2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:2-6)
This is a call to do evangelism, that is, to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From time to time there is a little bit of discussion among Christian folk about what Paul means here. Is every Christian called to be an ‘evangelist’?
The Apostle Paul in Romans argues that a Christian cannot rightly call themselves a disciple unless they both believe and confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’.
9 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.10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How, then, can they 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?15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:9-13)
Jesus asked his disciples to be his witnesses. And that is what Jesus’ first disciples did.
To be a witness, you have to be willing to make a stand, to testify, to speak on behalf of the person or the event that you are bearing witness too. The aim is to provide enough reason or evidence for someone who is not a witness to ascertain the truth behind what you say.
A celebrity is someone who is publicly known for something distinctive – something that others can look at, write about, or admire. A celebrity is someone who others want to follow, or know, or be like. Maybe they can move faster, or jump further, or climb higher, or dive deeper, or hit harder. Maybe they can sing louder, or act more convincingly, or dance more expertly, or write more creatively, or speak more persuasively, or make people laugh more hysterically. Maybe they can make more money, or invent more things, or manage more people. There are many reasons why someone becomes famous and stands out in a culture.
When we follow celebrity, there is always a cost – it may be our time, money or energy.
What an incredible city. As I look around, Athens was imposingly magnificent. Over there, the massive harbour of Piraeus – helping make the city a centre for trade. Over there the Temple of Zeus with its imposing columns scaling up to the high ceilings and with statues everywhere, one to this god and another to that god – they like their religion! Over there at the entrance to the city stands the beautiful Hadrian’s Arch, on one side it dedicates the city to Emperor Hadrian and on the other side to Theseus! – there is politics behind everything and this city was no exception. Over there the huge two-tiered covered colonnade called the Stoa of Attalus, the largest marketplace around – making this city a centre of culture and fashion. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers would sit day by day in the marketplaces and argue about ideas – there is so much idealism just pervading this culture. And all of this, sitting in the shadow of the Acropolis. Many Greek cities have some kind of citadel constructed on hills overlooking their cities, but none were as formidable or as famous as the Parthenon perched high above Athens – making this a city of power and a tourism gold mine.
But it was at the Areopagus on Mars Hill, just a few hundred feet down from the Acropolis where the governing body of the city met and it was there they brought me. You see, I had been preaching the good news about Jesus and his resurrection and the people of the city thought that I was advocating for a foreign god and so, interested, they asked me about this ‘new teaching’ – I guess I was presenting an idea which they wanted to postulate about!
In the Old Testament we meet a brave prophet named Habakkuk (great name – imagine naming your child Habakkuk!). His role was to bring God’s people back to obedience to the covenantal promises which God has made with Israel at Mt Sinai. By the promises and under the law (10 Commandments and Covenant Code) Israel would know how to live as righteous ones. If the covenantal obligations were neglected, ignored, abandoned, then punishment would come. God’s gift had been the prophet Habakkuk, who spoke what was often thought to be an offensive message, for the sake of saving Israel and calling them to repent of their unrighteous attitudes or behaviours. In other words, to call God’s people back to the righteousness of faith.
Habakkuk admonished Israel by saying ‘the righteous person will live by his faith’ (Hab 2:4)
Fast forward to the Apostle Paul in AD57. He writes to the church of Rome. Similarly his message was often deemed offensive. To him he understands how the promises of God in the Old Testament find their fulfilment in Jesus. So, he proclaims God’s gospel and, like Habakkuk, calls people to faith.
Quoting Habakkuk, he reminds us that ‘The righteous will live by faith’ (Rom 1:17).
In this sermon, we look at Romans 1:5-17 and we should see that faith in Jesus is the most fundamental response to God’s gospel and the way by which Christians most honour Jesus as Lord.
“An open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.”
That – and much more – is what people have said about Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Without question, this letter has had a huge influence on our world. From Augustine in the 4th century to Luther in the 16th century to the evangelical revivals and the arrival of the gospel in Australia in the 18th century, all the major events of Christian history seem to have been ignited in some way by this magnificent letter.
In this sermon we begin with a wonderfully succinct yet profoundly deep summary of the gospel message – the core truths at the very heart of the Christian faith boiled down to just four words!
Does Christianity work? Do Christians offer anything of value to our modern, contemporary, progressive world today?
The answers could be offered in well-articulated arguments which aim to defend and describe the true faith established by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answers could be influenced in the way that followers of Jesus Christ pass on their faith from generation to generation. Both are valid.
Yet there is a way that the established and passed on faith can be most clearly valued by our world today – it is when the faith is lived out and visible to the world around.
The salvation offered in the gospel should be lived out in the godly lives of those who have been saved and for the benefit of those who might be saved through the proclamation of this true faith supported by the testimony of transformed lives.
This talk is about how Christianity works, when it is seen in Christians devoted to doing good works.