Skip to comments."Hope of the Gentiles" (Advent sermon on Romans 15:4-13)
Posted on 12/11/2013 10:29:21 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Hope of the Gentiles (Romans 15:4-13)
In the reading from Romans that we just heard, there are two words that jump out at me. One of those words is found in the first verse of our text, which reads: 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. And this same word that Im thinking of occurs again--twice--in the last verse of our text, as follows: 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. Did you catch what that word might be? Yes, it is the word hope.
The other word that jumps out at me in this reading occurs six times in a span of just four verses. Paul says that one of the reasons Christ came was in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. And then he quotes four Old Testament passages in a row that bring out this same point: Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles. And again: Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people. And again: Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. Then he concludes this chain of quotes with a prophecy from Isaiah: The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope. Well, I think its pretty obvious which word jumps out here in this section. Its the word Gentiles.
So now we have two words to consider especially today. They are the words hope and Gentiles. Were going to unpack each of these terms now, and see how theyre connected, under the theme, Hope of the Gentiles.
First, lets take this word Gentiles. Just who are these Gentiles? Well, I would venture to say, you are. I am. Yes, we are--that is, unless we were born of Jewish ancestry. And Im guessing most of us here were not. For the term Gentiles simply means non-Jews. There are Jews, and there are Gentiles, and youre either one or the other. Everyone in the world who is not a Jew, that is, everyone who is not descended physically from the Old Testament patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--everyone else is a Gentile. It has to do with your physical descent, with your ethnic identity.
But that ethnic identity, whether Jew or Gentile, also was bound up with ones religion. For the Lord God had chosen those patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he had made a covenant, a relationship of promise, with them. Way back in Genesis 12, the Lord had made a solemn promise to Abraham, saying: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This was the covenant of promise, the covenant of blessing, that the Lord established with Old Testament Israel. This was the covenant of promise that was fulfilled in the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, namely, the Lord Jesus.
But for the Gentiles, that is, those nations outside of Israel, there was no such promise. The pagan nations were outside of the covenant. They knew not the one true God. The Gentiles were groping around in the darkness, unable to find God. They would concoct their own gods, according to their own imaginations. These were of course false gods, empty idols, unable to save anyone. That was the state of the Greeks and the Romans of the first-century world, the people to whom the Apostle Paul was sent. And many of the churches to whom Paul writes, including this letter to the Romans--these churches consisted largely of people who came out of a pagan, Gentile background.
And really thats the way it was for us, for our families, if you go back enough centuries. Our ancestors back in Europe were pagans, they were Gentiles. They worshiped stones and stars and sacred oak trees, and they made up gods to fit their imaginings. For instance, the little town in Sweden where my grandfather grew up is called Torbal, which means Thors ballroom or Thors dance floor. That speaks to the pagan background of northern Europe before Christianity came to those lands.
So the state of the Gentiles, apart from the gospel, as the Bible would describe it, is not good. The Gentiles were lost, lost in their sins, condemned, not knowing God, not able to find him, outside of the covenant of promise and blessing that God had established with Israel. As Paul says elsewhere to the Ephesians, speaking to those Christians there who had come out of paganism, he writes: Remember that at one time you Gentiles . . . remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Having no hope and without God in the world. Wow! Thats a scary prospect! But thats where you and I would be if God had not brought the gospel of Jesus Christ into our lives and given us the faith to believe it. Without hope and without God in the world. Thats the way it is still today for millions of people in our world. They have no hope. They dont know God. Thats even the way it is for lots of people here in our own community, the people who spend their Sundays anywhere but in church. They have no hope to hold on to. Theyre the walking dead.
So the Gentiles are sitting in darkness. They havent any hope. They cannot scrub away their sin and their guilt. They cant do it by thinking happy thoughts. They cant do it by numbing their guilty conscience with alcohol or drugs or any other diversion. They cant generate any hope for their future--for their eternal future--with their 401Ks or their Roth IRAs. Death still looms in front of every one of us, and if people want to make up a hope of their own beyond that--well, its just wishful thinking.
So where will the Gentiles find any hope, a hope that can deal with sin and death, a hope that is firmly grounded, one you can rely on, a hope that is sure and secure and certain? Where and in what is your hope, you who are here today? Is it something that you can count on?
Ironically, the hope of the Gentiles is found in the covenant to the Israelites. It was there all along. Its just that the Jews didnt always see it. But it was there. It was always Gods plan that through Israel would come the hope of all nations. Think back to that Genesis 12 promise to Abraham: And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. All the families, all the nations--thats talking about the Gentiles. God was going to use Israel to bring his great blessing to all the other nations. This was Plan A, and there was no Plan B.
And thats what Paul is demonstrating here in this section of Romans, by his listing quote after quote after quote, all those passages saying that Gods plan all along was to include the Gentiles in his one people of hope and praise.
For indeed, the hope of the Gentiles has come through the fulfillment of the promise to the patriarchs. Abrahams seed, Abrahams offspring, the one in whom the Gentiles will hope--this is Christ Jesus our Lord. He came as the Servant of the Lord, filled with the Spirit, to bring in Gods kingdom of blessing. And as the Suffering Servant, this same Jesus incurred the wrath and opposition of sinful men, who conspired and plotted to destroy him. And they did--so they thought. They took hold of Jesus and sent him off to be killed. Death by crucifixion. But this again was one of Gods ironies. For in that very act of murderous injustice, God used that death of his own beloved Son to bring about the basis for our hope. Christs death was the payment for our sins. It brings us forgiveness, and with that removal of guilt before God, so also is death overcome. The resurrection of Christ shows that this is so, for all we who are baptized into Christ will share in his resurrection and his eternal life.
Whats more, God has sent out the good news of this Savior and this salvation to all the ends of the earth. Our ancestors heard about it and were brought into the saving ark of the church. You and I are the beneficiaries of that great gospel mission to the Gentiles. And we in turn are carrying on that mission through our church, our congregation as a lifeboat of hope here in Bonne Terre, and our church body sailing out as a schooner of hope to all the ports at sea.
And so now we have hope. There is a future in front of us to look forward to. No longer do we face the grim grave and an unknown eternity. Now we have the solid hope of the bodily resurrection and an everlasting future, bright and glorious, joyous, with our Jesus, with our God, with all those patriarchs and prophets, and apostles and ancestors, and grandparents and parents, who shared with us in the same promise of salvation from our gracious God.
Hope of the Gentiles. And what a hope it is! This hope will carry you through all the pain and adversity that you will face in this life. Even the grave cannot extinguish this hope that God gives you. The light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.
And now: 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.
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. 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.
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show Gods truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.
And again it is said,
Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.
Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.
And again Isaiah says,
The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.
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.
I see error in this statement. It supposes that the 10 sons of Abraham that were not Jewish were no longer sons of their Patriarch Abraham. The origination of the Jews was the seperation of the sons of Jacob after Solomin's stupidity (they called him wise) in taking foreign idol-worshipping wives.
The tribes became the Southern tribes; Judah/Benjamin...the Jews and The Northern 10 tribes; Ephraim or the house of Joseph. These were the ones who were scattered into the world, those that Jeremiah said would be searched for someday as fishes. Those that Jesus sent his disciples after saying they would be "fishers" of men. (Jeremiah 16) Those scattered into the world were "Israel" because they were still sons of Jacob..... these are the "Gentiles" A specific group of people with specific heritage in Abraham. Hence the fact also that the word Gentiles is usually always capitalized..... it's a hidden clue.
What you are saying is just not correct. If you do a search of the word "Gentiles" in the NT, for example, you will find multiple passages where what you say simply cannot be, and not one passage where it must mean what you say. I am certainly well aware of the division of the kingdom and the later dispersion of the northern tribes, but those dispersed Israelites were not the same thing as the "Gentiles."
Your assertion that the Diaspora equals the "Gentiles" is an unusual, if not unique, view. How did you come up with it, or where did you get it from? Do you have any Bible passages or other evidence to back up your claim?
There are three people in scripture who's life mission was set out before they were born. Jesus, John the Baptist amd Jeremiah. Question - do you know what Jeremiah's mission was?
Also, you have not addressed all the passages in the NT wherein "Gentiles" cannot possibly mean the dispersed northern tribes of Israel.
If "Gentiles" refers to anyone "not a Jew", such as heathens or unsaved pagans.... why is the word capitalized as if it refers to a specific group?
The word is not capitalized in either the Hebrew (OT) or in the Greek (NT). Capitalization is not the issue. Context and meaning are the issue. An in-depth study of the use of the term "Gentiles" in both the OT and the NT makes plain that it cannot possibly mean the dispersed tribes of the northern kingdom. There are too many passages where such a meaning is clearly excluded. Do a search of the word, look up the passages, and you will see.
It is not only the "Jews" who are descended from Abraham, but multitudes more (as the sands of the sea) who are descendents. Those were scattered into the world and are called by the prophet..."Israel"
If you know the biblical languages, you could do a search in the the standard reference works of the respective terms in OT Hebrew and NT Greek. But if you're limited to English, then I suggest you go to Bible Gateway and do a Keyword search of the the word "Gentiles" in the NT. There you will find numerous passages where Jesus, St. Paul, and St. Peter clearly distinguish "the Gentiles" from Israel according to the flesh. When you have done this research, you will see what I mean.
Until you have done this type of study, you really don't know what you're talking about, and I don't have anything more to add. You need to do your homework before making assertions, and it's clear that you haven't done so thus far.
yvereshica adonai v'ishmareka.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.