We Are the Called of Jesus Christ!
Dear Heavenly Father, as we enter into Your presence on this first day of a new year, please send Your Holy Spirit to be with us and to guide us in worship. Lead us humbly to confess our sins and to rejoice in the announcement of Your absolution. Move us to hear Your Word with gladness and to apply it in our lives with understanding. Encourage us boldly to lay before You our petitions and to do so with confidence and thanksgiving. Yes, O Lord, send us Your Holy Spirit as we worship this day! Amen.
The Aaronitic Blessing was given by God to Moses with the instruction that Aaron and his sons would close the worship services of those days with a reminder of the name of God, through whom they received every blessing. We use this same blessing to close many of our worship services. We do so for the very same reasons!
When Jesus was eight days old He was circumcised according to Old Testament law. He then received His name—Jesus, which means Savior. That name is precious to us, for it reminds us of God’s loving plan for our salvation!
Text: Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a bondservant 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 Him 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.
In Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
The apostle James provides the following encouragement and illustration, which are particularly noteworthy as we enter a New Year: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (Jam. 1:22-25). We all want to receive the Lord’s blessing in 2012. The key to that blessing, James informs us, is that we lead an active faith life—not simply hearing the Word but applying that Word in our lives each day. James illustrates the problem of a professing Christian who is not spiritually active—he is like someone looking in a mirror, but then forgets who he is when he walks away. God does not want any of us to have an identity crisis in 2012! He wants us both to know who we are and then to live as the ones God has created us to be! In our text the apostle Paul provides the mirror in which we can see the reflection of what God has created us to be. Let us take a good look at what God has done for us and in us, and what He also desires to do through us in 2012.
Paul identifies us as “the called of Jesus Christ.” He uses the word “called” three times in this brief text. It refers to our calling by God—His invitation to us to believe the gospel and to become citizens of His kingdom. In Paul’s Epistles it always refers to the effective calling of the Holy Spirit within individuals leading them to faith. As we gaze into the mirror of God’s Word, Paul says that WE ARE THE CALLED OF JESUS CHRIST! He further says that we have been called to be saints, that we have been separated to the gospel of God, and that we have received grace with resulting peace! Knowing this, remembering this, and applying this each day in our lives will assure us of a most blessed New Year!
Our text forms Paul’s greeting to the Christians in Rome. He begins by identifying himself, but when he finally addresses the Roman Christians he describes them with two important phrases: “to all who are in Rome,beloved of God, called to be saints.” Who were the Roman Christians? Who are we? As we look into the mirror of God’s Word, they and we are above all “beloved of God” and “called to be saints.” Both the contents and the order of those two phrases are important. We are loved by God because of His grace—His undeserved love and in view of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, not because of any merit the world might suggest that we possess. Notice as well, that we are “called to be saints”—not to become saints. We are saints by God’s declaration in view of the righteousness of Christ which we possess by faith. Consequently, we are not first “saints” and then “beloved of God.” Rather, we are first “beloved of God” and then “called to be saints.”
You see, most people in our world have a distorted understanding of both of these truths, because they see things backwards. The people of this world believe that you must first be good—you must strive to be a saint before God will love you. Therefore, becoming a saint is either entirely or in large part up to you and your efforts. Should you possibly achieve that goal, the world suggests, you may well have proven yourself to be worthy of God’s love. Achieving that goal on your own, however, is impossible! The Bible says: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Perfection for any of us is impossible! The Bible says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If we are honest, we have to admit that this is indeed the case. That is why we can take such comfort in the words of Paul later in this same Epistle to these Roman Christians when he says: “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
We are “beloved of God!” It is entirely a matter of His grace. God sent His Son into this world to be our Savior, as we have so recently celebrated. It is through His work of redemption—His perfect life and His innocent death that we have been declared righteous and holy in God’s sight. He declares us to be His “saints” and calls upon us then to live as “saints.” A “saint” is someone who has been made holy by God—whose sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ. A “saint” is someone who has been set apart by the Holy Spirit to live for God and with God. The apostle John reminds us: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 Jn. 3:2-3). My dear friends, WE ARE THE CALLED OF JESUS CHRIST! As we enter our New Year, we have been called to be saints! We are to be different than the unbelievers among whom we live. We are to strive to reflect the holiness of the One who has declared us to be His holy “saints!”
We have also been separated to the gospel of God! When Paul identifies himself, he says initially: “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God..” He then defines the gospel in terms of the life of Jesus Christ. He speaks first of Jesus’ incarnation—being “born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” God’s gospel plan called for a Savior to rescue fallen mankind, but no ordinary Savior would do! A mere man—no matter how noble or powerful—could not hope to overcome sin, death, Satan, and hell! No, it would take the God-Man, who was born of the virgin Mary but conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is the Christmas gospel! Paul then speaks of Jesus’ resurrection—the demonstration of His power and validation of His person. He was the “Son of God with power” and to Him all authority in heaven and on earth have been given (cf. Mt. 28:18). This is the Easter gospel!
While Paul here speaks regarding his own person—that he was “separated to the gospel of God,” it can rightfully be said of each of us! We, too, have been separated to the gospel of God! The Great Commission calls upon us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). That calling is fundamental to every one of our lives! Satan would like nothing better than to hide that fact from our eyes—to have us shrug our shoulders and suggest that gospel outreach is really the calling of professionals.missionaries and such, but that is not true! We are all separated to the gospel of God, and this applies to every area of our lives!
The apostle Peter reminds married couples that they are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7), which means that we who are husbands and you who are wives are to be busy encouraging one another with the gospel so that we grow stronger each day in our faith. In his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul tells fathers: “Bring them (your children) up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). While we parents are to teach our children the difference between right and wrong, our primary goal is to share with them the gospel. We are to share our excitement about God’s forgiving love in Jesus with our little ones, so that they come truly to know and love their Savior. In that same chapter Paul addresses both workers and managers, informing workers that they are to work as if Jesus were their boss and informing managers that they are to treat their workers as if they were Jesus. The gospel, in other words, is to dominate in our professional spheres! When we know the love of God for us in Christ, then that love of Christ and our love for Him will dominate our thoughts, words, and actions in every sphere of our lives. Yes, WE ARE THE CALLED OF JESUS CHRIST! We have been separated to the gospel of God! The presence of the gospel of God within our lives will make them ever so different and ever so blessed!
Finally, we have received grace with resulting peace! “Grace” is a beautiful concept in Scripture! It refers, as mentioned before, to the undeserved love that we have received from God through Christ Jesus. Paul tells the Romans: “We have received grace!” You cannot earn grace, or merit it in any way. It is freely given to us by our God, who is in His very essence love (cf. 1 Jn. 4:16). Paul then concludes our text by wishing for them the blessing of both grace and peace.
Grace is what moved the Father to send us His Son—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). Grace is what sustains us when we fall. Paul assures us: “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20b-21). Grace is what gives us confidence as we consider our salvation and our lives—“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
The result of grace, then, is peace! We heard the children on Christmas Eve recite the words of the angels over the fields of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Lk. 2:14). The angels were not talking about the fragile, inevitably short-term peace arrangements made by sinful man. No, the angels were talking about the final result and blessing of Jesus’ redemptive work. By nature man is at war with God (cf. Rom. 8:7), but through Christ the barrier of sin has been removed and we have nothing to fear from God. Rather, He beckons us to come—to seek in Him our refuge and strength (cf. Ps. 46:1), to secure the answers to our prayers (cf. Ps. 50:15; Mt. 7:7), and to find hope even in the midst of the greatest challenges that confront us in life (cf. 1 Th. 1:3).
That peace, which fills our hearts with the certain knowledge of God’s presence and blessing in our lives, will be reflected in our relationships with one another. It cannot be otherwise! Paul writes later in this Epistle to the Romans: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).
My dear friends, WE ARE THE CALLED OF JESUS CHRIST! As we enter 2012 may the reflection in the mirror of this Word of God remain fixed in our hearts and minds, so that our every thought, word, and deed might be blessed by our Savior God! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!