Aug
11

Righteousness from Faith

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Text: Romans 10:5-15

[podcast]http://www.zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_08072011.mp3[/podcast]

 

We are saved Only by Faith

One of the greatest wonders of God is how He is forever doing great and mighty things through less-than-perfect individuals – such as the Apostle Paul.  If Paul were living today, and had not undergone the spiritual transformation that made him one of the strongest communicators in Christian history, he would be known as a terrorist.  To quote a 2005 article in The Prism E-pistle:

“By his own admission and with the approval of the religious and political authorities of the day, Paul actively and systematically worked to kill and destroy a minority faith other than his own. This state-sponsored terrorism led him to organize and oversee murder (Acts 7:54-60; 8:1; 26:10); to destroy places of worship (Acts 8:3); to hunt down and imprison men and women (Acts 8:3; 22:4); and to force renunciations (Acts 26:11). … But a funny thing happened to him on the way to Damascus. The Son of God confronted him with the truth of his actions. For once, Paul didn’t have the answer. Literally blinded, he was asked to believe in something he could not see. Simply, he was forced into faith. Once there, Paul could begin the process of becoming who he was called to be.”[1]

This change came to Paul after a lifetime of living in the Jewish faith, with all of its expectations – he lived according to the Word of God that said,

“You must keep my rules and my regulations; by doing them one will live; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:5, Common English Bible)

Even after the amazing transformation that turned Paul from persecutor into preacher of the Good News of Christ, he continued to be troubled by his human imperfections.

 

We are saved in spite of our Flaws

We don’t have to be perfect before God accepts us.

It’s widely understood that theologically, Paul was a brilliant thinker whose thoughts have served as the basis for teaching Christian doctrine for over a millenium.

It’s also known that Paul, for all his brilliance, didn’t always perform perfectly.  He was human, and he made mistakes. There are a number of his statements recorded in Scripture that have caused enormous pain and suffering over the years – for example:

African-Americans have been mistreated because Paul wrote, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling”? These words were used to oppress slaves in the American South (Ephesians 6:5).

Women have been denied their birthright because Paul wrote, “Women should be silent in the churches”? This line has been employed for most of Christian history to silence the voices of women (1 Corinthians 14:34).

A Jew could ask: Paul, explain “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” This statement, along with others, has supported centuries of anti-Semitism (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

He desperately wanted people to understand that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek” and that “the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him” (Romans 10:12). But sometimes his own words got in the way and he alienated the very people that needed to hear good news — slaves, women, and Jews.

Being saved by grace through faith doesn’t mean that you are saved from doing stupid things!

God saves us in spite of our flaws! The salvation is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8), nothing that can be earned.

 

We are saved by a Generous God

So often, Paul is painted as some sort of super-apostle.  But that’s not true.  Paul struggled with things that you and I struggle with: difficult people, human weakness and temptation, hard days and short nights.

Paul has much to teach us, through his errors as well as his insights. He knew he was a sinful man, so he came to believe that he would be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

He knew he was a broken person in a broken community, so he dreamed of a world of unity and harmony, where “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.”

He knew that he was one of countless people who needed help, so he came to understand that “the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him” (10:12).

He was driven by the need to make sure that everyone around him heard the Good News of Christ – he was filled with a missionary spirit that took him to the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire – because he HAD to spread the Gospel at any cost.

He became a powerful witness for Jesus Christ because he realized that he was just human as anyone else, yet God was doing good things through his work.

Our God is a generous God who freely offers salvation to anyone who calls on His name in faith. The next time you think you have nothing to contribute to the life of the family of God… tell that to God!  You will find that it’s not true.

 

Sources Consulted:

“Paper or Silk?” Homiletics, August 2005

“2K Paul,” Homiletics, August 2008

“The Church of Beautiful Feet,” Homiletics, August 1993

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans (IVP, 1989)



[1] Chris Seiple, “Pride or patience,” in The Prism E-pistle (e-newsletter of Evangelicals for Social Action), October 19, 2005 issue.