God also strengthens his church through the obedience of faith, an expression Paul used to begin this letter and now to conclude to it. It is the obedience to believe the gospel as well as to live it. Or, as one commentator describes it, “obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience.” He who enabled and empowered us to believe so also enables and empowers us to live obedient lives. We shall not be defined by sin and the decay of death but life through the faith God gives: “May we be rich in faith, be strong in faith, live by faith, walk by faith, experience the joy of faith, do the work of faith, hope through faith.” And so, God strengthens his church through the obedience of faith.
The victorious Christian life is not one of fear nor naivete. Through his Spirit, we live in obedience to God, watching out for false teachers and rooted in Truth himself, living wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” For, that which is good is of God, not evil. And that which is good we know and receive by grace, and the grace we enjoy has been given through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
How often we take for granted what God has done, through churches like the Roman church, and is doing, through a church like us. While God calls every one of us to ordinary service, what he does through us is truly extraordinary. So, let us give thanks for what he has done and is doing, through saved sinners and saints like you and me, that perhaps our faith too may be proclaimed in all the world, to the glory of God. Amen.
So, brothers and sisters of this local church, let us live out our faith together, but let us not forget that we have been commissioned to go to the nations, knowing that we are active participants in the Great Commission with our brothers and sisters around the world, and striving together in prayer, praying: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
Paul writes to the Ephesians, “[Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). While not a comprehensive list of New Testament church offices, Paul reminds us of God’s chosen men and means of equipping and edifying the Beloved. As they are listed, we may be tempted to think of each as mutually exclusive, but that is not the case, and while this is typically the case, it’s not always the case.
Hope is one of the defining characteristics of the Christian life. It is not worldly wishful thinking but conviction that what God has promised will be fulfilled. Hope takes God at his Word. Christian hope is also future oriented. For example, in the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul explains, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25). Although we have not yet entered the heavenly realm, we know it exists, that it awaits us. Our Lord has promised us the kingdom, given us the guarantee of his Spirit, and is preparing us for glory.
In a choir, a selfish voice creates dissonance. A submitted voice enjoys consonance. If you can hear one voice above the others, a choir sings not as one voice but a dissonant two. But when every individual submits to one another together, a choir produces the beauty of harmony in one voice. Likewise in Christ’s church, who is composed of many yet sings as one, we submit to one another resulting in harmony, living, singing forth, to the glory of One. May we as Christ’s church, as one voice, sing forth beautiful praise to the One who not only gives us life but also lives that we may glorify him forever.
In love, let us learn to respect the convictions of one another. Some are ready to enjoy all the liberty the gospel gives. Some are not, and “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. This calls for sanctified patience with one another. As one commentator puts it, “For a Christian not a single decision and action can be good which he does not think he can justify on the ground of his Christian conviction and his liberty before God in Christ.” Or to put it simply, “If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong” (Rom. 14:23, MSG).
It will be before the Lord Jesus Christ that each of us will give an account. And in that moment our highly exalted opinions will dissipate like vapors of insignificance. You will not despise your brother’s eating or drinking habits. You will not debate his worship calendar. You will not defend your preferences as superior over his. In fact, you will not find fault with your brother but will look to your Savior. And when your mouth opens to give an account, you will speak only of what the Lord has done for and through you, directing all honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, through his Word, sacrament, and prayer, our Lord has equipped us for our calling. For our God has not called us to put on anything that he has not already provided and prepared for us. So, let us “Be up and awake to what God is doing! . . . Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (MSG). For, now is the time!