Pastor David B. Curtis

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Imitate Christ's Acceptance

Romans 15:7-13

Delivered 01/20/2013

We are studying the section of Scripture that runs from 14:1 thru 15:13. And looking at verses 7 through 13, which really are the closing of the main argument of this Epistle. From chapter 15 verse 14 to the end of chapter 16 is like a postscript. Some additional things are added. The major argument really comes to its climax here in the passage before us.

Paul's subject in this section is about two groups who he calls the "strong" and the "weak." The "strong" seem to be predominantly Gentile Christians. They have no problem eating and drinking whatever they want. They are Gentile Christians who have little appreciation of the Jewish roots of their faith. The burden of this exhortation is on them; they are to make changes for the "weak."

I take the position that the "weak" in Romans are not believers in Yeshua as Messiah. I believe they are part of the elect remnant, but they have not yet embraced the truth about Yeshua. The "weak" are impotent in faith.

In Romans 14-15:13 Paul is calling the Gentiles (the strong) to live righteously, according to halakhah, so as not to cause the unbelieving Jews (the weak) to stumble. Living according to halakhah will demonstrate that they serve the One true God of Israel, Yahweh, and so convince their Jewish colleagues that they really are part of the people of God.

Let's remember that Paul is addressing a situation in Rome that predates the separation of the church from the synagogue as a distinct entity. So the "strong" and the "weak" are worshiping together in the synagogue, and they are very different people from very different backgrounds.

The Jews had heard the Law and the Prophets taught from the time they could understand. They gathered regularly with other Jews to hear the rabbinic teaching. They made pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the holy days where they offered sacrifices to the Lord according to the Law and worshiped Him with the throngs that had gathered in the holy city. They regulated their lives according to the strict interpretation of the Law. They refused to eat what the Law banned. They refused work on the Sabbath. They had nothing to do with idols or pagan rituals or images or the immorality that often served the worship of false gods in the Roman Empire. And they certainly had nothing to do with Gentiles! The Jews held the Gentiles in contempt; they called them dogs. They would have nothing to do with them. The Jews even regarded it as sinful to go into a Gentile's house, and they would never dream of eating with a Gentile. They regarded them with utter contempt.

Then, of course, the Gentiles had no love affair with the Jews either. They hated the Jews. They called them all kinds of names; they looked down on them. This is where anti-Semitism was born. These were opposing factions who hated one another, and would have nothing to do with one another.

The Gentiles had heard the Gospel and trusted Yeshua as Messiah, so they went to the Jewish synagogue to worship Yahweh. With these two groups meeting together you can see where conflict would arise. Paul's point to the Gentiles is that they must strive to live righteously so as to gain a hearing among the Jews that Yeshua, who they worshiped, was the Messiah. This text is about evangelism of the elect remnant of Israel:

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7 NASB

The statement in the Greek begins with the conjunction dio (therefore). Paul's appeal is based on the preceding verses where he explained the goal and effects of the Gospel and the example set by Christ.

"Accept one another"--who is Paul talking to here? This is the same verb used in chapter 14 verse 1 where he was clearly talking to the "strong":

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Romans 14:1 NASB

The main burden in this text is on the "strong"; as Christians they are to accept those who are "weak in faith." But I think the context here would expand this to both the "strong" and the "weak."

We at times use the word "accept" to express a toleration of something undesirable: "You just need to accept it." This is not what Paul is saying. The word "accept" is an intense word. It is not just the simple word "accept," but it is the word "accept" with a strong preposition added to it, which intensifies the word. The Greek word Paul uses for "accept" is proslambano, which means: "to take to one's self, to take into friendship." It is a word which means: "to receive by pulling something very close to yourself." In order to fully understand this word, let's look at some New Testament uses of it:

And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Mark 8:32 NASB

The word "took" is proslambano, its use here is by far its primary use--that of pulling someone in intimately.

and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Acts 18:26 NASB

Here "took" is proslambano and has the idea of: "to pull someone close for some private counsel or communion."

The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. Acts 28:2 NASB

Here proslambano is translated: "received us all," and it has to do with receiving with extraordinary kindness.

If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. Philemon 1:17 NASB

The word "accept" here is proslambano. Paul is telling Philemon to accept Onesimus as he would accept him. And since Paul says to Philemon, "...not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well," it would be safe to say that he would receive Paul very warmly. Proslambano is a rich term that means: "to take to your heart, to give access to you in a very personal way." So Paul is saying in Romans 15:7, "You 'strong' take intimately to yourselves the 'weak.'" This wasn't easy then, we tend to reject or exclude all those who are different than us. The Gentile Christians were prone to look down on the Jews; they had killed the Messiah and were rejecting the New Covenant.

Paul goes on to say, "Just as Christ also accepted us"--who is the "us" that Christ has "accepted"? He has accepted both Jews and Gentiles, as we will see in the context. And so the "strong" and the "weak" were to accept one another.

"Just as Christ also accepted us"--is again making Christ our example. The "strong" were to accept the "weak" in the same way that Christ accepted them. As we saw last week, all believers are to be imitators of God:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB

Christ received us unconditionally. Were we worthy of it? No, not at all. When a believer refuses to accept another into his heart, he is saying in effect, "I know Christ has received me unconditionally, but I require more, I have a higher standard." We're to be like Christ, but too often our selfishness keeps this from happening.

The words, "to the glory of God" may be connected with the first or second clause, but the first seems more consistent with the context--"receive one another that God may be glorified." How important is it for a believer to glorify God?

Most of you have probably heard of the "Westminster Shorter Catechism." It is a catechism based on the "Westminster Confession" that was adopted by the English Parliament in 1648. Its purpose was to provide instruction to children in the essentials of the faith. The first question in that catechism is:

Question 1. What is the chief end of man?

Do you know the answer? The protestant church deemed this so important that they made it the very first question in the catechism, something all children should know. What is the foremost purpose of man?

Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The Scripture teaches us that God created us for His glory:

"I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' And to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made." Isaiah 43:6-7 NASB

Because we are created for His glory, it is the duty of every believer to live for the glory of God:

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB

Glorifying God by our lives should be of utmost importance to us. And we must realize that one way in which we do this is by receiving the lost that we may share with them the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.

Verses 8-12 of Romans 15 are explanatory proof of verse 7, showing that Christ had received both Jews and Gentiles, and that, therefore, they should do likewise:

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, Romans 15:8 NASB

The phrase "For I say" introduces a solemn doctrinal pronouncement. "Christ has become a servant to the circumcision"--the term "the circumcision" is used in Romans 3 and many other places in Scripture of the nation Israel, it is a technical designation of the children of Israel. Jews were synonymously called "the circumcision." There are many passages in Acts and some in Paul's letters in which instead of saying, "Israel" or "the Jews," they are simply called "the circumcision."

All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. Acts 10:45 NASB

The Jews, who are called "the circumcision," were astonished because the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles:

And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." Acts 11:2-3 NASB

The Jews, "the circumcised," were upset because Paul ate with the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. So Christ became a servant to the Jewish people. This means that He became a Jewish man to serve the Jewish people. Notice what Yeshua said in:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 NASB

That's the service in view, the service of dying as a ransom.

"To confirm the promises given to the fathers"--Christ came as a minister to "confirm" the saving promises that God made to the patriarchs. The verb "confirm" is a legal term, denoting the certainty with which the promises would be fulfilled.

This verse, along with Romans 9:6, affirm that the word of God has not fallen, but stands invincible. Romans 9:6 says, "It is not as though the word of God has failed," and here he says, "Christ has come to confirm the promises given to the fathers." The words of God, the promises of God, stand confirmed.

"On behalf of the truth of God"--means in order to be faithful to the truth of God given in the Old Covenant prophesies. These promises were made to the fathers-- Abraham, Issac, Jacob. They were promises of a coming Deliverer. Yeshua Christ came to the Jews in order to show that God's promises are true. He received the Jews because of His faithfulness.

In Luke 1, Mary says, "My soul exalts the Lord," and then she ends this by saying:

"He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever." Luke 1:54-55 NASB

In other words, God is doing in Christ what He told Abraham He would do. That's a glorious thing. Then we see Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit, and hearing of the birth of His own child said:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant-- As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-- Luke 1:68-70 NASB

Christ is bringing salvation to Israel just as the prophets said He would. From the opening promise of the seed of the woman to the concluding promise of the First Testament about the son of righteousness who would arise with healing His wing, the Lord Yeshua gathered all of them up in His ministry and fulfilled them in His death upon the cross.

So Christ came in fulfillment of the promises to die for the sake of His people the Jews. Paul doesn't end there, notice the next verse:

and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME." Romans 15:9 NASB

"And for the Gentiles"--it is not just for the Jews to receive God's mercy, but Gentiles also. In verses 9-12, Paul emphasizes the salvation of the Gentiles. The Gentiles had no direct promises, all their promises came through Israel. The Gentiles glorified God for His mercy. He received the Gentiles because of His mercy.

And so the Lord Yeshua is a minister of circumcision of the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers and, "for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy"--this is beautifully illustrated in the ministry of the Lord Yeshua. There was a Syrophoenician woman who came to the Lord Yeshua one day and:

And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." Matthew 15:22 NASB

What was the Lord's response to her? At first He didn't respond at all, then He said,

But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 15:24 NASB

Here it is stressed that Yeshua had come first of all to win Israel to God. As the Servant of the Lord, He must raise up the tribes of Jacob preparatory to being a light to the Gentiles. "I'm not sent for Syrophoenicians. I'm sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel." And then she came and she said, "Lord, help me." And the Lord responds:

And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." Matthew 15:26 NASB

Being both a Gentile and a woman were double strikes against her. The Gentiles were referred to as dogs by the pious and self-righteous Jews, and women were even lower in their estimation. The children are Jews, the dogs are Gentiles, the bread is the salvation.

The woman responds, Sure you call yourself a Christian and won't help someone in need, you hypocrite! Is that how she responded? No, she said:

But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Matthew 15:27 NASB

She humbly admitted that salvation was for Israel. If her spirit had been haughty, full of pride and boasting, she would have resented it, and have asked no more. She would have turned away. She took her place as a Gentile to be blessed through Israel. And Yeshua said:

Then Yeshua said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. Matthew 15:28 NASB

Because of the humility and faith of this Gentile woman, she received the answer to her prayer. Yeshua is teaching us here that it is ultimately faith, and not physical Jewishness, that determines the blessing of God.

When the Jews in the synagogue saw the Gentiles coming in and worshiping Yahweh it shouldn't have surprised them. They should have known that it was God's plan to save the Gentiles. God had foretold the Gentile salvation:

A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Thy people Israel." Luke 2:32 NASB

Here Simeon spoke of the Lord Yeshua as a "light of Revelation to the Gentiles," which was a citation from Isaiah 42:6. In Luke chapter 4, when Yeshua was welcomed by His own people at the synagogue in Nazareth, Yeshua made it clear that the salvation He had come to bring was for Gentiles as well, a disclosure which reversed the attitude of the people so that they now tried to kill Him. (Luke 4:16-30)

"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 NASB

The "Servant" here is the Lord Yeshua Christ. Notice that He, Yeshua, is to bring "justice to the nations." Yeshua quotes this of Himself in Matthew 12:28: "He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles"--This is the establishment of the kingdom that involves the calling of the Gentiles.

God prophesied His purpose to Abraham in the first book of the Bible:

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Genesis 12:3 NASB

Later God told him, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). That seed of Abraham was not just the Jewish race, but specifically Yeshua the Christ, God's promised Redeemer. In the last book of the Bible, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fall down before the Lamb and sing:

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." Revelation 5:9-10 NASB

Thus God's purpose is to glorify Himself through the salvation of His elect from every

nation through the seed of Abraham, Yeshua the Christ.

Paul hopes that when the "stumbling" of Israel witness "obedient" Gentiles calling on the name of the Lord, they will realize that the ingathering of the nations (Gentile salvation) is taking place before their very eyes, which means that the eschatological restoration of Israel has in fact already begun, as promised, and they will be provoked to reconsider the Gospel of Yeshua.

To demonstrate the validity of his statement concerning the ministry of Christ and its purpose, particularly the one relating to Gentiles, Paul quoted four First Testament passages. "As it is written"--these quotations are taken from all three divisions of the First Testament: the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. And from three great Jewish heros: Moses, David and Isaiah.

In verse 9b Paul quotes:

Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Your name. Psalms 18:49 NASB

When David had been delivered from his enemies, he broke forth in a great Psalm of deliverance, declaring the Lord to be his rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of his salvation, stronghold, and refuge. As he reflects on the Lord's delivering power and how he had been rescued from all his enemies, he speaks of praising the Lord "among the Gentiles." David understood his victories as foreshadowing the ultimate victory of His greater Son, the Lord Yeshua who would not conquer Gentiles politically, but rule over them as Savior and Lord.

Again he says, "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE." Romans 15:10 NASB

This is from:

"Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people." Deuteronomy 32:43 NASB

Moses calls for the nations or the Gentiles to join with Israel in praise, abandoning their gods and idolatry to worship the Lord God. Yahweh's call to the nations to rejoice suggests they are going to share in the blessing of Israel's restoration.

The song is, in effect, a summary of the history that Paul has been outlining in the letter, showing how Israel missed the purpose of her calling and how the Gentiles have been brought in to bring glory to God:

And again, "PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES, AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM." Romans 15:11 NASB

This is from:

Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD! Psalms 117:1-2 NASB

The two-verse Psalm is a summons to the nations to worship the Lord in praise of His love and faithfulness. At face value, it is a plea from the Jewish community to the Gentiles to join in the worship of Yahweh.

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 15:12 NASB

This is from:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1 NASB

Then in that day 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. Isaiah 11:10 NASB

As "the root of Jesse," Yeshua is David's greater Son. Here is messianic language explaining that the Messiah's purpose would be to rule as King over Gentiles just as He does over Jews and for the Gentiles to hope or trust in Him just as the Jews are to hope in Him. Because they have this common hope they are to join in united worship as people who accept one another in Christ.

Isaiah envisions a day when the promises for a transformed world will be fulfilled (Isaiah 11:1-9), and Israel will experience a second exodus (Isaiah 11:11-16). Paul no doubt understands this prophecy as being fulfilled in part through his ministry. Yeshua, as the shoot of Jesse, has inaugurated the salvation promised in Isaiah, and he has begun to rule over the Gentiles.

In saying that Yeshua was to rule over the nations, Paul is making a significant political statement. Many in Rome must have hoped desperately that no representative of the Imperial household was present when this statement was read out. It was a direct challenge to the power of the state to say that God would raise His Christ above the nations, and all would bow to him.

The Gentiles must remember that Christ became a Jew to save them (the Jews); that Christ came among them in order that all the families of the earth might be blessed; both must realize that the aim was to promote God's glory. By His sacrificial love, Yeshua Christ healed the breach between Jew and Gentile.

Paul closes this section with a benediction:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NASB

It is indirectly a prayer to God and combines invocation and exhortations. Paul calls God the "God of hope"--this means both that He is the origin of hope and the object of hope. Hope in the New Testament is favorable and confident expectation. It has to do with the unseen and future:

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:25 NASB

Our hope gives us endurance. Our God is a God who gives us hope; hope is a precious thing. We could get very discouraged at times if we didn't have hope. Our hope is heaven! This world is not all there is!

Compare these two verses:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 NASB
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NASB

We see here that what in one place is attributed to the Holy Spirit, in another is attributed to the Bible--hope comes from the Scriptures. Hope comes as the Holy Spirit enlightens believers to understand and trust the promises of God in Scripture. If you've lost your joy and peace, it's because you've taken your mind off of God and become focused on your circumstances. As we focus on the Lord through the Scriptures, our faith will grow and our faith in God will give us hope and joy and peace.

Paul prays that God will fill these believers with "joy and peace." Joy is a settled state of mind, which is synonymous with peace. It is an attitude that enables us to view the world with all of its ups and downs with a level headedness. There's plenty of reason in the world in which we live to be sad, distressed, disturbed, upset, concerned, anxious, stressed out, full of fear and doubt, but not for the Christian. We are commanded to rejoice always:

Rejoice always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 NASB

Joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God. Joy is an act of proper response to the character of God. Joy starts because I know my God is sovereign, gracious, loving, merciful, kind, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and He has my well being in mind. I know my God, and I can rejoice in my God. I can't always rejoice in my circumstances, but I can rejoice in the God who controls my circumstances:

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalms 16:11 NASB

God is the source of joy. All men seek to be happy, to have joy, but it is only truly found in the Lord. He is our source of joy. If you are a believer, you always have a reason to rejoice.

Paul asks God to, "Fill you with all joy and peace in believing"--"in believing" is the secret of everything. Our life must first of all be a life of faith, and from faith comes joy, peace, and hope.

This is the climax of the Epistle to the Romans and this statement "in believing" recalls the central theme of the book, that men are justified by faith in the Lord Yeshua the Christ and justified in the sense that when they believe in Him they are given a righteousness that is acceptable to God.

Paul is saying that in the death and resurrection of Yeshua, God showed His faithfulness to the Jews in fulfilling the promises made to the patriarchs; and He showed His mercy to the Gentiles, saving them who were without any promises at all. Thus the two, Jew and Gentile, have become one in Christ.

Christ became a servant to bring redemption to His people. He accepted both Jew and Gentile, and we are to follow His example:

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7 NASB

The Romans were to accept each other, just as Christ accepted them to the glory of God, and I believe we are to do the same. Just as Christ has accepted us unconditionally, we are to reach out to the lost, accepting them as we have been accepted, that we may influence them with the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.

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