Being a part of the Body of Christ, His church is one of the most precious aspects of my life. I personally can tell you, the depth of love I have for the people, my brothers and sisters who go to the same local church with me is immense. I love these people as if they were born in the same blood family, I love them more. I would not hesitate to lay down my life for anyone of them. The joy of seeing God work in them is huge; the thrill of seeing God work through them is massive. I love them as if the same blood runs through our veins. I guess in one way, it does, Jesus’ blood has been poured over us, His blood covers us. We share the same Spirit. We were adopted by the same awesome Father. We are connected in so many ways. In verses 1-16 of Romans 16, Paul greets and sends his love to a long list of brothers and sisters, each serving God and the church with their gifts. His love for them is evident, his concern for them is apparent. He longed to come to visit the Roman believers but could not get there because his ministry kept him going to other places (Romans 15:22-33). That was one of the reasons he wrote them this letter. If he could not teach them in person, he would do it in a letter or via messages through trusted friends and fellow believers.
The love I have for the body of Christ goes beyond the Christians in my local church, it goes beyond the Christians I know personally. One friend and I were talking about meeting people and yet recognizing the Holy Spirit in them. It is as if on both sides, He rejoices to see another one of His children, like He reaches out and spiritually hugs this other person. We recognize Him in people and we are already connected. We delight in seeing a family member, we have not yet met, but know and love anyway.
Another friend and I were talking about the thrill of speaking to another believer, and how The Lord loves to use us to speak to, instruct, encourage, exhort, and love one another. Sometimes, He gives us prophetic words through our fellow believers, other times He teaches us through their actions, or service, or prayer.
The church really is the body of Christ. We are united by our Father’s call, Jesus’ Blood, and the Holy Spirit’s power. It is an awesome testimony for each other and for the world. Because of that great strength, the adversary wants to wreak havoc and do whatever he can to weaken us, steal from us, destroy our progress and God’s work, and if nothing else, kill us. He cannot have the world, his prisoners see the beauty and power of Jesus Christ in us. They’ll want freedom and he wants to keep them shackled and blind. Verses 17-18 reads,
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Our unity is an awesome and unique thing. It shows people we truly do share one Spirit. We are not lemmings with no individual will or mind. We are distinctive individuals with one Spirit and the mind of Christ, expressed through our diverse and matchless personalities. We are one, but unlike the Star Trek’s, Borg, we are each individuals within the one. Satan wants to destroy our unity. He sends people in who with their smooth talk and charming personalities can make what they say sound like the word of God. New Christian’s, trusting and immature believers can easily fall victim to these predators. How do we defend ourselves, the faith, and the church? Verse 19 reads,
For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
First, we must remain obedient to the Lord. In order to obey, we have to know the commands that we are following. So we must know God, seek Him, listen to Him, and read the Word He gave us. That requires time in prayer, time spent communicating with God expressively and receptively. It means spending time with the Body, because as I said earlier, He often chooses to speak and work through His children. As Paul points out, our obedience gives him and many others the opportunity to rejoice over us. People are watching us. Our lives are a witness to the truth, evidence of God, a testimony to salvation and eternal life. The author of Hebrews described it like this in Hebrews 12:1-2,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Additionally, Paul said, we should be wise as to what is good and innocent as what is evil. What does it mean to be wise to good and innocent to evil? We have to understand what it is to be good, what goodness looks like and how it is expressed. There are two “lists” I think of first which describe righteousness. Both are descriptions of Jesus and how we express His Spirit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 also known as the fruit of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the description of love. But there are numerous descriptions, virtues, and words which show us how to live. The best way to know them is to read the Bible, meditate on the Word, and be instructed in the Scripture regularly. Jesus’ described goodness this way in Matthew 5:3-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
What does it mean to be innocent as to what is evil? It means not to be guilty of evil. We are not to practice evil, which in essence is gratifying one’s basal desires or loving one’s self to the point that the person has only disregard left for others. But furthermore, it means that we must be declared not guilty by the Judge. Jesus Christ calls us righteous, because He died, rose, and lives! He took our sin (all the wrongs we ever committed or will commit) and declared himself guilty and paid the price. We are forgiven and declared innocent. Romans 5:1-2 in Young’s Literal Translation says,
Having been declared righteous, then, by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have the access by the faith into this grace in which we have stood, and we boast on the hope of the glory of God
How else will we overcome the schemes of Satan who wants to obliterate our unity and try and end God’s glory and plan? We will trust God to be God and carry out His plan. Verse 20 reads,
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Read that verse again, did you catch whose feet Satan will be crushed under? The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. He will use you and me to defeat the accuser!
Believer, we have to remain united, we have to fight for one another, love one another, and defend the faith together.
As Paul wrapped up his letter to the Roman Christians he once again sent greetings this time from the people with him to the Romans. Verses 21-23 read,
Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you
Paul was not alone. No matter where he was, he stayed in fellowship with believers. Paul is considered one of the greatest Christians who ever lived. He was an apostle. He saw Heaven. He wrote 13 out of the 27 books of the New Testament. He spread the Gospel to gentiles across the ancient Eastern world. But he was not above the need to be with other believers, to be sharpened and supported by them. Don’t fall for the lie that you do not need to be an active member of a local church.
Our unity goes beyond the brothers and sisters we share our communities with. It extends to believers across our cities, states, provinces, countries, and the earth. But it also extends to the Kingdom of God both on the earth and in Heaven. We cannot leave God out of our community of faith. Verses 25-27[i] read,
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Dearly loved Brothers and Sisters, I encourage you today to cherish the unity we have with one another, to fight for it and defend it against the schemes of the enemy who will try and destroy it. Pay attention to one another. Do not neglect meeting together, reading and studying the scriptures, or serving God and serving each other. Be obedient witnesses. Cling to the hope of eternal life and the awesome promises of God.
[i] Verse 24 is not included in most manuscripts it reads, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen