An exposition of Romans 15:1-13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, May 23, 2010.
If you knew that you had 24 hours to live what would you do? It is an interesting question. One day left on this earth, how would you spend it? One thing is certain your answer would reveal what is important to you. Your answer would tell us what really matters to you. The truth is none of us know what we would do. We can speculate. We can say what we would hope that we would do but there is no way of knowing with certainty what we would do if put in that circumstance. Of course the other thing is none of us knows how much time we have left. But there is one who knew exactly how much time he had and we know what he did. After three years of ministry Jesus announced his time had come. He set his face as a flint and he marched toward Jerusalem for the last time. His disciples begged him not to go. They said this is the wrong time. “The authorities are determined to kill you. Don’t go. Not now.” Jesus said, “Now is the time.” He was welcomed in triumph on that Sunday as he made his way into Jerusalem. By Friday he had been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to die. How did he spend his last day? With his disciples, teaching them about the kingdom of God and he prayed. What did he pray? It is recorded for us in John chapter 17.
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (17:11)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…” (17:20-21)
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one… (17:22)
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (17:23)
It is significant, given the circumstance, that this was Jesus’ prayer. Think about it. There is so much he could have been praying for but foremost in his mind was that the church would be one. His prayer was for unity within the body of Christ. Why was that so important? Because it has a direct bearing on the church’s message and credibility, “So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” The quality or degree of our unity will either attract or repel the world. They will either be draw to our message or drive from our message by the quality of our life together.
The church, because it is made up of people like you and me, has struggled with this from the beginning. The church of Galatia was fragmented due to legalism. The church at Corinth chose sides based on favorite leaders. Pergamum was divided and diluted because believers had married unbelievers. Things were so bad in Laodicea that our Lord just said they made him sick. Many believe there were real problems in Rome. Some have suggested that petty bickering and bitter rivalry caused some members to turn on others and even give them over to the authorities declaring them traitors to the Empire. The modern church doesn’t fair any better. Churches divided over the color of carpet or which side of the auditorium the piano belongs on are all too common. Thus Paul’s message to Rome is as important and pertinent today as it was 2000 years ago. The need is for unity. Our text is found in Romans 15 beginning with verse 1.
Text: Romans 15:1-13
Again we are talking about life as God intends it.
The church is about our living the faith together.
This is the laboratory where we learn to love and forgive.
This is the place where we butt heads and learn to get along.
In chapter 14 Paul makes it clear we are not to sit in judgment of one another. When it comes to disputed matters or matters of conscience we are to be convinced in our own minds and grant freedom to others to disagree or see things differently. Further we are not to be the source of our brother’s failure. Love reigns in liberty. I choose to limit my freedom for my brother’s sake.
As we consider the opening section of chapter 15 I want us to see that…
Thesis: The church that genuinely honors Christ diligently seeks to display biblical unity.
2 things are clear as we follow Paul’s argument.
- Unity demands that we follow Christ’s example of patience and selfless sacrifice in dealing with one another’s weaknesses and failures. (15:1-6)
- Unity demands wholehearted acceptance of others with the goal of establishing a fellowship filled with joy, marked by peace and abounding in hope. (15:7-13)
- This is a tall order but it is not as if we have nothing to guide us.
- We have our own experience of grace and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
- And this is to what end?
- 15:3 – that we might be a place filled with joy, marked by peace and abounding in hope. That is the fruit of genuine biblical unity and that is to be the goal of this fellowship.