Scripture Text: Romans 15:8-13
In this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have learned some important truths about the way we ought to live within a Christian community. We have learned that God has given us freedom to have certain convictions and we ought to respect the convictions of each other. However, when our opinions come in conflict with another’s, we have the greater duty to love each other. God wants us to live in harmony with one another. The thing that ought to guide our thoughts and actions as a Christian people is our love for God and our love for each other. The greatest example of this love for God and love for each other is Jesus. Jesus had the greatest love for God and for God’s people. The Church should imitate Him. Paul instructed the Church in this section of the letter that there is a more important issue, a greater good, a bigger picture that God wants us to see. Though we are free to do certain things, the greater thing is to love others and to consider others more important than ourselves. When we think of putting one’s self aside for the love of others, we can find no better example than Jesus. He is the greatest example and the heart of the whole gospel message that Paul has been unfolding in this letter. Paul describes a few more things about Christ in this passage.
Christ is the Fulfillment of God’s Promises
Paul has encouraged us to live out our faith as the Church by considering others more important than ourselves. Paul has encouraged us to follow the law of love and not the law of freedom when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. In demonstrating this love and deference to others, Paul looked to Jesus Christ, as should we. In this passage, Paul also explained Jesus’ mission to the world and how it fulfilled what God had promised His people ages ago. Look at the following verses.
Romans 15:8–9 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
The first thing we should notice in this passage is that Christ became a servant. Jesus did not come as an authoritarian king, although some of His followers wanted that. Some wanted Jesus to overthrow the Roman government and establish a Jewish kingdom again. That was not Jesus’ mission when He came, though. Jesus left the glories of heaven and all that was His in order to humble Himself as a lowly servant and endure the punishment and death of a criminal. Jesus put aside His rights and His freedom because He loved the world so much. This was all done to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It was done to please the will of God the Father. Are you willing to follow Jesus’ example and put aside your freedom for the greater good of others? Are you willing to become a servant to others, rather than serving yourself?
Jesus’ mission was to save you and me for the glory of God, but He first came to His own people. Jesus came first to serve the Jewish people. Paul wrote in this passage that Jesus’ mission was to confirm the promises God made to the Jewish people long ago. Christ confirmed that God always tells the truth — He never lies (Titus 1:1-2). God always fulfills His promises. If He says something, you can take it to the bank. God promised the Jewish ancestors that He was going to send a Messiah, someone to save them. Unfortunately, many of the Jewish people Jesus came to save did not believe Him. Many of them rejected Him and even sought to kill Him. Thus, John tells us in his account of the gospel that though Christ came for them, they did not receive Him.
John 1:10–11 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
Jesus’ own people rejected Him. The very people Jesus came to save rejected Him. Do you know what it is like to be rejected? Jesus does. In fulfilling God’s saving promises to the Jews, what He had promised ages ago, God demonstrated His truthfulness and faithfulness to what He had said. This was done so that people might glorify God for His mercy. Mercy is not receiving what we deserve, and we all deserve death for our sin (Romans 6:23). However, God has been merciful to us in providing His Son, Jesus Christ, as a substitute for our sin. We should have been the ones to die on a cross, but Jesus took our place. Therefore, the appropriate response to God’s mercy is praise to Him. In verse nine of this passage, Paul quoted King David from Psalm 18:49 to show that we ought to praise God for His mercy. This leads to the next point.
Christ is the Gift of Mercy to All People
Of the many promises God made to His people Israel, none is more apropos for what Paul was writing here than God’s promise to Abraham. In Genesis 22:18, God told Abraham, “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” This was a promise God made before the Jewish people even became a people. It was long before their exodus from Egypt, before God giving the Law, and before any of the kings. God’s promise to Abraham was that through his descendants, or more accurately, one of his descendants, God was going to bless all nations on the earth. God’s great plan to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and death caused by Adam and Eve was to reach out in love to the whole world through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came so that people may have mercy. Because of God’s great mercy, the appropriate response to this is to rejoice and praise God. Look at the following verses.
Romans 15:10–11 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”
Paul provided the greatest example of humble servanthood and the greatest gift of mercy for mankind, Jesus Christ. He emphasized God’s plan to save the Gentiles along with the Jews. Starting with verse nine and through verse twelve, Paul quoted several passages from the Old Testament in order to show God’s truthfulness and faithfulness. As Paul wrote earlier, whatever God has written before is for our instruction, our encouragement, and our hope (Romans 15:4). Paul was confident that all of the Old Testament was written down for the instruction and encouragement of God’s people.
Paul cited four passages from three parts of the Old Testament (2 Samuel 22:50 or Ps. 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:10). Maybe as you read these quotes you thought Paul was just repeating himself. Maybe you did not see the need for Paul to cite so much scripture here. One thing that may be interesting to note about the passages Paul used to support God’s promises to redeem the world, is that they were from three different parts of the Jewish scriptures. Paul quoted the Law, he quoted the Psalms (or Writings), and he also quoted the Prophets. Perhaps, Paul quoted from these parts of the Old Testament, in order to show that God promised salvation for the whole world throughout the history of the Jewish people. The mission to bring the Gentiles into the family of God was not something the early Christians made up. It was not something that originated with Paul or the other disciples. God had promised to save the world ages ago, and through Jesus Christ, He was true to His word. Therefore, we can trust Him to do what He says He will do, because He did, and He does.
What these passages tell us, what God is telling us through Paul, is that He is a missionary God. He has been reaching people for a very long time. God wants to redeem mankind from sin. He wants people to know His Son, Jesus, and when they do come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, He wants them to rejoice and to praise Him. Actually, there are three responses I see from God’s promise to save mankind through Jesus. One, we ought to welcome others as Christ has welcomed you (Romans 15:7). Jesus accepted you with your sin and stubbornness. We do not deserve God’s grace. Should you not welcome others as Christ has you? Secondly, rejoice if you have accepted Christ, for your debt of sin has been paid in full through Jesus Christ. You are now free of the wages of sin and you are now in a new relationship with God. Rejoice in that! Thirdly, praise God for His mercy and grace. The point of all that God has done for you and for the whole world is for Him to receive the glory He deserves. Praise Him!
Christ is the Hope of All People
Jesus does not only give us mercy and grace, but He also gives us hope. This is not like the hope we have when we say we hope someone has a good day or we hope someone gets better from a sickness. This hope is not some wishful thinking. The Christian hope is based on the truthfulness of God, who never lies, on the promises God has made and which always come true, and on the work of Jesus Christ who died for you and for me. Paul concluded this section of the letter with a type of prayer to God, who is the source of all our hope. Paul’s prayer was that God would fill the believers in Rome with all joy and peace. Look at the following verses.
Romans 15:12–13 12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Three times in those two verses Paul mentioned hope. Hope is a powerful thing. Without it people are crushed. With it, people are encouraged to persevere through the greatest struggles. Paul cited the fourth and final Old Testament passage in these verses in regard to the hope we have. This passage was God’s promise to bring forth a descendant of Jesse, who was the father of King David. This descendant, who was also from the lineage of Abraham, would become the hope of the Gentiles. This is another confirmation of God’s promise that confirmed His dedication to saving the whole world, not just the Jewish people. Some proud Jews thought God had rejected the Gentiles, but in this passage, God confirmed that His Messiah would come through the lineage of David and that person would give the Gentiles hope. Jesus is the hope of all nations. Jesus is the reason for our hope. Without Him we are literally hopeless, for there is no other way and no other name by which anyone can be saved (John 14:6, Acts 4:11-12).
Paul actually called God the God of hope. Paul’s prayer in this section was that the God of hope would fill the church with all joy and peace. Would you like joy and peace in your life? Most people would. Most people want to be free of trouble and things that steal our joy. How is this possible? How can we have this joy and peace? The joy and peace Paul was praying the church would have comes from trusting God. As we believe in Him and in His promises for us, as we trust God more, the greater our joy will be, the greater our peace will be, and the greater we will experience true hope. The more we trust God, the richer we will be in hope. But, this trust is also a gift from God, for believers abound in hope by His grace to them. The Holy Spirit empowers us to have this hope, and thus all praise and honor belong to God. We can never take credit for it. Do you struggle with hope? Do you agonize over circumstances in your life? Maybe you have experienced, or are experiencing, things that leave you hopeless. Trust God! Remember the promises He made to you. Remember His faithfulness to you. Look at the love He has for you and for the world. Let that fill you with all hope.
In closing, Paul provided us the greatest example of a humble servant who gave His enemies the greatest gift of mercy and love. Jesus Christ came to save the world from the slavery of sin and death. Are you enslaved in sin? Are you dreading the death to come? Look to Jesus as your Savior. He came to save a world that is perishing. In this letter, Paul has provided the good news of Jesus Christ which shows the righteousness from God that justifies sinful people on the basis of faith alone in Christ. Do you know Jesus today? You can by turning to Him in faith. Do you have joy in knowing Christ? Is Satan trying to steal your joy? Are circumstances robbing you of joy? Remember the promises of God through Jesus Christ. Remember God’s faithfulness and trust Him. Do you have hope for the future? Is this world leaving you hopeless? Look to Jesus and remember His promise to you. Remember that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that we will have through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18). Thank God for His mercy through Jesus Christ. Praise Him for loving us so much and giving us the greatest hope in the whole world. Rejoice in this good news. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.