For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:8-13 (ESV)
Doug Moo writes:
We must return one last time to one of the key issues in the modern interpretation of Romans: the tension between the personal focus and the community focus. Both are clearly present in Romans, both, Paul makes clear, are intrinsic to the gospel. Through the good news of Jesus Christ, God is both transforming individuals and forming a community.
The passage before us focuses on the latter, and many modern interpreters think this focus reflects Paul’s real concern in the letter. I do not totally agree. I think Paul focuses on the community in 15:7-13 because these verses conclude a section (14:1-15:13) that is about the community. But however we decide this matter, we must read Romans in such a way that we focus on both transformation of the individual and formation of the community.
Interpreters in the past were sometimes guilty of seeing in Romans only the former, so that all they talked about were justification by faith, the sanctification of the believer, and one’s duties as a believer. But some contemporary interpreters make the opposite mistake. Reading Romans in a culture obsessed with community and the need for reconciliation among races, ethnic groups, and nations, they emphasize only how we as God’s people should function as a single, united body. Justification by faith and similar themes become minimized or reinterpreted.
We must keep things in balance. The heart of the gospel is the message of God’s justifying work in Christ. The essential human problem is estrangement from God. Only when this estrangement is overcome, and a person is reconciled to God by faith, can we speak about God’s good news having done its work. Our preaching and teaching must therefore confront people with sin and offer them redemption in Christ.
But God also wants to form people transformed by the gospel into communities that reflect the values of the gospel. Vertical reconciliation with God must lead to horizontal reconciliation with one another. Faithfulness to the gospel demands that any of us involved in ministry should seek to maintain a balance between the two perspectives. Some pastors are marvelous proclaimers of the gospel of individual transformation. They are passionate to save souls, rescuing people lost in sin and destined for hell. I commend their passion. But they need also to make clear – as Paul does in Romans – that the gospel not only rescues people from hell but also transforms whole persons, brining reconciliation with other people as well as with God.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 4
Q. 4. What is God? A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.