Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 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.” 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13 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.
Our focus today is on Romans 15:9-13. But before we go there let’s do a short review so we can see the point of these verses more clearly. In verse 7 Paul gives the practical exhortation: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The strong and the weak, the Jew and the Gentile, welcome each other. Be hospitable. Be large-hearted. Open your arms and draw people in.
And don’t do it as an end in itself, verse 7 says. Do it for the glory of God. “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Do it in a way that makes God look good—as he really is. And if someone asks, Does that make pawns out of people instead of persons—used and not loved—the answer is, No it doesn’t. There is no conflict between loving persons and aiming to glorify God in that loving. And the reason is that loving someone means treating them in a way that is good for them. And it is always good for someone to make much of God. So when we welcome someone for the glory of God, we are hoping and praying that our welcoming will waken in them and in us more love for God, and therefore deeper friendship with each other. That is not what you do with a pawn. That’s what you do with a person. Loving people for the glory of God is the only way to love people. Because if we don’t aim to help people see and savor the glory of God, we don’t love them.
So the practical command last time was verse 7: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Then verses 8 and 9 motivate this behavior by showing us that Christ became servant to the Jews so that they would glorify God for his truthfulness and Gentiles would glorify God for his mercy. Verses 8-9: “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, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” So be amazed, you Jews and Gentiles: Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for both Jews and Gentiles. There is one salvation, one New Covenant, one people of God (see 11:17-24)—from Jews and Gentiles (see 9:24).
Christ accomplished this salvation by serving, and he did it for the glory of God. And so verses 8 and 9 are a motivation for our welcoming one another for the glory of God—in at least two ways. One is that Christ set an example of how we should serve each other, and we love to be like the one we admire. And so we are inspired to serve each other as he did. The other is that Christ served us by dying in our place so that the burden of sin would be lifted and we would have the hope it takes to be a welcoming kind of person.
Now what Paul in verses 9-13 is striving to do is help us Gentiles abound in hope. That’s his goal. So what you should be expecting and praying right now is that the remainder of this message would cause hope to abound in your heart. The aim of this text and the aim of my message is to deepen and strengthen and increase your hope.
So I have three questions: 1) Why do I think that is the aim and focus of this text? 2) Hope for what? 3) How does hope increase?
1. Why Do I Think That Abounding in Hope Is the Aim of This Text?
Three simple observations. First, verses 9-12 are a list of four quotations from Scripture. They begin in verse 9b, “As it is written.” And we were just told in verse 4, “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.” So Paul is piling text on text here from the Scriptures, having just said that all Scripture is designed to help us have hope.
Second, verse 12 makes this aim explicit in the quotation from Isaiah 11:10, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” So not only does he quote Scripture, but the very Scriptures that he quotes come to a climax in the promise that Gentiles—not just Jews—will hope in the Messiah.
Third, verse 13 begins and ends with the most explicit statement of all that Paul’s aim is that we abound in 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.” He appeals to the God of hope—not first the God of peace or the God of joy or the God of love—but the God of hope. And his appeal is that this God would work in us so that we “abound in hope.” That means overflow in hope. Brim with hope. Be full of hope. Hope pushing out all contrary emotions—discouragement, depression, fear, anxiety, grumbling, bitterness. Hope does not coexist well with these things. And when it is abounding, and overflowing, they push these contrary emotions out.
So our first observation is that Paul really wants to help us in this advent season to abound in hope. Keep praying as I preach that this would happen.
2. Hope for What, and Hope in What?
The second question is: Hope for what, and hope in what?
What is he referring to? There are all kinds of wrong reasons to hope and wrong things to hope for. What’s Paul talking about? The clearest answer in the text is given in verse 12 where Paul quotes Isaiah 11:10, “And again Isaiah says, ‘The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.’” Jesse was King David’s father. And David was the greatest king of Israel, so that the Messiah that Israel hoped for was often called “the son of David”—he would be one like David, only greater than David.
You recall how Jesus used this mystery to point toward his own divinity. In Matthew 22:42-45 he asked the Pharisees, “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David’ [in other words, the root of Jesse]. 43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit [that is, inspired by the Spirit in writing Psalm 110:1], calls him Lord, saying, 44 “The Lord [God the Father] said to my Lord [the Messiah], Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’” And no one answered him a word.
The point was: Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David, the root of Jesse, but oh, so much more than the mere Son of David! Do you recall how the book of Romans begins? “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son [that is, the Son of God], who was descended from David according to the flesh.” So there it is again. Jesus is God’s Son and he is also David’s son. And that’s what Paul means when he refers to Jesus as the “root of Jesse.”
“In him”—in this Son of God and Son of David, verse 12 says—“will the Gentiles hope.” So our first answer to the question, “Hope in what?” is hope in Jesus Christ. The emphasis falls on Christ as the ground of all our hope. Bank your hope on him. Not yourself, not your intelligence, not your health, not your money, not your job, not your reputation. None of these can sustain your hope. They can collapse in a moment. God means for our hope to be firm and unshakable and so he put underneath it his own Son. In him will the Gentiles hope. At every turn in your life say, “Jesus, you are my hope.” You are my hope for my salvation, you are my hope for my marriage, you are my hope for my children, you are my hope for my ministry, you are my hope that I will live and die well. “In him will the Gentiles hope.”
And when we ask more specifically, “Hope for what?” the book of Romans gives three answers. First, Romans 5:2b, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The Bible says that the galaxies reveal the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), and that the gospel of Christ crucified reveals the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). But here we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). We were made to see and savor greatness and beauty. The glory of God is the source and sum of all that. Every legitimate joy in something great and beautiful that we have now in this life is foretaste of seeing the glory of God.
Second, we hope for the new heavens and new earth. Romans 8:20-21, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope[!]21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Someday the creation will no longer be plagued by earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and the threat of flu pandemics.
The verses in Isaiah 11 (6-9) immediately preceding the one Paul quotes in verse Romans 15:12 say:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Because of Christ our hope for that day is solid and sure.
Third, we hope for new bodies with no pain and no death. Romans 8:23, “We . . . who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” Not only a new heaven and a new earth, but a new body with which to enjoy it for the glory of God.
So Paul is writing to help us abound in hope, and the hope is based on Jesus Christ—in him shall the Gentiles hope—and eagerly anticipates the fullness of the revelation of the glory of God, the new heavens and new earth, and new bodies with no more crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).
3. How Does Hope Increase?
Finally we ask, How does hope increase?
And here I am going to save this point for next time, but I will point you to it so that you can be thinking and praying about it. Verse 13: “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.” There are two agents of hope mentioned in this verse: the Holy Spirit, or the God of Hope, and believing. How do they work together? What are we to believe in order for hope to abound? How do joy and peace relate to hope? Which is the cause of the other? Or are they both cause and effect?
Suffice it to say for today: Hope is the work of God which he performs in us through our faith in the promise that we, the Gentiles, are included in the great salvation of God. “The root of Jesse has come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”