The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Roots
12th Sunday after Pentecost
August 27, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Roots
Dear friends in Christ,
Why are you a Christian? Why do you believe that Jesus Christ has paid for your sin so that you will go to heaven? The correct theological answer contains many of the words we have examined this summer. God chose me. That is why I believe. Jesus atoned for my sins. Christ reconciled me to God and gave me his righteousness through faith. I was buried with Christ through baptism so that the course of my life would be reversed from death to life. We give all the credit and all the glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit for giving us faith in Christ.
But there is also a human side to this answer. Who did God use to bring you the gospel? What are your spiritual roots? Paul is one of very few people in the Bible who were brought to faith directly by God. Jesus appeared to him on the way to Damascus. But Paul could still look back on those who taught him the Scriptures and he could look at Ananias who baptized him and others who taught him about Jesus after he became a believer. Today we rejoice in our spiritual roots, in those who brought us the saving gospel of Jesus.
However, Paul is also distressed today. His own people, the Jews, have rejected the Savior even though they were given more from the Lord than any other people on earth. Paul has great love for his physical roots. We look to show this kind of love to others we know who are without Christ.
We continue to look at the Christian faith, one word at a time with the word, Roots.
Romans 9:1–5 (NIV84)
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Your Spiritual Roots
Paul describes the many blessings God poured out on the people of Israel. They were adopted as God's children. They were his treasured possession among all the nations of the world. The Hebrews got to see the divine glory. That divine glory of God was shown in the pillar of fire and cloud in the wilderness. That glory cloud also filled the tabernacle and later the temple. God himself was living among his people! The Jews also has the covenants and the law. All people have the law of God written on their hearts so people know in general right from wrong. But the Jews received the law on stone tablets. They received detailed laws to govern their civic life, their moral life and their worship life. God set them apart from everyone else. He built a hedge around them with these laws to keep them from going astray.
In addition, God also gave them the temple worship and the promises. The sacrifices in the temple pointed ahead to the sacrifice of Christ to pay for sin. God made promise after promise to send the Messiah. And he determined that the human roots of Christ would be the Jewish people in the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and so on. The Son of God was born of a young Jew named Mary. The Jewish people were truly blessed by the Lord. This was Paul's spiritual and physical roots.
What are your roots? If the information is accurate, one of my ancestors was a Jewish Lutheran pastor in the late 1500's in Germany. There were believers in my family tree back many years. Maybe your roots go farther back. Maybe your Christian roots are much more recent. Think about the people in your life who taught you about Jesus. Who taught you what it looks like to live as a Christian? Maybe a parent, a friend, grandmother, pastor, teacher or someone else. Children, when your parents read you a Bible story and pray with you, thank them for doing that. God is using your parents to bless you with Jesus' forgiveness and eternal life. In fact, I encourage all of us to thank someone this week for being a spiritual blessing to us. Thank them for their example, for their teaching, for their Christian love. God does it all, but he uses other believers to bring us and keep us in the one, true faith.
Great Love for Others
Chapter divisions were added centuries after the books of the Bible were written. Sometimes, these chapter divisions make it harder to get the full impact of the Holy Spirit's words. The beginning of chapter 9 of Romans before us this morning begins with Paul having great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart. The end of chapter 8, just before this was a complete contrast. Paul was convinced that nothing could take us away from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Chapter 8 ends with great hope and confidence in God's love. Now Paul has great sorrow.
What caused this change in just one sentence? Paul considers those who do not have the hope of heaven because they do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Those who are without Christ are going to hell. Paul knows it and is grieved by this. In fact he is in so much anguish that he is willing to do what the end of chapter 8 says cannot happen. Paul is willing to be separated from the love of God if only the Jews would believe and be saved. Paul is willing to go to hell if it means that the Jews will not.
Paul's grief is real, but his hypothetical would not do any good. Only Jesus can take the place of a sinner who deserves to go to hell. Only Jesus can suffer and die to forgive a sinner. Only Jesus can and did suffer hell in our place. Jesus did this for the world. Paul doesn't have to. Jesus already showed great love for every sinner. By his offer, Paul is trying to convince his fellow Jews that he loves them.
When the Pharisee Saul who persecuted Christians became the Apostle Paul who preached Christ, crucified and risen, many of his fellow Jews turned against him. They thought Paul turned against them and against God and therefore hated them. Therefore, they hated him too and showed it by attacking him with words and stones. Paul still loved them and wanted them to be saved.
Today, Christians who hold to biblical teachings may be accused of hating others too. Abortion is the unlawful and unnecessary ending of human life. The Bible is clear. Some may accuse you of hating women or something like that if you oppose abortion. And maybe we, as Christians who oppose abortion don't think much of those who support the killing of unborn babies. Jesus shed his blood for those who support and perform abortions. The question for you is this: How can you stand up for the truth of the Bible and show someone who disagrees with you that you don't hate them? It is difficult to do.
To have the same attitude as Paul, and more importantly the same attitude as Christ, we have to recognize that we are no more deserving of God's grace and forgiveness than anyone else. We are not better than the abortion provider. We are not better than the militant atheist who mocks God openly. We are not better than a white supremacist who thinks certain groups of people are less than human. We are not better than the terrorist who kills others in the name of Allah. We are not better than the organizer of a gay pride march.
Yes, we absolutely disagree. Yes, all that I just mentioned is sin against the Lord. Yes, we want abortion, hate and violence to stop. But being right about what God says does not make us more deserving of eternal life. The only reason I can give for going to heaven is this: Jesus died for me. And Jesus died for the world, every person. Therefore, if we ever think “I want that type of person to go to hell” or even “I don't care if that person goes to hell” then we don't have the mind of Christ. We need to repent because Jesus does not want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance.
Thanks be to God for those he has put into our lives who show us Christ's love. Thanks be to God for our spiritual roots. May the love of Christ compel us to show love especially to those who are without Christ.
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