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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
Title:Salvation for all who believe!
Text:LD 7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 105:1,2                                                                                           

Reading – Romans 4:1-25; 10:1-21

Psalm 115:1,5,6,8

Sermon – Lord’s Day 7

Hymn 28:1,2,4,6

Hymn 2

Hymn 13:1,2,3,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters, you may remember Martin Luther. He lived in Germany, about 500 years ago. As a young man, Martin committed his life to the Lord’s service; he’d left his studies of law, and became a Roman Catholic monk. But this Luther wasn’t a happy man. Though he’d followed God’s call, he was harassed by an inner voice. Day and night, he heard his conscience: “Luther, you’re a sinner. You’ve broken all the commandments of God, again and again.”


You might recall how Luther tried to ease his guilt. If his conscience was going to accuse him, Luther at least wanted some credits on that balance sheet in heaven. He wanted God’s ledger to say he’d done more good than evil! So he went on pilgrimage to Rome. He rejected human comforts, and put in endless days of work.


Yet that voice was relentless. It pointed out his failures, even in the good he tried to do. It reminded him how far he had to go. Because of this, Luther fell into deep despair. He knew he was a total sinner, that God is perfectly righteous. Though still in the prime of his life, Luther lived in terror of meeting his Maker, giving that final account.


            Luther’s struggles are legendary. But in a sense, they shouldn’t be that unusual for Christians. For if we’re listening, our conscience is often accusing: “You’re a sinner. You’ve broken all of God’s commandments, #1 to #10.” All of us should have moments of trembling before our holy Maker and Judge. Because when we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, we know He’ll lift us up! That’s what happened for Luther. A ray of sunshine suddenly pierced the black clouds in his heart. One day God showed Luther a single text of Scripture—and that text changed his life. And what was the text? It was Romans 1:17, “The just will live by faith.”


            In an instant Luther saw it. A sinner, on his own, can never hope to be right with God. No matter what he did, it wouldn’t be enough. To be just, or righteous—to be on good terms with God—is an impossible thing. Except by faith. “When a sinner believes in me through my Son Jesus Christ,” God declares, “that sinner will no longer be merely a sinner, but he’ll be righteous. And because he is righteous, he will live!”


            Somewhere Luther writes about that wondrous discovery of Romans 1:17. He writes of that moment, “All at once I felt that I had been born again, and entered into Paradise through open gates. Immediately I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light.” Beloved, it’s this marvelous truth of salvation through grace alone by faith that we’ll look at, summarized in Lord’s Day 7 of the Catechism,


            The gospel is God’s power for the salvation of all who believe!


1)     we can have the faith of Abraham


2)     we can receive faith through the Word


3)     we can be saved by this faith                              


1)     we can have the faith of Abraham: The Romans Road is a simple way of explaining the gospel, using a few verses from Paul’s greatest letter. Along the Romans Road, we pass the first signpost at Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” This tells us we’ve all done things displeasing to God, that there’s no one innocent before him.


And after that we come to the second signpost (at 6:23), which gives us more bad news: “The wages of sin is death.” Such is the punishment we’ve earned by our sins: not just temporal, but eternal death! It’s the doom that Martin Luther so intensely feared! Despite all that, the Romans Road is no dead end. The third signpost shows the way. In 6:23 we read those wondrous words: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God has opened up a pathway to life-everlasting!


But we’ve also got to pass that checkpoint at Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus… you will be saved.” It’s what Paul announced already in chapter 3: “A righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (v 23, NIV). There’s Paul’s favourite word: righteousness—and also his second favourite word: faith. To that theme of saving faith, Paul then devotes an entire chapter of his letter. He does so by focusing on Abraham, in chapter 4: Abraham, that great father of the people of Israel. One who received all those promises. One who talked to God, even as man talks to his friend.


So why does Paul single out Abraham for this lesson on faith? Well, a good number of the Roman church were Jewish. These were people who’d been raised on the stories of Abraham and the patriarchs. They had great admiration for this father of the nation. And if anyone could be called holy on the basis of his good deeds, it was Abraham! For centuries the Jews hailed Abraham as a hero of works. They looked to him as supremely righteous in the way he lived. That’s what God said in Genesis 26:5, He blessed him “because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.”


When God ordered Abraham to leave Ur for an unknown land, he listened. When God commanded Abraham to circumcise all the males of his household, he obeyed. Even when God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, he was ready to do it. Yes, Abraham did what was right. Surely that’s why he had such a good relationship with God!


But, with all due respect for the patriarch, Paul takes away this hero of good deeds. He tells the Jews to think again. He asks: “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found…?” (v 1). Did he really have good standing with the LORD because of his obedience, because of all his accomplishments? If so, “he has something to boast about” (v 2), he’s got plaques and awards on his wall—but not really. For “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (v 3).


That’s a crucial text that Paul quotes, Genesis 15:6. For as God made his covenant with Abraham, the patriarch responded in the only appropriate way. He believed! For Abraham, that came before anything else, before circumcision, before sacrifice, before any work of obedience. What came first was faith!


And by his faith, Abraham was considered righteous. Because he believed, God accepted him. No, he hadn’t done a thing to earn this favour, just as Luther couldn’t earn it by sleeping on the floor, and just as we can’t earn it by our best works. There’s no place for boasting, because God grants grace to those who humbly believe.


The Jews had to remember that: salvation is never by keeping the law. The Gentiles had to understand that, too. For as Paul writes, “[Abraham] is the father of us all” (v 16). He’s the father of all who give up trying to save themselves, and who simply trust that God will do it. Here’s the thing: Everyone—Jew and Gentile, Canadian and American, you and I—we all have to “walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had” (v 12).


We must walk in the steps of faith… That’s a great image. For Abraham, these steps took him all the way to the Promised Land, believing in things that seemed impossible. For Abraham, these steps even took him up Mount Moriah, to offer the son he’d waited a lifetime to receive. Abraham only had some promises to cling to: something about descendants and land and blessing. But in this God Abraham resolutely put his confidence. Paul writes, “And not being weak in faith, [Abraham] did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (v 19).


Abraham looked at himself, he looked at his wife, and he had to wonder: “How could God possibly fulfill his Word, even to two wrinkled old codgers like us? How could the LORD ever keep that promise of a son?” Surely God had vowed an impossible thing. Sometimes we think the same thing: How could God possibly do what He’s promised? Can He provide for us? Can He turn this hardship to our benefit? Can He show me the way through this confusion? Sometimes we think He’ll surely be proven wrong.


“Yet [Abraham] did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (vv 20-21). When there was no reason to, Abraham believed God’s promise. Because he knew God, he believed God. And God blessed him for it.


Beloved, as we walk in Abraham’s footsteps of faith, we know so much more than our father ever did. Just look at the Apostles’ Creed—such a resounding statement of who God is, and what the Triune God has done! But this is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We believe in the same God—“God who gives life to the dead and calls things which do not exist as though they did” (v 17). That’s what God does: He gives life to the dead! He gave the gift of life to Abraham and Sarah, in a little child named Isaac. And He also gives new life to us, through a man named Jesus Christ and through his Spirit.


True faith is accepting that all this is real. True faith is a confidence that God “has granted [to us] forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits” (Q&A 21). When you think about it, it seems impossible. Sounds too good to be true. It’s even less believable than that two senior citizens could produce a child—this fact: that God would give his own Son to die for sinners. Yet we can believe it, fully and confidently. We can trust in this God for absolutely everything we need, for every single moment of our lives!


For our Almighty God can do exactly what He says! Our gracious God can renew our shrivelled hearts, and He can make us alive in Christ. Our faithful God can take our empty spirits, and He can fill them with an abundance of faith, hope and love. Our God can drawn lowly sinners back to himself!


2)     we can receive faith through the Word: So we need to believe in this God. And how do we find out about him? One place is in creation, where we see evidence of his power and majesty. But God reveals himself to us in another way, too: in the Holy Scripture. There God tells us plainly who He is. He tells us about his compassion and his mercy; He tells us about his goodness and grace; about his eternity and his infinity. He tells us things that are wonderful and amazing, even things we can’t understand.


Think of Lord’s Day 7, “True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word.” This means when you’re in trouble; when you’re searching for answers; when you’re hungry for comfort; when you need to be lifted up—you can take the Word, and you can have confidence that these are words to be wholeheartedly believed. “I accept as true all that God has revealed to me in his Word.”


            And that’s how our faith works: it works through the Word. In Romans 10, Paul explains this. We’ve mentioned already how Paul has reached out to his Jewish brothers and sisters. Also in chapters 9 to 11, he takes them aside and speaks very directly. For Paul was deeply saddened that so many of them didn’t accept the promised Messiah.


            Because they should’ve. They should’ve believed, because they heard the message so often! It’s laid down in 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In his Word, God wants us to see his wonders. From it, He wants us to know his promises. For it’s by that means that our faith receives the breath of life. By his Word, God speaks to our hearts, and tells us the Truth!


Think again of Martin Luther. The real turning point for him came, not when he was sitting under the stars one night, not when he had a blinding vision of glory, not when he was surfing the Net on his phone. The turning point came when God’s Word was open before him. He read Romans 1:17, and God’s Word transformed him!


“Faith comes by hearing.” Beloved, that simple statement has some consequences for us. As Paul asks, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (v 14). Or how can we believe, if we won’t read the Word?


If we desire a faith that’s alive and well, we must also desire the Word. We must search that Word, and know it. There’s no easy way around this. Sure, you can put the Bible on your nightstand with the best of intentions. You can pray many times throughout the day, while you drive and shop and prepare supper. You can listen to lots of Christian music. But to stand fast in the faith, to mature in the faith, to have a faith that knows lasting peace and joy, the Word has to be open before us—each day, every day, for as long as we live.


It doesn’t mean we’re all going to have a “Martin Luther moment,” when the light of God’s Word suddenly illuminates all things. Likely, it’ll be a lot less exciting: reading the Bible at regular intervals, memorizing verses here and there, opening the Bible as a family, listening to the Word Sunday after Sunday, talking about the Word with fellow saints. It’s not always earth-shattering. It doesn’t always feel “like we’ve entered heaven through open gates.” Yet this is the way God works—this is the way faith works.


Because time and again, the Word confirms us in what our God has done. Time and again, the Word reminds us of who we’ve become in Christ. Time and again, the Word reveals what kind of God we worship and trust and serve. Read that Word! Listen to that Word! And by his grace, our faith will grow.


In all these opportunities we have to read the Word, there’s also a warning. Paul says the Jews had no excuse for rejecting the message. He writes in verse 18, “Have they not heard? Yes indeed, ‘[God’s voice] has gone out to all the earth, and [his] words to the ends of the world.’” The gospel went out to the Jews, but so many weren’t willing to receive it. They were too proud, or too self-sufficient, or too whatever, to really care. All day long God held out his hands, but disobedient they remained. They closed their eyes, stopped their ears.


And such is the danger present for us. After years of preaching, years of teaching, years of after-dinner Scripture reading, years of Bible study, our love for the Word might slowly fade out. We’ve heard it all so many times before! And it seems like a lot of work, to study Scripture, to think it through: “What does it mean that God gave his Son to die for sinners? What does it really mean to believe in this message? Who is this God who keeps talking to me?” God tells us his Word never returns to him empty. So what is our response to it?   


3)     we can be saved by this faith: When we considered Lord’s Day 6, we looked at some basic aspects of Christ’s work: He is our righteousness, our redemption, our atonement, our peace. Today we could add another: He is our salvation. This idea is perhaps the simplest of them all. Christ saves us, He rescues us, He delivers us from trouble. When it comes right down to it, that’s what we need—salvation from sin. No wonder people came up to Jesus and the apostles with that pointed question, “What must I do to be saved?”


            The Catechism tells us, “Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits” (Q&A 20). Remember how Paul puts that same truth: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v 9). That’s what it takes: Believing Christ stood up for you, and took all your guilt upon himself. Trusting that Christ was crucified, dead and buried, and rose again—so we might live. Confessing He’s now Lord of your life, and all you do.


            If that’s our faith, then we’re granted what we need more than anything else in this life: a proper relationship with God, peace with our Creator, and the promise of everlasting fellowship. If we believe, nothing in heaven or on earth can take this gift away. “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame’” (v 11). No matter where we’ve come from; no matter what we’ve done; no matter how we’ve delayed; if we believe, this salvation will be ours in Christ Jesus!


It’s true, our faith is often weak. We might go through a day without thinking much about God at all. Often our faith is a wandering, withered, wilted thing. Over in Lord’s Day 23, the Catechism gives us a good reminder: We are not “acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of [our faith].” That is, we’re not saved because of faith, but by faith. That is, our faith is only the puny arms that reach out and embrace Jesus Christ. It’s only the humble connection of the branches to the life-giving vine. Our faith is weak, sinful, hesitant—but by God’s grace, our faith is enough.


More than anything, that’s the message Paul wanted to bring to the Roman congregation: “The righteous will live by faith.” If you’re a sinner, it makes all the difference in the world, because it links you to Jesus Christ.


It certainly made a difference for Martin Luther. After that earth-shattering moment, Luther often returned to Romans. He even wrote a commentary on it. And in the preface to that commentary, he shared a few words about what this book of Romans meant to him. There he wrote, “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word, but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”


Notice that challenge, from one of the fathers of the Reformation to us: to memorize Romans, word for word, chapter for chapter. Think about that. Maybe give that a try. Write it on your heart, not for its own sake, but because this wonderful book is food for the soul. It’s food that gives high energy and good endurance and eternal life. Yes, it inspires a faith that works, no matter where or how God has called us to serve.


Even if we’re not theologians like old Martin, this faith can do marvelous things. Whether we’re homemakers or house-builders; office managers or office bearers; teachers or students; mothers or fathers; printers or plumbers—this faith, given by God, and worked through the Word—this faith can accomplish marvelous things.


It can move us to praise. It can inspire us to work. It can help us be holy. It can drive us to prayer. It can give us hope, show us the way, and fill us with joy. And most importantly, this faith can resound with glory—glory for the Triune God who saved us! To him be all our praise and thanksgiving! Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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