Forest Park Presbyterian Church

Watch Out!

Today we come to the end of an 18 week journey through the apostle Paul’s most systematic, coherent, and uninterrupted explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because this letter is this way it has had the greatest impact on some of the most influential leaders and thinkers in the history of the Christian Church.

This book had a significant impact on Saint Augustine’s conversion to Jesus Christ, Martin Luther’s conversion to Christ, John Calvin, our own forefather of our tradition, and John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. I am sure there are hundreds of other significant figures who could be named, and millions upon millions people who could be named as having been deeply impacted by this book. I count myself as one among the ordinary.

As for the rest who are here today, this book may or may not be your favorite, but it is a fact that one of the main reasons you are in this pew this morning is because of this book because Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, was so deeply impacted by it. Truly, God used this book to spawn the reformation; therefore it does behoove us to study it, know it, and to understand it so that God may impact our lives by it.

None the less, here we are today at the end of this journey. And since this is so let us do a brief recap of the gospel as God has given it to us in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Paul begins his letter in Rom. 1-3 by making the case that something has gone awry in the human race- the whole human race- both Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles have made the same mistake that all sinners make. They have worshiped the creation, in some way, shape or form, instead of the Creator. It may be sex, it may be nature, it may be the dollar bill, it may be comfort and pleasure, but whatever it is it is something or someone that is created that has become mankind’s chief aim in life. The Jews, on the other hand, are guilty of hypocrisy because they criticized the Gentiles for their idolatry, yet they did the same thing and did not and would not acknowledge it.

So all human beings are guilty, and not only that but all human beings are without excuse because God has shown humanity what is required of them, whether it be through the revelation of God’s truth written on the hearts of every human being (natural revelation) or whether it be the more specific direct revelation of God given through the law of God, the Bible. No human can claim ignorance on the Day of Judgment, when he has to give account for his life and his relationship with God. The consequence of such rebellion is the Judgment of God. God is holy and just and man has separated himself from God through this rebellion and God in his holiness and justice has judged us for our sin. We stand condemned.

And not only do we stand condemned but we stand helpless to rectify the situation. Our plight necessitates a divine rescue, this is what Romans 3-5 is about. In those chapters Paul tells us how it is that God rescues us from our sin and rebellion against God. It is through a person. You know his name. His name is Jesus. He is the bridge that God has built between the chasm of a sinful humanity and a holy God. In order for this gap to be bridged we stand in need of two things.  

First, there is a price to be paid. There is always a price to be paid when it comes to sin. Why do you think we have courts and prison cells? How much more so with God. Either we can pay the price, which means that we will be the bearer of God’s judgment, or God can pay it for us via a substitute, and set us free from sin’s consequence in our lives. The good news of gospel is that Christ has paid the price for our sins on the cross. He has borne the fury of God’s wrath and justice on our sins so that we might be reconnect back to God.

Second, our Savior has lived a perfect life, not for himself, but for us. It is his perfect sinless life that make his sacrifice on the cross effectual and it is his perfectly lived life that stands in the place of our imperfect lives so that we might be declared the righteousness of God.

God requires righteousness and God requires payment for our sins. We can meet neither obligation, but Christ, the one eternally begotten of the Father, was sent into the world by the Father, because the father loves, so that both obligations might be met for us. This is how we are reconciled unto to God and the reconciliation becomes real when we acknowledge this to be true by receiving it by faith. What else can we do? We certainly can’t earn it and we certainly can’t become sinless and we certainly can’t pay the price for our sins without reaming separated from God. What must happen is that we must say yes to what God has done for us in his mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.

When this happens we become born again and that spiritual rebirth begins to produce a change in our lives. We become Christ’s new creation and God, slowly but surely, begins to reshape us into what He has always intended us to be but was lost in our father Adam. This is the inevitable fruit of the converted life and God does this ongoing reshaping in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts when we come to Christ. The Spirit convicts us of our sins. The Spirit enables us to repent of our sins and walk in the freedom and love of God, and the Spirit keeps the promises of God before us in the face of death and in the midst of our failures. This is what Romans 6-8 is all about. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I took time to recap this because in our text this morning because Paul says in v. 17-18, “I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk ad flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”

People of God, are you naïve? Do you know the scriptures? Do you understand how it is that God saves you? I imagine that if you do not understand then you have not embraced it. What Paul is talking about when he gives the church in Rome this warning to watch out for those who would lead people away from the teaching they have received, the gospel as God has given it to them in his letter to the Romans.

If you get rid of, water down, or ignore the doctrine of sin, the holiness and judgment of God, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and God’s call to live a life of holiness and repentance unto God through the power of the Holy Spirit, then you gut the gospel.

Paul says to the church do not let this happen. Protect this treasure. Guard this treasure. Fight for this treasure and make no room for anyone in the church who would seek to undermine, distort, water-down, or rewrite this treasure. Don’t let it happen because the very life of the church is dependent upon this gospel. If you let it go you die.

And now unto him who is able to establish you by this gospel so that all nations might believe and obey- to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.          

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