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Romans 15-16

November 27th, 2011 by Vic

November 27, 2011

Romans 15

“We serve the God of hope”

 

This is the first Sunday of Advent.  Hope is the theme.  The coming of Christ gives us hope.  When the Messiah comes, He will “bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and the year of Jubilee” (Isaiah 61:1).  In Luke 4:18, Jesus quoted this verse at the beginning of His ministry to introduce Himself to the Jewish leaders in the synagogue.  The hope of the ages has come in Christ Jesus.

 

The word hope occurs in 4 verses in this chapter: 4, 12, 13, 24 (9 other times in Romans).  Paul reminds us we have a God of hope.  Paul uses the word hope 44 of the 54 occurrences in the NT.  Paul was a person of hope.

 

There are 7 phrases used in Romans 1:8-14 that are also used in Romans 15:14-33.  These themes are bookends holding together the whole letter.  In both paragraphs Paul complements them and gives God thanks for their influential faith.  He explains his purpose in writing to them.  He says God’s grace gave him a ministry to Gentiles and that grace impelled him to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He mentions his desire to visit them and he constantly prays for them.  He wants to enjoy mutual edification with them.  It’s all contingent on God’s will.

Romans 1 – God had a plan for us from the very beginning to free us from the spiral of sin.  He is revealing His plan in the world today for those that have eyes to see or those who want to see.

 

Romans 2 – God shows no partiality in showing mercy to all.  He wants all men to know Him and enjoy abundant life in His presence.  Your disciplines and rituals cannot force God to bless you.

 

Romans 3 – All mankind has sinned and God is willing to forgive and justify everyone who believes in His plan in Jesus.  You cannot be justified by any 4 step or 10 step plan of man.

 

Romans 4 – Abraham was not justified because of his circumcision, but because of His faith in God’s promise.  He received a righteous relationship with God by faith.

 

Romans 5 – We were slaves to sin.  We were helpless (6).  We were enemies of God (10).  Now by faith in Christ we have peace and hope.

 

Romans 6 – We have been freed from the deceit of sin so we can be love slaves of righteousness.  The wages of sin was death now and forever, but in Christ we have eternal life now and forever.

 

Romans 7 – There is a freedom and life in Christ we have just begun to understand.

 

Romans 8 – The laws of man are quick to condemn us, but we have been set free from the law.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  We are more like children than slaves.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

 

Romans 9 – It is hard for conservatives to trust in the one making the promise.  It is easier and more predictable to trust in my understanding of the letter of the promise.

 

Romans 10 – Jesus is Lord of all, both conservatives and liberals.

 

Romans 11 – God can graft wild olives onto His tree.  God’s ways are beyond our thinking.

 

Romans 12 – Our lives are now the sacrifice we continually present to God.

 

Romans 13 – God has established an authority structure for the good of the community.  Give honor to whom honor is due and owe no man anything but to love.  The one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

 

Romans 14 – We are the Lord’s.  The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

 

15:1-6  Christ set the example for our ministry.

This paragraph summarizes the responsibility of the strong.  The strong carry the responsibility of maintaining the harmony of the community.  Greater strength means greater responsibility for others.  Those without a strong faith are the least willing to make concessions.  The wording indicates that Paul is also complementing these with weak faith because they demonstrate self-denial and active love for their neighbors as Christ did.  Christ identified with us in weakness and we can also identify with the weak.  Only in the weakness of confessed dependence (faith) on God is there real strength.

 

Strength is not in claiming independence of other believers, but in taking responsibility for building up one another in mutual interdependence.  “I do it myself” is not a statement of strength.

 

The Scriptures were not written as a source book for all sorts of information, but to build our faith and renew our hope.  Scripture was written to help us understand the God who created us.

 

Christ gave us an example.  We are to follow in His steps.  He was willing to suffer misunderstanding and abuse.  He did not live to please Himself.  He did not assert His rights.  He lived in harmony with the word of God.  God’s Word gives us examples and encouragement to stand in hope.  So as the body of Christ we are united in our worship of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The original failure of Adam to glorify God is now made possible by the Second Adam.  All mankind can now praise God.  Our unity is in worship.  Worship, honor, and praise of God are much more than one hour on Sunday morning.

15:7-13  After stressing the obligation of the strong to support the weak, Paul reminds us that love, acceptance and forgiveness must be mutual.  Christ set the example for our relationships in the church.  He accepted us so we could love, accept and forgive others (7).  He accepted God’s plan for the nations so God would be glorified for His mercy to all.

Paul quotes Scriptures to confirm that the Jewish Messiah will be the hope of the Gentile as well as the Jew.  His ascension has made Him Lord of all.  Jesus was born a Jew.  He is still a Jew and a servant of the circumcised, exalted as Lord of All.  The promises to Jews are still in place.  The promises conclude that Jews will be a blessing to all nations and through Christ the Jews have become a blessing to all nations.

 

The Gentiles should never forget that they heard the gospel through the Jews.  And the Jews should not forget that their calling included all nations.  Jews and Gentiles are now united in their praise of the same God and by hope in the same Christ.

 

Christ sent His Spirit so we would overflow with a living hope.  Our faith in Christ fills us with joy and peace and we overflow with hope.  Hope gives meaning to life.  The foundation of our hope is God’s Word.  We serve the God of hope.

 

 

15:14-22  Paul complements the church in Rome for their maturity.  He admits that they do not need any help from him.  They have the resources to cope with all their problems.  But he wants them to know God is directing his ministry toward Rome and beyond in the coming days.

 

For 20 years Christ has been directing Paul’s ministry in the east.  But Paul now feels a desire to go to Spain.  Paul was not coming to Rome to straighten everyone out.  He just wanted them to know what his apostolic commission consisted of.  God had called him to be a minister of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles.

 

The Gentiles themselves are a living sacrifice (16).  Even though they could not get near the altar of sacrifice in the Temple of the Jews the Holy Spirit has come to sanctify their lives and make their bodies a holy temple and their lives a living sacrifice acceptable to God.  Their group identity is not in Temple rituals, but in their daily worship of God.  Their weekly meetings without a priest was not to be their new group identity, but being set apart by the holy Spirit to live holy lives in their routines is their new identity.

 

Paul boasted that he could not boast in anything (18).  He felt he could not take credit for anything God had done through him.

 

Paul uses a phrase (19) from Exodus 7:3 to link his ministry with Moses.  As God worked through Moses to establish a first church of God, so Christ though Paul was now establishing the redefined people of God for the end time.  The magicians challenging Moses recognized ‘the finger of God’ even though Pharaoh didn’t (Ex 8:19).

 

15:23-33  Paul expresses his confidence that Christ will continue to direct his ministry with the help of the church in Rome.  He says, “I need your prayers and encouragement to go to Spain.  But I have to finish this short term assignment to help unify the churches in the east.”

Paul is excited about letting the church at Rome be part of his ministry to Spain.  He makes it clear that he is not seeking a position of leadership.  He does not want to abuse their hospitality.

 

Right now he really wants their prayers for his safety.  He wants the Christians in Jerusalem to be benefited by the money he is taking to them.  He wants them to understand that as Christians we are mutually dependent on one another.  The Gentiles have benefited from the Jews and the Jews can be helped by the Gentiles.

 

There is a wide diversity between the churches, but Paul never suggests starting another denomination.  He feels there is strength in diversity and love can grow deeper when there are differences.

 

16:1-16  After Paul wrote this letter he read it over and then added chapter 16.  He was sending this letter to them via a special lady who conducted a house church in Cenchrea.  She was probably going on a business trip to Rome.  Paul calls her a deaconess.  He adds greetings to a lot of people he knew in the area of Rome.  Andronicus and Junias had been Christians longer than Paul (7).  Many think that Aristobulus (10) was the grandson of Herod.  The holy kiss (16) was like our handshake or hug today.

 

16:17-20  Paul adds a brief admonition.  This was not a specific problem for the Roman church.  It was not an extension of anything he had said in the letter.  But apparently it was a potential problem that he saw coming.  It may have been a problem in some eastern churches already.  Many people will be coming to your house churches that are invited by friends, curious about all the activity, looking for a free lunch, wanting to meet a Christlike marriage partner, etc.  People will come to church with different motives.  Not all of them will be pure.

 

When you spot someone that is trying to satisfy his own appetites rather than serving the Lord, keep away from them.  When you sense someone is causing division, keep away from them.  When someone tries to add a new ritual or new experience to your walk with God, keep away from them.  When someone is a big talker with a lot of flattery, keep away from them.

 

After this brief admonition, Paul says he is full of joy (19) and not worried because he has heard of their obedience to the faith.  He just wants to encourage them to be wise about the good and innocent about what is evil.

 

We serve a God of peace that crushes satan.  We do not have to fear satan.  He that is for us is greater than he that is in the world.  Don’t presume on God, but trust in God.  The breath of His mouth destroys satan.  Keep resting in His everlasting arms.

 

Paul concludes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”  Then he hands the pen back to Tertius who adds his personal greetings.

 

The final doxology was probably added to this letter later to summarize some of the basic concerns of the letter.  All begins and ends with God.

 

16:25-27

 

This letter to the Romans began by contrasting the majesty of the plan of God and the stupidity of man trying to be god.  Because of the first Adam all of us were born as slaves to sin.  But God’s plan and power gave us a 2nd Adam whose perfect obedience nullified the claims of satan on all creation.  When we respond positively to God’s offer of forgiveness and abundant life, we can be set free from the chains of sin.  God has already forgiven you.  Jesus has already died for you.  He really loves you.  How will you respond?  What will you do with Jesus?

 

 

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