Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
The People of the Covenant Lord: Like-Minded, According to Christ
An Exposition of Romans 15:5
by Dr. Gregg Strawbridge
. . . since we have so great a cloud of witnesses . . .
[Sermon Manuscript - All Saints' Presbyterian Church, preached on January 13, 2002]
THESIS: The covenant people are commanded to depend on the Covenant Lord in order to grow together in unity of mind according to the Word, so that God may be glorified.
INTRODUCTION: Once I visited a new age bookstore. The owner said Christianity, Islam, Buddism, Sikhism, Agnosticism are all the same in substance because truth is relative--"what is true for you." I could not get her to test her theory by standing in the road and chanting, "The truck is going hit me AND the truck is NOT going to hit me" - since they're both the same and all truth is relative.
In looking at Romans 15:5 we see three clear sections.
1. The God of unity grants strength and motivation.
2. The Body is the context of practicing the unity we profess.
3. The Unity of the Body is Regulated According to the Word of God.
1. The God of unity grants strength and motivation
V. 5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you
God is The "Covenant Lord" (from my sermon on Psalm 33 - YHWH)
Paul calls God the "God of patience." The Bible says of God, descriptively that he is
Acts 7:2 The God of glory
Romans 15:13 the God of hope
Romans 15:33 the God of peace
2 Corinthians 1:3 the God of all comfort
2 Corinthians 13:11 the God of love and peace
1 Peter 5:10 the God of all grace
Genesis 4:3 the LORD of the fruit of the ground
Joshua 3:11 the Lord of all the earth
1 Samuel 1:3 the LORD of hosts (Yawyeh Sabaoth)
For unity we must trust in God’s ability to give perseverance. God is the source and author of perseverance. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, "The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit." Just like our own children. We must learn patience. It is a fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the apparel of the Elect, the clothes of the elect are: (Col. 3:12) "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."
For unity we must trust in God’s ability to give encouragement. God is the source and author of comfort. In that beautiful pastoral Psalm, 23:4, we are told:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. 5 Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
We receive encouragement in many ways: From the Word - Rom. 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Psalm 119:50 - This is my comfort in my affliction, That Thy word has revived me. 52 I have remembered Thine ordinances from of old, O LORD, And comfort myself. 76 O may Thy lovingkindness comfort me, According to Thy word to Thy servant.
As we are given strength and motivation to pursue unity in the body, we have a context to practice like-mindedness.
2. The Body is the context of practicing unity.
The quip goes: "To dwell above with saints we love, That will be grace and glory. To live below with saints we know; That's another story!" Yet, Scripture says to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.
Listen to the description of the church by Bullinger:
For so great is the goodness of our good God and most loving Father, that he does not desire to live happily and blessedly alone, but rather to bestow and pour upon us men, his beloved creatures, all kinds of blessedness; and that we should enjoy his goods in every possible way. And to that end he chooses to himself men who live in this world, that he may sometime translate them to himself: in whom also (even while they live here) he may dwell whom he may enrich with all his goods, in whom he may reign; and they should be called by his name that is, a people, a house, a kingdom, an inheritance, a flock, a congregation or Church, of the living God.
Paul uses a reciprocal pronoun: "One another, each other, mutually, applicable to first, second, or third person referents. It is used 13 times in Romans. THE ONE ANOTHER COMMANDS are well known -
i. Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
ii. Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
iii. Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
iv. Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this__ not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
v. Romans 14:19 So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
vi. Romans 15:7 Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
vii. Romans 15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.
viii. Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
I believe it is obvious to al that one must know a person in order to effectively accomplish these.
Our command to be like minded is clear. It presupposes that one must have a mind, to become like-minded.
We should pursue the mind of the Savior, so that we have a common standard. Philippians 2:1 tells us about His mind:
If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
The Hymn Writer says.
"May the Mind of Christ"
MAY THE MIND OF CHRIST MY SAVIOR LIVE IN ME FROM DAY TO DAY,
BY HIS LOVE AND POW’R CONTROLLING ALL I DO AND SAY.
MAY THE WORD OF GOD DWELL RICHLY IN MY HEART FROM HOUR TO HOUR,
SO THAT ALL MAY SEE I TRIUMPH ONLY THRU IS POW’R.
MAY HIS BEAUTY REST UPON ME AS I SEEK TO LOST TO WIN,
AND MAY THEY FORGET THE CHANNEL, SEEING ONLY HIM.
Charles Hodge points out that the Spirit’s indwelling is the basis for our unity: "There is no doctrine of Scripture more plainly revealed than that the Spirit of God dwells in all believers, and that his presence is the ultimate ground of their unity as the body of Christ. As the human body is one because pervaded by one soul; so the body of Christ is one because it is pervaded by one and the same Spirit, who dwelling in all is a common principle of life. All sins against unity, are, therefore, sins against the Holy Ghost. They dissever that which he binds together. Our relation to Christ as members of his body; and our relation to the Holy Spirit who is our life, demands of us that we love our brethren and live at peace with them."
Practically speaking, how does one become "like-minded" with others? Let me suggest three key applications: 1. Holding to the teaching, 2. Keeping the ninth commandment, 3. Rejoicing in those matters of first importance.
Holding to the teaching, to that which was "once for all delivered" -
2 Timothy 1:13 says "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."
Titus 1:9 speaks of "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."
These verses imply that a system of doctrine is taught in Scripture. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen believed that Calvinism was the full flowering of Christianity and regretted the move of so many churches to reduces the beliefs of Christianianity to a set of fundamentals.
And many of us have come to embrace the Reformed faith. But let us never forget that the truth we have, we have been shown by grace alone. It is not because we are wiser and more righteous than others. Sola Gratia.
We should fear moving outside of orthodoxy. I knew a young man, we shall call Michael "Servetus." (not his actual name) First he did not hold to orthodoxy on Christ’s coming. He was a hyper preterist, as it is called, Hymenaism, denying that Christ will return to consummate His kingdom. Then he went down the heterodox road on Open Theism . Not long after, he began to adjust the moral teachings of the Word - and became fully engrossed in homosexual perversion.
On keeping the ninth commandment, we can do not better than,
WLC 145 What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, out_facing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale_bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring;misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain_glorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumours, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defence; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavouring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practising, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.
By focusing on truth and telling the truth of each other, true unity and like-mindedness is promoted.
Thirdly, we should rejoice in that which is of "First Importance" (Protos)
M’Crie says, "a bare and cold agreement in the articles of a common faith, and external uniformity in the acts of worship and discipline, will not preserve the unity of the church. To ‘be perfectly joined together, Christians must be of ‘the same mind,’ or affection, as well as of ‘the same judgment.’"
Thus, our like-mindedness is to be governed.
3. The Unity of the Body is Regulated According to the Word of God
Our unity cannot be a "least common denominator" unity. The "Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man" of 19th century liberalism., of Adolf Harnack. Calvin says, "Any agreement which is made apart from God is worthless, and by’ apart from God’ I mean that which alienates us from His truth."
My practical admonitions to you are threefold: Study, Service, Celebration.
Study: We can’t be like minded without a mind; grow in your knowledge of God - this applies to men, women and children.
Let us be zealous in the discover of the truth and gracious to others as we intersect them in the journey. And let our study be tempered always with gracious toward those with whom we differ. C.S. Lewis’ insightful metaphor is instructive. He writes of mere Christianity,
It [essential Christianity] is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. . . .even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door_keeper?" When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.
Service: Love another and look for opportunities of service to others. Serving each other promotes a unity deeper than propositions floating through the mind. Service causes our relationships to be more substantive than formal agreement in thought or "positions."
Celebration: Rejoice and give God glory as we grow together in unity. Let our unity be around the Word and Sacrament ministry, foremost. In our weekly celebration, we have this: (1 Cor. 10:16) "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread."
May our formal and informal, liturgical and personal celebrations be based upon that reality of oneness in a once-dead, living and reigning Jesus that we taste in the Table.
Rev. Gregg Strawbridge has served as the (first) pastor of All Saint’s Church: A Reformational & Covenantal Congregation, Lancaster, PA (CREC - Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals), since 2001 to the present. He has served the broader Church as Presiding Minister of the Augustine Presbytery (CREC) 2005-2009; and was a member of the Board of Governors of Veritas Academy (2006-2016). He is the Founder and Creative Director of www.WordMp3.com - An Online Audio Library of Christian Worldview Resources; He served as the President of the Evangelical Theological Society (Eastern Region) (2010-11) and is currently the permanent Secretary-Treasurer.