Several months ago, I was taking you through the Book of Romans, and yes, I got sidetracked on other things. in fact, I think I last commented on this book back in May. We had reached the 15th chapter and the last comment I left was regarding the 13th verse. Now Paul had been talking about living as believers and actually loving each other; that there should be visible evidence of our love. Then, in the 13th verse, Paul wrote:
“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope . . .”
Among other things, I pointed out that if we know that the Lord loves us, then we know we can love our neighbor and we can accept others. There is a profound psychological reality here that these folks in the Roman church understood. They understood the nature of the flesh, the need for sanctification, to use the theological term. They knew that even though they had been redeemed, they still possessed an old nature. The old Adam was still there, giving them trouble.
I still struggle with the old Adam, and so do you. Young Philip Melancthon, who was a colleague of Martin Luther, once wrote to Luther and said, “Old Adam is too strong for young Philip.”
These people at Rome understood this and they knew that this would be the struggle of their Christian lives. Paul did not have to tell them that; they knew it before he wrote it. However, they knew also that Yehoveh is working out a great plan, that he is creating a whole new humanity, and building a new creation.
That’s right! Right in the middle of the ruins of the old he is producing a new man, and they were part of it. They understood the great themes of glorification, and of the eternal ages to come. That is why Paul wrote the letter in the first place. He also said that they were complete in knowledge, which is also true of many of us. We are well taught, deeply understanding the great truths and the great themes of Scripture.
Paul follows that up by telling the church in Rome that they were competent to instruct one another. In fact, back in the 70’s, Dr. Jay Adams wrote a book on this called, Competent to Counsel. That book was a staple for many pastors and counselors. Adams wrote, “’I have been engrossed in the project of developing biblical counseling and have uncovered what I consider to be a number of important scriptural principles. . . . There have been dramatic results. . . . Not only have people’s immediate problems been resolved, but there have also been solutions to all sorts of long-term problems as well.” What Paul was saying, “You are able to counsel one another . . .”
This is the answer, by the way, to all the terrible pressure placed on pastors, who are expected to solve every problem of their congregations, and to counsel everyone first-hand. That was never God’s intention. The plan of God is that the whole congregation be involved in the work of ministry. The whole congregation is to be aware of what is going on with their neighbors, friends, brothers, and sisters, oh, not because they are nosy, but so they are able to meet those needs. This is done is by the imparting of the gifts of the Spirit. This is something we should rejoice about. We should be rejoicing that so many are ministering in this area, sharing the load of counseling—and, by the way, there are many more who could be involved.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome