Summary: Exposition of Rom 12:9-21 regarding Christian fellowship in the body, 1 of 2
Text: Romans 12:9-21, Title: Fellowship is More Than Food, Date/Place: 1/28/07, NRBC, AM
A. Opening illustration: talk about our family vacation to CA to see the country when I was about sixteen, talk about the Redwoods that crowd those coastal valleys vs. the Sequoias inland, and the network of roots interlocked together that hold them up through weather, time, and other assault. Teach koinonia.
B. Background to passage: After an extended teaching on the faithfulness of God to Israel and his plans for them and for his elect, Paul concluded with a wonderful doxology about the wonder of the wisdom of God, thus concluding his second theological section of the epistle. Then chapter twelve begins a section of intensely practical wisdom and commands from the Apostle. We all can quote v. 1-2, and that is where Paul begins—constant renewing of your mind away from the world’s things, and to Christ. Then he gives two applications of this thought in the church. First, he says to operate in the body of Christ with your gifts. Secondly he says to love without hypocrisy-warning about outward displays that don’t conform to realities inward or with God. There is no verb with the first part of verse 9, thus indicating that it is a topical heading for the next several verses. Talk about loving without hypocrisy. Speaking in a very authoritarian list, meant for effect, he gives a list of about 25 things that we should do in living the Christian life in practical way. And this is written to the church, so serves for a good example of real fellowship.
C. Main thought: It is beyond the scope of this message to deal with the entirety of the text, but we will stick with the heading, and pull out six things that we need to work toward for genuine biblical fellowship. We will do three this morning, and three more tonight.
A. Seek family type bonds (v. 10a)
1. Paul begins with a word that is only used here in the NT, it means to love with family like devotion and tender affection. He reminds us of a great truth, that those that are in Christ have been adopted into the family of God. The NT uses much language that was family titles in the first century. But the point is not really the language, as much as it is the feelings and the actions. And some of our families are not good examples. But bad examples not withstanding, we are commanded here to have a special affinity for other members of the body of Christ. It is the one thing that Jesus said would testify to the world that we are truly disciples. If we treat one another as family. In this church, half of you are related by blood anyway.
3. Illustration: by the late second century, even the critics of Christianity acknowledged that they had an extreme devotion and love toward one another, you have heard it said that blood is thicker than water, but Paul says unto you, church membership should be as thick as blood, one writer said that the family metaphor is “the most significant metaphorical use of all” biblical images of the church. Katie coming to live with us in Maine for a few months, think of the closest family that you know,
4. I don’t know if you have been in some of the churches that I have been in, but there are some really mean Baptists out there. And I believe the general opinion in our culture is that most of the time the church is more harsh and unloving in its relationships than outside the church. These things ought not be. Our culture contributes as we have email, instant messaging, cell phones, and palm pilots, but relationally, we are isolated. Most of you don’t know your neighbors well, much less the people in the pew with you. We used to have front porch swings, now we have privacy fences in the back yard. We should be about the business of caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ. If they need food, housing, shelter, love, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, money, advice. We do the same for our blood families. I see that in caring for aging relatives. Sons and daughters will go out of their way, build mother-in-law additions to their houses, go by and check, call, go to doctor visits, shop for them. And they do it all not because they feel compelled to by duty (b/c they could just send them to a home). They do it because they love them. Why don’t we treat those in the pew with the same kind of affection? When someone is going through a hard time, why not take them in your home, or at least under your wing. We call them brother and sister, but we neglect, gossip about, betray, backbite, nick-pick, slander, etc. I can’t tell you how many times in the last 8 weeks I have been told about a member of our church who has quit coming because of something that someone in the church has said or done! And I agree that people should be so sensitive, but if we had a family perspective, we wouldn’t give them that reason. How do we begin to fix it? Remember that it is a growing process, but we must take the initiative. First, we must ask God to soften our hearts, then cooperate with the Spirit of God to develop a consistent mind-set of love toward others, then we must take steps to kill isolation, show ourselves friendly (Pro 18:24), prioritize schedules for it, find needs by getting to know people, then meet them.