William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Inclusive Church (Romans 15:7-13)

15:7-13 So, then, welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, that God may be praised. What I mean is this--Christ became a servant of the Jewish race and way of life for the sake of God's truth, not only to guarantee the promises which the fathers received, but also that the Gentiles should praise God for his mercy. As it stands written: "Therefore I will offer praise to God among the Gentiles and I will sing to your name." And, again it says: "Rejoice, O Gentiles with his people." And, again: "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him." And again Isaiah says: "There shall live the scion of Jesse, even he who rises up to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles set their hopes." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may overflow with hope.

Paul makes one last appeal that all people within the Church should be bound into one, that those who are weak in the faith and those who are strong in the faith should be one united body, that Jew and Gentile should find a common fellowship. There may be many differences but there is only one Christ, and the bond of unity is a common loyalty to him. Christ's work was for Jew and Gentile alike. He was born a Jew and was subject to the Jewish law. This was in order that all the great promises given to the fathers of the Jewish race might come true and that salvation might come first to the Jew. But he came, not only for the Jew, but for the Gentile also.

To prove that this is not his own novel and heretical idea Paul cites four passages from the Old Testament; he quotes them from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, which is why they vary from the translation of the Old Testament as we know it. The passages are Psalms 18:50 ; Deuteronomy 32:43 ; Psalms 117:1 ; Isaiah 11:10 . In all of them Paul finds ancient forecasts of the reception of the Gentiles into the faith. He is convinced that, just as Jesus Christ came into this world to save all men, so the Church must welcome all men, no matter what their differences may be. Christ was an inclusive Saviour, and therefore his Church must be an inclusive Church.

Then Paul once again goes on to sound the notes of the Christian faith. The great words of the Christian faith flash out one after another.

(i) There is hope. It is easy in the light of experience to despair of oneself. It is easy in the light of events to despair of the world. Someone tells of a meeting in a certain church at a time of emergency. The meeting was constituted with prayer by the chairman. He addressed God as "Almighty and eternal God, whose grace is sufficient for all things." When the prayer was finished, the business part of the meeting began; and the chairman introduced the business by saying: "Gentlemen, the situation in this church is completely hopeless, and nothing can be done." Either his prayer was composed of empty and meaningless words, or his statement was untrue.

It has long ago been said that there are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them. It is told that there was a cabinet meeting in the darkest days of the last war, just after France had capitulated. Mr. Churchill outlined the situation in its starkest colours. Britain stood alone. There was a silence when he had finished speaking, and on some faces was written despair, and some would have given up the struggle. Mr. Churchill looked round that dispirited company. "Gentlemen," he said, "I find it rather inspiring."

There is something in Christian hope that not all the shadows can quench--and that something is the conviction that God is alive. No man is hopeless so long as there is the grace of Jesus Christ; and no situation is hopeless so long as there is the power of God.

(ii) There is joy. There is all the difference in this world between pleasure and joy. The Cynic philosophers declared that pleasure was unmitigated evil. Anthisthenes made the strange statement that he would "rather be mad than pleased." Their argument was that "pleasure is only the pause between two pains." You have longing for something, that is the pain; you get it, the longing is satisfied and there is a pause in the pain; you enjoy it and the moment is gone; and the pain comes back. In truth, that is the way pleasure works. But Christian joy is not dependent on things outside a man; its source is in our consciousness of the presence of the living Lord, the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in him.

(iii) There is peace. The ancient philosophers sought for what they called ataraxia, the untroubled life. They wanted all that serenity which is proof alike against the shattering blows and the petty pinpricks of this life. One would almost say that today serenity is a lost possession. There are two things which make it impossible.

(a) There is inner tension. Men live a distracted life, for the word distract literally means to pull apart. So long as a man is a walking civil war and a split personality, there can obviously be for him no such thing as serenity. There is only one way out of this, and that is for self to abdicate to Christ. When Christ controls, the tension is gone.

(b) There is worry about external things. Many are haunted by the chances and the changes of life. H. G. Wells tells how in New York harbour he was once on a liner. It was foggy, and suddenly out of the fog loomed another liner, and the two ships slid past each other with only yards to spare. He was suddenly face to face with what he called the general large dangerousness of life. It is hard not to worry, for man is characteristically a creature who looks forward to guess and fear. The only end to that worry is the utter conviction that, whatever happens, God's hand will never cause his child a needless tear. Things will happen that we cannot understand, but if we are sure enough of God's love, we can accept with serenity even those things which wound the heart and baffle the mind.

(iv) There is power. Here is the supreme need of men. It is not that we do not know the right thing; the trouble is the doing it. The trouble is to cope with and to conquer things, to make what Wells called "the secret splendour of our intentions" into actual facts. That we can never do alone. Only when the surge of Christ's power fills our weakness can we master life as we ought. By ourselves we can do nothing; but with God all things are possible.

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible