Today my dad preached his final sermon as the temporary-pastor, and at the same time is wrapping up the book of Romans. He preached at The Fountain of Grace Church, and here’s what he said:
First Scripture Reading is Psalm 22: David wrote this Psalm, but we are learning to see Jesus in all Scripture. Please watch for Him here in this Psalm written 1000 BC.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. 18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. 20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. 21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. 22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
Psalm 22:12-24 (NIV)
Let’s sing together:
Romans 16:17-27 (NIV)17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. 24 25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him– 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Let’s pray together:
We have now come to the end of one of the most important writings in the history of the world: the Book of Romans. This passage is the final thoughts of the Apostle Paul to the church at Rome. And what people say when they know this is their last chance is usually very important. And of course, these are inspired thoughts, inspired words, and so what we’re going to study today is not only Paul’s thoughts to the Romans, but God’s communication to us. We might remember this passage better if we put it into 3 points. So point number 1: Paul’s concern (vss. 17-20), Point number 2: Paul’s companions (vss. 21-24), Point number 3: Paul’s confidence in the gospel (vss. 25-27).
So notice first, Paul’s concern in vs. 17: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” Now notice that Paul’s concern is for teaching. Notice those words, “contrary to the teaching you have learned.” He wanted the Romans to watch out for those who teach wrong doctrine. Paul says “watch out” and the word he uses is where we get our word microscope. So the picture we are to have here is a scientist who places something under a microscope to closely examine it. Paul says watch out, watch closely, watch carefully for false doctrine.
Because did you notice what false teaching does? Vs. 17 tells us it causes divisions and it puts obstacles in our way. Picture a church where everybody is focused on Jesus Christ, Who He is in all of His glory, what He did for us, the purchase price He paid to save us from sin, His powerful resurrection from the dead, to justify us. And we’re all one with each other because we’re all in such awe of Jesus. And then someone comes along with a teaching that takes our eyes off of Christ and the gospel and we’re distracted from Him. And some of us like to study this new, deep teaching, and others of us say “no, it’s distracting us from Christ and we’re losing worship in our hearts”. And what has happened? We’re divided because of teaching.
Here’s the second word picture. The Christian life is a race, and as long as our eyes our fixed on Jesus we are running well and we’re running fast and we have energy and perseverance. But what we don’t know is that, around the next corner, someone has dumped a truckload of boulders on our path, and we come to a complete stop and have to try to climb over them. See true teaching rivets us on Christ, it’s very clear, and enables us to run well, but when we hear false teaching it’s a confusing and we have to slow down and question it and we just don’t get it. False teaching puts obstacles in our way.
Now notice what we’re to do with people who cause division and put obstacles in our way. It specifically says “keep away from them.” Listen to those words. Don’t enter into dialogue with them, don’t debate with them, keep away from them. Now there’s an example of this: Adam and Eve in the garden are fellowshipping with God, walking and talking with Him daily, in unity together. And then some false teaching came. Satan says, “come look at this tree and have some fruit, forget that God told you not to eat it, why it will make you wise, you’ll be like God.” And Eve entered into dialogue with the serpent, answered questions that he asked, listened to his lies. To make a long story short, they ate the fruit and the whole world died. What if she had heard these words: “Keep away from him.” Listen it is not wisdom to dialogue with a false teacher or to consider his teaching, wisdom is to keep away. Why? Because vs. 18 tells us:
18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Again, we see the Garden of Eden here. Satan had a smooth argument, puffed Eve up to make her think she’d be like God, but his smooth talk was deceptive. Listen, any false teaching in the world has to sound good, be smooth. It has to be logical, plausible, reasonable. This is why Christians sometimes buy into the world’s wisdom and the world’s solutions. They sound good, it makes sense.
Look with me if you would in Colossians chapter 2 and let’s see how Paul describes the teaching that is false. If you’ll look at the end of verse 2 it says that in 2 Christ, 3 are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. Worldly wisdom sounds fine, it makes sense. You’ll hear Christians, naïve Christians, saying “ah, that’s why I do what I do.” And having bought into the false diagnosis it’s just one step away to buy into the false solution. Then they’re captives. All of it sounds fine.
And people who teach it are in the service of Satan. When Paul says “watch out” for them, I think he learned from Jesus, because in Matthew 7 verse 15 Jesus said, 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing (they claim to be Christians; they’ve just learn to mix Christianity with the world), but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (they want to destroy your soul).” Watch out, and keep away from them.
And then Paul gives the results of right teaching. It’s obedience and victory. Notice that in vs. 19 and 20: 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Paul says “Look, you Romans, everybody has heard about your obedience and by grace God’s going to give you victory over Satan. This is the reason why you should continue to hear the gospel, and follow sound doctrine, because it results in obedience and victory. This is why you should keep away from false teachers, because believing their junk results in disobedience and defeat.
So that’s Paul’s concern, next we move to Paul’s companions in vss. 21-24. And he mentions 8 people with him, all of whom send their greetings to the Romans. And when you read these verses you get the understanding that Christianity is a loving and warm and receptive family.
And for time reasons we’re going to move on to point number 3 which is Paul’s confidence in the gospel. Notice vs. 25-26: “25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” So notice that the gospel should be proclaimed. I hope what I’m about to say is helpful to this church as you seek a pastor: true preaching is proclamation, it’s a declaration, it means to be heralded, or trumpeted forth. There is a dangerous thing happening in seminaries right now, where future pastors are taught a very laid back, CEO method of preaching. Preachers become merely facilitators, where we just talk and encourage interaction, and everybody has their view, and equal weight is assigned to all. Now this is wonderful for small groups, but not for gospel preaching, which is to be proclaimed and heralded. The picture is a herald of the king coming to the town square, blowing the trumpet to gather the people because he has a message from the king. And he is to declare that message authoritatively, proclaiming it.
Why? Because it is the preaching of the gospel that establishes believers. Look at verse 25, “now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel.” Now just a quick reminder of Romans. In the very first chapter Paul said “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.” The gospel saves people. And then in the middle of the book in Romans 7-9 he teaches that the gospel sanctifies people. And here he teaches that the gospel stabilizes people. The gospel saves, sanctifies and stabilizes people. Paul has this much confidence in the gospel.
The picture were supposed to have here is of a sailboat whose rudder has broken. Maybe it broke on the rocks as it was headed out to sea. And now this little boat is tossed to and fro, blown about at the mercy of the wind, extremely unstable. Until the sailors drops anchor. And now that boat is held fast, stabilized..
You see Christians can be blown about by every wind and wave of doctrine. I saw a show last week about an Amish man who came out of the Amish religion and he went to the Pentecostals to see what they offered, then he went to the Baptists and next he was going to go to a Grace church. Just on a spiritual journey. And people go from Dispensationalism to Covenant Theology, and from Arminianism to Calvinism, but it’s only when the gospel anchor is dropped down into their soul do they become secure, held fast, not wavering, established.
I have watched the power of gospel preaching take people who were wall-banging: going from sin to the Savior, from fear to faith and back, and settle them right down into certainty, where they could say, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). They were established by the preaching of the gospel.
And notice how the gospel is made known. Notice vs. 26? It’s made known through the prophetic writings: Genesis through Malachi. Paul says I didn’t make this gospel up, it didn’t start with me; it was a mystery hidden in story form in the Old Testament but now brought to light.
And I just want to illustrate this very point in closing. If you would, turn with me to the Book of Numbers, chapter 21. We could have picked any number of a thousand stories, this is just one. What we’re illustrating here is that the gospel is a hidden mystery in the Old Testament.
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” 6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
Well these people spoke against God, and it’s clear that they were under the wrath of God, and they were under a death sentence. Bitten by snakes, with the venom running all through them, just waiting to die. But then good news came to them, that there was a cure. All they had to do was turn and look at an uplifted snake on a pole.
Some probably thought it was too simple. Maybe they thought, no with a snakebite you have to make a cut, suck out the venom and hope to live. Or others might have said, no this requires a professional, you need to go to Mt. Sinai medical center and be treated. But Gods cure was very simple, an uplifted pole; turn and look and live.
And we have to see ourselves in this story. We, too have been bitten by a snake, the snake of sin. And the venom is running all through us. Because of our sins are under the wrath of God and under a death sentence. But there’s good news. God has erected a pole, and on that pole He hung a Savior, and if we just turn and look we will live.
But again, the world thinks it’s too simple, and they have some fine-sounding arguments. Such as this: look at your wounds. Those are deep. You are a wounded victim, and there’s something wrong with you. You can feel it inside of you can’t you? You keep doing the same wrong things over and over. You have wounds on the outside and venom on the inside. This is a real problem. These are deep issues. The world would focus us on our wounds.
God would turn us away from our wounds, and invite us to look at the wounds of Jesus on the cross. He says “look and live.” Now there’s some things implied in the looking.
#1–This is the look of repentance: you’re turning away from rebellion, your murmuring against God and submitting to His Word that tells you to look. You’re repenting.
#2–This is the look of faith. You hear God’s Word, it tells you what to do, you have to believe that what He says is true, that if you turn to the cross and view it you will be healed; the death sentence will be gone and you’ll live.
#3–This is the look of obedience. You heard clearly what God said to do. You could have leaned to your own understanding, you could have listened to the fine-sounding arguments of the world, but instead you said Yes Lord I’ll obey and look at the cross.
And what do you see when you look? You see a snake, because Jesus is destroying the devil on the cross. And you see the snake because Jesus became sin for us; what died on that cross is your sin as well as your savior. He suffered and died under the wrath of God in your place.
Believe that message and you’ll find the sentence of death lifted, the venom of sin begins to drain out of you, and you’ll have eternal life. Like your born again. “14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:14-15 (NIV) Look and live!
And this is faith and obedience is how the book of Romans ends. Notice verse 26. He says now the gospel “26 is revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him—“
Let’s summarize this passage in this way: watch out for people who do not teach the Bible correctly; that is, they do not get the gospel out of every passage in the Bible. The death and resurrection of Jesus on behalf of sinners is the main point from Genesis to Revelation. And that point will save people, and sanctify people and stabilize people—and let me just add—will satisfy people. And the end result is that your faith and obedience glorify God. Vs. 27 closes with: 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. Let’s pray.
You are Loved!