Sunday, December 24, 2023

Romans 18:25-27; The Fourth Sunday of Advent; December 24, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:25–27, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

There is a very interesting phrase in Paul’s doxology here. “The obedience of faith.” At first glance it looks like doing things that are in agreement with having faith. i.e. getting rid of sin by confession, serving our neighbors, providing for our families, and bringing the Gospel to people who have never heard it. In other words, doing the things that show you are a Christian. But it is much simpler than that. Before the phrase Paul specifies what has “been disclosed through prophetic writings” and “has been made know to all nations.” That is the Gospel. The account of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection. In fact, if you step back a few verses, Paul makes it very clear (context, context, context).
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:17–20, ESV)
He speaks about the “doctrine you have been taught.” Doctrine is a biblical word (διδαχή). It means the teaching about what scripture means. Jesus talks about doctrine a lot. In Matthew 28:20 he says,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:20a, ESV)
The word teaching the same Greek word as doctrine. Many people say that doctrine is secondary to the Word. And in one sense that is correct. But it is also necessary. When doctrine, or the teaching about scripture, conforms to the Word, they are one and the same. You can’t have the Word without teaching what it means. You can’t have correct teaching without the Word. Correct doctrine is not opinion about what the text says, it repeats what the text says. False doctrine does not say what the text says. True doctrine says what God says, false doctrine says what man says.

It is up to the Christian to discern true doctrine. You can’t reject doctrine just because it is doctrine. But you must reject doctrine that doesn’t say what God’s Word says. You do that by comparing what has been said with the Word itself. The difficulty comes in because false shepherds preach what you want to hear, it sounds true because you want it to be true.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching (διδασκαλία yes, doctrine!), but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3, ESV)
True shepherds teach what is true, that is, what scripture says. Sometimes you won’t like what a true teacher says. But that is because it is God’s Word, that he preaches, not his own. It is one reason why we spend so much time on the doctrine of the church. The truth is, the church is about teaching, teaching the doctrine of the Word. That is, what the Word says and what the Word means.

What is even more interesting, in our text, is the word “obedience.” The Greek word is υπακούν. What is so interesting about this word is where it comes from. Its root is the word ἀκούω. Which means to hear and listen. So, to obey is to hear, listen and react. Obedience has as much to do with what is heard (what is taught) as it does with what is done. The obedience of faith literally translated is the listening of faith. It is when someone trustingly hears and follows what is said. This obedience isn’t sanctification (that is the actions that come after coming to faith, obedience that results from faith), but this obedience is justification (that is, obedience that consists of faith). That is, the obedience Paul is taking about is justification not sanctification. It’s about coming to faith, not growing in faith.

What Paul says brings about the obedience of faith is the Word of God, specifically the Word of God about Jesus.
the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations. (Romans 16:25b-26a, ESV)
and earlier in Romans he says,
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:16–17, ESV)
You guessed it, obeyed is the same Greek word from our text υπακούν. The obedience of the Gospel and the obedience of faith are one and the same.

There is only one way to obey the Gospel. That is to believe and to confess. It is as simple as what is said in the churches doctrinal summery, the Apostles’ Creed. And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was
buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
Faith is the result of hearing the Gospel. To obey the Gospel is to have faith, that is, to believe that what Jesus did he did for you. The moment you do that, you have obeyed the Gospel, you have the obedience of faith.
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9–10, ESV)
And just what is the result of that faith and confession? It is exactly what the angels sang,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! (Luke 2:14, ESV)
Peace. εἰρήνη. The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings the only real peace that human beings can find on earth. Peace between God and man. The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ESV). The cancelling of the hostility of God. Namely, the forgiveness of sins. The baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12 ESV) brings it.

Paul says this about that baby in his letter to the Philippians.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)
To use a tired cliché, Jesus is the reason for the season. He is Lord. He brings forgiveness. He delivers it through his story. He became your servant, to give you eternal life. He humbled himself to die on the cross for your punishment. And God raised him from death, highly exalted him for your justification, that is to make it just-as-if-I’d never sinned.
but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:24–25, ESV)
When you trust what Jesus has done for you, you have the obedience of faith. You are justified, you are forgiven, you have peace with God. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and mind is Christ Jesus. Amen.

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