Sermon: Pentecost 10, 13 August 2017, Bishop Ross Nicholson, St Alban’s

Saved- Romans 10:1-14

-I’m going to tell you a story that will shock and astound you,

-A story you will have difficulty believing actually happened.

-It occurred in a Yr12 science physics class in a selective high school in the mid 70s.

-The teacher held in his hands two metal objects of very different sizes,

-And he asked the students,

-‘If I drop these two balls from my hand which will hit the table first?’

-Every single student said they’ll both hit at the same time.

-Except one!

-What ensued over the next 15 minutes was argument, demonstration, mathematical evidence,

-From both the teacher and an incredulous student body.

-Despite 6 years of science education,

-Despite 287 years of Newtonian physics,

-A pimply youth,

-In an elite public school,

-Sincerely believed that heavy objects fell faster than lighter objects.

 

-Now can I ask,

-Was the teacher and class right to challenge his understanding of the physical universe?

-Didn’t he have the right to his own beliefs about gravity?

-Were we damaging his psychological well being by confronting him with our own doctrinaire beliefs?

-Is there ever a time when it’s legitimate to question a sincerely held belief?

-Chapter 10 of Romans opens with the clash of two sincerities,

-If you’ll forgive that bizarre metaphor.

-Remember how Paul began ch9 with his heartfelt anguish about his people the Jews;

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people,” Romans 9:2-3

-His was a sincere anguish over all the wonderful blessings that the Lord had poured on Israel,

-And yet God was rejected by his own people.

-In ch10 Paul continues;

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1

-Paul’s deepest and sincerest desire is that his fellow Jews would be saved,

-That they would turn to Christ and live.

 

-An astounding difference between Paul’s world and our more recent times is that,

-You could hold and espouse a belief or proposition different to another person,

-Without the supposition that you hated or devalued them as persons.

-Listen to how that gets demonstrated in vv2-4 of Romans 10.

-Paul praises the sincerity and strength of the beliefs of the Jews;

“My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God,” Romans 10:1-2

-Given how Paul was treated at the hands of the Jews at various times on his missionary journey,

-You could mistakenly believe that Paul is using the word zealous as a negative.

-But far from it.

-Paul understands that even their attacks upon him were driven by their devotion and zeal for God.

-Paul praises the sincerity of their faith and beliefs,

-A sincerity that was visibly expressed in their actions.

-But here’s the sting that sits very uncomfortably on our post-modern sensibilities:

“I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Romans 10:2

-Paul is politely but bluntly saying,

-‘I can testify for their sincerity, but they are sincerely wrong.’

-Why?

“Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Romans 10:3

 

-Throughout his letter Paul has mounted the argument that all humanity has fallen short of God’s perfect standard.

-Jew and Gentile alike have wilfully sinned against their Creator.

-The Gentiles were totally hopeless,

-Because although they could see manifest in Creation the glory and majesty of a Creator God,

-They turned to idols,

-Images of the creation itself to explain how creation came about.

-The Jews however had the revelation of God.

-The Lord throughout their history was speaking with and directing them.

-God made them promises and intervened directly in their lives,

-He told them how they could live in a right relationship with him,

-How they could be righteous.

-He gave them the Law as a way to respond rightly to the relationship that he’d established with them.

-But their history demonstrated an obstinate will to go their own way.

 

-And their own way also applied to how they viewed the Law.

-Rather than obedience to Law being a demonstration of their love and trust in God,

-They turned it around to being the way they established a relationship with God.

-The focus of their faith was on their own ability to keep the Law.

-The reason their zeal was faulty,

-Why they were wrong in this understanding of righteousness,

-Was that they ultimately rejected God’s messiah, Jesus.

 

-See the first verse there on our reading sheet;

 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4

-That was the culmination of their faulty knowledge,

-That they didn’t believe Jesus when he walked amongst them.

-The root of it however was this;

“Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’” Romans 10:5

-That might have been a very comforting thought for the sincere Jew,

-But Moses was stating two opposing truths in that one statement.

-The first was that total obedience to the Law would bring righteousness and gain life,

-But the second truth was that total obedience was impossible.

-‘Yes you can have righteousness, real life in God, if you keep the law,

-‘But it’s evident in every Jewish life that you can’t obey it.’

-Paul highlights that truth in Romans 2 when he said;

“While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law?” Romans 2:21-23

-Paul would argue the answer is ‘Yes’.

-So life evaporates and the wages of sin come due.

 

-But life and righteousness comes through Jesus,

-It comes from outside us as a gift.

-Jesus is the culmination of the Law because he did in his life what we couldn’t in ours,

-He lived in complete obedience to his heavenly Father,

-He was righteous.

-And it’s through his obedience that we are accounted righteous in God’s eyes.

-It’s not our works that put us right with God,

-It’s not a Jew keeping the law that puts them right with God,

-It’s Jesus and his righteousness given to us through his death and resurrection.

-That’s why Paul was so adamant in ch8 that we are more than conquerors in Christ,

-Let me just remind you of those hope filled words;

“If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”

-The answer is no one, no thing.

-But those truths will only hold for the person who is fully trusting in God,

-Who knows that God is for them,

-That they’re hope and salvation lies in Jesus.

-And that comes down purely and simply to believing God’s word,

-That his word is true.

 

-If you’ve ever investigated any other religion you will have quickly learnt that the path to salvation,

-Or enlightenment or submission to God is extremely complicated.

-Every religion has it’s ‘to do list’ that will get you right with your particular god,

-If you keep it!.

-But listen to how Paul says the Christian is saved;

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

-That’s it,

-‘Call on the name of the Lord.’

-If you have a bible handy look back to vv5-9.

-Paul is contrasting a works righteousness that is impossible to achieve,

-With simply listening to God’s promise in Jesus and believing it.

-First the impossibility;

“Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” Romans 10:5

-Yep, if you keep it you could live,

-But no-one can.

-And then again quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 30;

“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:

-You don’t have to go up to heaven,

-Inquire of angels, or spirits or even God himself,

-That would be once again ignoring what Jesus has already said and done,

-It would be like bringing him down again out of heaven,

-Pointless and insulting.

-Neither do you have to go searching into the hidden and deep places of the earthly creation,

-Because Jesus has already been here.

-No, the righteousness of faith acknowledges that Jesus has said, done and achieved everything necessary for our salvation.

-It is near you.

 

-And once again pointing out how simple the righteousness of faith rather than Law is,

-He explains;

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10: 9

-Simple.

 

-The first words of Jesus Mark records in his gospel were;

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15

-The kingdom is near so,

-Repent and believe the good news!

-Nothing complicated,

-Nothing to do to earn it,

-Just turn from your own self-centredness,

-And believe this promise of God.

 

-Later in Mark’s gospel Jesus asked his disciples,

-‘Who do people say I am?’

“They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’” Mark 8:28

-Notice that everyone of those answers was wrong,

-And I’m sure the people who held them sincerely believed them to be true,

-But they were sincerely wrong.

-So Jesus asks the disciples who had been with him for nearly three years,

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’” Mark 8:29

-You are the Christ,

-You are Lord.

-Peter confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart.

 

-The same question Jesus asked his disciples is the one he asks you,

-‘Who do you say I am?’

-It’s a question that opens the way for anyone to reach out and accept the offer of salvation Jesus brings.

-Remember Paul’s exhortation;

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

-No rules, no laws,

-Just a simple step of faith and the acceptance of the righteousness God is offering in his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.