Sermon for Sunday, December 22nd, 2019, the Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Lessons: Isaiah 7:10-16; Ps.80:1-7, 17-18; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25
The Text: Romans 1:1-7
The Topic: The purpose of the Gospel – obedience to the faith
In the Epistle Lesson today, our attention is drawn to the foundation of the Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 3 and 4, a contrast is drawn between the human ancestry of the Lord and his divinity, in that he was made a descendant of the house of King David, but shown to be the Son of God in power from the resurrection of the dead, according to the Holy Spirit. By this contrast, St. Paul communicates the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is both human and divine. He is not denying the Virgin Birth by his use of the words “made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3, KJV), but indicating the Lord’s human nature. It was in this human nature that the Lord Jesus was born and lived on earth, all the while God was mightily at work through him, performing many miracles and healings, casting out demons, and raising the dead to life.
THE IDENTITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL
On the basis of Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, we believe that He is the Son of God, and that the Gospel He commanded the Church to preach throughout the world is God’s true promise of eternal life to all who believe and follow God’s will and commandments. From the Lord himself St. Paul received the grace and apostleship which would be at work in his own preaching and teaching to bring about obedience to this faith in Christ among the nations for the sake of Christ’s Name (Rom. 1:5).
OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH
Therefore, as we prepare to celebrate again the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us be aware of both his identity as Son of Man and Son of God, and the purpose of the Gospel which he came to bring and to entrust to the Church. The purpose of the Gospel is to bring about the obedience of faith, which can be interpreted as obedience to the faith in Christ that God commands. This does not mean simply an initial faith in Christ that is required for the forgiveness of sins, but a life lived by faith in the Son of God, as St. Paul testified:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20, KJV)
The consequence of welcoming the Lord Jesus Christ into this world as an infant, is that we live life in love for Him and for all, and in obedience to Him. The significance of his birth in this world cannot be overestimated, since through the Incarnation of the Son of God, the lives of so many have been both saved and radically changed for the better.
In view of this, and of the increasing Biblical illiteracy in the world, we must all take time to know the Lord, and know our faith, being obedient to this faith in all our ways. How important it is, that by increasing our love for the Lord, our faith in him, and our obedience to him, that we learn how to lead others to faith in Christ, so that they may also be saved, as we have been saved from everlasting hell, and brought into God’s eternal kingdom. Our own obedience to the faith needs to be a source of inspiration to those who know us, as Andrew Murray wrote:
God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of his will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.
A STORY ABOUT OBEDIENCE
Here is a story about the importance of obedience:
Aretta Loving, Wycliffe missionary, was washing her breakfast dishes when she saw Jimmy, the five-year-old neighbor, headed straight toward the back porch. She had just finished painting the back-porch handrails, and was proud of her work.
“Come around to the front door, Jimmy!” she shouted. “There’s wet paint on the porch rails.”
“I’ll be careful,” Jimmy replied, not turning from his path.
No, Jimmy! Don’t come up the steps,” Aretta shouted, knowing of Jimmy’s tendency to mess things up.
“I’ll be careful,” he said again, by now dangerously close to the steps.
“Jimmy, stop!” Aretta shouted. “I don’t want carefulness. I want obedience!” As the words burst from her mouth, she suddenly remembered Samuel’s response to King Saul: To obey is better than sacrifice.
How would Jimmy respond, Aretta wondered. To her relief, he shouted back, “All right, Loving, I’ll go around to the front door.” he was the only one who called her by her last name like that, and it had endeared him to her from the beginning. As he turned around the house, Aretta thought to herself, “How often am I like Saul or like Jimmy, wanting to go my own way? I rationalize, ‘I’ll be careful, Lord,’ as I proceed with my own plans.” But God wants obedience.
As we reflect on our own lives, how obedient to the Christian faith have we been? Are we living for Christ as we should? Do we know and practice our faith well enough to share it effectively with inquirers who may want to know how becoming a Christian will profoundly change their lives for the good?