Saturday, February 15, 2014

"We're in this together!"

Day #50:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - February 16th

Scripture Reading:  Romans 15 - 16 …

As Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, it was with a sense that he was but one part of a large body that together were called by God to accomplish His purpose and His mission to the world.  While we view the Apostle Paul as perhaps the most outstanding person in the early Church, he understood that God was at work before he was born, that he was here for that time, that others were partners with him and that for God's purpose to be fulfilled, more people would need to hear the Gospel and follow Jesus Christ.  That was his time … this is ours!

Chapter 15 begins with Paul speaking about HOPE - the hope that only God can give and that only those who know God can receive.  He explains that those of us who are "strong," who by God's grace are more mature in our faith in Christ, must lift up those who are weak "so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (15:4).  Such hope, centered in God's work in His Son Jesus Christ, brings unity, oneness to the body of Christ, "so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (15:6).

This unity in Christ, produced by His Spirit, is essential for the Church to expand, to grow and to thrive.  God's goal was to bring Jews and Gentiles together into one body, and it is God's desire and purpose to bring some from every people, tribe, nation and tongue into Christ's body today, so that His name would be known throughout the world.  This hope brings joy and peace to those who trust in Him (15:13), and produces hope as the Holy Spirit works within us and through us, for God's glory.

In the remainder of Chapter 15, Paul encourages the Romans to counsel one another, reminding them that they know the truth, even as he has been proclaiming it through much of the then-known world.  He expresses his plans to visit them on his way to Spain … a trip Paul never made (so far as we know).  Yet his desire to do so reveals his passion to make the one, true God known and to bring salvation, God's promise of forgiveness and eternal life, to those who had not yet heard.

To that end, he sends his greetings to those in Rome, whom he apparently knew personally and by name.  What a beautiful picture of the inter-woven pieces of God's Church!  The true Church is not an organization, but PEOPLE … people who know God, who love God and who labor together in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of His one Spirit.  None of us can do this on our own.  We NEED each other.  The Church is a body of people called by God to bring Him glory, to make Him known, to proclaim the Gospel and to display His power to the world.  We ARE the "light of the world" and "the salt of the earth"  (Matthew 5:13-14).

Paul warns, already in his day, of those "who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned" (16:17).  The oneness of the body must be a priority, for only when the disciples of Jesus labor together for God's purposes will God's will be done.  So Paul ends with this beautiful benediction … let this be our prayer:

"Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ!  Amen!!"  (16:25-27).

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