The Second Sunday of Advent December 6, 2015
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
79, 91, 512, 46
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name.” And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” And again: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!” And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.” Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
Have you ever noticed how quiet people are when they gather around newborn babies? Everyone seems to agree that the little one before their eyes is adorable, even beautiful. Then the baby cries and the quiet unity in the room is gone! Now someone thinks the child is hungry, another is certain that he needs a diaper change. “No,” says a third, feeling the child’s head, “the little one has a fever!” When Mom thinks her little one is smiling, Dad thinks he has gas! When the child grows older and begins to speak, even his words will cause division.
Why should it be any different with Christ? Why do people gaze into the manger at Christmas and think about peace and unity among the nations of the world? Yes, Jesus was the only truly innocent Child ever born of a woman, and His message was intended to bring peace on earth and God’s “good will” to mankind. However, the more He spoke, the more division He caused! When Jesus was less than two months old, Simeon held Him in his arms and said, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34).
Family members who haven’t spoken to one another all year are expected to gather around the Christmas table in peace and unity as pictured in those wonderful Currier and Ives prints, and Hallmark cards. But the grown up Christ-Child told His disciples: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34ff).
Christmas is not about the sentimental unity the world desires at Christmas. However, there is a true, God-pleasing, and Spirit-worked unity which our Savior wants to work among us and among the people of this world. So we offer this prayer on the basis of our text: MAY THE CHRIST-CHILD BRING TRUE UNITY AT CHRISTMAS AND ALWAYS!
We pray for a unity which gives glory to God—not according to man, but according to Christ. This was the kind of unity that Paul wanted for the Christian church in Rome. Paul prays that they “may think the same way toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,” so that they may “glorify God with one mind and one mouth” (cf. vv.5-6).
Surely there are differences in our congregation as in every Christian church. But the congregation in Rome included Jewish and Gentile Christians with far greater differences than we experience in our churches. The Jews and Gentile nations had been enemies for hundreds of years.
The Mosaic Law regarded Gentiles as “unclean.” Gentiles were not allowed in the Jerusalem temple. Gentiles ate pork and bloody meat which was forbidden to the Jews. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were appalled by the Jewish practice of circumcision! In a sense, each group thought the other had “grown up on the wrong side of the tracks!” “But now things are to be different,” Paul said. “Now, each of you Christians—Jew, Gentile, or whatever—is to think the same thing among yourselves.”
The world loves to push the idea that we should all be united and think the same thing, especially at Christmas. We are all supposed to agree that every person has good within him and only needs to be encouraged to develop his goodness—we are simply to encourage, not correct! We are all supposed to think that right and wrong are not absolutes, but only relative to one’s situation, and that God is whatever a person wants Him to be. This is all about a false unity which is according to man and does not give glory to God.
Paul says we are to “like-minded toward one another”—think the same thing among ourselves—“according to Christ Jesus” (v.5). Christ is the only standard of what we are to believe and think among us. Our unity is to be based on His Word alone. This is a most serious matter even at Christmas!
Think of how united the world was in the days before the flood. The whole world was united against the teaching of that “righteous man,” Noah (cf. 2 Peter 2:5). This catastrophic event of world history ought to teach us that all the unity in the world is useless, unless it is a unity which gives glory to God, according to Christ! Paul says that it’s only by thinking and speaking according to Christ’s Word that we may truly glorify “with one mind and one mouth” (v. 6).
Any attempt to unite apart from Christ seeks to glorify man, not God. I attended a very large junior high school when I was in the ninth grade. The school Christmas programs were a really big deal in our city. That year a Christian boy was asked to sing “Away in a Manger” with a Jewish girl who was a friend of his, but who rejected Christ. He told the teacher he could not sing the hymn or participate in the program because it would not glorify his Savior.
Where there is not complete unity in thinking according to Christ’s Word, somebody is wrong. Somebody is not glorifying God, but himself, when he participates in the singing and praying of religious music with those who do not agree on the truths of God’s Word. He is forsaking Christ’s Word as if to say to his neighbor: “The differences between the teachings of your church and mine are not important. This “church business” is only a matter of personal taste, prejudice or the idea of the pastor. You like your eggs scrambled, I like mine sunny-side-up. You say potato, I say po-tah-to. It’s all the same to God. I’m such a good fellow, I declare that God has no problem with what you think about Him and His Word.”
Brethren, may God keep us from misleading our neighbors in this way! Every true Christian has one great and wonderful work to do while he lives on earth: Give glory to God. This is our special privilege at Christmas when much of the world is listening. “Glory to God in the highest!” That is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds (Luke 2:14). May our unity give glory to our God with the same mind and mouth—thinking and speaking the same thing “according to Christ Jesus.”
But let this be true also: May ours be a unity that reaches out to others for the glory of God.
Before the members of the Roman church could reach out to others and do mission work in the area they had to accept one another. “Receive one another,” Paul says, “just as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (v.7). Jesus did not accept the Jews or the Gentiles of that Roman congregation because they were loveable. Nor does He accept any of us because we are loveable, or because He saw that we had a lot of potential. We were all “dead in sin” and the “objects of God’s wrath” (Ephesians 2:1ff). Because of God’s grace, Jesus accepted us anyway. He made us alive, even when we were still dead in sin! He is not ashamed to call us His brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:11).
Jesus did this in order to bring glory to God. First, He brought glory to God when He came to the Jews, who are called “the circumcision” (v.8), fulfilled the whole Law of Moses, and preached the Gospel to them as the Old Testament chosen people of God. He did this for the sake of the truth of God to confirm the promises made to the fathers – to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But it wasn’t only for the Jews that Jesus became their “servant for the truth of God” (v.8). It was also so that “Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (v.9) toward them. Even the Old Testament prophets of Israel wrote how the Gentile nations would praise the Lord for the salvation they shared with Jewish believers. Paul quotes several Old Testament passages to show this and to encourage the Jewish Christians in Rome to accept their Gentile Christian brethren.
Today also, we need to take to heart Paul’s encouragement to “receive (or accept) one another just as Christ has also received us.” We may be tempted to label and treat people on the basis of their outward appearances, social or cultural background, what “side of town” they are from, how long their hair is, or by the mistakes they have made.
But how self-righteous is that! For in this we do not give glory to God, but to ourselves! We set ourselves up as the standard which people must meet in order to be saved or to be really good Christians. True unity at Christmas and always reaches out to others for the glory of God, who accepts us all on the same basis—nothing but His merciful forgiveness and grace in Christ.
How many different shepherds went to Bethlehem? Yet they said to one another: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing…which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15). Multiple Gentile wise men came with gifts to join the young Jewish couple in the worship of their Son. All of them—lowly shepherds, a poor carpenter, a humble housewife, and wealthy foreigners—found God’s grace and salvation in the Christ-child.
It’s a difficult thing for poor humans like us to think the same way and to receive one another in true unity. We need help. Our help is our hope! Now, we all—every Christ-believer among us—shares the same hope, given and nourished by the Holy Spirit through the “patience and comfort of the Scriptures” (v. 4).
So we pray with Paul in: “May the God of this hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (v. 13). By this hope may the Christ-child bring true unity at Christmas and always! Amen.
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