What does it mean to be part of a church community? What does "living together as a church" look like? This is a primer that will be useful as a reminder for church members and to prepare new Christians for church membership (and for non-Christians to get a picture of real life in church community!)
Paul and his shipwreck-mates left Malta after wintering there, and by sea and then by land they completed their journey to Rome. They were given a warm welcome on Malta and an encouraging entry to Rome.
This is the shortest and most personal of all Paul's letters. Also, there is good reason to think that he wrote it not long after arriving in Rome at the end of Acts. Thus, both as a continuation of Acts and for the sake of variety, we are going from the long book of Acts to the short book of Philemon. Today we are going to look at the letter as a whole, with particular emphasis on its main point, which is this: The gospel has consequences for everyday life. One of the biggest of those consequences is that you need to welcome your fellow Christian as if he were the apostle Paul — and really, though Paul doesn't say this explicitly, as if he were Jesus. In other words, the question is not "What would Jesus do?" but "What would I do for Jesus?"
It's been eighty weeks of joy to study this book together with you. What a treasure trove of the wisdom and knowledge of God are here in these too-short pages as they summarize the early spread of God's kingdom from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth! So what do we take away from these final two verses of the book? This is Luke's summary, wrapping up everything he wants us to know from his two-volume work. So we will review his main point: The Kingdom is certain. We will also review his two subpoints: The Kingdom is greater than any particular servant of the Kingdom, no matter how important, and the Kingdom keeps spreading through the proclamation of Jesus and His reign.
Our Lord ate with tax collectors and sinners, to this truth we give a hearty "Amen!". But when it comes to the Christian in practice, we find it difficult to do, especially when people come to the church who appear worse than we view ourselves! Peter ate and stayed with Gentiles, why? Because God had welcomed them into the Church! When we realize that we are saved by the grace of God alone and for no other reason, it makes it a whole lot easier to receive others into the Church.
What kind of Church should we be? What culture should we develop? Paul establishes a clear pattern. He commends to the church at Rome sister Phoebe, a servant of the church, and sets a principle for us to welcome, receive and care generously for visitors.