I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XXII)

14:18-19 Whoever serves Christ by living this way is pleasing God, and they will be accepted by others. So let’s try as hard as we can to do what will bring peace. Let’s do whatever will help each other grow stronger in faith.

After listing all the qualities, ethics, and virtues of a victorious, dedicated, spiritual life, Paul now gives the reason and purpose for such commitment to all things Christian. It’s what will set them apart from the world and make them significant members in the Family of God and leaders in God’s Kingdom. Jesus illustrated this same thing in many of His parables. In one such story, our Lord told about an estate owner who went away on a business trip and left his servants in charge, one of which was to keep watch at the door just in case he came back unexpectedly. The lesson was, don’t let the Messiah catch you sleeping when He suddenly returns.1

On another occasion, Jesus told His followers that those who care only for what they can have in this life will end up losing everything. But those who are willing to let go of everything they have down here for something better will end up keeping everything up there.2 Said Jesus: “If anyone wants to serve Me, they must follow Me. So where I am, the one who wants to serve Me will also be there. So those who choose to serve Me, My Father will honor them.3 Paul puts this same principle into a spiritual context. He told the Corinthians that any person who was self-employed before they became a Christian, now works for the Lord.4 To accept the free gift of salvation from God at the expense of His Son, and then to do nothing to show your gratitude and respect is not acceptable with God. Peter told the congregation that gathered in Cornelius’ house: “Whoever fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him, no matter what race he belongs to.5

Being a Christian involves more than just going to church, reading your Bible, and saying your prayers. That’s why Paul told the Corinthians: “We take pains to do what is right not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of other people.6 Paul wrote them later, that everything that he tried to do was to show that he was serving God.7 The Apostle James dealt with this same thing. He wrote that some may emphasize faith and others action. But we must have both. Our faith without action is stagnant, and our actions without faith are senseless.8 And the Apostle Peter framed it in a different way when he wrote: “Keep letting your conscience tell you that what you have done was right. If people criticize you, they will end up being ashamed when they see the good way you live as a Christian.9

The point Paul was getting at is that when it comes to Christian virtues and ethics, whatever we are and the way we act in church should be the same way we are and act when we are out in the world. This was akin to the same advice that King David gave: “Don’t get involved in things that are sinful. See what good things you can do. Look for a way to keep things peaceful and do it.10 In another Psalm, David wrote: “Oh, how good, how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in harmony.11 Jesus echoes this same theme when he preached: “Those who bring peace are happy because they will be called the sons of God.12

In the closing of his second letter to the Corinthians Paul left this message: “Work to get along with others. Live in peace. The God of love and peace will be with you.13 When he wrote the Ephesians, he had a similar message: “Work hard to live together as one by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace.14 Notice, Paul does not say be placid, passive, or pleasant, and peace will come. He said they should work hard to establish an atmosphere and provide the conditions through which peace can be achieved.

Paul describes the attitude and actions that can result in peaceful coexistence: “Your new life should be full of compassion. You should be kind to others and have no pride. Be gentle and be willing to wait for others. Try to understand other people. Forgive each other. If you have something against someone, forgive him. That is the way the Lord forgave you. And to all these things, you must add love. Love holds everything and everybody together and makes all these good things perfect; and let the peace that comes from Christ help your heart decide, for you were chosen as a part of His body. For that, you should always be thankful.15

But Paul has one more thing to add. The secret ingredient of being a positive peacemaker is thinking first of others before you think of yourself. He told the Corinthians that it was always his goal to make sure others were happy by doing his best for them to show his concern for their well-being.16 Paul said that he did this by seeking advice and strength from the Holy Spirit.17 He also practiced the axiom: If you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all.18 And finally, he said that we could encourage and mentor those over whom we have charge so that they can grow in experience and become as good as we are in the things of the Lord, just as we have respect for those who taught us.19

On the subject of living a life approved by God, early church scholar Ambrosiaster is convinced that if what a believer does and says is acceptable to God, it will be approved by those around them. Why? Because they have accepted the gift through which they appear worthy in the sight of God. Since disapproval leads to discord, Paul teaches us to be peaceful and to avoid arguments over things like eating or not eating certain kinds of food. Instead, he encourages everyone to get involved in things that help build up fellow believers20.21

Chrysostom also makes note that even worldly people will approve of such persons living next to them and working with them. Not so much because they are perfect in every way, but because of their devotion to peace and good relations. When it comes to Christians, this applies to both sides equally. The whole point is to live in harmony and not be looking for ways to be better than the other believer, and then throw it in their face. Without peace, it is impossible to help a fellow believer to grow and mature in Christ and God’s Word.22

Another early church writer, Pelagius, adds that we should never let ourselves get into arguments over such small matters as what to eat and not what to eat. Being willing to do without in order to help a less informed and less mature believer gives honor to God for calling them out of the darkness of the world into the light of His Kingdom. Keep this in mind, even if one believer insists on eating the foods they are comfortable with, while it may not end up hurting anyone, it certainly will not build up faith in another believer who disagrees.23

Martin Luther points back to the fact that in the three characteristics of a person being right with God is that it culminates with joy in the Holy Spirit. For this joy to come, says Luther, a Christian must be acceptable to God and then they must not insist on having what pleases them to the detriment of other believers. Of those who create disturbances and confuse others, it is commonly said that they do not have peace because they themselves do not permit others to live in peace. That is, they have little interest in living in peace with others because they always want to have their way. Luther goes on to say that not only should we try our best to live in peace with our fellow believers, but do everything we can to put them first, to edify them so that they can achieve more with our help than they could by doing it on their own.24

John Calvin also has something to say about what it means to live for God. He feels that unless a person lives in a way approved of God, it is impossible for the Kingdom of God to rule and flourish in their thinking and living. For Calvin, the person who, with a quiet and peaceful conscience, serves Christ by living right, provides a good reason for those around them to approve of their way of life, as well as the approval they receive from God. For Calvin, wherever there is right living and peace and spiritual joy, there the Kingdom of God is complete in all its parts. But Calvin warns that while a person who obeys God’s will is looked upon favorably by those around them, they must also be aware that there are some who, for no reason at all, keep looking for any opportunity to point a finger at them so as to denigrate and defame them even though they are innocent of their accusations. In other words, they want to turn a believer’s virtues into vices just for the joy of watching them become embarrassed by such counterfeit charges. It’s a case of being guilty until proven innocent. But Paul speaks here of honest judgment, blended with no moodiness, no hatred, no superstition.25

1 Mark 13:34-37

2 Matthew 10:39; Luke 17:33

3 John 12:26

4 1 Corinthians 7:22

5 Acts of the Apostles 10:35

6 2 Corinthians 8:21

7 Ibid. 6:4

8 James 2:18

9 1 Peter 3:16

10 Psalm 34:14

11 Ibid. 133:1

12 Matthew 5:9

13 2 Corinthians 13:11b

14 Ephesians 4:3

15 Colossians 3:12-15

16 See 1 Corinthians 10:33

17 Ibid. 14:12

18 Cf. Ephesians 4:29

19 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12

20 See Ephesians 4:11-12

21 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

22 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 26

23 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit, loc. cit.

24 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 205-206

25 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit. loc. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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