Sitting in the Chair - Romans 15:7-13
Today (Lord willing) we'll all grow in understanding on a couple of fronts. 1. Our understanding of hope and faith and the difference in the two. 2. How “all joy and peace” can be ours in this life. And 3. An accurate understanding of what it means to "abound in hope (?) by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Over the past few weeks, we've looked at bearing with one another in weakness. We've seen on two occasions (Romans 14:1 and 15:7) that we're called to "accept one another just as Christ accepted us to the glory of God." It's a profound thing to realize that God is most glorified when we follow His lead in accepting one another in mercy. Romans 15:7-9 show us three ways that God is glorified through merciful acceptance. The first is that He fulfilled His promises to Israel. The second is that He accepted the Gentiles. And third, God is glorified when we accept one another just as He accepted us (this speaks of brotherly love and unity; Psalm 133).
It's also worth mentioning here that this acceptance given by God is why the scripture says that, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, etc. It does not mean that these distinctions do not still exist but rather that in Christ, we are all one.
The same Apostle Paul who wrote that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, etc., in Galatians 3:28, here in Romans clearly makes a distinction between Jew and Gentile several times. We see it in Romans 1:16, where the gospel is the power of God unto salvation "first to the Jew and then to the Gentile." And again we see it in Romans 3:1-2 where Paul talks about the advantage of being a Jew. We can also look to Ephesians where Paul makes distinctions between masters and slaves and men and women. The point in all of this is that there are clear distinctions and yet we’ve all been made one in Jesus. Another way the scripture communicates this is that God is no respecter of persons. (Doctrine of salvation and John 3:16)
Missing this leads to many erroneous views. The first (and one of the more insidious views) is that when God says there is neither male nor female, this supposedly gives Biblical credibility to the idea of gender neutrality or that people can defy biology and choose their gender. I honestly wish I was making this stuff up. Another view is replacement theology; which says that the church is the new Israel. However, the scripture is abundantly clear the church is one, and she contains both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
The true importance of these distinctions is found in Romans 15:8-12. In verse 8 the Apostle Paul says, "Christ has become a servant to the circumcision (that is the Jew) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promise given to the fathers." And then in verse 9, he says (Christ has become a servant) "for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy." We’ll look at each in turn.
The first distinction is with the Jewish people. Their promises are found in the Book of Genesis. We can see this in several places, chapter 12, 13, 15, 17, but for the sake of time, I’ll read the summation of all this in Genesis 22:17-18.
God is speaking to Abraham, "Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your SEED, all the nations of the Earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice."
We see three major points of promise: 1. The proliferation of the Jewish people. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore. 2. Jesus is the seed or the Redeemer to come. In Galatians chapter 3:16, the Apostle Paul says, "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "and to seeds," as referring to many, but instead to one, "and to your SEED," that is, Christ." 3. The promise of salvation or blessing to the whole world. The term Nation here is the same term for Gentile. (ethnos)
These were the promises that Jesus fulfilled to the circumcision, the Jewish people. This is actually important to our evangelism among the Jewish people of today. Jesus is not the leader of a new religion but the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.
The second distinction is with the Gentile. Christ became a servant for the Gentiles so that they would glorify God for His mercy. This was fulfilled by the time the letter to the Romans was penned. We have record of it in Acts 10:44-48. But not only do we see this as a promise given to Abraham, but Jesus Himself shows that this was His mission.
Matthew 8:11 says, "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus spoke these words to a Centurion, a Gentile, with "great faith." It's also worth noting that He follows this statement of mercy toward the Gentiles with a warning to an unbelieving Jewish people that they will be cast out if they persist in their unbelief.
Okay, so what of 1. Our understanding of hope and faith and the difference in the two. 2. How “all joy and peace” can be ours in this life. And 3. An accurate understanding of what it means to "abound in hope (?) by the power of the Holy Spirit."
1. Our understanding of hope and faith and the difference in the two.
Verse 13 says, "Now may the God of hope..." What is hope? As I said last week if faith is the proof of something, hope is the something it proves.
Most of you have seen this illustration before, but I want to expand on it today. My chair here represents hope while sitting in the chair represents Faith let me explain...
God is the God of the chair. Without God, there is nothing to rest on. I've said in the past many times that faith doesn't create things. You can try with all of your might to use faith to create a chair, but it will never happen. This is why we do not call things into existence that don't exist. This is Pagan nonsense. Scripture does not say that by faith, you can create a mountain and then move it. It says that by faith, you can speak to this mountain move.
God's promises are our hope. God's truth is the chair. God's grace is our foundation. And if hope is the foundation, then faith is the house that is built on top of it. So we could render Romans 15:13 (concerning our illustration) to say, "May the God of the chair fill you with all joy and peace as you sit in the chair."
But before we look “joy and peace in believing” I want to make sure we understand faith again. The question I want to ask is, how did Abraham obey? Remember that in Genesis 22:18, it says "In your SEED all the nations of the Earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice." Is this in some way merit? The answer is no, and the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear. Abraham believed by faith, and it was credited to him as righteousness. This is, in fact, the same way our salvation works so let me expand on this a bit.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 4. Starting at verse 16, the Apostle Paul says, "For this reason, it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace..." This is significant! To be in accordance with grace, justification must come by faith. No one is saved by grace through works; this nullifies grace. We are either saved by grace, and we trust that, or, we are saved by our own goodness; and it's too late for that.
Now there are two camps in the church today that have the same problem in their understanding of faith. These two camps (quite honestly) couldn't be farther apart from each other in most of their doctrines, but concerning faith, they have the same misunderstanding. Those two camps are the charismatics and the reformed. Let me explain. In both camps, the idea of faith seems to be something of a spiritual force that has to be worked up or exercised within a person to be employed. For the charismatic, they have to work up enough faith to make things happen (think Star Wars). For the reformed (so that God gets all the glory) faith has to be given by God. Neither of these ideas is accurate. Faith is trust, and that is all!
Back to Romans 4:16-17, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, a father of many nations have I made you in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead (Jew) and calls into being that which does not exist (Gentile).”
Paul goes on in verse 18 to say "In hope against hope he believed so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "so shall your descendants be." Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, he was able also to perform. Therefore, it was also credited to him as righteousness."
How did Abraham obey? Abraham walked by faith! This does not contradict grace, it confirms it!
Just a moment ago, I shared that Abrahams journey works the same way as our salvation. Here's what I mean; God makes a promise first, and our response is to put our trust that promise. And just so we are emphatically clear again Romans 4 tells us that we are “saved by grace through faith and this in order that it may be in accordance with grace." Faith is not a work; it is a trust in the work of God.
So hope is the chair, faith is sitting down!
2. This leads to our understanding of joy and peace in believing.
Back to Romans 15:13, "May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing."
Paul’s words here are not to be seen as a prayer to God. Instead, this is a blessing, quite similar to the benediction of Aaron in Numbers 6:22-27.
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 The LORD bless you, and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.' 27 "So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I [then] will bless them."
Paul’s words are the same as Aarons here. Why do I say this? Because peace and joy are the state of those who reside in the kingdom of God. Remember, in Romans 14:17, we learned that "The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." If we are Kingdom people, if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we live full of peace and joy.
So this is where it gets practical. Just like in Numbers, there's a qualifier. In Numbers, Aaron was to "invoke the name of God on the sons of Israel, and THEN I will bless them." In Romans 15, "the God of hope will fill us with joy and peace IN believing." A literal rendering of this would read, "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him."
So back to our chair illustration. The chair is our hope; sitting in the chair is our faith or trust in Jesus. And ONLY in that chair, does the God of hope promise to fill you and me with all joy and peace. (Think about a literal kingdom…)
Let's do a little thought experiment: When did Peter come off this proverbial chair when walking on water? It was when he looked at the wind and the waves. You see Peter lost "all joy and peace" when he stopped trusting in the Jesus who called him out. This is contrasted with Abraham in Romans 4:19-20. Did Abraham ever come off the chair? The answer is no. God gave him "all joy and peace," even though he and Sarah were too old according to man's Wisdom. But Abraham kept trusting; the scripture records that "Abraham grew strong in faith." And that He "glorified God and lived in full assurance." Abraham, in believing, was filled with all joy and peace. Peter in disbelieving was filled with fear and anxiety, and he called out to God to save him.
But please hear me, I don't want you to think for a second that by peace and joy I mean a cessation of war or trial or pain in this life, and I surely don't want you to believe that by joy I mean worldly happiness because I do not! The joy that God gives to those who trust in Him helps us to recognize that trials cannot steal what God has given. Instead, they are used for our good. After all, "God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
[Colossians 1:21-23 says, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, [engaged] in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”
3. Finally, what does it mean to "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit?"
I would first point out that we cannot read verse 13 without keeping in mind verse 4. That is to say that the hope we are to abound in comes the same way it did just a few verses before, "through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
Okay, so what does Paul mean by abounding in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit? The word abound translates to overflow. But if hope is the promise of God, what does it mean to overflow in hope? Paul is referring to the life of the Christian living to the glory of God. If the grace of God has genuinely saved us, then it will overflow through our actions. And these actions are spelled out for us in the Scriptures.
Romans 8:25 says that an overflowing hope is seen in the person that "Waits eagerly and with perseverance." These are human actions — faith with feet.
In 1 Peter 3:15, overflowing hope is visible to a world in need. So much so that they ask us about it. But do you remember the context of 1 Peter 3? It's Godly living. It's husbands and wives living in mutual submission to one another in biblically defined ways. It's being harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in Spirit. It is not returning evil for evil but instead giving a blessing. These are actions of the Christian. Faith with feet.
The power to do all of this comes from the very same Spirit that indwells every believer the moment they're saved. He lives in you, is convicting you, has inspired a book to be written for you and He’s empowering you!
So back to the chair. The chair is hope. Sitting in the chair is faith. All joy and peace will be yours to the fullest. And as you believe the hope that is in you (by the power of the Holy Spirit) will overflow so that all may see.
For most of us this isn’t about salvation. This is about getting out of the chair in key areas of life. For some it’s in the area of sexuality. For others it’s marriage. Still others it’s submission to authority as God lays it out. For others it family. For some it’s about calling and obedience. For others it’s a season for repentance. For some it’s facing that truth that you can’t do the Christian life alone. The list could go on and on. All you need to know is that God want’s you back in the chair. That’s where all joy and peace are.
For some here you’ve never surrendered at all. However, you know that what I’m saying is true. You’re void of joy and peace. There are too many things that you’ve faced in this life and you know that they will all amount to nothing at some point. All you need to know is that God can make all of it have a purpose. Just come sit in the chair!