Pastor David B. Curtis


Liberty & Unity - Part 6

Romans 15:7-13

Delivered 02/10/2002

We are studying the section of Scripture that runs from 14:1 thru 15:13. The subject is unity of the strong and weak believers. We come this morning to the final section of this argument.

Romans 15:7 (NKJV) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

"Therefore" introduces the concluding paragraph of the section. The conclusion to be drawn by the Christians of Rome from what has been said in 14:1-15:6 is summed up by the command ..."Receive one another"... We are to receive one another, because Christ has received us.

The emphasis of verses 7-13 is the intended character of the church, which is all of us being one in Christ Jesus. Whether we are weak or strong, Jew or Gentile, we are all to be loved and accepted as one in Christ. The final call for unity sums up Paul's argument regarding the weak and strong.

The strong are those who have faith to accept their freedom from the Old Testament law. They have no concern about Sabbath days, or feasts or festivals or dietary laws. They are free so they don't worry about it. For the most part these would be Gentiles. In these verses the words, "meat, weak and strong" are not used again, but two nationalities are considered instead, it would almost seem that the Jew must have been the weak brother and the Gentle the strong, though certainly there were exceptions in both cases. Paul was a Jew, and he was strong.

The weak are those who do not feel in their own mind the freedom from the Old Testament law. They're still observing the Sabbath and feast days and dietary practices. They don't believe they are free from those things so they are weak, weak in faith to accept their freedom. They would generally be identified with the Jews.

So, you can understand the potential for conflict. Historically the Jews and Gentiles hated each other. And even after they became Christians there was still this potential conflict over areas of liberty. The Jew/Gentile conflict is not one we battle today in the Church, but these principles are vary applicable to us today. The conflict over liberty is still very real in the Church today although many of the issues are different.

Romans 15:7 (NKJV) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Here God through Paul tells us to, ..."receive one another"... - this is the same word he used in 14:1, but here it is directed to both groups, the weak and the strong.

The word "receive" is the Greek word proslambano, which means: "to take to one's self, to take into friendship". It is an intense word, it means to grant one access to one's heart, to take into friendship, communion. It has the idea of receiving by pulling something very close to yourself. In order to fully understand this word, let's look at some New Testament uses of it:

Mark 8:32 (NKJV) He spoke this word openly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

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

Acts 17:5 (NKJV) But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

The word "took" is proslambano also. It means: "to pull someone very close."

Acts 18:26 (NKJV) So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

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

Acts 28:2 (NKJV) And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold.

Here proslambano is translated: "made us all welcome."

Philemon 1:12 (NKJV) I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart,
Philemon 1:17 (NKJV) If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.

The word "receive" in both of these verses is proslambano. It 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, "Take intimately to yourself one another."

Matthew 10:40 (NKJV) "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.

How you receive another believer is how you receive Christ and the Father. We are to accept our brothers in Christ even though they differ from us in convictions, standards and backgrounds and even though they have different views of liberty.

This wasn't easy then, and it isn't easy now. We tend to receive only those who are like us and we reject or exclude all those who are different.

Romans 14:5 (NKJV) One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

People are different, and that's hard to accept. If you are serious about your walk with the Lord, and you treat Sunday as the Sabbath, it will be very hard to receive someone who has no regard for days. Or if you think it's a sin for a woman to wear shorts, it's hard to receive a woman who wears shorts. But we are not to set up criteria by which we will receive one another, that's devastating to the unity of the Church. We're to receive others as Christ received us. He is our pattern. Jesus said:

Matthew 11:29 (NKJV) "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

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

Romans 15:7 (NKJV) Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

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 to you 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:

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV) Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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 one another. How did Christ receive people? Let's look at one way in which Christ received people. He received them impartially. Do we?

Matthew 22:16 (NKJV) And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.

Jesus' enemies said of him, "You do not regard the person of men." Are we Christlike or are we respecters of persons?

James 2:1 (NKJV) My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

Saying that we have the faith of Jesus Christ and holding respect of persons is contradictory. To be a respecter or persons is to be unlike God. "Respecter of persons" comes from a compound Greek word made up of "face" and "to lift up." To lift up a person's countenance was to regard him with favor; to evaluate someone on a superficial level; accepting or receiving someone by face value alone. It is biased judgement based on external circumstances, such as race, wealth, social standing or their liberty. WE ALL DO THIS to some degree, let's admit it and deal with it. It is sin!

James 2:2-4 (NKJV) For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

This is an example of partiality. Instead of rich and poor, we could substitute weak and strong.

James 2:8-9 (NKJV) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Jesus Christ is our model, he received people without respect of persons, and we are to do the same. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and we do this when we "receive one another."

Does this mean that we overlook people's sin? Did Christ overlook people's sin? No! We're not talking about believers who are involved in sin, we're talking about believers who differ in areas of Christian liberty. We must deal with sin.

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV) But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

Believers in sin are to be confronted, and if they will not repent, we are to break fellowship with them.

Verses 8-12 of Romans 15 are explanatory proof of verse 7, showing that Christ had received both Jews and Gentiles, and that, therefore, we as Christians should do likewise one with another.

Romans 15:8 (NKJV) Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,

Jesus Christ received the Jews. The term "the circumcision" is used in chapter 3 of the nation Israel, but here the definite article is absent; it's not "the" circumcision but "circumcision." This was the sign and seal of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:1-21). Christ is, therefore, the minister of the covenant of which circumcision was the seal. He came as a minister of the Abrahamic promises in order to confirm them.

"...for the truth of God..." - means in order to be faithful to the truth of God given in the Old Testament prophesies. These promises were made to the fathers - Abraham, Issac, Jacob. They were promises of a coming deliverer. Jesus Christ came to the Jews in order to show that God's promises are true. He received the Jews because of his faithfulness.

Jesus Christ receives Gentiles also:

Romans 15:9 (NKJV) and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name."

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.

To demonstrate the validity of his statement concerning the ministry of Christ and its purpose, particulary the one relating to Gentiles, Paul quoted four Old Testament passages. "As it is written" - these quotations are taken from all three divisions of the Old 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:

Psalms 18:49 (NKJV) Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name.

David is praising God among the nations.

Romans 15:10 (NKJV) And again he says: "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!"

This is from:

Deuteronomy 32:43 (NKJV) "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people."

Here the nations are exhorted to unite in praise with God's people, the Jews.

Romans 15:11 (NKJV) And again: "Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!"

This is from:

Psalms 117:1 (NKJV) Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!

The nations are called to praise God, the word "all" occurs twice.

Romans 15:12 (NKJV) And again, Isaiah says: "There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope."

This is from:

Isaiah 11:1 (NKJV) There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
Isaiah 11:10 (NKJV) "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious."

He is saying here that Messiah shall come from the Davidic line. In him shall the nation's hope - this is a promise of Gentile salvation.

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, Jesus Christ healed the breach between Jew and Gentile:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (NKJV) Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Christ's sacrifice and receiving of both Jew and Gentile brought unity. We are to follow His example and receive each other for the unity of the Church and the glory of God.

Five principles that can be drawn from the text of Romans 14:1 - 15:13:

1. Learn to distinguish between matters of command and matters of freedom (Romans 14:14 and 20).
2. On debatable issues, cultivate your own convictions (Romans 14:5).
3. Allow your brother the freedom to determine his own convictions - even when they differ from yours (Romans 14:3).
4. Let your liberty be limited, when necessary, by love (Romans 14:15).
5. Follow the example of Christ - self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved (Romans 15:7).
Galatians 5:13-15 (NKJV) For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Paul closes this section with a benediction:

Romans 15:13 (NKJV) 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.

The form of this verse is the same as:

Romans 15:5 (NKJV) Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,

It is indirectly 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.

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

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!

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:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NKJV) Rejoice always.

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:

Psalms 16:11 (NKJV) You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 4:7 (NKJV) You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.

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. Look at what Jesus told his disciples:

Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

This is the foundation of our joy, our names are written in heaven. We can always rejoice in our salvation. Because our salvation is unshakeable, our joy should be unshakeable.

Joy is a proper act of appreciation for the work of Christ. When I realize that Jesus Christ bore my sins in His own body on the tree; that Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for me; when I realize that God laid on Him the iniquity of us all; when I realize that I was redeemed not with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ; when I realize that when I was His enemy, and when I was against Him, and a blasphemer and mocker, God sent His Son to redeem me; when I understand that the cross takes away all my sin; when I understand that His perfect substitionary atonement covers me with the righteousness of Christ; when I understand that, therefore, heaven is eternally mine; when I understand all that Christ has accomplished, that gives me an abiding joy that any trivial passing circumstance of life should not affect.

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.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joyand peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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 you're 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.

Our greatest aspiration as believers should be to be like Jesus Christ. Christ received us and we are to receive others. When we do this, when we receive others, we promote unity in the body of Christ, and we glorify God.

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