Welcome – Romans 15:1-7 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Series I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now! We’re going to spend the next month looking at the things that are going to be non-negotiables for us moving forward together. And the thing is, they’re all traits that have been true since this church was founded in 1977. 

-Since I came, the word I’ve most often heard from people who have come here for the first time is (drum roll please): welcoming

-I honestly have lost count of the number of people I’ve talked to who have said they walked in our doors, and immediately had people welcoming them in, showing them around, answering their questions, it’s a JOY to hear that! That’s why I wanted to hear from David & Rayna on why they’ve decided to plant themselves here (also, did you notice it wasn’t the preaching, thanks a lot guys!)

-You may be wondering if that is a biblical trait, is welcoming something we are supposed to exemplify in our lives? As we walk through this section in Romans, I think we’ll see just how important it is for us to be a people marked by being welcoming, since that’s what God has done for us in Christ.

READ/PRAY

-Many of the Epistles (letters) in the NT are divided into 2 sections: orthodoxy, orthopraxy (define: theology, lived out)

-Remember from our study on hope in Rom. 5, that the theme through that first section is: righteousness. The first 11 chapters of Romans thus are the deep, rich theological truths about God’s righteousness, then chapter 12 begins the application of God’s righteousness into everyday life. 

-So chapter 11 ends with a doxology: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

-Then 12 begins: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

-ESV Study Bible helpfully summarizes this as “God’s righteousness in everyday life.” Chapter 12-13 are then titled “Marks of the Christian Community” and “A call for mutual acceptance between the strong and the weak.”

-A brief note on Paul’s flow of thought in chpt. 14, because it flows directly into vs. 1of our section today.

-One of the primary issues in the 1st cent. Church was how different ethnicities/traditions could get along in the same church. Specifically, Jews & Gentiles, because they have VERY different ethical approaches for day to day life. Things like: what kinds of food can be eaten (pork was outlawed for Jews, Gentiles (like me) would have been asking “have you tried bacon?”), do we observe/honor the Sabbath, and what day should we honor the Sabbath?

-It’s not dissimilar to today, TBH. Do we homeschool, public school, Christian school? Do we watch movies? Which theological persuasion are you? What are your thoughts about the end times? Which political party are you?

-Paul does his best in this section to remind each other to focus on the primary things, this is where it is VITAL for us to remember to have a “theological triage.” 

-There are so many issues in our lives that we make a mountain out of today, make it a theological issue, then force others to either be one of us or not.

-I remember one time playing cards with my dad at my grandma’s house, and she came out and saw us and told us when she was growing up that was a sin. That’s attaching theological significance to an ethical issue for which there can be room for both sides of the argument.

-And this was a focus of Jesus’ ministry when He was on earth! He had some pretty big indictments against those who made others follow their man-made rules. Jesus didn’t have a lot of patience for legalism.

-Now that I say that, it doesn’t mean we are free to live however we want (as Paul asks “Do we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Rom. 6:1)

-Read an article this week about 2 dogs. 1 lived in the city, craved the great beyond, would wait eagerly for the owner to come home to try to sneak outside. The owner would come in, not let the dog escape, and the upset dog would sulk in the corner planning his next escape. 2 dog lived in the country, no fence, boundaries at all, but stayed near the porch waiting for his master to come home each day. The great beyond had no enticement for him, he was content with his owner. “Growth in holiness does not take place when our focus is on the boundaries but when our focus is on the Master. Fences may keep us from harm, but love for the Master is what keeps us from fences.”

-Martin Luther described this as a drunken man on a horse: he starts falling off one way, then falls off the other way and that continues indefinitely! Legalism vs. licentiousness.

-Paul explains that each of must live out the faith we claim to believe in, that we must have reasons for how we behave, and that we should not pass judgment on each other either way we choose to live.

-With all that said, our driving force, focus and motivation MUST be to bring glory to God

-We’re commanded to not put ourselves first, to not seek out own interests, but instead to be others-oriented in our lives, just like Jesus was

-So the first thing we see is that we are to:

  1. Please Others Like Christ (1-3)

-This is a continuation from chapt. 14 (which is why I spent so much time explaining what was said in that chapter)

-Paul considers himself to be in line with the “strong” (those who don’t feel the need to obey the OT ethical commands)

-For us today: was onetime told that if you know enough of the Bible to quote this verse, you are not one of those who are “weak!” 

-First notice the “obligation.” This isn’t an option, we all need to work with each other!

-Then to “bear with,” which is much more than merely enduring.

-A similar place Paul uses this phrase is in Gal. 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens”

-Think of it like this: for those of you who are married, when your spouse asks you to do something you have 2 options: do it or not. Or in my case, Cara has a tendency to word it poorly: “Would you mind.” “Yes, I would mind!” 

-Paul’s use of “bear” is more than “yes, I would mind” instead it’s bending over backwards to actively look out for someone else, instead of yourself.

-In chpt. 14, Paul has been encouraging the weak to not “pass judgment” on those who are strong, here Paul flips the exhortation to remind the strong that they have an obligation to not please themselves, but instead to please others. 

-Notice how many times “please” is used throughout here: 3x in 3 verses.

-This isn’t “please pass the salt,” one commentator said: “please means an act or gesture that will meet a real need or enhance spiritual stability.” (ESV Expositor’s Commentary, Yarbrough) AKA: real physical need or push them closer to Christ

-That’s the point Paul is making in vs. 2 here. Our goal is to “please” our neighbors, that is meet their real, legitimate needs or help them to be more conformed to His image.

-By referring to neighbors, Paul is echoing back to Lev. 19:18, just as he did in Rom. 13:8-10, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

-The way we please our neighbors is by loving them. Paul says in Rom. 13“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

-We saw over Advent what love looks like practically in our lives, it’s not endorsing anything anyone wants, and it’s not based on fleeting emotions, true love could be viewed the same way we saw above: to meet a real need or help them grow spiritually. 

-What is our perfect example of this? Paul reminds us in the next verse: 3

-Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9, a Davidic Psalm asking for the Lord to deliver them. In this case, Paul is talking about Jesus bearing our reproaches. In other words, even if we are mocked/belittled for bearing with our weaker brothers and sisters, it’s worth the cost, since that’s what Christ did for us!

-Think of Jesus, who in Phil. 2 emptied Himself to our level. There, Paul reminds us consider others more significant than ourselves, look out for others interests, which is perfectly modeled in Jesus. The one person who legitimately could have demanded he be worshipped and served, instead came to serve us, to welcome us into his perfect family.

-This also ties into the sermon on the mount, where Jesus says those who are reviled are the ones who will be blessed.

-Paul uses these next verses to explain how we can know that, and His primary point here is that by being a welcoming community, we will have endurance and encouragement through God’s Word, which is the same as being filled up by God Himself.

  • For Endurance and Encouragement (4-7)
    • The Word (4)

-Paul used Psalm 69 to talk about how Jesus is the primary example and focus of everything in the OT, in fact in 2 Cor. 1:20 Paul similarly says “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

-The main point here is why Paul referenced back to the OT. The examples in the OT were written for us to learn/grow/become more like Jesus, Jesus is the perfect example that we are supposed to imitate, and the focus of the whole Bible. 

-Everything we do is meant to be rooted in God’s Word, as we study God as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us, we grow more like Him.

-One commentary said: “instruction is a reminder that learning (or discipleship) is a central component of the Christian faith.” (ESV Expositors)

-Paul David Tripp: “The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation.” (Dangerous Calling)

-The 2 components are: endurance and encouragement.

-The endurance piece is sticking it out, remaining faithful. Paul David Tripp: “the character and quality of your life won’t be defined by two or three life-changing moments. No, the character and quality of your life will be defined by the 10,000 little decisions, desires, words, and actions you make every day.

-Encouragement comes by the Scriptures, from God’s Word, soaking and saturating every part of our lives. This culminates in hope. Saw that before!

  • God (5a)

-Just as God’s Word is meant to lead to endurance and encouragement, so God Himself is the author of our endurance and encouragement. We can’t do anything apart from Him, so we need to regularly come back to Him as the one who will allow us to endure and be encouraged.

-This is where it’s important for us to remember that God has chosen a specific way to reveal Himself to us: through His Word. Each time we read the Bible we are reading God’s very words to us.

-But it’s not just for us individually to have endurance and encouragement, actually we can’t endure or be encouraged by ourselves. Even reading/studying God’s Word isn’t meant to be done alone (reading the Bible alone is a GREAT thing you should do) but the Bible is meant to be understood and applied in community. That’s what Paul says next:

  • Unity to Glorify God (5b-6)

-Everything in the Bible is meant to lead us to live in harmony with each other.

-This harmony leads to glorifying God with 1 voice, together, completely unified.

-Unity does not mean unanimity. I am all for the priesthood of all believers, which means all of us need to contribute to the good of our body. I love that Paul uses musical terms here: unity and harmony. Songs only become interesting when harmony is added in. Singing is a beautiful picture for us of how we are commanded to live in this passage, we sing the same words, united together, but each person has a part to contribute a harmony (or a joyful noise) that makes up the whole. Just as our gifts are meant to serve together!

-It also means daily dying to yourself, to your own preferences, to your own desires and finding space to live with each other despite differences.

-Again, this is where we need theological triage: Moo: “Divisions in the church over nonessentials diverts precious time and energy from its basic mission: the proclamation of the gospel and the glorifying of God.”

-There’s a time and a place for those discussions! We’ve seen previously, that even Paul shared theological ideas that were “of first importance” which means there’s implicitly theological ideas that are of second importance. If anyone ever wants to discuss some of these finer details of theology, let me know, I’ll buy you a coffee and chat! But then after we leave the coffeeshop, we go back our unity

-Even Jesus in his high priestly prayer in John 14-17 prayed that we would be united today. That’s how we glorify God! By actively pursuing unity and harmony together. 

-Think about this, if you look around this room we’ve got people from all sorts of various backgrounds, different education levels, different theological persuasions, even different political persuasions. Yet we’re willing to look past all the measurements of division the world uses and actually come together for the common purpose of making disciples of all nations. This is a unity the world can’t even begin to fathom! The world forces everyone to align with every individual piece of ideology to be a part of them, and then cancels you if you don’t completely agree. Jesus welcomes everyone in with open arms and then gently leads you to rely more and more on Him until you are someday perfected, and we all do that together!

  • Welcome (7)

-“Therefore” Paul is summarizing everything he’s said up until this point. Today, as God’s people, we are meant to be a welcoming community to everyone who walks in our doors. Christmas week we had over 400 families walk through here to pick out toys for their kids for Christmas! 

-We’ve got a wonderful example of what it means to be welcoming in the life of Jesus. How did he treat people anytime they came to Him? Honor, respect, understanding, patience. Think of what we studied at Christmas Eve: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I think another way of summarizing all those characteristics is by being welcoming.

-Often when we think of being a welcoming we think of close friends/neighbors, coming off Christmas where we’ll tell our friends “you’re always welcome here!” But you know you’re not supposed to actually put that to the test! 

-There’s a scene towards the end of Seinfeld where Kramer is remembering previous moments with Jerry, 1 where they meet for the first time and Jerry says “Make yourself at home!” So Kramer proceeds to take that literally (as I’ve done when my friends have told me that!)

-But being committed to the gospel (as we are!) means that it’s not only friends we’re supposed to be welcoming towards, the gospel means that we’re also supposed to be welcoming towards our enemies.

Matt. 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

-This goes COMPLETELY contrary to our normal human thinking. That’s what Jesus is saying here. “You have heard it said” = the normal human reaction to our enemies, but Jesus gives us a better way, the way of welcoming.

-Gospel Comes with a Housekey

-This may mean being inconvenienced, this may mean our church ends up with a lot of broken people who need grace, but guess what, that’s true of all of us! All of us need to aim to not please ourselves, but instead please God. Remember Paul talks about pleasing our neighbors in this text, do you remember who Jesus said is our neighbors? 

-In fact, because Christ didn’t come to please himself, we who are walking in the new life found only in Him are now welcomed to His table. 

-Those who were far off, those who were His enemies have now been made friends, and more than friends, His family! He’s built a bigger table to accommodate all of us, and now one of the ways we carry on the great commission is by welcoming people to our tables. 

-Been thinking a lot lately about Christians needing to be “table people.” We need to welcome people to our tables so that we can ultimately welcome them to the ultimate table to the Lord.

-R. Kent Hughes: “Whenever we crush the bread of Communion between our teeth and swallow the cup of his blood we cannot escape the fact that he did not please himself.”

-Think about the importance of tables in the Bible: how were Adam & Eve tempted? Eating. What event signified the Passover/preservation of God’s people in Egypt? Eating. What did Jesus command on His last night? Take & eat. What will we do when Jesus comes back? Eat!

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