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
To be a Christian is to put others first, that is to Love. It is expressly this love that Jesus said would be a hallmark of His followers. So, the only Christians who should seek to please themselves are the immature ones, the baby Christians. Is following Jesus about what I like, or is it about what is best to reach our neighbor, of their good, what will build them up? That’s a rhetorical question, I think most of us know the answer.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
It is easy to suggest to yourself that our leaders in the government, whether local, state, or federal, are unjust people, therefore we don’t have to follow their rules. “Oh, taxes are unjust, so I’ll ‘fudge’ a little.” “Oh, it’s stilly that they make us…” We get caught in the trap of weighing the “greater good” of things… no, for the Christian it’s as simple as this, if there’s a law, we obey. As long as the government isn’t asking you to do something contrary to God’s divine commands, which are recorded in the Bible, then we subject ourselves to the governing authorities. Do we speed? Do we park in no parking zones? Do we declare all our income on our tax returns? Do we get all the proper permits and approvals before we remodel? “Who am I hurting if I don’t?” Were we utilitarian in our view of justice, that would be a valid argument, but we are not, we believe in retributive justice. Right is right, wrong is wrong. If this idea gets you down, begin to look into the kind of government Nero was the leader of when Paul wrote this chapter.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
As a believer, you need to be a member of a church. This text tells us that we each individually need to present our bodies… yet the sacrifice we give is one. He is telling the church members to each present their bodies (plural) and that all of them together form a (singular) living sacrifice. How you serve and worship with your church body is an act of worship unto the Lord, together. We don’t change to be more like the world, rather, we continually mold and shape our thinking to align with God’s Word. We go through a process of learning how to discern what God’s will is. We test, all along the way, what God wants us to do. One step at a time, day by day, year over year. Following Jesus is a continual struggle, it’s work, but it’s completely worth it!
For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
God’s people is like a big tree. In the OT He set aside a national people called Israel. Many of those people, at the time of Christ, rejected Jesus as Messiah, to their great detriment. Nationality is not, nor ever has it been, a marker of salvation from the Lord. If anyone, regardless of their biology, rejects Jesus, there is no hope for their salvation, they are, as it were, like a branch broken off of the tree of life which is called God’s people. But we, though not part of that national group, through our belief in Jesus, are grafted into the tree of life. We receive the same blessings and life that come from the genuine root, even though we are not by nature part of God’s national people. So what of national Israel? Well, they should understand the concept of Messiah even greater than we. How much easier should it be for them to believe. So what Paul is saying is this, there is no national people of God outside of Jesus, and those in Christ are part of one and the same people with everyone else regardless of background. Who your parents are has no bearing on whether or not you are saved, only Jesus.
1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Seeking to worship God, even the right God, in the wrong way falls outside of the category reserved for horseshoes and hand grenades known as “close enough.” If you don’t connect with God through Jesus Christ, then you’ve not connected with God. The question (typically hypothetical) that gets asked goes something like: “what about those who don’t know about Jesus?” That question is almost directly addressed in these verses. Here is a people, God’s People even, who are ignorant of Jesus (the righteousness of God) and so they did not worship God in the correct way. They were zealous… yet misguided. Paul’s prayer is that they would be saved through Jesus Christ. If we are not leading well-meaning people to Jesus, they will spend eternity apart from God. How sad will it be on the Day of Judgment when we see those headed to the lake of fire and we say “but they seemed so senesce…” It’s all about Jesus, be sure you tell someone about Him today.