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Never Hopeless and Never Helpless

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 15:4–13

In order to maintain the unity that God wants us to have, we must embrace three things: the Scriptures in their entirety, fellow believers without exception, and our Sovereign Savior, Jesus Christ. In Him we can stand strong together and triumph over our enemy, Satan.

Transcript

In April 1940, German tanks rumbled into neighboring Denmark. Hitler did not have any real quarrel with the Danes. They just happened to be in the way of his bid to conquer all of Europe. He did have an implacable hatred for the Jews, however, wherever they happened to live. He was out to hunt them down and wipe them from the face of the earth.

So, as soon as the German forces gained control of Denmark, the Nazis issued a chilling proclamation. All Jews in Denmark were required to wear a yellow Star of David, either pinned or sewn to their clothing. That symbol of their Jewish ancestry made them easy to round up and take away. Failure to wear the star meant instant death.

The Danish government had no power to resist this order, but their king, Christian X, made a bold request of his people. He called on every single Danish citizen to wear a Star of David. Can you imagine that? That literally threatened their lives as well. What would the Danish people do?

The next morning, Stars of David were seen everywhere. The German army was astonished and effectively unarmed. They did not have the capacity to arrest the entire Danish population. I have read that the Jewish people openly wept when they saw this act of courage and love and support.

Now some have dismissed this account as a legend, but let me give you an amazing statistic that cannot be ignored. Out of the six million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, only fifty-one of them were from Denmark.[1]

As we have been sailing for some time through chapters 14 and 15 of Romans, the apostle Paul has been making an appeal for believers to decorate their lives with stars, so to speak—that is, the symbols of unity and love and truth.

Our enemy Satan and His kingdom are always attempting to destroy and divide. Satan’s hatred for the people of God is greater and deeper than we can imagine.

One of our best defenses against him is the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As believers, we stand together at the foot of the cross—and beloved, at the foot of the cross, the ground is level. We are all in this together.

It is no wonder, then, that in the middle of our passage today, as we pick up our Wisdom Journey here in chapter 15, Paul writes this in verse 7: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Even when we have different opinions about gray areas in life, let us put out—and leave out—a welcome mat for all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul calls on us to maintain our unity by embracing three things. And he promises that when we do, we will end up experiencing three blessings.

First is this: When we embrace the Scriptures, we discover that our lives are never hopeless. Note Paul’s words in verse 4:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

For Paul’s audience, the Scriptures referred to the Old Testament. It was all they had. But what a treasure!

The Word of God has been given to provide you hope in the midst of life. It is intended by God to instruct you. The Greek word Paul uses here that is translated “instruction” (didaskalia) means that the Scriptures teach you—reveal to you—what you are to believe and how you are to behave.[2]

The Bible is not just a creed; it will build your character! And when you embrace the Scriptures, you discover that life does not have to be hopeless.

Second, we are to embrace the saints—other believers. And when we embrace the saints, we discover that our hearts are never homeless. The apostle Paul continues:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (verses 5-7)

Paul is not just calling for us to welcome new believers into our church fellowship, although that is included. He is calling on all Christians to welcome one another in the fullest and deepest sense. Let us glorify God together.

In the immediate context, this meant that the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers were going to have to get over centuries of prejudice—centuries of discrimination and bigotry and partiality. Let me tell you, prejudice is built into our sinful nature, no matter what century we live in.

James gives us an example: “You are holding a church service, and a man walks into the assembly wearing a gold ring and fine clothing” (James 2:2, paraphrased). Our sinful nature says, “Now, treat that man well; give him the best seat in the house.” Then a poor man in shabby clothes, from the other side of the railroad tracks, walks in, and our sinful, prejudiced nature whispers in our ear, “Ignore him. Let him take a seat on the floor there in the back.”

Someone might say, “Well, that is just the way it is.” But listen to James 2:4: “Have you not . . . become judges with evil thoughts?” That is, “You’re wicked, and you need to repent.”

Beloved, God has given us a new nature; and our new nature is colorblind; it does not pay attention to social status or educational backgrounds or wealth and fashion. Our unity is not based on Adam’s race, but on a new race—a new nation—a people who belong to God and to one another. We are united today, not by our first birth, but by our second birth through faith in Christ.[3]

When you embrace the Scriptures, you discover your life is not hopeless; when you embrace the saints, you discover that your heart is not homeless.

Now third, when we embrace the Savior, we discover that our future is not helpless! In verses 9-12, Paul quotes from each of the three major divisions of the Old Testament—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The first quote is in verse 9: “‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles.’” That’s from 2 Samuel 22:50, where David sings of his deliverance from King Saul. The second quote is in verse 10: “‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’” This comes from Deuteronomy 32:43, where Moses calls on the Gentiles to praise God with the Jews. The third quote in verse 11 says, “‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.’” That is from Psalm 117:1, where the Jews and Gentiles are embracing their Lord in worship together.

And then Paul’s final quote in verse 12 says, “‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’” This is from Isaiah 11:10 and is a prophecy of the Messiah descending from the family line of King David.

These prophecies rejoiced over future events; but they are not just for a future kingdom. They are for next Sunday in church as you sing praises with one another in the unity that is found in Christ your Savior.

Paul ends this thought in verse 13 with a wonderful prayer of benediction:

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.

What blessings are given to those who embrace the Scriptures, the Savior, and the saints. This prayer echoes Paul’s prayer to the Corinthian believers—and to all of us today: May “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.


[1] John Maxwell, The Power of Partnership in the Church (W. W. Norton, 1999), 64.

[2] Readers Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2003), 356

[3] Ralph Lauren, Romans: Where Life Begins (Kregel, 1948), 476.

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