Jew-Gentile Unity: Eternal Glory for God (Romans Sermon 110 of 120)
August 13, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Racism, Covenants, Glory of God
I. The Seemingly Insurmountable Problem: Genuine Unity
Turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 15. We're looking, for two weeks at verses 7-13. And as we do, we come in a very timely fashion to a text of scripture that addresses an issue that has pressed itself into the world consciousness forcefully over the last handful of weeks although it never really fully leaves, and that is the crisis in the Middle East. You know that several weeks ago, some Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and that sparked a great military conflict going on right now between Israel and Hezbollah. And recent events in the Middle East have caused the alarm of people all around the world and a renewal of the desperate search for a political and diplomatic solution to lasting peace in the Middle East. And there's a long heritage to that search, isn't there? Now obviously, there may be some that would have the question: How can Israel, for example, negotiate with Hezbollah whose stated purpose is their extinction as a nation? Now how are you going to sit down at the table with somebody like that? And you could turn the whole thing around and ask, how can Hezbollah, seeing the world in their own way, looking for an Islamic state to rise up there, how can they negotiate with Israel, who wants to continue to be a Jewish state, how can they get together diplomatically? But there have been efforts made toward lasting peace in the Middle East.
In 1978, I remember when President Carter got Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin together for the Camp David Accords, and they said it was a new milestone in heading toward peace in the Middle East. Of course, Sadat was assassinated by his own countrymen three years later, because they felt he'd sold out to the Jews. And then there was, in 1993, the Oslo Accords during President Clinton's administration, in which Yasser Arafat of the PLO and Yitzhak Rabin got together from Israel and they had the Oslo Accords and it was brokered by Clinton and signed September 13th, 1993. And the world thought so much of the Oslo Accords that in 1994, the three principals in that, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, the very next year, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fundamentalist Jewish man who felt he'd sold out to the PLO. And Arafat, for his part, didn't continue in the accords, he didn't keep his end of the bargain. And frankly, many observing, looking on the outside, said he's just never really changed from the statement he made to The Washington Post in 1970, "The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel and there can be no compromise." Okay, well, how are you going to negotiate with that?
And our State Department has been developing what they call a "road map to peace" in the Middle East. Here (Romans 15) is the road map to peace in the Middle East. Amen? It's in here. Someday, there will be lasting and permanent peace in the Middle East between Jews and Gentiles. Amen and hallelujah! And we ought to pray for it, because it's most certainly going to come. But it's not going to come the way the United States State Department thinks it's going to come. It's not going to come through a negotiated or even a military solution. It's going to come by the power of God working through the Gospel in the end. That's how it's going to come. True lasting peace between Jews and Gentiles in the Middle East and around the world seems as impossible now as it ever did. There's still what the scripture calls that "dividing wall of hostility" between Jews and Gentiles. And so one generation of peace negotiators after another can try to solve the Gordian knot, unravel the Gordian knot, of Middle East peace, some may make headway for a little while and if the headway was significant enough, they may even win the Nobel Peace Prize.
But we know what we already sang earlier today is true, in that beautiful hymn, May Jesus Christ be Praised. This is what one of the verses says:
Ye nations of mankind,
in this, your concord find
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let all the earth around
Ring joyous with the sound
May Jesus Christ be praised!
That's where we're going to find the unity because that's what God is working around the world. That's the peace He intends. And I believe only the advance of the Gospel can genuinely and permanently reconcile Jews and Gentiles together, as each of them repent and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. And frankly, as I read the scriptures, only the second coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His reign around the world will produce lasting peace in the Middle East.
Jew-Gentile Conflict a Subset of Human Conflict
Now Romans 14 and 15 deals with a significant problem in a local church 20 centuries ago. A local church of Rome had some divisions cropping up between Jews and Gentiles. It was a mixed church, there were some Jews, some Gentiles there, all of them believing and trusting in Christ but there were some issues, some difficulties, what Romans 14 calls "debatable issues." And I think it's centered on the role the Law of Moses was going to have in the everyday lives of Christians, and there was a struggle. Now as we come to the question of Jew-Gentile conflict in a 1st-century church, the church of Rome, you may ask, "What does this have to do with my problems and my troubles today? How is this relevant?" You may even think, "How is the Middle East struggle relevant to my life?" Many Americans, I think, are interested in what's going on there. But I say to you that Jew-Gentile conflict in the church in Rome in the 1st century is a paradigm of all human conflict for all time.
And the root causes there are going to be the same in our day as they were back in their day. The fact of the matter is, at root, all sinners apart from Christ, all sinners have no peace with God. And because they have no peace with God, they have no peace with themselves. And because they have no peace within themselves, they have no peace with other people. And that's where the root of all conflict comes from on this earth. Isaiah 57:20-21 says, "The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked.'" And out of that comes the Middle East crisis, out of that comes, in my opinion, every human conflict, because we have the habits of selfishness and bad relating, and they even carry over into the Christian life as well, sadly. The Jew-Gentile conflict in the 1st-century church is hardly different at all from modern Baptist churches having conflicts over politics or power struggles or the color of the carpet in the new Worship Center.
These struggles find their root in human sin and selfishness, all of them do. Neither, frankly, is it different from strife in homes between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between siblings; or in neighborhoods, from one neighbor to the next; or in office places, from one co-worker to the next co-worker. It's the same. The roots are the same all over. Deep division and conflict between sinners is a basic effect of sin. And only the reconciliation of the Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ can genuinely, truly solve the problem.
The Church at Rome: Seeds of Its Destruction Already Planted
Now the church at Rome, the seeds of its destruction were already planted within its own heart by the many, many years that each of those individual Jews and Gentiles spent in sin and in selfishness before they ever came to Christ. The seeds of their destruction were already sowed. Now we have seen throughout the Book of Romans the struggle that Paul is having to deal both with Jews and Gentiles who would be reading his letter. I mean, right from the beginning in Romans 1, you have Paul describing Gentile sin, pagan sin, apart from the knowledge of the Law of Moses, into idolatry and wickedness, he describes it very clearly in Romans 1. But then he turns and addresses, in Romans 2, the self-righteous Jewish person who thinks he can earn his salvation through his law-keeping, and he deals with that in chapter 2. Then in chapter 3, he sums up the entire human race in terms of our sinfulness: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Early in Romans 3, he said there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all of us are sold into sin. That is common between us, we share that. Jews and Gentiles share it together, and it's also the root of the very problem that we have.
And so Paul is dealing with the issue of Jew and Gentile in the Roman church. In Romans 11, his concern is that Gentiles who are flooding into the church and the Gospel is so richly successful among the Gentiles may become arrogant toward the fallen Jewish nation, those branches that have been stripped off of that olive tree, and he's concerned that the Gentiles not be arrogant toward the Jews. But then in 14, his concern, Romans 14, his concern reverses and he's zeroing in on Jewish legalese within the church, who he calls "weak in the faith," that they not judge others who are not following their rules and regulations. And he wants genuine Jew-Gentile unity, he's dealing with that. But he also, in Romans 14, deals with Gentiles, I think, who are strong in the faith, who understand the new covenant, that they not flaunt their freedoms all over the place and thus create a rift in the body of Christ. He's looking for unity. And here we see the culmination finally of this whole issue, Romans 14, Romans 15, of Jew-Gentile struggling within the church as we come to verse 7. And there he commands us, "Accept one another," Jew-Gentile unity.
Unity of the Church Essential to Its Mission
Now I say to you that genuine unity, not fake unity, not artificial or counterfeit unity, but genuine unity that only Christ can produce, is essential to the Gospel mission in the world. We must have it. We must have this genuine unity. The power of the Gospel to reconcile sinners at the human level must be made obvious to people who haven't believed the Gospel yet. We've got to put it on display. It's essential to the advance of the Gospel. As the Gospel makes its powerful advance in the world, it must show itself powerful to reconcile people who ordinarily couldn't get along. And I don't just mean Jew and Gentile, but even deep racial or tribal divisions. We need to see it put on display that the Gospel can do that. A divided bickering, fighting, selfish church cannot advance the Kingdom of God. And God wants to use the church, united, filled with the Spirit, to advance His name and His kingdom. And so, He's put us on display.
Does that bother you that God has put you on display? Don't you remember in the Sermon on the Mount, He said, "No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it up on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." "You are the light of the world," He says. And so He wants to put the church, not this one local church, but yes, this local church, He wants to put us on display. And one of the things He wants to display is the genuine, heartfelt love and unity from one to another. It needs to be put on display. Tertullian in 197 in the midst of the advance of the Gospel through the Roman Empire, he said this: "It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us." They say, "Behold how they love one another. And they are angry with us, too, because we call each other 'brother.'" They're jealous of the love that the early church was showing to one another, but some of them said, "I want some of that. I want to know how to love, and I'd love to be part of it." That was so attractive in the 1st-century, 2nd-century church.
Now there're two key statements that Christ made that show how important it is that local churches have an open, obvious unity, I would say even a supernatural unity, that can only be described by the Gospel, the power of the Gospel. Two statements. One is John 13:35 in which Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." This is the proof to the world the you are My disciples: If you have a genuine, open love for one another. That's one statement. Even more powerfully, in the high priestly prayer in John 17, this is so beautiful, Jesus prays for his own ministry, prays for His immediate apostles who are right there, and then He extends His prayer to pray for all of those who are gonna hear the Gospel through their message. And this is what He prays, it's in John 17:20-23. He says, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You…May they be brought to complete unity, to let the world know that You sent Me."
Now let me tell you something. It frustrates me when I hear commentators say, "See? Jesus made that prayer and He's not getting what He wanted. We have got to do something to help Jesus' prayer out." Oh, don't you ever believe that about Jesus' prayer life. Does Jesus get everything He asked for in prayer? I tell you, He does. And we will someday be as one as the Father and the Son are one, isn't that beautiful? That's where our concord, our peace, our unity, is going to come from. When the Gospel is done with us, we are going to be perfectly one with people from all over the world. And how sweet is that going to be? But that's not the only thing Jesus prays; He says, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me." So the bringing, the process, of unification has to be done in front of an openly watching world so that we can be put on display and they can believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That's the way that the prayer works in John 17.
And how sweet is it going to be when a multitude greater than anyone could count stands around the throne from every tribe and language and people and nation? How sweet will it be that there'll be no division by haves and have-nots? No economic division. There'll be no racial or tribal division. There'll be no gender divisions, or age-graded divisions, or anything. There will be a perfect unity so much that we cannot even barely comprehend it or describe it. That is where we're heading. That is the future. And that is Heaven. But the process of unification must happen here on earth. I want it to happen here in this church. I'd like to see it. I'd like God to use our home fellowships to produce it. I like stuff to go on in the halls and in the pews and through the preaching and the ministry to make it happen so that we can put on display the love that only Christ can give, to put it openly and obviously on display.
II. Ten Remedies from Paul to Jew-Gentile Division Listed
Now that's all just the table-setting, the introduction. You think, "This is going to be a really long sermon if that's just the introduction." Actually, it's going to be two really long sermons. Okay? We're going to be looking over this week and next week at 10 remedies the apostle Paul gives in these wonderful verses to Jew-Gentile division. And as I said, I don't want you just thinking Jew-Gentile, but I also want you to think just about divisions and a lack of unity and harmony at every level. He's going to give us 10 remedies. We're going to look at six this morning, and God willing, four next week.
The 10 remedies are:
- Understand God’s Ultimate Purpose: His Own Glory
- Understand God’s Second Purpose: Our Delight in His Glory
- Obey God’s Command: Accept Each Other
- Follow Christ’s Pattern of Acceptance
- Understand Christ’s Servanthood to the Jews
- Understand Christ’s Commitment to God’s Truth
- Believe God’s Promises to the Patriarchs
- Glorify God for His Mercy to Both Jews and Gentiles
- Understand the Prophecies of Jew-Gentile Unity
- Hope in Our Glorious Future Together
Now the overall point here is this: That God, in His infinite wisdom, in His eternal counsels before the foundation of the world, chose people from every tribe and language and people and nation to be rescued from this wicked and evil age by the power of the Gospel, that He will protect us in our journey through this evil age and bring us someday, Jew and Gentile, together into a perfect unity, focused on His throne and His glory forever and ever. And since that's going to happen ultimately, then in every local church, there should be an essential unity put on display to make that happen. That's how it works. We're going from the local church of Rome and their problems and their bickering and their difficulties out to the ends of the earth through missions, in these verses, out to eternity in worship. That's the motion. What an incredible set of verses these are. And so therefore, what I get out of this is that it matters a lot whether our church or any local church gets along well. It matters whether we love each other and whether there's an essential palpable unity and love in the church or not. It matters a lot. And that's the movement of these verses.
Remedy #1: Understand God’s Ultimate Purpose: His Own Glory
Alright, let's talk about the first remedy. The first remedy to Jew-Gentile division is that we should understand God's ultimate purpose in all things, namely, His own glory. This is the beginning of the true road map to peace in the Middle East. This is where it starts. Let's understand God's commitment to His own glory. Now I say to you that man-centered thinking is at the root of all human division. It all starts there. You know something? We... Well, I make too much of myself. Oh, come on. We make too much of ourselves. We think too highly of ourselves. We are our own favorite topic. And our needs and interests are our own favorite sub-topics.
We are fascinated with what we are interested in, and we are the center of everything. And may I say to you that until the human heart is captivated by something greater and more attractive than ourselves, we will continue doing the same thing. We will continue bickering and being divided. Racism and selfish national pride is a form of self-worship. So what we're seeing in the Middle East is a bunch of people ultimately really just worshipping themselves, is what's going on, on both sides, I would say. And all self-worship is a form of idolatry, isn't it? Haven't we exchanged God and now we are at the center and we're worshipping ourselves? But I say to you, as we've said many times before, God's glory is the only true right center of the universe.
What do we mean by “the glory of God”?
Now what do we mean by "the glory of God"? We talk about that phrase frequently. What does it mean? Well, I mean, it is the radiant, brilliant, attractive, fascinating display of God's nature, of His attributes. It's the shining radiance of all that God is. That's the glory of God. It involves light from God and truth from God about His own nature. The center of it is God's own person, His nature, what He is like. Now I want to bring you back to the night that Jesus was born. Now I'm not saying this happened, but let's imagine the shepherds were sitting around the campfire, bickering. Now it doesn't say in scripture, don't come back and say, "Pastor, there's no record that the shepherds were bickering the night that Jesus was born," but let's just imagine. It's not so extreme that we couldn't think that they were bickering about whose sheep were best or about which watering hole who would use which one, and that one's muddy but this one's clear, and I get to use it first. And they might have even struggle, they fought over it, who knows?
20:12 S1: But there they are the middle of the night, when suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were, in the King James Version, "sore afraid." And the angel brings good news of glad tidings that will be for all the people: "Today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you. He is Christ the Lord. And this will be assigned to you, you will find a baby wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Then suddenly, with the angel, there was the heavenly host and they were saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests," and they're just celebrating, and then they go back into heaven, and the angel's gone.
"Okay, now what were we arguing about? Alright. I think my sheep are better... " They're not even thinking about that! They are thinking, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that the angel has told us about, that the Lord has told us about." The bickering has been driven out by a greater glory. And when we at last have a perfect vision of God's glory, I tell you, all bickering will end. It will have been expelled by something better, something more glorious, than self-interest.
Now how does Paul put the glory of God at the center of it? Look at verse 7, reading this time from the ESV, I think it's got a little bit better translation, in verse 7, it says, "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God." Paul puts God at the center by giving the reason why Christ welcomed us. We, the wretched, rebellious sinners, deserving of wrath and hell, we, shaking our fists at God, whose throats are open graves and whose tongues practice deceit, ruin and misery marks our way in the way of peace, we do not know, Romans 3. We are the ones that Christ has welcomed. And He did it for the glory of God, to put God on display.
Now you might say, "How does Christ welcoming wretched sinners like us put God on display?" Well, it does. Look at verse 8. "For I tell you that Christ has become a servant to the circumcised, [the Jews] to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs." In other words, a central reason that Christ came and did His work is to prove how truthful God is, to prove that God always tells the truth, that when He makes a promise, He keeps it. And so God is glorified by Christ coming to earth because it vindicates the promises that God had made. It shows Him to be a truthful God, more about that later.
But I tell you this: We tend to think of human salvation in a human-centered way. It's because God loves us so much, because God couldn't live without us, because God needed us. We are the reason, and all of that. Well, let me tell you, God's reasons were first and foremost God-centered, because He says in Isaiah 48:11, "For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield My glory to another." That's God's motive. First and foremost, for Himself. And so, Christ came to prove that God told Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David the truth when He promised a Messiah who would come later. And so God's truthfulness is glorified by this salvation. He's putting God on display. We see it again in verse 8 and 9, and He puts God's glory on display when He speaks of why the Gentiles were saved. "For I tell you, Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs, so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy."
And so you see Christ's ministry not only elevates the truthfulness of God, but also the mercy of God. We are all of us saved by mercy. God has been merciful to us in Christ, and we celebrate the mercy of God. So I say to you that basically, human strife and conflict end when the glory of God takes its proper place in our hearts and estimations and we start thinking about the truthfulness or the mercy or the power or the knowledge or the wisdom of God, and we are just done with strife and conflict. That is remedy number one. And I'll tell you, it'll work through all eternity. There'll be no strife and conflict in Heaven.
Remedy #2: Understand God’s Second Purpose: Our Eternal, United Delight in His Glory
Remedy number two: Understand God's secondary purpose. His secondary purpose is our eternal united delight in His glory. That's His secondary purpose. God's ultimate purposes were God-centered, but God's secondary purposes were human-centered. He loves us. And I say to you, the measure of love is what the loving one is willing to give to the one he or she loves. How much is God willing to give us? He's willing to give us the greatest thing He could ever give: He's willing to give us Himself. He is willing that He Himself would be our possession throughout all eternity, that He Himself would be our reward throughout all eternity. He is willing to give us that grand and glorious gift of Himself. But I say to you also, He's willing to give us lesser gifts. For example, He's willing to give us each other. Oh, I don't mean "each other" kind of the way we were apart from Christ. I don't even mean "each other" the way we are now, struggling with our sanctification. I mean He means to give us each other perfected and glorious in Heaven. He means to give you a gift of brothers and sisters from every tribe and language and people and nation, to share the experience with up in Heaven. No, you're not going to have your own private cubicle to watch God's glory every night, okay? You're going to be with other believers.
"As for the saints who are in the land," Psalm 16, "they are the glorious ones in whom is all My delight." And so God means to give us this lesser gift of one another, perfected by the Gospel. And look how happy these verses are. I'm just so happy this morning, I get to preach these happy verses. And you are lesser happy, you get to listen to them. Okay? See, I'm more happy cause I know when this thing's going to end, I get to control that, okay? But still we have a glorious search of human happiness in these verses. Look how happy these verses are. Verse 9, "'Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles. I will sing hymns to your name.' Again, it says, 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people,' and again, 'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to Him, all you peoples.' And again, Isaiah says, 'The root of Jesse will spring up. One will arise to rule over the nations and the Gentiles will hope in Him.'" And then to top it all off, in verse 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." Oh, these are happy words. These are rejoicing, celebrating words. They're meant to make us eternally happy, and so the second remedy to strife and conflict is to understand God's intention to give us each other eternally in Heaven to worship God.
Remedy #3: Obey God’s Command: Accept Each Other Wholeheartedly
Remedy number three: It's just simple obedience. Now I'm taking these in the order they're given in the text, but obey God's command to accept one another wholeheartedly. Now if you go back to Romans 14:1, when this whole topic began, the issue of debatable issues, the matter of the debatable issues and all that, it begins in Romans 14:1 with this command: "Welcome him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters." Now we have the closing bookend. There's the opening statement; here, we have the bookend that ends this whole discussion. 15:7, "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God." Simply put, God commands us to welcome and accept each other. He just commands it through the apostle Paul. It's simply a matter of obedience. That's all. And Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." He's just simply commanding obedience here.
Now the word "welcome" here was beautifully described in a sermon a few weeks ago by Scott Markley, the best sermon I've ever heard on Philemon. And how sweet was the idea of Philemon, the master, receiving and welcoming back Onesimus, who had wronged him, defrauded him, and welcoming him back, and we hope that's what he did upon receiving Paul's letter, but welcoming back with a warm embrace. Or again, we could consider what Scott did in that sermon, the prodigal son returning to his father and searching his father's face to find out, "Are you going to take me in? Can I be one of your hired servants?" He doesn't need to search his father's face; look at his father, he's running, his arms are extended, there's tears coming down his eyes. He's welcoming his son back. "Welcome one another." This is a simple command here.
Remedy #4: Follow Christ’s Pattern of Acceptance
Remedy number four: Follow Christ's pattern of acceptance. Look at verse 7, "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God." Now I say to you that Paul answers two key questions on the issue of this welcoming that we're supposed to do for each other. The questions are why and how. First of all, why should we accept one another? Well, let me tell you, Christ is the motive for our acceptance of anybody, any Christian, that God brings here into this place. Christ is the motive. How can we refuse to accept someone if Christ has not refused to accept us, and if Christ has accepted him or her? How can we refuse them? We were filthy, rebellious sinners stinking with the pigs in our sin, and Christ embraces us in our saving faith. Christ embraced us in our rebellion. He cured us of it, He cleaned us up. He set us on a rock that will not move, and He will someday open Heaven for us. Why should we embrace sinners in Christ, other sinners? Simply put, because of how graciously Christ welcomed you. That's the why.
Now how should we do it? Well, again, look at Jesus. Look at Him. How lovingly did Christ accept you, how beautifully did He accept sinners in the New Testament, what is the pattern that Christ has set for welcoming of other sinners? John 6:37, He says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will never drive them away." I'll welcome them all. And so Christ welcomed Zacchaeus, that pilfering tax collector who everyone hated. He welcomed the Roman centurion, who was part of a hated race in the Promised Land, a conquering race, but he had a need and Christ welcomed him. He welcomed Mary Magdalene, who was a prostitute, who had seven demons inside her. He welcomed her and drove the demons out and healed her. He welcomed the little children who had runny noses and who didn't understand the great things of God and the big plans for the kingdom and so the disciples wanted to keep them out, and He said, "Let the little children come to me." "They want to crawl on me a while, is that alright?" And so He welcomed the little children.
He welcomed a leper. If you can imagine what a leper would have looked like back in those days, with running sores all over his face and disfigured with corruption all over his body and people go running and screaming from the leper, and he comes stumbling toward Jesus and says, "If You are willing, you can make me clean," and Jesus reaches out His hand and says, "I am willing, be clean." He welcomed a woman of poor reputation in that neighborhood who bathed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. He welcomed even Saul of Tarsus, who began that morning breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples and really, against Christ himself. What a rebellious, self-righteous Pharisee, who thinks he's serving God by killing Christians, and Jesus welcomed him and took him in through simple, saving faith.
He welcomes anyone the Father brings to him, He won't turn anyone away. He welcomes them all, He welcomed you. And if you lost a sense of how amazing that is, then get back into the Word and find out what you were apart from Christ. He welcomed you richly through faith in Christ. For He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will most certainly give you rest," that's the kind of welcome that He expects us to give to each other, because that's the kind of welcome He gave to you.
Remedy #5: Understand Christ’s Servanthood “to the Jews First”
The fifth remedy is understand Christ's servanthood to the Jews first. Now Christ's ministry to the Jews first is a remedy to Jew-Gentile bickering because God elevated the Jews in that way, that Christ came first to the Jews and ministered to them. He came as a servant to the Jews though He rightly was their king. He could have reclined on silk pillows and had them come wash His feet, not that they would have needed any washing. But instead, the whole thing was reversed and He washed their filthy, nasty feet and He served them. He took up their infirmities and he carried their sorrows, says Isaiah, of the suffering servant. And that's what Jesus was: He was a servant to the Jews, and He came especially to serve them by dying on the cross for their sins. And so in Mark 10:45, he said, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."
You know the pattern was set to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. When Jesus ministered in Tyre and Sidon, which is a Gentile area, and He's there to minister to the Jews that were living in Tyre and Sidon, and the Canaanite woman comes crying out after Him, "Lord, son of David, have mercy on me, my daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession." He just doesn't answer a word. And His disciples say, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." And Jesus says this: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." Now you know that she came and got what she wanted because she talked to Jesus about food falling from the children's table. But Jesus came as a servant to the Jews first. Now don't misunderstand, the apostle Paul has proven in our text, and we'll look at this more next week, that God always intended to save the Gentiles. That wasn't an add-on, but His ministry was to the Jews first. And it gives us a pattern of how we should treat each other, not as kings, but of servants.
Remedy #6: Understand Christ’s Commitment to God’s Truth
And the final remedy we're going to look at today, remedy number six, is understand God's commitment to... Or understand Christ's commitment to God's truth. Verse 8, "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." Now we've already touched on this. One of the reasons Christ came was to prove how truthful God is, that He never lies. He only speaks the truth, and He keeps His promises. I say to you, this is the foundation of all human relationships. It's certainly the foundation of a marriage relationship, with a husband and wife get up, and in front of God and witnesses, promise to be things for each other for the rest of their lives and God upholds that promise. But it's also true of all human relationships. We make promises to each other, we speak to each other, and we have to speak the truth. Lies and deception unravel relationships, and they unravel churches. And Christ has come on behalf of God's truth to give us a pattern of how we must be one with each other and speak the truth to each other in love and uphold our promises to one another.
III. Review and Application: Unity and Joyful Worship of God’s Glory
And so we see six remedies to Jew-Gentile division, and I say also to all division, first, the overarching purpose of God is His own glory and a full meditation on that, an understanding of the glory of God, expels little bickerings and divisions. Secondly, we've seen God's second purpose, is to make us happy forever and ever, worshipping Him in Heaven. And so therefore we ought to do it with each other here on earth, don't you think? Thirdly, a simple command He's given us, in verse 7, accept or welcome one another. Fourthly, that we should follow Christ's pattern of acceptance. As He has accepted us, we also ought to accept one another. Fifth, we should understand Christ's servanthood to His own people, to the Jews, and sixth, his commitment to God's truth.
Now how do we apply this to our own lives? Well, first, I say that every local church, true church, must attend to its own unity just like this church at Rome had to. We've got to be sure that we are as one as the Father and the Son are one, in journey toward that unity. It has to be a goal. Wherever there's division, wherever there needs to be reconciliation, you have to do what it takes to get it done. And why? Because if there's true, genuine unity among the local churches around the world, there's a movement from the local church in this passage to the ends of the earth in missions, to eternity forever around the throne of God. That's the motion of this passage. So therefore, if you know of any difficulties within this body of Christ, it's our responsibility to reconcile. If you're involved, it's your double responsibility: Go and make it right until it's made right. Same is true in your marriage and your parenting and your friendships, co-workers. Follow these remedies, Put the glory of God at the center, and turn away from your own petty needs.
And I say to you also, you ought to meditate on Heaven more than you do. It just will make you happy. I had the most wonderful time going over this sermon this morning, been happy ever since. I'm thinking, someday, I'm going to be in Heaven with brothers and sisters from around the world, from every tribe and language and people and nation. I'm looking forward to worshipping with some of them today. I would love to see this church, we are a downtown Durham church, I'd love to see this church physically and visibly display as much unity, supernatural unity, as possible, across racial lines, across international lines, across gender lines, and families, and home fellowships. I would love to see it. I'd like God to put this church and many others, all of them, on display for that kind of unity, and see the Gospel go out from us. So, our home fellowship, this not an ad, I mean, other home fellowship leaders don't get the chance to advertise their home fellowship, I'm not doing that, but I'm looking forward to studying Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven, because I just think the more you study on it, the more you saturate your minds on where we're heading, the more powerfully happy and joyful you are in this world, and the more you do for His glory.
My final statement is to any who may be here today who have never trusted in Christ, you know, this kind of unity, this kind of peace, freedom from conflict, is not available to you until you come to faith in Christ. You have to repent and believe in Christ, you have to let Christ, in effect, get down and wash your dirty feet and your head and your hands and every part of you as well with the blood He shed on the cross. By simple faith in Christ, you can be fit for eternity and for perfect unity with brothers and sisters from around the world who have made the same decision to trust in Him. Close with me in prayer.