1 Corinthians is a letter to a church that found itself in the most influential and cosmopolitan city of its day. Yet this was a troubled church. The church received the gospel, but it was not governed by it. In many practical ways, the church was governed by culturally-derived mottos rather than mature reflection on the gospel and its implications for life.
Paul is writing the young pastor Titus to help his ministry in Crete. The first 2 chapters of his letter are about structure and relationships within the church (Titus 1-2). Chapter 3 begins with addressing a Christian's attitude toward those in authority (verse 1) and how to relate to those who don’t know Christ (verse 2). Titus 3:3-11 instruct us how to function among those who don’t know Christ, both outside the church and inside. Sadly, there will always be those even in the church who profess Christ but do not truly know Him.
God’s nature is unity (Deuteronomy 6:4). When we are baptized into Christ, we are one with Him and with each other spiritually (John 17:11, 20-22). David and Solomon both praised the importance of unity among God’s people (Psalm 133:1, Proverbs 6:17-19). Anyone who dismisses the unity God has created and spreads strife unnecessarily is considered an abomination. The job of believers in the church is to maintain the unity of the Spirit in peace (Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 4:2). God’s people love what God has provided and persevere in unity.
As Paul continues to write according to his theme of ministry integrity, he turns to the quality of Christian relationships. This is one way people can suffer in a local church. When they are persuaded that Jesus is not enough, their relationships inside the church struggle, and they don't know how to develop redemptive relationships in the community. When unsure of the permanence of their relationship with God, then people have no foundation from which to build other relationships and no message of how the Gospel changed them.
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 compares a life lived under the Law with a life lived under grace. Paul knew the Corinthians had begun to lose their Gospel influence when they began embracing the false message of the Judaizers. The Law, even though divinely given, could not transform a person. No standard can change a heart. Its splendor is to convict.
The only way to minister with integrity is to have relationships continually maintained by God's Word. This must include forgiving those who have offended us.
Spiritual togetherness is another way to say "unity." Believers will be spiritually one as we understand who God is and who we are in Christ. We should not want to live life alone.
Love is talked about often during the Christmas season. The love of God in our hearts produces hope (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit instructs us about God's love. The gifts given by the Holy Spirit are to be lived out in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1 Peter 4:9-11). It is God Himself who teaches us to love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
We have been studying Paul's instructions on weak and strong Christians. (See previous sermons on this chapter.) Romans 14:13-23 gives guidelines for considerate people within a church that is unified, healthy, and growing.This is how we maintain unity among Spirit-filled people.
How do groups of believers who are growing at different rates remain considerate of each other in the body of Christ? This is imperative if we are to display the love of a unified family to a watching world!
Romans 12-16 practically applies the doctrine of chapters 1-11. How do we practically apply doctrine in our culture, in our personal lives, home, vocation, and communities? There is a divine progression from Romans 12:1 through the end of the book. We obey because we love (2 John 6). He saves us by His grace and gives us the ability to live by His grace to influence others by His grace.
Christ is coming back, and as the Head of the Church, He will be looking to see His people bringing the Gospel to others (Romans 1:16). Jesus is building His church in Mentor as He has been since the beginning of the church. He was building His church through the local body of believers in Rome. This was a healthy church made up of all different kinds of people, which we will see in Romans 16. That diversity of people being saved and united in Christ is the result of living out the commission of love that Paul wrote about in Romans 12:17-21.
Romans 13 must be read in the context of Romans 12. Great Commission living characterized by love includes our lives as citizens. God has graced us with human government, and every person is influenced by it. Our interaction should be marked by righteousness.
Love that has its foundation in divine transformation shows compassion within the body of Christ and has great influence in the surrounding community.
We have been studying the love Christians should have within the body of Christ (Romans 12:9-16). The pointed commands beginning in verse 13 seem random, but they do flow from what Paul wrote in the verses just before. Love that is holy, relational, passionate in serving and persevering, will be aware in these ways.
The latter half of Romans 12 instructs Christians on the kind of love we should display. Our love is holy, relational, passionate, and aware. A series of direct imperatives begins in Romans 12:13. Love is intentional about its surroundings.
We are studying the third section of Romans 12. When people are transformed by grace (Romans 12:1-2) and functioning well in the body of Christ (Romans 12:3-8), we are able to love each other as God intends.
Romans 12:9-16’s list of responsibilities may seem to have no rhyme or reason to their order, but they fit into the chapter context perfectly. Romans 12 begins the practical portion of the book as we seek to live God’s glorious gospel outlined in Romans 1-11. If the chapter is a 3-story house, verses 1-2 are the foundation. Verses 3-8 are the first floor named Community. The second floor, verses 9-16, is about Compassion. Verses 17-21 address our Commission.
This passage of Scripture embodies the very heart of Memorial Day. Nationally, we stand in the face of such love this weekend.
In combat, it is not necessarily the high ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that motivates a sailor or soldier to things he or she never thought personally possible. Rather, it is the love for the brother or sister in arms next to them in the conflict. Medal of honor recipient Lawrence Chamberlain tried to explain the willingness of men to face bullets in this way: "Simple manhood, force of discipline, pride, love, or the bond of comradeship." This longing for all to get home safely together motivates so powerfully in the heat of the battle! It is this special bond that creates a camaraderie so palatable that it lasts a lifetime and explains unbelievable acts of heroism.
Jesus Himself cites this axiom in John 15:13, and we do well to honor those who have fallen in the display of such love.
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