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“Perfecting Your Delivery: Right Address, Authorization, & Attitude”

4th Sunday of Advent (‘Love’) - Dec.18/16  -  Rom.1:1-7


Christmas is coming. Christmas is about God getting a message through: a message wrapped in human skin, born in a manger, destined for a cross. A message packaged in the body of the Son of Man, simultaneously Son of God, about how much God loves us, and the lengths to which God’s willing to go to save us from calamity and preserve us to Himself.

      Paul had a message to deliver – a message to the church at Rome that would become his lasting legacy, the New Testament’s most thorough and definitive presentation of the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus. In fact there’s a short nutshell presentation method in evangelism called “The Romans Road” which uses several verses from this book in sequence to summarize the essentials of the Christian faith (Rom 3:23; 5:8; 6:23f; 10:9f). So it was important for him to get the address right when sending this important letter, so it might go astray, might not get delivered. So Paul uses conventional labelling, a sort of “from / to” method of address that would be understood by anyone who looked at the outside cover. You see the “to” in v7: “To all in Rome...” The word “from” doesn’t occur in the text, but the format of v1 identifies the sender clearly: v1 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...” But Paul doesn’t just put his name. In fact, anyone along the way who stopped the bearer to check their documentation would have to read the Gospel-in-a-nutshell of these first 7 verses in order to determine both who it’s “from” and “to”! Crafty, Paul – always looking for ways to interest casual observers in the sensational Good News he had to offer.

      It’s important to get your address correct, else your message or parcel may not get through. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a new cheap cell phone to replace my current one which randomly rebooted and lacked horsepower (I needed to buy more pay-as-you-go time and my provider, Speakout7eleven, offered a discount which brought the cost of a new phone to just $50.) I ordered it online and eagerly anticipated the delivery within 5 business days as promised. Thursday came and the tracking page said “wrong address”. I phoned to clarify (as the order form just had my PO box) but the customer service people said it was already corrected. Friday came and there was a notice saying it had been delivered to “front door”. Now, I had been home all day Thursday and I KNEW there had not been a courier truck or package at the front door. I phoned and asked them to put a trace on it.

      That afternoon, we had a meeting at the church building, at the other end of town. When I arrived to open up, what should I find but my cell phone in a large envelope the end of which had been crammed through the gap between the two industrial-style steel-and-glass doors! Apparently the courier company had found an address, all right – just not my residence. I’m thankful no one had walked off with that package over the 30-odd hours it had been exposed to public view!

      So, back to Romans: Paul is trying desperately to get the address right so that his vital message gets through to the church. How are you going to handle this letter? Are you going to file it in the wrong slot, stick it in the wrong door like my missing cell phone? This book is overtly to the church at Rome, but is it also to ME? Is it not to me? Is it still relevant and important in our century and context? Some liberal and feminist Christians today might dismiss it, arguing Paul’s views on complementarianism, roles of men and women, or God’s sovereignty and the doctrine of election make him “politically incorrect” or inconsistent with modern views of human autonomy.

      Can you let Paul the apostle address YOU? Are you ready to hear what he has to say? Can you give him credit for having had personal contact with the risen Lord Jesus? Can you trust that the Holy Spirit was actively inspiring him to write what needed to be communicated for our instruction here and now, today, in Canada in 2016? Are you ready to hear God address you through the agency of this first-century author? As he claims in 1Cor 2:12f: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” This is what we need to be ready for and receptive to when we pick up the Bible for our daily devotions: having God address us, speaking to us His spiritual truths.

      Paul packs massive concepts into a peek at his address label. People’s New Testament Commentary notes: “Let it be noted that this section, written, as admitted by skeptical critics, less than thirty years after the crucifixion, by Paul, to a body of believers at a distance from Judea, affirms the main facts of the Gospels: (1) That Jesus was the Son of God. (2) That he took upon himself our nature. (3) That he displayed divine power. (4) That he was raised from the dead. (5) That men are saved by the obedience of the faith.”


Once we get the ADDRESS right, we need to get the AUTHORIZATION realized. Why should we listen to this guy, or take him seriously? Paul was constantly having to defend his credentials. He wasn’t one of the original Twelve Disciples that were constantly with Jesus during His earthly ministry. He didn’t even meet Jesus until quite a while after the resurrection, when persecution had prompted Christ-followers to flee to Damascus (Acts 8:1; 9:2).

      So, subtly and unobtrusively, Paul begins to point our questioning eyes to the fine print at the bottom of his business card, as it were. Who’s he representing? What are the larger authoritative bodies that are backing what he has to say?

      Paul begins by noting his message springs right out of the heart of the well-known Jewish belief system. He’s part of an established prophetic tradition rooted in the disseminated Scriptures. V2 “the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures”... The prophets: there are notable premonitions of Jesus the Messiah in the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and other prophetic writings.

      Note Paul calls them “the HOLY Scriptures”... Our Bibles used to say on the cover, “Holy Bible”. Have we unconsciously let that specialness slip from our consciousness? Jesus had a high view of Scripture. He rebuked religious leaders for not being more up on Biblical truth: Mk 12:24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” Debating with religious leaders in John 10:35, He noted: “And the Scripture cannot be broken...” At the crucial moment of His arrest, He affirmed that God’s plan was coming to pass exactly as Scripture predicted: Mt 26:54,56 “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?...But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

      The New Testament writers echoed this high view of Scriptural inspiration. 2Peter 1:20f “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

      Do you give Scripture the respect it deserves? Is it “holy” to you, God-breathed? Are you reading it daily, letting it (rather than media) shape your consciousness, your goals?

      Next Paul appeals to the authority of Jesus Christ Himself. On the human level, initially - v3 “regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David...” Jesus was of the house and lineage of David, literally of David’s “seed” – in the legal sense through Joseph his adoptive father (which was why Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for his birth, it being the city of David); but also physically through Mary His biological mother and blood relative (Lk 3:23ff). Strictly speaking, Jesus was in the kingly line, according to His earthly royal forebears.

      Yet this authority based on human descendant is surpassed by Jesus’ divine authority. V4 “and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” For those first eyewitnesses, the resurrection PROVED Jesus’ claims to divinity: rising from the dead showed He really was Who He claimed to be, the Son of God. The emphasis grammatically in Paul’s words are not just that the resurrection shows Jesus to be Son of God: the resurrection declares-with-power, authoritatively, convincingly, this to be so. 2Cor 13:4 “For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.”

      Paul immediately and poignantly assembles alongside each other Jesus’ human-based authority (the Davidic line) with His divinely-sourced nature, summarized in the title “Jesus Christ [human Messiah / Saviour] our Lord [Master / Dominator].” What about you? Do you really accord Jesus the authority that is due Him, both as Son of Man and Son of God? Is He just another historical figure to you? Is He a fairy tale, on par with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy? Would you restrict Him to being “just a good moral teacher” – something the early documents in their face-value presentation just won’t permit? People don’t get crucified for that!

      OR do you grant Him the authority He demands and is due? Do you submit to Him, give Him a “command role” in your life?

      This week we did one of our annual Christmas rituals, watching Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. The romantic climax comes when George Bailey is almost shaking poor would-be girlfriend Mary in his arms and arguing, “I wanna do what *I* wanna do!” before relinquishing to his hidden feelings for her. Jesus’ Lordship requires us to sacrifice our selfish wishes to Him: to yield that selfish control, the “I wanna do what *I* wanna do!”

      Paul then neatly wraps up his references, the basis for his own authority - prophets, Scripture, Jesus Christ - in v5: “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people...” THROUGH Him - in that personal contact on the Road to Damascus, where Jesus showed up and Saul/Paul was floored (Acts 9:4). “AND FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE” - for Him to be praised and honoured and appreciated, the great Name that is above every other name; Mal 1:11 “‘My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty.” It’s Jesus’ own immense and weighty signature that signs the cheque of Paul’s apostleship. But – we so love to make much of ourselves, to accumulate “likes”, to primp and photoshop our selfie and look beautiful / glorious...Can we shift gears and let Jesus have the spotlight in our life?


So, we’re starting to get the ADDRESS right. And recognize the AUTHORITY of Christ and His apostle, who went to the trouble to write these things down so the church could appreciate these things. Last, do we have an ATTITUDE that’s relational?

      So many approach religion from the perspective of “do, do, do” – a bunch of ritualistic and boring obligations to perform as if the divine being would be pleased by us going through the motions and paying lipservice. Many world religions operate on the basis of giving offerings or doing acts of service to the poor in order to earn forgiveness and acceptance, to have our good deeds outweigh the bad in the scales of judgment. Other religions say “DO”, but in Christianity it’s what Jesus has DONE for us already – and becoming a totally new creature or being through faith. It’s a relationship not a religion. 2Cor 5:17,20f “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation...We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to BE sin for us, so that in him we might BECOME the righteousness of God.”

      The first way our attitude needs adjustment is to realize we are LOVED BY GOD. Rom 1:7 “To all in Rome who are loved by God...” Never get tired of telling people that! Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world...” - that He DID something about it to bridge the gap our sins had created between us and His holiness! 1Jn 4:10,19 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins...We love because he first loved us.” What was it the angels sang to the shepherd shaking in their muddy boots? Luke 2;14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” Because God LOVES, He shows FAVOUR.

      So, first thing in our relational attitude is to know we’re loved by God. Second: We’re called to belong to Jesus, to BE HIS. Rom 1:6 “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” The words “to belong to” aren’t actually in the Greek, but Paul does it by a grammar form called the genitive, “called to be Jesus Christ’s” – called to BE HIS. He is Lord; you belong to Him! He has a claim on you, He bought you with the price of His own self. Start your day saying, “Jesus, thank you that I am Yours; I belong to you. Thank you for loving me. I don’t have to prove myself.”

      BEING and BELONGING are most important in our new ATTITUDE. But it doesn’t stop there, as if in some ethereal swoon. BEING has outworking (or results) in DOING. Christ-followers are called to BE saints and to the OBEDIENCE that comes from (results from) faith.

      V7 “To all in Rome who are loved by God AND CALLED TO BE SAINTS...” That’s not just St.Francis or St.Paul or St.Teresa of Calcutta: in New Testament terms, EVERY Christian is a “saint”, sanctified, made holy, set apart for and belonging to God. 1Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Do we “stand out” as holy in society, or “blend into the woodwork” of the faltering crowd a little too much?

      We are called to be saints; and we are called to OBEDIENCE – not a popular word in a culture that idolizes the motto “Do Your Own Thing!” V5 “...we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles TO THE OBEDIENCE THAT COMES FROM FAITH.” You may say, “Hold on, I thought Paul was all about FAITH rather than works!” But the faith he has in view is an active, thorough faith out of which actions automatically flow. This isn’t just at the start of the book of Romans; look closely at 16:26, the gospel mystery is now revealed “so that all nations might believe AND OBEY Him...”

      How’s your “obedience quotient”? Are you a ‘closet Christian’, going to church maybe and believing in private, but doing unethical things in the workplace, clicking on things you shouldn’t on the internet, cheating others or the government, making racist or foul comments on social media? Do you turn a blind eye to your neighbour’s need? Jesus’ Number 1 command was, “Love God and love your neighbour.” As Bob Goff puts it, “Love DOES.”


Christmas is coming up – and sometimes that means for certain gifts, those three dreaded words, “Some Assembly Required.” Zig Ziglar tells how one day he was trying to assemble a tricycle he had just bought for his then four-year-old son, Tom. Ziglar became more exasperated by the minute because the proverbial bolt A was not fitting into nut B. He was about to give up when Tom, who was looking on, suddenly blurted, "I sure do love you, Dad!" Needless to say, Ziglar finished putting together that tricycle.

      Recalling God’s great love expressed for us in Jesus, drawing us into relationship with Him forever, gives us power to follow through and “stick with it” when it comes to practising obedience day by day. Doing flows out of Being. Let’s pray.