"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." NIV translation
This is related to the end of chapter fourteen as Paul was talking about religious restrictions on different foods. As we saw, when Paul was talking about being "strong in the faith" he was actually talking about Christians that were secure in the freedom that they had obtained through Jesus Christ. This freedom allowed them to eat any food that was put before them. The weak are those who felt that they could not eat the food without risking their salvation (they did not understand the freedom that was given to them on the cross). Here, Paul goes on to say that we who understand and are walking in our freedom should "bear with" those who don't understand. This is talking about the fact that we are not just to tolerate the actions and attitudes of those that are weaker in their faith but to lift them up. When they have doubts, we are to lovingly remind them of the freedom that they possess. When he speaks of "not to please ourselves", he is talking about the fact that, if our freedom makes the weaker brother uncomfortable, we willingly limit our freedom. In the case of the food, it was better to not eat it when your brother was around as it made him uncomfortable.
"Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up." NIV translation
The purpose of our willingly limiting our freedom is to strengthen the faith of the weaker brother. How do we "build them up"? That is talking about the fact that we do not beat them up with our freedom by reminding them that God is happy with our obedience.
If a Spirit filled believer listens to the prompting of the Spirit and follows, they are pleasing God. We can build them up by reminding them of the fact that they are acting on their convictions and that is a good thing.
"For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'" NIV translation
Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9 where David was facing trouble in his own family and was still concerned about glorifying God. Paul is reminding the Romans that, in the same way, Jesus left heaven and took on the form of man. He suffered through the punishment that we deserved so that we might have the freedom that we enjoy. In the same manner, we can bear with our fellow Christians that may be a little weaker in their understanding of that freedom.
"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." NIV translation
The Scriptures that are referred to is what we would call the Old Testament and, here, we see their purpose for us New Testament saints. We might ask ourselves how this can bring encouragement and endurance in our faith. The answer is simple in that the whole Old testament is a testimony of God's patience and love for His people. We get to see the failures of God's people and the fact that He never forsakes them. He is patient with their failings as over and over again they turn their backs on Him. Through reading them we can have hope for those times when we fail as we remember that God never abandoned them. This can also help us to bear with other saints as they fail too.
Romans 15:5 & 6
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." NIV translation
Not only do we have the example of the Old Testament but we also have that of Jesus. The "attitude of mind" that is referred to is that of peace. Often when a brother or sister in Christ is not doing what we think is scriptural, we will treat them like they are not even Christians. That is not the bearing with them that Paul is talking about and it is not the attitude of peace that Jesus demonstrated.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." NIV translation
Jesus met people where they were at in their lives and loved them with all of their faults. How much more should we as His disciples? Division in the family of God does not demonstrate His glory to the world. So, what does it mean to "accept"? It means we acknowledge the fact that those who are weaker in their faith still are of the same faith. It means accepting the fact that they are responsible for listening to the Spirit and following. It doesn't mean that we have to all get together and worship in the same place (that will happen when Jesus returns).
"For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed" NIV translation
The entire Old Testament points to the fact that Jesus would come into the world to deliver the Jews. God made promises to Abraham and Jesus fulfilled them. It encourages us to know that God does not forget but instead keeps His promises even today.
"and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: 'Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.' Again, it says, 'Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.' And again, 'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the people extol him.' And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.'" NIV translation
Not only did the entire Old Testament reveal the coming of Jesus as Messiah but it also told of the fact that He would also come for the Gentiles. From the very beginning, God's plan was for both Jew and Gentile to be joined in worship of Him. With this in mind, it makes anti-Semitism seem ridiculous!
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." NIV translation
Because God's mercy has been extended to us, we have peace with Him. This brings us joy which wells up and springs forth through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can feel more secure in this hope as we read and study the Old Testament. As we see His plan in action we can be confident that He is in control and has His eyes on us. We can trust Him because of the faithfulness that He demonstrated to Israel through the many years.
"I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another." NIV translation
Paul begins to wrap up this letter by explaining that he has confidence in them and their faith. Paul never acted like a "super saint" but instead imitated Jesus in humility.
Romans 15:15 & 16
"Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." NIV translation
Paul speaks here of what we would call accountability. He told the believers that they had the knowledge to know what to do but he had to boldly remind them. As Christians, we need to be a part of the body so that we have this type of accountability.
"Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ." NIV translation
Paul imitated the humility of Christ. He reminds the Romans that it is only the power of God at work that has accomplished his ministry to the Gentiles. This is the pattern that any Christian leader should follow.
"It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written: 'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.' This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you." NIV translation
Paul was a church planter which involves going into areas that have not heard the gospel. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah (52:15) which was speaking of the beating of Jesus to the point where He was nearly unrecognizable. Paul goes on to explain that he was busy traveling in the areas that had not heard the gospel. Even though he wanted to visit Rome, he desired more to complete the mission that God had given him. This too was a part of his humility as, instead of taking a victory lap to the churches, Paul was busy working.
Romans 15:23 & 24
"But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while." NIV translation
Paul's work was done in the region and so he had plans to extend the gospel into Spain. He had put off visiting Rome to finish his mission and now was planning to visit them on the way.
"Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord's people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord's people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jew's spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings." NIV translation
Before going to Spain, Paul had to deliver a collection for the poor Jews of the church in Jerusalem. It was not easy to be a Jew and a Christian in Jerusalem and so many of the believers were struggling and needing help. The churches that Paul had started collected an offering and sent Paul to share their concern with the church in Jerusalem.
Romans 15:28 & 29
"So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." NIV translation
Did Paul hint to the believers in Rome that he would face persecution in Jerusalem? It appears that he did and that he was convinced that he would be delivered to Rome.
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." NIV translation
Paul knew that he was going to go into a battle when he went to Jerusalem. He asked the Roman believers to pray for him in this struggle.
"Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord's people there," NIV translation
Paul was specific in what he wanted the Roman believers to pray about for him. We know from our study of Acts 20 that Paul knew that he was facing trouble when he went to Jerusalem. He asked the Romans to pray that he would be kept safe from that and that the offering that he was bringing would be acceptable to the church in Jerusalem. He was asking that the church in Jerusalem would understand that the offering was sent specifically for the poor brethren there and not to build a big building or to pay a pastor, etc.
"so that I may come to you with joy, by God's will, and in your company be refreshed." NIV translation
Paul made it clear that he would like to be delivered from the trouble but, even more than that, he wanted to be in God's will for his life. Avoiding the trouble (which he had been advised to do) would have made more sense but he knew that, if God allowed it, there was a greater purpose for it. The same goes for us today as, when we are going through troubles and facing opposition, God has a bigger purpose in mind.
"The God of peace be with you all. Amen." NIV translation
Paul asks God to comfort the believers in Rome and to give them peace. They would have been worried about his travel to Jerusalem.