Instrument or Obstacle?

Instrument or Obstacle?

This week’s readings took us from Acts 19 to Romans 11.  In two weeks we have covered the spread of the kingdom of Christ from Jerusalem to Rome.  At this point in history, the gospel has basically flooded the Roman empire with it’s saving message.  Gamaliel was right when he told the Sanhedrin in Acts 5, “If this is of man, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you will not be able to stop it, you will only find yourself fighting against God.”

The message of the gospel has been advancing in this world ever since Jesus began to build His church in Acts 2.  Not that all believe it.  Far from it!  Most do not, and many that do will not follow it faithfully, but will fall away, or seek to twist its truth into another gospel and even call others after their false teachings.  But, just as Jesus promised, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  Nothing on earth can stop God’s purposes and nothing can defeat what He ordains.  Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to save all who believe. The gospel you have in your hands in the Bible has God’s saving power in it, a power given to those who believe and obey it.  Romans 1:5 says plainly that we are called to the obedience of the faith.  God calls us to come.  He sent His only begotten Son here to call us to Himself, and to pay an unheard of price on the cross for us so that we may be His people.  But God will not drag you.  He preserves the freedom of your will, even while He knows what you will do, because He who created you is not bound by time like we are.  He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the eternal One.  That’s why the Bible can speak of us as already seated with Him in glory, Ephesians 2:6, even as it also warns us to be faithful till death so that we may receive the crown of life, Rev. 2:10.

Today, as we continue our consideration of the mission of God for us here at this church, in this time, we’ve seen Jesus in the gospel accounts who was sent by the Father to seek and save those who were lost.  We have heard His command to us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  We have studied His commission to go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all He commanded us.  We’ve seen how we are commissioned to enter His saving ministry, and how the book of Acts is all about that, giving us examples, instruction and encouragement to be about our Father’s business as His church, the body of Christ, that business of seeking and saving the lost and also, of serving the saved.  We have observed Jesus’ servant ministry and His words that He came here not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. We’ve read about how the early church served one another and glorified God through the ministry of service. They would even sell their stuff and share it with anyone in need.  We learned that we are called to enter that serving ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ ourselves, and what an honor it is to be like Him in serving.

Some of you may be wondering about why the words: “seeking, saving, serving” keep being repeated in this survey of the New Testament.  Others of you are very excited about this and are seeing how these very words keep coming up as we read through the New Testament.  You are realizing that this is truly what the text of scripture is revealing!  You are beginning to more fully understand God’s vision and mission for us.  You are discovering God’s purpose more clearly.

Today, let’s briefly turn our attention to Romans 5.  This is an amazing chapter in which the saving ministry of God for us is summed up.  This little 21 verse chapter shows how sin came, and how God saves us from it.  In these few verses, Paul shows us how the saving ministry of life in Christ has overshadowed the sinful work of death.  We see how after Adam’s sin that brought death the law actually made sin more sinful, but how Jesus Christ has rescued us from it all. Paul here sums up the two tracks that we see throughout all history in scripture: there are instruments of God that seek God’s will and way, and there are obstacles of God’s will and way.  Are you an instrument or an obstacle?

Let’s read Roman’s 5 again and notice:

God’s grace is more powerful than man’s sin.  This is the saving principle of the gospel.  If sin increases, grace surpasses it.

I’d love to take a couple of hours and go through this with you and explore and explain all the amazing things this reveals to us.  But, instead, let’s just scratch the surface and I hope to give you a few tools to unpack it for yourself.

Verses 1-5 show us how God justified us by faith, gave us peace through Christ into grace that brings joy, hope of glory, endurance and character through suffering, and fullness of the Holy Spirit.  These are all gifts of God that are only found through His saving ministry!

Verses 6-11 sum up the saving work of Jesus for us.  When did God work His salvation on you?  When you were good, or when you were bad?  Not when you were strong but weak, not when you were godly, but ungodly, not when you were righteous, but a sinner, not when you were in good standing, but were God’s enemy and under God’s wrath.  What did God do to save you?  He sacrificed Jesus Christ, His Son.  Jesus gave His life, His blood, His body… for you.

For those of us that believe this and receive this and are convicted by this, we rejoice in it all!  We rejoice in our hope, in our sufferings and in God Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, because through Him we have received reconciliation to God.

To those who are called, this is the greatest news in the world.  To those who do not believe, this is foolishness, a waste of time, not interested.  So while some receive this gospel with joy and wonder, others, and sadly, most others, will turn away and go to look for something else.

There are two paths to walk on in this world.  One is the path of light and life.  The other is the path of darkness and death.  Romans 5:12-21 turns our attention to those two paths.

Verse 12 tells us how sin entered the world through one man.  That would be Adam.  The result of sin is death.

Verse 13 tells us how sin was in the world before the Law was given.  Now you might think that the law would help overcome sin, but it actually only made sin more sinful.  (Skip ahead to verse 20a).

Verse 14 tells us that even though the law was not given until Moses, sin still brought death to all.  Adam’s disobedience and sin were not reversed by the giving of the law.  The last words of verse 14 introduce “one who was to come” and how Adam was a “type” of Him.

Verse 15 jumps to the free gift.  This is God’s grace.  This is the saving work of Jesus.  It is not like the trespass.  In fact, it reverses the trespass!  It is God’s saving power of grace!

Through the trespass many die!  This all started as the result of one man’s sin.  Through the gift of God there is a “much more” aspect.  It too is the result of one man: Jesus Christ.  But this one man brings a new path that leads to life.

Verse 16 lays these two side by side to show the difference and the power of grace over sin.  Grace is called the free gift.  It is from God.  It came AFTER many trespasses, but brought justification just the same!

Verse 17-20 continues to lay the path of death and the path of life side by side, and shows the reversal from the reign of death through Adam, to the reign of life through Christ.

By the time you get to verse 21 you see that the Law of Moses did not give victory over sin and death.  You see that when sin entered the world through Adam, it seemed unstoppable as it reigned in death.  But God defeated the reign of sin.  God has given us a Savior, one who justifies us, one who reconciles us to God, one who gives grace and brings righteousness, one who reigns in eternal life.

Are you seeking the reign of God and His righteousness?  Have you received the gift of salvation through the saving ministry of Jesus Christ?  Are you sharing that saving message with others?  Are you serving the Lord and His people in the serving ministry of the church?

Is God’s vision and mission for God’s people clear in your mind?  Have you chosen the path of life in Christ?

Are you an instrument of God’s will or an obstacle to it?  Instruments follow God’s vision and mission.  Obstacles don’t.

Be an instrument.  Be about the business of your Father in heaven.  Seek the kingdom first, lead the lost to salvation in Christ, serve God’s people and God’s purposes in your time.