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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

“When Jesus Sees You”

Romans 15:7-13

Paul here refers to the major issue in the early church.  This had to do with the role of the Gentiles.  There was the view that Gentile Christians had to keep the same Law of Moses as did Jews.  The defining symbol of this was circumcision.  According to some of the Pharisees, who had apparently come to Christ, all believers had to keep the Law in order to receive salvation (Acts 15:1).

For Paul the issue here was twofold.  On an initial level the question dealt with both the racial and cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles.  There were a whole hosts of requirements in the Law of Moses that Gentiles did not observe, many of them having to do with food.  Peter shows this conviction in the vision he has which is preparing him to minister to a Gentile and his family (Acts 10).  Peter concludes after this event that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34).  The conclusion of the Jerusalem Council was that no one, Jew or Gentile, was required to keep the Law in order to be saved (Acts 15:6-11).

This issue has continued throughout history.  As Paul himself admits the Law is holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12).  Yet in the final analysis the Law only convicts us of our sin.  None of us is capable of keeping it.  This is clearly an issue with the Sermon on the Mount.  It presents a standard none of us can live up to.

Yet at the same time we cannot dismiss the commandments.  Martin Luther who closely followed Paul’s total emphasis on grace apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9) still granted that there was benefit in the Ten Commandments.  The commandments do present us with God’s basic will.  They encourage us and challenge us.

However legalism can easily emerge in any discussion of the Law.  The Law cannot be used to divide people from each other (those who practice certain parts of it vs. those who don’t; I Cor. 8-10).  Nor can it be used to condemn.  Jesus in his death on the cross took upon himself all of the consequences of our failure to keep the Law.  In Christ there is a genuine freedom which was never possible under the Law (John 8:31-32; Gal. 5:1).

Paul quotes from the Old Testament itself to show that even the Law pointed beyond itself to a message of hope and mercy for all Gentiles (whom the Jews considered unclean).  Paul cites Ps. 18:49; Deut. 32:43; Ps. 117:1 and Isa. 11:10.

Paul ends with a benediction of “joy and peace in believing.”  In Christ sin has been removed completely once for all.  This was not possible under the Law.

Faithful and gracious God keep me centered on the promises I have received in Christ.  May I trust those promises in all that I say and do.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.