Summary: Our attitude determines our altitude as we seek to follow Jesus. Let’s look at Paul’s example so we can learn to respond in love to fellow believers, to those who don’t yet believe, and so we can evaluate our own attitude towards the gospel - the message
Intro: Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in our own concerns and defending our own ideas sometimes that we don’t see the bigger picture of how our attitudes and actions might be affecting those around us. That could have been going on in the church at Rome. Remember the situation at Rome? Paul was writing to a church that was most likely started by Hellenistic Jews, possibly in the early 30’s AD. It may have taken 10 or more years for Gentiles to become part of their number. Almost 20 years after its inception, the church faced a huge dilemma. All the Jews were expelled from Rome, and the Gentiles who had put their faith in Jesus were left to fend for themselves for about 5 years. It was within the next year that several church leaders in Jerusalem gathered to discuss how Gentiles fit into the picture. After hearing testimony from Peter, Paul, and Barnabas about how God had specifically led them to preach the good news to Gentiles and had worked many miracles among them, they agreed that God was not asking the Gentiles to become Jewish through circumcision or Torah observance. They just asked the Gentiles to observe four basic guidelines: avoid eating meat containing blood, avoid eating the meat of animals not properly slain or strangled; avoid fornication and avoid anything to do with idol worship. Other than fornication being forbidden, most scholars view the other guidelines as ways to avoid needlessly offending Jewish brothers and sisters, rather than as moral or ethical issues.
-When the Jews we allowed to return to Rome a few years later, they found that much had changed. It is possible that Jewish feasts and festivals were not being observed. It is possible that the Jewish Sabbath was not being kept. Some Gentiles may have been eating meat that was considered unclean to a Jew.
-It would have been easy for some of the Gentiles to say, “Hey! We were doing just fine before you came back. We don’t need you Jews.” Likewise, it would have been easy for some of the Jews to say, “Hey! You Gentiles have made a big mess of our church, you bunch of dirty pagans! We don’t need you either!” Now it is possible that a few might have started down this path of disunity, which was one of the reasons Paul wrote the book of Romans. It is through this lens that I am viewing these verses today. I believe that Paul is setting an example for the Jews and Gentiles alike to have a Christlike attitude toward one another as they follow Jesus together. You might say that our attitude determines our altitude as we seek to follow Jesus.
-So let’s look at Paul’s example so we can learn to respond in love to fellow believers, to those who don’t yet believe, and so we can evaluate our own attitude towards the gospel - the message about Jesus.
I. Proper Response towards Fellow Believers
Romans 1:8-13 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
1. Thankfulness (8) - Paul was thankful for the believers in Rome- most of whom he’d never even met! He cites his reason for his thankfulness- their faith is being spoken of all over the world. They had put their faith in God and embraced what Jesus had done for them through His life, death, and resurrection. He had made them righteous! They were forgiven! They had been changed from the inside out! No doubt they became sermon illustrations for Paul as he preached the good news everywhere he went.
-Are you thankful for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you find yourself feeling superior to others who don’t worship or believe the way you do? Thank God for them! As long as they are trusting in Jesus for their forgiveness, then their genuine faith will make a difference wherever they go.