Friday, 10 January 2014
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.Romans 15:7
“Therefore” asks us to again stop, consider, and then act. Based on the preceding 6 verses of chapter 15 as well as the entire scope of thought which was relayed in chapter 14 – all dealing with the same basic subject, we are to “receive one another.” Concerning “disputable matters” some have failings and some have strengths and they may be in differing areas so that the one who is strong in one area may actually be weak in another. And then there is the added context of the previous chapters of Romans which address issues more directly to either Jews or Gentiles based on their previous state.
The Jews came from a point of knowledge about the true God which the Gentiles lacked. However, the Gentiles came from a point of freedom in what are now “disputable matters” which were clearly forbidden under the law, but which are now set aside in Christ. And so the stronger has actually become the weaker in many ways if they remain uninformed or conscious-stricken over the liberties we may now exercise. Because of this, we are asked to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us.”
How did Christ receive the Jew? As a Jew who was observant to their laws. Paul, on the road to Damascus, wasn’t told first to give up his identity and then Christ would reveal Himself to him. Instead, He came in all of His glorious radiance to a man who was bent on punishing those of the faith. And the Holy Spirit didn’t come down on Cornelius’ house in Acts 10 after making them go through many rites of purification and instruction on what foods they could and couldn’t eat. Instead, He came down upon them as a group of gentiles with no specifically recorded knowledge of the Jews’ law.
In these and in every other instance in church history, Christ has received His people in the state they were in. Some have been miserable alcoholics, sexually depraved souls, arrogant finger-pointers, greedy money-grubbers, and etc. But there was a moment when Christ touched their hearts and changed them. Each of them came with all of their previous baggage and He converted their souls.
The things which required changing because they are mandated by Christ (such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, etc) are the things they were told to leave behind. But there are other things that are not delineated in the word – what foods to eat, what day(s) to worship on, etc. In these things, and for Jew and for Gentile alike, there was a receiving of the person by Christ and no demand for change.
And so we are asked to accept them in like manner. Who are we to judge what Christ has already accepted? Who are we to reject the one whom He has already received? Are we in the place of God? Some may think so, but the answer is “No.” This has been the constant theme of chapters 14 and 15. We must allow what is not forbidden and we must forbid that which is not allowed, but we must know which is which and, therefore, we need to know the Bible as given to us by God. In doing so, and in acting in accord with its precepts, we will receive others “to the glory of God.”
And this is the end goal of all of redemptive history – God receiving the glory that He is due. This is not a vain, self-seeking glory, but God allowing us to share in His glory by seeing the Son in His rightful position at the right hand of the Father and our fellowshipping with Him for all eternity.
We can realize a small portion of that now by accepting others without dispute over doubtful matters. In so doing, we acknowledge the greatness of Christ who has already accepted them – from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the plains of Africa, from the large cities of Europe to the coastal hamlets of Latin America. People from all over the world are coming to Christ with unique languages, interesting styles of music and instruments, unusual foods they eat, and so on. And yet, they are members of the body of Christ. He is glorified through the diversity, and our acceptance of those things reflects this. What Christ has received, let us look at with great pleasure.
Life application: Instead of judging others for the things they do differently as worshippers of Jesus, let us look at their traditions and modes of worship as wonderful aspects of the overall splendor of what Christ has earned, purchasing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation – each with unique abilities and offerings.
Jesus, You accepted me just as I was the day I heard the gospel. Since that time, You’ve continued to refine me and bring me in line with Your word, and yet you’ve allowed me to continue to be myself. My style of music, the clothes I wear, the activities I enjoy – I can go on enjoying. What a demonstration of love… You have accepted me for who I am. Thank You Lord. Amen.