of hope, joy, and peace which is given to us freely if we put out trust in him. Paul doesn’t simply say, “be hopeful, have joy and peace” because we must trust in God and the work of the Holy Spirit to give us these fruits of the spirit. Paul is reminding us to seek God and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work within us.
In verses 14-22, Paul now explains why he has written this letter and why he has committed himself to this ministry.
Bless Others Through Encouragement and Discipleship
In verses 14-15, Paul is saying that he didn’t write this letter because he felt the Roman Christians didn’t know or understand what was right, or that they weren’t able to teach one another. He wrote the letter to remind them and encourage them to continue doing what was right.
We are all called to encourage and remind each other of what is right – which is made known to us through the Bible.
In verse 16, Paul says that he was called by God’s grace to be a messenger from Christ Jesus. The NKJV, as well as other translations, use the term: minister and a ‘priestly service’. In fulfilling this calling, Paul didn’t just preach the gospel, but he also instructed believers on how to live out their faith, so that each convert would be acceptable sacrifices to God.
Remember that we learned in Romans 12:1-2, that we are called to be living and holy sacrifices to God. Paul wanted to ensure that Christians not only understood the way to receive salvation, but also how to live out that faith, in a way that would be acceptable and pleasing sacrifices to God.
In verses 17-19, Paul rejoices in God for having received such a calling to ministry. He gives God the glory for all that God has done through him. God used his power through signs and wonders to help Paul fully preach the Gospel everywhere he went.
On an interesting note: notice how Paul uses references to each member of the Trinity in these verses. Paul doesn’t talk about God without recognizing his three Persons: the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Skeptics of the Trinity and Christianity, attempt to argue that the Trinity was not a concept until at least 150 years after Jesus. But here you can see that the early church believed in and taught about the Trinity, a truth found in the very words of the Bible.
And finally in verses 20-21, Paul shares his desire to preach the gospel in new places. Paul didn’t want to continue building a foundation where others were already preaching the gospel. He wanted to be a pioneer because there were so many places where the gospel had not yet reached.
That was the calling placed on Paul’s heart. But he wasn’t saying that work didn’t need to continue where a foundation was already laid. People are needed to continue the work that has begun. Growing in faith is just as important, if not more important, than spreading the gospel so that strong roots are put down that will not waiver when storms and trials come.
Living for Others and Not for Yourself
God has called us to spread and grow his Kingdom and this happens when we live for others, and not for ourselves. What does that look like? It is a calling to be a blessing to others.
How should we bless others? By bearing one another, building-up one another, accepting one another, living in harmony with one another, encouraging one another, and discipling one another in the truths of God’s Word.
Bless: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World by Dave Ferguson & Jon Ferguson – When you have been transformed by God’s love, you want others to experience the same grace and freedom. But how do you share it without scaring them away or offending them? This book offers simple, straightforward ways to share your faith naturally and authentically.