Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 1 2013 - Romans 15:1-21 – What are the Scriptures for?

There was tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome and Paul was seeking to get them to show a greater concern for each other. He reminds them that Jesus did not please himself; he lived to please his heavenly Father and lived as a servant of others. Then, having quoted one of the Psalms, which Paul sees as having prophetic application to Christ he says, “Everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). He then speaks of God himself as the source of such endurance and encouragement, before returning to the theme of hope, of which God also is the source.

Let’s try to unpack a number of the things that the apostle Paul is saying here concerning Scripture. First of all, he echoes Jesus words in John 5:39; all of Scripture finds its focus in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is at the heart of the plans and purposes of God revealed in Scripture. It is his story. But secondly, all Scripture was written for us – for our instruction. We may have our favourite sections or passages of the Bible, but all of it was written for our learning. Since all Scripture speaks of Christ, all Scripture speaks to the Christian. It is all our story.

Thirdly, God himself speaks to us through Scripture; he instructs us through his Word.

And that Word, says Paul, is written for our endurance – so that we might go on following Christ and not give up. It is full of warnings concerning those who complained or gave up when the going got tough, but it is also full of examples of those who carried on living a life of costly faithfulness towards God and of service towards others. In this, Jesus is our supreme example. He did not give up on the work the Father had given him to do, even when facing the horror of crucifixion. “He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

And so Scripture is written also for our encouragement. It’s never a matter of grim endurance but of glad obedience and faithfulness, encouraged by those who have gone before us, by God himself who encourages us by his Word and Spirit and by the Lord Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

In this way, Scripture provides us with hope. We have been given insight into the plans and purposes of God and into the great things that he has in store for us in the age to come. We live towards such things and gladly press on in the light that they cast backwards upon us. We live in the light of the resurrection of Jesus that underwrites our hope of glory to come.

Paul encourages the Christians in Rome, Jew and Gentile, to press on together in their understanding of Scripture as their common heritage and in following the Lord Jesus who has joined them together as his chosen people. He encourages them, and us, with the words, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit of God.” (15:13)

Father God, we thank you for the Scriptures and particularly for Jesus Christ, the word made flesh. We thank you also for one another. May we encourage one another through your Word and Spirit as together we follow Christ to glory.

Peter Misselbrook