We have now finished that which might be called the argumentative portion of the Epistle to the Romans. The five chapters which follow are devoted to exhortations to the church. Those in the chapter before us are very simple, but will be much better understood if read in connection with that which immediately precedes. Accordingly, we preface our reading of the twelfth chapter with the last four verses of the eleventh:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office;
5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;
11 not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord
12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer,
13 distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
A Logical Conclusion.
The closing verses of the eleventh chapter set forth the infinite, unsearchable power and wisdom of God. Nobody can add anything to him. No one can put God under obligations to him. No one can give him something for which he should receive something in return. "For of him, and through him, and to him are all things." "He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." "In him we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17:25, 28.
This being so, it is but reasonable that all should yield their bodies to him, for him to control. He alone has the wisdom and the power to do it properly. The word "reasonable" is, literally, "logical." The logical result of acknowledging God's power and wisdom and love, is to submit to him. He who does not yield to God, virtually denies his existence.
Exhorting and Comforting.
It is interesting to know that the Greek word rendered "beseech" is from the same root as "the Comforter," applied to the Holy Spirit. It is the word used in Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." It occurs also in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, "Comfort one another with these words."
The following passage contains the word several times, as indicated: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ." 2 Cor. 1:3-5. The fact that the Greek word for "exhort," or "beseech," is identical with that for "comfort," may give a new force to the exhortations of the Spirit of God.
There is comfort in the thought that God is all-powerful. Therefore there is comfort in all his exhortations and commandments, since he does not expect us to act in our own strength, but in his. When he utters a command, it is but the statement of what he will do in and for us, if we yield to his power.1 When he reproves, he is simply showing to us our need, which he can abundantly supply. The Spirit convicts of sin, but is always the Comforter.
Power and Mercy.
"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy." Ps. 62:11, 12. "God is love." Therefore his power is love, so that when the apostle cites the power and wisdom of God as the reason why we should yield to him, he exhorts us by the mercies of God. Never forget that all the manifestation of God's power is but the manifestation of his love, and that love is the power by which he works. Jesus Christ, in whom God's love is revealed (1 John 4:10), is "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). ROM 12-010 True Nonconformity.
In England, religious people have often been divided into two classes_Churchmen and Nonconformists. Now every true Christian is a non-conformist, but not in the sense that the word is ordinarily used. "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds." When those who call themselves Nonconformists adopt worldly methods, and engage in worldly schemes, then they dishonor the name. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God."
How to Think of Self.
The exhortation to every man is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. How highly ought one to think of himself? "Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men." Ps. 9:20. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help." Ps. 146:3. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" Isa. 2:22. "Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Ps. 39:5. "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." 1 Cor. 3:19, 20. "What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14. "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isa. 64:6. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Phil. 2:3.
Faith and Humility.
Pride is the enemy of faith. The two can not live together. A man can think soberly and humbly only as the result of the faith that God gives. "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:4. The man who has confidence in his own strength and wisdom, will not depend upon another. Trust in the wisdom and power of God comes only when we recognize and acknowledge our own weakness and ignorance.
Faith a Gift of God.
That faith which God deals to man is indicated in Revelation 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." God does not give faith to the saints only, any more than he gives the commandments to them alone; but the saints keep the faith, and others do not. The faith which they keep is the faith of Jesus; therefore it is the faith of Jesus that is given to men.
Faith Given to Every Man.
Every man is exhorted to think soberly, because God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Many people have a notion that they are so constituted that it is impossible for them to believe. That is a grave error. Faith is just as easy, and just as natural, as breathing. It is the common inheritance of all men, and the one thing wherein all are equal. It is as natural for the child of the infidel to believe as it is for the child of the saint. It is only when men build up a barrier of pride about themselves (Ps. 73:6) that they find it difficult to believe. And even then they will believe; for when men disbelieve God, they believe Satan; when they disbelieve the truth, they greedily swallow the most egregious falsehoods.
In What Measure?
We have seen that faith is given to every man. This may be known also by the fact that salvation is offered to every man, and placed within his grasp, and salvation is only by faith. If God had not given faith to every man, he could not have brought salvation within the reach of all.
The question is, In what measure has God given every man faith? This is really answered in the fact already learned, that the faith which he gives is the faith of Jesus. The faith of Jesus is given in the gift of Jesus himself, and Christ is given in his fulness to every man. He tasted death for every man. Heb. 2:9. "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." Eph. 4:7. Christ is not divided; therefore to every man is given all of Christ and all of his faith. There is but one measure.
The Body and Its Members.
"There is one body" (Eph. 4:4), and that is the church, of which Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18). "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Eph. 5:30. There are many members in the body, "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
As in the human body, so in the body of Christ, "all members have not the same office;" yet they are so joined together, and so mutually dependent, that none can boast over the others. "The eye can not say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you." 1 Cor. 12:21. So it is in the true church of Christ; there are no divisions and no boastings, and no member seeks to occupy the place or perform the work of another. No member thinks himself independent of the others, and all have an equal care for one another.
All members have not the same office, and all have not the same gifts. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of Spirits; to another divers kind of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." 1 Cor. 12:4-11.
"The Proportion of Faith."
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith." As we have seen, there is but "one faith" (Eph. 4:5), and that is "the faith of Jesus." Although there are various gifts, there is but one power behind them all. "All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit." Therefore, to prophesy or to exercise any other of the gifts "according to the proportion" or measure of faith, is to do it "as of the ability which God giveth." 1 Peter 4:11. "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
"In Honor Preferring One Another."
This can be done only when one is able "in lowliness of mind" to esteem others better than himself. Phil. 2:3. And this can be done only when one knows his own worthlessness. The man who "knows the plague of his own heart" can not think that others are as bad as himself. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant."
How to Treat Persecutors.
"Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." To curse does not necessarily always mean to use profane language_to swear. To curse means to speak ill. It is the opposite of bless, which means to speak well of. Sometimes men persecute according to law, and sometimes they persecute without any legal warrant; but whether it is "due process of law" or mob violence, no hard words are to be used against those who do it. On the contrary, they are to be spoken well of.
One can not do this without the Spirit of Christ, who prayed for his betrayers and murderers, and who did not venture to bring railing accusation even against the devil. Jude 9. To hold persecutors up to contempt is not according to God's instruction.
Rejoicing and Weeping.
To rejoice with them that rejoice and to weep with them that weep, is not an easy thing for the natural man. Only the grace of God can work such sympathy in men. It is not so difficult to weep with those who are afflicted, but it is often very difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice. For instance, suppose another has received something which we very much desired, and is rejoicing over his gain; it requires much grace to rejoice with him.
Keeping the Peace.
We are to live peaceably with all men if it be possible. But what is the limit of possibility? Some will say that they tried to keep peace until "forbearance ceased to be a virtue," and then they paid the troublesome one in his own coin. Many think that this verse exhorts them to hold out as long as they can, and not to take part in any disturbance until they have had great provocation. But this verse says, "as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
That is, there is to be no trouble so far as we are concerned. We can not always keep other people from warring, but we can be at peace ourselves. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee." Isa. 26:3. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. 5:1. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." Col. 3:15. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:7. He who has this abiding peace of God will never have any trouble with people.
To Whom Addressed?
In studying this chapter it is necessary to remember that the Epistle is addressed to professed followers of the Lord. "Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will," etc. Rom. 2:17, 18. And again, "Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law)." etc. Rom. 7:1. The last part of the chapter also shows the same thing.
It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose that this chapter was designed to set forth the duties of earthly rulers, or as a treatise on civil government, or on the relation that the state should occupy to the church. Since it is addressed to professed Christians, it is evident that its object is simply to tell them how they ought to behave towards the governments under which they live.
All Power from God.
"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God." Ps. 62:11. "There is no power but of God." This is absolutely true, without any exception. The Roman power, even in the days of the infamous and brutal Nero, was as much derived from God as was the Jewish power in the days of David. When Pilate told Christ that he had power to crucify him or to let him go, Christ replied, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." John 19:11. This fact does not, however, prove that the acts of that power were right, or that God sanctioned them.
This will be the more apparent if we take the cases of individuals. All human power comes from God. It is as true of the heathen as of Christians, that "in him we live, and move, and have our being;" "for we are also his offspring." Acts 17:28. It can as truly be said of every individual as of governments, that they are ordained, or appointed, of God. He has a plan for every one's life.
But that does not make God responsible for all their actions, because they are free to do as they choose, and they rebel against God's plan, and pervert his gifts. The power with which the scoffer blasphemes God is as much from God as is the power with which the Christian serves him. Yet no one can suppose that God approves of blasphemy. Even so we are not to suppose that he necessarily approves the acts of governments, simply because the powers that be are ordained of him.
Let no one entertain the idea that this word necessarily implies the imparting of some spiritual power. It means nothing more than appointed or ordered, which we find in the margin. The Greek word from which it is rendered is found in Acts 28:23, where we read that the Jews in Rome appointed a day for Paul to tell them about the gospel. It could as well be said that they "ordained" a day for him.
God over All.
"The higher powers" are not above the Most High. "Wisdom and might are his; and he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings." Dan. 2:20, 21. He set Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, over all the kingdoms of earth (see Jer. 27: 5-8; Dan. 2:37, 38); but when Nebuchadnezzar arrogated to himself divine power, he was driven out among the beasts, that he might know that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Dan. 4:32).
Since there is no power but of God, "he that resisteth the power withstandeth the ordinance of God; and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment." This is a warning against rebellion and insurrection. It is God who removes kings as well as sets them up. Therefore whoever presumes to remove a king is assuming God's prerogative. It is as though he knew better than God when the government should be altered. Unless those who rise up against any earthly government can show a direct revelation to them from heaven appointing them to that work, they are setting themselves against God, by seeking to overthrow his order.1 They are putting themselves ahead of God.
Resisting or Overthrowing.
To resist the civil authority is in the same line as seeking to overthrow it. He who opposes a power with force would overthrow it if the contest were continued and he had the power. This the followers of Christ are strictly forbidden to do.
Christ suffered, "leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously." 1 Pet. 2:21-23. It is worth while to remember that Christ was condemned on a political charge, and for political reasons, yet he made no resistance, although he showed that he had power to do so. See John 18:5-11; Matt. 26:51-53. It may be said that Christ knew that his hour had come. True; but he did not resist at previous times. He continually committed himself into the hands of the Father. That is an example for his followers. If they are submissive in God's hands, they can suffer no indignity nor oppression that God does not appoint or allow; no injury can be done them before their hour comes. It is easier to profess faith in Christ than to show real faith by following his example.
Another Striking Example.
Saul had been anointed king of Israel by command of God; but had afterwards been rejected because of his reckless course. Then David was anointed king in his stead. Saul was jealous of David's preferment, and sought his life. David did not resist, but fled. More than once Saul was within David's power, but David would not lift up a hand against him. If there is any excuse for resisting a ruler, David had it.
In the first place, if he had done so, it would have been only in self-defense; and, in the second place, he had already been anointed king in Saul's stead. Yet when urged even to consent to allow another to kill Saul, David said: "Destroy him not; for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless? . . . As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed." 1 Sam. 26:9-11. And yet Saul was a wicked man, who had cast off allegiance to God, and was not fit to rule.
Subject to God.
God's word admonishes us to be subject to the powers that be, but it never countenances disobedience to God. God has never ordained any power to be above himself. It is the height of folly for us to argue from this chapter that it is the duty of Christians to obey human laws when they conflict with the law of God. God does not grant indulgence to sin; much less does he command us to sin. We are not to be subject to the powers that be instead of to God, but because we are subject to God. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Col. 3:17.
Subjection and Obedience.
Ordinarily subjection implies obedience. When we read that Jesus was subject to his parents, we are sure that he was obedient to them. So when we are exhorted to be subject to the powers that be, the natural conclusion is that we are to be obedient to the laws. But it must never be forgotten that God is above all; that both individual and national power comes from him; and that he has a right to the undivided service of every soul. We are to obey God all the time, and to be subject to human power as well, but always so that it does not involve disobedience to God.
Can Not Serve Two Masters.
"No man can serve two masters. . . . Ye can not serve God and mammon." The reason is that God and mammon are opposite in their demands. Now everybody knows that there have often been human laws that conflicted with God's commandments. There was once a law in America in the days of slavery requiring every man to do all in his power to return fugitive slaves to their masters. But God's word said, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee." Deut. 23:15. In that case it was impossible to obey the law of the land without disobeying God; and obedience to God made disobedience to the human law absolutely necessary. Men had to make their choice as to whom they would obey.
The Christian can not hesitate a moment in his choice. The law that contradicts God's law is nothing. "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." Prov. 21:30.
"Every Ordinance of Man."
Some reader may quote 1 Peter 2:13 as opposed to this. It says, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." Others may say that we are to submit to every ordinance except when it is opposed to God's law. No exception, however, is implied, nor is any necessary. Neither does the text teach obedience to human laws that contradict God's law.2
The error arises from a misapprehension of the word "ordinance." It is supposed that this word means "law," but a careful reading will show anybody that this supposition is a mistake. Let us read the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of 1 Peter 2 carefully: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance [Greek, creation] of man for the Lord's sake." Well, what are these ordinances or creations to which we are to be subject? It makes no difference; to all, "whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him." It is very clear that the text says nothing whatever about laws, but only about rulers. The exhortation is precisely the same as that in the thirteenth of Romans.
Submissive yet Disobedient.
Let the reader follow on in the chapter last quoted from, and he will see that the submission enjoined does not involve obedience to wicked laws. We are exhorted: "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." We are to be subject to rightful authority, whether the exerciser of that authority be good and gentle, or froward. Then come the words, "For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." 1 Pet. 2:17-19.
Now a man could not for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully, unless conscience toward God had compelled him to disobey some command laid upon him. This statement, immediately following the exhortation to be submissive, plainly shows that disobedience is contemplated as a probability when those in authority are "froward." This is emphasized by the reference to Christ, who suffered wrongfully, yet made no resistance. "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Isa. 53:7.
He was condemned for his loyalty to the truth, which he would not compromise in the least, and yet he was submissive to the authority of the rulers. The apostle says that in this he left us an example, that we should follow in his steps.
Christians and Civil Government.
"For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." Phil. 3:20. Those who through Christ have access by one Spirit unto the Father "are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Eph. 2:19. Let every man concern himself with the affairs of his own country, and not with those of another. For an American to come to England and presume to lecture Parliament for the way in which it conducts the business of government, or for an Englishman to go to America and distinguish himself by his advice to the authorities, would be the height of impertinence. But if they should begin actively to interfere in the conduct of public affairs, or should stand for office, they would speedily be shown that they had no business there. Let them become naturalized, and then they may speak and act as much as they please; but then they must hold their peace if they return to the country to which they once owned allegiance. No man can be active in the affairs of two governments at the same time.
This applies to the government of heaven as related to earthly governments, as well as to different countries on earth. The one who is a citizen of the heavenly country has no business to meddle with the affairs of earthly governments. He must leave that business to those who acknowledge this earth to be their home. If earthly rulers think to regulate the affairs pertaining to the kingdom of God, they are guilty of gross presumption, to say the least. But if they may not of right presume to regulate the affairs of the kingdom of heaven, much less may the citizens of heaven interfere in the affairs of earthly kingdoms.3
Making Earth Heaven.
Many Christians and ministers of the gospel seek to justify their dealing in politics by saying that it is their duty to make this earth the kingdom of heaven. In a recent campaign we have heard much about "the regeneration of London," and "making London the city of God." Such language shows a grave misapprehension of what the gospel is. "It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Rom. 1:16.
Regeneration is accomplished only by the Holy Spirit working upon individual hearts, and can not be controlled by men. The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of Christ, but only "the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." Rev. 11:15; Isa. 9:7. There will be a new earth, in which only righteousness will dwell, but it will be only after the coming of the day of the Lord, in which the elements shall melt, and ungodly men shall be burned up. 2 Pet. 3:10-13. It will not be brought about by political action, even though ministers of the gospel be the politicians. The minister of the gospel has but one commission, namely, "Preach the word." In no other way in the world can men be made better. Therefore the minister who turns his attention to politics is denying his calling.
Keeping the Peace.
We must needs be subject to earthly governments, for conscience' sake; and for this cause also we must pay tribute and perform every duty of that nature that is laid upon us. Taxes may be heavy, and even unjust, but that does not warrant us in rebelling. The apostle James speaks to rich men who oppress the poor, and his language applies as well when they are in public office as when in private life. He says: "Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you." James 5:5, 6.
Mark this, the just do not resist. Why not? Because of the injunction: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Rom. 12:18, 19. As subjects of the King of peace, and citizens of his kingdom, they are bound to live peaceably with all men. Hence they can not fight even in self-defense. In this, Christ the Prince of peace is their example.
To Whom a Terror.
Only the evil workers are afraid of rulers. Well-doers have no fear. This is not because all rulers are good; for we know that many are not. "The broad empire of Rome filled the world," and the one who ruled it when Paul wrote to the Romans was the most vile and cruel of all the monsters who governed it. Nero put men to death for the mere pleasure of killing them. Well might he strike terror to the hearts of men; yet the Christians could be calm, because their trust was in God. "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid." Isa. 12:2.
The Whole Duty of Man.
"Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." "Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." 1 John 4:7. "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." 1 John 5:3. To fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13.
Therefore, since he who loves his neighbor from the heart must also love God, and love is the keeping of his commandments, it is evident that the apostle has set forth in this exhortation the whole duty of man. He who heeds this exhortation can never do anything for which earthly governments can justly condemn him, even though he be ignorant of their laws. He who fulfils the law of love will never come in conflict with the powers that be. If they oppress him, they are fighting not against him but against the King whom he serves.
For Christians, Not for the Powers.
Some have supposed that verses 8-10 define the limit of civil authority, and show that men may legislate concerning "the second table of the law," but concerning no other portion of the law of God. Two things kept in mind will show the fallacy of this: (1) The epistle is not addressed to rulers, but to individual Christians, as a guide for their private conduct. If the duty of rulers were here laid down, they, and not the brethren, would have been addressed. (2) "The law is spiritual," and consequently none of it is within the power of human legislation. Take the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet;" no human power could enforce that, or tell if it was violated. But that commandment is no more spiritual than the other nine. The language is addressed to the brethren, and the sum of it is this: Live in love, and you will wrong no man, and need have no fear of any rulers.
The End Approaches.
The remainder of the chapter is devoted to exhortations that need no comment. Their special force is derived from the fact that "the end of all things is at hand." Therefore we should "be sober, and watch unto prayer." Although living in the night, when darkness covers the earth (Isa. 60:2), Christians are children of the light and of the day, leaving off works of darkness.
Clothed with Christ.
Those who put on the Lord Jesus Christ will not themselves be seen. Christ alone will appear. To make provision for the lusts of the flesh is most unnecessary, since the flesh ever seeks to have its lusts gratified. The Christian has need rather to take heed that it does not assert its own power, and assume control. Only in Christ can the flesh be subdued. He who is crucified with Christ, can say, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. 2:20. And in that case he will conduct himself towards rulers and private persons just as Christ did, "because as he is, so are we in this world."
(The following comments on Romans 13 were spoken by E. J. Waggoner at the 1891 General Conference Session and are found in the Bulletin. They are added here for the convenience of the reader):
How far is it possible for the Christian to live at peace with all men? It is possible for him to be at peace with all men, so far as he himself is concerned, all the time. For he is dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto Christ. Christ dwells in his heart by faith, and Christ is the Prince of peace. Then there are no circumstances under which the Christian is justified in losing his temper and declaring war either against an individual or a government. . . .
In Galatians 5:18 we are told that "if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." The works of the flesh are the works which are done by those who are under the law, and in the enumeration of these works we find the word "strife." Therefore a Christian cannot enter into strife, because he is not in the flesh. Strife can have no place in us: therefore so far as we are concerned it will be peace all the time.
But if those men with whom we have to do, steel their hearts against the truth of God, and will not be affected by the truth, they will make trouble, but the trouble will be on their part; with us there will be peace all the time. . . .
"If ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Pet. 3:14, 15.
Don't be afraid of the terror. Why? Because we have sanctified the Lord God in our hearts, and he is our fear. God is with us, Christ is with us, and when men cast reproaches upon us, they cast them upon our Saviour. . . .
The most important thing for all of us who have this special truth which is bound to bring us into trouble with the powers that be, is to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts by the Spirit of God and his word. We must become students of the word of God, and followers of Christ and his gospel. . . . There are farmers and mechanics among us, who, although they have never been able to put texts together so as to preach a sermon, have nevertheless sanctified the Lord in their hearts by faithful study of his word. These people will be brought before courts for their faith, and they will preach the gospel there by way of their defense, because God in that day will give them a mouth and wisdom, that their adversaries can neither gainsay nor resist. . . .
It is our duty to preach the gospel; to arise and let our light shine, and if we do that, God will hold the winds as long as they ought to be held. . . . The third angel's message is the greatest thing in all the earth. Men don't regard it as such; but the time will come in our lifetime when the third angel's message will be the theme and topic of conversation in every mouth. But it will never be brought to that position by people who keep quiet about it, but by those who have their trust in God, and are not afraid to speak the words which he has given them.
In doing this, we will not take our lives in our hands, and I thank God for it. Our lives will be hid with Christ in God, and he will care for them. The truth will be brought to this high place simply by men and women going forth and preaching the gospel and obeying that which they preach. Let the people know the truth. If we have a peaceful time in which to spread it, we will be thankful for that. And if men make laws that would seem to cut off the channels through which it can go, we can be thankful that we worship a God who makes even the wrath of men to praise him; and he will do it,_he will spread his gospel by means of those very laws which wicked men have enacted to crush out its life. God holds the winds, . . . and he commands us to carry the message. He will hold them as long as it is best for them to be held, and when they begin to blow, and we feel the first puffs in the beginning of persecution, they will do just what the Lord wants them to do. . . .
"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Rom. 13:7, 8. If you do this, you live peaceably with all men, as far as lies in you. If you love your neighbor as yourself, that is the fulfilling of the whole law; because to love one's neighbor one must love God, because there is no love but of God.
If I love my neighbor as myself, it is simply because the love of God is abiding in my heart. It is because God has taken up abode in my heart, and there is no one on earth who can take him away from me. It is for this reason that the apostle refers to the last table of the law, because if we do our duty toward our neighbor, it naturally follows that we love God.
Sometimes we are told that the first table points out our duty to God, and constitutes religion, and that the last table defines our duty to our neighbor, and constitutes morality. But the last table contains duties to God just as much as the first one. David, after he had broken two of the commandments contained in the last table when making his confession said: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight." God must be first and last and all the time. . . .
All these lessons that we have had are to prepare us for the time of trouble.
Since the fourteenth chapter consists wholly of practical instruction in Christian living, and has no direct dependence upon the exhortations that have preceded it, we need not now take time to review the previous chapters, but will proceed at once with the text. Let it not be forgotten that this chapter, as well as those which precede, is addressed to the church, and not to those who do not profess to serve the Lord. In the sixth verse it is plainly shown that all who are spoken of in this chapter are those who acknowledge God as their Lord. The chapter therefore tells how we should regard one another as
Servants of One Common Master--Romans 14:1-11
The School of Christ.
The church of Christ is not composed of perfect men, but of those who are seeking perfection. He is the perfect One, and he sends out the invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me." Mat. 11:28, 29. Having called all to come to him, he says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. As one has said, "God reaches for the hand of faith in man to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that man may attain to perfection of character."
The faith may be very weak, but God does not reject him on that account. Paul thanked God that the faith of the Thessalonian brethren grew exceedingly (2 Thess. 1:3), which shows that they did not have perfect faith at the first. It is true that God is so good that every person ought to trust him fully; but just because he is so good, he is very patient and forbearing with those who are not well acquainted with him, and he does not turn away from them because they are doubtful. It is this very goodness and forbearance of God that develops perfect faith.
The Pupils Not Masters.
It is not for the pupils to say who shall attend school. It is true that in this world there are schools that are exclusive, in which only a certain set of pupils are allowed. If one inferior in wealth and standing in society should seek to enter, there would be at once an uproar. The students themselves would make so strong a protest against the entrance of the newcomer, that the masters would feel obliged not to receive him. But such schools are not the schools of Christ. "There is no respect of persons with God." He invites the poor and needy, and the weak. It is he, and not the pupils, that decides who shall be admitted.
He says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," and he asks all who hear to extend the invitation. The only qualification necessary for entering the school of Christ is willingness to learn of him. If any man is willing to do his will, God will receive him and teach him. John 7:17. Whoever sets up any other standard, sets himself above God. No man has any right to reject one whom God receives.
Master and Servant.
Christ said to his disciples: "Be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master; and all ye are brethren." "Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ." Matt. 23:8, 10. It is the master who sets the task for each pupil or servant. It is to the master that the servant looks for his reward. Therefore it is the master alone who has the right to give orders, and to pronounce judgment if there is failure. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?" If you have not the power to reward his success, you have not the right to judge his failures.
"God Is the Judge."
"He putteth down one, and setteth up another." Ps. 75:7. "For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isa. 33:22. "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; who art thou that judgest another?" James 4:12. The power to save and to destroy determines the right to judge. To condemn when one has not the power to carry the judgment into effect, is but a farce. Such an one makes himself ridiculous, to say the least.
The Spirit of the Papacy.
The apostle Paul describes the apostasy as the revelation of "that man of sin," "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," or, "setting himself forth as God." 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. In Daniel 7:25 the same power is described as speaking great words against the Most High, and thinking to change times and laws.
To set one's self up against or above the law of God, is the strongest possible opposition to God, and the most presumptuous usurpation of his power. The end of the power that thus exalts itself is this: to be consumed by the Spirit of Christ, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming. 2 Thess. 2:8.
Now read in James 4:11: "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge." That tells us that whoever speaks evil of his brother, or judges or sets at naught his brother, is speaking against the law of God, and sitting in judgment upon it. In other words, he is putting himself in the place and doing the work of "that man of sin." What else can result, but that he receive the reward of the man of sin? Surely there is enough in this thought to give us all pause.
We have learned that the members of the church of Christ are not judges one of another, but fellow-servants of one common Lord. We are not taught that it is a matter of indifference whether or not we keep the commandments of God_quite the contrary, since we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged by them_but we are taught that in those things concerning which the law of God does not speak particularly, one man's ways are as good as another's. We learned even further that even one who may be faulty with respect to an express commandment, is not to be dealt with harshly, and condemned. Such a course can not help one, and, besides, we have no right to do so, since we are but servants.
Living for Others_Romans 14:14-23
Many errors arise from careless reading of the Bible, and from hasty conclusions from detached statements, as from wilful perversion of the word. Possibly many more are the result of lack of proper thought than of deliberate willfulness. Let us therefore always take heed how we read.
Clean and Unclean.
If we consider well the subject under consideration, we shall not wrest this scripture from its connection. The thing presented from the beginning of the chapter is the case of a man with so little real knowledge of Christ that he thinks righteousness is to be obtained by the eating of certain kinds of food, or by not eating certain things. The idea clearly conveyed by the entire chapter is that it is by faith, and not by eating and drinking, that we are saved.
A little consideration of the question of clean and unclean food will help us much. There is a strange idea prevalent, to the effect that things that were at one time unfit for food are perfectly wholesome now. Many people seem to think that even unclean beasts are made clean by the gospel. They forget that Christ purifies men, not beasts and reptiles.
There were plants that were poisonous in the days of Moses, and those same plants are poisonous now. The very people who seem to think that the gospel makes everything fit to eat, would be as much disgusted at the thought of eating cats, dogs, caterpillars, spiders, flies, etc., as any Jew would have been in the days of Moses. Instead of finding that a knowledge of Christ reconciles one to such a diet, we find, on the contrary, that it is only the most degraded savages who make use of them for food, and such a diet is both a sign and cause of degradation. Enlightenment brings carefulness in the selection of food.
Now there is no one who can imagine the apostle Paul or any other person of good sense and refinement eating everything that he could possibly find on earth. Although most people think themselves wiser than God in the matter of eating and drinking, there are, as there always have been, certain things universally held to be unfit for food. Therefore when the apostle says that nothing is unclean of itself, he evidently confines his remark to those things which God has provided for man's eating. There are people whose conscience is so poorly instructed that they fear to eat even of things which God has given to be eaten; just as there are some who forbid the eating of "food which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving." 1 Tim. 4:3.
So when the apostle says, "One believeth that he may eat all things," it is evident that the "all things" does not include filth. The idea evidently is that one believes that he may eat everything that is fit to be eaten. But another, having for instance the thought that some of those things may have been devoted to an idol, fears to eat of them lest he should thereby become an idolater. The eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians makes this whole subject plain, as it runs parallel with the fourteenth of Romans.
This throws light also upon the subject of days. Since the apostle evidently confines his remarks concerning food to that which it is allowable to eat, it is more clear that those days which may be considered as all alike are those days only which God has not sanctified to himself.
The Nature of the Kingdom.
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Over that kingdom Christ has been set as King, for God has said, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." Ps. 2:6. Now read further the words of the Father to the Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Heb. 1:8, 9.
A scepter is the symbol of power. Christ's scepter is a scepter of righteousness; therefore the power of his kingdom is righteousness. He rules by righteousness. His life on earth was a perfect manifestation of righteousness, so that he rules his kingdom by the power of his life. All those who own his life are subjects of his kingdom. No other thing but the life of Christ is the badge of citizenship in the kingdom of Christ.
But with what was Christ anointed King? The text last read says that it was with "the oil of gladness." Then gladness, or joy, is a necessary part of the kingdom of Christ. It is a kingdom of joy, as well as of righteousness. Therefore it is that every subject of that kingdom must be filled with joy. "A gloomy Christian" is as much a contradiction of terms as "a cold sun." The sun is for the purpose of shedding the warmth of which it is composed; so the Christian is for the purpose of diffusing the peace and joy which is a part of his nature. The Christian is not joyful simply because he thinks that he ought to be, but because he has been translated into the kingdom of joy.
"He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." He who in what things serves Christ? Why, he who serves Christ in righteousness, and peace, and joy. Or, as some translations have it, "He that thus serves Christ."
God accepts such service, and men approve. Not only do Christians approve such service, but unbelievers are constrained to approve. The enemies of Daniel were forced to bear witness to the uprightness of his life, when they said that they could find nothing against him except in the law of his God. But that very statement was an approval of the law of his God, obedience to which made him the faithful man that he was.
Peace is a characteristic of the kingdom. Therefore those who are in the kingdom must follow the things which make for peace. But selfishness never causes peace. On the contrary, selfishness is always the cause of war, and inevitably produces war if it is persisted in. Therefore the subject of the kingdom must always be ready to sacrifice his own desires and ideas in behalf of others. The unselfish person will give up his own ways whenever they interfere with the peace of another.
But do not forget that the kingdom of God is righteousness as well as peace. Righteousness is obedience to the law of God; for "all unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17), and "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Therefore, although by the laws of the kingdom one must necessarily give up his own wishes in order not to interfere with the feelings of others, by those same laws he is precluded from giving up any of the commandments of God.
Obedience to the law of God is that which makes for peace, for we read: "Great peace have they which love thy law." Ps. 199:165. "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." Isa. 48:18. Therefore he who is so "charitable" as to give up any portion of the law of God because some people are displeased with it, is not following the things which make for peace. On the contrary, he is rebelling against the kingdom of Christ.
This again shows us that the sabbath of the Lord is not under consideration, as one of the things which are to be held as matters of mere personal opinion. The Christian has no option with regard to that. He must keep it. It is not one of the days which the subject of the kingdom may disregard if he wishes. It is one of the things that are obligatory.
But there are things which one has the right to do if he wishes, but which he is not obliged to do. For instance, a man has the right to eat his food with the fingers, if he wishes to; but if that annoys his companion, the law of Christ requires him not to do so. And thus it appears that the law of Christ alone, will, if carefully heeded, make a man perfectly courteous. The true Christian is a gentleman in the best sense of that word.
There are many things that are allowable, which some people with faith that is weak, because it is uninstructed, think to be wrong. Christian courtesy, as laid down in the fourteenth chapter of Romans, requires that the better-instructed person should regard the scruples of his weaker brother. To roughly ignore those scruples, although they may be destitute of reason, is not the way to help that brother into a wider liberty. On the contrary, it is the way to discourage him. "It is good neither to eat flesh, not to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."
Thus it becomes evident that the fourteenth chapter of Romans is simply a lesson in Christian courtesy and helpfulness instead of teaching that the sabbath, or anything else that pertains to the commandments of God, may be disregarded at pleasure. Consideration is to be shown for "him that is weak in the faith;" but the one who is offended by the keeping of the commandments of God, has no faith at all.
The Limitations of Conscience.
"Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God." Faith and conscience pertain to single individuals. No man can have faith for another. No man can have faith enough to serve for two. The teaching of the Roman Church is that certain ones have had more faith than they needed, and have been more righteous than was necessary, so that they can divide with other people; but the Bible teaches that it is impossible for any man to have more faith than will serve to save himself. Therefore, no matter how well one man's faith may be instructed, no other man can be judged by it.
We hear a great deal in these days about the public conscience. We are often told that the conscience of one man is outraged by the course of another. But it is with conscience as with faith,_no man can have enough for two. The man who thinks that his conscience will serve for himself and for somebody else, has mistaken selfish obstinacy for conscience. It is this mistaken idea of conscience that has led to all the horrible persecutions that have ever been perpetrated in the name of religion.
Let Christians all understand that conscience is between themselves and God alone. They are not at liberty to impose even their freedom of conscience upon another; but by the laws of the kingdom of Christ, they are obliged even to refrain at times from exercising their own freedom, out of consideration for others. That is to say, the man who can walk fast, is to help along his weak brother, who is going the same way, but more slowly. But he is not to turn around to please somebody who is walking the other way.
The fourteenth chapter of Romans presented to us our duty towards those who are weak in the faith, and who have excessively conscientious scruples with regard to things that are in themselves of no consequence. We are not judges of one another, but must all appear before [Christ's] judgment seat. If we have more knowledge than our brother, we are not arbitrarily to bring him to our standard, any more than he is to bring us down to his. Our greater knowledge rather throws upon us the responsibility of exercising the greater charity and patience.
The sum of it all is contained in these verses: "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God."
The Duty of Helping One Another -- Romans 15:1-7
Receiving One Another.
The verses composing this chapter supplement the instruction given in chapter fourteen, and are a continuation of that. Thus, that chapter opens with the exhortation, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye." The last verse of our present study is, "Wherefore receive ye one another."
How Are We to Receive One Another? The answer is, "As Christ also received us." This again emphasizes the statement that the apostle had not the slightest intention in any way of depreciating any one of the Ten Commandments when in the fourteenth chapter he said: "One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Christ did not in the slightest degree make any concessions in the commandments in order to accommodate those whom he would receive. He said, "Think not that I came to destroy the law, or the prophets." Matt. 5:17. Again, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:10. Christ's commandments and those of the Father are the same, because he says, "I and my Father are one." John 10:30. When a young man wished to follow him, he said to him, "Keep the commandments." Matt. 19:17. Therefore it is evident that in making concessions for the sake of peace and harmony, no concession is to be made in respect to keeping the commandments of God.
How to Please Others.
This is still further shown by the exhortation, "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification." We are never exhorted to aid a brother to sin, in order to please him. Neither are we exhorted to close our eyes to a brother's sin, and allow him to go on in it without warning him, lest we displease him. There is no kindness in that. The exhortation is, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in anywise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him." Lev. 19:17. The mother who would be so fearful of displeasing her child that she would not stop it from putting its hand into the blaze, would be exhibiting cruelty instead of kindness. We are to please our neighbors, but only for their good, not to lead them astray.
Bearing Others' Weaknesses.
Going back to the first verse, we find this lesson still more strongly emphasized: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." "For even Christ pleased not himself." Compare this with Galatians 6:1, 2: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such on one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." In bearing the infirmities of the weak, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. But to bear another's burdens does not mean to teach him that he can safely ignore any of the commandments. To keep the commandments of God is not a burden; for "his commandments are not grievous." 1 John 5:3.
How Christ Bears Our Burdens.
Christ bears our burdens, not by taking away the law of God, but by taking away our sins, and enabling us to keep the law. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." Rom. 8:3, 4.
He Says "Come."
One blessed thing in the service of the Lord is that he does not say, "Go," but, "Come." He does not send us away to labor by ourselves, but calls us to follow him. He does not ask anything of us that he does not himself do. When he says that we ought to bear the infirmities of them that are weak, we should take it as an encouragement, instead of a task laid upon us, since it reminds us of what he does for us. He is the mighty One, for we read, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty; I have exalted One chosen out of the people." Ps. 89:19. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Is. 53:4, 6.
Why the Task Is Easy.
This is what makes it easy to bear one another's burdens. If we know that Christ bears our burdens, it will become a pleasure for us to bear the burdens of others. The trouble is that too often we forget that Christ is the Burden-bearer, and, being over powered with the weight of our own infirmities, we have still less patience with those of others. But when we know that Christ is indeed the Burden-bearer, we cast our own care upon him; and then when we make the burden of another our own, he bears that too.
"The God of All Comfort."
God is "the God of patience and consolation." He is "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Cor. 1:3, 4. He takes upon himself all the reproaches that fall upon men. "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." Of the children of Israel it is said, "In all their affliction he was afflicted." Isa. 63:9. The words of Christ are, "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor." "Reproach hath broken my heart." Ps. 69:19, 20. Yet in all this there was no impatience, no murmuring. Therefore, as he has already borne the burdens of the world in the flesh, he is fully able to bear ours in our flesh, without complaining; so that we may be "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness." Col. 1:11.
The Gospel According to Moses.
It is this lesson that is taught us throughout all the Scriptures: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." In the book of Job this is made manifest. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." James 5:11. In the writings of Moses it is as clearly set forth. Christ says: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not the writings, how shall ye believe my words?" John 5:46, 47. If the gospel according to Moses is neglected, it will be of no use to read the gospel according to John, because the gospel can not be divided. The gospel of Christ, like himself, is one.
How to Receive One Another.
Finally, "Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." Whom does Christ receive? "This man receiveth sinners." How many will he receive? "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
How will he receive them? "All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." And if they come, what assurance have they? "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Let us learn of him; and remember that, wherever you may open the Scriptures, they are they which testify of him.
Standing on the Threshold._Our study of the book of Romans, while there have been many articles, has not been exhaustive. Indeed, it is impossible to have an exhaustive study of the Bible; for no matter how thoroughly we study any portion of it, we shall still find ourselves but upon the threshold. The more we study the Bible, the more will our best study seem to be only preliminary to further study that will be seen to be necessary. But although we can not expect ever to exhaust the truth, so that we can say that we have it all, we may be sure that as far as we have gone we have only the truth. And this assurance arises not from any wisdom that we have, but solely from adhering closely to the word of God, and not allowing the alloy of human ideas to mingle with its pure gold.
"All Joy and Peace in Believing"_Romans 15:8-14
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers:
9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root out of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
14 And 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.
"All Joy and Peace in Believing"_Romans 15:8-14
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers:
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers:
"A Minister of the Circumcision."
Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision. Bear this in mind. Shall we learn from it that he saves only the Jews? By no means, but we must learn from it that "salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22. "Jesus Christ our Lord" was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh." Rom. 1:3. He is the "root of Jesse," which stands "for an ensign of the people," to which the Gentiles seek. Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12. The Gentiles who find salvation must find it in Israel. None can find it anywhere else.
"The Commonwealth of Israel."
In writing to the brethren at Ephesus, Paul refers to the time before they were converted as the time when they were "Gentiles in the flesh," and says, "At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Eph. 2:11, 12.
That is, outside of Israel there is no hope for mankind. They who are "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" are "without Christ," and "without God in the world." In Christ Jesus we are brought to God. But being brought to God we are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Vss. 18, 19. Therefore we have two things most clearly and positively taught, namely, That none are saved unless they are of the house of Israel; and, That none are of the house of Israel except those who are in Christ.
Confirming the Promises.
"Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." That shows that all the promises of God to the fathers were made in Christ. "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen." 2 Cor. 1:20. "To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Gal. 3:16. There was therefore never any promise made to the fathers which was not to be obtained only through Christ, and therefore through the righteousness which is by him.
Christ Not Divided.
Jesus Christ is declared to be a minister of the circumcision. Suppose now we hold that the promises to the fathers mean the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we should then be shut up to the conclusion that only those natural descendants_those who are circumcised_can be saved. Or, at least, we should be driven to the conclusion that Christ does something for them that he does not do for the rest of mankind.
But Christ is not divided.
All that he does for one man he does for every man. All that he does for any he does through his cross; and he is crucified but once. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Therefore since Christ is the minister of the circumcision to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, it is evident that those promises included all mankind. "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him" Rom. 10:12. "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." Rom. 3:29, 30.
The "Tabernacle of David."
At the time when the apostles and elders were assembled in Jerusalem, Peter told how he had been used by the Lord to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Said he, "God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:8, 9.
Then James added, "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:14-18.
That is, the house of David is to be built up only by the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, and the taking from them of a people for God. And this was the purpose of God from the beginning, as the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43.
"The Blessing of Abraham."
Again we read that "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; . . . that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Gal. 3:13, 14. The curse that Christ was made for us, was the cross, as is stated in the words omitted from the text just quoted.
Therefore we learn that the promises to the fathers were assured only by the cross of Christ. But Christ tasted death for every man. Heb. 2:9. He was "lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:14, 15. Therefore the promises made to the fathers were simply the promises of the gospel, which is "to every creature." By the cross, Christ confirms the promises made to the fathers, in order "that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy."
"One Fold, and One Shepherd."
In the tenth chapter of John we find some of the most beautiful, tender, and encouraging words of the Lord Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the gate by which the sheep enter into the fold. He gives his life to save them. Then he says, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd." Vs. 16. Therefore when his work is completed, there will be but one fold, and he will be the Shepherd. Let us see who will compose that flock.
The Lost Sheep.
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke, that wonderful bouquet of blessed illustrations of the love and mercy of the Saviour, Jesus represents his work as that of the shepherd going to seek the lost and wandering sheep. Now who are the sheep that he is seeking? He himself gives the answer: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. 15:24. This is emphatic. Therefore it is evident that all the sheep whom he finds, and whom he brings back to the fold, will be Israel. And so it is just as evident that the "one fold" will be the fold of Israel. There will be no other fold, since it is to be "one fold." And he will be the Shepherd. To-day, as well as in the days of old, we may pray, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth." Ps. 80:1.
The Characteristic of the Sheep.
Those who are following Christ are his sheep. But he has "other sheep." There are many who are not now following him, who are his sheep. They are lost and wandering, and he is seeking them.
What determines who are his sheep? Hear him tell: "The sheep hear his voice." "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice." "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice." John 10:3, 16, 26, 27. When he speaks, those who are his sheep will hear his voice, and come to him. The word of the Lord is the test as to who are his sheep. Every one therefore who hears and obeys the word of the Lord is of the family of Israel; and those who reject or neglect the word, are eternally lost. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
We may now stop to see how this that the apostle has said connects with what he has said in the fourteenth chapter, about Christ's being the minister of the circumcision, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, in order that the Gentiles might glorify God.
"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations." Mark this: They who are to be received "as Christ also received us to the glory of God," are those who have the faith. Now there is but "one faith," as there is but "one Lord." Eph. 4:5. And faith comes by hearing the word of God. Rom. 10:17.
Since there is to be but one fold, and Christ, the one Shepherd, is not divided, there must be no division in the fold. Disputings, which come from human wisdom and human human ideas, are to be left out, and the word of God alone followed. That allows of no disputing, since it tells ever one and the same thing. This is the rule: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." 1 Pet. 1:1-3.
Faith, Hope, Joy, and Peace.
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Here we have faith and hope, joy and peace. The God of hope is to fill us with all joy and peace in believing, and this is to be by the power of the Holy Ghost. This connects the present instruction with that of the fourteenth chapter, where we are told that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Paul's Successful Gospel Outreach--Romans 15:15-33
The Gospel Commission.
When Jesus was about to leave this world, he told his disciples that they should first receive power by the Holy Spirit, and then, said he, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8. "To the Jew first, and also to the Greek," but to all alike, and the same gospel to all. So Paul declared that his work as a minister of the gospel consisted in "testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21. So in our text he tells us that as "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God," he had "through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God" "fully preached the gospel of Christ" "from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum."
Partaking the Same Spiritual Things.
The apostle, speaking of his desire to visit the Romans, said that he hoped to see them when he took his journey into Spain. "But now," said he, "I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."
A very simple statement, but it shows that the Gentiles received nothing spiritual except that which came from the Jews. The spiritual things of which the Gentiles had been made partakers came from the Jews, and were ministered to them by Jews. Both partook of the same spiritual meat, and therefore the Gentiles showed their gratitude by ministering to the temporal necessities of the Jews. So here again we see but one fold and one Shepherd.
The God of Israel.
Many times in the Bible God is declared to be the God of Israel. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, immediately after the healing of the lame man, said to the people, "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus." Acts 3:13. Even in this age, therefore, God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, _the God of Israel.
God desires to be known and remembered, and so we read his words, "Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." Ex. 31:13, 16, 17. God is the God of Israel. True, he is the God of the Gentiles also, but only as they accept him, and become Israel through the righteousness by faith. But Israel must keep the sabbath. It is the sign of their connection with God.
Two-thirds of the last chapter of Romans consists of greetings:
A Significant Omission.
But one thing is very significant, and that is the fact that there is no mention of Peter, who is claimed to have been "the first Bishop of Rome." We may sometimes learn as much by what the Bible does not say as by what it does say. From what is not said in this place we may learn that so far from being Bishop of Rome, Peter was not in Rome at all when Paul wrote, and that if he was ever in Rome it was after the Epistle to the Romans was written, and long after the church was established and flourishing there.
It is most certain that in saluting the members of the church by name Paul would not have omitted the name of the chief person in it, whose hospitality he had once shared in Jerusalem for fifteen days. Of course there is abundance of the most positive evidence that neither the church of Christ nor the church of Rome was founded upon Peter; but if there were no other, this testimony of the sixteenth chapter of Romans would be sufficient to settle the matter.
In Conclusion--Romans 16:24-27
What a Magnificent Conclusion!
It reaches from eternity to eternity. The gospel of God is the thing of the ages. It was kept secret in the mind of God from times eternal. Christ "was foreordained before the foundation of the world." 1 Pet. 1:19, 20. But now the mystery is "made manifest." Not simply is it made manifest by the preaching of the apostles, but "according to the commandment of the everlasting God," "by the scriptures of the prophets" it is "made known to all nations, for the obedience of faith."
The gospel plan originated in the mind of God in the eternity of the past. Patriarchs, prophets and apostles have worked in unison in making it manifest; and "in the ages to come" it will be both the science and the song of the redeemed "of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues," who shall gather with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and will say, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."