“…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:” – Romans 12:5-6 (ESV)
The passage from we considered yesterday led us to understand that all faith believers are members of one body in Christ Jesus. This is true even though as that body we have done quite a job of division of this body. So we have a plethora of what are called “denominations.” But God calls all believers to live and work together with unity, plurality, diversity, harmony, and identity – and we’ve failed spectacularly. The terms identifying these five goals have been well redefined by the powers and spiritual forces of evil we wrestle against; (Ephesians 6:12). Thankfully Paul did not end his instruction with verse 5. Our success achieving the five goals comes by each member applying the spiritual gifts given to us. Spiritual gifts are tools, not toys. They are not to be used to attract people to ourselves but employed by God, through us, for His purposes and for His glory. Whatever our gifts may be—to do with speaking or with serving—they are given for the well-being of the church. God gives these gifts to be used as He intends so that body of Christ as a whole might be strengthened.
Sourced from the Bible Teaching Ministry of Truth For Life, a daily devotional by Alistair Begg
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)
Belonging is important. Wondering whether we belong where we are presently is a pertinent question. It’s usually asked in relation to a country club, a gym, or something similar. We might be wondering, “Is this where we belong?” Paul used the illustration of our physical bodies to describe the church, both universal and local assembly. It is not a long reach for us to understand this. Each of us have a human body made up parts with different functions yet belonging to one body. Each function is important and if we were to lose a part of our body, we might be in a crisis situation. Just so when one part does fails to work, all the parts are affected. Our bodies rely essentially upon the control and functions of our heads. In the body of Christ this is manifest most clearly in each local assembly of believers. Jesus Christ as head of the church commands that we work together with: unity, not living in isolation; plurality, because of our different parts; diversity, because functions are necessarily different; harmony, as we work in cohesion; and identity, for we cannot be ourselves when we are by ourselves.
Sourced from the Bible Teaching Ministry of Truth For Life, a daily devotional by Alistair Begg
“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” – Romans 12:3 (NASB)
We find very little humility practiced in this world. Consider a current trend referred most often as “cancel culture,” (the term first appeared in 2016). Practiced by many who hold their views and attitudes to be the only correct and appropriate opinions while ignoring scientific orders and challenges our creator God’s clear truths found in scripture. There’s a current rampage against beliefs by those who don’t live according to these esteemed values or interpretations of right and wrong. In spite of fear of ostracism from others, this practice of intolerance is not becoming of those for whom Christ, by grace, has chosen, saved, and adopted as children of God. Today’s passage warns us to not practice holding ourselves above others as anyone’s “betters” – better based on the values they hold and demand others to accept and hold. Today’s promise is for each true faith believer who has received an allotment measure of faith from God sufficient to use sound judgement based our faith in God’s word. It’s this exercise which leads believers to recognize that in themselves we are nothing (1Peter 5:5), and will yield in us the fruit of humility without compromise.
“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4 (NASB)
In a very real sense spiritually, all who have truly believed in Jesus Christ have been united with Christ by faith. His death and burial become ours and we are saved from ever experiencing our own spiritual death. Even physical death becomes for us a temporary stay until the resurrection of believers. God our Father chose us for this by his mercy. What the Son of God, made real He did out of His own love and will. By God’s grace we walk in newness of life because in Christ we died and were buried with Him, and we have also become one with Him in His resurrection. Paul uses the word “baptized” in a figurative sense; in the same way we might say someone was immersed in his work or when someone experiences a hard test of their character, we might say they underwent a baptism of trials. We experience a new quality and character to our lives, and live according to a new principle of life. As Christ’s burial shows that He actually died, a Christians’ “burial with Christ” shows that they in fact died with Him to their former sinful ways of living.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6 (NASB)
Easter is on the horizon of our calendars in one week. Over this next week our focus will be on the last days of our Lord Jesus before he died on the cross. It was no accident and not a happenstance in God’s timing. It was planned, intentional for us who believe in Him. During His last days He knew what was going to happen because He had always known it. That is what he had come for and our verse reminds us that He submitted to death for us at just the right time – the time God had set. And the reason He had to suffer and the reason he died was because we are helpless and cannot save ourselves – we could not and cannot avoid the consequence of rejecting God. We are powerless before the God of heaven to clear ourselves of the penalty of death. Jesus did this for us what we could not do for ourselves. And now by faith we become members of God’s eternal family. God did not wait until we were good enough because we never would be so he did it when we were utterly helpless.
“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” – Romans 14:22-23 (ESV )
God knows our level of faith and He honors our sincere effort to live by it. Some have grown in faith to recognize that God loves and accepts us based solely on our faith not works. Others are still learning but remain committed by their conscience to observe rules of right and wrong. “Do this…don’t do that” becomes means of working to maintain God’s approval. However it is the believers with strongest faith who have an obligation to respect those who are burdened by these rules. The strongest Christian can bring harm to himself in the area of Christian liberty by denouncing or belittling the freedom God has given him and use it as a license to sin, or by carelessly flaunting his liberty without regard for how that might affect others. The Apostle Paul urges the strong believer to understand his liberty, enjoy it, and keep it between God and himself. The strong believer maintains a healthy conscience because he does not give a weak believer a cause to stumble or lead them to violate their conscience. When a believer violates his conscience, he sins. Acting contrary to our conscience is to act without faith.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – Romans 14:7-8 (ESV)
Life and death are serious matters. What we believe while living now has a profound impact on what will happens after we die. For whom do we live? For ourselves or for others or for our desires? We’re told to reward ourselves, to focus on improving ourselves, and learning how to love ourselves first. Many may follow that but it is not the focus God has or wants us to have. God promises individual accountability to Him in every area and experience of our life—this is paramount. Each Christian person in both life and death is known and seen by the Lord. Christians are saved by grace through faith and spiritually we are accountable to the Lord first. The focus of life is never to be oneself—everything we do should be done to please our sovereign Lord. Paul, in writing to Roman believers, addresses the conflicts of one’s conscience. Some were exercising liberty while others observed certain limitations. A stronger believer may have freedom for some activities while the weaker believer abided by rules of conscience that restricted their activity. Whatever, we decide based on what we know pleases God.
“One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.” Romans 14:2-3 (NASB)
When it comes to judging brother and sister believers regarding “right and wrong” activities, we realize that “back then” in the 1st century it was not so different. One example was food—especially meat. Was it acceptable to eat meat offered to idols? The stronger believer, whose mature faith allowed him to exercise his freedom in Christ by eating the inexpensive meat sold at the pagan meat markets—inexpensive because it may have first been sacrificed to a pagan deity. On the other hand weaker Jewish and Gentile believers abstained and ate vegetables only. They believed the meat was unclean*. Some believers today still declare some activities “unchristian” and called it sinful to participate. These may be activities for which God has not prohibited but the affiliations may offend some. The strong hold the weak in contempt as legalistic and self-righteous do-gooders; the weak judge the strong as irresponsible or even depraved. But God has given us a promise that His acceptance is not based on observing such rules and legalism but on His love and grace. Let each live and love our brothers and sisters while accepting all as living according to their own conscience before God.
*This is different than reasons why vegans abstain from consuming animal products today.
“ …and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:4-5 (ESV)
Aren’t there times for each person when what is hoped for ends in deep disappointment and even shame? We stake our hope on uncertain outcomes and when it fails us, we may well be downcast for a time. This isn’t the kind of hope that we receive as believers from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We’ve learned that even the times of sufferings are times that produce good traits in us. Endurance, character, and hope are mentioned in our verse. In this promise is this hope. A hope than will never result in our shame or disappointment. The hope comes from God and is built upon His Word and His promises. How is it we can be so certain that this hope won’t disappoint us? Because it comes as a result of God pouring His love into our hearts. This is the ministry of His Holy Spirit. This is why God gave to us His Spirit dwells within us never to leave us without His encouragement and counsel. We’re assured by God and so our hope is in that assurance. We are His precious people and He our marvelous God.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13 (ESV)
Three words which we use often in our thoughts and conversations. But does our use reflect the power and fullness of these words for us? The first is Joy and this verse should fill our hearts with rejoicing. We fully believe that these blessings are for us today just as they were available to the Christians in Rome to whom these words were written long ago. God desires to fill us with joy. God also offers to us Peace. But the peace God gives is not the peace found in this world. Peace treaties and conferences and summits all mean just one thing – lack of conflict between warring parties. The peace from God is the removal of the hostility that separates us from Him and binds us to His love. If our hearts and minds are disturbed by some crisis or difficulty, God wants to fill us with His peace. If you are wondering about your eternal future God wants to remove the uncertainty and doubt and fill us with His Hope. His joy, peace and hope are our promise today and so we give thanks God for His love.