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, 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.” And again, “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. – Romans 15:8-13 ESV
“Christ did not please himself,” Paul wrote back in verse three. No, Paul reminds us, “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9 ESV). As Paul sums up his admonitions and encouragements for unity between the members of the body of Christ, he uses Christ Himself as the example to follow. While it is true that Jesus came to the Jews, having been born into the line of Judah as a descendant of David, His intent from the very beginning was to make salvation available to Jews and Gentiles. Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise made by God to Abraham: “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 28:18 NIV). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul clarifies the meaning of this promise. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 ESV). Jesus was the means by which God was going to bless all the nations of the earth, and that includes the Gentiles. “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Galatians 3:7-8 ESV).
God’s intent all along had been to make salvation available to all people groups, not just the Jews. Paul’s missionary journeys to the Gentiles was not God’s plan B. He didn’t come up with an alternative plan when the Jews failed to accept His Son as their Messiah. And Paul makes this perfectly clear by quoting from four Old Testament passages that predicted that the Gentiles would respond to God’s offer of grace and mercy:
For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. – 2 Samuel 22:50 ESV
Rejoice, O nations, with His people… – Deuteronomy 32:43 NASB
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! – Psalm 117:1 ESV
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. – Isaiah 11:10 NIV
The Hebrew word used in these passages for “nations” is gowy and it usually refers to non-Hebrew people or Gentiles. That is why Paul replaces it with the Greek word, ethnos, which refers to pagans, Gentiles or the people of foreign nations who did not worship the one true God. God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless all the nations (Gentiles) of the earth through Abraham’s offspring was fulfilled in Jesus. He became the sole sacrifice for the sins of men, Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV). The apostle John reminds us, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NLT). Those of us who would be considered Gentiles have been extended the mercy and grace of God made possible through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. And Paul tells us, “therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7 ESV). We have been included. We have been welcomed into God’s family. Not because we deserved it. Not because we had earned it. In fact, Paul makes the truth of our amazing status quite clear: “You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:21-22 NLT). And the apostle Peter confirms Paul’s words: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV).
So we are to welcome or receive one another in the same way that we have been welcomed by Christ – with open arms, no pre-conditions, no requirements based on good behavior, and while we are still sinners. Our unity doesn’t require unanimity. We don’t always have to agree. We won’t always see eye to eye. We will have our differences, but we will always share our common unity in Christ. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous” (Romans 3:23-24 NLT).