When I was growing up there was a "conflict" taking place in Southeast Asia and like many other teenagers of my day I entered the military. However, unlike many of the others my age I entered the Air Force because there was simply too much lead in the air when it came to other services like the Army or the Marines. Obviously I was an environmentalist before it became popular.
By the time I was discharged at my last duty station I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to stay where the Air force had sent me, the state of Alaska. The wilderness was pristine and in many places seemed untouched by man. The wildlife was majestic and roamed freely throughout the land. The pace of life presented a person with the opportunity to not only enjoy these things but also to enjoy the company and individuality of the people that had made this wilderness their home. Alaska was a place of adventure and excitement for someone in their early twenties. The whole atmosphere of Alaska called out to me and welcomed me as though I had come home for the very first time. There is nothing quite like the feeling, and the comfort, and the refreshing of coming home. It's time for the children of God to come home, maybe for the first time, to their Heavenly Father.
Therefore being justified by faith (pistis), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The right way of believing brings to a person justification, the removal of all sins, once and for all time. Justification gives a child of God peace with God. How many of God's children walk the earth not realizing there are no issues between the individual child of God and God Himself? How many are still working hard at becoming acceptable to God? How many of God's children are concerned about a place called purgatory, or worse yet, a place called hell?
Due to sin consciousness many of God's children are never at home in their heart with God. They never experience that comfort, that refreshing that a person has when they come home. Have you ever been away from home for an extended period of time? When you return, you throw open the front door, your mother sees you from the kitchen and comes running toward you for the infamous mother's hug. Your dad appears behind her with the largest grin on his face that you have ever seen. Coming home to someone who loves you is simply amazing.
The right way of believing brings a person home, into the living room of God's heart, to rest in the arms of their Heavenly Father, to sit upon the lap of their Abba, their Dad. For a child of God the right way of believing is like coming home for the very first time.
Romans is very much about the individual child of God being rescued out of the darkness of the system of the world and brought into the marvelous light of fellowship with their Heavenly Father. Yet this right way of believing, as held forth in the epistle to the Romans, doesn't leave the child of God to flounder and struggle on his own. Romans also introduces the individual believer to the family of God's children.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
The words "be kindly affectioned" incorporates two Greek words that pertain to love. The first is the Greek word philos, which means a brotherly love and the second is the word storge, which speaks of a family love, like between parents and a child. The word in the Greek is philostorgos.
Romans doesn't just want the individual to see and understand that he has been justified and made righteous by the grace of God, but all who have confessed Jesus as Lord and believed God raised him from the dead are equally justified and made righteous by God's grace. Together we are God's family, each one of us is precious in His sight.
In "honor preferring one another" is speaking of each child of God acknowledging the value of every other child in God's family. The word "honor" is the Greek word time and speaks of the value of a thing by the price affixed to it. The price that has been affixed to every child of God was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Each child of God is of awesome value for the price that was paid for us was the suffering and death of the only perfect man.
Therefore, the epistle to the Romans is not only about the individual person coming to God but it is also an introduction concerning all of the individuals who have come to God by way of His son Jesus Christ. Romans speaks to me personally, then introduces me to God's family.
When I was first in Alaska, as a civilian, I was what is known as a cheechako. Cheechako is a word from the Native American people of the northwest known as Chinook. The name cheechako comes from the word chee, which means "just now, or new" and the word nootka, which means "come". Therefore a cheechako is a new comer or what the old west called a tenderfoot, a greenhorn.
As awesome and beautiful as Alaska is to the senses it is one of the most dangerous places on the face of the earth, especially for a cheechako. The climate can kill you, the wildlife can eat you, the landscape is ever changing due to the changes in the course of rivers, and the isolation, or distances between points of civilization, can be fatal in case of a mishap or accident. When you live in the interior of Alaska every cheechako needs an Alaskan, sometimes called a sourdough, to teach them and guide them until they can get their own footing.
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith (pistis) both of you and me.
Paul desired to see those who had believed in Rome so that they could be established, standing on a firm foundation. Then, together they could comfort each other because both parties would have a knowledge of the right way of believing.
Those who were in Rome were babes in God's Word. They might have been knowledgeable of the Old Testament Law, or even the ministry of John the Baptist but the gospel of grace would have been completely new to them. From what better source to receive an understanding of the gospel of grace then from the man who had received the revelation pertaining to that gospel. Paul wanted to help them get settled in the right way of believing for the Administration of Grace.
There is an account of a cheechako who came to the interior of Alaska in the spring of 1992. From his diary we know he was looking for an Alaskan adventure and some solitude. Alaska is definitely the place to find adventure and solitude, but a cheechako on his own is more than likely going to get more adventure than he can handle.
The Greek word for "comforted together" is sumparakaleo and it has a tremendous meaning that isn't really covered in this simple but accurate translation. Sumparakaleo has three parts to it. Sum, which means "together with", para, which means "along side of", and kaleo, which means "to call or to invite".
To parakaleo is to call or invite another along side of yourself. When you study all the occurrences of this word you also see that it has the added meaning of "to produce an effect." You remember how I stated in an earlier teaching that Jesus Christ was the only one who has accomplished believing, the only one who believed God from the beginning to the end and that the rest of us believe God in this situation but then, maybe in the next situation, we fail to believe. Even a man with the ministry of an apostle has times when he fails to believe what God has declared, remember the apostles on the sea of Galilee during the storm.
I point this out because too often we have the habit of making more of men than we should. A leader can be a great person in many ways but he is still only a man. Only Jesus Christ walked perfectly before God. For the rest of us, even leaders, our walk is often hit and miss.
Our cheechako that was looking for an Alaskan adventure hitchhiked from North Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska. He arrived in Fairbanks towards the end of April, he was twenty-four years old and full of "piss and vinegar". Our cheechako was lucky, he met an Alaskan who gave him a ride to the Stampede Trail by Denali National Park at Healy, Alaska.
The Alaskan was concerned about our cheechako because he had little in the way of supplies or equipment and he was headed out into the Alaskan bush. The bush is what Alaskans call the wilderness. He offered to take him to Anchorage to get supplies and equipment but the cheechako had a handbook telling him how to live off the land in Alaska. So the cheechako took off into the Alaskan bush to live his adventure and find some solitude.
In Romans 1:12, Paul is talking about the believers in Rome and himself being called or invited along side of one another with the idea of producing an effect. The effect Paul wanted to see produced was the believers teaching and admonishing one another in love.
I can be having a hard time in a particular situation that I am facing but you are standing strong and firm, while facing the same, or a similar, situation. You would call me along side of yourself in order to help me see the Will of God and return to, or learn for the first time, the right way of believing. That's parakaleo, that's being comforted. This we can all do for one another and will need to do at some point in time in our walk with God.
It's no longer like the days of Noah when a majority of one had to stand against the entire system of the world. The Word of God doesn't tell us about the wife of Noah or the sons of Noah finding grace in the eyes of God. God speaks to us in his Word only about the man Noah.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
There was a time when people who stood with and for God didn't find many, or any, others to stand with them. Some Bible teachers have on occasion called this a wilderness walk. We no longer need a wilderness walk, for now we have the family of God.
When we function as a family, so that your right way of believing helps me when I have wrong believing, and my right way of believing helps when you have a wrong way of believing, it brings in the prefix sum that has been added to this word. Sum is the "together" of the phrase "comforted together."
We all run into situations when we have to deal with apistia, remember the Greeks add the prefix "a" to a word to mean no or not, in the case of apistia it means no believing, no pistis. When I encounter a situation where I have apistia, or you encounter apistia, we have one another to call us along side of one another to share the Word of God. The effect we are desiring to produce is the right way of believing.
It's never a point of "ha, ha" I know more than you. Or, "I'm better than you because I believed God." We call one another along side so that the other child of God can also receive, or appropriate, the promise of God through the right way of believing. The system of the world puts others down and makes negative comparisons. The system of the world ridicules, and degrades, and belittles. The Word lifts all believers up so that our thoughts are set on the things above, where we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ. Lifting one another up, where God has elevated us, is the heart of sumparakaleo.
Sumparakaleo can take place only because we begin from the point of having "mutual pistis." In order for us to have mutual, or reciprocal right way of believing we have to have respect for one another and that comes from knowing right doctrine which will issue in the right way of believing.
All that you have spiritually is by the grace of God. All that I have spiritually is by the grace of God. If it was based on works than one of us, or both of us, would have something to brag about because of the work we have put forth.
1 Corinthians 15:10a
But by the grace of God I am what I am:
"I am what I am by the grace of God" not by what I have accomplished for myself but by what God accomplished for me in His son.
1 Corinthians 1:30
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
Are you sanctified? Are you righteous? Have you been redeemed? Do you have wisdom? So do I and we both have it because of what God has done for us. When you begin to see what God has freely done for you, you also begin to realize He has accomplished the same for other believers out of the same grace. There is no competition, there is no one-ups-manship.
The Alaskan wasn't trying to prove he was better than the cheechako. He was trying to help the cheechako succeed in his quest for solitude and adventure. He understood the danger of ignorance. He knew bears eat people! He knew the rivers of Alaska are always filled with very cold water and can produce hypothermia on a warm summer day. He was an Alaskan and he knew Alaskan's need one another for the wilderness can be very hostile and unforgiving.
1 Corinthians 12:14-18
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
God calls all of the believers in this administration the Body of Christ. He gives us this analogy of the body so that we can clearly see the importance of every single believer. Consider your own body. Are there parts in your body that you don't need? Yes, the body can continue to function with some parts missing but it doesn't function the way it was designed or intended to function.
God has set, or placed, everyone in the Body of Christ as it has pleased Him. Everything God does is perfect, for He is perfect. Where He has placed you in the Body of Christ is perfection! Part of this perfection is your individual importance to the Body of Christ.
Individually we are vulnerable, susceptible to attack or harm by those who walk in the steps of Elymas. Together we are the Body of Christ and all things have been placed under his, Christ's, feet. Together we are powerful, as powerful as the head of our body, which is Christ.
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
As a body we all have a function and each part functions differently, yet without any part being unnecessary. If we all had the same function, then our body would be very limited in power and ability. Understanding the analogy of the One Body clearly declares and proclaims the importance of each individual person in the family of God. I need what you know and you need what I know. I need you to function and you need me to function.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
1 Corinthians 12:19-21
And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Only a fool would cut off his hand because it doesn't function like the eye. How then can we, as children of God, arbitrarily decide we have no need for another believer? How can we arrive at the place that we fail to see and respect the importance of one another to the overall Body of Christ?
The only way anyone can make a decision like this is because he doesn't have the right way of believing. The divisions that occurred in Corinth God called carnal because they were after, or according to, the flesh. They were based upon the system of the world. The world will not teach you to lift one another up. The world will tell you to take advantage of another's weakness, to advance yourself even at the expense of another. The problem with this logic is that the expense of another is really the expense of myself, otherwise called self-mutilation. There is no corporate ladder in the Body of Christ.
Him that is weak (immature) in the faith (pistis) receive ye, but not to doubtful (reasonings) disputations (critical). For one believeth (pisteuo) that he may eat all things: another, who is weak (immature), eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
A believer who is immature in the right way of believing may be that way because he has never been taught, or he may have been taught but it has never clicked for him, or the world could simply be overwhelming him in this situation. God knows the reason, I don't need to know.
God says, "Don't be critical. Don't allow your logic to follow the logic of the world which is critical and judgmental."
We lift one another up. We support one another. We encourage one another. We answer to Christ as the head of the Body and we answer to God as one of His children. We are not here to answer to one another but to love and encourage one another.
The system of the world is critical. The system of the world is judgmental. The system of the world wants to exercise authority over others. The system of the world seeks fearful disciples who answer to other men.
The One Body realizes its equality in Christ and therefore encourages itself to be all that God has enabled it to be in Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:22-25
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
Have you ever considered your armpit? That's okay, I can't think of anyone who really considers their armpit. We smother it with deodorant and antiperspirant, some shave it, some even braid it but I don't know of anyone who considers it one of their comely parts. Yet, what good is your arm if the armpit doesn't work? If your arm is no good, you also lose the hand. If you lose the hand, you also lose your fingers. Every part has its own importance. Every member of the Body of Christ has their own importance, an importance that God has assigned to it.
1 Corinthians 12:26-27
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
The Corinthians demonstrated the wrong practice of the spiritual equality of every member in the Body when they started choosing one leader over another. It wasn't about Paul, or Apollos, or any other person in particular. When we start choosing one leader over another, one group over another, we fall into the trap of the system of the world and begin to vilify those who haven't chosen like ourselves. Being a body means it is about all of us having a part and no one part more important than another part.
How distracting is that paper cut to the rest of your entire life? The distraction of a paper cut may not last long but it carries great weight while it is hurting. How much greater the hurt when we have amputated a hand, or a foot, or an ear because we wanted to baptize by dipping and they wanted to baptize by immersing? Amputation over water, which has no spiritual significance in the gospel of grace! That is not mutual pistis, it is mutual castration of the spiritual ability of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:4-7
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
It's God, through Christ, that tends to the Body and brings the growth, the increase. It isn't about any specific member for we are all set in the body as it pleased God.
Like the Corinthians, we also have failed in our day and time to walk in the right way of believing concerning the importance of every member in the Body of Christ. We say one denomination is saved and another is ungodly, we aren't willing to sit down and discuss disagreements as in Acts 15, or search the scriptures as in Acts 17, we simply exalt our own traditions and the men to whom we have discipled ourselves. We do these things at the expense of the integrity of God's Word.
Mutual believing requires our standard be the words of God rather than the words of men. Where we have wrong practice or wrong doctrine we can only find correction in the words of God. Right doctrine and the right way of believing is not to be found in the letters of the so called "Church Fathers".
The cheechako had some handbook that gave him all of his answers to the Alaskan wilderness adventure. Yet he refused the counsel of the Alaskan, the one who was actually living in Alaska. So he went off into the Alaskan bush on his own. He was ill equipped and ill supplied. In August of 1992, not quite four months into his adventure, our cheechako was found along the Stampede Trail. His adventure ended with his starvation. It was an unnecessary death.
When other members of God's family are around, it is unnecessary for any one of us to go off into the system of the world ill equipped. In Romans 8 God declares that each of us is to be more than conquerors in every situation.
God gave us his Word, He created His gift of holy spirit within each of us, He placed us in a Body, whose head is His son, He gave us a family. Together, the system of the world is under our feet. God has covered every eventuality so that all of us can walk having no spiritual lack in our lives.
2 Corinthians 2:14
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
God, like the Alaskan who wanted the cheechako to succeed, wants us to be victorious in every situation. He knows the system of the world will challenge us in our daily lives. He didn't intend for us to walk through this world on our own. The right way of believing is knowing the power and presence of God is in you and with you in every situation. God is also in and with every other member in the Body of Christ.
When we begin to see the benefit and the power of mutual believing there is even a greater door of the right way of believing that is opened unto us as God's family.
And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
Jesus could draw a crowd when he entered a city. He drew such a crowd in Capernaum and this time there was no room to get everybody that desired to hear him into the house.
And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
To this crowded home came a man who had palsy. Palsy means the man had some type of paralysis, in this case it affected at least his legs because four other men carried him to this home.
And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
Like the Canaanite woman these men would not be deterred. They took the roof apart to let their sick companion into the same room as Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
The word translated "their" is in the plural so we know these verses are speaking of all five of the men. All five had the right way of believing. This situation is similar to but not identical to the mutual believing we were just considering.
With mutual believing one party is lacking in the right way of believing and another comes along to aid, to instruct, to remind the party that has a lack of the right way of believing. But here all five have the right way of believing, there is no lack in believing. Therefore this would be understood as community believing or likeminded believing.
We have already seen in an earlier teaching from Romans 3, that unbelief by the majority of people does not negate the right way of believing of the one. We have also seen the reason for this is the controlling authority that backs up a child of God who has the right way of believing, according to what God has declared is available. In light of the power of one person with the right way of believing consider what a community of people, with the right way of believing can accomplish because God is backing up His Word.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
Everyone in Ephesus was not a believer but because of the community of believing the Word of God prevailed.
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
Demetrius didn't like Paul teaching the Word of God because it was cutting into his profits from making statues of the goddess Diana. So he called a union meeting of all the others that made idols and he got everyone worked up about profits. Of course he was also concerned about Diana not getting her proper worship.
And the whole city was filled with confusion:
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused: and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
Demetrius got everyone excited and basically started a riot and like every riot, must people didn't even have a clue as to why they were out in the streets yelling. The system of the world relies upon people's ignorance and emotion. Honestly, when you move with the system of the world a person has no idea where he is standing, or why, because the world is based on lies and deceit. This riot wasn't about Diana, it was about money!
When it comes to the children of God we know exactly what we are doing for we are standing on the words of God. We know our reason, we know our purpose, for we know the promise of God and that the right way of believing is a Law!
Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
The Word of God prevailing doesn't mean there is no opposition. It means the opposition will not succeed in their endeavor to stop the child of God or the Word of God.
Demetrius not only failed to promote his craft, he was reproved by the town clerk and sent home with his tail between his legs. The system of the world cannot stand against the Word of God because it is God that backs up His Word. When we have the right way of believing God will bring too pass all that He has promised. It's a law! It's a law that works every time because the controlling authority behind the law is the power of Almighty God.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
"Their" right way of believing brought about the needed healing. All five of them. This is community believing. This is getting the necessary result.
Aesop's Fables were short stories told to communicate simple truths in an understandable way. One of his fables concerning a bundle of sticks teaches us about unity.
The Bundle of Sticks
"An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot (bundle) of sticks, and said to his eldest son:
The son strained and strained, but with all of his efforts was unable to break the bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful.
"Untie the faggot," said the father, "and each of you take a stick."
When they had done so, he called out to them:
"Now, break," and each stick was easily broken.
"You see my meaning," said their father.
I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
He had to be carried in but he left on his own two feet, even carrying his bed. We all have need, we all have lack. Alone we are more easily defeated from claiming the promise of God. But together, we can allow God to accomplish great things for all in the Body of Christ.
We need to let the world start seeing the family of God in this fashion as our community, or likeminded believing, appropriates the promises of God.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?