In Romans 15:14-21 Paul gives a defense of his ministry, especially of his boldness in writing this letter to a church he did not found and had never visited. Except for a few individuals he had met elsewhere, he did not know the Christians in Rome. Yet he addresses them both warmly and forthrightly, as if they were close friends.
Responsibility for pleasing one another falls on all believers, but especially on those who are strong. Paul is concerned that the strong take seriously their obligation to use their God-given strength in serving weaker believers. The more they live such sacrificial lives, the more like Christ they become.
Conflict easily arises between those who understand freedom in Christ and those who still feel threatened by certain religious and cultural practices that were parts of their lives before coming to Christ. In matters that are not commanded or forbidden in Scripture, it is always wrong to go against conscience, because our conscience represents what we actually believe to be right. It is also sinful, however, to try to impose our personal convictions on others, because, in doing so, we are tempting them to go against their own consciences.
The term “gospel” is used about sixty times in Romans. The word means “glad tidings.” It is the good news that God will deliver us from our selfish sin, free us from our burden of guilt, and give meaning to life and make it abundant. The most important thing about the gospel is that it is of God. Paul makes that clear in the first sentence so his readers have no confusion about which “good news” he was declaring.