SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Confirming God's Faithfulness, Magnifying His Mercy, and Living in Hope
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Sunday, December 13, 2009 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1329
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 15:8-16 - “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, [9] and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’[10] And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’[11] And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’[12] And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’[13] May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.[14] I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. [15] But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God [16] to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

One of the great advantages of studying a letter like Romans right through is you get to see not only the truths that were important in the mind of Paul, but you also learn, if you’re careful and thoughtful, how he arrives at those truths. In other words, you get to see not only the ideas but how he approaches and applies those ideas. You learn how to study the deep truths of God’s Word because you discover not only the destination of Paul’s thought, but the journey of it. If you want to learn how to think your way around the truths of the Scriptures, there is no substitute for the kind of study we’re doing now together. We can learn how to find truth in God’s Word.

Today’s text is a great example of this. We finished our last study in Romans 15:1-7. This is where Paul focused on the duty of the strong to bear with the tender consciences of the weak. Those who were raised in Judaism, who had lived their whole lives equating the law of Moses with all there was to divine revelation from Almighty God, might have a hard time seeing many of those regulations terminating with the coming of Christ. They may well like to cling to regulations regarding feasts and days and fasts and the like. In other words, they still hadn’t learned how to internalize their freedom in Christ in terms of those issues of the law being fulfilled and laid aside.

And Gentiles - those who didn’t have to unload all of that Jewish heritage - who found it much easier to understand the way Christ replaced all those ceremonies in His own life, death and resurrection - those people could easily ride rough-shod over the scruples of their weaker, usually Jewish brothers and sisters. And Paul commands them not to do that. They’re to serve the weaker consciences of their brothers the way Christ served us all. They are to lay their rights aside the way Christ put aside His. They’re to do nothing to train others to go against their conscience because, while these issues of ceremony may not be a big deal, other issues are. And I’m not to make it any easier for my brother to ignore his conscience on a holiness issue by leading him to ignore his conscience on an incidental issue. Paul’s main concern isn’t that my drinking may turn someone else into an alcoholic. There are other passages that may steer in that direction in the New Testament. But that’s not the main concern of our text in Romans. Paul’s concern isn’t that I may destroy my weaker brother’s sobriety. It’s that I may destroy his faith by leading him into actions his conscience won’t allow.

So that’s the summons of our previous text. That’s the conclusion of the matter. Paul pointedly tells these Romans Christians what they should do. But Paul never just tells people what they should do. He always lays a foundation. He always builds a doctrinal base. There is always theology behind his commands.

1) IF I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE BIG PLAN OF GOD I WILL ALWAYS FIND HIS COMMANDS UNREASONABLE - Romans 15:8-12 - “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, [9] and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’[10] And again it is said, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’[11] And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”[12] And again Isaiah says, ‘the root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’”

Paul makes a very direct link between the practical instruction of 15:1-7 and the theological section of 15:8-16. Did you see it at the end of verse 7 and the beginning of verse 8? “Therefore welcome one another [strong and weak alike] as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. [8] For [that means, “Here’s the reason.”] I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, [9] and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’”

What would make a Jewish believer - one who had been raised his whole life to view any compromise of the Old Testament law as holy dereliction in the face of the will of Almighty God - what would make that Jewish Christian stop judging his Gentile brother who didn’t keep any of the feast laws of holy days?

And, perhaps even closer to home for most of us Gentiles, what would make a Gentile Christian - one who had come to Christ without even hearing of the laws stinging the Jewish conscience - what would make that Gentile Christian vow to never exercise his freedom in eating and drinking again if his Jewish brother was offended?

Do we see how huge these questions are? This is highly relevant in today’s church. What makes Christians rein in their natural instincts of what’s acceptable and unacceptable? Paul gives these strong and weak Christians - these Jewish and Gentile believers - an overview of the whole plan of God to include both Jews and Gentiles in His redemptive purpose. And He does this because if they don’t see how they are each to fit in - if they don’t see Paul’s words as part of a holy, divine calling - they will chafe against his words. They’ll rationalize and excuse and argue. They won’t hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

2) THE JEWS ARE TO REMEMBER GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO HIS PROMISE TO ABRAHAM - Romans 15:8 - “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs....”

God wasn’t abandoning the Jew just because He was showing grace to the Gentile. Paul seems to underscore just how committed God was to the Jews by reminding them Christ became a Jew out of Father God’s desire to show His deep commitment to the promise He made to Abraham.

The aim of this verse seems to be based on the recognition that the Jew (the weaker brother in Paul’s argument) would have a tendency to judge the Gentile (the stronger in Paul’s argument) for not feeling the same compulsion to the Old Testament law that he (the Jew) felt - “....let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him”(14:3b). I don’t have to feel threatened that the whole plan of God is going to pot just because someone takes a different view of propriety on a non-Scriptural issue. God, Paul assures the Jew, is still keeping his plan to His people and being faithful to His covenant with Abraham. He still has the “whole world in His hands.”

3) THE GENTILE IS CALLED, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, TO MAGNIFY GOD FOR HIS AMAZING GRACE
Romans 15:9 - “....and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’”

This is the repeated theme right through verses 10 through 12. And the obvious point of application to all of us is we will find it easier to rein in our own rights for the sake of our weaker brother when we remember the depths to which God’s grace went to reach us. Grace, fully relished and appreciated, always crucifies any expression of self-life in us. Grace received makes us mimic the Giver of grace.

4) GRASPING GOD’S BIG PLAN ENABLES A READY OBEDIENCE BY FILLING OUR MINDS WITH AN OVERPOWERING, ABIDING HOPE - Romans 15:13 - “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

If the call to obedience to both strong and weak is sometimes restrictive to the desires of the self, the narrowness of the path is made exciting by remembering the glory of the destination. And this is exactly the picture Jesus used to describe the upward call of discipleship: Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

What would possibly make people choose a narrow (confining) way over an option that is described as being both wide and easy(13)? It seems to make no sense. And the fact that it doesn’t make sense to most people is obvious by the fact that Jesus says by far the vast majority of people, upon seeing both paths, choose the wide. Why? Because they’re only looking at the path - not the destination. And why would anyone willingly choose a narrow path - a path where you must lay down your own rights (like the strong for the weak) just to squeeze into it? Because they want a journey with hope. They want a path that goes somewhere. They want a path with hope at the end of it.

5) BECAUSE KNOWING THE BIG PLAN OF GOD ENABLES A MORE READY OBEDIENCE, WE ARE IN CONSTANT NEED OF BEING REMINDED OF IT - Romans 15:14-16 - “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. [15] But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God [16] to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

The weak Jew didn’t need reminding that some of the Gentiles weren’t keeping the same Old Testament regulations he was keeping. And the strong Gentile didn’t need reminding that he had a freedom in Christ Jesus that didn’t require an adoption of all the Old Testament feasts and fasts and regulations in order to be right with God. Each group had that much figured out. But what both were in danger of forgetting was the overall picture, the big plan of God for His creation. Mind you, they knew all about that plan. Paul makes it clear that it had been revealed right from God’s first promise to Abraham. They weren’t forgetting it the way you might forget where you put your keys. They were forgetting it the way you forget about breathing. They were taking it for granted. They weren’t living in the grand truths of redemption consciously and attentively.

Never despise the work of the Holy Spirit in reminding. The narrow road always has its demands. Keep the power of God’s eternal kingdom hope alive in your mind and heart. There are enough demands in life that you’re going to need it over and over again until Jesus returns. That’s why His coming is called “the blessed hope!”