"SKIP OVER" SCRIPTURES:
ROMANS 16, PART 3
It seems typical of all people to sink instead of rise. That is true in the church as
well as out of the church. Let me illustrate what I am talking about. It is easier to
expect the worst from people than to expect the best from them. It is easier to
surrender to bad motives than it is to develop good motives. It is easier to be critical
than to be encouraging. It is easier to judge than it is to be compassionate. It is easier
to resent than it is to praise. It is easier to condemn than it is to forgive. It is easier to
be selfish than it is to be unselfish.
Jesus expects the best from us. If people expect the worst from us, Jesus still
expects the best from us. If we expect the worst from ourselves, Jesus still expects the
best from us. Everyday he challenges us to find the strength and guidance in him to be
the best person we can be.
It is in that expectation that lies the conflict and challenge. All of us enter Christ
leaving an ungodly existence. Even if we enter Christ from the environment of a
Christian home, we all still leave environments that are less than perfect, environments
that have degrees of ungodliness. When we enter Christ, Jesus says to us, "I want you
to find the strength and guidance in me to become what I can make you."
Then the struggle begins. It is easy not to grow. It is easy to be content with
who and what you are. It is easy to compare yourself to people who do not even try to
be godly to feel good about who you are. It is easy to compare yourself to Christians
who made mistakes to feel good about who you are.
It is hard to accept Christians who are different as being Christians also. If they
have a different culture, if they come from a different social level, if they have a
different background, if they have different traditions, it is difficult to accept and relate
to them in Jesus Christ. It is hard to build a sense of community, a sense of belonging.
- Building this sense of community, this sense of belonging is a significant
concern in Romans, as it is in Galatians.
- It is hard to build an entirely new sense of belonging among people who never
associated with each other in the past.
- Many Jewish people who became Christians had serious problems accepting
and relating to non-Jewish people who became Christians.
- Depending on where the Jewish converts lived (almost always in Jewish
communities), they lived in various degrees of isolation from non-Jewish
- In Palestine they lived in near complete isolation, maintaining as little
interaction as possible with non-Jews.
- Outside of Palestine (in the Diaspora), they had higher levels of
interaction with non-Jewish people which depended on (a) where they
lived and (b) how large the Jewish community was in that city, town, or
- Early, accepting Jesus as the Christ was largely a Jewish issue in Jewish
- Suddenly when non-Jewish people heard about and began to accept the
resurrected Jesus Christ, Jewish believers faced the problem of how to relate
to and accept believers who had a idolatrous background.
- It created a huge problem in the Christian community.
- Jews and idolatrous people came from very different religious
backgrounds--as examples, Jews believed in the existence of one, exclusive
God and idolatrous people believed in the existence of many gods, many of
whom were not exclusive; the Jews had one temple that was the one place
for sacrificial worship, but most idols had numerous temples and numerous
places for sacrificial worship.
- Cultures were different.
- Traditions were different.
- Life styles were different.
- Diets were different.
- Even clothing often had differences.
- If converted idol worshippers did things the way converted Jews did them, that
- That commonly was the situation when converted Jews were the larger
- But when converted idol worshippers equaled or outnumbered converted
Jews in a city, town, or area, the converted idol worshippers often saw no
need to do things the ways Jews did them (follow Jewish traditions).
- The situation became more complex.
- As time passed, converted Jews were ostracized from the synagogue (a
Jewish institution) and from the activities of the Jewish community.
- Converted idol worshippers were no longer welcome in what were known as
"associations" in many Roman cities.
- The Roman empire and local governments became increasingly suspicious
of people who would not call Caesar god, who would not worship in temples
dedicated to the Roman Caesars, and who would not honor the gods that
protected the empire.
- Increasingly, it became essential that those who believed in the resurrected
Jesus Christ accept each other and form a strong sense of community.
- Christians of radically different backgrounds did not need to fight one another
or ostracize one another.
- The comments Paul made in Romans 16:16 to the end of the chapter need to be
understood from the perspective of this widespread, very real problem.
- In the early church Christians ate together frequently.
- One of the first activities of the very first Christians (who were Jewish
Christians) was eating together.
Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from
house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of
- Well into the first century, Christians eating together was still a
common, important activity. Jude spoke of ungodly Christians who
abused this practice:
Jude 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast
with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by
winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted.
- Paul mentioned both the practice of Christians eating together and the very
real problem Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians often faced when they
Galatians 2:11,12 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,
because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he
used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold
himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
- This eating together played a powerful, important role in Christians bonding
with each other as the community of Christ.
First, I want to call to your attention the holy kiss mentioned in Romans 16:16.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
- We likely would be very uncomfortable doing things as the early church did
- As I understand it, three things were commonly a part of the early Christians
assemblies (I am not implying that other things were not a part of their
- One was the meal, the love feast, the eating together.
- It served several purposes; consider two.
- It declared to poor Christians who struggled to survive, "You are a real
part of the Christian community."
- It built or sustained this sense of community.
- The motive for this meal was not having a feast, but affirming a sense
- Remember: eating a meal was a common part of sacrificial worship,
and they understood Christian worship to be sacrificial worship--Jesus
as their sacrifice, and eating a memorial meal was an appropriate
expression of worship.
- One was the holy kiss.
- I know nothing of how it was done.
- A common conclusion: men kissed men and women kissed women,
and they likely kissed each other's cheeks.
- I understand, "Greet one another with a holy kiss," is in the form of a
command, not a suggestion.
- Instead of a sensual kiss (which was quite common in their world in
which fornication, adultery, and homosexuality were more common
than they are today in our society), they shared a holy kiss.
- The purpose was basically the same purpose of the meal--to affirm
community and togetherness.
- One was communion or the Lord's supper.
- Remember that Jesus instituted this at a meal.
- The fact that it is referred to as the Lord's "supper" would indicate a
- Also remember again that meals were a common part of worship both
in the Jewish world and the idolatrous world.
- To the best of my understanding, this occurred when Christians assembled for
- At some point there was a meal that affirmed their love for each other.
- At some point there was a holy kiss that declared, "We accept each other, we
belong to each other."
- At some point there was communion or the Lord's supper that affirmed that
they could belong to each other and to God because of the sacrifice Jesus
made for them.
- These are not the only three things that occurred, but there is evidence that
these three things occurred.
In Romans 16:16 I also call your attention to the statement, "All the churches
of Christ salute you."
- My conclusion: the words, "the churches of Christ," were not a name and were
not used by Paul as a name.
- I understand that the references to the church in the New Testament other
than just the words "the church" are all possessives: "the church of ...".
- The possessives are not names, were not intended as names, were only
used to show relationship.
- These possessives include:
- Matthew 16:18--My church, or the church belonging to Me (Jesus).
- Acts 20:28--the church of God, or the church that belongs to God.
- Romans 16:16--the churches of Christ, or the churches belonging to
- 1 Corinthians l:2 ;11:22; 15:9--the church of God, or belonging to God.
- 2 Corinthians 1:1--the church of God, or belonging to God.
- Galatians 1:13--the church of God, or belonging to God
- 1 Thessalonians 2:14--the churches of God in Christ Jesus, or the
church belonging to God because of what He accomplished in Christ
- 2 Thessalonians 1:4--the churches of God, or the churches belonging
- 1 Timothy 3:5--the church of God, or belonging to God.
- 1 Timothy 3;15--the church of the living God, or belonging to the living
- This same form of possessive is used in reference to a church or
churches existing in a geographical area or among a people.
- Romans 16:4--the churches of the Gentiles
- 1 Corinthians 14:33--the churches of the saints
- 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 19--the churches of Asia
- 2 Corinthians 8:1--the churches of Macedonian
- Galatians 1:2--the churches of Galatia
- Galatians 1:22--the churches of Judea
- Colossians 4:16--the church of the Laodiceans
- 1 Thessalonians 1:1--the church of the Thessalonians in God the
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:1--the church of the Thessalonians in God our
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Consistent with the context of the book--the enormous problem between Jewish
Christians and gentile Christians--Paul said to greet each other as genuine members of
the Christian community in Rome, AND at the same time remember that you are a part
of the community of Christians everywhere (they send their greetings).
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
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Evening Sermon, 2 March 2003
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