INI - SDG
1st Sunday a. Trinity
May 25, 2008
Text: Romans 1:1-7 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Theme: PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS: Grace and Peace
To all who are of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, beloved of God, called to be saints, fellow redeemed -
It’s hard to imagine how many words we waste in a given conversation. Simple throw-away words that aren’t necessary for a given conversation, yet which we use them frequently. Call them throw-away words or conversation gap-fillers, those wasted words are commonplace in our everyday conversation. You may have come to this realization, as I did, when I tried to hold a conversation with a deaf person that reads lips. The only way to converse with that person was by speaking slowly and letting her know what you were saying my the movement of your mouth. I soon learned how we waste a lot of words when we speak. While we might say, “Hey! How are things going today for you?” to someone who can hear us, when someone is reading your lips you only need to say, “How are you?”
In seminary, pastors-in-training are encouraged to avoid using throw-away words in their sermons. Words or phrases which pop up so frequently in sermons that the congregation begins to subconsciously block them out. Words or phrases that the congregation hears so often that you could probably finish the phrase yourself. Take for instance the familiar phrase,“the devil, the world, and our .” “Our flesh,” right? Or how about “sin, death, and the .” “Sin, death, and the devil.” These are phrases that might frequently be used in a given sermon.
What about the phrase used prior to the reading of our sermon text? “Grace and peace to you” are words that I use prior to just about every sermon text I’ve ever read. Are those wasted or throw-away words? Are these words so common that we - both the congregation AND the pastor - pass over what is truly being said? These words are not merely words of greeting from pastor to congregation, but more than that they are words of grace and peace from the Triune God to you. The Apostle Paul commonly begins his epistles with these words. We find them in our text today - “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words “Grace and Peace” flow throughout this letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Rome. These words are often used to introduce a sermon text and these words “Grace and Peace” will serve as our theme for today. May God our Father be with us as we consider the grace and peace that is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are few words in the English language that ought to be as pleasant to the Christian ear than the word, “grace.” That word grace is a summary of the Gospel itself. Grace is at the heart of all that the Triune God has done to save us. Grace describes God’s disposition toward man. In Catechism class we define the word grace as “the undeserved love of God.” I heard the word grace described once in the following way and really liked the word picture it painted. He said grace is “love anyway.” It is God loving the sinner anyway - even though he is a sinner. Love anyway.
As we begin our study of this letter given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through the Apostle Paul we see already in the opening verses of this book, that the word “grace is anything but a “throw-away” word. This letter to the Christians in Rome begins with the holy writer introducing himself. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God. To see the word grace at work, we need only look at the man whom the Holy Spirit used to write this letter. What did Paul do that he should deserve the title “servant of Jesus Christ,” “an apostle,” and one “separated to the gospel of God?” Was Paul a man of superior quality? Did Paul earn the right to be called a servant of the Son of God and one of only thirteen apostles? Did the Triune God look down from heaven, see Paul and his way of life and conclude, “Now this guy deserves to be My servant and apostle?”
Well, consider what kind of man Paul was prior to becoming a servant of Jesus Christ and an apostle. When the first martyr Stephen was being stoned to death simply for confessing Christ as Lord, Paul - then called Saul - watched the coats of the men while they threw stones at Stephen. In Acts 8:3 we read that this it was this same Paul who made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Later on in life Paul would say of himself, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” or a violent aggressor. So, I ask you again, does this sound like a man who earned the title “servant of Jesus Christ” and “an apostle?” Much the opposite! If ever there was a man who never deserved such an honorary title - it was this man!
So what happened? How is it that this blasphemer, this persecutor of the Christian faith, this violent man could now call himself “a servant of Jesus Christ” and “an apostle?” LOVE ANYWAY! Grace and pure grace. In the Apostle Paul we clearly see God’s undeserved love for sinners of all shapes and sizes. Paul did nothing to deserve these titles. But God in His grace called him and set him apart for His gospel. If you want to see grace - look at the Apostle Paul.
The same grace by which Paul was called and separated for his work is the same grace by which Paul calls the Christians in Rome, “the called of Jesus Christ...beloved of God, called to be saints.” The reason there were Christians to write to in Rome was because of the grace of God. It was love that was undeserved whereby the Jews and Gentiles were called from unbelief and into the Christian faith. Just as Paul had done nothing to deserve his calling, the Roman Christians had done nothing to deserve their being called.
In the coming weeks as we consider this letter to the Romans we will hear Paul masterfully show from the Law that all men are condemned sinners. In chapter three Paul writes, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23) It didn’t matter if they were the physical descendants of Abraham or Gentiles outside of the covenant - every member of that Roman congregation had fallen short of God’s glory. Rather than earning the title “beloved of God” the Roman Christians earned the title “condemned sinner” for they had rebelled and sinned against the Almighty, Eternal Creator of Heaven and Earth.
When we therefore consider this Roman congregation, we again that beautifully precious word - “grace” on display. Yes those Romans were sinners, but by the grace of God they were saints as well. It was God’s grace that called them out of the darkness of unbelief and into the marvelous light of God’s Son. It was undeserved love that led God to rescue them from eternal damnation. It was grace that caused the eternal Son of God to take on flesh and be born of the seed of David. It was undeserved love that led the Son of God to lay down His life on Calvary. It was “love anyway” that led Jesus to pray for forgiveness for those who were crucifying Him. And now it was grace that called these Romans to faith in Jesus Christ. Because of grace and grace alone they are the “called,” “the beloved of God,” and “saints.” Clearly the word “grace” was anything but a throw-away word to the Romans!
And what about you and I? How precious is the word “grace” to our ears? If we are full of sinful pride and think we deserve the title of “Christian” then the word grace is probably a throw-away word. If, like the Pharisees, think that we can earn heaven by our way of life, then grace is a word that won’t mean too much to us.
If however, you examine your heart and see nothing but the filth and shame of sin, then the word “grace” becomes a word you want to learn more about. If the devil reminds you again and again of the past sins you’ve committed and tries to convince you that no sinner like you deserves to go to heaven, then hearing about this “love anyway” causes you to have hope.
Indeed to the sinners ear, there are few words more precious than the word “grace.” Yes we all have sinned and each one of us has fallen well short of the glory of God. If it were necessary that we earn our way to heaven or that we live a good enough life to deserve heaven - then each person here would be disqualified. Yet we return to those familiar words, “Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Undeserved, unearned, unmerited love to you from the Triune God. You did nothing to earn God’s love and favor, but God loved you anyway. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) Grace truly is no throw-away word.
It was called “the war to end all wars.” It was a battle so great, involving so many different countries that it was thought victory would bring lasting peace. Which war was that? World War I. Which was then followed by World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, the War in the Persian Gulf, and now the War against Terror. When one enemy was defeated, it seemed another enemy rose up. Clearly that war did not end all wars and bring lasting peace. Yet peace is something man is constantly looking for. Peace at home, peace at work, and peace in the world. While peace is something man seems to constantly be searching for, real peace cannot be found outside of Jesus Christ. If the word “grace” is at the very heart of the Gospel, we might say that the word “peace” is the result of the Gospel.
In our text Paul testifies that Jesus Christ is both true God and true Man. God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. The death of Jesus proved that He was true Man. If that is what His death proved, what did His resurrection prove? That Jesus was who He said He was - the Son of God. No man can die and then decide three days later that he is going to come back to life. Yet Jesus did. Jesus rose from the dead the third day and thus declared to the world that He is exactly who He says He was - the Son of God with power. By His death and resurrection Jesus overcame something that no man could overcome - death. Death is too powerful for us, we do not have the strength necessary to raise ourselves or anyone else from the dead. So the Son of God overcame death for us.
The great terror that all men face is death. Man may be able to ignore sin during our lifetime, but once we come face-to-face with death our sins suddenly alarm us. Our conscience testifies of the sins we have committed with our thoughts, with the loveless words we have spoken, and the heartless deeds we have done to other men throughout our lives. And so when man desires peace of conscience the most - at death - he can find no peace in himself.
And so we return to the God-Man, Jesus Christ. What did He do? He defeated all of our enemies and secured peace for us. He took our sin out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He took our punishment on Himself and suffered God’s wrath in our place. He died and was buried and our sins were buried with Him. He then overcame that one thing that no man could overcome - death. He rose from the dead and sealed our peace. Because of His resurrection we see that God is no longer angry with us because of our sins, but in Jesus, God is at peace with us. No longer is He an angry Judge, but He is our Father.
So we see why these two words “Grace and Peace” ought to be so very precious to each one of us. Grace is what caused our salvation, peace is what our salvation brings, and the God-Man Jesus Christ is at the center of it all. In the coming months as we examine this letter of Paul to the Romans we will hear these themes of grace and peace masterfully woven throughout the letter. May we always marvel and cherish these words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.