4 March 2014Romans 15:1-13
“Christ did not please himself” (v.3)
Yesterday (link), we heard Paul pleading with the Christians in Rome to respect the scruples that some of them had. Today, he explores why they should and in doing so brings us back to one of the central themes of the epistle.
The reason Christians put concern for others ahead of concern for themselves is simple - it is Christ like. Paul offers both a negative and a positive way of looking at this. Negatively, Christ's attitude was one of self-sacrifice in fulfilment of the prophecies implied in Psalm 69, which Paul quotes in verse 3. Positively, the key word is "welcome" (v. 7) which other translations render as 'accept' or 'receive'. As Christ accepted them, so the Romans are to accept each other.
The work of Christ in receiving is for both Jews and Gentiles (non Jews). Paul uses a series of Bible quotations to support his understanding of what God has done in Christ. The quotations are taken from every section of the Hebrew Bible - from the Torah (verse 10, Deuteronomy 32:43), the Writings (verse 11, Psalms 117:1), and the Prophets (verse 12, Isaiah 11:10). This demonstrates the truth of his earlier assertion that all Scripture "was written for our instruction" (v. 4).
Paul encourages his hearers to listen to the prophecies of Scripture to be strengthened in their hope. The harmony that he hopes to see in the Church is a sign of God's glory; that glory will be fully seen in the union of both Jews and Gentiles in Christ's kingdom. The work of the Holy Spirit is to give the Christians joy and peace in their faith now as they experience an anticipation of the fullness of God's glory, and to maintain them in hope for the day when all God's promises are fulfilled.
- There is much discussion of what makes a 'welcoming church'. In what practical ways can we imitate Christ in receiving visitors or respecting each other in our churches?
- Paul prays (verses 5-6) that the Romans might live in harmony and with one voice glorify God. He understands the unity of the Church as a fact rather than as something to be achieved. How can we welcome other Christians as an act of hope in a united future? In what ways can we not yet share with members of other churches?