What does it say?
Romans 14 is similar to Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10. While disciples of Jesus today do not live under the Law, Paul makes the point that our freedom should not be harmful to other believers.
Paul becomes very practical and personal in Romans 15. After an exhortation to unity and commitment to missional ministry, Paul details his desire to pass by Rome on route to Spain.
Paul’s final chapter is a collection of greetings and gives us a fascinating look into the network of relationships that already existed even though Paul has not yet been to Rome. Before giving glory to God, Paul issues a final warning to avoid toxic people that bring divisions to the church.
What does it mean?
Most attention given to the Book of Romans focuses on Paul’s brilliant theological development and views the letter as the foundation of New Testament theology. While not taking anything away from this accurate assessment, we should remember that Paul develops this theology in the context of at least two very practical themes. First is the division between Jewish and Gentile believers in the church and then the focus on God’s global mission. We should see Romans 14 as directed to those in Rome that were expending their energy on fighting with each other rather than the mission that Paul makes clear in chapter 15.
Digging beneath the surface of the many people mentioned in Romans 16 reveals much application of previous teaching. Paul lists both Jewish and Gentile believers among his friends and the descriptions given of some of them are subtle affirmations of how the body of Christ should function. The warning against those that cause divisions, however, is direct and anything by subtle (16:17-20).
How will I respond?
Have I given anyone reason to think of me as a toxic or divisive person? Regardless of my motivation, others’ perception of me is what counts and not allowing my freedom to needlessly offend. What do my friendships in the body of Christ reveal about my commitment to God’s global mission? What is one practical step I can take to further my personal growth as the result of this reading?