Musings on Scripture

– and what isn’t always said

Advent 2 (Year A)

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Romans 15:4-13

4Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name’;
10and again he says, ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
11and again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him’;
12and again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Text © The New Revised Standard Version (English version), alt, used with permission.


©Mission Venture Ministries

Earlier in Romans, Paul had been trying to get together those who were adamant that scriptural teaching had to be adhered to for all time, and those who had a more liberal approach, that it was guidance, and circumstances could change. Even though Paul has been, for many centuries, held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel and an apostle for Christ, we still have the same problem today. We listen to such readings, but do we hear the message? Evidence suggests we don’t! What was written was for our instruction. Jews and Christians in the first century AD essentially had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their guide. Those scriptures were passed on orally for centuries before being committed to writing, and the context was changed to fit the circumstances in which the story was being told. There was no intent for the scriptures to be a rule book by which life must be directed and constrained, but they were to be used to guide people in the way God wanted them to go at the time. Certain foods, if not prepared or stored properly, caused illnesses and death, but as we learned how to protect ourselves from the reasons for those illnesses we found the constraint no longer had any relevance. For those whose lives were not the best, being forced to keep to a regimen that was oppressive or dangerous would certainly not have given any sense of hope, which is what Paul wants us to get from his writings.

If the message of Christ’s Good News was recognised then the Romans would be able to live in harmony with each other despite their differences. It was not important whether a house church adhered to a liberal or a conservative approach provided the focus was on the gospel, on the hope that the gospel brings, and on bringing others to Christ. Reading this passage as guidance for us in the 21st century, we are to worship in whatever ways we find acceptable when we proclaim the gospel, as if we are all together. Some people like traditional services and will be turned off, or will leave the church if required to have contemporary prayers and songs; others prefer the contemporary and are turned off by the traditional, but we can all live as Christians and praise God both together and in our own ways.

How often do we welcome others as we might expect Jesus to welcome us? Is that false smile a give-away that we really don’t want our established way of being challenged? Is the group discussion with friends going to encourage new people to stay? Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, who had persecuted Christians before his conversion, is determined to get across his message that Christ’s message is for everyone, not just for the Jews. Yes, He came as a Jew, but that doesn’t limit who is called into eternal life by welcoming Christ into their lives.

There is hope in this world if those with blinkered views can accept the challenge of opening their eyes – remember the saying ‘there are none so blind as those who WILL not see’ – and accepting everyone without judgement and without negativity.Earlier in Romans, Paul had been trying to get together those who were adamant that scriptural teaching had to be adhered to for all time, and those who had a more liberal approach, that it was guidance, and circumstances could change. Even though Paul has been, for many centuries, held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel and an apostle for Christ, we still have the same problem today. We listen to such readings, but do we hear the message? Evidence suggests we don’t! What was written was for our instruction. Jews and Christians in the first century AD essentially had only the Hebrew Scriptures as their guide. Those scriptures were passed on orally for centuries before being committed to writing, and the context was changed to fit the circumstances in which the story was being told. There was no intent for the scriptures to be a rule book by which life must be directed and constrained, but they were to be used to guide people in the way God wanted them to go at the time. Certain foods, if not prepared or stored properly, caused illnesses and death, but as we learned how to protect ourselves from the reasons for those illnesses we found the constraint no longer had any relevance. For those whose lives were not the best, being forced to keep to a regimen that was oppressive or dangerous would certainly not have given any sense of hope, which is what Paul wants us to get from his writings.

If the message of Christ’s Good News was recognised then the Romans would be able to live in harmony with each other despite their differences. It was not important whether a house church adhered to a liberal or a conservative approach provided the focus was on the gospel, on the hope that the gospel brings, and on bringing others to Christ. Reading this passage as guidance for us in the 21st century, we are to worship in whatever ways we find acceptable when we proclaim the gospel, as if we are all together. Some people like traditional services and will be turned off, or will leave the church if required to have contemporary prayers and songs; others prefer the contemporary and are turned off by the traditional, but we can all live as Christians and praise God both together and in our own ways.

How often do we welcome others as we might expect Jesus to welcome us? Is that false smile a give-away that we really don’t want our established way of being challenged? Is the group discussion with friends going to encourage new people to stay? Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, who had persecuted Christians before his conversion, is determined to get across his message that Christ’s message is for everyone, not just for the Jews. Yes, He came as a Jew, but that doesn’t limit who is called into eternal life by welcoming Christ into their lives.

There is hope in this world if those with blinkered views can accept the challenge of opening their eyes – remember the saying ‘there are none so blind as those who WILL not see’ – and accepting everyone without judgement and without negativity.

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