By Keith Sharp
Since its dawning in ancient Jerusalem, the enlightening rise and course of the gospel of light has been blotted out by neither time nor space. It is an ageless message for all nations (1 Peter 1:24-25; Mark 16:15).
The Lord’s body in the first century was painfully bruised and broken by the antipathies of Jew and Gentile toward one another. The one human who labored most abundantly to heal these wounds was the apostle Paul, who became the specially selected ambassador to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:16-18; Romans 11:13; Gal. 1:15-16; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:7), although he truthfully described himself as “a Hebrew of the Hebrew:.” (Phil. 3:4-6). A great theme from source to mouth of the stream of inspired instruction in Paul’s letter to the Romans is the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ (Rom. 1:5, 16; 2:9, 10, 11; 3:29; 9:23, 24, 33; 10:11, 12, 13; 11:11, 12, 13, 25; 16:26). The fifteenth chapter of Romans is woven tightly into this fabric.
The value of this chapter to us lies in our ability to so understand its message as to be able to apply it to our own lives. What is the meaning of Romans fifteen? How does it apply to us?
In the fourteenth chapter of Romans, the beloved apostle discussed the problems of unity and peace in Christ as pertaining to matters of unimportance, specifically eating of meats and observing of days. There is no clear break between chapters fourteen and fifteen. Rather, in chapter fifteen and basis for the problems is revealed and broad principles are gained from it.
Apparently, the problems over matters of opinion were rooted in the soil of animosity between Jew and Gentile. The Jewish Christians would not eat certain meats and desired to keep certain days (Col. 2:13-23). Ten times in seven verses in Romans fifteen, the apostles names the Gentiles, demonstrating why Jews should accept them (verses 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 18, 27). Verse seven states the theme of the chapter and provides the basis for its analysis.
Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
How do we receive one another? The term “receive” is variously defined thus:
. . . denotes to take to oneself… signifying a special interest on the part of the receiver, suggesting a welcome . . . .(1)
. . . grant one access to one’s heart; to take into friendship and intercourse . . . .(2)
. . . receive or accept in one’s society, in (to) one’s home, or circle of acquaintances . . . .(3)
The word includes both spiritual reception and social acceptance. If we receive one, we will happily take him into our homes and share with him our possessions (Acts 28:2; Phile. 10-17).
The passage we are studying details several ways in which we should receive one another. The “strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak” (verse I). We are “not to please ourselves,” but
Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification (verses 1-2).
We should “be like minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus” (verse 5). To “be like minded” implies “acceptance of the equality of the basic worth and acceptance by the Lord”(4) one of the other. We ought to “with one mind and one mouth glorify God,” which beautifully figures unity of both heart and action as we together worship the Father.
We are to receive one another “as Christ also received us.” Would Christ refuse to own us as brethren (Heb. 2:11-12)? Would He decline to join our worship (Ibid.)?
Would He turn us away from His home (John 14:1-3)? Should we so do to one another? Faithful disciples, whether Jew or Gentile, in the first century received each other both spiritually and socially. Simon Peter, directed by the Spirit of God, commanded uncircumcised Gentiles “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48) “and didst eat with them” (Acts 11:3). He thus proved we “should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:15, 28).
Why should we so receive one another? Because “Christ also received us.” What reasons can you imagine for refusing to receive any faithful brother or sister, whether spiritually or socially? Could Christ Jesus not refuse us on the same grounds with far more justification? Would you refuse one because you think he was born lower in nature than you racially or nationally? How much higher in nature is Christ than we (John 1:1-3, 14)? What about a brother lower in knowledge? How does your knowledge compare to that of the Master (Matt. 11:27)? Does a brother’s lack of wisdom deter fellowship? Are we as wise as the Lord (Mark 6:2)? Do we allow lower intelligence to interfere? How do we compare to Jesus, who, as a twelve year old boy from despised Nazareth in far-off Galilee astonished the learned doctors of Jerusalem (Luke 2:4647)? Have we greater riches than others? Are we as rich as the Prince of heaven (Heb. 11:26)? Is a brother lower in birth than you? Are you as high born as the Son of God (Heb. 1:4-5)? Is He beneath you in honor? How much honor belongs to the Lord (Heb. 1:6-12)? Is there really a legitimate reason to refuse to receive any faithful brother or sister, whether spiritually or socially?
What is the purpose of our reception one of another? It is “to the glory of God.” How do we, by receiving each other, glorify God? We thus exalt the Father because we so imitate Christ, who sacrificed His own pleasure for our good, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (Rom., 15:3-4; Psa. 69:9). In this manner, we show the same mind God has toward us. There “is no respect of persons with God” (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; Eph,. 6:9; Col. 3:25;.1 Pet. 1:17), and we are condemned as sinners if we show partiality because of outward circumstances, whether that partiality be in spiritual matters (James 2:1-10) or in social (Gal. 2:11-14).
By receiving one another we fulfill the promises of God to the fathers (Rom. 15:8). Jehovah pledged to Abraham the blessing of all nations in his seed (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). The blessings in Christ upon Jew and Gentile alike fulfill these promises (Gal. 3:8, 13-14, 16, 26-29). Our mutual reception one of another fulfills the prophecies of the unity of the saved of all nations in Christ (Rom. 15:912; cf. 2 Sam. 22:50; Psa. 18:49; Deut. 32:43; Psa. 117:1; Isa. 11:1, 10). Furthermore, such unity and peace is a happy fulfillment of Paul’s special ministry to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:13-32).
Although no strife between Jew and Gentile seethes in the family of God today, a tragic parallel is obvious. Who is so blind as to fail to see the application to the relationship between black and white Christians? By what right do we meet in separate assemblies and compose separate congregations strictly on the basis of race? How can we justify the failure to receive one another either spiritually or socially? Should not faithful brothers in Christ receive each other? Should we not be one? Should we not exhibit love one for another?
Brethren, in every way Jews and Gentiles were to receive one another! Blacks and whites should receive each other. Every excuse blacks and whites can imagine to refuse one another could have been used by Jews and Gentiles against each other or by Christ against us. If not, why not?
Does the first century gospel apply to twentieth century America? I believe it does. Dear ones:
I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14).
Wherefore, I ardently beseech you:
receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7). Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen (Rom. 15:33).
- What is one of the great themes of Paul’s letter to Rome?
- What questions in Chapter 14 were occasions for some Christians refusing to receive others?
- If the gospel neither bound or loosed eating of certain meats and personal regard for certain days, how could these questions trouble the early church?
- How does the work of Christ help us to understand the command to “receive . . . one antoher?”
- If each man pleases himself and lets the weak make out as best he can, what will happen to the church?
- How did Peter demonstrate in his own life the principle that no man is “common or unclean”?
- How did Peter once fail to exemplify that principle?
- What are some differences in people that might appear to be problems in bringing about their unity in Christ?
- How has Christ himself set an example which proves that we can overcome in the gospel these differences or barriers?
- In your own community, are there any groups which are likely to be overlooked, shunned or rejected from a chance to hear the gospel and to share its blessings
Truth Magazine XXIII: 2 pp. 34-35
January 11, 1979