Romans 1:8, 14-15
As I stood in the hallway conversing with a long-time church member that hadn’t been to church in a while, I anticipated that upon handing in his ministry team resources, he would also inform me that he and his wife would no longer be attending the church. I was correct in my discernment; he and his wife would seek another church post-Covid. As I always say, I don’t care where you go to church; it doesn’t have to be at Cornerstone; be part of a local body somewhere!
However, I cringe when I hear people who claim to follow Jesus and also claim that they can still be His follower without belonging to a local church. Another way to state this misconception is that I can still be a person who believes in Jesus without belonging to a people who believe in Jesus. This way of thinking about our personal faith in Jesus and our relationship with God’s people is wrong.
Hebrews 10:25 tell us,
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
As soon as the Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost, the 3,000 people who believed in Jesus that day were baptized into the community of faith. These first disciples devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). From the very start, meeting together was the natural way that Christians grew in their faith.
While we will continue to unpack why this thought of believing in Jesus and not living in community with Jesus’ people is not biblical throughout the post, my desire is to take Romans 1:8-15 and help you see why being part of a local church is important for you and your faith but also why you being part of a local church is important for your brothers and sisters in Christ and their faith.
Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world.
It is important to belong to a community of faith because we have a greater missional impact together. Paul told the churches in Rome that their faith in Christ and the work that He was doing in and through them was being talked about throughout the entire Roman Empire. Why was their faith being discussed throughout the empire? There were other churches throughout the realm of Rome, so what was unique about the believers’ faith in Rome that was causing so much attention?
In 49 AD, the emperor Claudius banned all Christians and Jews from Rome, including many Christian leaders that Paul mentions in chapter 16. Now in less than a decade, there were about a handful of churches, made up of 20-25 believers meeting in homes around the city. Their faith in Jesus was being lived out powerfully as they followed Jesus, made disciples of Jesus, and were starting new churches because of their obedient efforts. Despite being in an area where there had been intentionally targeted opposition, Christ’s Church was moving and growing, thus the admiration of the body of Christ at large and the attention of the empire in general.
Draft horses are very large, muscular animals that have been used for pulling massive loads and moving very heavy objects. A single draft horse can pull a load of up to 8,000 pounds. The strength involved in this feat is staggering.
What happens when we attach two horses to a single load? How much can they pull together?
Since one draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds alone, you might be inclined to think that two horses pulling together might pull 16,000 pounds. However, two draft horses pulling together can pull three times as much! Two draft horses, each pulling 8,000 pounds alone, can tow 24,000 pounds working together!
But that’s not all! If the two horses that are pulling together have trained with one another and worked together before, two trained horses in tandem can tow 32,000 pounds. In unison, two horses can pull four times the weight of a single horse.
By being part of and working together in communities of faith, the Christians in Rome had a more significant impact for the Kingdom than they would have had if they had tried to follow Jesus as lone rangers. As a result, the world couldn’t ignore the faith of the Roman believers.
Paul realized that working together led to accomplishing more for Jesus, thus his reason for asking them to partner with him in his plans to take the Gospel to Spain in Romans 1:14-15.
For I have a great sense of obligation to people in both the civilized world and the rest of the world, to the educated and uneducated alike. 15 So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News.
In many ways, verse 14 is the key to understanding Romans, for it reveals the situation of its composition. Paul uses a stereotypical formula that dominated that day’s empire, mentioning the Greeks (the civilized world, educated) first and the barbarians (the rest of the world, uneducated) second. In the bilingual context of Rome, “Greek” means Greco-Roman, while barbarian refers to alien tribes who could not speak Greek or Latin and who were uncultured, wild, crude, fierce, and in a basic sense, uncivilized. This worldview was so widely accepted that when the Germans established their kingdom within the Roman empire, they referred to themselves as the barbari.
From the second century BC to the fifth century AD, the Romans viewed barbarians as inherently “inhuman, ferocious, arrogant, weak, warlike, discordant, unstable, etc.” These characteristics were polar opposites of Roman virtues. Because of the differences, Rome believed they had to control the barbarians for the world’s safety and civilization. This task, they believed, was appointed to them to do by the gods.
Paul tells his fellow believers that he has an obligation to the Gentiles, those considered by Rome to be subhuman, specifically here, the Spaniards, and to the believers in Rome too. Paul has already told them that their disciple-making, multiplying faith is no secret to the empire and that their influence can extend beyond the empire into Spain. Calling the churches in Rome to partner with him to take the Gospel to Spain showed them that the Gospel is for all people and transcends all barriers that people set in place between themselves. The Spaniards continued to resist Roman rule. Spain frequently rebelled and refused to speak Latin or use Roman names, cities, or landmarks. Thus they were considered as barbarians of barbarians. Yet Paul sees God’s heart and the big picture of His redemption being for all people and thus called the believers in Rome to support him on his missionary endeavor and, by doing so, do together what they couldn’t do alone, reach another people group for Jesus.
It was a humbling honor to have a former student and pastor’s daughter come and share God’s call on her life last Sunday to be a missionary to the Balkans region. At the end of the worship gathering, we raised a couple of thousand dollars for her initial support. This total amount was much larger than what I could do alone, but together, God’s people were able to have a more significant impact than what we could have as individuals. Not only was the economic effect higher but by this young lady being part of a local church and partnering with the Church at large, her and the local churches’ Gospel impact through the partnership is now worldwide and not confined to our immediate geographical location sphere.
Being part of a local church can have a greater missional impact at home and beyond than trying to follow Jesus alone! If God has led you to this post and you are currently looking for a church home, please know that I am praying that the Holy Spirit will lead you to a community of faith to be a part of so that He can multiply your impact for Christ’s Kingdom. Secondly, if you are in High Point, NC, or the surrounding area, please come and worship with us one Sunday at Cornerstone to see if this is where God might have you belong and serve. Finally, I have included four direct links to missionaries or missional organizations to support if the Holy Spirit leads you to do so after our time together in Romans 1:8. The links take you to the direct giving page on their website so that you can easily give or browse their webpage to discover more about the organization and its work.
Annie Armstrong Missions Offering
Jaypee Cawili and Family: Missionary to the Philippines