Christ Our Hope, Part One
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 15, 2012
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
The ultimate purpose for all creatures of God is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to follow the example of Christ himself. We are to live to the Lord and die to the Lord. We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to do all for God’s praise.
As people of God, we recognize that we are all different. Some are weak and others are strong. Some have little faith; some have great faith. We come from different cultural backgrounds. Some are Jews; most are Gentiles. But we all try to please God by living according to the holy Scriptures. Paul told us in Romans 15:5–6 that we are to worship God with one mind, one accord, and one mouth. The Holy Spirit, who indwells all true believers, enables us all to worship God acceptably in unity.
In Romans 15:7–13, we are coming to the conclusion of the doctrinal and ethical section of this great epistle to the Romans. Now Paul is summarizing the exhortation to receive one another, which he began in Romans 14:1. In Romans 15:13, Paul again prays for all believers that we may live for God with the fullness of joy and peace, overflowing with hope of our sure and final salvation that will take place at the parousia.
Christ our Example (v. 7)
First, Paul writes that we are to receive one another following the example of the Messiah (v. 7). Jesus received us all—weak and strong believers, vegetarians and meat eaters, Jewish and Gentile believers. The Father loved all of us and chose us to salvation and glory from all eternity in his Son. So the Father planned our salvation. The Son agreed to save all of us whom God had given to the Son that he may save them from their sins by accomplishing their redemption by his incarnational life, death, and resurrection. And in the eternal council, the Holy Spirit agreed to apply this redemption to all the elect without regard to the outward appearance of an elect sinner. Christ received us without reservation into his heart. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. Nearer we cannot be. What great intimacy! In one sense, Christ received us all from eternity past. He will never divorce us, for God hates divorce. Christ received us for the glory of God the Father, as this text tells us. He did all things to please his Father. The unbeliever and the backslidden Christian do all to please themselves without regard to pleasing anyone else. Christ did exactly what his Father wanted him to do. He did the will of God with great delight. Doing the will of God was his food. He prayed, "I have brought you glory [honor] by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
Jesus receives and saves only sinners. We can come and tell him how great we are; if we do so, he will not save us. We must come, as the hymn says, "Just as I am, without one plea.” Why? Because Jesus did not come to seek and save the righteous; he came to save sinners.
Christ receives sinners without discrimination. In the same way, we are exhorted to receive one another. Before, Paul told the strong to receive the weak. Now it is the responsibility of all, weak and strong, to accept one another. We are all members of God’s family; we are all God’s children. Each must receive the other because Christ has received us. And we are to do so even as Christ has received us, without any reservation. We are to love one another as we love ourselves. We are to welcome one another into our hearts and homes. We are to lay down ourselves for our fellow believers. Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Christ showed his love for us by dying for us.
We must forgive one another even as God in Christ has forgiven all our sins. This is not optional; it is the new command of Jesus Christ. And we are to receive one another in this way for the glory of God. If we do not receive one another, whom God has received and Christ has received, we dishonor Christ and our heavenly Father.
The triune God has received us; therefore, God’s holy church must receive one another and thus glorify God. This means we are to fellowship with all God’s people. Fellowship is created by the Holy Spirit, as we read in this benediction: "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will receive one another as Christ received us.
If we do not receive all God’s children, then we are not God’s children. If we don’t forgive God’s people, we are not God’s people. It is by our love for one another that the world will know that we are Christians.
There is no essential difference between weak and strong, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, masters and slaves. Christ find us all as powerless, sinners, enemies of God, dead in sins, and under God’s wrath. Paul writes, "There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22–24).
God justified us freely by his grace and united us to himself and to one another. Paul says, "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11). Elsewhere he explains, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Eph. 2:19). And again, "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6).
Christ: God’s Servant
How did Christ receive us? Verse 8 of Romans 15 explains verse 7. Christ received us by his diaconal service of obedience to the Father’s salvation plan. In verse 8 Paul reveals a solemn truth: Christ has become a deacon, a lowly servant of the circumcision.1 The Old Testament promised a Messiah, a Spirit-anointed deliverer, a suffering servant. So Isaiah says, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Isa. 61:1). Christos means "Anointed One,” speaking of the Holy-Spirit-anointed One, the competent deliverer.
This One was the sinless Son of God. He himself said, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?” (John 8:46). Governor Pilate declared three times: "I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38; John 19:4, 6). The writer to the Hebrews says, "Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).
"In the fullness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law [that is, as a Jew] to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:4–5, author’s wording). Because of the sufferings of the eternal Son as a servant of God, we have become sons of God with rights and privileges. Of Christ, Paul writes, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even [the most horrible] death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6–8).
Christ became our servant. Jesus himself asked, "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
Christ became a servant of the circumcision. God gave to Abraham the sign of circumcision to seal his covenant with him. And he said to him, "This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen. 17:10).
God did not make a separate covenant with the Gentiles. Paul says they were "foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12–13). Salvation is of the Jews, of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. And it was Jewish apostles who proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles, as Paul declares: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). Paul also writes, "In him we were also chosen … in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:11–13).
Jesus told the Canaanite woman, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). But the truth is, Gentiles were included in the Abrahamic covenant. The Lord told Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). Later the Lord gave more insight to Abraham: "Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Gen. 22:18, italics added). That offspring is Jesus Christ.
So Paul explains, "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:8–9). Earlier in Romans Paul wrote, "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law [that is, the Jewish people] but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (Rom. 4:16–17).
So Jesus Christ became a servant of the Jews, the text says, "on behalf of God’s truth.” This means that Christ came to prove the truthfulness, the veracity, the reliability, the dependability of God and his covenant promises to the Jews, and, through them, to the Gentiles.
Christ is the proof of God that God can be trusted in everything he says— both his promises and his threatenings. Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ? If not, you are a rebel, a self-righteous, wicked person who says that God himself cannot be trusted.
We know God can be trusted. But what about us? Can we be trusted in what we say? Can we be trusted in our marriages? Can we be trusted in our business dealings? (PGM) Can we be trusted when we commit ourselves to God’s church to do what is right? Can we be trusted when we say, "Jesus is Lord,” and are baptized? The people of God must be trusted because they are God’s children and God can be trusted.
Think about it. Man lies, but God does not. "God is not man that he should lie, not a human being that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Earlier Paul wrote, "Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Elsewhere Paul again says that God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). He cannot do certain things. He cannot sin, nor is he the author of sin. And we are told, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). Jesus Christ fulfills every promise God has made.
God is truth. Jesus Christ is "the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. The devil is a liar and the father of all lies. Abraham believed God and was about to burn up his son Isaac as demanded by God, though the Messiah was to come through Isaac. Why? "Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:19). Abraham believed the veracity of God’s promise that the Messiah would come through Isaac.
Have you believed the gospel, which Christ the servant came to accomplish and proclaim? As we read, "Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matt. 16:21). Christ is God’s servant in accomplishing our redemption. Have you believed "the gospel of God concerning his Son” (Rom. 1:1–4)? If you refuse to believe this gospel, you are declaring that God is a liar. He will surely judge you on the last day.
We cannot live one moment without accepting human testimony. John states, "We accept human testimony.” But then he continues, "but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar” (1 John 5:9–10). Whether they accept it or not, every unbeliever is saying that God is a liar, Christ is a liar, and the Holy Spirit is a liar. At the same time, with the same mouth, they are saying they are righteous and do not need a Savior. They have "made [God] out to be a liar because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.” So Paul declares that Christ came as God’s servant to confirm, that is, to fulfill God’s covenant promises to the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is the purpose of incarnation. After two thousand years, God through his Son, the suffering servant, fulfilled his promises to save all his people, Jews and Gentiles.
Do not despise the Jews, because salvation is of the Jews. Do not despise the Gentiles, for they were included in the Abrahamic covenant. By his death, Christ atoned the sin of all whom God chose from eternity and gave to his Son that he may save them.
The salvation of the Gentiles was anticipated in the Old Testament. It was not an afterthought. So as a servant of the Jews to prove the reliability of God by fulfilling God’s promises to the fathers, the Son was sent by God, so that the Gentiles also would worship God.
Christ Our Hope
God’s anointed one, Jesus Christ, lived, died, and rose again, that all those who believe in Christ, Jews and Gentiles—yea, all the families of the earth—may be saved from God’s own wrath, so that all believers with one mind, one accord, and one mouth may worship God. Now, in verses 9 through 12, Paul quotes four Old Testament scriptures to prove his point that God’s salvation reaches not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. These four quotations come from all parts of the Old Testament Scriptures: the law, the prophets, and the writings.
The Scripture is our final authority. When the Scripture speaks, God himself is speaking. And when the Scripture speaks, all arguments must cease. So, for example, when we read, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25), that should be the end of the argument.
First, then, Paul quotes Psalm 18:49, which speaks of the Messiah singing among the conquered Gentiles. The Messiah conquers us first, so that we may confess him as Lord. He is singing among the Gentiles that they may hear, believe, and join in.
The second quote, Deuteronomy 32:43, commands the Gentiles to worship God with his people Israel. This is what was happening in the Roman church. Jews and Gentiles, on equal footing, were fulfilling this prophecy by their united worship and praise of God.
In the third quotation, Psalm 117:1, God commands the Gentiles themselves to sing to the Lord—not to their respective gods, but to the true and living triune God. The gods of the Gentiles are demons. The Gentiles must abandon all their idols of demons and worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we evangelize and witness to the whole world. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”
Finally, Paul quotes Isaiah 11:10, which specifies that the Gentiles will hope in the Jewish Messiah. The Root of Jesse and the Son of David, Jesus Christ, was and is Jewish. This Messiah (the Root of Jesse) "will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” Christ is our hope. There is no other Savior than the Jewish Messiah: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by God whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Gentile Philippian jailer cried out in terror, "What must I do to be saved?” And the answer came, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Have you put your trust in Jesus Christ? Revelation 22:16 speaks of Jesus as "the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” These are messianic titles. There is no other Messiah. There is no other Savior. There is no other King. There is no other God but Jesus Christ our Lord. All peoples of the earth are to abandon their idolatrous religions and bow their knees to Jesus Christ and confess with their mouths, "Kurios Iêsous,” "Lord Jesus.”
Christ Our Mercy Seat
The Gentiles worship God as a result of the atoning work of the Messiah. They worship God huper eleous ("because of mercy,” v. 9), that is, his mercy shown to them. Every sinner is saved by mercy alone. Jews are saved by God’s mercy as are the Gentiles. "There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22–23). All are spiritually dead. Everyone has become an enemy of God in thought and action. Everyone is under God’s wrath. Everyone is to be destroyed. We are all enemies of God until God conquers us.
Yet God shows mercy to all who repent and believe in the person and atoning work of Christ, God’s mercy seat. God pities us and shows us unmerited favor. In mercy he gives eternal life to those who merited eternal death, as we read, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts [total obedience]. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:3–5). Elsewhere Paul declares, "Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of [the Jewish people’s] disobedience, so [the Jews] too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Rom. 11:30–32). And in Romans 12:1 Paul says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies …” He also exclaims, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3, author’s wording). One mercy after another mercy comes to us daily all the days of our lives.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
pardon there was multiplied to me;
there my burdened soul found liberty,
Faith in Jesus Christ is the only requirement for both Jews and for Gentiles. The publican believed and prayed, "Have mercy upon me, a sinner!” and he went home justified. He went home singing and dancing and praising God for mercy. Rahab the prostitute believed and received mercy. Ruth the Moabitess believed and received mercy. The Canaanite woman whose daughter was demonized believed and received mercy. The dying thief from the cross believed in Christ and received mercy and went to paradise.
That saving faith is granted to us by God as a gift: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9); "For it has been granted to you [as a gift] on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29). Believing in Christ is a gift that God grants to all his people. There is no discrimination at the foot of the cross of Christ. Are you are a Gentile dog? Jesus says, "Come unto me, I will give you rest.” Are you are a Jewish sinner? "No problem,” Jesus says to you. "Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”
Therefore, let me ask you: Have you gone to him for mercy? Have you trusted in this Christ and hoped in him who became God’s servant and accomplished our redemption? Have you gone to him for mercy as a sinner, saying, "Just as I am, without one plea”?
I invite you to come to him now. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today, so that you may join all God’s people in heaven and on earth in worshiping God and saying, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev. 5:12).
1 What the New International Version translates as "a servant of the Jews” is literally "a servant of circumcision.”
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Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™