In August, Gateway invited Mike and Stephanie Kuhn to speak to us about the historical account of Hagar and Ishmael. Mike unpacked the cultural and linguistic setting for the story such that we were able to identify God’s intent for the world’s Arab people groups who ultimately descend from Ishmael. God intended that they would be blessed from the beginning. In some respects, this can be a paradigm shift for many. If God has piqued your interest in the Muslim world as a result and you would like to learn more, I would suggest that you read the life testimony of Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel is now with Jesus, but before he died, he wrote several books. One is “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”. This is a detailed account on how Nabeel agonized through a 4-year process of comparing Islam and Christianity. Nabeel ultimately chose to follow Christ, at great personal cost. This is his story. It is very readable, insightful and full of explanation of how a Muslim thinks. It is also an apologetic comparison of the two beliefs and a solid defense for all Christ followers. I encourage you to read it!
In episode 14 of the Gateway podcast, Pastor Josh, Shaun and Laura attempt to answer some questions regarding infant baptism. For some, baptizing infants is just a normal part of our church experience, but for many it is a practice that elicits many honest questions. At the end of the podcast Josh and Shaun recommended several useful resources that we wanted to be sure to share on this subject.
Baptism by Francis Schaeffer
Why do we baptize infants? By Chapell
Understanding Four Views on Baptism by Engle (editor)
Jesus Loves the Little Children by Hyde
Baptism by Richard
Word, Water, and Spirit by Fesko
SERMON TITLE: Freedom through Death
TEXT: Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
Today we’re continuing in the book of Romans, but as we’ve finished chapter 5 — and are beginning chapter 6 — we’ll notice a shift in Paul’s focus. Paul — the author of Romans — is going to shift from justification — our being declared righteous by God — to the freedom God gives to those he has justified.
Now when we talk about freedom — we have to watch ourselves to make sure that how we define freedom — is biblical. What am I talking about?
Well in our culture, the word freedom — basically means — you can and should do whatever makes you happy. Freedom is what you experience when you do whatever you most deeply desire — that’s our culture’s definition of freedom.
Now there is a sense in which the Bible agrees with freedom being connected to doing what we most deeply desire. And the Bible prizes freedom — just like our culture does.
But here’s where the Bible and our culture part ways. To be free — according to the Bible — doesn’t mean we can and should do whatever we want. As someone has said, “Freedom is not necessarily the ability to do anything you want...freedom happens in our lives when we obey our deepest desires, the ones God put in us from the beginning, most of which are unconscious, because the thing we most desire to do is to be fulfilled by submitting to our Creator...Therefore, though everybody agrees (Christians and everyone else) freedom is the fulfillment that comes from doing what you most deeply desire, the Bible says that only happens when you’re willing to be completely dependent on God.” (Tim Keller, “Dependence Day,” Daily Keller, October 11, 2017, http://dailykeller.com/category/freedom/)
So there’s the goal of the Christian faith — to be completely dependent on God — which is the Bible’s definition of what it means to be free. And this freedom is found in Christ alone where — in having turned to Jesus for your freedom — and turned away from your enslavement to sin — you discover that freedom isn’t about doing whatever you want to do — instead freedom is about doing what God wants you to do.
And though that may sound restricting — or even scary — once you know who God is — and that he’s good and gracious and tender and loving and patient and merciful — once you know him — you’ll begin to see that the freedom he wants for you is the only freedom that can give you your heart’s deepest desires.
So let’s begin our journey of discovering what it means to be free.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Romans chapter 6. We’ll be looking at verses 1-4.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Romans 6. Beginning in verse 1.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4)
Three things in our text we’ll be looking at. First, what does it mean to have died to sin? Second, what does it mean to be baptized into Jesus’ death? And third, how does death lead to newness of life?
What does it mean that — as a Christian — you’ve died to sin? What does baptism — our baptism — have to do with Jesus’ death? And how does death lead to a new life — a life we’ll look at more fully next week.
DEAD TO SIN
Back to verse 1. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)
So after talking about justification — in chapter 5 — and we’ve learned that justification is our declared righteousness before God — we’re now shifting to sanctification. So what is sanctification? Just like with justification — an easy way to know what sanctification is — is by using a catechism — short questions and answers about our faith. Sanctification is our “gradual, growing righteousness” — our gradual, growing righteousness.
Where justification is an act by God alone — he declares us to be right with him — we play no part in our justification — sanctification — on the other hand — is a joint endeavor. Meaning sanctification is a partnership between God and us.
So — follow me here. God sanctifies us and we work towards greater sanctification. Let me show you some passages that make this clear.
Paul tells the Christians in Philippi, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work (that’s sanctification) until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)
God will continue his work in you until his work is finished. That’s God’s role in our sanctification.
But then — a little later — in the same letter — Paul writes, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation (there’s our part in sanctification), obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” But watch what Paul does — because he doesn’t want the Philippians to think that their sanctification is all on them — Paul finishes his thought with “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:12b-13 NLT)
So when it comes to our sanctification — our gradual, growing in holiness and godliness and righteous living — our sanctification is a partnership between God and us.
Lean too far in the direction of it being solely God’s work and you’ll become lazy, justify sinful living, and find yourself prone to ignoring God’s commands.
Lean too far in the direction of sanctification being solely our work and you’ll either become self-righteous — “look at how great I’m doing” — or wallow in self-pity — “look at how horrible I’m doing” — and fluctuate between extremes of feeling on fire for God and feeling like God can’t stand you.
But here’s one reason why your sanctification matters. We may have among us some folks who know — with certainty — that they’re not a Christian — I’m glad you’re here — by the way. If that’s you — one of your observations about us Christians is probably something about our hypocrisy. You — and you’re right to call us out on this by the way — you look at us and you see us doing what Paul tells us not to do back in verse 1. You’re like, “Hey Christians, from my perspective it looks like many of you think sinning more is the way to go.”
So — if you’re a Christian — here’s the best way to counter this criticism. Pursue sanctification. Pursue holy living. Pursue godliness. If we Christians were “working hard to show the results of our salvation” — yes — unbelievers would see that we sin — but even more so — they’d see that we’re battling sin. That we’re honest about our sin. That we’re working hard at “killing our sin so that it doesn’t kill us,” as someone has said. (John Owen)
But back to our verses in Romans. Paul asks, “If grace increases more and more when there’s sin, are we Christians supposed to sin more and more so that God has even more opportunity to shower us with his grace?” And Paul’s answer is “by no means!.” “No way!” Some language experts think “heck no” — or even stronger language — is what Paul is saying.
Paul asks, “How can you continue to live under the reign and rule of sin when you’re someone who lives under the reign and rule of God’s grace?” You can’t. You can only serve one Master.
Now — back in chapter 5 — Paul spent time showing us how the law was no match for the power of sin. We learned that there’s no amount of law keeping we can do to overcome the power of sin in our lives. And — there — Paul was addressing one of our natural tendencies — which is to lean towards legalism — where we believe — “If I obey rules — I will earn God’s love” — that’s legalism. Sometimes the rules are God’s rules — but more often than not — the rules are our own rules — because we love to change the rules so we always earn God’s love.
But the problem with legalism is this: Legalism promotes self-righteousness — “Look at all that I’ve done to earn God’s love” — and it doesn’t rejoice in Jesus’ righteousness — “Look at all that Jesus has done to earn my salvation.” And that’s a terrible mistake to make — to promote yourself over Jesus.
But there’s another trap we can fall into — which is what Paul’s addressing in our verses. Where you’re so anti-law and rules — that — as some people say — “God loves you no matter what you do” — summed up by the guy who said, “I like committing crimes. God likes forgiving them. Really the world is admirably arranged.”(W.H. Auden) Where the lyrics go — “Jesus loves me this I know, so I’ll live however I want.”
My oldest recently got his driver’s license — it’s awesome, by the way — freedom for mom and dad. But when you’re given a driver’s license, you’re not given a license to drive “however you want.” My son passed a class, he spent hours driving around — mainly with his mom — and with an instructor. And then he passed a driving test. But his license — are your license too — is a privilege — it’s not permission to drive however you want.
That’s what grace is like. Grace doesn’t mean you now have freedom to do whatever you want — no — grace comes with new desires — and responsibilities — to follow Jesus and obey his commands.
So even though Paul’s been telling us that the law is not the means to salvation — we can’t dismiss the law either as if it doesn’t matter — it does matter — because the law of love is written on our hearts.
But one final thing. Because God’s law is powerless over sin — you may wonder, “Well if sin has more power than God’s law — does it have more power than God’s grace?” I mean — can we even know if God’s grace is more powerful than sin?
And Paul’s answer is somewhat odd. He says that — by God’s grace — we’ve died to sin. So what does that mean? It means that when you believed in Jesus — when you turned from your sin and turned to Christ — a death occurred — and at that moment you went from living for sin to having died to it.
So think about this — and this has little to do with the sermon but I hope it will be helpful. Most people fear death — even Christians. It’s so unknown. We wonder how much will I suffer? Those kinds of open ended questions can haunt us. But — for the Christian — here’s something to consider. You’ve already died once — you’ve died to sin. Death wasn’t that bad, now was it? So you tell your fear of death “been there done that — doing just fine.”
But back to our death to sin — having died to sin — Paul asks — how can we now live for it? The answer? We can’t. That’s the power of God’s grace. We may choose to sin — but we can’t live for it. The believer — a true follower of Jesus — can’t find satisfaction or joy or pleasure in living for sin — because sin tastes like death because they’ve died to it. What does sin taste like to you?
So our death to sin has a very practical side to it. It means that if you’ve died to sin you’re not only free from the penalty of sin — which Jesus paid on your behalf — but you’re also free from the power of sin — which Jesus has freed you from. And having been freed from sin you’re now to live for righteousness.
And what does that look like?
Well it means some basic things — of course — like reading your Bible — so you know how you're supposed to be living.
It means participating regularly in corporate worship.
It means praying and meeting with other believers outside of the weekend. A great opportunity to do that here at Gateway is in our Life Groups.
Another implication of having died to sin is that this means your public life should match your private life. Your co-workers, classmates, roommates — the people in your life who have different ideas about faith — does the way you live make them think, “Well I can’t say that I believe what you believe. But one thing’s for sure — based on how you live — you believe what you say you believe.”
But — always remember — the source of your power over sin — the source of your death to sin — is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So back to our question. Does grace have more power than sin? Absolutely! Because the power of grace comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
BAPTISM AND DEATH
Now — let’s connect Jesus’ death with baptism. Verse 3. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3)
OK. So what is baptism and how does it connect to the death of Jesus and our death to sin?
We just had baptisms last weekend here at Gateway. So what were we celebrating in those baptisms? And I want to answer our question by looking in our text in Romans.
So the first observation about baptism — from verse 3 — is that Paul doesn’t view baptism as optional. His question doesn’t leave room for their being an unbaptized Christian in this church in Rome — he says “all of us.” So if you’re a Christian, have you been baptized? If not, why?
But not only that — Paul not only assumes that the Christians in Rome have been baptized — he also suggests that they all understand something about their baptism — that their baptism and Jesus’ death are connected.
So what are the implications of this — Paul saying that our baptism is related to the death of Christ? First, notice what Paul does and doesn’t say here. He says that their baptism points to Jesus’ death — and notice that he doesn’t say anything about their baptism pointing to their faith. Now there are many Christians who believe that baptism is an outward sign of an inward decision — or something like that — where their baptism is a sign about their faith in Jesus — but for Paul — the focus in on Jesus’ death.
Baptism visibly displays how Jesus’ death is the means of our salvation and our freedom from sin’s reign in our life. So when we see someone get baptized — our thoughts should be something like — “Look at the faithfulness of Jesus in dying for the sins of his people. His death has set us free from the reign and rule of sin. And he’s still setting people free today.”
Jesus is the hero of the Bible, right? And he should the hero of your life — if you’re a Christian. Well — if that’s true — why would we expect anyone other than Jesus to be the hero in our baptism?
But this is what Paul’s getting at with the phrase “baptized into Christ Jesus.” A wonderful truth — of our Christian faith — is our union with Christ. Our being joined to him — or being “in him” — is how Paul usually says it.
Where — for the believer — the Holy Spirit has united us with Christ so that we’re given all of the blessings of the salvation Jesus accomplished for us. And our union with Christ means we’re now identified with Jesus — that “united to Jesus” has been sealed on your heavenly passport — or better yet — you’ve been sealed to Jesus’ passport. And baptism is meant to remind us of our union with Christ. That when Christ died and was buried — being united with him — your old, rebellious, sinful self — died and was buried right there in Jesus’ tomb.
And this is why — for instance — you should only be baptized once. You’re only united to Christ once — then your his. You died with him to sin — once and for all. And if this is what baptism is pointing us to — it makes sense — that if your union to Christ and death to sin are one time events — then baptism is a one time event.
Now a disheartening thing — for me — about baptism is that — though it’s supposed to be something that unifies the church — it’s something that has often divided the church. In a letter he wrote to another group of Christians, Paul said, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” (Ephesians 4:5 NLT)
One baptism that many Christians divide over.
From who’s supposed to be baptized — believers only or believers and their children — anyone hear about a kerfuffle from last weekend’s baptisms?
To what mode of baptism — full immersion, sprinkling, pouring?
To who’s supposed to do the baptizing — ministers only or can any Christian baptize someone else?
To where someone should be baptized — church only, in someone’s backyard, on a Christian tour in Israel?
Here’s my point: We’ve found numerous ways to make “one baptism” awfully divisive — and you thought the issue was just about babies — nah — we Christians can always find a reason for a church split.
Now the point of our text isn’t even baptism — Paul assumes the Christians in Rome already agree on the issue — but — since we got the conversation going last week — let’s talk about baptism some more.
First, baptism does not save the person being baptized. Regardless of the age of the person — here at Gateway — we don’t believe that the act of baptism is necessary for salvation.
You can be saved and not be baptized.
You can be baptized and not be saved.
And we know there are some Christian denominations that do believe baptism is necessary for salvation. Roman Catholics think along these lines with infant baptism. But — did you know there are some Christian denominations — like the Church of Christ — who believe that believer’s baptism is necessary for salvation? So people have erred with both infant and believer’s baptism when it comes to salvation.
Second, we believe that baptism is an act of obedience. You can be saved — and not be baptized — but you’re being disobedient.
Third, here at Gateway we believe that baptism is a sacrament. All that means is — just like the Lord’s Supper — baptism is a sign — meaning it points us to something — and it’s a seal — it promises us something. As a sign — baptism points us to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus — we’ve talked about this — but it’s also a seal.
Baptism is a promise from God to us. What’s the promise? If or when the person being baptized puts their faith in Jesus — and turns away from their sin — baptism is a promise that God is faithful. And he will never turn anyone away from him who comes to him repentant of their sins and trusting in what Jesus has done for their salvation. Now the “if or when” may be throwing you off. “If or when a person believes” especially if baptism — for you — is “this shows that they have believed.”
The story of Simon the magician — in Acts chapter 8 — is helpful here. Simon believes and is baptized — according to verse 13. But when Peter and John show up, Simon tries to buy the power of God from them. To which Peter replies, ““May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. [So listen at what Peter tells Simon to do.] Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.””(Acts 8:20b-23, NLT)
Now Simon is held captive by sin — so he’s not free from sin — so whatever “believing” he did earlier — doesn’t appear to be true faith. But did you catch what Peter doesn’t tell him to do? For Peter — like two peas in a pod — repent and what always go together? Repent and be baptized. But — for Simon — it’s just repent. Why? Because he’d already been baptized. So no need to repent and be baptized now — it’s just repent — because the “be baptized” part has already been done. Go read the text. You may come to a different conclusion but why else would Peter have not told Simon to repent and be baptized? That’s why we say “if or when a person believes.”
Fourth — and this will be the most controversial — but this is an opportunity for us to practice walking together in love even when we don’t agree on everything. Here at Gateway we practice both believer’s baptism and infant baptism. Now let’s all focus — because your mind may be racing right now after that sentence. First things first. This has been Gateway’s practice before Gateway was even Gateway — meaning way back in the Norcrest days — for all of Pastor Ben’s days as your pastor and even before him — Gateway has been a church that practices believer’s and infant baptism.
Now this past week, we received questions like “Since when has Gateway strayed from believers baptism? This is a fundamental shift in a core belief that needs explanation and justification.” And — though opposition to infant baptism doesn’t surprise me — the misunderstanding of Gateway’s history does. I mentioned this on last week’s podcast, but from the records we have — which the early days of Gateway’s record keeping is a bit spotty — what do you expect when you get kicked out of a denomination — but we have records as early as 2005 of infant baptisms happening at Gateway. Gateway started in 2002. So this isn’t something new — this isn’t something pastor Josh has started — this isn’t a fundamental shift in a core belief — but — I do agree — it needs some explanation because apparently this hasn’t been very clear. So I want to hopefully build some trust with you as we walk through this.
So — first — believer’s baptism — it’s not that divisive. An accusation sometimes made against those who practice infant baptism — is to say they don’t believe in believer’s baptism — and that’s not fair. We practice believer’s baptism here at Gateway — we haven’t strayed from it. If you’ve been around — you’ve seen that.
But what about infant baptism? Here’s a question you may have: If you attend Gateway — or especially if you’re a member of Gateway — do you have to believe in infant baptism — is this something that we’re going to force you?
Now listen carefully to my answer. No.
We know that we have people in our congregation who come from all sorts of church backgrounds. And the historic position we’ve taken here at Gateway — I talked to Pastor Ben about this to make sure I was correct — by the way — but the historic position at Gateway — in regards to infant baptism — has always been to not force the issue on each other’s conscience.
So we don’t force you to believe in infant baptism.
And we don’t force you to not believe in infant baptism.
And let me reiterate that this has been the practice of Gateway since it began. We choose to extend grace to our fellow believers who differ on this issue. Yes — it sure is messy — but grace is worth the messiness.
Now you should know that we’re part of a denomination — and for all of Gateway’s days — have been part of a denomination — and even back in Norcrest days — even though it was a different denomination — this congregation has — for 40 plus years — been part of denominations that practice infant baptism.
Now you’re free to disagree with us — and we know that there are Bible believing Christians who love Jesus — among us — who don’t agree. But — for the sake of unity — the leadership of Gateway has chosen to celebrate when Christian parents want to have their child baptized and we celebrate when Christian parents want to dedicate their child and wait until their child believes before baptism. And we hope you’ll be willing to walk with us even though it’s all a bit messy.
Do we have biblical reason for this very messy position? Yes. We find our reasoning in Paul’s words — which come later in Romans. But I need to give you some quick background. An issue causing division in the church in Rome — was that some of the Christians believed certain foods were acceptable to eat and others weren’t — this was based on the Old Testament law. And some church members thought a particular day was the right day to worship God and others in the church weren’t so convinced. So there’s division — a church split seems inevitable — some were already checking out other church websites to see what they believed about eating meat and which days were right and wrong for worship — well — not really — but you get the idea.
So Paul — tells them to not look down on one another because of these differing beliefs — and instead — he tells them to strive for unity even in the midst of their diverse beliefs. He says. “I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. (So Paul has an opinion on the matter — based on authority from Jesus — by the way — which is a significant trump card. But watch what he does. Instead of telling the people he disagrees with to get in line with his way of thinking — instead of even using his authority — he says...) But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. (Paul puts the act of extending love on himself — and on the people who agree with him. In love — Paul says — lean in towards your fellow Christians with whom you disagree.) 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:14-19 NLT)
And what I hope for — is that we will strive to practice love. That in regards to baptism we will “aim for harmony in the church — trying to build each other up.” Where you have confidence that those of us in authority — no matter what their position on the issue is — that you will see how your leaders extend love towards those who disagree with us. And that you will join us in demonstrating love for one another to a world that’s eager for us to be divisive.
One final thing about baptism. On October 6th — a Sunday night — at 6pm — here at our County Road 9 campus — I’m going to do a special evening teaching on baptism. We’ll have a time of Q&A that pastors Ben and Robert will be participating in. That’s October 6th at 6pm here at our County Road 9 campus.
FREEDOM THROUGH DEATH LEADS TO NEWNESS OF LIFE / CONCLUSION
So — after all of that about baptism — now I have to say — Paul doesn’t even want our focus to be on baptism — or on our death to sin. He wants us to see that God’s grace has offered us something much more glorious than any of that. For in verse 4 we read, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
After death comes resurrection. That was true for Jesus and it’s true for all who are united to him. Not only did you die with him — but you’ve been resurrected with him to walk — to live — in newness of life. We’ll talk more about what it means for us to live this resurrection life next week.
Death leads to life through resurrection. This means — if you want to live — you first have to die. And for those of us who believe — for Christians — this means that — because we’ve died to sin — we’re now free to pursue godly living, holy living, righteous living. We’re free to progress in our sanctification. We’re free to work hard at showing the results of our salvation — all while knowing — with great comfort and certainty — that Jesus — the One who saved us — has guaranteed that his work of making us holy — will come to completion. Let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithfulness to us. You never turn away someone who comes to you in faith. Spirit we ask you to unite us together. In a world full of division — unity is such a testimony to your power in our lives. Where we walk in love — with one another — not because we agree on everything — but because we’re loved by you and love you in return. For as we’re commanded in Scripture, “The one who loves God should love his fellow Christians too.”
Jesus, for anyone who’s burdened by the reign and rule of sin over their life — may you use their burden to draw them to you. Guide them in repentance. Draw them to you in faith. So they joyfully receive the gift of freedom that you offer to all who come to you. It’s in your name that we pray. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Can relate to the rollercoaster of “God loves me and he can’t stand me” because of how you live. Come let us pray that you would rest in God’s unconditional love for you.)
May you go living in freedom — having died to sin with Christ. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens!
Praise him from the skies!
Praise him, all his angels!
Praise him, all the armies of heaven!
Join all creation in praising God this week with the songs for the weekend at Gateway.
County Road 9
This Is Amazing Grace - Bethel Music
Made Alive - Citizens & Saints
Come As You Are - Crowder
Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill
Death Was Arrested - North Point Inside Out
Nothing But the Blood - Citizens & Saints
Open Up Our Eyes - Essential Worship
One Thing Remains - Kristian Stanfill
Exalted Over All - Vertical Worship
Resurrection Power - Chris Tomlin
Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.
We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!
We have been blessed to be part of the Jolliff Life Group for the past 6 years. Joining them gave us an opportunity to connect with the other members, and we have truly had a blast together. We have learned so much from all of our members, not only personally, but spiritually. They have been able to show us true leadership and demonstrate what it means to be a Christ follower.
After much prayer, God was calling us to venture out from the comfort of our group and to take a leap of faith to become new Life Group Leaders. As we have ventured down this path, Ed, Scott and Connie have been very inspirational and reassuring. They have been able to guide us and help ease our fears and anxiety. We have learned so much just through the Life Group process and it has been fun to be a small part.
As we move into the next chapter, we will be taking over for the McGlade’s Life Group. God has already done amazing things in their group from serving, singing and prayer. We are so excited to begin and to see all the amazing things God has planned for us.
We hope you also take a leap of faith and join a Life Group, if you have not already. It will literally change your life!
SERMON TITLE: The Catalyst for Gospel Change
TEXT: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Robert Tansill
Good evening, Gateway! It’s great to be with all of you as we worship our God together. And, as Josh reminds us every week, God loves you! And He's proven His love through the death of His Son in which you are now declared righteous by faith in Him alone. This is the gospel!
This evening as we celebrate through baptism and the Lord's Supper all that God has done for us in Christ, I want to spend a few minutes thinking about how the gospel changes our lives as people who have placed our trust in God and in Jesus.
In his book, "The Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary", J.D. Greear writes, "It's one thing to understand the gospel, but it's quite another to experience the gospel in such a way that it fundamentally changes us and becomes the source of our identity and security."
For many of us, we would say that we understand the gospel, which is the message that God came in the flesh to bring salvation to people who at one time were alienated from him. But, how many of us would say that we have experienced the gospel in such a way that it fundamentally changes us, and has become the source of our identity and security?
Said another way, how does the gospel become not just a message that we say that we believe, but more importantly a catalyst for truth that actually has the power to change who we are as people? That's the question that we're going to look at this evening
ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
So if you would, turn in your Bibles with me as we look at 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is to let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
The Apostle Paul writes, "1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring."
Writing his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wants to both encourage and instruct this body of believers. And at the very heart of his letter is the message of the gospel, and how this gospel has been used as a catalyst to change their lives. And the first thing that Paul wants us to see about this change is that..
Point 1: The Catalyst for Gospel Change...is rooted in the Godhead. (v. 1-2)
As we read the beginning of this letter, I want you to notice something in the words, "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy", which is that these aren't just people bringing the message of the gospel to the Thessalonians, but rather people who had been personally impacted by the message themselves.
Paul, as we know, was at one time a staunch Pharisee who in his fiery zeal sought to destroy the church by putting its members to death wherever he could find them. Yet, after a personal encounter with the risen Lord, he was confronted with the message of the gospel, which radically changed his life from one who sought to destroy the church to one who became its greatest advocate.
And Timothy, who was a constant traveling companion with Paul, was nurtured in the faith as a young man by his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice. And in spite of the fact that he seems to have struggled a lot with self-confidence, the gospel empowered him to lead various churches and continue the work of the kingdom, even in Paul's absence, and in the midst of persecution.
And Silvanus, also known as Silas, was a man for which very little is actually known about him. Most likely Jewish, he converted to Christianity, working his way up in the ranks of leadership in the early church, and facing a great amount of suffering along the way as he accompanied Paul on many of his journeys. These are the men who were writing to the Thessalonians. Men who aren't just bringing the message with words, but who are living the message with their actions.
And the question we have to ask ourselves is this, "What initiated this change in their lives?" Look again at verse one, "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
If you want to know how gospel change occurs, look at where it originates, being "in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Because of God, the gospel, which at one time seemed foolish to all of us, now makes sense. And it's become the source of our identity and our security because God has made it known to us.
Had God not acted by giving us the eyes to see and the ears to hear the message of the gospel, we would still be lost in our sin, living life on our own terms, oblivious to how we offend our Creator, and facing the judgment that would await all of us.
But because of God, who is our "Father", which in itself is an incredible thought, we no longer live in our own strength according to our own rules. But we live in obedience under the sovereign care and mercy of the One who now calls us His children.
Not only that, but we also live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Used 20 times in this letter alone, Paul uses the word "Lord" to define more clearly who Jesus is as, "one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind." He's our Ruler. He's our Master. That's what the word "Lord" means when it refers to Jesus. As those who have come to a knowledge of God as a result of God revealing Himself, we now have a knowledge about how life really works that we didn't have before we were confronted with the gospel.
Because of the gospel, we now see that we live in a fallen world where oftentimes life just doesn't work the way that we want it to. We see that our natural desire, because of sin, is to do what we want to do, and not what pleases our Creator, which is why we were created in the first place. We see how evil our sin really is when compared to the holiness of God. We understand why Jesus had to die for us so that we could be declared righteous because of his death on the Cross. We see that we really don't just have to answer to ourselves for our actions, but in reality, we have to answer to the One who exercises supernatural authority over mankind; believer and unbeliever alike.
And we see that, in spite of the fact that we live in a fallen world where we're not just confronted daily by its sin, but also by our own, that God in His mercy and his love, daily supplies the two things that make gospel change possible.
Look at what Paul says in verse 2, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." If you're like me, when you read these words, you typically just gloss over them as Paul's way of greeting his readers. But by doing that, we're making a huge mistake. Why?
Because, by using this phrase, which he does in every one of his letters, Paul is reminding his readers what God has provided for them as a result of the gospel, which is the catalyst for the change in our lives. A change that doesn't just occur once and is done, but which is ongoing.
And what has he provided? Grace and peace! This is what God uses in our lives to create the change that conforms us more and more into the image of His Son, and which is rooted in the gospel.
When God extends His grace to us, which he does every moment of every day, he doesn't just forgive us once for how we've sinned against him. Rather, He actually empowers us to be able to do in His strength what we could never do on our own. And Paul knew this to be true for himself when he said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "9 But God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
John Piper was right when he said, "Grace is not simply leniency when we've sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon. Therefore, the effort we make to obey God is not an effort done in our own strength, but in the strength which God supplies." And what does that look like practically?
Well, for a parent who's hurt their child by something that they've either said or done, grace is what moves them to say, "I'm really sorry for the way I've hurt you. Would you please forgive me?" For the person who was given a bad diagnosis with a long road of recovery ahead, grace is what helps them to continue to walk down that road, even though they don't feel like they can take another step. And for the person who recently lost a loved one, grace is what encourages them to believe that God's mercies really are new every morning. This is what God has provided for us as a result of the Gospel. But that's not the only thing.
The second thing Paul mentions as a catalyst for gospel change is "peace". And what does he mean by this? Well, the word Paul uses here simply means, "a state of well-being, tranquility, or contentment." In the New Testament, the passage that most clearly shows what Paul has in mind is in Romans 5:1 where he says, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." What does that mean for us?
First, because of what God has done for us on the cross, we no longer have to worry about facing His wrath. Jesus has taken all of God's wrath upon himself on our account so that we can stand before God in Christ's righteousness, and in the peace that we now have with our Creator. We can't take that for granted
Second, in spite of the fact that we live in a fallen world and all that goes with it, we can have peace knowing we serve the One who sovereignly holds all things together, and who promises that "this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17) I love that!
Third, like grace, peace not only impacts our relationship with God, but also how we deal with life as the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) Does that mean that we're no longer going to worry about things, or be impacted by them? No! But as Tim Keller reminds us, "The peace of God is not the absence of negative thoughts or feelings. It's the presence of God himself."
And it is this presence of God himself and the Lord Jesus Christ that enables us to live in "grace and peace"; a grace and peace that's rooted in the Godhead, and which is at work in our lives through the Holy Spirit, creating gospel change as we anticipate the return of our Lord.
But there's more. Not only is the catalyst for Gospel change rooted in the Godhead, but as Paul tells us in verse 3...
Point 2: The Catalyst for Gospel change…
results in growing faith and increasing love. (v. 3)
Look what Paul says, "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing."
For Paul, what he sees happening to the Thessalonians because of the gospel causes him to give thanks to God. In fact, the word that Paul uses for the words, "give thanks", is where we get our word for "Eucharist", which is another word for the Lord's Supper, and which means, "to express appreciation for benefits or blessings." But why does Paul give thanks to God instead of the Thessalonians?
Once again, it's because God's the one causing the change in their lives, and not the Thessalonians themselves. And this is something that we all need to remember. There are a lot of people out there telling you that if you just do "x", that you're going to live a prosperous and happy life. And even some preachers are getting in on this act.
Case in point. One famous preacher you have all heard of said this, "No matter how many times you get knocked down, keep getting back up. God sees your resolve. He sees your determination. And when you do everything you can, that's when God will step in and do what you can't do."
Really?! Folks, that is just really bad theology in a message that is counter to the gospel. God isn't just passively standing back watching us live in our resolve and determination, only stepping in when we're unable to do something. Rather the Father and the Son are constantly working in our lives through the Holy Spirit to create change in us that no amount of resolve or self-determination on our part could accomplish.
And what's the result of this change?
Once again, Paul thanks God because He's doing two things in the lives of the Thessalonians that are having an incredible impact on the church, as well as those around it.
First, God's growing their faith. And He is doing that primarily by putting them in situations where they are forced to trust in Him alone, unable to rely on any resolve or self-determination that they think they might be able to muster. In fact, if you were to do a word study on the phrase, "growing abundantly", what you would find is that in any spiritual growth that occurs in our lives is always done as a result of God working. And any part of that growth that we participate in is always done in reliance on God. That's why Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." And Peter can say in 1 Peter 2:2, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation."
In fact, of the twenty instances where this word, "grow", is used in the New Testament, it always relates to spiritual growth. And in every case, God is the one causing the growth. And He does this in a number of ways like giving us His Word to instruct us in the faith. Or conversing with us through prayer. And even using suffering in our lives to draw us to Him, proving once again His faithfulness to us as His children. And in all these ways and more, God grows our faith as we rely on him more and more every day. But it's not just our faith that God is growing.
A second thing that God is doing is also increasing the love that the Thessalonians have for one another. How does he do that? Once again, it flows out of the "grace and peace" that they have experienced from God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul alludes to it when he says later in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, "16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word."
Did you hear what Paul just said? Not only has God the Father and the Son, given the Thessalonians, "eternal comfort and good hope" as a result of His grace, but He's also going to establish them, "in every good work and word". This includes enabling them to grow in their love for each other through what they do as well as what they say. This is how the gospel has impacted them.
And it forces us to ask ourselves a really serious question, which is this, "How has the gospel impacted us?" Is the work that Jesus accomplished on the Cross just something that we acknowledge in word only, or has our life been actually changed by it? Are we impacted in such a way that it controls what we say and do? In your mind, does Jesus' death just apply when you die? Or was His death the beginning of the work that God is doing in your life to conform you more and more into the image of His Son
As hard as it may be at times, does God's grace move you to step out in faith when everything in you tells you to retreat? Does the peace that we now have with God cause us to reconsider whether the things that we're fearful of or worry about, are worth comparing to the grace and the peace that God continues to show us on a daily basis?
In short, have you been impacted by the gospel, and are you continuing to be? As Paul writes to the Thessalonians regarding the impact of the gospel in their lives, his response to that question is, "Yes"! And why
That's the third thing that Paul wants us to see this evening, which is that..
Point 3: The Catalyst for Gospel Change...is visible to those around us. (v. 4)
Did you catch that! The catalyst for gospel change is visible to those around us. Look at what he says in verse 4, "Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring."
As Paul thinks about the Thessalonians, even though they are far from being perfect people, it's evident to him that the gospel is at work in their lives. He can see it! He sees it in how their faith has grown, as well as how their love for each other is increasing. And it is this visible work of God in their lives that causes Paul, as he puts it in his own words, "to boast about you in the churches of God." Now, what does he mean by that?
Well, as we've already seen in our study in Romans on Sunday morning, the word "boast" means, "to be proud of someone, or something, and to express it accordingly". And oftentimes when this word is used, it's used in an arrogant or prideful way. But for Paul, the boasting that he's doing is not done out of arrogance, as if it was all a result of his work.
What Paul is actually doing as he goes to other churches is boasting to them about what God is doing in the Thessalonian church, and the visible impact the gospel was having on their lives and in the lives of those around them. And what is this visible impact in particular?
Once again, Paul mentions two things. First, he sees it in their steadfastness which is defined as, "the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty". And throughout the Scriptures, this ability to patiently endure in the midst of suffering is a visible sign of the impact of the gospel on the life of the believer.
Does that mean that it's going to be done perfectly? No! But it does mean that, instead of turning our backs on God and walking away at the first sign of difficulty, we turn our faces towards Him as the only one who has the power and ability to walk with us through difficulty. Sure, we may even kick and scream a little bit along the way. But in the end, we only have one choice to make, which is to rest in the grace and peace of God that is only found in the gospel, in the midst of our difficulties.
Folks, difficulties are a part of life and they stink! And we all wish that we didn't have to deal with any of them. But we do. And that's why Tim Keller in his book, "Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering", says this as it relates to the gospel, "If you go into the furnace without the gospel, it will not be possible to find God there. You will be sure that he is done terribly wrong, or that you have. And you'll feel all alone. Going into the fire without the Gospel is the most dangerous thing anyone can do. You'll be mad at God or mad at yourself, or mad at both. But if you say to yourself, when you get thrown into the furnace, this is my furnace. I'm not being punished for my sins because Jesus was thrown into the ultimate fire for me. So, if He went through that greatest fire steadfastly for me, I can go through this smaller furnace steadfastly for him. And I also know that it means that if I trust him, this furnace will only make me better."
For Paul, one of the reasons that he was able to boast with the churches of God about the Thessalonians was because the gospel that God was working out in their lives, marked by grace and peace, was clearly being seen in their ability to patiently endure in the midst of their suffering.
But what is it that enabled them to be able to stand steadfast in their suffering?The second thing Paul mentions is their "faith". What is faith? At the very heart of it, "Faith" literally means, "to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one's trust".
And this is why Paul was able to rejoice with the Thessalonians, and even why they were able to be steadfast in their suffering. The sole reason is that they found God the Father and the Son to be true, and therefore worthy of their complete trust. That's why their faith was growing. That's why their love for one another was increasing. That's why they were able to patiently endure whatever suffering came their way. And that's why their faith was visible to everybody around them.
God was at work in their lives! It's a work that began with the message of the gospel that He would no longer judge them for their sins, but would instead pay for those sins Himself. And it's work where God Himself would enable them to be able to endure whatever difficulties they would face in this life because of His grace and peace. And a work where, in the end, God himself would be glorified.
So, whatever difficulties or suffering that you might be facing today, please know that it's not going to be wasted. God the Father and the Son are going to use it for your good as they continue the work they have already begun in your life. Whether these difficulties are external in nature like being persecuted for taking a stand for your faith, or internal in nature like really having let go of that worry and that fear, and rely on God because it's the only thing that you can do. In either case, the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is going to sustain you, guaranteed!
The same God who allowed His Son to die on a cross for your sins, and declared you righteous with the same righteousness as His Son, is the very same God who is committed to making sure that the work of the gospel that He began in you, He will see to completion. He's committed to it! And He will not fail in that.
Yet as Paul Tripp reminds us, "Change doesn't mean that you'll get your wish list of the things that you think will give you the good life. Change doesn't mean that God will turn the people in your life around into the people that you'd like them to be. And change surely doesn't mean that God will exercise His power to make life easier and more pleasurable according to your definition. But you can rest assured that where real change is needed, there is a God of grace who knows just where that change needs to take place, and who offers you everything you need so that it can happen."
So, Believer, resolve within yourself to rest in the grace and the peace of God. He has done everything for you that needs to be done so that you will be able to stand before Him on that day. And He is doing everything for you even now to conform you more and more into the image of His Son as His return draws near. By doing so, you are living the gospel. For to God, and God alone, belongs all the glory. Let's pray together.
SERMON TITLE: Justified Life
TEXT: Romans 5:12-21 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s great to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
We’re in the third and final week of this short series in the fifth chapter of Romans. We’ll be continuing in Romans next week — moving on to chapter 6 — but Paul’s focus will change a bit — from justification — remember justification means our declared righteousness before God — God saying “you are no longer guilty” — Paul’s going to shift from justification to the freedom given to those who are justified — that’s chapter 6 — which we begin next week.
And before we jump into our text today, I just want to say that the rub for you — if you wouldn’t say you’re a Christian — or if you’re not sure about the reliability of the Bible — the rub for you in this sermon may be based on your view of Adam. OK a common argument today — against Christianity — is to question the existence of Adam.
Was Adam a real person?
Does all of humanity trace back to one man and one woman?
Those kinds of questions are being asked quite frequently today.
And I bring this up because our text in Romans — is built on Adam being an actual person — and why this is important — is because Jesus is compared to Adam.
So — without having time to talk through all of the reasons to believe in a historical Adam — let me just say this to those of you who have an interest in Jesus — maybe you like him — or you think he’s got some great things to say about love and justice and things like that — well, something you can’t ignore is what Jesus has to say about the writings of Moses — because these are the writings that talk about Adam. So I’d encourage you to explore what Jesus thought about the writings of Moses — because what Jesus has to say about any topic — including the writings that talk about Adam — should influence not only your view of Jesus — but also your view of that topic.
Now the reason why this is important is because it sets up what Paul’s going to tell us. Because what our culture denies is something that Paul argues as being true in our verses. So what’s the disagreement?
Well a commonly held belief among people today — is that we — humanity — do not have a sin nature. That the evil in our world — including the bad things we say, think, and do — don’t come from us having a sin nature — something we’ve inherited from Adam — but sin — if it’s even a real thing — is a choice. And many would say that only a few people actually choose to sin.
Now — let me say that sin is a choice. Whenever someone does something wrong — something that causes harm or pain or suffering — they are making a choice. Sin is a choice.
But where the Christian faith disagrees with this popular belief of our day — is that though sin is a choice — we Christians also believe that all humans are born with a sin nature. And because of this — unlike what many people think — the Christian faith teaches that humanity is not inherently good. We were originally created good — but because of Adam’s sin — we’ve all inherited a sin nature — which is not good. Yes we’re still created in the image of God — but we’re broken people born with a nature that’s bent — not towards God — but towards sin.
And — the response for the Christian — should be to acknowledge that all people have both a sin nature and all people choose to sin. And the reason why this response is so important is because when we acknowledge these two truths — that we have a sin nature and we make sinful choices — we highlight our need for the work that Jesus accomplished on our behalf. You see, it’s as we acknowledge our sin nature — and our sinful choices — and as we turn from our sin and turn to Jesus — it’s then that we begin to live the life God intends for us.
So let’s turn to our passage for today and learn how to live this life.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Romans chapter 5. We’ll be looking at verses 12-21.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Romans chapter 5. Beginning in verse 12.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)
So in our text we’re going to find the pattern of sin and the pattern of grace, and the results of each. So what are the results of sin and what are the results of grace? And this will show us how — if you’re a Christian — how you’re to live based on God — by his grace — having justified you — declared you to be right with him — because of what Christ has accomplished on your behalf — this is how you should live. What does this justified life look like?
THE PATTERN OF SIN
But first, let’s begin by looking at sin’s pattern. Verse 12.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14 ESV)
The pattern of sin. So here’s the pattern — we see it in verse 12. Sin came into the world through one man — Adam. And death came into the world through Adam’s sin. And death has spread to all of us because we’ve all sinned.
One more time. Adam’s sin — this is why a historical Adam is so important — Adam’s act of rebellion in the Garden brought sin into the world. And sin brought death. And death has spread to all of us. So get this — death — the fact that we all will die — has a theological implication to it. All of us die — whether or not you believe Adam is a real person — all of us die because we’re all united together in Adam.
Now stay with me — we need to swim in some deep theological waters here if we want to understand what it means to live the justified life. When Adam sinned, he represented all of us — that’s what I mean by us being united together in Adam. Someone’s said, “When Adam sinned, God thought of all who would descend from Adam as sinners [that’s everyone by the way]. Though we did not yet exist, God, looking into the future and knowing that we would exist, began thinking of us as those who were guilty like Adam.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 494-495.)
Now in our individualistic society this is hard for us to imagine. How can God consider us guilty for something Adam did? That doesn’t seem fair. We’re so individual focused that we have a hard time thinking in corporate terms. So let me give you a few examples where we see an individual representing a larger group.
When Lebron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA championship he was representing more than just himself, wasn’t he? He was representing a city — even more than a city — the entire area of NE Ohio — maybe even all of Ohio.
We elect government officials to represent — not themselves — but the people of their district or state or nation, right? An individual represents a larger group.
In the Bible, we see this same kind of “individual representing the corporate” pattern. For instance — in the book of Genesis — there’s a story of Abraham giving a tithe to a mysterious figure named Melchizedek. Well in the New Testament it’s said that — though Abraham gave the tithe to Melchizedek — it’s as if the Levites — the descendants of an unborn son of Abraham — “these Levites — the ones who collect the tithe — paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. 10 For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.” (Hebrews 7:9b-10 NLT)
And then there’s Jesus — oh how he often disrupts our way of looking at things. If you have issues with one man — Adam — representing all people when he sinned — well I guess you have issues with one man — Jesus — representing anyone other than himself when he died on the cross.
Now maybe you’re not there — yet — when it comes to Jesus dying for people’s sins. But if you are, how can you say that Jesus died for your sins if you have issue with Adam representing you when he sinned? Both situations require an individual to represent more than just himself.
Sin and the Law (v13-14a)
But let’s look again at Paul’s thought. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses...” (Romans 5:12-14a ESV)
Verse 13 is kind of strange, right? What can be confusing is the part that says “sin is not counted where there is no law.” All Paul’s saying is that the commandments couldn’t be broken before there were actual commandments. Let me say something that’s obvious: there were people who lived before God’s law was given — so technically — there was no way for them to break the law. But — Paul says — the consequence — of living in opposition to God — law or no law — has always been death. So even when there was no law — the penalty for being a sinner was still death.
I was once traveling to a church in South Charleston. And I noticed something when I turned off the Interstate to head towards the church. I had to take a road about seven and a half miles to get to the church. And from the Interstate — all the way into town — there wasn’t a single speed limit sign. I double checked as I headed back to my hotel and on my way back into town the next day. No speed limit sign on the road.
So here’s my question. Is it possible to speed on that road? Yes. In fact, my Google maps app knew the speed limit for the road without there being a sign. So the road actually has a speed limit.
But say you don’t have your app open and you’re going by the signs you see — or in this case — the signs you don’t see. Well it is possible to speed on the road even though you’ll never see a speed limit sign. You may not know you’re speeding, but you are. On the other hand, if there is a speed limit sign — and you do see it — and you speed — well then — you know you’re guilty of breaking the law. In the first scenario you don’t know that you’re guilty — though you are — in the second scenario you know that you’re guilty.
That’s what Paul is saying. Before God gave Moses the law, people were still guilty because of their sin — and death was the consequence. And this sin nature — this brokenness is something that’s been passed down to all of us.
Later Paul writes, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.” (Romans 5:20a NLT)
Now this may be a new way of thinking about God’s law for you. Where the point of the law isn’t to give you a standard to achieve — “if you do these things God will love you” — but where the point of the law is to show you the standard that you’ve failed to meet because of your sin.
So here’s why this is important. When you misunderstand the law’s purpose, you end up trying to use the law in the wrong way — which can be disastrous. Have you ever seen someone use a tool for something it wasn’t supposed to be used for and things ended — how do I say this — BADLY! You’re all probably thinking of a guy with a hammer or a ladder or a saw — you may be thinking of our very own Rich St. Amour who shocked himself and subsequently nearly knocked himself out ramming his head into a kitchen cabinet while trying to fix his wife’s flat iron — one of our very own elders — that’d be a pretty good visual actually — but let’s not pick on Rich — so how about something — not so disastrous — that most of us are using the wrong way.
You know that drawer at the bottom of your oven? Did you know it’s not really meant for storage? It’s actually meant to keep hot food at serving temperature until you’re ready to serve it. Sure you can store stuff in there — if you want — but that’s not the purpose of the drawer.
So what’s the purpose of the law? In our Christian tradition, there have been — what theologians have called — three purposes of the law. First, the law shows us the righteousness of God. Meaning when you read the law you see God’s standard — which he meets — a standard of holiness and righteousness and perfection. And when you look at the law — you realize that you’ve failed to meet God’s standard. That’s one purpose of the law.
A second use of the law is a civil use. Think of it as a civil code that restrains evil, it secures order, it serves to protect the innocent from the guilty — much like the law of our land. This is why some of the laws in the Old Testament seem so weird to us — they were ways for the nation of Israel to maintain civil order.
Finally, the law is a guide for Christians showing us how we’re to live. The law shows us how — in being loved by God — how the Christian is to respond to God’s love by living in a way that pleases him.
Why is this important? Well I’m guessing that you’re someone who’s experienced firsthand the brokenness of our world — the brokenness of another human being — even the brokenness of yourself — because of sin. Not everyone likes to use the word sin to describe why things are the way they are — but I don’t know how anyone can see what goes on in the world around us and not conclude that something’s gone terribly wrong.
Maybe you’ve seen this in yourself and are at a loss as to what you can do to fix things.
You’ve tried and failed with that addiction more times than you can count.
You just can’t fix your marriage.
Maybe you experience depression or anxiety, fear or anger, loneliness or shame and — try as you might — you can’t rid yourself of such thoughts.
Taylor Swift’s advice of “shaking it off” just doesn’t seem to work.
And all of this can be true and you’re a Christian.
So what’s the solution because we’ve all experienced the reign of sin and death that’s caused a brokenness in us and in our world and we can’t fix things. Back to our text.
Adam and Jesus (v14)
“Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (Romans 5:14 ESV)
The answer — and it’s not a cliche — is Jesus. The answer to our wanting to be healed of our addictions and our fears and our shame and our loneliness is found in Jesus. For Jesus is the “one” who Adam was a type of. What does that mean?
One writer has said, “In [this verse] we might well say that Paul presents the history of humanity as a drama in two parts — two epochs dominated by the two figures, Adam the tragic hero, and Christ the redeemer hero.” 9James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 38a, ed. Peter H. Davids (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 288.)
Type — or typology — is something we’ve seen in our Finding Jesus series. For example — one way to find Jesus in the Old Testament — is to see how a person or an object — points us forward to Jesus. Think of a type like a hint about Jesus. And Adam — being a type — hints at Jesus. You see Adam represents mankind and the result of him being our representative — is sin and death for us — thanks Adam! But Jesus represents mankind and the result of him being our representative is grace and life — thanks Jesus! So Adam — and his choice of disobedience — hints at Jesus — and his choice of obedience. Which leads us to our next verses where we move from the pattern of sin to the pattern of grace.
THE PATTERN OF GRACE
Verse 15. “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17 ESV)
Jesus and Grace (v15)
So — here — Paul shifts his focus from the problem of sin to the answer to sin. And if Adam is a type of Christ, then we’d expect to find a comparison between Adam and Jesus. And that’s exactly what we see in Paul’s words. In fact — we find three comparisons between Adam and Jesus.
In verse 15, Paul compares death — brought on by Adam’s trespass — with grace — brought on by Jesus’ free gift.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Romans 5:15 ESV)
Notice the difference here between the gift of grace and sin. Sin is an activity — it’s something Adam did — something we’ve all done. But grace — unlike sin — isn’t something we do — it’s based on what Jesus did for us — grace is a gift we receive not something we earn.
Jesus and Justification (v16)
The comparison continues in verse 16 — where Paul compares judgment — brought on by Adam’s sin — with justification — brought on by Jesus’ gift of grace.
“And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” (Romans 5:16 ESV)
Adam’s sin brought on judgment and condemnation which led to spiritual and physical death for all people. Jesus’ free gift of grace — which comes after Adam’s sin — leads to justification. And these terms — condemnation and justification — are courtroom — legal — type terms. So there’s a verdict — a judgment — a ruling — because of Adam’s sin — we’re all guilty. But there’s also a verdict — a judgment — a ruling — because of Jesus’ free gift of grace — that all who receive the gift are justified — no longer guilty.
So even though the idea can rub us the wrong way — the thought of one man’s sin being the reason for a guilty verdict on all of humanity — look at the implication of what Jesus has done. With all of the accumulated guilt — because of the sins of all people of all time — the future of humanity should be hopeless. Yet God — in his great love for us — sent Jesus to be the means by which the free gift of grace would be offered to us. And that means — if we have no inherited guilt — because of Adam’s sin — then we have no grace — because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus and Life (v17)
Then in verse 17, Paul compares death — brought on by Adam’s trespass — with life — brought on by Jesus’ free gift of grace.
“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 ESV)
Through Adam — we’ve received death — thanks Adam! But through Jesus — it’s not that we’ve just had our death sentence removed — as incredible as that is — what Jesus accomplished is the removal of the reign of death over his people and now life reigns over us instead.
Listen to Paul’s words again. “The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” (Romans 5:16b-17 MSG)
It’s not just an avoidance of eternal death that’s being offered to us — through faith in Jesus Christ — God’s people are given a wildly extravagant gift — the gift of life — God’s “setting everything right” eternal life.
THE RESULTS OF SIN AND GRACE
And what is this life like? Verse 18.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)
Again, Paul emphasizes what Adam’s sin has brought on us all.
Condemnation for all — verse 18.
His disobedience made us sinners — verse 19.
And ever since, sin has been increasing — verse 20.
What does this increase of sin look like? Well...
One of Adam’s sons murdered his brother.
Noah — after God rescued him from the flood — responded by getting drunk and passing out naked.
David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed.
Jonah disobeyed God and went in the opposite direction of where God told him to go.
Peter denied Christ three times.
Judas betrayed Jesus for money.
A man named Demas — praised by Paul in some letters — well his story ends with these haunting words — “Demas deserted me because he loves the things of this life.” (2 Timothy 4:10, NLT)
Or how about our nation’s history which is full of war. And of shootings. Of racism. And of slavery.
How about all of the stories of pastors who’ve abused their position and taken advantage of men, women, and children.
Even Martha Stewart — “Ms. I even know how to fold fitted sheets” — was convicted of a felony — no one saw that coming. I mean if Martha Stewart is tainted by sin what chance have you got?
And the result of all of this — is death — that’s the way that sin rules and reigns.
And — yet — be reminded of what Jesus has accomplished for his people.
Jesus’ act of righteousness — his death on the cross — has led to justification and life for all people. Now Paul isn’t a universalist — he doesn’t believe that everyone’s going to Heaven — forgiven people will spend eternity in Heaven. What Paul is saying is that all who come to Jesus — repenting of their sins and turning to him in faith — will be justified — they will be given life. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away who comes to him in faith.
And Jesus’ act of obedience makes us righteous. In another place Paul writes, “[Jesus] humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NET)
And ever since Jesus’ act of obedience — ever since his death on a cross — grace has been increasing more and more.
And grace rules and reigns — not by death — but by life. Grace rules and reigns by eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And this tells us that even though a lot of people look at Christianity and think it’s primarily a religion about doing good works and trying to live a good — moral — life — what Paul tells us — is none of that is primary. What Christianity is primarily about is God reconciling sinners to himself. Notice that I said God does the reconciling because there’s nothing you or I can do to reconcile our relationship with God. We can’t restore the relationship because our sin has rendered us incapable of doing what’s necessary to make ourselves right with God.
And that’s why the gospel is called Good News. Because God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. That’s the point of grace. That’s why it’s a good thing that the law shows us our incapability of being able to earn God’s love because of our sin. Because the point of grace is to show us that God loves us despite our failure to meet his standards.
Because — as one Bible translation says — “When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life — a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” (Romans 5:21 MSG)
Because of one person — Adam — all of us have inherited a sin nature that leads to death. Yes, we all choose to sin — but there’s more to us than our choices. And because of both our sin nature and our choices — there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves from the power of sin and its consequence of death.
Yet — Good News. Even though Adam brought sin and death into our world — let’s make it personal — even though sin and death are part of your life — another Man — a better Man — the Perfect God who became Man — has brought justification and life into our world — let’s make it personal one last time — Jesus has brought life into your world. For it is through his death and resurrection that we’re given the gift of the justified life. Will you receive this gift of life or will death and sin reign over you? Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for your Good News. Yes, Adam brought sin and death into our world. Yes, we all choose to sin. Yes, we all have a sin nature. Yes, sin has been increasing for thousands of years. Yes, it can seem that wars will not cease, shootings will go on, racism will keep raising its ugly head, and slavery will consume the lives of men, women, and children in our world.
But — there is Good News. Sin and death no longer reign and rule. For Jesus has come and defeated them on the cross. And though many still choose to have sin and death as their cruel slave master — we — your people — have been given freedom and life. We have a good and kind King who rules and protects and loves us.
Holy Spirit, for anyone longing for the reign and rule of grace in their life — may you give them a heart that desires all that Jesus has done for them. Open their hearts to your love. Awaken them to see who they are and who you are so they repent and turn to Jesus in faith. And it’s in his name that we pray. Amen.
(PRAY FOR: THOSE WHO’VE FELT TRAPPED BY AN ADDICTION OR A MARRIAGE YOU CAN’T FIX; DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, FEAR, ANGER...AND WANT FREEDOM)
May you go living the justified life — with God’s grace reigning and ruling over you. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
Pick one time this week. Mark it on your calendar. And spend 15 minutes listening to or singing praises to God! Don’t know what songs to listen to? Check out these songs for the weekend at Gateway.
Breaking Through - Jeremy Riddle
God Is Able - Hillsong
Lamb of God - Meredith Andrews
His Mercy Is More - Matt Papa
County Road 9
You Brought Me Back to Life- Citizens & Saints
The Rock Won’t Move - Vertical Worship
Love Changes Everything - Red Rocks Worship
I Surrender - All Sons & Daughters
Lamb of God - Meredith Andrews
Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.
We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!
This weekend, we welcomed 26 new members to the Gateway family. Take a few moments to look through their pictures and welcome them when you see them around this weekend.
SERMON TITLE: Justified Love
TEXT: Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Robert Tansill
Good morning, Gateway! I'm Robert Tansill, and it is great to be with you this morning. I also want to send greetings to our North Main Campus joining us by video. We are glad to be worshipping with you. As Josh reminds us every Sunday morning, "God loves you!" And this is the reason Jesus died, which is at the heart of the gospel. This is why we preach every week; to remind you how much God loves you, and how faithful he has been to you, and will continue to be, as you continue to trust Him in all things.
This morning in the series we are doing called, “Justified”, we are taking a look at Romans 5:6-11. And, as we begin, the question I want to ask is this, “Has God done anything for you that makes you want to boast about Him?” We boast about a lot of things. We boast about our favorite sports teams when they win, we boast about our kids and how wonderful they are, and we boast about that recent promotion we got at work. And what is consistent about all of these things is that we, in some way, are part of the focus of our boasting. But is there anything that God has done for you that makes you want to boast in Him alone. A boast where any attention you might receive is non-existent, and where God gets all the focus and attention?
This week I read an interesting quote from now-deceased comedian, George Carlin, who said this, “Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He really loves you."
Wow! Those are really harsh words about the Creator of the Universe, aren’t they? But, Carlin is not alone in his beliefs. Many people today deny the existence of God and hate anything that resembles faith in Him. And that number keeps growing. For those who believe that God does exist, there are a large number of people who view Him as uninvolved and uncaring. For them, God is, as atheist Richard Dawkins said, “one whose activities were confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe. The deist God never intervenes thereafter, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs.”
But is that the God who created the universe? Is that the God that you know and believe in? For the Apostle Paul, the answer to that question is an emphatic, “No!” The God that Paul is speaking about in Romans, the One who created the universe and holds it all together, the One who is deeply involved in every detail of your life at every moment, wants to have an intimate relationship with those He’s created. And for that to happen He had to do the unthinkable. And what He did was so sacrificial, so loving, that it should not only take our breath away, but at the very least should humble us, causing us to take pride in, or to boast in, our God and His love for us. Why? Turn with me to Romans 5:6-11 as Paul shows us two reasons why we should boast about God.
And as you are turning to the passage, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is to let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
The Apostle Paul writes, "6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)
For us to truly understand our passage this morning, we have to step back from it for a second, and look at the context. Paul is writing to the church at Rome, made up of both Jews and Greeks in a largely Greek culture. Just like in our world today, the culture that they lived in often influenced how they thought as Christians, and even how they functioned as a church. So, what is the context of our passage?
Well, if you go back to the beginning of chapter 5, you find Paul telling the church at Rome that, because they are justified, or declared righteous as a result of what Jesus did for them on the Cross, they now have “peace with God”, and “access by faith into this grace in which we stand”. This is a “peace” that God initiated, and which continues to be extended to the believer on a daily basis. And it will never be taken away. The same can be said for the “grace” that God gives us. They are both irrevocable! Not only that, but Paul adds that because of this “peace and grace”, we can view our suffering differently. Instead of seeing it as something that just happens to us without any rhyme, reason, or purpose, we can now see it as something God uses to help us grow in the hope that He now gives us. As Rom. 5:5 says, it’s a hope that “does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” And its this love of God that Paul calls us to boast in. But why? The first reason is found In verses 6-8, which can be summed up this way...
POINT 1: We Boast In God’s Justifying Love…because of what He did for us through the death of His Son, Jesus. (vv. 6-8)
Looking again at Paul's words in verse 6, he writes, “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Using the word, “For”, to explain what he just said in verse 5, Paul wants us to see how God’s love impacts us on a daily basis in ways that we might not be aware as we place our trust and hope in Him. And one of those ways is through the death of His Son, Jesus. What God did for all of us who trust in Him through Jesus should cause us to pause and reflect on how good our God is to us, and how much He loves us. It should also cause us to rethink who we once were in light of that. And who were we before God revealed His love to us?
The first thing Paul says is that “we were weak”. What does he mean by that? Well, the phrase he uses in the original language actually means, “to be incapable or lacking the ability to do something.” And in this case, he’s referring to the inability to save ourselves or make ourselves righteous enough to please God. That’s why some of your translations use wording like, “helpless, or utterly powerless”. That’s who we are without Christ when it comes to pleasing God. We try in our own strength to do things that we think will give us greater favor in God’s eyes. But we can’t because we “lack the ability” in ourselves to earn God’s favor.
What does it take to gain God’s favor? Perfect obedience all the time; twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. And no one in this room, or even on this planet, is capable of doing that. No one! We can try, but it would be a futile attempt because we are simply “incapable” in ourselves to do it.
So, God does the unthinkable by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in our place because He’s the only one capable of perfectly obeying God in both His life and death. And, as always the case with God, He did it, “at just the right time”; at a time He appointed which would perfectly meet our need as those who were, in Paul’s words, “ungodly”. Is that how you viewed yourself before trusting Christ? As “ungodly”; against God? What does that even look like? Well, because of time, I can’t elaborate on it. But if you want to get a clear picture of what he means, go back and read Romans 1:18-32. There, Paul spells out who we really were without Christ. And it is bad! When I read that passage I often wonder why God even bothered with me when there was nothing in me that wanted anything to do with Him. I remember how I used to think and act. I was capable of everything that Paul mentions in Romans 1, and so were you. Like many of you, I wanted nothing to do with Christ other than making sure that I believed in Him just enough to ensure that I would go to heaven. He was like “fire insurance”. And just to make sure the “insurance policy” stayed up to date, I made a point of doing things that I thought would please God. Or should I say, “appease” God.
But here’s the saddest part as I think back on those days. Nobody ever told me my thinking was wrong. I thought that if I “accepted Jesus” then he would forgive me for my past sins, and from that point on it was up to me to keep the slate clean. And if I messed up (i.e., “sinned”), then I needed to do something to make up for it in God’s eyes. It was my way of winning back His favor. But I had one problem. No one ever told me that I was “weak and powerless”, or “incapable of gaining God’s favor” in my futile attempt to save myself. And why? Why aren’t we capable of doing enough good to contribute something to our salvation?
Look at what Paul says in verse 7, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” In all honesty, for many, this is a tough verse to understand. But it’s an important verse because Paul uses it to show the reason why Christ had to die. Not only that, but he also shows why we need the gospel so badly; not just need it, but more importantly, need to understand it! The gospel is not about God saving people who are good. The gospel is about saving people who are bad that God, through the death of Christ, makes good. And it all has to do with how we define the word “good”. Let me explain what I mean.
If you ask most people you come into contact with why they think they are going to heaven, the typical response is because they are “good”. I hear that answer all the time. But what if God’s definition of “good” was radically different than ours? What if our definition meant something like, “an acceptable way of life that includes being nice to people and helping those in need”, leaving room for those times when we might not meet that standard because we lost our temper, lusted after someone or something, or didn’t keep God first in everything we do which is what He requires. We wouldn’t be perfect, but we would be “good”, right?
Now suppose that God defines “good” differently. Suppose that instead of “good” meaning “acceptable”, God defines it as “perfect”, which reflects His character. You see it in Genesis 1 when God creates the world and calls it “good”. You see it in Psalm 14:3 and 53:3 where the Psalmist says that “there is no one good, not even one”, which Paul repeats in Rom. 3:12. And you see it especially in Luke 18:19 when the rich young ruler calls Jesus, “good teacher”, making Jesus respond by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone”. By saying this, Jesus is not only saying that is God perfect, but He is also revealing Himself as God in the flesh, and therefore “perfect” like His Father.
And that is the key to understanding verses 7-8. Listen to how the New Living Translation quotes this verse, “Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” What Paul is saying is that most of us would never be willing to give our lives for someone who is a stranger even though they might live an upright life, let alone someone who is especially good. We’re too selfish for that.
But God, “while we were still sinners” and wanted nothing to do with Him, displays His love by giving His Son to die for us. And that is one reason why we can boast in God’s love; because of what He did for us through the death of His Son, Jesus. Through that act, He didn’t just forgive us for our sins. He did so much more than that. Which leads to another reason we should boast in God’s love which is that…
POINT 2: We Boast In God’s Justifying Love…because He reconciled us to Himself so that we can spend eternity with Him. (vv. 6-8)
One of the things that should amaze us the most about God, when we stop to think about it, is how deeply He really loves us. I know that I often take His love for granted, and at times may even doubt it. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But Paul wants us to see how much God loves us by showing us the extent God is willing to go to so that we can spend eternity with Him. Look at what he says in verse 9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ”
Thinking back to the opening quote by George Carlin where he describes God as one who says he loves you, but then threatens you with “a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish”, when you sin, we have to ask the question, “Is there any truth to what he said?” And the answer is, “Yes!” Scripture is clear. There is a place God has designated for those who choose to live for their own glory rather than for God’s glory. As the author, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his book, “The Great Divorce”, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Your will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Your will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened.” And this place is the result of what Paul calls in verse 9, “God’s Wrath”. But what is “God’s wrath”?
Well, theologian Wayne Grudem says that, “God’s wrath is His intense response for His hatred of sin.” And Pastor and author Tim Keller says, “God’s wrath is his settled, fair, right anger.” This anger is directed toward all sin and unrighteousness, which is an assault on His Perfect and Holy character. In fact, Paul mentions God’s wrath in Romans 2:5, which the New International Version says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Folks, the truth is that we all deserved God’s wrath because of our “stubborn and unrepentant hearts” towards Him and His glory. But, as we have said before, we don’t get what we deserve; not because of anything we have done, or could do, but only because of what God has done for us through Christ.
And this is where both George Carlin and Richard Dawkins get it completely wrong! God is not one who says He loves us and then waits for us to mess up so he can unleash His wrath on us. Nor is He one who, “never intervenes, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs.” On the contrary, He says He loves us and then proves it by declaring us righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross which we trust in by faith alone. And that’s the point that Paul is arguing. Since God has justified us through faith in Jesus, which is a completed action once and for all, Paul says we will be saved by Jesus from God’s wrath. But why?
Because God unleashed all His wrath on Jesus instead of us, even though we deserved it, and not Him. Because of that, we are “justified”, or declared righteous by God in His eyes. And what role did we play in all of this? Just for fun, go back and look at some of the places Paul uses this word, “Justified”, and see what you find. Here’s what you will discover. We are justified by God’s grace as a gift (Rom. 3:24), we are justified by faith apart from our works (Rom. 3:28), and finally, from our passage, we are justified by the blood of Jesus on our behalf (Rom. 5:9). And all of this is initiated by God through Christ. All of it! Our role is simply to trust in that finished work, and in the work that God is doing now in our lives through His Holy Spirit as a result of it. And this should give us comfort as we journey by faith through this life.
Listen to how the Heidelberg Catechism explains it by asking the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer? “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
This is what God has done for you in Christ. You are now justified by faith alone through the blood of Christ for your sins, and declared by God as perfectly righteous and perfectly Holy once and for all; not because of anything you have done or could do, but only because of what God has done for you in Christ.
And why did God do this for us? Why not give us what we deserve? So that we could be reconciled to Him. Next to having His name glorified, that is one of God’s greatest desires. Look again at verse 10 in our passage where Paul writes, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
So, what does Paul mean when he uses the word “reconciled”? It literally means, “to exchange a hostile relationship for a friendly one.” The reason that God sent Jesus to die for our sins, and the reason that He also declared us righteous (or justified), is because He wants to be our friend and not our enemy. That’s kind of a crazy thought, isn’t it? By nature, our desire was for anything other than God. We were the ones hostile to Him. But His desire is to have a close, intimate relationship with us. So, in spite of our hostility toward Him, He does everything that needs to be done to reconcile us with Himself, “while we were still weak” (5:6), and “while we were still sinners” (5:8). That is mind-blowing! And, simply put, THAT is the gospel!
And it is because of this gospel, this “good news” of God’s gracious act displayed through the death of His Son that reconciles us to God, that Paul says, “we shall be saved by His life”. Listen to how the New Living Translation puts verse 10, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
In this verse I want you to notice two things that I hope will help you see how much God really loves you. First, I want you to notice the result of being reconciled to God, and what it means for you. In verse 9, Paul said that, “since we have been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God”. And then in verse 10 he uses an almost identical phrase, “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life.”
So, we have to ask the question, “What are we to make of all this language about being ‘saved’?” What are we saved from? And what are we saved for? Isn’t this language about “being saved” a bit outdated, and archaic? I mean, if you were at Walmart and some guy rolled up on you, and asked you if you were saved, would you not just roll your eyes? Many would. And why?
Because, even though we have placed our trust in Jesus, we often forget that there is some truth to what George Carlin said was going to happen. There will be a day when God will judge the world. Remember, I mentioned it earlier when I quoted Roman 2:5 where Paul said, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” That is what Paul is talking about, which is why he uses the future tense, “shall be saved.” He is pointing to an actual event that is going to take place in the future. And for those who place their trust in Jesus and what He has done for them on the Cross, not only are they declared righteous, and reconciled with God in spite of the fact that they continue to struggle with sin, but they will be saved on that, “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” That is what we are being saved from. But, what are we being saved for?
Well, because of everything that God has done for you, not only will you not have to endure God’s wrath, but as one who has been declared righteous and reconciled with God, you will now spend eternity with Him forever. And what is that going to be like? Scripture tells us in Revelation 21:1 in these words, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
This is one of my favorite passages in Scriptures. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what helps me when I’m feeling anxious or worried about the future. And it’s what fills me with hope when everything around me feels hopeless at times. This is what we are being saved for, and we did nothing to earn it other than trust in Jesus by faith. And even that is a gift from God, which Paul reminds us in Eph. 2:8 in the words, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!”
It is all a result of a loving, and yet perfectly Holy God, and His righteous and perfectly obedient Son. A God who loves you enough to do everything that needed to be done so that you could stand in His presence one day as righteous, reconciled, saved from God’s wrath, and saved for His love and presence which you will get to experience forever. Folks, this is why we boast in God’s love for us, which is the gospel.
And this is why, after everything that Paul has said, in verse 11 he sums it all up by calling all of us to boast in Him and His love through Christ when he says, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Folks, that’s what the word the ESV translates as “rejoice” actually means. It means, “to take pride in something, boast, glory in, or brag about.” So, what does look like to boast in God and Jesus?
Translating verse 11 a little differently, “The Message”, captures this idea really well when it says, “Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!” In short, one of the ways we boast in the love that God has chosen to show us, and which He will continue to show us for eternity, is through our worship. This is one of the primary ways we express our hearts to our Creator and His Son for a love which is undeserved that justifies, reconciles, sanctifies, and will eventually even glorify. And it’s a love that is much more worthy of boasting in than those things in which we typically boast about being ourselves, our luxuries, and our achievements in this life.
As pastor, Jonathan Parnell, said so well, "The Christian boast, therefore, is so radically different from worldly boasting that it is almost unrecognizable to natural eyes. As the worldly boast is infatuated with ‘here and us’, the Christian boast is obsessed by ‘there and him.’ The worldly boast is shiny and boisterous, consumed with appearances and approval; but the Christian boast is that quiet confidence that refuses to be dismayed when circumstances sour, or when public popularity fades. The Christian boast is that resolute focus on the unseen, the kind that politely chuckles at the days to come, the one that knows the mustard seed is small, but boy, the tree is huge, and God’s going to fill this earth with the knowledge of his glory like it’s water covering the seas."
So, as I conclude, I want to leave you with one thought, and one request. When I became a Christian at age 17, one of my favorite Christian musicians was a guy named Keith Green. Every month he would put out a newsletter, and one of the articles that got my attention, and which I still remember to this day was called, “Will You Be Bored in Heaven?” In it Keith wrote these words, “The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all - for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us.”
Folks, what we do in worship when we are together is just a warm-up for the real event. Now, in the midst of our continual struggles with our sin, the disappointments of life, and the pain that we can feel as a result of living in a fallen world, along with hints of God’s grace and mercy that we experience throughout our day, we are called to boast in our God for who He is and what He has done. However, one day we will be standing with the rest of the saints from generations past doing what we were created for; standing in His presence, and in the righteousness that will finally realized, bringing glory to our God and His Son, Jesus. This is what awaits us, and where our hope is found.
And after having spent some time studying and thinking about this passage, I feel led to simply remind you of the words Paul would later write in this same book about what is required of you to be saved. If you have any doubts in your mind that God loves you, or if you question whether or not you are saved, please take Paul’s words, which I’m about to read, to heart. As I’ve been saying for the past 30 minutes, God loves you. And He’s proven it by giving His Son to die in your place, taking all of God’s wrath which you deserve upon Himself. What more proof do you need? And what is required of you?
Paul tells us in Romans 10:8-10, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Believer, rest in the finished work of Christ, which God initiated out of His love for you. For to God, and God alone, belongs all the glory.
One of the most difficult areas to navigate as parents is how to protect and guide our children when it comes to internet usage. The exposure to not just pornography, but a variety of damaging materials is a constant risk as many of those industries actively seek ways to get on your child’s screens to get them hooked before they are even prepared to recognize what they are being shown!
In the past we have shared tips like not allowing internet connected devices in your child’s room, even to go as far as having a central location that phones and tablets are kept when everyone is home so they aren’t a distraction. But the truth is, your kids (and you), will need (and want) to connect during the day. And how many of you have had the conversation that starts with, “How much have you watched already today?” to be answered, “I JUST started!!!” So while we need to be deliberately vigilant to guard what our kids are exposed to (and how much they are using), having a simple tool to assist in that process is valuable.
This past year my family (Adam) of four kids (ages 9, 7,4,1) had been slipping into the bad habit of too much screen time, and we did not have a good way to always be on top of really “counting” how much they had watched already. Not to mention the growing concerns as they get older of greater access and content. Looking for a tool to help us we found one that we have absolutely LOVED.
The Circle is a wifi box that acts as the connecting point for all internet devices in your home. It comes with a simple and slick app that you, as the parent, install on your own phone (or internet enabled device) that allows you to monitor all internet usage and set limits on your whole house’s internet and set specific limits on individual devices.
To make it easy to understand, let me give you a few examples of how the Borsays use it at our house:
Content Filter: No website above a teen (PG-13) rating is accessible at any point from any device in our home. So, instead of getting on everyone’s specific device, our wifi just doesn’t work when you purposely (or even accidentally) click on something you shouldn’t.
WiFi Device Shut offs- Each of our kids have a device that they use, we set a timer on it. They can’t watch a movie or play a game during any time that we have set them to be off.
Watching Time Limits- Instead of arguing about how much they have watched, we just set time limits. When the house has watched a total of 1 hour of youtube, youtube stops working. After the house watches 1 hour of netflix, it stops working. I don’t have to debate how much they have already had; when it turns off, its done, period, fin!!
Our goal in the Next Gen ministry is to partner with you, the parents, as you take on the primary responsibility for discipling your children to know and follow Christ. We believe that this is a wonderful tool to help your family guard what goes on in your house. And, a wonderful tool to get control of how much time our kids (and WE!!) waste on entertainment. If you have any questions about the Circle, feel free to ask Adam and Tori about it at any time!
Adam Borsay and the Next Gen Team
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9
As God’s children, we get the opportunity to declare God’s praises. Praise Him this week with the songs for the weekend at Gateway.
This Is Amazing Grace - Phil Wickham
Death Was Arrested - Vertical Worship
Great Are You Lord - All Sons & Daughters
What A Beautiful Name - Hillsong Worship
County Road 9
Rejoice - Sovereign Grace
Breaking Through - Jeremy Riddle
There Is A Fountain - Citizens & Saints
Come Thou Fount - Kings Kaleidoscope
Brokenness Aside - All Sons & Daughters
Check out all of the songs we sing at Gateway on our Spotify Worship List.
We also have created a Beyond Sunday Spotify playlist with songs we commend to you for your enjoyment beyond Sunday. Check it out!