Romans Chapter 15
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome back to the Ministerial Alliance program. Iíve been looking at Paulís letter to the Romans for the past 2 yearís worth of Alliance programs and this week weíre in the next to last chapter- chapter 15. Being Weds, weíre half way thru that chapter and I think Iíll review before moving on. Let me ask for Godís blessing in this message and I pray that it reflects His glory in the truth that is Jesus Christ- Amen!
So far what weíve seen in Romans chapter 15 is Paul exhorting Christians- since, after all, heís writing to the church at Rome- to bear with one another and to be like-minded in their relationships. He says:
Romans 15:1-7 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (2) Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. (3) For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME." (4) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (5) Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, (6) that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
After that, Paul moves on to demonstrate- using passages from the Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah - that Godís grace would eventually extend to the Gentiles. He directs our attention to the great hope that this good news should provoke in those who were formerly w/out God. Hereís what Paul says:
Romans 15:8-13 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, (9) and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "FOR THIS REASON I WILL CONFESS TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND SING TO YOUR NAME." (10) And again he says: "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE!" (11) And again: "PRAISE THE LORD, ALL YOU GENTILES! LAUD HIM, ALL YOU PEOPLES!" (12) And again, Isaiah says: "THERE SHALL BE A ROOT OF JESSE; AND HE WHO SHALL RISE TO REIGN OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM THE GENTILES SHALL HOPE." (13) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Itís important to note the difference between the way the New Testament of Jesus Christ treats Gentiles versus the way the Old Testament treats them. Itís true that the Old Testament make provision for Gentiles to come under Godís grace, but under the old, those Gentiles had to be adopted into the Israelites and had to adopt their appointed sacrifices and other religious tasks. Thatís not true of the New Testament and we can see this from the council of Jerusalem as described in Acts 15. At this council, Paul and Barnabas met with James and Peter and other members to discuss whether or not Gentiles needed to first become Jews before accepting Christ. We find that discussion here:
Acts 15:5-11 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (6) Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. (7) And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. (8) So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, (9) and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (10) Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? (11) But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
Itís interesting that Peter says "we shall be saved in the same manner as they". Heís proclaiming, not that the Gentiles shall be saved in the same manner as the Jews, but vice versa- that the Jews shall be saved in the same manner as the Gentiles! In short, everyone is saved by faith, not by works of the law. After some more discussion, James- the apparent leader of the council- makes this verdict:
Acts 15:19-20 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, (20) but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
He is essentially proclaiming that the Gentiles do NOT first need to become Jews before coming under Christís protection and saving grace. This is a very important point because, for the first time in history, Godís salvation now extends to all people. This is why Paul can say in Romans:
Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And why he uses the words "hope", "joy", and "peace", all of which come through the power of the Holy Spirit. That Godís grace and mercy extend to all people everywhere is truly good news and that, of course, is what the word "gospel" means. The hope, joy, and peace offered by Jesus Christ are not burdensome things. I hear many people refuse Christ with the statements "Oh, I donít like organized religion" or "I donít need to go to church to worship God" but thatís precisely what the gospel is NOT about. The gospel is simply about Godís mercy and grace applied to your disobedience. We can see that point right here in that a person is not required to become a religious Jews in order to first gain Christ. Jesus himself reserved his most scathing criticism for the Pharisees- the religious leaders of the time who, as Peter just said, "put a yoke on the people which neither our father nor we were able to bear." Jesus says of his yoke:
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
This isnít to say that the Christian life is easy because itís not. Life is still life and itís full of hardship, burdens, troubles, and trials. Bad things happen to all people, "good" and "bad" alike, just as good things happen to all people also. But, putting on Christís yoke is not a burdensome task. You donít have to do this, or do that, or do anything. Paul says:
Colossians 2:20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations (21) "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," (22) which all concern things which perish with the using- according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
Instead, all you have to do is admit that you need the atoning sacrifice of Christ and accept it. God does the rest. HereÖIíll show youÖin Acts, Peter is speaking to a diverse crowd about Jesus:
Acts 2:36-41 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (37) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (38) Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (40) And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." (41) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Some of the listeners were Ďcut to the heart" and said "what shall we do?" Peter didnít lay a bunch of rules and laws on them, but said "Repent and be baptized!" Repentance, of course, is necessary because a person must first recognize the need for Christ before they can accept Him. Baptism, as we see from the whole of Scripture, is not necessary, but as we see in Acts, those who "gladly received his word" acted in grateful obedience and were baptized. And then, because they were of one mind in Christ, Acts tells us that they:
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
They continued in the apostleís doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers, not because they HAD to, but because they WANTED to. Earlier, I said that your job is to be obedient to the gospel call and then God does the rest. Iím not making this up. Consider these verses:
Philippians 2:13 Öfor it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
God works in the reborn Christian both to will and to do the works that He has prepared beforehand for us. This is the great difference between true Christianity and religious Christianity. In true Christianity, itís God conforming man to the image of Christ. In religious Christianity, itís man conforming himself to what he thinks is the image of Christ. Let me repeat that: True Christianity, is God conforming man to the image of Christ. Religious Christianity, is man conforming himself to what he thinks is the image of Christ. Look at what Paul says:
Philippians 3:8-9 Ö that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Paul abhors his own righteousness and seeks instead the righteousness of Christ, which is from God, by faith. Because this faith is from God and because it is God Himself who works in the Christian both to will and to do, true faith is unshakeable. Faith that is from and of ourselves is only as strong as we are but faith that is from God is as strong as God himself. Therefore, the application of Christ to the Gentiles, apart from the works of the law, is cause for much rejoicing. There, finally, was evidence of a much better covenant, one that didnít rely on manís works for success. Christianity is not about religion, itís about Jesus Christ and him crucified. Itís about the application of his righteousness to my unrighteousness. Itís not about heavy yokes and burdensome tasks, but itís about joy, peace, and hope.
Do you have that hope?
Romans 15, part 2
Romans 15, part 4