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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:“The Keys of the Kingdom (Part 1): Opening and Closing the Kingdom of Heaven through Gospel Proclamation
Text:LD 31 Romans 10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Church Discipline
 
Preached:2023-01-15
Added:2023-03-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“The Keys of the Kingdom (Part 1): Opening and Closing the Kingdom of

Heaven through Gospel Proclamation"

Romans 10; Lord’s Day 31 (Q 84)

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10 and Lord’s Day 31 both speak about the same thing: gaining access into the kingdom of heaven. They seek to answer the question: how can lost sinners on earth pass through those pearly gates in heaven and enjoy everlasting life with God? The answer: the doors of the kingdom must first be opened to them.  

 

Boys and girls, the Bible tells us that there are keys that lock and unlock the doors, the gates of heaven. Not in a literal sense of course, but in a figurative since. It was Jesus who have us that word picture, that imagery. Right after Peter confessed that he believed in his heart that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said to Peter:  

 

“Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 

 

Our Lord Jesus gave those keys of the kingdom to Peter, and to all the Apostles of his day who preached the Gospel, and those keys were given to elders and pastors in each church that was planted in the books of Acts. And to this day, the keys of the kingdom are exercised, they are used by every faithful church who makes the same confession that Peter did.

 

If we truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, then we will use the keys of the Kingdom to proclaim salvation in Christ to all the lost sinners on this earth, and we will also warn and admonish those who claim to know Christ, that they must leave the life of sin behind, and follow closely after Christ each day.   

 

Tonight we begin our consideration of the keys of the kingdom by looking at the first key. Here, Christ Calls us to Open and Close the Kingdom of Heaven through Gospel Proclamation.

 

  1. How the Door is Opened
  2. How the Door is Closed 

 

1.  How the Door is Opened

Let’s review again what Question Q & A 84 says: How does preaching the gospel open the kingdom?  A. 84: According to the command of Christ:  The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ’s merits (what Christ has done for us), truly forgives all their sins.

 

This afternoon we’re going to explore what this means by looking at Romans 10. But before we get to Romans 10, I want to take a few moments to talk about this particular section of the book of Romans, especially chapters 9-11, because these are very weighty and difficult passages to understand.

 

These chapters address God’s sovereign choice in salvation – or what we refer to in the Reformed faith as the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is God’s sovereign choice whereby God chooses to save some out of the fallen human race unto salvation in Christ, but also, by that same sovereign choice, God chooses to leave others in their sin, to not save them, but rather to leave them in the sin and guilt into which they have willingly plunged.

 

As the Apostle Paul is explaining this doctrine, he is forced to wrestle and grapple with a very sad and heartbreaking reality. Israel, the Jews, God’s very own people, the people who had received the covenant promises of God through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they had fallen away from God. They rejected God, and as a result, God rejected them. 

 

This was a shocking and tragic turn of events because as Paul writes in Romans 9: 6-9, the Jews possessed a very special status as God’s very own people, as God’s “chosen people”. They were called and set apart by God and given countless blessings, and privileges and promises – especially the blessing that through them was traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!

 

Yet somehow, in spite of all these promises and blessings and privileges, Israel, the Jews had been cut off from God; they had hardened their hearts to the very God who had come to them in His grace, with his precious promises, and eventually He came to them in the flesh, in the Person of Jesus Christ, the vey Son of God. But instead of receiving and embracing Jesus in love, with great rejoicing, and believing in Him as their Savior and King and Redeemer, they hated him; they rejected him; they despised him and they crucified him. 

 

And for the Apostle Paul in particular, who was a Jew by birth, who identified and belonged to the people of Israel by ethnicity and culture and tradition and heritage (in fact, he refers to the Jews as his brothers and sisters, those of his own race, in Romans 9: 3), for him in particular, these chapters of the Bible would have been some of the saddest, most heart wrenching, and grievous words he ever wrote.

 

I would compare it to the same heartache and pain that we parents experience when we try to understand or explain why it is that some of our children walk with God and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, and the fruit of that is seen in their lives -- while others don’t. They’re clearly not believing as the others do, and not walking by faith. It’s a great burden and a heartache.   

 

And now, if we try to connect Romans 8 to this, we see that Paul is trying to explain how it is that we go from the joy, the rock solid confidence, the blessed assurance we confess in Romans 8: 39 -- that nothing – no force or power or creature, or angel or demon, nothing in heaven above or on earth below is able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord – to the reality that he sees that not all Israel is Israel (Romans 9:6); that not everyone who is born of Abraham, who are his physical seed and descendants, are saved.     

 

Paul’s purpose, then, in writing Romans 9-11 (and really it’s God’s purpose) is, on the one hand, to defend God’s justice and His sovereign choice – that we should not question God, but let God be God. And on the other hand, it is to make sure that we know that in God’s rejection of Israel, and their rejection of the Messiah, it is not as though God’s plans had failed. It is not as if God’s promises were empty or disingenuous or that God broke His Word.

 

No. From the very beginning, God made it clear that the gift of salvation that God bestows on sinners, in other words “entrance into the kingdom of God”, does not come to us fallen sinners merely on the basis of our race or ethnicity. The doors of Christ’s kingdom do not automatically swing open to lost sinners simply on account of our family name, or our human ancestry or even on account of the accumulation of good works and righteous deeds that we have done.

 

From the very beginning, kingdom access has only ever been granted to those who believe; kingdom access has only ever been granted to those who by faith believe in the Gospel of salvation, in the gracious promises of God, namely, that God by His infinite grace and boundless mercy will not count our sins against us, but He will forgive us of our sins by the blood of the one, only sacrifice that can wash away our sins: the blood of the Lamb.

 

This is the argument that Paul carries into the first half of Romans 10. In the opening verses Paul expresses his heart’s desire and prayer that the Israelites that they may be saved. But then he goes on to expose the problem with the Israelites. He said they had a zeal for God, but one that was not based on knowledge.

 

That zeal was seen most obviously in their determination to keep the law of God. If you look at the Pharisees in the New Testament, we find that no one could match their zeal and fervor for God’s Law. They tried to abide by every ‘jot and tittle’ of the law, leaving nothing undone. But their mighty zeal was undone by their blind ignorance.

 

For in pursuing their own righteousness, they did not know, and they did not seek or submit to the righteousness that comes from God. Paul states this as clearly as possible in verse 4: Christ is the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

 

In other words, the righteousness that saves sinners is not found anywhere else, or in anyone else – but in Christ and in Him alone. That is why He came. He came to keep the law, to do what the most zealous and God fearing Pharisee or Jew could never do -- to obey the law in all its fulness; to leave nothing undone; to complete, to satisfy all righteousness under the law. And Christ came to die, to shed his righteous and innocent blood, so that His blood could cover over all of our sins, all of our unrighteousness, even the most heinous and grievous sins against God.    

Then in verse 6 and following, Paul uses a very clever literary tactic. He gives this righteousness a voice. He basically says that if this righteousness that comes from God could speak, then it would call us to take God at His Word. To have faith and believe what God tells us is true. To put our trust in God and in the righteousness of the One He sent to secure it for us.

 

The righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven” (that is, to bring Christ down), or “Who will descend into the deep” (that is to bring Christ up from the dead).

 

The righteousness that is by faith, that comes from God, does not expect us to somehow attain it, to climb into heaven or descend into the depths or search for it high and low as if it somehow is hiding out there and must be found by us to lay hold of it. No. That’s not the way this works. And that’s not only impossible, but it is also unnecessary.

 

And why is that? It’s because this righteousness from God has come to us – it has been graciously and lovingly provided so that we did not have to search high and low; so that we did not have to achieve it by our own works, trying to attain this goal on our own!

 

Verse 8 continues with the voice of righteousness: But what does it say: the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

 

And then look at verses 11-12. This is where Paul brings this point home and ties it all together. “As the scripture says, ‘Everyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  

 

What Paul is saying is that when it comes to salvation, when it comes to gaining access and entrance into the kingdom of heaven, Jews and Gentiles (which covers the entire human race) must enter the exact same way, through the exact same door or gate as it were – and that door is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. (in John 10: 7 & 9 Jesus said, I am the gate for the sheep...then: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved).   

 

There is no “cheat code”; there is no special secret access code that God gave to the Jews which would enable them to bypass security, to somehow circumvent the need for faith in Jesus Christ.

The same holds true for all men, everywhere, who have ever been born on this earth.

 

After this, Paul goes on to explain how it is that people who are lost in sin can come to know this. How does one come to hear, to know, and to eventually believe this gospel. His answer is provided in the wonderful words of vv. 14-15. It’s by the church fulfilling her God given mission and task. By going into the world and telling the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

 

Follow along with me: How, then, can I call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

 

So, we ask: what was Israel’s problem? Paul explains that in vv. 16 and following. They were hardhearted, stubborn and would not listen. They would not believe the Word. They would not believe the Gospel – and as a result, they fall under the Lord’s judgment. If they do not believe, they will not be saved.     

 

It’s just as Lord’s Day 31 describes. This process, this faithful and diligent outworking of the Great Commission, is one of the keys that God has given us, His church on earth, to open the door of his mighty and eternal kingdom to those who believe.

 

And if we want to see an up-close view of what this looks like, we only need to read the book of Acts to see how preaching and mission and being sent and the Holy Spirit’s blessing upon the preaching of the Word brings amazing results – how it brings about a great harvest of souls.

 

One of the most compelling stories of this type of ‘hearing and believing’ is found in Acts 8:26-40. It’s where Philip meets the Ethiopian eunuch. This man was a convert to Judaism, which means that he believed the Old Testament Scriptures and followed the law. He must have come to Jerusalem to take part in one of the three annual feasts.

 

On his way back home, he parked his chariot beside the road and began to read the book of Isaiah the prophet. An angel had told Philip to go along that road so that he could meet this Ethiopian eunuch. So, there is the sending part.

 

When Philip arrived he heard this man reading from Isaiah 55: he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the Shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of this descendance? For his life was taken from the earth.

 

Philip asked the eunuch, Do you understand what you are reading? And do you recall what the Ethiopian eunuch said? He said: How can I unless someone explains it to me. The man asked Phillip please tell me who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else? Then Phillip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. And there’s the explanation or preaching part!

 

Going on a bit later in that same account we read that the Ethiopian eunuch was then baptized by Philip, and after Philip left. he went on his way rejoicing. In this interaction, we see the beautiful process of Romans 10 clearly set forth: How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?

 

As a result, this man who once was lost, has now been found. He was blind, but now he sees. He who was once outside the kingdom of God, has now, by faith in Christ, by believing the Word of God, was brought into the kingdom by means of the powerful preaching of the Gospel.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to impress upon all of us here tonight that this promise of God is as broad as possible. Notice what A 84 says: The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one…

 

In referring to all believers it does not only refer to those who do not yet know who will one day come to believe the message and be saved. Yes, they are in view here also. But this promise and preaching is for each one of us who already believe. We need the Gospel preached to us just as much as anyone who is lost, as much as anyone who has never heard it before.

 

We need this gospel, the call to come to Christ, proclaimed to us again and again because we’re weak and fallen and sinful creatures; we are prone to wander and doubt and question and give in to despair. We need this Gospel preached to us when we’re in the midst of life’s trials and hardships; when we’re in the crosshairs of Satan’s bow, we’re facing his temptations and we realize we have no strength to withstand; we need this Gospel [reached to us when we’re on beds of illness, or when we’ve lost dear loved ones and our hearts are heavy with grief.

 

And each time it is preached to us – even though things in our life may be going amazingly well – each time we are called to respond the same way. To accept the Gospel promises. To believe that our sins are forgiven, and to surrender our hearts, our troubles, our worries, our fears, our anxieties, our hurts, our loss – to bring them all to God, in Christ, knowing and trusting that He who has saved us by His grace, by the blood of His Son, will also provide grace to help us in our time of need.

 

Do you believe this beloved? Do you come to Christ like this? Do you believe in Jesus and accept the Gospel promise? If you do, then we are assured once more that the doors of his kingdom stand open before us, and he bids us to come in and find in Him the rest, the grace, the comfort, the strength we need for yet another day, yet another week.

 

But if we do not believe, if we do not accept God’s Gospel promises, or if we are part of the church but we are living like a hypocrite, as one who is a Christian by name only, who doesn’t really confess our sin, or maybe we don’t even see our sin, and we do not repent of our sin, then so long as we remain unrepentant, unwilling to see, and confess and flee from our sin – then the Gospel proclaims to us a much different message.

 

Then the gospel proclaims to us the worst possible message: It proclaims that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation still rests upon us. And this wrath and judgment will rest upon us like an ever-increasing weight, like a heavy burden that we cannot shirk or get free of.

 

But that proclamation of judgment is also a gracious word of warning. It is not to late for us – so long as we have the breath of life within us – to cry out to the Lord, to repent of our sins, to seek his forgiveness and implore God for His grace and mercy and love through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. So, lets us all hear the Good News today, and let us respond in faith and obedience.

 

The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

 

Amen.            




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2023, Pastor Keith Davis

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