Romans
SERMON: I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17)

A. INTRODUCTION

1. Us
We have probably all done things of which we are (or should be) ashamed. We’ve all had times when we haven’t treated other people right; times when we’ve put ourselves and our own interests before others; times when we’ve looked longingly at things which belong to someone else; or simply times when we’ve been ungrateful, when we’ve not been satisfied with the things that we have.

Furthermore, there may well be things that we are holding back from doing right now. Like calling someone we have neglected for too long; like not helping someone we know, who we know is in need of help; and like giving a hand to someone who is selflessly caring for others.

There are probably also things that we know we should do but are too unsure of ourselves or too embarrassed to get involved. Maybe we lack courage, or maybe we are scared about what others might think.

2. Paul
It’s very refreshing then to hear some words of Paul. Words which reflect the idea that whilst he had done many things of which he was ashamed—and persecuting Christians was one of those things of which he was not proud—the one thing that he was not ashamed of (having become a Christian) was to stand up and proudly tell others about his faith.

Indeed the words of Paul from his letter to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes—the Jew first, then the Greek. For from the beginning of faith to the end, the righteousness of God is revealed in it. And as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Now when I say that Paul was proud of being a Christian and proud to share his faith, I don’t mean that in a negative way. He wasn’t pushing his own barrow. Rather, I mean that Paul had something to be excited about, and he consequently wanted to tell all and sundry what Jesus had done, and what the gospel meant.

B. TWO REASONS WHY PAUL WAS NOT ASHAMED

So what is it that made Paul stand proudly and proclaim the gospel, whilst others were tempted to hold back? Well, I’m going to tell you that it had nothing to do with his gifts and abilities. Because it wasn’t that he was a particularly good speaker. On the contrary he was criticised for not being one. And as for his letter writing . . . Well even though his letters are quite strong at times, he does have the reputation for getting side-tracked and losing the thread of his argument. So what was it that motivated Paul to proudly proclaim the gospel? Well, as far as Paul was concerned there were two things:

1. A Message of Salvation (verse 16)
And the first was that the gospel was a message of salvation—of which they are at least three aspects:

a). Saved from the Wrath God
The first aspect is that people are being given the opportunity to be saved from the wrath of God. It is about the opportunity for people to be guided through all the human trials and divine judgement and come out the end to receive eternal bliss.

Now this salvation may have something to do with hope for the future. (Because salvation can only be completed when the Messiah returned in glory). But guidance through human trials now, is very much an everyday reality too. Consequently the salvation message is very much a current day reality as well as a hope of things to come.

b). Only God has the Power to Save
The second aspect is that God uses his power to give people the opportunity to be saved, which only God has the power to do. It is about the opportunity for people to have a solution to sin, where all human solutions fail.

But yet again this salvation is not merely an announcement of the fact that salvation will take place at some future time, but it is the announcement of the operation of God’s power working towards salvation. Power that is evident in the here and now.

It is a work begun in the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. And subsequently it is work that continues on, daily, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

c). For All Who Have Faith
And the third aspect is that people are being given the freedom to choose whether to be saved or not. It is the opportunity for people to choose for God and receive salvation, or to choose against God and receive eternal damnation.

In other words, everyone (without exception) is given the choice. But the salvation of the future and the salvation of every day, is only given to those who choose it.

God’s gift of salvation, whilst open for anyone to choose, is effective for only those who have faith. It is only effective for those who accept the power of God, and therefore submit themselves to him, trusting themselves wholly to his grace and wisdom.

Now this gospel may have been delivered to the Jew first, but it is shared amongst the gentiles too, as was intended. And the reason for that, is to illustrate the inability for anyone to keep the Old Testament law. It is to illustrate the nature of sin and the consequent need for divine intervention.

2. God’s Righteousness Revealed (verse 17)
So the first reason that Paul was proud and not ashamed of the gospel was because of the relevance and importance of the salvation message to every single person that has ever lived. Without it, people are condemned. With it, people have the opportunity to be saved.

However Paul’s second reason why he was not embarrassed about the gospel, takes the whole thing a little further. Because as far as Paul was concerned the gospel revealed something of the nature of God too. And again it comes in three aspects:

a). God is a Righteousness God
The first aspect is that God is a righteous God; that God is perfect and needs to deal with all the things that are not perfect around him.

On God’s side, the whole concept of the need for salvation means the operation of his righteousness. And that isn’t just an attribute of God, it is something that he does. It is part of his whole being. And consequently for people to meet God’s standards, they need to be found righteous too.

Consequently before salvation can be received by anyone, they have to face God—the righteous judge—in court. And in this court, that person has to secure the verdict: righteous.

b) God is a Caring God
The second aspect is that God cares for his creation. Indeed he cares and loves his creation so much that he has found a way to secure that righteous verdict. And this is only possible because God sent his Messiah to suffer humiliation and death.

A verdict of righteous, therefore, is available, but only through faith in Jesus. Faith being the only human attitude corresponding to God’s grace.

c). God Honours Freewill
The third aspect is that God cares so much for his creation, that he respects people’s freedom to choose. That even after having given the opportunity for people to be accepted as righteous, he is not prepared to impose himself on those who are unwilling to trust him or accept him.

Consequently only those who live by faith will live. A state which doesn’t just talk about future salvation but relates to life in the here and now as well.

3. Summary
There are two reasons, therefore, why Paul was confident and was not ashamed to tell others of the gospel, and they have nothing to do with either his ability to speak in public—about which he was criticised—or about his letter writing ability either.

Rather, it had to do with the content—the good news—of the message of salvation, and the need for all to hear it. And it had to do with the fact that in that salvation message, God had revealed much about himself.

C. IMPLICATIONS

Now, as I said earlier, Paul had, himself, done many things of which he would have been ashamed. Not least of which was the persecution of early Christians. However, once he had become a Christian, once he had faith, all that changed. He too became bold and went out and shared his faith; he was proud to be stand up and call himself a Christian; and he was proud that he had been given the responsibility by God to tell others about what he believed.

And in this, is a challenge to us all. Because if we are Christians, if we have really received the salvation message ourselves—whether we are good speakers or good writers or not—we too should be proud enough to stand up and proclaim the gospel.

And how we can do that is by remembering three simple things.

1. Needing God’s Help
Firstly, to remember that we all need God’s help—and people everywhere need to be told that they need his help too.

If God is a righteous God, then he needs to deal with sin; with all our mistakes and failings; with all the things we’ve done wrong; and with all the things that we’ve failed to do. The one thing we can guarantee is that no-one is exempt from needing God’s help. It doesn’t matter what people do or how people try, anyone who has even made one mistake needs God’s help. And that help is available because of the death and resurrection of God’s son. Because come judgement day, we will be judged based on every single thing that we have done wrong. And even if we have only done one thing wrong—no matter how small it was—we will still deserve eternal damnation, not eternal life.

The only way for us to avoid that sentence is for someone else to pay the penalty for us. And in order for that person to be able to do that, they must have lived a sin free life. Now only Jesus—God’s son—could do that. And consequently only by putting our total trust in Jesus can we be saved.

2. Righteous Living Now
The second thing that we need to remember is that whilst the full effect of salvation still lies in the future, salvation is also something that should be embraced in the here and now. Our future salvation should be life changing in the here and now. And people need to realise that too.

Because even if we have accepted God’s message of salvation, it still matters how we live life now. If we are prepared to accept God’s judgement as “righteous” in the future, righteousness in the present should be our way of life now.

Righteousness isn’t just another attribute of God, it’s the way that he lives—it exudes out of every part of his being. Therefore to be faithful to God, it should be part of our very being too.

3. The Need to Choose Faith
And, the third thing we need to remember is that only those who respond positively to God will receive salvation. As a consequence, we have a responsibility to make sure that others around us are aware of God’s love and are aware of the choices that he brings.

Now, obviously, not everyone will accept the salvation message. Some might object most strongly; some might sit on the fence; and many will have the totally wrong idea about what the Christian faith is all about. But regardless of that, only those who choose salvation will inherit eternal life. And if we have been recipients of God’s message and his grace, then we have an obligation to share the choices that we all have when it comes to salvation too.

D. CONCLUSION

Now as I said at the beginning: We have probably all done things of which we are (or should be) ashamed. We may even have things that we are holding back from doing right now. And sharing the gospel may be one of those things. But we need to remember that Paul had also done things of which he was not proud. And yet in this passage he was proud to stand up and share his faith.

And why? Because he knew the seriousness of the issue; he knew that people would be lost unless they had an opportunity to respond to the gospel, and he wanted people to have the chance to respond positively to God. But more than that, he also wanted people to understand something of the nature of God, and the depths God was prepared to go to save his creation—you and me.

Now Paul wasn’t a great speaker, he wasn’t a great writer either, but he did have a concern for others. He was willing to have a go. The question is, do we have that same pride in the gospel? And are we concerned for the spiritual welfare of others as well?

Posted 7th August 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
www.brianacurtis.com.au

DEVOTION: Dealing with Our Faults and Failings (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8)

We’ve all done things of which we are not proud; things which we hoped would be long forgotten.

As a consequence, some people live in a nightmarish world, where they are constantly reminded of their faults and failings. So much so, that their memories keep them from their sleep and plague them every minute of the day. But even those of us who have put the past behind them, every now and again are reminded of the things of which we are ashamed. And that can be through someone reminding us of what we have done, or through a seemingly unrelated event that triggers off a memory of something best left behind.

No matter who we are, and where we fit into these two alternative scenarios, the reality is that we have all made mistakes, and we have all done things of which we’re not proud.

And should we be tempted to say “I’m not like that. I’ve never made a mistake. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” we have two notable passages from scripture that we should consider. The first is from Paul’s letter to the Romans: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And the second is from 1 John “If we say we do not sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Whether we like it or not, as far as God is concerned, we all fail. We all fall short of the perfection that he demands. Not one of us can claim to be better than anyone else. In God’s eyes we’re all the same; none of us meets his standards. (And there’s probably something comforting in the fact that we are all in the same boat.)

And that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. It also means we have to live with consequences of our actions. But, having said that, the Bible does spell out a solution.

Because the Bible tells us, that if we acknowledge our weaknesses, we can be free to move on. It’s what we do with our mistakes that’s important. Because yes, we can live in the past, and let our past haunt us again and again, or we can live in the present and every now again be reminded of our faults and failings. But forgiveness needs to be brought into the equation. We need to acknowledge our mistakes, but we also need to bring forgiveness to the situation.

Which is why Paul’s solution to the divided congregation at Colossae were these words of wisdom, “If anyone has a complaint about anyone, bear with one another and forgive.” (Colossians 3:13a). Paul knew that if the Colossian church was to have any future, they needed to put the past behind them. All the infighting and differences had to be resolved. He also knew they had to treat each other as equals. And forgiveness does exactly that.

Now one of the things about lack of forgiveness is that it keeps the wounds open. The result … Anger and hatred grow more and more intense, and the person who refuses to forgive gets more and more bitter. So forgiveness, accepting our failings and putting the past behind, offers a real solution to dealing with past mistakes.

But even then, forgiving others, on its own, is not enough. Because without God’s forgiveness, any forgiveness we give will be incomplete. Yes we can forgive others, and they can forgive us (although others forgiving us back is never guaranteed). But what we need to realise is that every time we make a mistake, every time we leave things undone, every time we fail to forgive, we lose part of what it means to be human.

Indeed, in the book of Genesis, in the story of creation, on the sixth day, we can read, “God created mankind in his own image; he created them in the image of God. He created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27). As a consequence, although we have been made in God’s image, each time we make a mistake we lose something of the perfection that God demands. And that brings us back to the starting point—we all fall short of the glory of God.

But when God forgives us, he restores us back to the way he created us—in his image. And that state not only guarantees our eternal existence with God, but it gives us the model on which we are to live our lives. So with true forgiveness, we need to acknowledge our mistakes, and to some extent live with the consequences, but we don’t have to live with our mistakes constantly haunting us every minute of the day. We need God’s forgiveness. And if God can forgive us, then how much easier is it for us to forgive ourselves.

The Christian faith, then, provides the ideal solution to the problem of the past. Because we’ve all done things of which we are not proud; things that we had hoped would be long forgotten. But it does require the need for us to acknowledge those mistakes, the need to forgive others, and the need to be restored by God to be “in his image.”

Unfortunately, despite that, God’s solution is one that many people continue to refuse to accept. As a consequence, they continue to struggle through life.

So let us today embrace God’s solution, and live life with the hope of eternal life with God, free from any nightmares from the past.

Posted 26th July 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
www.brianacurtis.com.au

SERMON: Being Members of God's Team (Romans 5:12-21)

A. INTRODUCTION

1. Sport
With the end of the test matches, one day internationals and the 20/20 games in Australia, the indications are that the cricket season is almost over. And that will invoke a variety of responses. Some will be disappointed—because they enjoy the cricket—whilst others will be clapping their hands, relieved that it’s all over for another year. But for others still … Well the end of the cricket season may be here, but that means that the football season is about to begin. And that means many more hours entertainment, or boredom, depending upon your point of view.

Now whether one likes cricket, football or any other team sport, at the beginning of each season, there is one thing that can be guaranteed. And that is, that whatever the game, the list of players that make up the team will invariably have changed. Some players will have been dropped. Others will have changed positions. Some of the older players will have retired. And there will be new players to fill the gaps. Indeed, whatever team game we follow, we can be sure that, at the beginning of each season, the teams will have changed.

2. Life
And just as that is a feature of sport, so it is true of life. Because life changes direction. And in the organisations that we deal with, or belong to, it’s not always the same people that are in charge. Even the contacts that we have change. Indeed some people are dropped down the team, whilst others change position. Some people retire, whilst others fill in the gaps. And regarding God’s team it’s just the same.

B. EXAMPLES OF CHANGES TO GOD’S TEAM

1. Saul and David
For example, Israel’s first king, Saul, started off well. He fought the people’s enemies and made quite a name for himself. And in the early years of his reign he appeared to follow all the ways of God. But it didn’t last, and after a while everything fell apart.

Without authority, for political purposes and against God’s wishes, he took on the role of a priest—a job he was not authorised to do (1 Samuel 13:7-10). Consequently he was told by God that he was off the team. Furthermore, he was told that the kingship would not follow the expected inherited path to his son Jonathon. But it would go to a shepherd called David instead.

2. Moses and Joshua (Numbers 20:9-11)
For example, Moses was a great character of the Old Testament. He wasn’t a great speaker, but he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, and take them to the Promised Land. And it wasn’t an easy job, with all the mumbling and grumbling of the people. But Moses was steadfast in the task, and constantly giving God his due.

But one day Moses got so exasperated with the people’s moans and groans, that he left God out of the equation. As a man of faith, he slipped in his acknowledgement of God. He failed to give God honour for providing his people water in the desert. And as a result, God retired him early.

Yes, Moses had generally been a wonderful servant. But despite that, he told Moses that he would no longer be the person to take the people into the Promised Land, and he took him to himself instead.

3. Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19)
And for example, Elijah the prophet did many great things in the name of God. But one day it all got a bit too much. He was tired of fighting God’s battles on his own. And with his life being threatened, he ran for his life. He even asked God to take his life away.

But this time God didn’t dismiss him. He didn’t retire him either. What God did was to change his role. He provided Elisha as a companion. And he then used Elijah to train Elisha to take his place. And only when Elisha’s training was complete, did God take Elijah to himself—in a chariot.

4. Comment
As we can see, then, it’s not just cricketers or footballers or other team sport where the team players change. It’s true of the different organisations to which we belong, and it’s particularly true of God’s church too. Things change. And over the centuries—even in the pages of the Bible—the leaders of God’s people, and the roles they played, changed too.

C. BEING ON GOD’S TEAM

Now I’m sure that the idea of God shaking up his team—dropping Saul, retiring Moses and re-positioning Elijah—might seem a little scary. After all, how often in church have we heard that we need to be on God’s team? And how often have we heard that that we depend upon being members of God’s team for life with God in eternity?

I’m also sure that most of us have never aspired to be great leaders. Indeed, the majority of us will have never wished to hold positions like Moses, Elijah and King Saul. Nevertheless, what their examples show, is that we need to be constantly on our toes. And, indeed, that we need to be continually reminded of the criteria that God uses to be members of his team.

Now fortunately for us, that couldn’t be more simple. Because in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, in ten verses, he reminds us of the criteria to be on God’s team. He describes what will exclude us, and he describes what is required to guarantee our membership. He then leaves it up to the reader to make the choice. And very simply put, he provides two alternatives. “Do we model our lives on the person of Adam,” or “Do we model ourselves on the person of Jesus?” It’s that simple.

1. Adam
Now Adam was an historical figure. He was created by God, and he was placed in a garden where everything was laid on for him. He could eat as much food as he wanted. He didn’t have to labour for it. He didn’t have to do anything. Everything he needed was there, ready for his use. But there was one condition of his presence in the garden. And that was that he was not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden.

And if he had done what he’d been told, he would have been fine. However, one of the aspects of God’s creation is that he created us with freewill. And that meant for Adam, he had the ability to choose. He could be obedient to God, or he could be disobedient. The choice was his. And right from the start Adam found that the forbidden fruit was far too tempting to be left alone. So he took the fruit and ate it. Indeed, he did the one thing he was told not to do.

Now, for his sin, Adam was punished. He was kicked out of the Garden. He was told that from then on he would have to fend for himself. And so with that decision to disobey God, death and sin came into the world. And Adam’s relationship with God … Well that was damaged by his decision to follow his own wants and desires.

2. Choosing Adam
And, you know, that is exactly the kind of model that most people live with today. Created by God, we are all given choice; we all have freewill. And although God has given us a list of the things that we should and shouldn’t do—and all for our own benefit—the reality is that we constantly give in to the temptation to disobey God. We don’t want to resist. And as a result we reject God, as surely as Adam rejected God in the garden.

We reject God, when we fail to place God as number one in our lives. We reject God, when we consider our own wants and desires more important than his. And consequently when we reject God, we effectively reject ourselves from being members of his team.

3. Jesus
The alternative, however, is to reject the model of Adam, and to choose the model of Jesus. Because when Adam failed, he was effectively knocked off the team and replaced by Jesus.

Now in contrast to Adam, Jesus lived a perfect life. He took seriously his relationship with God. Yes, he had freewill just the same as Adam, but never at any time did he choose to use that freewill to go against God’s wishes. Indeed, even when Jesus was desperate to avoid the horrors of the crucifixion, he was obedient to the end. He did everything that God asked.

And because of that, Jesus’s sacrifice has had the effect of compensating for the effects of Adam’s disobedience. Indeed, it has made it possible for God to undo the effects of Adam’s sin. So that whereas Adam’s disobedience brought in sin and death, Jesus’s obedience brought in righteousness and life.

4. Choosing Jesus
Whether we are on God’s team or not, then, revolves around the choice: Do we style our lives after Adam or do we style our lives after Jesus? If we want style ourselves after Adam, we need do nothing, because our natural tendency is to put ourselves first, and God last. But if we want to style our lives after Jesus, then we need to do two things:

The first is that we need to acknowledge that we’re not perfect, and that we’re totally dependent upon God for our salvation. That’s the first part. And the second part is that we need to adopt the model of life of Jesus for ourselves. We need to look at his life and imitate it.

Jesus always put God first. He continually told others about God. He encouraged and built up other believers. He was very unselfish in the way he lived his life. And he was prepared to go to any extent in his obedience to God.

Now this second part, imitating Jesus, is very important. But it is useless without the first being dependent upon God. Because unless we are dependent upon God, imitating Jesus is just going through the motions. To be members of God’s team, and to remain members of his team, then, we need to admit our mistakes, and we need to admit that with all the will in the world, that we will continue to make mistakes. We need the forgiveness that only God can provide. And then, if we can do that, then the need to imitate Christ, as a response to faith, kick in.

Modelling our lives on Jesus, then, is not enough in itself. That’s why living a good life, doing our bit, and helping others will never, on their own, be enough to make God’s team. We first of all need to believe. We need to have faith. And that faith should then manifest itself in being imitators of Jesus. And our faith should be something that is evident for all to see.

5. Comment
In our lives, then, we have a choice. And the choice is whether we want to be on God’s team or not. We can follow Adam’s way—in other words we can follow the desires of our own hearts. In which case we will not be on God’s team at all. Or we can become totally dependent upon God, and then follow that up by imitating his son Jesus Christ. It’s that simple.

Well I say it’s simple, because our three examples of Moses, Elijah and Saul show that it’s not that easy to carry out.

Indeed, Moses and Elijah would have to be two of the most respected leaders of the Old Testament. And yet Moses slipped, and everything got too much for Elijah. Neither found being on God’s team easy at all. And as for King Saul … well you really have to ask the question, was his apparent faith simply a matter of political expediency? In other words, was he just going through the motions? Was he really ever on God’s team at all?

But, furthermore, being on team isn’t that simple either. Because the example of Elijah shows, that even once on God’s team, God is not averse to changing our roles. And we should be alert at all times for any changes in direction that he might choose. But isn’t that what any good coach does?

6. Summary
Being on God’s team, then, is a result of a spiritual decision. A decision required by each and every one of us. It’s not a matter of trying to be good, trying to keep the rules, trying to do good deeds etc., but it is a matter of trust, and a matter of obedience.

The examples of Moses, Elijah and King Saul all indicate that, like Adam, none of us are perfect. We will all make mistakes. We will all get tired, and do all sorts of things that make us unworthy of God’s team. But Jesus’s obedience achieved far more than the damage of Adam’s sin. And so to continue on God’s team it is simply a matter of continuing to have faith, and continuing to imitate Jesus too.

D. CONCLUSION

As the cricket season winds up, and the football season is about to begin, then, we are faced with the prospect of a new list of players, different to the team that played last year. And that is true no matter what team sport we choose. Some will have been dropped for newer players, some will have retired, and others will have changed positions.

But the idea of teams changing isn’t just related to sport. Indeed, it is just as relevant to everyday life and to the church too—as the examples of Moses, Elijah and King Saul clearly indicate.

The important thing for us, though, is to remember what is required to be on God’s team. Because we all need to be on our toes. We can follow our own ways, like Adam, and exclude ourselves from God’s team. Or we can admit that we need God’s help, and imitate God’s son.

We have a free choice. But which is it to be?

Posted: 3rd March 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis
www.21stcenturybible.com.au

DEVOTION: Unity in Diversity (Romans 12:1-21)
Getting any group of people to agree on a particular idea or action is not always an easy thing to do. People come from different backgrounds, have different likes, different priorities, etc. So getting any group to agree on something can be a major task. As a consequence, the idea of unity within diversity might seem to be an impossible task. Nevertheless, it is a biblical idea, and one that relates particularly to the Christian church. And that means, that it is an idea, that as Christians, we need to learn to embrace.

Now the Apostle Paul was obviously aware of that when he wrote his letter to the church at Rome. Because, in this instance, Paul was writing to a specific church, but one he didn’t know personally. And yet despite that, he knew from experience, that even in Rome there would be a variety of backgrounds, views, and practices, and that the people would need to learn to work together.

So what was it that Paul suggested to the members of the church at Rome? Well, he suggested three things.

The first thing, Paul suggested, was that diversity not uniformity was the mark of God’s handiwork. Indeed, if diversity was apparent in nature and in God’s grace, then nowhere should it be more apparent than within the Christian community. Now the church in Rome, obviously, would have included men and women from the most diverse kinds of parentage, environment, temperament and capacity. And as Christians they would have been endowed by God with a great variety of spiritual gifts as well. But this diversity, Paul suggested, was a very healthy thing. And rather than squash it and make every the same, people’s diversity should actually be encouraged and nurtured.

Secondly, because and by means of that diversity, Paul suggested, that all should learn to co-operate for the good of the whole. Whatever kind of service was rendered in the church, it should be rendered heartily and faithfully—whether it be prophesying, teaching, admonishing, administering, making material gifts, visiting the sick, or performing any other kind of ministry. In other words the diversity of gifts should be encouraged, with the intention of building up the whole.

Then, thirdly, Paul suggested, that there was the imperative of Jesus to consider. And he suggested the need for them to have a deep, unaffected and practical love, reminiscent of Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, mutual love, sympathy, and honour within the brotherhood of believers was to be practiced. Furthermore, that love and forgiveness was to be projected outside of the fellowship—not least of all to those who persecuted them or wished them ill.

Now obviously what Paul was promoting was a very high ideal, which should relate to every Christian group. And as a consequence his teaching regarding unity in diversity relates to every congregation, every denomination, as well as the church universal itself.

So when Paul encouraged the church in Rome to strive for unity in diversity, we could say—as students of human nature—that’s not possible, people will never be like that. And in that you may be right. And yet the Christian faith has many high ideals, including how to live and how to have a perfect relationship with the creator. As a consequence, yes, we should acknowledge our faults and failings and limitations, but we should also reach for these high ideals too.

And that means that in our own churches and between our denominations, we need to strive for this unity within diversity. Indeed, we need to encourage each other to use our differences. And we should then use those differences to encourage and build up one another in the faith.

Posted: 22nd September 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
www.brianacurtis.com.au