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The Obedience of Faith

Tom Pennington • Romans 1:5

  • 2014-05-25 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 1. For those who are our guests, we've just begun our study of this magnificent letter of Paul to the churches in Rome. In fact, we're just in the first seven verses as he introduces this letter to us.

It was in April of the year 1830 that two men named George Wilson and James Porter were indicted. They were indicted for obstructing and robbing the U.S. mail on several occasions and, in the process, for endangering the life of the mail driver. Both of these men pled not guilty. James Porter was tried, found guilty, and executed. At which point, his compatriot George Wilson decided to withdraw his not guilty plea and instead pled guilty. It was just a couple of months later in June of 1830 that President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon to Wilson, a full presidential pardon. To every one's shock and amazement, George Wilson declined the pardon. This set off a string of events; this had never happened before. What do you do? How do you respond when someone rejects a pardon? The case was heard before the Supreme Court. And in the Supreme Court's decision in the case of the U.S. versus George Wilson this is what they wrote, in part. "A pardon is an act of grace. The validity of which delivery is essential and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered and if it be rejected we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him. It may be supposed that no being condemned to death would reject a pardon, but the rule must be the same in capital cases and in misdemeanors." What the Supreme Court was saying in this decision is that to save a man from death a presidential pardon is not enough. The pardon must be accepted. That's the heart of what the passage we come to this morning in our study of Romans 1 has to say. The difference, of course, is also huge. The difference is that unlike a presidential pardon God is sovereign in salvation. He's sovereign in the issue of His pardons and the sinners whom He effectually calls to Himself through the preaching of the gospel will, in His time, receive that pardon. They will respond and accept that pardon.

Let's read together our text. Romans chapter 1, beginning in verse 1: Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now as we've noted in the Greek text that is one long sentence, and in that sentence Paul gives us his personal introduction. He also introduces us to the theme of the letter and he introduces us to the audience to whom he wrote. More importantly, in these introductory verses Paul provides us with three reasons why Romans matters—why it should matter to those who read it in the first century, why it should matter to us, why it calls out our careful study. Three reasons.

The first reason we've already discovered is because Paul wrote it. In verse 1 he introduces the letter simply by his identity, Paul. The Roman Christians, although they had never seen Paul, never met Paul, he'd never been to Rome, they knew of Paul and his ministry. This in and of itself would have called out their careful reading of this letter. They knew he was an apostle, but then he gives his credentials just in case. And he gives three of them in verse 1, 'I am [a doulos] a slave of Christ Jesus. I am a called apostle….,that is, I am an official, legal proxy for Jesus. I speak for Him and I've been set apart for the gospel of God. From my mother's womb I've been set apart to this ministry.' This letter matters because Paul wrote it.

But there's a second reason that it matters: because it's about the gospel. There's nothing more important to anyone than the gospel and this entire letter is about the gospel. In verses 2-5 Paul introduces this theme of the letter and he gives us really a sort of thumbnail sketch of the gospel that he's going to unfold throughout this letter. And in fact we can put it this way: there are in verses 2-5 several foundational truths about the gospel Paul preached. Again, we've noted three of these. We've seen already that the gospel comes from God. Verse 1 ends 'it is the gospel or the good news of God'. God is the source. It is an announcement from God. It is an invitation from God. The gospel is a command to repent and believe from God. It is God's good news. Verse 2 tells us that the gospel is confirmed by the Old Testament scripture. Paul didn't invent the gospel. It wasn't new with him. The Old Testament said it's coming. It promised the gospel as early as the fall of man in Genesis 3:15. Notice verse 2 here. It's the gospel of God which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. It's the gospel that we were told about throughout the Old Testament.

Thirdly the gospel is about God's Son. Notice it's the gospel of God, verse 3 "concerning His Son". The gospel is not primarily about you and your forgiveness from sins, although it's certainly about that. It is primarily about God's Son. Now, we noted several things here in these verses. In fact, in verses 3 and 4 we have sort of a mini-Christology, a mini doctrine of Christ and Who He is and it's laid out in amazing detail in just this short section of Scripture. We noted His divine nature. Verse 3 tells us that He was the Son before He was born of a descendant of David, before He was declared the Son in verse 4. In other words, He was eternally God's Son. He had a divine nature. To be God's Son is to be God the Son. It is to claim equality with God. Every time Jesus in His ministry used this expression, His enemies even understood that. They said He's claiming to be equal with God. So, He had a divine nature. He was the eternal Son of God, always equal, always present. But that eternal Son took on a human nature as well. Notice verse 3, the Son was born of a descendent of David according to the flesh. The eternal Son of God became one of us. He took on a true body and a reasonable soul. He became everything that you are except for sin. And He had to be born a descendent of David according to the flesh. Why? Because the Old Testament had said Messiah would be in David's line. And Jesus was both through Mary and Joseph in the line of David. Verse 4 tells us about the Son's ultimate vindication. He was declared to be, He was marked out to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. In other words, He always was the Son; there was no change in that, but the resurrection is what declared Him to be, marked Him out, separated Him from everyone else and said this proves He is in fact the Son of God. And then verse 4 ends with His personal identity, this is the one of Whom Paul speaks in verse 3 and 4, He is Jesus the historical man who lived in Palestine the first century. He is Christ, Messiah, and He is our "kurios", our Lord our Master. Now Paul begins verse 5 by reasserting his credentials from verse 1. God had called him to be an apostle, separated him from his mother's womb to the ministry of that gospel, and, in verse 5, Paul expands on that idea of his apostleship. Notice what he writes. "Through whom we have received grace and apostleship." "Through whom" obviously refers back to the end of verse 4, "Jesus Christ our Lord". 'Through Jesus', Paul says, '…we have received'. Now, "we" here the plural pronoun is probably an editorial we. In other words, it refers strictly to Paul himself. That's because nowhere else in this letter does Paul refer to any of the other apostles. So, it's a reference to himself. He says 'through Jesus I received grace and apostleship'. That expression has to do with how God had equipped Paul for ministry. He had received grace. That is, Christ had empowered him for ministry by grace, by undeserved, unmerited goodness to Paul. He'd given him the role of an apostle. Notice chapter 15, 15:15 Paul writes,

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

He pictures himself as a priest and his offering to God is those Gentiles who believe through his ministry. But notice how he describes how he got his ministry, verse 15, 'It's the grace that was given to me from God to be a minister of Jesus Christ as a priest. The gospel of God.' So, that is the grace that was given to him. Christ had granted to Paul the office of an apostle. Isn't that what Ephesians 4 says? Christ gave gifted men to His church. He gave and one of the gifts was apostles. That's all Paul is saying: I was given by God to the church as an apostle. He was also given the power to perform the signs of an apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:12. So this was Paul's position. He didn't deserve it. It's not like Paul earned this role. It was all grace. Now having briefly restated his credentials, the beginning of verse 5, Paul comes back to the theme he's been dwelling on, and that theme is the gospel. And in the second half of verse 5 Paul lays out three more truths about the gospel he preached, those foundational truths. Let's look at them together.

This would be the fourth foundational truth about Paul's gospel: It is that the gospel demands a response. Look again at verse 5. "Through Him [that is, through Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith." Now here is the immediate goal of the gospel: to bring about the obedience of faith. And right away we're confronted with the shallowness of American evangelical gospel presentation because this is contrary to the spirit of what happens today. You understand Paul is saying it is not enough to hear the gospel although hearing the gospel is essential; in Romans chapter 10 he's going to say 'How shall they believe in One in whom they have not heard?' You have to hear, but hearing the gospel is not enough. It's not enough to know the facts of the gospel. Our country is filled, and North Texas is filled with people who know the facts of the gospel. It's not enough to understand those facts. It's not enough to agree that those facts are true. I mean after all James 2 tells us that even the demons believe the right things. They believe and fear, they shudder. It's not enough to know the facts, to believe they're true. The gospel, the good news of what God has done through His Son to reconcile sinners to Himself always demands a response. The announcement must be believed. The invitation must be accepted. The command to believe and repent must be obeyed. The gospel is as worthless to the person who doesn't respond as the presidential pardon of Andrew Jackson was to George Wilson who refused to accept it.

So, the question is what response does the gospel demand of those who hear it? Notice how Paul puts it in verse 5. Here's the response demanded: the obedience of faith. Now, let me just point out something to you. It is remarkable how Paul introduces these themes in the first seven verses and comes back to exactly the same list of themes in the last of this epistle. Turn to the last chapter, Romans 16, and notice verse 25. I want you to just notice how many of the themes we've already talked about show up here.

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, [now here's one more similarity that the gospel proclaimed] leading to the obedience of faith.

What I want you to see is here is a letter given to explain the gospel, given to explain justification by faith alone. And Paul begins the letter and ends the letter by saying here's the response. Here's what the gospel demands of the person who hears it: the obedience of faith. So, what does that mean?

Well, it could mean one of two things. First of all, it could mean the obedience that is faith. This view would say something like this, they would say 'okay, the gospel itself is a command. It commands you to believe and so you must respond to that command to believe in obedience, that's the obedience of faith'. Faith is simply obedience to the command of the gospel. The gospel says believe, you believe, that's the obedience of faith. It is an obedience of which faith is the central principle. And it is true, the gospel is a command; we've already discovered that. I mean Paul in Athens on Mars Hill in Acts 17 says, 'God commands all people everywhere to repent.' The gospel is a command. In Acts 6:7, we read that a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. In other words, they heard the gospel here summarized as "the faith", and they obeyed it. This view refers to this expression—obedience of faith—to the initial act of believing the gospel. It's what happened at the moment of your conversion. You responded at that moment with the obedience that is faith. The gospel said believe, you believed.

But there's a second possible meaning of this expression 'the obedience of faith' and that is 'the obedience that faith produces'. If that is what Paul meant then he was being more comprehensive. He was referring not only to that initial act of faith when you responded to the gospel, but to a life pattern of faith and obedience that began as a result of that. In other words, genuine faith always produces obedience to Christ. This is how the Reformers used to say it, "We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone." Let me say that again, "We are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone." True saving faith always produces obedience. In fact, this is how Christians are sometimes called. In Hebrews 5:9 he says this in describing Christians: 'Jesus became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.' This morning earlier I was reading through Hebrews chapter 11 and I was struck with how many times the writer of Hebrews says, 'by faith Abraham obeyed, by faith Noah obeyed.' This is how it always is. By faith we're moved to obey. The gospel demands a response and that response is saving faith. Faith itself is obedience to the command of the gospel to believe and it produces an ongoing life of faith and obedience. Look at Romans 1:16. Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…." And then he says in verse 17 that initiates a life of faith. The righteous man shall live by faith. And faith produces that pattern of obedience. Wherever there is genuine saving faith there will be a pattern of obedience in the life. I mean isn't this what Jesus said even in the Great Commission? Matthew 28, He said, 'I want you go to all the nations and make disciples.' That is, see people come to genuine faith in Christ and then I want you baptize them and then I want you to teach them all that I have commanded you. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. Once a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, once they become a disciple that's always the response: to learn what Jesus said in order to observe it, to do it. Think of it like this. Think of this kind of analogy. Obedience is to faith what a pulse is to physical life. Your pulse doesn't cause your physical life. It is merely a sign that there is life. In the same way your obedience doesn't earn your salvation, doesn't accomplish your salvation, doesn't produce salvation. It is merely a sign that you have genuinely believed and that you have spiritual life. In fact, let me put it this strongly: Obedience to Jesus Christ is the chief vital sign of the presence of spiritual life in the soul. It's interesting, again, how Paul begins and ends the book of Romans. In Romans 1:8 he speaks of the Romans and he says, 'Your faith has become known throughout all the world.' In the end of the book, in 16:19 he says, 'Your obedience has become known throughout all the world.' Now you see why he would do that, because it's the obedience of faith.

Now everyone here this morning has heard the gospel. Almost certainly if you're here this morning you understand that you are created by God, a righteous, holy God, who demands our obedience. He's written His law on your conscience, He's given you His Word to tell you how you ought to live. All of us, however, were born in sin. We were guilty of Adam's sin. He served as our representative and in our place sinned against God and we have committed our own sin—sin after sin after sin. Those sins deserve God's eternal wrath and punishment because He is a just and holy God. At the same time, He is also a God of amazing love and His love compelled Him to send His own Son—His eternal Son—into the world to become one of us, to add humanity to His deity, and to live for 33 years in this world, to live the life we should have lived. And then to die as the substitute suffering God's justice against the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him. He died, He was buried, God raised Him again on the third day showing that in fact He was everything He claimed, that everything He said was true, and He has now ascended unto God and now intercedes for us and some day He will return for His own. That's the gospel.

Almost everyone here has heard that gospel and almost everyone here believes that's true, but here's the key question: Have you ever responded to that gospel by expressing to God a willingness to turn from your sin and to put your full confidence in Jesus Christ and His work alone as your only hope of salvation, of forgiveness, of heaven? Have you accepted the pardon? Have you responded? It's likely that almost everyone here claims not only to believe that gospel but claims to have done what I have just described. So how can you know if that's true in your life? Paul tells us right here. Ask yourself this question. Has your faith produced a consistent desire and a consistent pattern of obedience to Jesus Christ? Whatever you do, don't go back and sort of examine some past experience. 'Well I remember the day when I prayed a prayer or when I had this experience or when something happened to me, I just felt different, or when I walked an aisle or when I signed a card or when I threw some stick in the fire at camp.' Whatever you do don't go back. Ask yourself this question. Today, is there honestly in my heart a desire to obey and follow Jesus Christ? It's the obedience of faith. Now, as we think about this issue there are two important implications that touch the lives of many people here this morning. If you made a profession of faith at some point in the past, but now for many years there has been no pattern of obedience in your life, there's been no sign of spiritual life, there's been no spiritual pulse, then as kindly and as gently as I can say it I need to say to you: Based on the Scripture, you are not a Christian. Whatever kind of faith you think you have, it is not genuine saving faith.

There's a second implication in this expression and that is if you, on the other hand, made a profession in the past when you were young and then you lived for many years with no sign of obedience, but then years later something happened in your life—you began to obey Jesus Christ. Maybe you labeled that later event "rededication" or surrender or becoming a disciple or whatever. Let me explain to you the truth. What really happened to you is this: You were not really a Christian all of those years when there was no spiritual pulse in your life. You can't be. If there's no spiritual pulse, there's no spiritual life. But in God's grace you eventually came to a genuine saving faith. Now the major implication of this, of course, is baptism. If you were baptized after your initial long ago profession of faith that was followed by nothing but spiritual flat line, no pattern of obedience, then you weren't really baptized, you just got wet. And you need to obey your Lord and pursue baptism. The gospel demands a response Paul says. It's the response of faith. The obedience of faith, genuine faith, will always begin a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. Not perfect obedience, not perfection, but direction. Your life will be on a general trend upward toward holiness. That line may look pretty jagged at times as you grow and digress, but the general trend will be up when you look at your life as a whole. There will be an increase in the pattern of righteousness and a decrease in the pattern of sin. It's the obedience of faith.

Now Paul identifies a fifth key truth about the gospel in this text. It is this: the gospel is God's universal message. Look at verse 5 again, "We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles…" That was the focus of Paul's proclamation. It was all the Gentiles. Now, our English word "gentile" comes from a Latin word, the word "gentilis" which means of, or belonging to a clan or a tribe but the Greek word is "ethnos". You recognize it; it's the word from which we get the word "ethnicity". Although that's a little misleading because the Greek word doesn't really refer primarily to race. When this word occurs in the singular, it means "a nation" like our nation. It's a body of persons united by kinship, culture, common tradition. But when this word is plural as it is here is literally the nations. So it refers to all of those peoples and nations that do not believe in the true God of Israel. It's not merely a description of Jews versus non-Jews, although it's certainly that, it's more than that. It's also a line of demarcation between those who knew and followed the true and living God and all the other nations on earth that did not. In other words, often the word "Gentiles" simply means the peoples of the unbelieving nations of the world, the idolaters, the pagans across this planet.

Now on occasion Paul will use this word of believers, those who have come to know the true God through His Son, and when He does so He does so to demarcate the fact that there are those in Christ who were not part of the nation of Israel where the true God was worshipped. Instead they came from outside to worship the true God. So, what's Paul's point in verse 5? His point is that God intended His gospel to be proclaimed to all of the nations of the world. Paul understood this even from his conversion on the Damascus road. Look at his recounting of it in Acts 26. Acts 26:15,

And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you…'

Now watch verse 17, "…. rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles…" the

non-Jewish people, but the pagans who don't worship the true God, …to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

Jesus told Paul on the Damascus road 'your mission is to the nations, the pagans, those who are outside of God's covenant people.'

Now understand this idea of a global mission is not new with Paul, not at all. In fact, it goes all the way back to the Old Testament. In fact, on the very day the nation of Israel was founded, when they received their constitution on the day at Sinai in Exodus 19:6, you know what God says to them? 'You are going to be a kingdom of priests.' In other words, you're going to represent Me to the rest of the peoples on earth. You are going to be My witness nation. God wasn't just about saving that little people group of Israel and didn't care about the rest of the world. No! Israel was to be His evangelistic nation to the world. You ever wondered why God planted Israel in that little place that we call Israel today? That little land mass. It's not because that's like the best land on earth. If you've been there, it's fine but you wouldn't put it in that category. Why? Because it is a natural land bridge. On one side you have the Mediterranean. On the other side you have the Sahara Desert. And there's this little narrow land bridge in which the three continents of the ancient world were linked—Asia, Europe and Africa—and if you wanted to get from one of those continents to another guess where you had to pass? Right through that little neck of land. God planted His witness nation literally in the geographic center of the ancient world because He was on a global mission.

There are glimpses of Israel fulfilling its mission in the Old Testament. You can look at the book of Ruth where you have a Moabitess woman, Ruth, who comes in to the people of God. You have Jonah, the reluctant prophet, who goes to Ninevah and God saves a huge people group, the Assyrians, that wicked violent people. But God's global mission would only be completely and perfectly fulfilled through Israel's coming Messiah. I quoted for you last time a verse I want you to write it down again, really think and meditate on it. It's profound. Isaiah 49:6 is one of the Servant's songs of Isaiah. It's one of the songs about Messiah. In this verse, God the Father is talking to the Messiah. Listen to what He says. Isaiah 49:6, "'It is too small a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel…'" That's too little. You're much bigger than that and My plan is much bigger than that. Notice, "'I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.'" That is the heart of God. God wasn't saving that little tiny people group we call the Jews and He didn't care about anybody else. They were to be His witness nation and ultimately His Messiah would perfectly fulfill that mission, a light to the nations, so His salvation could reach to the end of the earth. Paul got that. Paul understood that was God's heart and that was His mission. In fact, look at Romans 1:13. He says, I want to come to Rome because "I want to obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish." Verse 16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Paul said 'listen, I get it.' The gospel is God's global universal message. By the way, the universal proclamation of the gospel will happen before this age ends. Jesus promises it in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:14, He says, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." This is going to happen. In fact, even during the seven-year tribulation period the gospel will be proclaimed across the entire planet, not only from the witnesses that God will put on earth, but even an angel. Listen to Revelation 14:6, "And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people…" Even during the tribulation period God is going to be declaring His good news, the good news about His Son.

Recently, I got a call from someone who was deeply offended by something they had heard on the Internet that John MacArthur had said. It was actually an old Q&A that had recently been resurrected. Someone was making an issue of it. In this Q&A someone asked John, 'So do you think that someone during the tribulation period who has the mark of the beast will be saved, can be saved?' And John answered as I would answer, 'absolutely. God is completely powerful. He will redeem those who He will redeem. The gospel will be presented on earth by an angel in heaven and what a context in which to see the reality of Who God is.' So absolutely there will be. This is the heart of our God. It is for the nations. This should impact us. The fact that the gospel is God's universal message for all the nations is a call to every one of us—to you—to world missions. There are people in this room who need to go to the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but all of us need to get involved in God's global mission.

You say how can I get involved? Well, start by praying. Pick a country on earth. Pick a city. Pick a region. Maybe it's from your own background, your own ethnic background. Maybe it's somewhere you visited. Maybe it's the 10/40 window where so many of the world's unreached people groups live. Whatever it is, pick somewhere on earth and begin to pray that God would make His name known in that place. Get on board with God's global mission. You know, it's so tempting for us to sort of contemplate our own spiritual navel and get all consumed with ourselves. Listen, the gospel what God is doing on this planet is not just about you and it's not just about me. It's a global mission. You can pray, you can and should give regularly to support the missionaries of this church. We are endeavoring to reach the nations through the ministry this church. You can be part of the missionary support teams and encourage specific missionaries. You can even consider going on a short-term missions trip if it will be an advantage to the missionary rather than just a trip for you. But you must get a vision for God's global mission. God is concerned that all the nations hear His good news. It's also a call to personal evangelism. God has not only commanded that the gospel be announced to all the nations but also to the people in our own lives. Let me ask you: Have the people who are a part of your life heard the gospel from your lips? This is the heart of God. Have you regularly prayed for their salvation? It's, notice verse 5, "among all the nations".

There's a sixth and final truth about the gospel in verse 5 and it's that the gospel is for the sake of His name. Notice again, He says, "I've received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake." Again, the antecedent of the pronoun "His" is at the end of verse 4, "Jesus Christ our Lord". The ultimate goal of the gospel is the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Now don't misunderstand me. Of course, God loves individual believers. A crucial goal of the gospel was to purchase your forgiveness, to rescue you from your sins, to justify you, to secure your adoption, to ensure your eternal presence in the presence of your Creator. God created the plan we call the gospel because He loved you individually, personally. As—are you ready for this—He loved you as He loves His unique one of a kind Son. But, our salvation is not the ultimate goal behind the gospel. It is for the sake of His name. God's ultimate goal behind the gospel is the reputation, fame and honor of His Son, Jesus Christ. We learn this in so many different ways. If you've been a part of our church any time at all you've heard me describe the theme of the Bible this way. The overarching theme of the Bible is this: God is redeeming a people by His Son for His Son to His own glory. That's the theme of the Bible. God is redeeming a people by His Son for His Son to His own glory. It's for His Son. I wish I had time to take you to John 17. John 17 is the high priestly prayer of Christ and in that prayer again and again Jesus connects the ones the one the Father gave Him—that's us—the ones the Father gave Him with the glory of Christ. He says, 'they're going to bring Me glory.' I'm glorified in them. I want them to see My glory. Read that chapter and again and again we, the ones whom the Father has given to the Son, are connected to bringing glory to the Son. You see, the Father intended to present to His Son a love gift of a redeemed humanity that will bring His Son glory forever. You say, 'how do we do that?' By praising His Son. By loving His Son. By following His Son. By adoring His Son. By reflecting in our own moral characters the beauty of the moral character of His Son. God is rescuing a people for His Son for the sake of His name.

Now, the ramifications of this little phrase at the end of verse 5 couldn't be larger. I want you to understand this. That is the primary motive of your Christian life. Christian, you are in Christ for one reason. And that is to advance the reputation, the honor, the glory of your Master, Jesus Christ. That's it. This is also the primary motive for world missions. You know we so often get the cart before the horse. Many people go to the world to share the gospel and missions because of those poor people who haven't heard the gospel and, you know, we ought to love those people. But that's not the primary motive. I love the way John the apostle puts it in 3 John 7. He's talking about the first century missionaries that went out from the church and he says, "… they went out for the sake of the Name." They went out for the sake of the Name. This is always been the reason true missionaries have gone to the world.

There's a favorite story of mine about two men, Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were the first two Moravian missionaries from Germany who went out under the ministry of Count Zinzendorf. We sang one of his hymns; it's in our hymnbook. These two men were called in 1732 to minister to African slaves on the Caribbean Islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. They traveled to Copenhagen, sort of get their marching orders, and their idea was met with some opposition. They were asked by one of the officials "So what are you going to do to support yourselves when you're there?" And their response was "We will work as slaves among slaves if that's what's required." We'll become slaves if that's what we have to do. These two young men boarded a ship in Copenhagen to leave and as far as they knew never to return to their homes. In fact, the first out of the first 29 missionaries to St. Thomas and to St. Croix, 20 died. Only nine survived. As far as they knew they were giving their lives for the cause of Christ on these two islands. I love what happens as they're leaving. As the story is told they board the ship and as these two men, cutting themselves off from all they've known, going to St. Thomas and St. Croix to serve slaves they raise their hands and what they said, the words they spoke became famous ,because here's what they said: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering."

For the next 50 years Moravian missionaries continued the work of those two men baptizing almost 13,000 converts and establishing churches throughout the Caribbean, but their parting words as they boarded that ship became the motto of Moravian missions from that point forward. "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering." In other words, missions exist primarily for the sake of Jesus and His Name. It's also the primary motive for personal evangelism. Listen, don't share the gospel with people primarily for their sake. Instead share the gospel for the glory of Christ who deserves to be known, who deserves to be praised. If you can develop this mindset, it will keep you from the fear of personal rejection or from simply not sharing the gospel because you know those people are never going to believe it anyway. That doesn't matte because Jesus deserves to be known. He deserves to be heard about. He deserves to be worshipped. He deserves to be praised. And He deserves the reward of His suffering. And there will be people who seem very unlikely to you who will hear that gospel from you and they will be part of the reward of Jesus' suffering. They will hear and they'll believe. Paul preached the gospel not primarily for the sake of those who would hear, but for the glory and the reputation and the honor of Jesus Christ for the sake of His Name. May God enable us to live for the same reason. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the clarity of the gospel Paul preached. Thank You for the reminders even this morning in this amazing verse, that the gospel always demands a response—the obedience of faith. Father, I pray for those here this morning who in our Christianity-steep culture who have made some weak profession of faith in some point in the past and are still clinging to that, Father, may this be the day when they respond to the gospel truly with the obedience of faith. Father, I pray for all of us individually and as a church that You would enable us to see that this is Your universal message, that You desire this message to extend to all the nations on this planet and to all the people groups. Father, help us to get a vision for that. Individually may we pray specifically, may we give, may we work, may we go. Lord, I pray that You would raise up even people from this church as You have already continue to raise up people who would go and may we all be engaged in Your global mission. Father, help us to both live and to proclaim the gospel. Not for our sakes or even the sake of those who hear, but for the fame and the honor and the reputation of Jesus Christ our Lord. May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering. We pray in Jesus Name, amen.