When we think about grand plans, ideas, and goals we tend to visualise the possibilities and ponder on examples that have gone before, which help us to model successful steps toward new achievements. Think about car designs which tend to copycat previous models as well as those of competitors! And then we could also consider architecture, technology, agriculture, medicine and just about every field – there’s a looking back at what has been to inform what could be. That’s the crux of creativity, despite the novelty of plans and ideas there are basic principles that novel ideas are dependent on. When I read Romans 15 I’m reminded of this in the sense that whatever good we can put our minds, strength or heart to, Christ is our great example, our wisdom and strength through whom “we can do all things” (Phil 4:13). We look to Christ to guide our dreams, plans, goals and novel ideas. And the chief focus of these should be servitude to God’s glory as exemplified by Christ as we read in Romans 15.
Christ’s Servitude – Our Example of How to Serve
Paul reminds us that Christ is our example of service to others in love and humility despite sufferings and injustice.
“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (v3)
Do we approach life with such conviction to love others despite the risk of suffering unjustly? And if we do suffer unjustly, do we do so with humility? Christ is our perfect example of how to serve in humility and love which we’re all called to. We see these characteristics over and over again not only in Christ’s teachings but in his actions to the pinnacle of him literally loving us to death by dying on the cross for our redemption.
Paul exhorts us that Christ’s example of servitude ought to lead us to:
- Do good to others for their good and their growth – we can be creative, and adventurous in doing all sorts of good to bless others.
- Bear with the failings of those who are weaker in faith – Rather than judging, criticising or ostracizing we can speak encouragement, show forgiveness, pray blessing, and offer fellowship. This may be sweat stained, tear soaked and hopefully prayer filled. And the outcome pursued should be the same unity that Paul prayed that the gentile believers in Rome would experience:
“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.” (v5-v6)
- Welcome one another in fellowship for the glory of God (v7) – God is glorified when we share his love with other believers.
Christ as our Example/Guide Extends to the Scriptures
“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.” (Romans 15:4)
Within the context of Christ being our example and guide, Paul discloses that this extends to the very scriptures that spoke of the coming Christ (Old Testament) which were written for our “instruction,” “endurance,” “encouragement” and “hope” (v4). We find that all scripture is likewise in 1 Timothy 3:16 because they are “God breathed” (God’s revelation). We can therefore be confident with every plan or goal that is inspired/influenced by Jesus and his word.
Christ’s Servitude Confirmed the Promises of God and Welcomes Gentiles
In our culture non-jews (gentiles) coming to Jesus may be looked upon without the batting of an eyelid. However, in Paul’s day this was revolutionary, as for Jews to mix with unclean non-God-fearing gentiles would be frowned upon as unlawful. However, because Christ came as the suffering servant of God, not only are God’s promises to the patriarchs confirmed, but so are those that speak of a time when gentiles would come to “rejoice” and “hope” in the Lord.
Christ served all of humanity with his life poured out therefore all have the hope of joy and peace through his resurrected life. Like Paul we would do well to look unto Christ as our example, and diligently serve others with the hope of God’s promises touching their lives as well as ours.
“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.” (v13)