For an introduction to this series, click here.
This chapter is kind of a wrap-up of some more important things Paul wanted to say. In the first part of the chapter he appeals to the example of Jesus 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.'" (15:1-3)
This is obviously an important concept by itself, but when you consider the subject matter of Chapter 14, this becomes even more significant. That Paul would cite Jesus as an example of bearing with the weaknesses of others is interesting, because when you read the Gospels it doesn't appear that Jesus took any consideration at all for the feelings of others, particularly those in authority. I hadn't really realized it before, but I guess this is kind of a confirmation of what I said yesterday. Jesus had no patience whatsoever with the pompous Pharisees, but He had infinite patience with those who did not take on airs, like when He sent Peter out to catch a fish with money in its mouth so that "We would not offend" the tax collector.
Paul says that when we look at the example of Christ and the Old Testament saints, we will learn to live with each other: "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." (15:4-6) There is a lot in the Scriptures about unity, and nothing kills unity like squabbles over insignificant things.
Paul finishes this chapter with a personal message: "And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.' This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen." (15:20-33, ESV)