85: Bold Ambitions (Pt 1)

January 28, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Romans 15:14–16

From Romans 15:14 we’re headed downhill toward the last “Amen” in the letter. Verse 13 (which we looked at last November) is a great benediction, a good word that bookends the last major division of the application/implications (that started in 12:1) which addressed brothers welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed us (14:1-15:13). What remains is more personal, with some reminders from Paul about his commitment to the church in Rome as part of his commission to take the gospel to the nations.

The paragraph covers verses 14-21. We’re going to take it in two parts. Verses 18-21 are probably one sentence, and it’s a sentence that begins by explaining verse 17; we’ll pick up at that point next time. For now verses 14-16 are a feast, more than an explanation for the epistle and his *tone*, they are an expression of Paul’s *life aim*. This is enough to get someone fired up; it certainly fired up the apostle.

You know a lot about the apostle Paul. For that matter, we’ve been with him for fourteen and a half chapters (386 verses, 84 previous sermons) of this letter. If you had five minutes to write one sentence of Paul’s life mission, what would you say? You could hardly improve on Colossians 1:28, or even Philippians 1:25. Before he describes his work product (verses 17-21), he describes and defends what pushes his work. It wasn’t that he was discouraged about the Romans, it’s that his objective was so *ambitious*.

Two parts: his confidence in God’s work among them and his compelling desire for God to accept them. Paul was well pleased with them, he wanted God to be fully pleased with them.

# Confident Approval (verse 14)

Paul wrote an awful long letter to some people he was convinced had everything they needed.

> 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. (Romans 15:14 ESV)

This is *personal*, **I myself** and **you yourselves**, along with the **my brothers**. It’s personal and emphatic and affectionate.

It’s also *confident*. He starts by saying he’s **satisfied**, alright, also “convinced” (NASB) or “fully convinced” (NET), “persuaded” (KJV) as in, having been brought to a particular point of view. He had his info, and had no doubts. About what?

His confidence was in their *maturity*. They were **full**, **filled with all**, **able**. It’s astounding, considering that the church in Rome had to have been less than a decade old, and Paul had never been there (see verse 22). But Paul thanked God for them, “because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (1:8).

Here their faith manifested in character: **full of goodness**. Their faith was not ignorant or sentimental, but they were: **having been filled with all knowledge**. (And that was true *before* having heard the contents of this letter.) And their knowledge was of the kind that was for the community, not just the individual: **able to instruct one another**, though “admonish” (KJV, NASB) would be better; assuming a standard and helping one another toward it in “congregational obligation” (Morris). (This was apparently true in spite of the stronger/weaker brother tangles.)

They had goodness, knowledge, and capacity for speaking the truth in love and building up one another in the body. That’s some reputation, and Paul accepts it, affirms it, and yet is both pleased and not satisfied. This reference in _Mere Christianity_ isn’t exactly the same, yet there’s some overlap.

> “As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, **‘God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.’”**

# Compelling Ambition (verses 15-16)

With that kind of endorsement, what else to they need? I don’t think that Paul is merely being polite; he’s plainly thankful for them, while also having such a massive goal that he can’t consider his work done.

> But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 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. (Romans 15:15–16 ESV)

I referred to these verses a couple weeks ago applied to sermons and especially the word of reminders. Who’s to say that every Christian in Rome knew every bit of Paul’s teaching on sinfulness and guilt, on righteousness by faith and in our walk, on the love of God for groaning sufferers, on God’s blessing some to make Jews jealous that they would return to Christ, let alone all the particulars on presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. And so what if one of them said, “I know all that.” Paul still knew what God’s grace to him was for.

He wasn’t just reminding, some of his reminders were **written to you very boldly**. In the original text **boldly** or audaciously is the first word in the sentence, grabbing attention. He wasn’t holding back, wasn’t reluctant to remind them. It was part of his calling. That’s what the **grace given to me by God** refers to, not his salvation, but his apostleship, as evidenced by the fantastic progression of his purpose in verse 16.

He was a **minister of Christ Jesus**. It’s not the usual word for minister/servant, it’s *leitourgon* (λειτουργὸν), a man who leads in public service, typically in worship settings, but sometimes of the work of government officials. There’s a pattern to follow, a proper ordering of things. Of course our word liturgy descends from it. For sake of our mediation, he was a *liturgizer* of Jesus.

This was aimed mostly at *τὰ ἔθνη* (same as the object of the Great Commission), the “nations” or the “peoples,” so not *the* nation, Israel, but the rest, so the ESV translates it, **the Gentiles**, all ethnicities other than his own (his Israelite brothers, Romans 9:2-3, 10:1, 11:1).

Unlike his usual analogies (shepherd, builder, father, etc.), here Paul likens his work as **priestly service of the gospel of God**. He’s been talking about “the gospel of God” since the start: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 ESV). The gospel is the good news *about* the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and of peace through faith, but the whole news is from and through and to God.

This priesting work was preparing an offering, **that the offering of the Peoples may be acceptable**. He considered the whole “fullness of the Gentiles” (τῶν ἐθνῶν - see Romans 11:25) — as many as were appointed to eternal life (see Acts 13:48) — as a “gift” brought as an expression of service. The gospel is making, transforming, *adorning*, a gift-people. You are part of that gift.

> “[D]oubtless this is the priesthood of the Christian pastor, that is, to sacrifice men, as it were, to God, by bringing them to obey the gospel.” —John Calvin

Such an acceptable offering is only possible as **sanctified by the Holy Spirit**. All three persons of the Trinity are working, and all three are honored as the offering is surrendered for His pleasure.

The gospel can be summarized, and, its aims are sweeping, both for each believer and among the nations.

As confident as Paul was in their faith, he was compelled by his bold ambition (also verse 20). In this case, if it's not broke, press the gas pedal.

# Conclusion

Is your character full of goodness? Are you filled with the knowledge of God and His will? Are you ready to come along side your brothers so that they might walk even better in newness of life, for altar-living? If yes, praise the Lord! You’re still not done for the Lord, and in particular, *we all* are being consecrated for presentation to the Lord.

This is group jealousability for serious. The gospel of God is the power of God for salvation, from faith to faith, making an obedient offering to God. The gospel does more than get into your head, it messes with *all* our stuff.


## Charge

Individually, we are meant for altar-living. Corporately, we are meant for completed, consecrated communing, to be an offering acceptable to God. He has purposed our whole group holiness and health. He has bold ambitions for us, to make us pleasing to Him. Live your amen, so let it be.

## Benediction:

> Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.


> The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, 28 ESV)

More from Romans

87: Expecting Company (Pt 1)

February 11, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Romans 15:22–33

Since all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, that includes the personal intros and final messages in a letter. Some of the info is historically significant and clarifies our picture of life in Bible times, here of Paul's travels and toils and concerns. Some of the details resonate for our own gospel growth, examples of projects and perspectives and prayers can still be relevant in our own context. We're not trying to get to Spain via Rome, but we're totally concerned with the blessing of Christ and serving the saints. Paul's tells the Romans his plans in verses 22-24, explains his relief project in verses 25-29, and makes his prayer request in verses 30-33. # Partnership Plans (verses 22-24) Paul almost apologizes for not having been to Rome yet. Why would they have expected his visit? Probably because they were (or at least thought themselves to be) *the* Gentiles of Gentiles. All the places from Jerusalem to Illyricum belonged to the Roman Empire. If God called Paul as a ministering priest to present an offering of non-Jews to God (verse 16), that offering wouldn’t be complete without Romans. How can you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the bread? The bread in this case was never far from Paul's mind or mission. But he'd been busy working the middle. **This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you**, namely, his bold ambition to preach Christ where Christ had not yet been named (verse 20). **But now, since I no longer have any room to work in these regions**, he'd "fulfilled" the work (verse 19), **and since I've longed or many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain.** Spain was unreached territory, he desired **to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while**. He says again in verse 28, "I will leave for Spain by way of you." [map from Corinth, Jerusalem, and Spain] He expected *mutual* encouragement and edification and enjoyment. He wanted them to expect his company, and he expected their **company**, to be satisfied with enjoyment in their presence. He would make a visit, they would visit together. He believed that they believed the gospel; he'd heard the reports of their faith, but without so many problems (like reports out of Corinth and Colosse and Galatia and Philippi). Romans is more systematic in explaining gospel theology than those other letters that requires more specific instructions. Rome was a destination for Paul, just not a final home. His language suggests that Paul might be looking at Rome as a new base of operations. Antioch had been his church-hub, but first century travel and communication made sense for moving the whole support network west. Sharing their company was more than a means to an end, but partnership to push west was his goal. # Service Project (25-29) He had something else to do first. **At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.** Southeast was the opposite direction out of Corinth from Rome. But while taking the good news to new places he'd been taking up a collection for old friends. **For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem**. We happen to know that moneys came in from more than those two locations, and we know this because Paul talks about this collection a *lot* (including 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9). It was personal to him, and he wasn't sure it would be well received (see verse 31). He not only talked about it and supported it, he traveled with it. Why? A couple things to note. First, the word **contribution** is *koinonia*, usually translated as “fellowship”; these funds were a token of fellowship. It's not just that some Haves donated to some HaveNots. It's not mostly a rich and poor, which we know because some gave out of “their extreme poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2). This gift meant sharing, it was an expression of Gentile-to-Jew blessing. The contribution *created* more good than was previously there. Second, the blessings are ordered and connected by Paul. **They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if *ta ethne* have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.** The **share** is the verb form of *koinonia*. The nations/Gentiles shared some of the nation’s/Israel’s share. These are not categories we made up, we get them from God's Word. The ESV has **spiritual (blessings)** and **material (blessings)**, and that resonates, even though “spiritual *things*” and “material *things*” would be the more basic translation (KJV, NASB). But blessing is in view, certainly by verse 29, and the general terms work against our narrowing tendencies. **Spiritual blessings** belong with the gospel of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the power of God in the gospel for salvation to everyone who believes. Spiritual blessings include divine revelation and truth, forgiveness and peace, obedience and joy, knowledge of God's inseparable love and hope. Spiritual blessings include knowledge, goodness of character, and community of one anothers and body life. Spiritual blessings include identity and giftedness and purpose. Spiritual blessings include all the things that make us jealousable, including the ability to properly evaluate and steward material blessings. These are unseen things that belong with our eternal weight of glory. **Material blessings** are tangibles, things such as food and clothing (and with these we can be content, see 1 Timothy 6:8), fruit and profit. These blessings include money to buy needs and even assets, money to invest in business and futures, and money to have in order to give away. Material blessings are cans of peaches, which go best with the spiritual blessings of a can-opener so we can enjoy them (an old illustration from Doug Wilson). “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and He adds no sorry with it” (Proverbs 10:22). Tools build and bless others. Children and grandchildren are actually fleshy blessings and not necessarily spiritual ones (see Psalm 17:14). God gives gracious benefits, of different kinds, and we can observe at least these truths: 1. Spiritual blessings and material blessings can/should be distinguished. Categories are good. 2. Spiritual blessings are greater than material blessings. Priorities are proper. 3. Spiritual blessings are rooted in God's work through the Jews. “To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” 4. Spiritual blessings are no guarantee of material blessings. 5. Spiritual blessings are not threatened by material blessings. All are yours. Being poor is not more spiritual, though saints can be poor, as in Jerusalem. There is no prosperity gospel. And there probably should be another truth added. 6. Material blessings used rightly can increase spiritual blessings. This is part of why Paul cared so much about the contribution, and what he hoped it would accomplish. In the Millennial Kingdom, the New Covenant package of blessings includes new hearts *and* restored land and fruitful trees and whole/healthy bodies. For now, it is a spiritual blessing to recognize and give thanks for material blessings. God is the ultimate source of both, the response of joyful thanks and stewardship apply to both. # Conclusion Paul knew that *koinonia* in Christ could be expressed and INCREASED through *koinonia* in cash/coin. The Christians throughout the Roman Empire were at early stages of changing Western Civilization due to their God-given blessings, and the saints in the chosen nation weren't sure about it yet. This collection increased *koinonia* (between Gentile and Jewish Christians). Material blessings were not merely redistributed. More and better blessings (for all) were created by the giving (of some). That work continues today in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. More to come in the paragraph. ---------- ## Charge With all your blessings—spiritual things and material things—you ought to share and serve and bless. Give as the Lord your God blesses you. Give and it will be given to you. Give in order to create MORE blessings, more fellowship, more joy, more true wealth. ## Benediction: > May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:33 ESV)

86: Bold Ambitions (Pt 2)

February 4, 2024 • Sean Higgins • Romans 15:14–21

We are part of a great offering of nations being sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be presented to God. Paul wrote Romans as part of that gospel work, and the first part of this paragraph lifts us up to the glory in that work. The second half of the paragraph, verses 17-21, belongs with the first part, but is more historical. As I said last week, starting in 15:14 Paul finishes off his letter with more personal than theological issues, and here he’s moving toward why he’s been trying to come and visit the Romans. He’s got bold ambitions. The first part of the bold ambition is that he’s aiming for the nations to be made an acceptable offering to God through the gospel. This has to do with their believing and then obeying the gospel. “Jesus is Lord” is the right confession, and it changes all our conduct and culture. This ambition had been Paul’s aim as an apostle, and his letter to the Romans had included some bold reminders because, though he saw signs of God’s grace among them, he wanted more for them. The second part of his bold ambition is that Paul aimed himself at places that had never heard the the name of Christ. He was what we might call a frontier missionary or pioneer missionary. Lots of jobs in lots of places belong with the preparing of an offering by the gospel, but Paul’s job was especially to take the gospel to places that had no knowledge of it. He’d been choosing his itinerary accordingly. In verses 17-21 he shares his excitement about God’s work through him and shares his ambition to cover even more new ground. (One of my Greek texts — UBS4 has verses 17-21 as one sentence, and the ESV only has two sentences, 17 and 18-21. Another Greek text — THGNT has separate sentences for 17-19, 20-21. My point in mentioning that is to say there’s reasonable disagreement as to where the divisions happen.) # Work Boast (verse 17) There’s a “therefore” or a **then**, connecting this boast to his bold project. > In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. (Romans 15:17 ESV) **Reason to be proud** is the usual word for a boast, a thing that he can “glory” (KJV) in. There’s only so much that Christians are allowed to humble-brag about. Paul is able to make a big deal about “the (things he’s done) for God,” and even still, those were only done **in Christ Jesus**. He’s about to explain what things/work he’s referring to, and it’s already been quite ambitious. # Work Area (verses 18a, 19b) If you’re reading an ESV you can see the dashes, separating off a sort of parenthesis. Before and after those dashes we get a statement of his accomplishments. > For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience…so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; (Romans 15:18a, 19b ESV) **I venture** is related to the world “boldly” in verse 15 (τολμηρότερον and τολμήσω); he was daring in some of his reminders to them but he would not dare in his boasting before them. His reminders were bold, but he’s not so bold as to talk about anything except **what Christ has accomplished through me**. What is that? It’s been the evangelization of parts of Syria and Turkey and Greece. “Resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles” (NASB). Again, **the Gentiles** are the *ethne*, and here is their obedience *of faith*. “The obedience of faith” bookends the entire epistle (1:5, 16:25), and is only used in those two verses. Romans is *the* place to go for justification by faith *alone*. There is no earning salvation by works. And also, the gospel includes a command to believe, and living faith obeys the commands of Christ. This who know the Great Commission hear the connection, we are baptized into Christ and then taught to obey all that Christ commanded. Paul is doing that work among the peoples. Specifically he’s worked **from Jerusalem…to Illyricum**. Illyricum is the area on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea that covers what we now recognize as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, and North Macedonia. That he worked from one and to the other probably he means all the area in between; the names are the edges. ![](http://illyricum-to-jerusalem-scaled.jpg) [source](https://http://www.evidenceunseen.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/illyricum-to-jerusalem-scaled.jpg) And to **have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel** he doesn’t mean that all of them are ready to be presented as the offering to God, but that now those places heard the name of Christ. # Work Means (verses 18b-19a) This insert isn’t an afterthought, but it is a short clarification. It’s not necessary for the sentence, but it does give explanation as to the means of the accomplishment. > —by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God— (Romans 15:18–19 ESV) Paul did more than Francis of Assisi (who supposedly said "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words”), Paul lived and spoke (and wrote). The **deed**s are probably explained by the phrase **by power of signs and wonders**, and the last two words probably “refer to the same events viewed from different aspects” (Murray); a miracle amazes and it points. While preaching and debating, Paul had healed a man born lame in Lystra, he’d expelled a demon from a slave prophetess in Philipp, and he’d raised Eutychus back to life even though he fell asleep during a sermon. These all were brought about by the **power of the Holy Spirit**. # Work Ambition (verse 20) Here’s his particular **ambition**, his aim; he “aspired” (NASB). > and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, (Romans 15:20 ESV) A place where Christ has **been named** is not a place where everyone has become a Christian, but a place where anyone could become a Christian. It’s hard for us to go back and consider what life was like before Jesus. I’ve mentioned before [_The Book That Made Your World_](https://www.amazon.com/book-that-made-your-world/dp/1595555455), and what a privilege to have our own copies of the Bible, but even to live in this generation that stands on the shoulders of Book People. Going through Omnibus, the modern period is dark, but not because the Light hasn’t come. The light is on a stand in the middle of the room, but we’ve put a basket over the light. That was not always the case. Paul was taking the Light into places that had never seen it. By God’s grace so many peoples have heard the name of Jesus, and the apostle John saw in times to come “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9 ESV). And yet according to the [Joshua Project](https://joshuaproject.net) website today there are 17,281 People Groups (*ethne*), with 7,246 still Unreached, some 3.4 billion people. The offering is not ready. Going is NOT the calling/program/ambition of all, but it is the work of some. We wouldn’t say that there are modern apostles, but there are still evangelists and church planters. Others build on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, continuing the sanctification of the offering. # Work Fulfillment (verse 21) Those of us who have complete copies of God’s Word recognize this as Isaiah 52:15. > but as it is written, > > “Those who have never been told of him will see, > and those who have never heard will understand.” > (Romans 15:21 ESV) In Romans 15:17-21, Christ is named explicitly in every verse except 21, which is a prophecy of Isaiah referring to "Him," the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. The salvation of Gentiles was prophesied. In that context are “the world-wide effects of the Messiah’s sacrifice” (Murray). For those who know the context in Isaiah 52:13-15, God’s servant will shut the mouths of kings, He will be their king, and we know Him as “our Lord Jesus Christ” (so named in Romans 15:6, 30). # Conclusion Paul pushed for MORE, unto sanctification and into Spain! If it’s not broke, let’s get further west, and beyond. In one way we are the ends of the earth, 6,742 miles from Jerusalem to Marysville. And also, the offering isn’t ready just yet; the fulness of the Gentiles has not yet come in (Romans 11:25). Let us not take gospel obedience for granted. Children, do you believe it? You know the name of Christ, do you believe and love and obey Him? The gospel is God’s power for salvation both far and near. ---------- ## Charge Beloved, you are probably not boasting enough in what Christ has accomplished through you. And, beloved, you are probably not being ambitious enough in pursuit of Christ accomplishing even more through you. Let your boasts in Christ, and ambitions for Christ, be BOLD. ## Benediction: > Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25–27 ESV)

84: A Welcome Hope

November 19, 2023 • Sean Higgins • Romans 15:7–13

Hope is as good as God’s Word. We learn what hope is, and what our hope is in, from Scripture. The strength and power of our hope comes from the trustworthiness of Scripture. Our confidence in what Scripture tells us to hope for in the future comes from what Scripture reveals about all the realities that God has fulfilled so far. That should sound advent/Christmas related. In fact I’ve used Romans 15:4-13 four times in our annual Christmas Eve service Scripture readings. Just as God promised to send a Savior to earth and did, so also God promised to set up a King in a kingdom on earth, which He will. One good advent deserves another, and here we are learning how to behave and wait—while everyone doesn’t agree on everything—*in hope*. Since the start of Romans 14 the instruction is about living in light of the coming Lord’s unique position. He is the one to whom we will give account, He is our Master, we serve Him. So we can get off our brother’s case regarding his diet choices. We pray for the kingdom to come to earth as it is in heaven, and we reckon that the kingdom is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (14:17). So eat and honor the Lord and give thanks or *don’t* eat, yet still with honor and thanks. Either way, take off the judgy-pants and put on your joy-pants. *Welcome* your brother (15:7), like 14:1. Welcoming is how it started, and welcoming should be how it’s going. How it started was receiving, and how it’s going is still receiving *with hope that it’s going to happen for God’s glory*. For all of the possible problems between people, God’s purpose and God’s power are still on track to accomplish all God’s promises. That’s a reason for hope. # Glorious Welcome (verse 7) Based on God’s granting of unity to glorify Him (verses 5-6), there is responsibility to embrace that unity. > Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7 ESV) **Welcome** is the same word and imperative as opened this section of the letter in 14:1. It has the idea of taking toward (oneself), of receiving as into one’s home or circle of acquaintances. Open the door and invite them in. The strong were told to *welcome* the weak in faith (14:1), and the weak were told to stop judging the eaters because of God’s *welcome* (14:4). The **one another** in 15:7 covers them both. And the standard calls us to level up. Don’t just *welcome* because Christ is Lord, but *welcome* **just as also Christ received you.** Christ bore reproaches of God’s enemies to receive His people, and that all happened **for the glory of God**. But this must also apply to us *welcoming* others like Christ. Do you want to glorify God? It is as obvious as patterning your welcome of the brothers after Jesus, and as onerous. Study the Scriptures for endurance/encouragement/example and welcome your brothers for the glory of God. # Covenant Welcome (verse 8) The welcome of Christ gets higher than divisions about disputable matters and touches people groups. > 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, (Romans 15:8 ESV) This has explanatory power for our welcoming of one another over issues of meat and wine and days and such, but bringing in the Jew/Gentile distinction doesn’t map onto strong/weak differences, as if one ethnicity of Christian necessarily was more able or less able in choices by faith. If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that (almost) anyone can have any problem. That said, the problem between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians was a thing that required a lot of parchment in the first few centuries of the church. The believers in Rome were living with such tensions. Even though most Jews rejected Jesus as Messiah and would not confess Him as Lord, Paul, a Jew (Romans 9:3), said **Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God** (NASB). What is the **truth**? It’s **the promises given to the patriarchs**. And what were those promises? They had heard about a Seed who would save them (Genesis 3:15). The Lord promised to make Abraham a great nation, to bless that people and make them a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3), and to give them promised land (Genesis 13:14-15). Why refer to them as **the circumcision** rather than “Jews” or “Israelites” as previously in Romans? Probably because circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic *Covenant* (Genesis 17:4-13). To the Israelites belonged the covenants and the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and the Christ (Romans 9:4-5). Christ served the circumcised **in order to confirm the promises**. It’s important that Paul does not say in order to *fulfill* the promises, as if all the promises had been *completed* by Christ. They have been **confirmed**, “put beyond doubt” (BAGD), validated. The Gentiles might have thought that God was finished with Israel, but they shouldn’t have. The Jews are welcomed by Christ because of God’s covenant. # Merciful Welcome (verses 9-12) The Scriptures that were given for endurance and encouragement that lead to hope also foresaw a Son of Jacob/Israel that would save *the world*. Salvation blessings were covenanted to Israel and purposed for the nations. > and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Romans 15:9 ESV) The only covenant made with the nations is that God would not destroy them with a flood (Genesis 9), though even that was technically a covenant to Noah, and there weren’t any nations at that point. And yet, while choosing Israel as His national people, God purposed to bring Himself glory through every tribe, tongue, language, and people. He would show them **His mercy**. The good news is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16). All this was *prophesied*. No Scripture proofs were needed to corroborate Christ’s receiving of Jews; it would have been surprising if Israel did not receive God’s mercy. These multiple texts, though, leave no doubt about mercy extended; it shouldn’t have been surprising that Gentiles would receive God’s mercy. Paul weaves together four quotes in a row, from the Law, the Writings/Psalms, and the Prophets. The Jews might not have expected Christ to welcome the Gentiles, but only if they didn’t read their Scriptures. The first Scripture is Psalm 18:49. > As it is written, > “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, > and sing to your name.” (Romans 15:9 ESV) The second Scripture is Deuteronomy 32:43. > And again it is said, > “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Romans 15:10 ESV) The third Scripture is Psalm 117:1. > And again, > “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, > and let all the peoples extol him.” (Romans 15:11 ESV) The fourth Scripture is Isaiah 11:10. > And again Isaiah says, > “The root of Jesse will come, > even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; > in him will the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:12 ESV) Jesus is the Son of David, and it was to David that God covenanted a descendent who would be the King of kings. The Gentiles are welcomed by Christ because of God’s mercy. # Hopeful Welcome (verse 13) Just as I argued that the benediction/prayer ended the previous paragraph (verses 5-6), so this section ends with another fantastic expression of divine blessing. > 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. (Romans 15:13 ESV) The **God of hope** compares with “the God of endurance and encouragement” in verse 5. The reference to the **Holy Spirit** compares to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 6; it’s a Trinitarian project. The God of hope is enabling and empowering **hope**. Three times **hope** in verses 12-13. There is hope for you, hope for me, hope for the world, hope by the Spirit through the Word in the Son of the God of hope. God fills us that we might overflow/**abound in hope**. # Conclusion If we are not allowed to despise a brother over meat, which he can choose, we certainly are not allowed to despise a brother over his ethnicity, which he did not and cannot choose. It’s a welcome hope, as in, a hope better than we were hoping for. It’s also a hope that enables us to welcome others. The only reason we don’t laugh at this international praising project is because we can look back at almost two-thousand years of God’s mercy in the lives of disciples of all nations. The Lord’s covenant and promises are on their way to being fulfilled, but it has not all happened just yet. The promises to the patriarchs are not completed, nor are they consumed in Christ as the terminal end; they will all be fulfilled *through* Him. Our Lord, come! Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His mercy to all peoples, and so welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. ---------- ## Charge Give thanks for the Messiah who confirms promises. Give thanks for the mercy of God that teaches you to rejoice. Give thanks, with all joy, and praise the Lord with your mouths, in songs and at suppers. Look to the Lord who blesses us, and who will return to rule us all. ## Benediction: > 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. (Romans 15:13 ESV)