4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:4-13)
We honor St Mark the Evangelist today, the traditional memorial date for his remembrance. He was Bishop of Alexandria and first brought the Gospel to Africa. He was martyred in 68 A.D. by being dragged through the streets by a rope around his neck. It is important that we remember strong and devout Christians of the past as examples to our own lives.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Were one to read the last book of the Bible (Revelations) so thoroughly and often that he could recite the whole from memory, he would yet have only a cursory and partial understanding of God and His Word. How can one know the profundity of the title, Lamb of God, if he has not read thoroughly the account of the first Passover in Egypt? The Bible is a great narrative from beginning to end. It is comprised of many smaller narratives building upon the greater one of God and His People. We have our hope and comfort through the patient reading (and understanding) of Holy Scripture. When we see our own treachery in the face of David, who committed both adultery and murder, we are reminded that, like David, God can restore us from those depths of our sin. When we see the courageous Peter wither in fear and deny Christ three times in one night, we are made to understand that we, too, have denied through our words and deeds before others. When we see our own depravity in that of the woman taken in adultery, we see the Grace and Mercy of God to forgive and restore. The strength of our understanding Scripture is Hope in how God can take a broken heart and amend it to Joy, or even turn the grievous misfortunes of our lives into good for those who believe!
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.” Christ has taught us more times than once that He and the Father are One – One in Mind, One in Spirit, and One in Purpose. His great craving is that we, too, will be one with Him and, if one with Him, then one also with the Father. Believers cannot be one with Christ and not one with each other. Regardless of their claims to the contrary, every church has creeds upon which they stake their faith and doctrine. Even if no written down, such creeds are repeated oft in conversation. The Apostles and Nicene Creeds are summaries of proven Scriptural doctrine upon which we must all agree in order to be in sound Communion with each other and with God. We recite, in every of our services, one or the other of the Creeds which bring us together in one Mind with each other and with Christ. The Lord’s Prayer, as well, unites us as one in Christ. It is a Communal prayer for it begins with “Our Father” not “MY Father.” A correct understanding of God’s Holy Word will remove all division and bring us into one Body and one Mind – that of our Lord Jesus Christ! “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” And how did Christ receive us? He received us by unmerited Grace! We were not required to pass some sort of ‘righteousness’ test before He called and chose us. We were unworthy and broken, yet He saw something in us that generated the kind of love that made Him willing to die in our stead in redemption of our many sins. We will never meet a perfect Christian, but we will see in his features the perfect Christ. We cannot achieve the level of righteousness by which we can earn heaven, but we can enjoy that perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ which He has bestowed upon us by His Grace and Love. When we look upon another of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not view them as to how far short of God’s glory that may have fallen or come, we should view them for all that they may BECOME through the Grace of God. That, thankfully, is how Christ views us – not for what we presently ARE, but what we may BECOME in Him!
“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” Christ fulfilled all requirements of the Law. He did not abrogate or change that Law, or even lessen it. He actually made it more all-encompassing! Wherein in times past, the Law was written on Tables of Stone at Sinai, now He has written them in the tender chambers of our hearts – written in love and not stone! Love cannot deny itself. If we truly love, we cannot offend. He has become the Ark of salvation to the people of God – both believing Jew and Gentile. (vv 9-12).
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” The White Nile (joy and peace), at its origin on the heights of Kilimanjaro, begins as a trickling stream. But it gathers force as the melting snows feed into its current. It is cold and clear. The Blue Nile (hope) is dark and comprised of many rich minerals it extracts from the soil. These two merge into one Great Nile River. It cascades down from the heights of Africa to the plains below in Egypt some four thousand miles distant. On the way, it gathers more and more soil enriching nutrients which it deposits on those plains as it overflows it bed in abundance. That is very like the abundant power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It may take a trickle and turn it into a flood – and it does! It takes two different natures and joins them to create a miraculous new life. It always points and reminds of Christ. When sad and despairing, I have often taken to singing some of the great old songs of the hymnal. Before I know it, the sorrow is past and joy fills my heart. That is the kind of joy and peace which abounds in hope. Are you filled with all the hope and joy that the Holy Spirit offers? Look to the Word and be lifted!
The River of God is composed on many spiritual tributaries that flow into, and become One with, that Mighty River of God. What a blessing that our souls can be part of such a glorious destiny.
“4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” Psalms 46:4-5