Romans (26): Christmas with the Gents (Rom. 15)
Romans 15: An Exposition (26) - Christmas with the “Gents”
All Saints * Dr. Gregg Strawbridge * December 21, 2008
Accept each another, then, just as Christ also accepted you, to God’s glory. 15:8 For I tell you that the Messianic Servant was born (of Himself) from among the circumcised to confirm (and fulfill) God’s covenant truthfulness, which promises were made to the fathers, 15:9 and thus the Nations are to glorify God for His mercy. As it is written, “Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name.”(Romans 15:7-9).
The Refrain - Romans 14 is the “application” to the sermon. Be in Christ first. Nothing competes with this fundamental identity because this a matter of Lordship, first and foremost. We must not put Lordship and identity in Christ as secondary (14:4). Practically, we are not to make people into labels of their convictions. Chapter 15 is the Hallelujah Chorus to the book. Handel’s libretto is taken from the “seventh trumpet,” - “The kingdoms of this world [is] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). Romans 15, like Rev. 15, brings Israel’s history to its climax. God through Jesus, has opened the way of mercy to the nations. This is a thick statement summing up whole sections of Romans (ch. 3-4, 9-11). We must strive reach out to those that not like ourselves in this congregation.
The Method - Paul “proof-texting” in the worst way? No, he is nuanced and thoughtful. He even cites Dt. 32:43 in the LXX Greek, not Hebrew, which “authoritative trans.” has an eschatological inclusive emphasis, “praise, you nations, with his people.” KJV 1611 or not, Ps 117 made clear that the goal of praise includes all nations. As John Piper has written, “Let the nations be glad.”Shared worship is central to Paul’s vision.
The Content - Paul concludes with a litany of fulfillment texts. These are all precisely what he began with: the promises to the fathers are being fulfilled in the new covenant church. “Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and thus the Gentiles glorify God for his mercy” (15:8-9). The promise of God is for Jews and Gentiles, all humanity, to come into Christ as a New Man (Eph. 2:15), a new Adam or humanity. The ending of chapter 15 makes clear the “missionary purpose.” Paul is arguing that he should come to Rome to establish the base of a new mission into Spain. This tremendous letter is Paul’s apologetic to bring together the church in Rome so as to establish a stable foundation to reach the rest of the world. This is the only “end that justifies” the means.
The Purpose - The message of unity in Christ over differences of status, ethnic identity and cultural differences, when accepted, becomes the foundational message for church planting. A church that sees the promises of God coming to bear can reach out and establish more churches in different contexts. Remember that Romans 1 reads right through to chapter 15. 1:15 Thus I am eager also to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. . . 15:20 I desire to preach where Christ has not been named, 15:22 This is the reason I was often hindered coming to you. 15:23 But now there is nothing more to keep me in these regions, and I have for many years desired to come to you...”
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more