In the above verses, Paul talks about how the brethren in the church should treat each other even though they might have differing opinions about spiritual matters. Some might think it is a sin to eat meat; others might consider some days more holy than others; others might have decided upon special ways to live in right standing with God. But Paul says that none of us live for ourselves. We are all members of Jesus Christ’s body as we represent him on this earth, individually and collectively. As a corporate body, we should be sensitive to the opinions of others. We should allow a variety of ideas in the body of Christ on matters where different thoughts exist. We are not to separate ourselves over minute differences. We see in Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah that the Lord is tender, kindhearted, sensitive to the weakest amongst us. “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instructions.” (Isaiah 42:1-4) God says He strengthened the Lord by placing his Spirit upon him. Jesus was clothed with the Holy Spirit with he was baptized in water by John the Baptist. Jesus did not need a new heart to become a new creature, to deliver him from the flesh. No, Jesus’ heart was pure; not sinful like ours. We become new creatures with new hearts at our salvation. But Jesus did not need that for He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but He did need to be clothed with the Spirit when the Spirit came upon him at the time of his water baptism. Consequently, He could say that I am in the Father and He is in me, and that I always do the Father’s will. We who are in Christ are clothed by his Spirit, alive as Christ’s image on this earth. With new hearts and immersed in Christ, we should be about our Father’s business. In Isaiah’s description of the Messiah or the Lord, we find him without arrogance or aggression. He does not crush or abuse the weakest amongst us, or put out the flickering faith of a weak member of his body. Instead, He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will support them, advocating for their claims of injustice. He knows the heart of every person who is resident in his body. As his body, we carry on in this world, revealing his likeness, bringing support to every flickering candle, helping the weak in faith. Neither do we crush those so downtrodden they can barely struggle against sin and the pitfalls of a fleshly life. We should bring the light of Jesus to every dark room, seeking justice for believers and nonbelievers alike. Never growing weary or cynical, (We) will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Our faith in the Lord makes us part of his linage, his promise from God. Just as the Messiah fulfilled the promise to bless the nations, as co-heirs with Christ, we bless the world. However, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:20, we will hurt the cohesiveness of the body and the mission of the church if we fall back into the fleshly nature: For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. The weak ones in the church are the first to be hurt when sin inhabits the people of the Lord. The wolves are at the door, waiting to attack, to come into body of Christ to destroy, to dishonor the name of the Lord if we are not diligent and fully clothed with the armor of God. (See Ephesians 6)
How wonderful to know that we do not have to be afraid, for we are strong in the Lord, but we must remember what the Bible says: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Thankfully, we are honored guests in the household of God. We are part of the beloved only begotten Son, members of his family. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be like him: holy, righteous, loving, caring, and the like. Peter describes God’s people so beautifully: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10) What is our purpose? People may question our purpose, but by the power of the Spirit, Peter makes God’s plan clear: we are to broadcast our love and devotion to our glorious Lord, praising him for bringing us out of sin into his righteousness. We are to be his ambassadors of light. Therefore, Peter tells us to get rid of all evil behavior, to be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. He asks us as newborn babes to seek out pure spiritual milk. (See 1 Peter 2:1-2) If we do, we will mature in our salvation experience and understanding of walking in the Spirit. Since we have experienced the Lord’s kindness and goodness to us, as mature believers we should desire and possess the same attributes in us. Christ is the cornerstone of each believer and of the corporate body. As the cornerstone of the church, we are to pay attention to his direction for our lives, making him preeminent in every decision we make personally and in the church of Christ. If we become self-absorbed in our ideas and ways, we will make ourselves the center of our lives. But if we follow Christ’s will, being obedient servants to his desires, we will be fitted together in harmony, witnessing to the world what it means to love, to overlook small differences between us. This is what the world is desiring: peace, not conflict; love, not hate; joy, not anger. These are the attributes of the Messiah, the One who gave everything for us. These are the attributes of those who are led by the Spirit and not by law. Pentecost made a way for the Holy Spirit to come to all of us in his fullness who are willing to give up their ways and lives for the Lord’s ways and his life. Jesus said we would go into all the world and be his witnesses after receiving the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit gives us wisdom and humility to put the needs of others before our own, to love them as we love ourselves, and to serve them with unselfish devotion.
In today’s focus, Paul asks us to lay aside our opinions of correctness and appropriateness, our ideas of pleasing God, when it might offend someone else. Instead, he suggests, look beyond the surface of things and be strong for the weak. Encourage those who have their flame of faith flickering, not shining quite so brightly as others in the body. Help those who are entrapped by a tendency to sin. Help them to find a way out of this lifestyle. Pray with those who need prayer. Encourage those who are living without joy. Love those who find little love within their family or community. Comfort those who are struggling with sickness or the death of a loved one. Be fitted together as believers in the body of Christ. Each one of us is a minister, chosen by God to be a priest in the body of the Lord. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. (1 Peter 2:5) As priests, we are to carry out our spiritual duties to others around us in need of ministrations. We are not to live unto ourselves, failing to discern the needs in the body of Christ. How can we bring our gifts to God and take communion if we are out of fellowship and out of communion with fellow believers? How can we say we are instruments of love, if we abandon our fellow church members? Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Do the people in your community of believers find you helpful, loving, caring, forgiving? Do they know you will cry with them when they are hurting, rejoice when they are rejoicing over a victory? You cannot live as though the church were an aside. You must be enveloped by the community of believers by taking your place among your family of faith. Provide them with the kindness and love that God has given you. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. The world is dying in sin and violence, void of the redemptive power of the Lord. We Christians know that power of God, and we know what it means to be lost and desperate. Please do not make God work within your parameters of life: your family, your friends, your land, your ideas, your dreams. Let God out of your restrictions. Let him make of you what He desires: a person serving him in every situation, stretching you beyond that which seems comfortable or appropriate to you. Accept the people who are not like you: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters, for God is life, love, and light. He will not lead you astray and He will use you for his glory!