The Gospel: Clear, Simple, and Essential (Romans 10:1-15) 

Sermon for March 29, 2020

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11:30-12:30pm on Sunday

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Greetings New Cut Presbyterian Church and friends.

 

As you know, the virus has prevented our church from meeting in person recently. However, we have continued the ministry of the Word and fellowshipping with one another. Now, we are about to enter a time of hearing the Word of God and what God has to say to us through his Word. But before we open the Word of God, let’s enter a time prayer.

 

Dear God, we thank you for your generosity and your goodness. You are the one who gives all things. You are worthy of our praise, and we praise you. You are good. You are righteous. You are holy. Forgive us, please for our sins, for our fallings short, for our self-regard, and not having the regard for you that we ought to have. Forgive us also for failing to love our neighbors the way that we should. As we approach your word, help us to be reverent of your word.  Help us to hear and understand your word. Help us to respond to your word by better knowing you and walking more closely with you. We pray for the many who have been affected by this virus. We pray for the sick. We pray for those who have lost loved ones. We pray for those who have lost jobs. Father, have mercy. Father, helps us to see the needs of others. We pray that we will see those needs and help in the name of Christ. There are many needs around us. Help us not to miss them. Please use us as your instruments. Please give us courage, strength, endurance, and empathy to serve. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

The Scripture passage that we are looking at is Romans 10:1-15. Our goal as we go through these verses is to orient ourselves to the gospel anew, with freshness and simplicity. Here is the Word of God in Romans 10:1-15,

 

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 

Is there a time when we need to return to the basics? When I was in the Navy, I was in an aircrewman in a helicopter squadron. We went through lengthy training to learn the basics of flying safely as a flight crew. Then we started to branch out and learn combat tactics. This was new for most everyone as our squadron had not specialized in that area in the past. Flying combat tactics was much more complex than just flying and ordinary flight. We pressed on to learn this new mission. However, after some time, a concerning pattern emerged. Flight crews started making simple, but egregious flight safety mistakes.  Everyone was so caught up in learning the new tactical missions, that they were forgetting the very basics of flying. The Commander received one report after another of these basic flight violations that were putting everyone in danger. Knowing that the continued pattern would likely lead to a fatal mishaps, the Commander took action and ordered that for an entire month, all tactical flight training be stopped, and that flight crews only fly the most basic training flights. In other words, “learn to fly again. Get back to the basics.”

 

As Christians, we always need to attend to the basics of our faith. And sometimes, we need to return to the basics and learn to fly again. By the basics, I mean the simple gospel truth. We were alienated from God. But by God’s mercy and goodness alone, Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. It is by Christ’s work that we are made right with God, not our own, so salvation is by faith and not by works.

 

Right now, we are in a time that we need to remind ourselves of this simple gospel truth, remind others of it, and share it with others. This is a new and unusual time for people. The last global pandemic was in 1918. No one has lived through this situation. So, in this new and unusual situation, we need to remind ourselves of the familiar, unchanging gospel by which we are made right with God. Think of the flight crews that were forgetting the basics of flying when in a new and unusual situation. Now, you are in a new and unusual situation. Don’t forget the basics of your faith. Latch on to the simple gospel truth and hold onto it.

 

This simple gospel truth is laid out in verses 1-4. First, in verse 1, Paul lays out his heats desire. His desire is that his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters would be saved, that they would experience salvation in Christ. This desire is the same desire that Paul had stated in Romans 9 when he addressed God’s promises to the Jewish people. The focus here is on salvation. In verse 2, in reference to his Jewish brothers and sisters, he says that they are zealous, but that their zeal is misplaced. How is their zeal misplaced? He answers in verse 3 and points out that they did not know the righteousness of God so they tried to establish their own righteousness, and therefore did not submit to God’s righteousness.

 

We cannot establish our own righteousness. We cannot make ourselves good and right before God. We have this problem called sin. Since we cannot establish our own righteousness, all we can do is submit to God’s righteousness. God is perfectly good. Out of his righteousness, he provided salvation for us by grace. So, we have two choices. Try and establish our own righteousness, which is lacking, or submit to God’s righteousness, and God’s provision for salvation. Salvation comes not by works, not by obedience to the law, but by faith, and trusting in Jesus Christ. As v. 4 says, Christ is the end or culmination of the law. He is the one who fulfills the law, so salvation is in him.

 

I have been encouraged by the many Christian responses I have heard in response to the coronavirus crisis. I have heard Christians express a simple, clear, and trusting faith. I have heard Christians express their hope that God will take care of them, and even if they do get sick, they are in God’s care. These are encouraging examples of holding onto the basics of Christianity. Our Wednesday night Bible study was on 1 John 2. One thing we focused on was holding onto the basics of the faith. Verse 24 says “As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.” The letter of 1 John opens up similarly with the first sentence, “That which was form the beginning, which we have heard…” One of the primary issues that 1 John deals with is competing philosophies contrary to true Christianity, and the epistle exhorts Christians to hold onto to their time-tried, same, basic faith. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t grow in our faith, but that our foundation that we build on stays the same. We need to hold onto that basic gospel. Now, during a world crises, make sure that you hold onto the basics of your Christian faith. Remember what you heard from the beginning.

 

In vv. 5-8, Paul continues, and he uses Old Testament Scripture to further support his point.  In v. 5, he quotes Leviticus 18:5 “The person who does these things will live by them.” He quotes this verse as an example of having life with God by means of keeping the law. This way is no longer available to anyone. That way was forfeited by the entire human race, with Adam as the representative of the human race, and along with Eve, eating the forbidden fruit. Since that point, life and unity with God by works of the law is no longer possible. However, out of God’s graciousness alone, and no merit in any human, God provided another way for life and unity with him.

 

Paul references Deuteronomy 30:12-14, and applies it to Christ in vv. 6-8. Here is what it says in Romans 10:6-8,

 

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.”

 

Paul’s point here, and using Deuteronomy to support that point, is that salvation is not something far off. It is not something that is obtained by performance, by reaching far and hard. It’s not as if we can climb up into heaven to get a hold of Christ and salvation. Rather, by grace, Christ came to us. Salvation is a free gift, not obtained by works.

 

During a time of crisis, this simple gospel, that Christ came to us, accomplished salvation, and that it is a free gift, is an anchor to our souls. It is anchor that will keep us from being tossed by the waves. Whatever happens, we know that we have Christ. And we know that since us having Christ is by grace, and not by our works, the foundation of our faith is not us, but God’s faithfulness, and God’s faithfulness does not fail. God is perfect. His faithfulness is a sure foundation for your faith.

 

In vv. 9-10, Paul continues with the language of Deuteronomy 30, namely the words mouth and heart. In these verses, Paul lays out how to take a hold of salvation. And it is simple. It is not by works or performance. It is by a simple faith and trust in God. The Word of God says here, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” The way to take hold of this free gift of salvation is not complicated. Declare that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.

 

While maintaining the simplicity of the way to salvation, I would like to expound further on what Paul is saying and its implications, as well as possible misunderstandings.

 

  1. First, remember that faith is not a meritorious work. We can’t pat ourselves on the back and say we did a good job by putting our faith in the right place. Faith in the Scriptures is presented as the opposite of works. Faith is not a work. It is the way that God has enabled us to humbly take a hold of the salvation that he provides to us.

  2. Second, notice that a part of our basic faith is declaring Jesus is Lord. Belief in God is not a “get out of hell free card” and live however you want. No one is perfect, and everyone falls short, but a faith that does not acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and endeavor to follow after Christ is no faith at all.

  3.  Third, notice that Paul references the heart. Faith involves conviction and the emotions of our hearts. Faith is not believing about something. It is internalizing that truth. It is believing it from the core, and believing that salvation is staked on that truth.

  4. Fourth, take note that faith is not a matter of the heart only. It is inseparably connected to the mouth. There is no such thing as a secret Christian. A part of following Christ is explicitly declaring Christ as Lord by what we say and by what we do. So, during this present national and world crisis, believe and declare Jesus as Lord. Do this by what you say and by your actions.

 

In vv. 11-13, Paul focuses in on the availability of salvation by the gospel to all. He writes, “As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Notice that Paul says anyone who believes, and then he explicitly references the two ethnic groups, Jews and Gentiles. This free gift of salvation is available to all. So, it is to be freely shared with all. Hence Paul brings up the question in verse 14, “How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Paul’s point here is straightforward. For people to believe the gospel, they need to hear the gospel, so we need to tell them the gospel. We tell the gospel both by our words and by our actions. It’s not within the scope of this sermon to tell all the ways that we can share the gospel. How you share is often dependent on your personality and giftings. But sharing is necessary, and that basic gospel message that you share does not change.

 

This present crisis is an opportunity, not only to remind ourselves of the simple truth of the gospel, and to let that gospel be an anchor to our souls, but also to share that gospel with others, so they also can have the joy of reconciliation and closeness with God. Trust in God for your salvation. Don’t trust in your works or try to be righteous before God. Rather, submit to God’s righteous and have faith. Christ obtained salvation for you. Declare Jesus Lord by your words and actions and believe in your heart with conviction. Maybe you have heard the saying, “It’s not rocket science” which means it’s not complicated. The gospel is not complicated. But it is also essential, kind of like the essentials and basics of flying. No matter what, a pilot cannot forget the basics of flying. Likewise, no matter what, a Christian cannot forget the basics of the gospel. So we need to return to this gospel again and again. The gospel is your life foundation.

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