Ro 15:8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,
9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name."
10 And again he says: "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!"
11 And again: "Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!"
12 And again, Isaiah says: "There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, In Him the Gentiles shall hope."
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As I was getting ready to prepare this week’s message. I had opportunity to reflect on the joy and peace that awaits us in heaven. This last verse of our text got me thinking and longing for it again, and so forgive me as I take a little sidetrack this morning.
It’s a sidetrack worth taking because if you are willing, as a child of God, I believe you can begin to experience some of this joy even now as you work out your salvation and allow the patience of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to continue to work in you.
As we look at these verses, remember, we must be aware of the context in which they were written. Paul was dealing with the issue of unity in the non-essentials. He was dealing with some natural differences that had developed in the Body of Christ regarding holy days and diet concerns.
At the heart of these differences were the traditions of two separate cultures that were now being melded into one. Namely the Jewish culture and the Gentile culture. But to put those differences into the proper light, Paul shifts our attention to Jesus Christ. Reminding the Romans just as he reminded the Ephesians.
Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
I can’t say this enough, when differences arise...go to the cross, that’s where the ground is level, and we all see our true state. No one better than the next, all in need of a Savior. Days and diets don’t matter at Calvary.
When you think about it, our celebration of Easter is a concession to the Gentile culture celebration of days. As we explained last year our Lord’s resurrection actually occurred shortly after the Jewish Passover. This year those dates are fairly close, but it’s not always the case.
But as we have seen here in Romans, there is no need to make a big deal about it....it’s a non-essential.
Paul starts out this section by reminding his Jewish audience of the Lord’s ministry while He walked this earth. Was it to the Gentiles or to the Jews? According to our Lord’s own words it was to the Jews:
Mt 15:24 But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (NKJV)
He had to do this in order to fulfill prophecy and the promises that God made to His people in the Old Testament. But His ministry was not to stop with the Jew. It was prophesied that it would go beyond the Jew and reach the Gentiles as well.
And look at all the proof passages that Paul uses here: Ps 18:49, Dt 32:43, Ps 117:1, and Is 11:10. Make no mistake about it, salvation would one day come to the Gentiles along with the Jews! And that day was and is now!
We have talked about this in our Thursday morning Revelation Lecture series. In Revelation 20:2 we read of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, being bound for 1000 years. That 1000 years is not a literal number, but a symbolic number and it represents the complete New Testament period. (ten the number of completeness and 1000 is 10 cubed (perfected)
Not a day will be missing. History will come to it’s perfect completion just as God has planned it and then the end will come.
We are in that 1000 year period right now and will remain there until our Lord returns for final judgement. So we know that right now, as we speak....according to Rev. 20:2, Satan is bound...he is on a leash. A leash that renders him helpless to stop the spread of the gospel.
Think about it. For whatever reason, the Jews were pretty much the only people who had knowledge of the one True God in the Old Testament, but since Christ defeated Satan on the cross, and then gifted His church with the Holy Spirit, the Gospel has gone forth from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
That just wasn’t the case in the Old Testament. But now, the Holy Spirit is unleashed and given to all baptized believers and look what happened. 3,000 Jewish converts on the first day, then 5,000, then the Samaritan conversions, then Paul going out to win the Gentile world. Now there are millions of believers worldwide.
This winning of the Gentiles was the greater thing that Jesus said his followers would do.
Joh 14:12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (NKJV)
So if the devil is on a leash, how come we don’t see more conversions? Well, without going into a lot of the details of the Book of Revelation, he still works through his various agencies, namely, the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot, and of course his demons.
Their sole purpose is to interfere with the work of the gospel. Again, without going into a lot of detail, their interference shows up through persecution, deception, and the cares of this world.
Jesus pictured this interference for us in the parable of the sower.
Some hear the gospel, but it is plucked away by deception. Some receive it gladly but it lose it through persecution. And sometimes it is choked about by materialism and the cares of this world.
So, in this 1000 year New Testament period, the gospel has been unleashed to Jew and Gentile alike. As Gentiles, the rest of verse 9 is important, because it gives us the reason why we have been given the Gospel......that we might add our voices to the chorus of those who glorify God for His mercy.
God in His great mercy has extended the free offer of salvation to you! Resist all that would attempt to snatch the seed of the gospel out of your heart! Receive it! Hang onto it! Let it produce fruit in your life and thereby glorify God for His mercy. If there’s any “snatching” to be done, let it be done by you as you hungrily snatch up His Words of life!
Paul then concludes this section with a prayer for hope for the saints in Rome. This prayer is for you and I as well.
If there is one thing that God wants His children to have, it is hope! That’s why Jesus rose from the dead. There is life after death! And for the believer it is a life of unspeakable joy and peace. Now some people have an erroneous view of this joy and peace in heaven. They have a mental picture of angelic beings sitting on clouds and playing harps all day.
But if you want to know what Paradise Restored will really look like, just turn back to the original Garden of Eden. Look at Adam. He wasn’t sitting around on a cloud playing a harp was he? Adam was given responsibilities.
He was charged with tending the garden and we also read that he was given the task of naming the animals. So we see that Paradise is a place where we will be given responsibilities and opportunities to express creativity.
I marvel at the names of animals and can almost picture God slapping His knee with each new creative name that Adam came up with! Turtle......Bear.....Lion......ant. Names that have delightfully stood the test of eons. So Paradise or heaven is a place where we will be doing what God created us to do. A place where we can be creative, and a place where we will have responsibilities.
And we will carry out these responsibilities ....perfectly. That my friend is joy! That is what God desires for each of His children to experience!
Ever carry out a responsibility in such a way that it was very pleasing to the person who gave you that responsibility? “Hey Mom, look I cleaned my room!” And you can tell by Mom’s response that she is very pleased with the job you did!
Or you finish a project at work, on time and on budget and it rocks and your boss tells you so! How did you feel? Was there some inner joy going on?
This is part of what it will be like in heaven. We don’t have time to read all about it now, but if you ever want a more complete picture of what heaven will be like, look at Is. 65:17-25. It is in verse 22 of this chapter that we read: “My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”
We will have work in heaven. We will have responsibilities, ...so you might as well get used to it here on earth. And you start by exercising some responsibility with God’s Word. Let me give you a little different slant on responsibility. Let’s break it into two words. Response and ability.
Response ability is the measure of faith that God has given each and every one of us. In fact, it could be substituted for faith. “Response ability” comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
We all have the ability to respond to God’s Word. It is His desire that all come to repentance. And when God’s Word invites us to trust and believe in Jesus for our salvation, we have the ability to respond to that.
When he tells us to do something, we have the ability to respond to that. When He tells us to not do something, we have the ability to respond to that. When we do, we exercise faith.
We also have free will. We can choose to not respond. We can choose to resist.
Will we respond to all the things in God’s Word in this life? Will we always be perfectly in the will of God? Certainly not! It’s called sin when we fail, but a believer has godly sorrow over his lack of response....his sin, and confesses it, receives God’s forgiveness, and tries again. He doesn’t give up on his response ability!
Why should he? As we learned last week, God’s Word is patient with him, patiently waiting for each and every one of us to exercise our ability to respond. Waiting for us to show some “response ability.” One day. in heaven our response to God’s will, will be perfect, and that my friend is joy!
I believe there is a direct connection between our heavenly reward and the free exercise of our “response ability” here on earth. One day Jesus was telling His disciples what the kingdom of heaven is like, and then proceeded to tell them the parable of the talents. Most of you are familiar with this parable, so I’m just going to pull a couple of verses out of the parable to make the point.
Mt 25:15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability;” (Did you catch that word “ability.”) Three different people with three different measures of response ability)
God knows your “response ability” He gave it to you. You need not worry about it! Just seek to exercise what you have! Don’t bury it!
The first one comes back and says, “ look what I did with the response ability you gave me!” And what did he do? He earned more! More what? More ability to respond! He allowed God’s Word to patiently grow him.
Mt 25:21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful (exercised response ability) over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Enter the what? The joy of your Lord! There is no greater joy than responding to God’s Word with the ability that He has given us! There is no greater joy for our Lord than to see His children performing up to their potential!
Back to that description of heaven found in Isaiah 65:18,19, “But be glad and rejoice FOREVER in what I create; for behold I create Jerusalem (the new Paradise) as a (place for) rejoicing. And her people a joy (A joy to who? A joy to Him as they perfectly carry out their responsibilities according to His will!)
Why all this joy? Because His children are finally performing up to their perfect potential. Boy, you hear that one a lot at report card time don’t you kids? But your parents concern is just a foreshadowing of heaven! A foreshadowing of what your heavenly Father desires for you.
Responding according to your abilities.
The difference is you will be responding without nagging, you will be responding with a glad heart because you will be performing in the areas in which you were created to perform! Your areas of ability.
Now, in Mt 25:29 He said,
Mt 25:29 'For to everyone who has, (has what? Exercised response ability) more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
So get used to responding to God’s Word now with the ability He has given you, for the more you do it now, the greater it will be for you now and in heaven! And as we see here, woe to those who blow off this response ability and fail to even attempt to exercise it.
But heaven is not just about this joy. It’s also about peace. No more spiritual warfare! No more of the devil interrupting your joy and peace. He was allowed access to the Garden of Eden, but now he is forever locked up in hell, along with all his agents.
You will be able to carry on your heavenly responsibilities without any unwanted disruptions. The devil, your flesh, and the sinful world are no longer in the picture!
This joy and this peace awaits all who respond, .......and keep responding in faith to God’s Word! It is for all who have put their faith and trust in Jesus.
And Paul’s prayer is that the Romans and you and I and all other believers will abound in this hope, overflow with this hope....not by any false pretenses, or false hopes that cause us to trust in other roads to eternal life. There is only one way and that way is through Jesus Christ.
And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to acknowledge that truth. He gives us “response ability” to confess with Peter, .......Jesus, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Then He gives us the “response ability” to exercise further faith and trust in God’s Word,
He gives us the “response ability” needed so that one day we will hear those precious Words of Jesus, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.
Mt 25:21 "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler (I will give you dominion and responsibility) over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'
Is that the desire of your heart? When all is said and done, do you want to hear those words or not?
It starts with receiving His love. It starts with faith or your “response ability” to those promises we read of in our Old Testament reading this morning.
“It pleased the Lord to bruise Him for your sake. He put Him to grief for your sake. He made Him an offering for sin. He saw the travail, the agony of His Son on that cross and he was satisfied that the debt of your sin was paid!
Jesus bore our iniquities and because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, He made intercession for us! So that we might spend eternity in heaven with Him.
And this very same Jesus speaking about this very same death said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit has lifted up the love of Jesus before your eyes this morning. I pray that you will hear His beckoning call to draw near to Him. I pray that you will exercise your God-given “response ability” to receive Him as your Lord and Savior.
It is the first step toward the eternal peace and joy that we hope for in heaven, a joy that we can even experience in part here on earth as we exercise our “response ability” to the promises and commands of God’s Word.