A LIFE OF SERVICE

Romans 15:1-13

 

The book of Romans presents the freedom that we have in Christ.It is a freedom from sin and a freedom from ceremonial obligation.It is also a freedom to serve.That is what Tim Keller calls the ďupside downĒ aspect of the kingdom.We donít usually equate freedom with service.We tend to think just the opposite.We tend to think that, if you are free, then you do not have to serve.We tend to think that, if you are free, that means others are there to serve you.

 

There is a point to that.The reason you are free is because there is One who performed the greatest possible deed of service in your behalf.The holy Son of God left heavenís splendor to come and serve you.Now He calls you to go and to do the same to others.Being united to Christ is a call to come and to serve.

 

 

SERVICE TO OTHERS

 

††††††††††† Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. (Romans 15:1‑2).

 

These two verses give a summation of everything Paul has been describing in the previous chapter. In that chapter, he called for the strong to stop judging the weak and for the weak to stop judging the strong.He also called for the strong to be ready to limit their liberty for the weak so as not to offend or to be the cause of stumbling for a weak believer.

 

Now the strong believer is called to do even more.Rather than being called merely to refrain from causing the weak believer to stumble, the strong believer is called to actually bear up and support and edify and build up the weak believer.

 

I worked for many years in the fire-rescue service.It was my job to respond to emergency scenes and to help people who were in need.I didnít get there and say, ďYou folks need to be stronger so that I can stay back at the station and play checkers.ĒNo, my whole reason for being in that profession was to bear the weaknesses of those who were in need.

 

The Christian is called to grow and to be strong, not just so that he can look in a mirror and admire his spiritual muscles, but so that he can be of help and of service to those who are not strong.We are to be in the construction business ó the business of building up other believers.

The problem is that we live in the age of personal gratification.Paul says that we are not to just please ourselves and this stands in contrast to a world system that says, ďPlease yourself

 

 

THE EXAMPLE OF CHRISTíS SERVICE

 

††††††††††† 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me."4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:3‑4).

 

Notice the flow of thought as it continues from verse 1.It is seen in the repetition of the word ďplease.Ē

 

Verse 1

Verse 2

Verse 3

We are not to be only pleasing ourselves

We are to please our neighbor for his good

Even Christ did not please Himself

 

Our example is Jesus.His entire earthly ministry was about serving others.He was not born to enjoy pleasures.He could have continued to enjoy all the pleasure of heaven by staying there and by not coming to earth.But He determined to serve others rather than His own pleasures.Instead of a life of relaxation and self-gratification, Christ chose to take the reproaches of the world upon Himself.He did that for us.He did that to be of service to us.

 

Paul cites an Old Testament passage that was Messianic in its scope.If you look back to the Old Testament, you will find that this same concept of the Messiah coming to serve others and to please them instead of pleasing Himself is an Old Testament concept.The quote is taken from Psalm 69:9.

 

For zeal for Thy house has consumed me,

And the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9).

 

John 2:17 tells us that after Jesus cleansed the temple of the moneychangers and those buying and selling, the disciples recalled this passage as being a picture of the zeal that was demonstrated in Jesus.From that same Psalm, Paul focuses upon the second stanza and notes that it is also a picture of Jesus.

 

There are those who look at such Psalms and sayings in the Old Testament and do not see Jesus there.Some scholars are quick to point out that Psalm 69 is a Psalm of David and that the experiences described therein are Davidís experiences.I agree.But there is more to the Psalm than only the experiences of David.It also foreshadows and looks forward to the greater Son of David.It looks forward to Jesus and that tells me something about the Old Testament.It tells me that whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction.The Old Testament is not a closed book to us and it is not a useless book to us.It exists for our instruction and we ought to read it for our instruction because it tells us about Jesus and it teaches us to hope for what will take place in the future.

 

The central message of the gospel is summed up in the statement that the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me.The gospel tells us how the anger of man against God was brought to a head and placed upon Christ and that this was accomplished as the ultimate work of service on our behalf because it was that very reproach that God used to atone for our sins.

 

Manís Action

Godís Action

Put Jesus on the cross as a sign of their hatred of God

Took the action of Jesus on the cross to become the salvation of men

An act of hate

An act of love

 

Paul has already noted that it was while we were enemies of God that Christ died to save us.Now he shows that the very thing that was meant as an act of hatred against God was used by God for our salvation.

 

 

A PRAYER FOR UNITY

 

††††††††††† 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5‑6).

 

Someone wrote a book a few years ago about the Prayer of Jabez and it became a best seller because its focus was on what you can get from God.By contrast, this prayer has as its focus what you are to do for others.

Verses 5 and 6 are given in the form of a prayer.This is Paulís prayer for the Romans.At the end of this chapter, he will ask the Romans to pray for him (15:30-31), but for the time being, he prays for them.Paulís prayer is directed to the God who gives perseverance and encouragement.There is a reason that God is described in such a way.He is described this way because we, His followers and worshipers, are also to be in the business of giving perseverance and encouragement.

 

Paul prays that the Lord might make his readers at Rome to be of the same mind with one another.He told them to be of the same mind toward one another in Romans 12:16 and now he prays to the Lord that this might take place within them.

 

This unity of mind is to be according to Christ Jesus.The reason we can be of the same mind is that we have the mind of Christ and we are to think as Christ thinks.That is an important distinction.Too often, we see Christians who are busy browbeating other Christians to get them to think their way.But if we take on the mind of Christ, we will all start thinking together without having to engage in such activity.

 

What is the mind of Christ?How do we hold to the same mind according to Christ?We determine to take the attitude and actions of a servant, even as Christ took the role of a servant.We seek to build up the kingdom of God rather than building up our own private petty kingdoms.We do all of this as we seek to bring glory and honor to the Lord rather than seeking our own glory and honor.

 

 

CHRISTíS SERVICE TO THE GENTILES

 

††††††††††† 7 Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Thy name."10 And again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people."11 And again, "Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him."12 And again Isaiah says, "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope." (Romans 15:7‑12).

 

This section begins with a command.It is a command to accept one another.Do you see what has happened?Paul prayed in verses 5-6 that God would grant the Roman believers to be of the same mind and now, on the basis of that prayer, he commands them that they accept one another.

 

Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15:7

May God grant that you be of the same mind

Accept one another, acting as though you were of the same mind

 

Part of this need for mutual acceptance came from the diverse backgrounds of those within the church.It was made up of men and women, slaves and free, poor and rich.Yet the greatest social barrier was not any of these.The greatest social barrier was the one that existed between Jew and Gentile.It is for this reason that Paul goes to considerable lengths at this point to explain how the coming of the Gentiles into the church was always a part of Godís plan and program.He introduces this idea in verses 8-9:

 

The serving ministry of Jesus was to...

The Jews

The Gentiles

He became a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth by confirming the promises given to the fathers...

Those promises given to the fathers told of how the Gentiles would come to glorify God.

 

The fact that the Gentiles would come to glorify God and become part of the church was promised, at least in part, in the Old Testament.That means the action of Jesus in bringing Gentiles into the church was a service that God was doing on behalf of the Jews because it was a part of keeping that Old Testament promise to the Jews.

 

Paul quotes four different Old Testament passages in rapid succession to show how the Old Testament promised that the Gentiles would become part of Godís chosen people.

 

Psalm 18:49

Therefore I will give thanks to Thee among the nations,

O LORD, And I will sing praises to Thy name.

Deuteronomy 32:43

Rejoice, O nations, with His people!

Psalm 117:1

Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples!

Isaiah 11:10

Then it will come about in that day

That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse,

Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;

And His resting place will be glorious.

 

The point Paul makes by quoting these four passages is that a part of the Old Testament promise to the fathers for the coming Messianic kingdom was to be that this kingdom would involve the Gentiles coming to praise and worship the Lord.

 

 

A HOPEFUL BENEDICTION

 

††††††††††† 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. (Romans 15:13).

 

The previous verse ended with a reference to hope.It spoke of the root of Jesse, a reference to Jesus, and how in Him shall the Gentiles hope.Paul picks up that same thread as he gives a benediction from the God of hope.That is a wonderful title for God.

 

As oxygen is to the body, so is hope to the soul.Hope is like a trapeze artist who hopes the hands will be there to catch him.There is a confident assurance as he lets go his secure perch and flies through the air, but there is also a momentary gap as he hurtles through the air and just prior to the connection of the hands of safety and security.It is in that time of hurtling that you find hope. ó TJ Campo

Hope is a part of our Christian faith.Indeed, hope has been defined as faith in the future tense.We have faith in what Christ has accomplished in the past, we have faith in Godís work in the present, and we look in hope to that which He will bring about in the future.

 

Paul gives a benediction here.It is given in the form of a prayer.He has already prayed for the believers at Rome, but now we see the close of that prayer.He prays that the God of hope would give that which would allow the Roman believers to abound in hope.

 

God of Hope

(Would do...)

That you would abound in hope

How does He do this?

 

What does the God of hope do that results in you abounding in hope?He fills you with all joy and peace in believing.That is merely a shorthand way of saying that He fills you with His Holy Spirit so that this same Spirit bears the fruit of the Spirit in your life.

 

God of Hope

Fills you with His Spirit

That you would abound in hope

Results in the fruit of the Spirit

 

Do you want to be filled with hope in this hopeless world?You donít get hope by trying to be hopeful.You get it by being filled with the Spirit and you get it as a byproduct of the Holy Spirit working in and through you as you serve others.

 

 

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