Do you love the church?
Paul said Jesus, “loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Paul loved the church as well.
A couple of weeks ago I was teaching Genesis 29. Jacob went to Haran as a single man, and he ends up with four wives, 12 sons and daughters. It’s a mess. His first wife’s name is Leah. And the Bible says she was unloved by Jacob..
If Genesis 29 was just about Jacob and his wives you would leave depressed. But the Bible is about God. Jesus told the religious leaders that they searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would find eternal life. But he said, “They speak of Me.” (John 5:39)
God reveals himself in written for us the Bible. He is the God of the universe, but he shows his care, concern and affection for individuals. At the end of Genesis 29 it says God saw Leah, and God heard Leah. He knew Leah even better than she knew herself. She mattered to Him. God had great affection for her. He loved Leah before she was ever born. He loved he before she has ever done anything.
My daughter [left blank] is expecting her first child this month. She had an ultrasound Friday. She saw clearly her little girl’s face, she was sucking her thumb, and her hair was flowing. She said she was beautiful. She is her mother, and she loves her already. And she will for the rest of her life. Just like [left blank] and I love [left blank]. [Left blank] loves that little girl before she has done anything bad or good. She has a mother’s affection for her.
Leah named her first son see a son. She thought Jacob would now see and love her. She named her next son hears. She hoped Jacob would hear and love her. She named he next son joined or cleaves. She thought with three sons Jacob would cleave to her and love her. He didn’t. She named her fourth son the Lord be praised. She knew God saw, heard and cleaved to her. She knew the Lord loved her. So she would praise Him.
It was from that fourth son Judah that Jesus came. God chose Leah, the unloved, to be in the line of His son.
We teach a lot about actions and attitudes, but it’s the affections of the heart God God wants. There are only two commandments The first is to love Him. The second is to love our neighbor.
Romans 16 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Paul pours out his affection for the church in Rome. The church to Paul was not a place of convenience. It was a place of concern and care. Life matters when other people matter to you.
The church is a place to be a blessing and not a burden, a help and not a hindrance, a stepping stone and not a stumbling block. It’s not a place where you say, “Serve us.” It’s a place of service. It’s not a place where you endure people. It’s a place where you enjoy people.
The church is not a place where you shop for the best deal for yourself. It’s a place where you love people. Do you love the church?
The church Paul writes to in Romans 16 is a place of love and affection. It’s characterized first by:
1. Extraordinary Unity: In Gal 3:27-29 it says we are all one in Christ Jesus” Whether Jews or Gentiles, man or women, slaves or free, we are all one. It doesn’t matter what custom or culture dictate. Every person has equal value. No matter what gender, what ethnic background or wealth or social status we are all in one family. Jesus chooses us to be part of his family, and we choose a church family.
Paul in Romans 16 writes to men and women. 4 out of the first 7 people he lists are women He writes to Jews and Gentiles. He writes to people with slave names. He writes to the poor and the rich.
The church isn’t a business, ti’s a body. It isn’t a corporation, it’s a community, it’s not a factory. It’s a family. Christ breaks down every wall. We all have a common father and brother. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. And we have family affection for each other. No one is better than anyone else. We stand equal before the Lord and each other.
2. Extraordinary Diversity: We don’t talk alike or look alike or act alike. The goal is not union or sameness. We have different backgrounds, abilities, likes and dislikes. Some of the people in Rom 16 we Jews, and some were gentiles. Some had spectacular conversions. Some were saved when they were children.
Some were very hard workers like Aquilla and Priscilla. Some did the right thing, for the right way, at the right time and for the right reason.
Some of the people in Rome were trying to gain praise, some were busybodies, some suffered from self righteousness. Some served for the right reasons. And some for the wrong reasons. Some were control freaks. They had to write the constitution and bylaws of the church themselves and head up the boards. They had to have their own way. But they were all part of the same family. They were kinsmen. And Paul loved them all.
3. Extraordinary Affection: I was asked to speak once in a church off Hwy 50 in [left blank]. The church did not have a great building. The preaching and the music there were so so. The church didn’t have a big staff or a lot of good programs that church consumers are looking for. But they had to have an overflow room, because there were so many people there.
Why? They loved the Lord. And they loved each other. I knew the pastor there well. He was not a talented person. He was not good looking,, gifted or filled with charisma. But he loved the people there. He was filled with care and concern. He love the Lord and taught His truth from the Bible. The church ministered to the Lord, they ministered to the Lost, and they had a ministry of Love for each other.
The church was not filled with wealthy people. But they gave [left blank] and I the biggest honorarium we ever received. They just showered us with love and affection. Their cups overflowed toward the Lord, the lost, toward each other and us. Affection brought people there. Affection kept people there. Goodness and mercy followed those folks. You left there saying, “Surely, the presence of the Lord was in this place.”
It was an extraordinary experience.
In Rome and [left blank] It all started with the truth of God’s word.
The church in [left blank] didn’t have any great method of presenting the word of God. But they believed it, and they did it. It wasn’t that they could explain the Bible any better than any other church. It was their trust and obedience. And they spoke the truth in love. They lived the truth out with great affection.
The church to Paul and the people in [left blank] was a people to love. It was a place to serve. It was a place to praise. They were not looking for better methods. They were looking to be better men and women. They were looking for people to love.