Navigating Christian Liberty - Part 8

Romans 14:1-15:13

Tom Pennington  •  January 24, 2021
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

This week I was thinking as I was preparing for our study today, that there are so many different reasons to be amazed by Jesus Christ our Lord. But one of the ones that jumped out at me this week as I studied, and you'll understand why as we get into the passage is, I I stand amazed at Jesus's willingness during his earthly ministry to welcome, to accept, and receive those who were so unlike Himself.

I mean think about the distinctions between Jesus our Lord while He walked here on this earth and those to whom he ministered. He was Jewish, but He accepted Gentiles. He was male, but He accepted women. He was wise, but He accepted the naïve and the foolish. He was strong, but He accepted and found a place for the weak. He knew God as no other human being has known Him, and yet He received the lost. He was perfectly sinless, and yet He was the friend of sinners and tax collectors. He was the God-man, but He accepted those who were merely human like us. He was the creator, but He accepted and received creatures whom He Himself had made. Think about that for a moment; think about how amazing it is that He had such an open heart to those who were so different than He Himself.

Sadly, we are prone to be exactly the opposite of our Lord. We tend, inherently, to seek the company of those who are most like us in every way. In fact, we really struggle to truly accept and receive those who are significantly different from us. Paul reminds us today that that is especially true when it comes to accepting those in the Christian church, who differ from us on issues of conscience. There is a natural sort of inherent antipathy to receiving them, to accepting them, to welcoming them, and Paul says, "It can't be."

In Romans 14 and 15, we've been learning that Christian liberty is a liberty to be wisely used, not a license to be abused. Paul has, to help us in that, he has laid down here several foundational, biblical principles that are supposed to govern our use of Christian liberty, govern how we decide about issues of conscience. We've already looked at most of them together; let me just remind you of what we've learned.

First of all, we should expect legitimate differences on issues of conscience. They were there in the first century churches; they're present in this church. Don't be surprised when it comes to matters that are not explicitly addressed in Scripture, that you and other believers disagree, expect that.

Secondly, accept those differences in a spirit of unity.

Thirdly, never allow your liberty to cause others to sin. Just because you're free to do it, doesn't mean you should do it. You must always be alert to the fact that there may be a weaker Christian who may see you make that decision and make the same choice; but in their choice, sin against their conscience.

Number four, never allow your liberty to cause you to sin, either by violating your own conscience or by using your liberty as a cloak, an excuse for what is really sin and not your liberty at all.

Number five, limit your liberty for the spiritual good of others, whether it's believers in their edification, unbelievers in their salvation, or even for God and His exultation. That's what we've learned so far from these magnificent two chapters.

Today, we come to the sixth and final principle for using our Christian liberty wisely and biblically. It's this, accept other believers just as Christ accepted us; accept other believers just as Christ accepted us. Let's read this last paragraph in this section together, Romans 15, beginning in verse 7, you follow along.

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. 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, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME." Again, he says, "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE." And again, "PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES, AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM." 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." Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul intended this paragraph to be the conclusion of his exhortation regarding Christian liberty. The theme of this paragraph is directly and clearly stated in verse 7. Notice what it is, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us." Now, this sounds a bit like something we've already met back in chapter 14, verse 1; it's an appeal to accept, but that's an appeal to accept the strong. Here, there's a key difference; it's not an appeal to the strong to accept the weak; in chapter 15, verse 7, it's an appeal to all believers to accept one another. We must accept one another, Paul says, because Christ has accepted each of us in spite of whatever differences we may have when it comes to issues of conscience.

Now, let's take this apart a little and see if we can understand it more deeply. First of all, Paul provides us with the reasons we are to accept one another; it's inherent in that word 'therefore.' 'Therefore' points back to what's come before, and Paul is saying the command that he gives us in verse 7, is a logical conclusion of what he has already explained. So, if we look at that, if we look back, we would say this, "We are to accept one another based on what we have learned in this entire section on Christian liberty, in light of everything we've seen, "Therefore, accept one another."

It's also a reality that we should accept one another based on other specific statements like this in these chapters. Go back to chapter 14, verse 1; I mentioned it a moment ago, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith." There, the same Greek word is used for 'accepting others.' Look at chapter 14, verse 3, "The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, …the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God (Here's our word again.) God has accepted him," same Greek word for God's 'accepting' us. Based on the fact that we've already been urged to accept each other, based on the fact that God has accepted us and we've already learned that, Paul says, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ…(has) accepted us."

But I think it also goes back, the word 'Therefore,' just to the previous two verses; the immediate context. Look at verses 5 and 6 again:

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord (with one mind) you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because our goals are the same as Paul's, and that is unity and glorifying God, "Therefore (we should) accept one another." So, those are the reasons; everything we've learned in this passage, other similar commands, and even what's come just before it, "Therefore, accept one another."

Let's notice secondly, the imperative. It's contained in three words, "accept one another." The Greek word translated 'accept' has a number of senses, but here it means to 'extend the welcome.' This is from the leading Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, "It means to extend the welcome, to receive into one's house or circle of acquaintances." It's interesting, this word is used in the Septuagint, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, it's used of God's acceptance of us. For example, in Psalm 27:10, the Psalmist writes, "…my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up," and in the Septuagint, it uses this word, "He will accept me, he will receive me, he will welcome me." In Psalm 65:4, "How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near."

Again, in the Septuagint, it's this word, "The one whom you accept, whom you receive." The New Testament uses this word both of God's acceptance, but also uses it in some sort of a human ways. For example, in Acts 28, verse 2, you remember the shipwreck, and Luke writes this about the shipwreck there, he says, "The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and they received us," they welcomed us, they were kind to us.

And Paul uses this word in his little letter to Philemon. In Philemon 17, he says, "If then you regard me as a partner, accept (Onesimus) as you would me," receive him, welcome him in the same way that you would receive or welcome me.

So, do you understand what we're being commanded here? Accept one another, we are to welcome, to receive into our homes, into our lives, into our circle of friendship, not only those Christians who agree with us on issues the Bible doesn't address, but even those who don't.

You understand what this looks like, I mean, think about your home for a moment, the doorbell rings, and you go to the front door, you look at your little electronic device, and the person standing there is a door-to-door salesman. Now, how do you welcome or receive that person? Yah, exactly!

On the other hand, imagine that the doorbell rings, and to your surprise, a beloved family member that you weren't expecting is standing at the door. What do you do? You go running through the house, and you throw open the door, and you throw your arms around the person, and you welcome him. That's the way we are to receive and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ; we're to accept one another as members of a family in spite of our differences, with the love, not that unfortunately sometimes characterizes or the lack thereof that sometimes characterizes family relationships, but with what is supposed to characterize family relationships. What Paul is saying here is, "Don't allow real differences on issues of conscience to dictate or determine the circle of your acquaintance and the circle of your friendship. Measure your acceptance of your brothers and sisters against Christ's acceptance of you. How are you doing?

In fact, Paul argues that Christ's acceptance is both the standard of our acceptance of others, but also, I want you to notice, thirdly, the cause. The cause that we should accept one another is, "just as Christ has accepted us." Now, 'just as' can mean in the same way that Christ has accepted us. In other words, it can be saying, "Follow the example of Christ and accept your brothers and sisters just as wholeheartedly as He has accepted us," and that may be what Paul intends here. But several scholars argue, and I'm prone to lean this direction, that this word here translated, 'just as,' is used here in the sense of 'cause.' Accept one another because Christ has accepted us. Now, when I read that, let's be honest that this is one of those occasions when it's very easy to ignore the real profound truth that's here.

Look at that again, "just as Christ has accepted us." Are you ever really struck with the profound truth that Christ has accepted you, Christian? He has accepted you! I'm reminded of those wonderful words in Matthew 11, where Jesus extends that invitation. By the way, it's an invitation to every single person here today. If you haven't yet accepted this invitation, this is Christ's invitation to you. He says, "Come to Me (Come to Me.), (you) who are weary and heavy-laden." Are you burdened down by your sin and the sinful choices and the consequences of that, what has happened in your life? Are you destroyed by that? He says, "Come to Me (Come to Me.), (you) who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me." He's talking about discipleship. He says, "(Become my disciple) and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." You can either labor with what you're laboring under or you can have Christ. He says, "Come to me, come to me."

But for those who come, this is what I want to get, for those who come what does he do? He accepts, He receives us. He's never turned anybody who's come with a humble heart to Him away, not one time in the history of the world, and you won't be the first! And you, if you're a Christian, weren't the first, He has accepted you. Christ's acceptance is true, by the way, in spite of those differences we have even on issues of conscience.

Go back to Romans 14:3 again; God has accepted the one who disagrees with you on issues of conscience. Christ accepted the believers in Rome with weak consciences, who were still convinced they couldn't eat meat, sold in the market, and thought they had to keep the Jewish feast days. He also accepted the strong, those who understood that the Bible was enough, and that their consciences only had to be bound by what was clear and revealed even in the New Testament as that ceremonial law was satisfied in Jesus Christ and fulfilled in Him. He accepted both!

And folks, He still accepts the weak and the strong at Countryside Bible Church! Because He has accepted us, we must accept each other. That's what Paul is saying. Like it or not, we're all part of the same family. So, can I say it this bluntly? Just get over your differences and treat other believers as members of God's family; love them as should happen within the context of a family. John, chapter 13, verse 34, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." So the cause is Christ's acceptance of us.

Fourthly, I want you to notice the goal, "to the glory of God, to the glory of God." Verse 7 says, "Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." Now there's some debate about what, "to the glory of God" should be connected to. Did Christ accept us to the glory of God, or are we to accept one another to the glory of God? I think it's likely the second. In other words, the purpose or the goal behind our accepting each other is so that God will be glorified, and the reason I land there is because that's what is really said in the previous verse, verse 6, "…so that…you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," by how you are united, how you receive each other.

So, don't miss the big point here; if you really care about God's glory, you will accept the Christians around you in spite of the differences on issues of conscience. Why? Because that brings Him glory! Nothing brings God greater glory than when His children live in unity with each other, and nothing more demeans the glory of God than when His children lived at odds with each other.

Fifthly, I want you to see the biblical defense. This is in verses 8 to 12, we're to accept each other because Christ has accepted us, and so in verses 8 to 12, we have a biblical defense; not of the fact that we ought to accept each other, but of the fact that Christ has accepted us. Paul says, "Listen, you've been accepted, and here's the evidence for that."

Now, he focuses here in verses 8 to 12, on the real reason for the differences in Rome. Those differences, you remember, were things like eating meat sold in the marketplace, drinking wine, whether or not to keep special Jewish days. While there may have been Gentiles with weak consciences who felt they needed to do those things, and there were some Jewish believers, like Paul, who had strong consciences, and knew they didn't need to do those things; primarily the differences in the churches in Rome were because some of the people in the church were what? Jewish and some were Gentile, and so Paul told them in these verses, "Listen, you just need to get over this, you need to get over this fundamental difference because Christ has accepted all of you, Jew or Gentile." And that's what he sets out to defend, biblically, in verses 8 to 12.

He starts by reminding us here of the purpose of Christ's earthly mission. Notice verse 8 begins, "For I say," that's a rhetorical device that means he's about to say something really important; he's about to introduce an important declaration. And what you have in verse 8, and in the beginning of verse 9, is a declaration about Jesus's ministry. What is that declaration? Well, Paul here declares that God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham by bringing Jews and Gentiles together through Christ and the gospel. Then, beginning in the middle of verse 9, running down through verse 12, he provides biblical evidence to prove that declaration from the Hebrew Scriptures. So, let's look at it.

He starts here with the Jews, and he says. "Christ's ministry mission was, first of all, to fulfill God's promises to the Jews." Verse 8, "For I say that Christ has become." Now, you'll notice that's an unusual expression, He has become. It's trying to capture the perfect tense of the Greek verb. It implies here this is a permanent state; it wasn't just true when Jesus was here walking the earth, but He continues even now. His role of Jewish Messiah is permanent and eternal. Christ has become a servant; that's the verb form of the word 'deacon.' He's become a deacon; He's become a servant to the circumcision, that is to the Jewish people.

Now, if you've read the Gospels, you understand this. I mean the focus of the ministry of Jesus, when He was on the earth, was the Jewish people. Remember He Himself said in Matthew 15, verse 24, "…I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Of course, His great heart couldn't stop there; He ministered to many Gentiles during His earthly ministry as well. But His focus was on the Jewish people. He has become a servant to the Jews. Why? Well, verse 8, goes on to say, "…on behalf of the truth of God." That is, He came to serve the Jewish people in order to show the truthfulness of God. In other words, Christ's ministry was to make it clear that God always tells the truth, and therefore, He always keeps His promises. All those promises He made in the Old Testament, Jesus said, "I'm here to confirm them, I'm here to prove that God keeps His Word!"

Numbers, chapter 23, verse 19, says, "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" The answer is, "Of course not!" Christ has become a servant to the Jewish people to prove the faithfulness of God; that He always keeps His promises.

Notice verse 8, goes on to say, "…to confirm the promises given to the fathers." So, specifically here, we're talking about the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You see, throughout this letter to the Romans, Paul has stressed that God's faithful to His promises to Israel. Let me show you this. Go back to Romans, chapter 1; Romans, chapter 1, verse 1 (and 2), he talks about the gospel of God and it's that gospel which God "promised beforehand through His prophets in the (Hebrew) Scriptures." Chapter 3, verse 1, "…what advantage has the Jew? What is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect… (because primarily) they were entrusted with the (Word) of God." They're the nation that received God's words.

Look at chapter 4, verse 13:

The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (Verse 16) For this reason it is by faith, in order that it (might) be in accordance with grace, so that the promise (The promise made to Abraham.) will be guaranteed to all (his seed), not only to those who are of the Law, (That is Jewish.) but…to those who (have) the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (Jew and Gentile).

Look at chapter 9, verse 4:

…Israelites, to (them) belongs the adoption as sons…the glory and the covenants…the giving of the Law…the temple service and (What?) the promises, whose are the fathers (came, those promises came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)

Look at chapter 11, verse 1:

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

God is faithful! Verse 28 of chapter 11:

From the standpoint of the gospel (the Jewish people) are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

So Christ's mission to the Jewish people was to fulfill God's promises to them in order to confirm God's faithfulness! But, don't misunderstand, Paul says, Christ's mission wasn't only to serve the Jews; it was through His service to the Jews to serve the Gentiles as well. In what way? Christ's mission was also to provide God's mercy for the Gentiles, to provide God's mercy for the Gentiles. Look at verse 9, "…and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." Here Gentiles, of course, refers to everyone who isn't Jewish. So, everybody's here, everybody in this room this morning, you're in one of these categories. Christ came to fulfill His promises to the Jewish people, and Christ came to provide mercy for the Gentiles.

Jesus here, we're told in verse 9, provided for God's mercy and forgiveness for us who are Gentiles so that we could also glorify God. Although Christ's earthly ministry focused on the Jews, it was not intended solely for the Jews. Instead, it was to the Jews so that both Jews and Gentiles might be saved.

Again, you see this theme through the book of Romans. Go back to Romans, chapter 1, verse 16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek," that is to everybody else.

Look at chapter 3; chapter 3, verse 29:

Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the (Jewish people) by faith and the (Gentiles) through faith is one.

You saw it already in chapter 4, the verse I read a moment ago. You see it, look at chapter 9; chapter 9, verse 30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, (a right standing with God) even the (right standing) which comes by faith." Chapter 10, and I love this, chapter 10, verse 12:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (between Jew and Gentile), for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

Listen, if you're here this morning, Jew or Gentile, if you will call out in repentance toward God, you will be saved. It doesn't matter what your background is.

You see it was always God's plan to redeem the Gentiles and to include them in His kingdom. That was true from the very beginning. You remember in Genesis, chapter 12, verse 3, God is making the covenant with Abraham and what does He say to Abraham, "…in you (in your seed) all (of the nations of the world) will be blessed." In other words, "I'm choosing you, Abraham, but it's not so I don't choose people from other parts of the world and other nations. No, I'm I'm choosing you so that through you, the gospel might go to the world."

You see it in the Jewish mission articulated in Exodus 19. You remember, they were in the formalizing of the Constitution of the nation, God says to them, "You are a kingdom of priests." In other words, the Jewish people were like priests to the rest of the world; they were to represent God to the nations, and the nations to God. They had a mission; it was an evangelistic mission. That was God's heart.

You also see this redemptive plan for the Gentiles through the many Old Testament conversions. I mean, think about the stories you know; think about those Old Testament characters, people like Rahab the harlot, the Canaanite woman; think about Ruth the Moabitess, part of a people who burned their children in the fire. Think about Naaman the leper; Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon; and the Ninevites at the preaching of Jonah. Again, and again, God says, "No, my plan isn't just for the Jewish people; it's for Gentiles as well." Paul's point is that Christ came to serve the Jews so that Jewish people could be saved and so that He could show mercy to the Gentiles. Jesus said this; you remember in John 10, verse 16, He said, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold." In context, He's talking about Gentiles. He says, "Look, I'm ministering to this fold, the Jewish fold, but I have other sheep who are not of this folder, they're Gentiles; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock with one Shepherd."

And of course, Paul says in Ephesians 2, that's exactly what happened. Christ came and He brought the Gentiles, who didn't know God, the Jewish people who had all of these privileges but didn't know God either; He brought them together, He brought forgiveness, peace with God, and peace with each other, and He made them one new man, he says, The Church, one new entity.

Paul shows this has always been God's plan, to redeem Jews and to redeem Gentiles, this has always been His plan, and he shows it with proof from the Old Testament. Beginning in the middle of verse 9 and running down through verse 12, "As it is written," he begins there in the middle of verse 9. And then he has a string of quotations and these quotations are tied together by the word 'Gentiles.' He cites four Old Testament passages. One of them is from the Law, Deuteronomy; one is from the Prophets, Isaiah; and two are from the Psalms, which is, in Jewish thinking, called, "The Writings." In other words, Paul quotes here from all three divisions of the Hebrew Scripture to show that the entire Old Testament was clear that God always intended to save a people from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

Now there's a progression as these passages unfold. Notice the first quotation, it comes from Psalm 18:49, "As it is written," verse 9. "Therefore I will give (praise) to You among the (Gentiles)…And I will sing to Your name." David is the one speaking here, and he's praising God; notice, among the Gentiles, actually, in this case, for victory over Gentile nations. It's not clear in this passage whether only David is praising God, whether the Gentiles are participants in praising, or whether they're merely spectators of David's praising. But the point is David wanted the praises of God to be sung among the peoples of the nations.

Notice the second quotation, verse 10, "Again he says," and this is from Deuteronomy 32:43, "Again he says, "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE." This is the last verse in the "Song of Moses." Now, notice the progression here. In the first quotation, David praises God among the Gentiles. Here, Moses calls on the Gentiles to join God's people in rejoicing because of what God has done. It's interesting isn't it, that what Moses calls the Gentiles to do in Deuteronomy 32, they can now do even more because of the mercy God has shown them in the gospel? "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE."

The third quotation is in verse 11, "And again, "PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES, AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM." Paul quotes a second time here from the Psalms; this is from Psalm 117, verse 1. Now 117, is unique; it is unique because, one, it is the shortest Psalm, two verses. Secondly, because it's the shortest chapter in the Bible, two verses. And thirdly, because once the all the chapters were put together in God's providence, it's the center chapter in the Bible.

Now, this verse that he quotes in verse 11 calls directly on the Gentiles and the peoples of the world to praise the Lord, and the only other verse in the Psalm explains why. Verse 2, "(Because) His (steadfast love) is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord is everlasting, Praise the Lord!" Now, again, do you see the progression? In the first quotation, a Jewish person is praising God. In the second quotation, Jews and Gentiles together are praising God. And in this third quotation, the Gentiles are praising God independently from the Jewish people.

Paul's final quote is from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 11:10. Look at verse 12, "Again Isaiah says, "THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE (That is one who comes from Jesse, David's father.) AND HE WHO ARISES (By the way, the word 'arises' is a possible reference to the resurrection; we can't be absolutely sure.) HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE."

Now, do you notice both the Jewish and the Gentile emphasis in this passage? You have the Messiah, the root of Jesse for the Jewish people, but He's going to rule over the nations, and in Him shall the nations hope." You see, David's point here in this last quotation is there is only one reason that a Jewish person and that a Gentile person can praise God, and it's because their hope rests solely on the work of the same person, the root of Jesse. That's a reference to Jesus as Messiah who is a descendent of David and, therefore of course, of David's father, Jesse.

But notice, the Jewish Messiah who comes for the Jewish people as promised in the Old Testament; we're also told in Isaiah, the Old Testament, that He would rule over the nations, and the nations would find their hope in Him. For Jews and Gentiles, the only hope is the descendant of Jesse; He is the only Savior.

As Charles Hodge puts it:

The promise of the Prophet Isaiah is that from the decayed and fallen house of David (You remember how bad it looked at the end of the Davidic dynasty?) from that decayed and fallen house, one should arise whose dominion should embrace all nations and in whom Gentiles as well as Jews should trust. In the fulfillment of this prophecy, Christ came and preached salvation to those who were near and to those who are far off.

Of course, ultimately that prophecy in Isaiah 11, will be fulfilled in the time of the millennium, but it's application, Paul says, is just as appropriate now.

So, what are the implications of this paragraph for us? Let me just briefly draw them out. First of all, Christ is our only hope. He's the hope of the Jewish person; He's the hope of the Gentile; He's your only hope. You understand that apart from Jesus Christ, you have no hope in this world and you have no hope in eternity? You can deny that, you can ignore that; you can live your life with your fingers in your ears, your eyes covered. But in the real world, this is the way it is; your only hope is Jesus Christ and He is a great hope. You're called to put your hope in Him, to put your trust, your confidence, your only assurance of being right with God in Him, to trust His perfect life, His substitutionary death, and His resurrection. You put all of your confidence in Him and Him alone, to turn from your sin and rebellion, and to trust Him; put your hope in Him--He is your only hope, and without Him there's nothing but despair, nothing but loss, nothing but tragedy.

Secondly, God's plan of redemption has always included Jews and Gentiles. That's Paul's main point here; it's always been both.

Thirdly, Christ has a heart for the nations and so should we. I mean, we're studying the book of Revelation and Revelation 5:9, we're told that Christ is redeeming a people (What?) "from every tribe and tongue and nation." Do you have a heart like that for the world? Do you think beyond your own life and your own world and those who are like you to see that Christ has a much larger plan, and have you bought into that plan, are you praying and investing and considering going? As we come to the end of this section on Christian liberty, we can summarize the principles of Christian liberty that we've learned, not so much in this passage, but in the entire section in this way, act in faith. In other words, only make that decision if you believe you can do it and it honors Christ, and act in love, think of others as you determine what you are going to do with your Christian liberty.

And number five, and this is the point of this paragraph, Christ has completely accepted all believers, including those completely different from us. Think about that, Christ has accepted those who are different in ethnicity, nationality, language, culture, socially different, physically different, different in age, in intelligence, in personality, in socioeconomic status, and on issues of conscience. Christ has accepted believers with all of those differences and so should we. We should fully accept; we should receive, into our circle of friendship, every true brother and sister as a member of God's family, regardless of those things on which we differ when it comes to Christian liberty.

Now, Paul finishes with the prayer for all believers, both Jew and Gentile, the prayer for all believers, Jew and Gentile. Look at verse 13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." I saved this till last because Paul does; this benediction here functions as the conclusion of the paragraph we've just studied; it also functions as the conclusion to the entire section on Christian liberty, and the conclusion to the body of his letter to the Romans. Everything from this point forward that we'll study, from verse 14 on, is all concluding matters, it's all Epilog; this is the end of the book of Romans in terms of its teaching content.

Notice how he concludes, notice his benediction. First of all, he addresses his prayer to the "God of hope." You know what he's saying? God is the source of the hope that we have in the gospel; it comes from Him. He's the only one who provides it.

Notice his request, "…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace." Paul prays that we would be filled with joy, an inner sense of gladness, part of the fruit of the Spirit; and with peace, another fruit of the Spirit. And since it's parallel here, with joy, I think it's best to take this as an inward state of peace, an inward state of calm. "May God fill you with (gladness) and peace (By what means?) in believing," because, you believe in Christ and the gospel. You see, joy and peace are impossible apart from believing in Christ and believing in the gospel; but when you believe in that, then God can fill you with all joy and peace as you come to understand the implications of the gospel even more.

And what's the consequence of this joy and peace? Verse 13, goes on to say, "…so that (when you are filled with joy and peace) you will abound." You will overflow in hope, the natural result of being filled with inward joy and peace because of a continual trust in Christ, is hope. Hope for what? Well, do you remember back in chapter 5, and verse 2, Paul says because we've been justified, "…we exult in hope of the glory of God."

Do you know what your hope is, Christian? Do you know what should be growing in you? It's that hope of seeing God's glory and sharing God's glory. Jesus says in Matthew 5, verse 8, "Blessed are the pure in heart (those who are truly my disciples, because) they (will) see God." That's your hope! You're going to see God face to face. And, not only seeing His glory, but sharing His glory, because you remember in 1 John, chapter 3, John writes, "Beloved, now we are (the) children of God…it has not yet appeared…what we will be. (But) we know that when He appears, we will be like Him (We will share God's glory, we'll be like Jesus Christ.), because we will see Him just as He is, (because we see His glory)." We'll see His glory and we'll share His glory!

The ultimate cause of joy, peace, faith, and hope, those virtues we discovered in verse 13, notice, come at the end of the verse, "…by the power of the Holy Spirit." They're never achieved by personal effort or personal merit; instead they're the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and His power in you.

As we end our study of Paul's letter to the Romans, the body of his letter to the Romans, we're going to study the rest of it, but this is the end of the body of it, the meat of it, the doctrine as he's laid it out; as we end our study of this section, Paul's prayer for you, and, beloved, my prayer for you, is this. Look at verse 13 again, "Now may the God (who is the source) of (the) hope (we found in the gospel), fill you with all joy (a sense of gladness in your heart) and peace (peace of mind and heart knowing that you have peace with God because you believe the gospel, because you believe in Jesus Christ) so that you will abound (so that you will overflow) in hope (of seeing the glory of God, and of sharing the glory of God, and may God accomplish all of this in you) by the power of the Holy Spirit." That's a great way to end the body of this magnificent letter.

Let's pray together. Father, that is our prayer; that is my prayer for all of us. Lord, I know it's your prayer because you inspired the Apostle Paul to write it here as we finish what has been a magnificent journey through such great doctrine and the application of the gospel to life. Lord, may this be our prayer, and may you fill us with joy and peace and believing so that we may abound in hope, the hope of seeing you and of sharing your glory, of being like Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord, I pray for those here this morning who don't have that hope because they've not believed in the gospel. Oh, God, help them to see the gospel and Christ are their only hope and everything else is merely desperation and despair. Oh, Lord, help them to see that, help them to turn to the one who said, "Come to Me, all (you) who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," rest for your soul. Lord, may they find that rest even today. I pray in Jesus's name, Amen.