We're so glad you're joining us today,
whether you are sitting with us in person,
or reading the lesson from somewhere else.
We are meeting in person now! If you are not yet back in person, please feel free to leave any joys or concerns you would like to share as a comment to this post. We hope you'll decide to meet in person in the Sunday School room soon. When you are ready, you can use this prayer from Xavier University to get started.
God of silence and God of all sound,
help me to listen.
Help me to do the deep listening to the sounds of my soul,
waiting to hear your soft voice calling me deeper into you.
Give me attentive ears
that begin to separate the noise from the sounds that are you;
you who have been speaking to me
and through me my whole life,
for so long that you can seem like background noise.
Today help me hear you anew.
This week's lesson is on Romans 10:5-17.
In Romans 9, the chapter before the one in today's lesson, Paul introduces the idea of the place of the Jews in God's redemptive plan. Paul really wanted the Jews, his people, to know Christ. This continues in Romans 10.
Last week, those of us in person talked about how Paul writes. It reads a little like philosophy, in that it tends to be a logical argument to explain an idea. In this passage, Paul uses a similar technique. Here, he says there are only two potential ways to be right with God: (1) keeping the law perfectly, or (2) receiving grace through faith.
This passage opens with Paul talking about Moses, who gave Israel the laws in our Old Testament. The law defines sin and righteousness. Paul references Leviticus 18:5, which says, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord." Essentially, complete obedience to the law will result in righteousness and life. But the principle of righteousness by lawkeeping places the responsibility squarely on our shoulders. We know, and Paul says in Romans 3:23, that no one can actually perfectly keep the law.
Being righteous by faith, then, must be the only option available for us. Verses 6-7 reference imagery in Deuteronomy 9:4, 30:12-14, which talks about the Israelites prospering in the promised land as long as they are obedient. Our book says that Paul's use of this text about the law might be to impress on his Jewish readers that there is now a new covenant. It is not by good works or devoted efforts that righteousness with God is obtained.
Paul had expectations for those who embraced his message. These people would use their mouths to declare that Jesus is Lord, and they would have a change in heart. Importantly, these things would not be works. They would be expressions of faith that accept the righteousness God is eager to give. Confession of Christ as Lord should become a hallmark of a Christ-centered life. Our book says we must be able to put our faith into words, not just actions. For us in the Presbyterian church, one way to look at this is in the Book of Confessions.
In verse 11, Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16,
"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.' "
This is slightly different than what we ready in the passage from Romans, which says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame." The reason for this difference is that Paul quoted from the Greek version of the Old Testament. In that version, the last word in the quote uses a verb that means ashamed. Paul is using the original verse to say that those who correctly understand God's work in sending his Messiah are wise to respond in faith.
Paul then says that, "the same Lord is Lord of all." Jews and Gentiles enter into God's promise on the same basis -- through faith in Christ. The Jews did not have exclusive rights to God, because he is the Lord of all people. In support of this idea, he quotes Joel 2:32,
"And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls."
Here, Paul's inclusion of the idea of calling brings together the act of faith in the heart and confession with the lips, the verbal expression of faith leading to salvation. All people must come to God through Christ in faith.
Now that Paul has established that everyone must be made right with God by faith, he comes to his next point. Everyone must be told about Christ to believe in him. In order for this to happen, Paul finds that preaching the gospel is primary. God has chosen to use human instruments to convey his message.
The Greek word translated someone preaching describes a herald or an announcer who runs ahead of a king and proclaims what the king wishes others to know. The task of preaching can be done by any Christian who tells the good news to someone else. At the same time, there must be those who will devote their lives to preaching and teaching in the setting of the local church. The church always needs those willing to answer such a calling. Those who are ready to do so need to be supported and sent. This is especially important to us in this church right now, as we are looking to call our next pastor!
Paul then quotes Isaiah 52:7, which says,
"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
'Your God reigns!' "
The herald running up the mountain in reality probably has dusty, dirty feet. But it is the message that is beautiful! We proclaim the good news of salvation through our songs, sermons, confessions of faith, and submission to baptism. Ultimately, we need to carry this message to the world.
The passage wraps up with reality of the situation when preaching the gospel: not everyone who hears our message will receive it gladly. Paul's ministry is driven by the fact that people who have never heard the gospel have no opportunity to believe the gospel. Our book says it is up to the church, the body of Christ, to see that everyone hears about Jesus. That means missionaries, sent and supported. That means teachers, trained and developed. That means preachers, educated and willing.
Our book states: The old saying "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words," is defective because it places the use of words in a secondary position. Words are primary! How would you respond to someone who, quoting Edgar Guest (1881-1959) says, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day."
The church will always need preachers who faithfully proclaim the gospel. Most of us are not preachers. But we are still representatives of Christ. If you are praying for opportunities to spread the gospel, God will surely answer your prayers!
Mighty God, may we be faithful to preach the gospel. May our faith in Jesus never waver in so doing, despite the rejection we will face. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
This week's benediction comes from the Tree of Life Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Hebrews 11:1-8, 13-16.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.