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TEXT: Romans 15:14
SUBJECT: Romans #25: An Appreciation
With 15:14, Paul begins to wind down his long letter to the Romans. Most of what he's said thus far is about God and what He's done for us in Jesus Christ. By sending His Son to the cross and raising Him from the dead, God has vindicated His justice and opened the way of salvation to everyone who believes. What has the Lord done for us? In the words 8:28, He has-foreknown us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and because His will cannot be frustrated, Paul says He has glorified us even before the fact. God has done all these things for us-and more-and He's done them all by grace.
The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone;
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Nor rob Thee of Thy crown;
Our glorious surety undertook
To satisfy for man,
And grace was given us in Him
Before the world began!
This is what most of Romans is about. But then, starting with 12:1, Paul reminds us that-having received so much from the Lord, we're to do something for Him. Not to repay Him-as if we could do that!-but because we love Him and are mindful of what He's done and what it cost Him to do it.
Having done this, he turns to the third part of the Letter, which is more intimate. Paul knows quite a few people in Rome, some of whom are relatives and close friends. To him, it doesn't seem right to sign off without a few personal remarks, and that's what we have from here to the end of the Romans.
The value of personal remarks depends very much on the person making them. If he's a silly, shallow man, you'd expect him to write silly, shallow things. But what if he's a man steeped in Scripture, theology, and ministry? If he is, even his chit-chat will be weighty and edifying. This is the kind of man Paul is, and the kind of wrap-up he provides.
What we have in v.14 is an Appreciation. The Church in Rome was not founded by Paul, and, at the time of this writing, he had never been there. But through his friends and family in the church, he had a very high regard for them, and he's not afraid to tell them so.
APPRECIATION IS GOOD
From this we learn, it is good to appreciate our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to tell them we do. We shouldn't flatter them, of course, or to praise them so highly and often that we rob God of His glory, but what's wrong with noticing what people do, and thanking them for it? This was Paul's habit-and not only to mature churches, like the one in Rome.
The Corinthians had a passel of problems-and Paul called them on it-but before he did that, he called them-
The church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints.
He then named some of their qualities he admired-utterance, knowledge, and an eager looking for the Return of Christ.
If Paul could do this for a church as messed up as the one in Corinth, we should do the same for the messed up brethren we know-like you and me. We don't praise each other's weaknesses, and certainly not our sins, but if we're Christians at all, we bear some resemblance to Christ, and that ought to be looked for and appreciated.
Are you looking for the good in your brothers and sisters in Christ? Or only for the bad? There's both in all of us, but what are we looking for? Are we more like that shameful, Michal, David's wife who sneered at the King for his supposed indiscretions, or that wonderful man Barnabas, whose real name was Joseph, but nicknamed Barnabas because that's what he was-
A Son of Encouragement!
You know, Barnabas was Paul's first missionary partner, and the man most responsible for Paul' acceptance in the Church. I wonder if Paul was mentored by this good man? We need to be-that's for sure-so I recommend you identify 'positive people', people who are quicker to praise than to condemn, and whose criticisms, when necessary, are tempered with mercy and understanding.
WHY PAUL NEEDED TO SAY THIS
Why did Paul feel the need to compliment the brethren in Rome? For one thing, he hadn't been there, and they didn't already know how much he loved them. The Thessalonians knew the man's tender care, he was-
Gentle among them, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.
This is part of the answer, but there's more to it. He feared his Letter may have smacked of 'lecturing' and maybe of 'scolding' in a few places, and he didn't want to come off this way. Paul wasn't 'talking down' to the brethren, the way a snotty young preacher, fresh from his doctoral studies, might talk to a church full of country bumpkins! Paul doesn't feel this way, and the Romans must know he doesn't!
To help them feel his pastoral warmth, he calls them brethren-not children or students or disciples. The believing men, women, and children in Rome are Paul's full equals in the Lord. Yes, they have different callings, and Paul's owns an authority they don't have, but as far as their relationship to God goes, there's no difference at all!
As adopted children of God, Paul and the Romans, and all Christians are brothers and sisters-not 'like' brothers and sisters, but 'the real thing'. The human family will one day be dissolved-not because it's bad-but because there is something better, and that is the Redeemed Family!
If we remembered this, as Paul did, we'd be-
Slower to speak, swifter to hear and slower to wrath
.than we are.
WHAT PAUL THINKS OF THEM
The word, brethren, tells you how Paul feels about the believers in Rome. He doesn't stop with his feelings, however. He goes on to tell them what he thinks of them--
I am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you are also full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.
Love and respect are not the same thing. Paul loves the church and eagerly wants to be with them. But he also thinks highly of them. Why? Because they're:
Full of goodness.
Greek scholars say that goodness, can mean either 'uprightness and integrity' or 'generosity and big-heartedness' or both. I can think of no reason to choose. In the Romans Paul found both high character and the humility to serve others in love. Their character didn't make them 'standoffish' and their love didn't make them squishy and sentimental.
Mark the word, 'full'-full of goodness. Not just good people, but very good. No one is sinless or perfect, but the Romans lived up to their calling better than most.
Full of goodness, please remember, describes both parties in the church-both the strong, who understood the relationship between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, and the weak who didn't see it so clearly. God's grace is so powerful that it can overcome human weakness, enabling us to live better than our doctrine.
The second thing he says about them is they're-
Filled with all knowledge.
This doesn't mean they knew everything, of course; if they did, they'd be teaching Paul and not he them. It means they know God and have a strong grasp on the Gospel.
How did they come to know God? The way anyone else does, by Divine illumination. The blessing of the New Covenant is-
They shall all be taught of God.
This general promise is wonderfully illustrated in the most important thing any man ever said. When asked who they thought He was, the disciples told Jesus, He was taken for Elijah, John the Baptist or one of the prophets. Did the disciples agree? No, they didn't. Speaking for them all, Peter said-
You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
How did he come to know this? Not because he was smarter than others, but Jesus says-
Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven.
This 'being taught of God' is not a privilege only the disciples enjoyed, but Jesus says, Luke 10:22-
No one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
The Romans-and we-know God (if we do) only because the Son, Jesus, wants us to know Him!
The knowledge of God that Jesus gives us is to be improved on by personal study and meditation and submitting to the preached and taught Word of God.
If the Lord wanted to, He could make us all brilliant theologians without us ever picking up the Bible, saying a prayer, or thinking a thought in our lives. But He doesn't want to do this; He has chosen means for us to learn, and He wants us to use them. Proverbs 2-
My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding. Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
God accepts people who know hardly anything-and we should praise Him for that! But, He doesn't want us to remain where we were; He commands us to grow in knowledge, and not to reason like spiritual babies!
Paul was proud of the Romans for knowing God and His Gospel.
There was a practical reason for learning more about God and the Good News He gave us in Christ, and that is to make them-
Able also to admonish one another.
All scholars love learning for its own sake, and Paul was no different. But, unlike some scholars, he had a practical bent of mind. He wanted his friends to learn more so they could love more.
One part of 'loving one another' is 'helping each other'. Some of the help is emotional, some is financial, some is fixing the toilet, or sitting with the kids while mom goes for a haircut. These are good things and must never be despised as unspiritual!
But sometimes we need other kinds of help; we need advice, we need warning, we need understanding.
A man has been watching a lot of Joel Osteen. Somebody needs to tell him, 'The prosperity God is not the Gospel', and why it isn't true, workable, or honoring to God. Saying, 'Don't watch that sissy man' isn't good enough!
A woman has lost a lot of weight and is feeling good about herself for the first time in years. Good. But she starts wearing clothes that show off her body in a provocative way. A sister needs to tell her that her body is God's gift to her husband-not to every roaming eye. Dress any way you want to in the bedroom, but outside, you need to lower the hemline, raise the neckline, and buy one size bigger!
A young couple are swamped with family life-bills to pay, babies to diaper, all the things we older people have lived through. With the wisdom God gives us, we need to help them with practical advice.
When it came to goodness, knowledge, and the ability to admonish one another the Romans were doing well, and Paul wanted them to know he knew they were. He was a wise and encouraging man, knowing that sometimes we need a pat on the back more than a kick in the pants.
PROFESSIONALS AND BRETHREN
Paul's assessment of these people gives us pause to think about what we're doing in the church and what we're looking for outside of it.
Sometimes Christians need specialized help, and it doesn't matter if the doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional believes in Christ or not. I'd rather fly with a good pilot who doesn't believe in God than with a bad pilot who does! So, there's a place for getting help outside the church.
But much of what needs to be done can be done in-house, and should be. If you're always in bed because of a bad thyroid, by all means, go to the doctor. But what if you're there because you're lazy? Or because you're scared of facing life? Or because you think 'there's no reason to go on with life'?
These are spiritual problems. I'm not saying they're not connected to the body in some ways, of course, they are. But fear and despair and laziness can be treated and healed by the Gospel.
What does the Gospel say to fear? It says we have nothing to fear because we're loved by God, our sins are forgiven, and if facing hard things causes suffering or death, the Lord is with us in both, turning the evils to our good and His glory.
Despair is a fear of the future, a belief that things will never get better, that there's no hope. But the Gospel points us to the Resurrection of the Dead, meaning whatever happens to us in the short-term, our future is brighter than the sun!
Laziness is the desire to take and not to give. But the Gospel points us to Christ who did just the opposite, and whose Spirit now living in us, will make us like Him.
Physical problems require physical remedies-and if we've got some of them, by all means, let's share them. But if we've got no expertise in medicine or law or finances or whatever, let's remember that we have the Gospel and that it can cure spiritual problems.
Let us, therefore, become the kind of people who can admonish one another, and in times of need, let's turn to each other for the loving and wise help they can provide in the Gospel.
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