Summary: Our Scripture today also addresses something that each one of us owes. It’s one of what’s known as the four marks of the church. These are essentials to our faith and are characterized by “Grace-Full Living”.
There’s a cartoon of Snoopy typing a letter on top of his doghouse. The letter begins this way: “Dear IRS.” Snoopy thinks for a moment and then finishes, “I am writing to you to cancel my subscription. Please take my name off your mailing list.” . . . If only it were that easy.
It seems like we always owe something to someone. Those we call bills are also called “debts”, and they come without fail. We pay them, but like weeds, they just keep coming back. There was a man who had a unique way of paying bills. He was overextended and couldn’t pay all of them every month. One month, one of his creditors called him and demanded payment. He said, “Look, the way I pay my bills is to put them all in a hat and pull five of them out. Now if you don’t quit bugging me, next month I won’t even put you in the hat!”
Our Scripture today also addresses something that each one of us owes. It’s one of what’s known as the four marks of the church. These are essentials to our faith and are characterized by “Grace-Full Living”.
If we wish to be in a place of grace, we need to live what are called “the four marks of the church”. They are: “The church is to be one, holy, apostolic and universal church.” Let’s look at these.
1. The church is to be One: Love one another
When we speak of the church as being one, we’re talking about God’s desire for its unity. This goes to our need to care for and love one another. This is our emphasis today.
2. The church is to be Holy: Worshipping God
It’s God’s desire to see the holiness of the church as observed in worship. Simply put, we are to worship God. The church is never to lose its perspective. We keep it by prayer, singing and hearing songs of praise, and by worshipping.
3. The church is to be Apostolic: Growing in Grace
This goes to the need for each of us to be a growing Christian – maturing and being transformed daily by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we grow in grace. We are apostolic when we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, because we are following the teaching of the apostles.
4. The church is to be Universal: the Bible is a Universal Gospel or Truth
It is the mission of the church to reach all peoples, all over the world. The gospel is inclusive. All nations need to hear the message of God’s grace. A fundamental of grace is found in Romans 13:8: Love is our primary debt.
I doubt that many of us here ever really considered “love” to be something you OWE to anyone. Most of us have always thought of love as something “earned” or maybe as some vague but powerful emotion that just overwhelms us without warning. But Paul told the Romans that we “owe” it to others just as surely as owing money to a lender. It’s something that God expects us to give. The reason that Paul gives can be put this way…