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Romans 15:4–13 (CSB)

For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice. Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God.

 Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God. For I say that Christ became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and I will sing praise to your name.,
10 Again it says, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people!, 11 And again,
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples praise him!,
12 And again, Isaiah says,
The root of Jesse will appear,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
the Gentiles will hope in him.,
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dear fellow redeemed: Do you realize, or think about, the fact that you live in the midst of God’s grace? If you are a believer, then to some extent you do. You realize that you have received by God’s grace, through faith, the righteousness of Christ, and that you therefore live in view of His coming, his Advent, to deliver you from sin and death into eternal life. In some way, all of our Sunday lessons in this Advent season reflect what it means to live as A CHRISTIAN IN THE MIDST OF GRACE.

Last Sunday the Scripture lesson emphasized that each day we are nearer to the fullness of our salvation, so we should be ready for the day of His coming.

Today our lesson emphasizes the hope that all believers have, whatever their differences in culture, class, language, history or location, because we live as …

CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDST OF GRACE

WE HAVE ONE HOPE – IN CHRIST

  1. We Enjoy Multiple “Goods”
  2. One Hope Unites All Believers
  3. One Hope Calls All People
  1. We Enjoy Multiple “Goods”

The background of this text has to do with some differences in the house churches in Rome. Some people felt obligated as Christians to keep all the Old Testament laws, including worship on Saturday, celebrating the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, and eating Kosher. These people, whom Paul referred to as the “weak” disapproved of those who did not follow the rules.

Others, whom Paul referred to as the “strong” recognized that these laws had been given to point to Christ and had been fulfilled in Him. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” (Romans 10:4, CSB) But they would use their freedom to lead the weak to sin against their own consciences. Regarding eating kosher, Paul explained, “But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, CSB) The strong ignored the “law of love.”

But because we live under grace (notice how we are back to our over-arching theme) we don’t hope to please God by whether we do or don’t do what the now-fulfilled rules required. Our hope is in His mercy.

Paul’s solution was to lead all to recognize multiple goods. “Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, and he gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6, CSB) None of these varieties is wrong; they are different goods, for they are in harmony with God’s word and express the One Hope we have in Christ.

You have heard me apply that to our own day. Do we use a crucifix or an empty cross? You may prefer one or the other, but each has its own meaning, and each is good. Shall we use the red hymnal or the black? Each has its advantages, and each is good. Alb or cassock & surplice? Blue for Advent or Purple? They are all good. “Therefore, let us no longer judge one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister.” (Romans 14:13, CSB) Give honor to Christ with what you choose, just don’t think it makes you better than other Christians.

These are “goods” because they serve one purpose, each in their own way. The Roman Christians could go back in the Scriptures to show where Moses gave the laws and the people were acceptable to God, or on the other hand, to where Abraham, without the laws, was declared righteous by God. The one purpose is the Grace of God in which we hope. So Paul instructs, For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.

What was written spoke of the Lamb of God, One and only One, who entered into this world at a time we are soon to celebrate.  He became Holy man in order to suffer the wrath of God upon sinful man, and so at a time some centuries ago and a place some yards outside the city of Jerusalem, the Lamb of God took away the sins of all the world and gave to humanity the One Hope rooted in reality, the ONE HOPE IN CHRIST.

2. One Hope Unites All Believers

Sadly, most have no hope in Christ, but hope in themselves and their own workings.  Maybe it is formal, like the Five Pillars of Islam.  More likely it is informal, like “I do the best I can.” Maybe it is just despair as we see with the hopeless in this pandemic.

The reason that Unity is so important to the Christian church, the reason that Paul urges it so strongly here, is that there is, after all, one hope.  All Christians, wherever they are in history or in the world, have this one hope and having One Hope in Christ, we have true unity with the most diverse nations of the earth.  With people of all colors and races and languages, with people, think of it, who are far away in miles, yes – but also in time.  For we all worship the babe in the manger

It is to this one hope that Christ calls us through the gospel and makes us one.  Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.

We are accepted by Christ based on Grace, through faith, and so we should accept others WHO HAVE THE SAME HOPE, THE ONE HOPE IN CHRIST, be they as different as Jew and Gentile.

Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God. For I say that Christ became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy. This is what gives true unity to the church of Christ.  Just as Christ by grace made us His, so we accept one another as forgiven IN CHRIST.  Just as there is no other hope, so there is no other basis around which the church is united.  To the extent that anyone teaches contrary to everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, they teach a doctrine that leads away from the Gospel.

This is why as the Evangelical Lutheran Synod we insist our pastors uphold this confession in our churches.  This is why we do not unite with churches who do otherwise, for they lead away from the One Hope in Christ that unites the church.

3. One Hope Calls All People

This is also the hope that calls to the entire world, as Paul quotes, 12And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the Gentiles will hope in him.”

The Root of Jesse, Christ our Lord, has risen above all the nations and He has so directed the history of the nations and so exercised the power of His word that He has given hope to the sinful and the dying, the world that had no other hope.

Put another way, Christ who died, but now is risen, has guided the affairs of the world that this old Gentile sinner has come to know him, and even though I grow old, and even though death comes upon me, and even though my sins are heavy upon me, I have a sure and certain hope of life that never ends, of a life cleansed of sin and covered with the righteousness of Christ.

13May 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.

 

As Paul Gerhardt wrote,

He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to His foes,
A Light of consolations
And blessed Hope to those
Who love the Lord’s appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth Thy beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home!

Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

AMEN.