Paul cites himself as one who is strong in the faith, and he identifies his potential reader as one who is also strong.
He compliments his reader when doing so without knowing whether they are actually strong in the faith or not. He does know this however: He knows human nature – and the issue he is dealing with here in Romans 15, (along with Romans 14,) is from strength to weakness rather than weakness to strength.
This issue here is what those in The Church are to do with their ‘strength.’ Since Paul is speaking of Spiritual strength, we know exactly what we are to do with ours, which is to lay it down.
In fact, to assert your Spirit “strength” as a means of dominating another member of The Church would be considered weakness. And a terrible weakness at that.
How can this happen?
Well, we see it all the time, don’t we? (Remember, we are NOT talking about matters of salvation, or of righteousness based upon the absolutes found in God’s Word – but in matters not strictly defined as righteous or unrighteous.) These so-called ‘grey areas’ have always been potential points of contention in The Church, and Paul anticipates that happening at Rome and in every Church ever founded from this point forward.
Most Church splits have been over disputable matters; those issues not plainly defined in God’s Word. Here at Rome we have great potential for that split. The fault line is already present. The Church at Rome is comprised of Jewish believers and Gentile believers. Those of a Jewish background probably have a much greater bent toward seeking to dominate Gentile believers who have no background in any Spiritual faith, or worse have a background worshiping idols.
Jewish believers would probably have a much greater understanding of God’s Law and the legal aspects of faith in Christ, and Gentile believers would likely have a greater understanding of God’s grace. The question in this example is: Which of these perspectives of faith in Christ represent “strength?”
The real answer is both. You cannot understand grace without truth. But we must not assert truth without grace. Paul is revealing his full understanding of both positions. Knowing his personal history, we know this is so. Paul was both a scholar of God’s Law and recipient of God’s grace. But he also understands the role of the Holy Spirit producing this same degree of Spiritual maturity in others who are not there yet, and he instructs us to wait on the Lord to produce the “strength” in others we perceive in ourselves, and not to interfere in that process. When we do we are not ‘strong’ at all.