Brothers and Sisters,
In is letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:14-16 NASB)”.
This statement directly follows a series of admonitions, specifically a chapter and a half addressing matters of conscience and acceptance of less knowledgeable brothers and sisters.
When I first arrived at this statement, reading these chapters, I went back and reread the previous paragraphs, trying to figure out how it fit in. At first I thought I’d come to the end of the passage I’d previously been focusing on and come to a new topic. Then, however, I realized that it was instead the closing of that main passage, and I began to consider its purpose. I finally arrived at the conclusion that it is partly an ending disclaimer and observation and partly a final exhortation toward ends previously stated.
I call it a disclaimer, but that is perhaps not the exactly correct word; I simply do not know what might be. Paul wishes the Romans to understand from this passage his high opinion of their Christian character. He does not write this section as if they are lacking in virtues but instead to help them perfect those which they already display. He describes them as “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.”
This description is especially interesting following one of the longest passages of direct moral instruction in the chapter. The Romans to whom he writes are not without virtue, or knowledge, or some doctrine, and yet he still thinks this admonition beneficial. This is where these two sentences (v. 14-16), specifically directed to the Romans, apply to us. We may have virtue, we may have knowledge, and we may have doctrine, but we can still benefit from instruction, admonition, and exhortation.
Paul says that he has “written very boldly… on some points,” to the Romans. As Christians, we too are called to speak boldly to each other on matters of importance and to receive that speech in humility. The most knowledgeable of us is not omniscient, and the most virtuous is not perfect. And so, just as Paul spoke boldly in love to the Romans of their shortcomings and instructed them in truth, it is essential to our faith and to our relationships that we do the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This idea fits in with the previous section of the chapter. Paul speaks of the ability of the Romans to admonish each other, and he demonstrates through his writing the importance of bold speech on matters of faith and conduct. Earlier in this part of the letter he addresses the way in which the Christians in Rome should deal with some weakness meriting acceptance rather than admonition (ex. Romans 14:1-4), and in this part he follows up and encourages the Romans in proper and loving correction of their brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are two main things I take away from this passage, and which I would like you to take away as well. The first is the importance of correct admonition. We must be willing and able to speak boldly and in love to our brothers and sisters regarding proper spirit and conduct, and we must know when to do so. This facilitates growth in their walk with God, and in our own, and in our relationships with each other. We must, just as or more importantly, be willing to accept such speech from our fellow Christians. Paul notes the good and worthy qualities of the believers in Rome, but he still feels it necessary to speak to them on certain matters. We may ourselves be strong and mature Christians, but that does not make it perfect, and we cannot grow if we refuse instruction and correction. Just as wisdom dictated that the Romans heed Paul’s words, we must heed the words of our peers and especially our elders in the church if we wish to continue to grow in God. We all have our errors to be corrected, and we all have good qualities which ought to be better.
So with this I leave you: speak boldly and in love and be open to instruction.
Michael Collins (16) is on staff at TPS Chapel