Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Vision (3/15/12): For even Christ pleased not himself

Note:  We concluded our exposition of Romans 14 last Sunday.  This great chapter addresses the important issues of Christian liberty, conscience, and unity.  Paul sums up his argument in Romans 15:3 by pointing believers to the model of Christ.  Here are my notes from the conclusion of last Sunday’s sermon:

Romans 15:3:  “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”

Paul roots the attitude that the strong are to have toward their weak brothers in the example of Christ on the cross.  Paul’s spirit reminds me of how Charles Spurgeon described his approach to preaching.  He said, “I take my text and I make a beeline to the cross.”  Paul never strays far from the cross.

Paul challenges the strong and weak brothers by calling the saints at Rome to take on the mind of Christ.  So he begins, “For even Christ pleased not himself….”  That is a point that needs to sink in.  Do you think Christ wanted to go the cross?  Did he want to be  abandoned by his closest friends?  Did he want to scourged?  Did he want to be mocked?  Did he want to have the crown of thorns pressed upon his brow?  Did he want to be crucified among thieves?  Did he want to go through the spiritual agony of being God-forsaken?  Remember his prayer in the garden?  “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt 26:39).  Christ, according to his humanity, did not go to the cross to please himself.

“But,” Paul adds, “as it is written….”  Notice that Scripture is always the cinch for Paul’s arguments:  “The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”  The citation is from Psalm 69:9.  Psalm 69, along with passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, provides us with an Old Testament passion narrative.  The crucified Messiah is talking to the Father.  Who did Christ want to please?  He wanted to please the Father.  Just before this citation in Psalm 69:9 the Messiah says, “For the zeal of thine house has eaten me up.”

Both the weak brother and the strong brother have the tendency to say or think, This church would be perfect if everyone had the same convictions and had made the same choices I have made in following non-essential practices.

Instead, Paul says, we ought to have the spirit of Christ who did not insist on his own way, who did not live to please himself, but who took up the interest of sinners and suffered the shame of the cross in fulfillment of the Father’s will.

Christ has done so much for us; can we do so little for each other?  Murray asks, “Shall we, the strong, insist on pleasing ourselves in the matter of food and drink to the detriment of God’s saints and the edification of Christ’s body?” (p. 199).   

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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