For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:4-6 (NRSV)
Recently, a colleague asked me, “Why the gospels? If you had to say anything to promote trust in the message of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, what would you say?”
I found this to be a rather intriguing question–one I wanted to explore further. These are my thoughts in answer to my friend’s searching.
An obvious point is the fact that the gospels provide a window into the steadfast (patient), encouraging heart of God. He is the one who comforts in times of grief, protects in danger, and offers strength, rest, and assurance in the face of fear. His own Word is the vehicle through which he reaches out to us with these truths.
Whenever we’ve witnessed or experienced for ourselves this gracious heart of God, we can’t help but respond. These verses in Romans 15 tell how God speaks to us through his word found in the gospels and gives direction on the best response.
The first way we encounter God’s heart in the gospels is through instruction. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction (verse 4). The ministry of Jesus portrayed in the gospels brings to life in a personal, direct way the teachings and truths of the Old Testament. When we see Jesus in action, we begin to trust the heart of God. Over time, our despair in our sinful condition gives way to hope as we respond to his gift of salvation. This is the purpose as stated in the rest of verse 4. By steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.
The second way we learn about God’s heart in the gospels is through His patient encouragement. Paul uses these words in verse 4 to describe God’s word. He uses them again in verse 5 to describe God himself. Steadfast. Encouraging. This fatherly love draws a response from us of harmony. We share what we receive. We give away what we’ve become. Patience. Encouragement. The community of believers gains the same value in our eyes that it holds in God’s. All people are welcome. Everyone has a place in the kingdom.
According to Romans 15, the last way God reveals himself to us is through his glory. Jesus paid the sacrifice. He died so that we might live. This glory is seen when we work to stay in accordance with Jesus Christ. A glowing, unique sort of glory is cast when God’s people live in unity, agreeing with each other, and loving one another with the same love that flows from God’s own heart.