Main Idea: In the end, we will all believe and obey Christ.
My daughter Raelynn has had many surgeries over the years, including eye surgeries, ankle surgeries, hip surgeries, and spine surgeries. And, as I’m sure we all know, surgery is no small thing. There are many precise things that need to happen during each procedure, and if anything were to go wrong at any stage of the process, we could have a big problem. Prior to the surgery, we usually go over all that and the doctor explains all the things they need to do to have a successful surgery. And I’m glad that her doctors know all of the necessary steps and how to do those things, but when it comes to surgery day, do you know what they basically say? We’re going to cut her open, fix her, and sew her back together.
In the same way, the Bible contains the most profound wisdom and instructions, and yet it’s also incredibly simple. It contains the most difficult commands to follow, like be perfect, and yet the most simple commands to follow, as we’re encouraged to rest in the grace of God.
This is Santiago Sanchez, who lives in El Salvador.
[Picture of Santiago Sanchez]
In 1998, Santiago began digging a hole. He says that God told him to dig this hole, and that he won’t stop digging it until God tells him to stop. He’s been digging it now by himself, with a shovel, for over 20 years, devoting almost every waking hour to it. Only Santiago ever goes into the hole, so only he knows how deep it is, but it’s estimated that it’s now over 3 miles deep.
In an interview with his wife, she said, “there are people who say that he is crazy, no one knows what God is going to demand from you.”
Now, I don’t know if God really told Santiago Sanchez to dig a hole, but that’s besides the point. The point I want us to focus on this morning is just his obedience. Santiago was convinced that this was what God wanted him to do, so he’s spent over 20 years doing it, and doesn’t plan to stop.
And God has told us what He wants us to do in His word. So the very simple question is this: will we obey Him?
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)
Father, help us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that You are strong and able to strengthen us in the gospel. And I pray that as we do so that we would recognize that all glory is Yours, so that we might seek to steal any glory for ourselves, praise You for Your goodness toward us all. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
After about a year and a half in the book of Romans, we’ve now finally come to the last message in our study through this letter. Romans truly is one of the most theologically packed books of the Bible, as it clearly lays out our need for the gospel, the simple gospel message, and how we ought to live in response to the gospel everyday.
We’ve been reminded in Romans that we’ve all sinned, and we’re all in the same boat in regards to our sin and our deserving of judgment. Romans 2:1.
Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. (Romans 2:1)
We’ve also been reminded that we can’t earn salvation for ourselves through obedience to the Old Testament Law, because it’s the Law that proves that we’re sinners. Romans 3:20.
For no one will be justified in his sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law. (Romans 3:20)
And so, we’ve been reminded that salvation is only found through faith in Jesus, not by our works, but through Jesus’s work, who died for our sins. Romans 4:5.
But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
Jesus paid the price for us, so that we can have life in Him. And therefore, we’ve been reminded to live for Him. Romans 12:1.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. (Romans 12:1)
So we should consider ourselves dead to our old self, because we are, and made alive in Christ. We’re not just to give God part of our lives, but all of our lives as we walk in newness of life.
But as we do that, we might ever so subtly begin to think that the Christian life, and therefore life itself, and maybe even eternal life, depends on how well we can live out the Christian life. Maybe you’ve thought, ever so slightly, that your relationship with God depends on you. But that’s not true at all. So as Paul concludes his letter to the Romans in our passage today, he writes in verse 25:
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25a)
Stop there for a moment. That’s God. God is the One who is able to strengthen you according to the gospel. The gospel, of course, is the Good News. Really, it’s the Best News. And yet, it seems like a lot of people continue to think of it as bad news.
Instead of seeing the gospel as our invitation to freedom from sin, many people wrongly see it as a threat to sinners. “Believe in Jesus, or else! Turn or burn! Trust in the God of love, because if you don’t you’ll experience His wrath!”
And, of course, that’s part of the Bible’s message. The Bible does tell us to respond to the gospel with faith and repentance, and these are certainly necessary for salvation. But if we proclaim the gospel that way, we seem to have missed the heart of the gospel message. It’s part of the Bible’s message, but it’s not all of the Bible’s message. The gospel isn’t a threat; it’s a proclamation. Jesus is the Savior of the world!
I think this is why so many people think they need to get their lives together before coming to church. We give off the impression God will only accept us if we’re perfect, so people think they need to strive to be perfect before coming to church, while in reality, it’s God Himself who makes us perfect by grace through faith in Jesus.
So Paul is making it clear in this passage that living out the Christian life doesn’t depend on us, but on God strengthening us. That’s part of what the Holy Spirit does in us. Although, because of our sin, we cannot glorify God perfectly, when we place our faith in Jesus, we’re made new, and the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and strengthens us so that we begin to live lives that glorify God, starting in this life, but then extending out into eternity.
And this is all according to the gospel.
We’ve often taken something upon ourselves and required something from others that was never truly our responsibility in the first place. If we were able to live out the Christian life by our own strength, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for us. It was precisely because we fail that Jesus paid the price for our failures. So as we share the gospel with others, we don’t go around proclaiming how good we are, and how others can be good too if they would just go to church with us. No! We proclaim Jesus, who was and is completely good, and yet died in our place because we sinned and fell short of His goodness.
And this wasn’t God’s backup plan. This was exactly what He planned all along! End of verse 25.
according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures (Romans 16:25b-26a)
In other words, what was hidden in centuries past is now made crystal clear in Jesus and even in all the prophecies about Jesus. For thousands of years, ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, there was this mystery concerning what God would do about it, how God would save His people, and how all that would play out. And in the prophetic Scriptures, there are all kinds of statements that point forward to the coming Messiah, but they were mostly veiled because history had not yet unfolded.
But when Jesus was revealed, the silence of the ages was broken, and all of history makes perfect sense.
It’s kind of like a surprise birthday party. Just before a surprise birthday party, things get a little weird. Like, your family checks on you to make sure you’ll be home at a certain time, but not too early. And your family acts all nonchalant about your birthday, as if they forgot it, and weren’t planning on doing anything special. And you walk into your house, and all the lights are off, even though you saw your spouse’s car in the driveway, and maybe even an extra car or two parked in front of the neighbor’s house. But then when you walk in the front door, and turn the lights on, everyone jumps out and yells “surprise!” and all these little things finally make perfect sense.
You see, all of the Old Testament was leading up to God’s surprise. When Jesus was born, and lived, and died, and rose again, we finally saw what God had been up to all along. So what has God been up to? End of verse 26.
according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 16:26b-27)
God has been on a mission from eternity past to glorify His own name. And it’s not even that He lacked anything in His glory in eternity past, it’s more just that He desired to show His glory, and allow others to see His glory. And He accomplished that, in His wisdom, through Jesus Christ.
To us, it seems kind of reckless. And yet, God chose to do it this way, through the death of His Son, to demonstrate the abundance of His love for us.
And to many, it might seem foolish, so we say that we preach the foolishness of the cross, which is really the wisdom of God, so that we might become fools for Christ.
I fear that most of us have been far too concerned, however, about our own dignity. We care far too much how others view us. We don’t want to be labeled as Jesus freaks or religious fanatics. So we have faith in Christ, but keep that faith to ourselves. And in so doing, we withhold salvation from others, because we haven’t proclaimed the gospel which we confess to believe. We’ve neglected to be obedient to the Great Commission.
But I wonder if we’ve neglected it because, once again, we’ve taken something upon ourselves that was never truly our responsibility. It’s not our responsibility to make people believe. We can’t do that. All we can do is be faithful to plant seeds, and God brings the growth.
Paul wrote in chapter one that he was called to preach to the nations, to bring about the obedience of the nations. And now, he writes the same thing again: that we proclaim Christ to advance the obedience of faith among the Gentiles, that is, the nations, that is, us. So we’re to preach, commanding all people everywhere to repent and obey Christ, knowing that they will, not because we’re so persuasive, but because God is able to bring about what He’s planned. We are to proclaim a Victorious Gospel in Jesus.
You may have heard the acronym that the Bible contains our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and I think that’s true. It tells us what we ought to do. But I heard another acronym recently which also rings true. The Bible can be described as the Beautiful Invitation to Be Loved Eternally. Because the Bible is not ultimately a book of rules to tell us how to live. It’s God’s love letter to us. It’s not primarily about us and what we need to do, but about God and what He has done and will do for all of us.
And God’s goal for us is to be obedient from the heart. And in order to do that, Jesus died on the cross to forgive us, and the Holy Spirit came into our lives to strengthen us. God gave us a new heart. It’s like He’s the Master Surgeon who cuts us open, fixes us, and sews us back together so that we would desire to obey God not out of obligation or fear or anything else, but out of love because He first loved us.
So to Him, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to him be the glory forever! Amen.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)