Apr 16 2023 - Romans 15 - How to End Disputes
16th April 2023
We are approaching the end of Romans! Paul is talking about this conflict in Rome – in the very beginning, one of the key things is PEACE – and that is where Paul will bring us. How to have peace where there is conflict, strife, and disputes. How can the weak and strong find unity? How can WE, as a Church, not only our church, but as a CHURCH – across this nation (and the world) find peace amidst conflicts, divisions, and disputes.
Romans 15: 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up.
3 For even Christ did not please himself…
7 Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
So, in order to resolve the problems, conflicts, and disagreements and form unity, both sides, the weak and strong, and all of us, need to follow the example of Jesus.
Accept and please one another how? Just as Jesus did.
The focus – even as we just sang – how do we follow His example? His example is found at the cross – self-sacrificial love. We are the body of Christ – and as the body of Christ, we ought to do what His body did when He was here on earth. How did He act – what did He do?
The people of Rome – weak and strong – and we also, need to do that with our disputes and disagreements.
Michael Gorman – brings up a great example – how do we please our neighbor for our neighbor’s good?
The weak are those who believe we must live under the Law – and the strong believe we are free from the Law and each side believes the other is not a true disciple of Jesus.
Gorman uses the example of music. In our world, this is a matter of taste and preference – but for many of us – it was, at one time, a matter of being a disciple! There were things that Christian pastors – if you were singing contemporary praise choruses or had drums in church – straight from the devil!
“What if, for instance, certain members of the congregation said something like – although we prefer one type of music, we will yield our desires to the wishes of others – and what if, simultaneously, the other group said the same thing!”
A blended musical service?
Or perhaps, something not yet imagined!
I think- we often think it is this way or that way – and God is saying – you are not even in the ballpark! I have something different – something new – to do! A new creation! A new expression. This world is very different – but in some ways exactly the same. So God has a different way of engaging in this world than he did in the first century.
We need to understand our disputes and refuse to continue with them!
That is what Paul is doing in Rome. Here is the dispute! End it! And discern how to live as Jesus did!
If we look back at the verse – and I talk about this a lot – Paul does this everywhere – for even Christ did not please Himself – just as Christ also did – everything from verse 2 to 7 is all one thought.
2 weeks ago, we did these verses as the benediction… I will unpack it a bit.
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
I love this verse! It is such an encouragement to get into God’s word, because it builds perseverance – I memorized this verse – people quoted it – and it is true – it is important for encouragement and perseverance – and I just realized recently – I have not read it in context! For whatever was written in earlier times? Who was he talking to? The weak – the ones going back to earlier times and using what was written in earlier times to create the disputes and divisions and conflict – and isn’t it true that the Bible is often used as the source (not the Bible’s fault) but Christians use the Bible to divide – and Paul is saying – sorry! It is about perseverance and encouragement – not dividing and arguing!
What he is going to tell them next is going to be really hard – requiring encouragement and perseverance!
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; 6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What he is asking them, in their polarized world to do, to be of the same mind! That does not mean same opinion – this is a call for unity, not uniformity. He has already told them it is okay to have differing opinions on the non-essential doctrinal issues. You can disagree and be united on those!
One accord speaks of purpose and heart – that we are in this together! We are family! And one voice – I think of a united front and a focus on our speech of those things that really matter.
When we do that – we glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If the church is not united, God is not glorified through the Church.
To glorify – to put in non-theological terms – to make God large! When the Church is divided, it makes God look small in the eyes of the world.
A lot of times, we think, if everyone believed the right stuff (my stuff!) we could be united!
TO the weak, eating vegetables, circumcision – the celebration of certain days – those were essential – and Paul was saying – to them, it is essential! Paul is saying – don’t go against your conscience – but don’t you dare make it essential for others!
Jesus believed the same thing Paul did! See John 17:
John 17: 22 "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one (united), just as We are one; 23 I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.
What He is saying – when the Church is united, God is glorified. How? The world knows that God sent Jesus to die for our sins and that God loves us. When the church fails to be united, the world does not know that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and that God loves us.
John 13:34-35 – Love one another – by this, will the world know that you are my disciples.
This issue of accepting one another is a part of the gospel.
Practically – what does it look like? What does it mean?
Stop being the theological police – and love one another.
Philippians 2: 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose
There is conflict in Philippi, Rome, Cuyahoga Falls – be united – and here is how: 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
Remove selfishness and conceit from your life! Easy! My, if we all could do that!
Selfishness and empty conceit is a both/and thing. For some, the issue is selfishness – for others, conceit – and for the rest – both!
We all have to remove one or both.
but with humility (not a personality, but a character quality that must be practiced – for something to become part of who you are – you must practice, practice, practice!) of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;
That is step 1. That does not mean thinking you are lousy and they are great – but being others-oriented. I think, in times of conflict and dispute, it is important to be mindful of others.
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
Look out! Get your eyes off yourself – and see the needs and concerns of others and focus your attention on them! It is not just understanding the needs – but desires and concerns! And being able to understand those. FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE!
If we do verses 3-4, we think people will take advantage of you! That would make you like Jesus – is that a terrible thing? No.
I think – let me give you three things that will help
First – see others as the image of God. That is the way we must look at people. They are created in God’s image – that is the first thing we should think! They are in God’s image! That will change us! If we think- OH! This one is in the image of God.
We will think of people as people of good will! It is true that there are some that are not. But leave those to God.
As Paul says in Chapter 14 – think of them as servants of Jesus – to their own master they will stand or fall, and stand they will
Also, see them – in regards to their opinions and convictions -as thoughtful and trying to be faithful to the Bible.
They are trying to be faithful to what the Bible teaches.
And then I think we will see them as people of good motives – having good hearts – I think that is important.
I had coffee with Pastor Mark – a local pastor – and we finally got together – He knew everyone at the coffee place. He doesn’t care about your exact belief on everything – you are a brother or sister and that comes first to him.
Back to Romans and one voice: - We are talking about having one voice – and Paul is referring to these issues as disputable – not the essentials. Look up the Nicene Creed – and that is the essentials. There is a lot that is not on that list!
Though everyone thinks their issue is essential – have discussions with the goal of understanding – not convincing.
Paul is having this discussion – I know we are free to eat whatever – but he is not trying to convince those who are only eating vegetables to do otherwise – instead – he tells them to only eat vegetables – he is respecting the conscience and convictions – it is okay to hold convictions about non-essential, but really important things to them!
We think that we are – our position or conviction – that we are somehow tied to them – and if someone comes to us with something different – we feel attacked! And it is opinions that are non-essential – your position can change without losing something! We think – if I change what I have held to on important but nonessential issues – that I will lose something – and that is not true! If you gain insight and understanding – you lose nothing.
Romans 15: 8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy;
Paul is tying them both together – weak and strong – this is all about the gospel – this concept of unity amongst different people groups – ethnicities – ways of understanding – is part of God’s eternal plan – and Paul is taking them through the Hebrew Scriptures – from Genesis – this is not something new – this is a thread that has run through the scriptures from the very beginning – it has always been God’s plan to turn these two groups – Jews and non-Jews – into one.
as it is written, "Therefore I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, And I will sing to Thy name." 10 And again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people." 11 And again, "Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, And let all the peoples praise Him." 12 And again Isaiah says, "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope."
There is this thread that runs through scripture. And we will see this here in just a second. Many of our disputes come from looking at the Bible differently than Paul and Jesus took.
We were talking about unlearning after lunch last week. The way of looking at the Bible – understanding how it affects everything - and with prooftexting – pulling a verse from the Bible to prove our point –
A text without context is a pretext …
We can make it say whatever we want – and Paul is saying that is not how it works. There are these themes and threads – design patterns (Tim Mackie) – that are all pointing to Jesus.
In the Hebrew Bible – the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings – and this is the summary for it always being God’s will.
Romans 15: 8. Fathers, (Abraham) – The Jews had received the promise through Abraham – I will bless you to be a blessing to the nations (Gentiles). The point of God blessing the Jews was to bless the whole earth.
9. "I will give praise to Thee among the Gentiles, (Psalm 18:49, Writings)
10. "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people." (Deut. 32”43, Law)
11. "Praise the Lord all you Gentiles, (Psalm 117:1, Writings)
12. "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.“ (Isaiah 11:10, Prophets)
We need to learn to read the Bible this way – it is a – we call it a metanarrative – one story – the Gospel – a really big story that runs from page 1 to the end. And there are all these other stories that mix in – but it comes back to that story that points to Jesus.
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God,