JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.”
October 31, 2009, 3:50 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

I have been reading, thinking about, and trying to hear God speak as I read the last half of Romans 15 through chapter 16. This is an interesting ending to Paul’s letter “to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” I will focus these last blogs on Romans on a couple parts to this conclusion.

After writing about the practical application of offering our bodies as living sacrifices, dieing to ourselves, by how we love one another, submitting to governing authorities, loving our fellowman, and accepting one another, specifically as it relates to one who is “weak” in the faith and one who is “strong” in the faith, Paul concludes his thoughts. Paul is overwhelmed by what Jesus has done in confirming “the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” and “the grace God gave” Paul “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.” Because of this Paul felt in his letter that he could write “quite boldly on some points” in way of reminders of what they had already been taught.

Paul worships the Lord and glory’s “in Christ Jesus in (his) service to God” and would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” Paul, just a man like you and I, but understanding who lives in him, God Himself, Jesus Christ, realizes that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” because Paul recognizes that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Now that Paul has planted organic, naturally growing churches that meet in each others homes which express the love of Jesus to one another and their neighbors, is now ready to travel to Rome on his way “to Spain.” Paul at the beginning of his letter described how he “long(ed) to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Now in conclusion he “hope(s) to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while, because he desires to “come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Brothers and sisters could we say the same? Could we, when we are apart because of our jobs and work, “long to see” each other, to long to “mutually encourage each other’s faith” to desire to come together “with joy and together with you be refreshed” like a real family? Why should we feel this way? Because we are a family, are the body of Christ, Jesus is the one who gives us that desire, the fruit of the Spirit, to long to love one another, to express “some spiritual gift to make” each other strong. Jesus wants to express Himself through each of us, to one another. So much so that we would “be devoted to one another in brotherly love” and to “share with God’s people who are in need” and “practice hospitality.” Is it any wonder that Paul was always “eager” “to remember the poor” among God’s people when he met with James and the elders, or more mature believers, in Jerusalem? Even James makes the point that “faith without deeds is dead.”

After Paul and Barnabas began helping the church in Antioch to grow, when “the brothers living in Judea” were in dire straights because of “a severe famine” it is was Paul and Barnabas who were sent to bring the church’s “gift” to the church in Jerusalem. Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia desired to help the church learn to “carry each other’s burdens” and “not become weary in doing good…to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” To the church in Thessalonica Paul said to “never tire of doing what is right” because “the Lord direct(s) your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” Later while traveling again through Galatia Paul told the churches to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up” inorder to help the poor among the churches. To the church in Corinth Paul explains what he “told the Galatian church to do” because of his desire to help the poor in Jerusalem. As I think about this, I also have to recognize that these churches were made up of the poorest of the Roman Empire, slave and free persons. The living conditions were probably not the best and many probably died at an early age due to sickness. But because of the Christians desire “to serve (or be enslaved) to one another in love” they lived “by the Spirit” having “crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” To ensure no wrong doing, Paul even brought brothers and sisters from the churches to help him deliver the “gift” to the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul uses the agrarian proverb that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” Now in his letter to the saints in Rome Paul is about ready to return to Jerusalem to take this collection of money to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. These churches “were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” in fact “they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” Paul never mentions a tithe, he never mentions an offering plate, while he does mention collecting the money on the first day of the week, this was probably more for convenience than meant to be a ritual, since it was a way for the churches to collect the money for this specific purpose of helping the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Brothers and sisters, why do we tithe, why do we put money into an offering plate? Christ is the end of the Law! Tithing was a Jewish national tax for Jewish priests and rulers. As Christians we no longer have priests and rulers, except Christ! Why can’t I take the money I earn from God and give it to a Christian in need? Do I really need another mediator other than Christ? Sure Paul was somewhat a mediator in his case but it was for a specific task and not meant to be a ritualistic duty, which Paul was never intent on doing, in fact I think Paul would be outright aghast at the fact so much money is spent on everything but helping God’s people who are in need. Someone had to be the go-to person, along with representatives from the other churches, to physically take the money to the poor in Jerusalem. But does someone have to be the go-to person every Sunday morning, or whatever day of the week that you think is a special day? Paul’s writings to the churches in Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Rome make a point that as brothers and sisters in Christ, who have Christ living in us, can “share with God’s people who are in need” whenever we see the opportunity to do good arises, because of our sincere love and devotion to one another.

We are “to offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” I can die to myself and love one another and my fellowman, my neighbour, and contribute generously “to the needs of others.” Perhaps if God’s people lived Jesus life organically together in each other’s homes instead of paying monumental amounts of money for buildings and clergy and staff, perhaps God’s people could really make a difference personally in the lives of others. If we did perhaps the churches, those which live organically together in each other’s homes, living a life of “faith expressing itself through love,” we would hear more of how God’s people today “became a model to all believers,” “your faith in God has become known everywhere,” “your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing,” “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action,” and finally to be able to thank “God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” May the body of Christ, truly BE the body of Christ, that “the life (we) live in the body, (we) live by faith in the Son of God, who loved (us) and gave Himself for (us).”

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