the weblog of Alan Knox

Acceptance and Edification

Posted by on Jan 19, 2010 in discipleship, edification, unity | 3 comments

In one of my previous posts, I wrote that Paul’s commands to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 to encourage and edify one another should be prompted by their shared salvation through Jesus Christ. (see my post “Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification“)

There is another interesting occurrence of edification language in Romans… specifically in Romans 14:1-15:13.

In this passage, Paul’s primary goal seems to be to instruct his readers in how to deal with differences of belief and doctrine. Paul gives two examples of differences in this passage: what someone eats or doesn’t eat (Romans 14:2-3) and whether or not someone sets aside a specific day as special to God (Romans 14:5-6). These two examples are interwoven throughout the passage.

Also, interwoven throughout the passage, we find exhortations from Paul that are not specific to these two issues, but can be applied to almost any difference of opinion between believers (for example, see Romans 14:1, Romans 14:4, Romans 14:7-9, Romans 14:10-13, Romans 14:18-19, and Romans 15:1-13). Here is Paul’s final exhortation concerning differences of belief between brothers and sisters in Christ:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:1-13 ESV)

As we read, Paul ends his instructions with a reminder that Jesus Christ is our example of “bearing with” those whose faith may be weaker and who fail. Instead of judging brothers and sisters because they disagree with us, we are to serve them and accept them, just as Jesus Christ served us and just as God accepts us in Jesus Christ. If God has accepted them, then we are to accept them also.

This leads us to the two occurrences of edification language in this passage: Romans 14:19 and Romans 15:2.

Romans 14:19 follows from what was just said concerning eating different foods and observing certain days (i.e. “so then” or “therefore”). When we find that brothers and sisters have differences of opinion (even about very important issues) we are to “strive for” peace and edification. We are to seek unity with those with whom we disagree and we are to seek to help them grow towards maturity in Jesus Christ.

In the following verse – Romans 14:20 – we see that the opposite is possible if we focus on our differences and require that everyone hold to our beliefs. Instead of unity and edification, our actions can lead to destruction and stumbling.

Similarly, we find Romans 15:2 at the beginning of Paul’s final exhortation about differences of belief. He tells us to “strive to please” or even “accommodate” our neighbor with the goal of seeing him or her grow for the better. The following verse (Romans 15:3) sets our “striving to please our neighbor” in the context of Christ’s “striving to please” by accepting the reproaches that should have fallen on us. Thus, in order to help our brother or sister grow, we should be willing to be reproached even and to serve them, recognizing them as accepted by God.

How will we be able to do this? Only because God (who is the master of both perseverance and encouragement) lives with us in harmony and unity. It is only in unity (even in spite of our differences) that we can glorify God together (Romans 15:5).

When we find that we are “at odds” with brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul is saying that we have two choices: 1) we can require that the other(s) yield to our understanding which may lead us to separate ourselves from one another, or 2) we can submit to them and seek their good and their maturity even at our own expense. Paul exhorts us to the second option, which is also the example that we have been given in Jesus Christ.


Some Thoughts on Mutual Edification:

  1. Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification
  2. Acceptance and edification
  3. What is edification?
  4. Who edifies whom?
  5. How do we edify others?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-19-2010

    There’s a lot of meat here to chew on. I happened to read through Romans 14 this morning, so I thought I’d offer some thoughts to your already thorough post. You mention harmony and unity. I find it interesting that in Romans 12, Paul instructs them to keep “phronountes the same things towards one another” (12:16). Your insights into Chapter 14 are a reminder of their particular context. Some were ‘phronwning’ one thing about the day of the Lord while some ‘phronwned’ quite differently (14:6). But in order for them to obey Paul’s words in chapter 12:16, they needed to put aside these divisive ‘phronwns’ and seek unity.

    Paul’s words in 14:9 are a challenging reminder. After giving these instructions about mindsets, he brings their attention back to Christ, as Paul so often does. Paul unforgettably declares that Christ died and lives, so that he might be Lord of the dead and living. What Paul is getting at here is that Christ’s Lordship affects something as simple as your attitudes about food.

    Paul’s word order in 14:8 is also important, for he says, “to the Lord we might live…to the Lord we might die…the Lord’s we are.” In other words, Paul fronts the word “Lord” in these clauses for emphasis, as if to say, “How can we who live and die to the Lord, who are owned by him, cause division among our brothers over such insignificant matters?”

    Well, enough rambling for now. Thanks for your post and for the reminder of how to act when there is a difference of opinion among believers.

  2. 8-15-2011

    The Bible talks about rebuking & correction. It also talks about putting people out of the church if they don’t repent/change. Please help me understand how we should be towards those who never seem to change or grow and continue to do the same things they shouldn’t be doing? Do we ignore it? Do we act like nothing is going on? Can we speak into their lives to show them what the Word says? Many “Christians” who go to church, continue walking one foot in the world, one foot in the church. What are we to do? Can you PLEASE elaborate on this subject and these questions? This is something that I am struggling with right now. I would love to talk to you further about this. Please email me or send message to my facebook inbox. Thank you Alan …. Love your posts!

  3. 8-16-2011


    I’ve written a few posts on that topic under the “discipline” category on my blog. There are times when we must separate from people who call themselves brothers and sisters. A few years ago, I did some research on all the times that we were instructed to separate from others. There were only a handful of reasons, and many of the reasons for separating today were not listed. I think that kind of study is a good starting point.