Summary: how Paul worked for unity in Rome so they could grow in Scriptures and have hope of salvation

December 9, 2001 Romans 15:4-13

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9 so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dear friends awaiting the Coming of Christ,

As you look at this cup, is it half empty or half full? This kind of question is made it have you reflect upon the way you look at life. Are you an optimistic person or a pessimistic person? With many of us I think it depends on the time of year, what kind of day, or what period of life we are in. Whereas we would like to be optimistic all of the time, it’s a difficult attitude to achieve.

Maybe that’s what made Paul such an interesting person. Even in just reading his letters you can sense an over riding attitude of optimism, joy, and hope. And in this letter to the Romans, he prayed that they might have the same kind of hope. The exact phrase that he uses is, “that we might have hope”.

Is that what Advent is all about? It’s about hope. Looking forward to not only the first coming of Christ, but also the second coming of Christ. And so as we look at this letter to the Romans, we will also pray with Paul, that

We Might Have Hope

I. In a hopeless situation

When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, he wasn’t writing it with the intention of staying in Rome long. He had actually planned on making Rome his basis for going farther west - to Spain. This congregation in Rome would only be his stepping stone to the west. But when you cross a river, you need to pick stones that won’t give way while you’re stepping on them. This congregation in Rome was already well founded. The only problem with it was that it was an odd shaped rock. It seemed to be made up of different kind of sediments and crushed together - in an almost fragile manner. Paul wasn’t ready to step on it yet. So he wrote this letter to shore up the base at Rome - to make sure they were a solid church.

What made this congregation so strange? It was made up of an odd combination of Jews and Gentiles. This would be like putting K-State and Nebraska fans in the same stadium to cheer for the same team. One would want to call the name the Huskers, while the other would want to wear purple. How could they ever come together? It wouldn’t be easy. The same was true of these Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were used to living under their Old Testament regulations - with circumcision being the norm, and the well known worship forms from their synagogues. But the Gentiles, on the other hand, had a totally different background. They were used to worshiping idols, and had grown up in sexual immorality and violence. Now that both were converted to Christianity, it was a virtual hodgepodge of backgrounds and experiences. How would they put all this together?

A very specific problem came to head when it came to the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols. They would take the leftover meat from these sacrifices and sell it at the marketplace. Somehow the markets would designate what meat was leftover from idol sacrifice and what was not. The Jewish Christians knew that these so called idols were fake anyway, so they didn’t have any problem buying and eating that meat. But the Gentile Christians were converted away from this idol worship, and they hated anything to do with that meat - their consciences were very against eating it. And so here was a case where the Gentiles didn’t like it when the Jews ate the meat, but the Jews didn’t have any qualms about it. God’s Word didn’t say there was anything wrong in and of itself with eating this meat. It was, what we call adiaphoron - something neither commanded nor forbidden by God, and yet it was causing problems in the congregation.

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