What is the gospel? A message about Jesus (as promised) (v1-4)
Most people assume Christianity is merely advice. It’s news. It’s not a message about what we should do. It’s a message about what someone else has done.
What does the gospel bring us? Powerful salvation (v14-16)
Paul says the good news that Jesus died and rose again is the power of God that brings salvation for those who believe. If you trust in Jesus, you have the most powerful gift. The gospel is shameful to those who don’t yet believe it. It’s because of Jesus’ death and resurrection that salvation is available to those who believe.
How does the gospel work? By making us right with God (v17)
The more we think about Jesus’ life, the more not like us he seems. Through faith in Jesus, people can have right standing before God as a gift. The gospel demands that everyone who believes it is eager to preach it.
The good news about Jesus’ rescue isn’t that good if you don’t know you need rescuing. We’re not okay as we are.
- God’s wrath is seen in our world right now (v18a)
- God is angry because people reject the truth about him (v18b)
- God is right to be angry because we all know the truth about him (v19)
- Everybody knows the truth about God (v19)
Everyone can see the truth about the invisible God. Paul says it’s obvious. This has implications for the way we talk to people. The problem isn’t that our friends don’t know the truth, it’s that they suppress the truth. We can always talk to our friends as if they know that God exists.
Everybody steals God’s glory (v18b)
We’ve robbed him. We know God but do not glorify him as God or give thanks to him. Adam and Eve decided that if they ate from the tree they would be in charge and be wise. God had rescued the people of Israel. They decided if they made an idol and said it had rescued them, they could use it and become powerful and wealthy. They worshipped other gods. Paul is hinting at both of these stories. These aren’t the only times humans have behaved like this. They’re universal stories. We are all like plagiarisers. We’re failing to live in the universe as it really is. We are exchanging truth for a lie.
Everybody is being judged for this right now (v18a)
God is judging people’s rebellion of him. God’s wrath on our sin is seen in our sins. Paul says we don’t glorify or give thanks to God so he hands us over to degrade our bodies. We’ve exchanged the truth for a lie so God gives us over to shameful lusts. We think it’s not worth bothering to know God so he gives us over to a deprived mind. We choose to find our significance in created things. We go to images instead of him. We serve created things, not the creator. The word ‘natural’ can’t be about our desires. It ignores the evidence we have about sexuality. It means the way God made things in the beginning. Paul is using the example of homosexuality because it’s a sin that moral religious people are good at condemning. It’s an obvious sin. It’s not like the way God first made the world.
God gives us over to the fair and just consequences of forgetting him. We ignore the God of truth and are full of deceit. These are the things we have chosen instead of God. Isn’t it obvious that we are not righteous? By the gift of faith in his Son, we earn God’s righteousness. We badly need the grace and mercy of God. Jesus died and rose again so we can be justified and made right freely. He died to save you from God’s wrath.
No excuse because…
We behave just like others we judge (v1-5)
The list of terrible sins is really just a list of symptoms. If you do any one of those things, you are doing the same things as other people. You are meant to respond by recognising God’s kindness. God’s judgment is a ‘we’ problem.
God requires persistence (v6-11)
It’s a good idea for God to repay each person according to what they’ve done. God’s impartial, fair and just judgment is a good thing as it conclusively proves that God is just. We should rejoice that God will not allow injustice to continue forever. We haven’t persistently sought to do only good. We are amongst those who do evil. God’s lack of favouritism means we will be judged.
Nobody is ignorant of what God wants (v12-16)
What about those who don’t know? The Bible’s answer is simple. People will be judged according to what they know. If you don’t know the law, you won’t be judged by it. That doesn’t mean everything is okay. All who sin apart from the law will perish. Even the person who has never read the Bible knows enough to be judged. Each time they do something good or true, it shows God’s law is written in their hearts. A part that knows when we have done right and when we’ve done wrong. On that final day, Jesus will ask if you kept the law that came out your own mouth.
There are millions of people who hear what God says and then misunderstand it. God’s requirement isn’t that we know what he wants, it’s that we do what he wants. There is no hope for us in being good. Sin isn’t a ‘they’ problem. It’s a ‘you’ problem. We need to throw ourselves at God’s mercy.
This section is critical of Judaism and Jews. As far as being right with God is concerned, Judaism is useless.
God’s law condemns the Jews (2:17-24)
The terms Paul uses were found in Jewish documents. The Jewish people were intensely aware they were privileged. What have they done with their spiritual riches? They’ve spoken against theft and adultery. They have done those things. 500 years ago Isaiah said that God’s name had been dragged through the mud by God’s people. Paul is saying that each Jew isn’t guilty of minor infringements but breaking God’s law. Even the pagans can see they haven’t kept it.
God’s circumcision proves Jews aren’t really Jews (2:25-29)
This was ancient even when Jesus was walking around. Circumcision was the sign of an intimate personal relationship between God and his people. Paul says it misunderstands the symbolism. It has value if you obey the law. They’ve mistaken the sign for the reality.
God’s faithfulness is not to the Jews but to himself (3:1-8)
God promised he would be faithful and just to his own character. God would always be seen as truthful and righteous. Paul identifies himself with the Jews. God’s judgment brings out his righteousness.
Christianity is not like Judaism so thank God for Jesus. Under this covenant, God doesn’t give you a bunch of rules. God makes a promise that we will save you from death forever through the death and resurrection of Jesus. There’s not set of rules that if you break them, God will cut you off.
Christianity is just like Judaism is heed God’s warning. The covenant requirement is to trust in Jesus. God requires faith in Jesus. Having the Bible or communion won’t save you. We have to keep the covenant. It isn’t a bunch of rules.
A man with a mission (v35)
Matthew is summarising unbelievable activity. Today, we know the mission because the book ended. It remains his mission today because he died for us.
The motive for mission (v36)
He had compassion on the crowds. When God sees a nation, what does he see? He sees crowds of people and his first instinct is compassion. When Jesus looks at us, he sees leaderless people. He doesn’t see need either (first). Sheep without a shepherd. You’ve got to think clearly.
The theology of mission (v37-38)
He really cares. He has compassion for you. The gospel is that the ketchup stains are wiped off and you’re white before Christ. Go there with your gifts and use them. We don’t have to pull it off. If you trust in Christ he will shine through you. It’s his harvest.
The strategy for mission (10:1)
What strategy did Jesus use to change the world? 12 muppets, one of whom was a traitor. The boss came up with a strategy. He loves you like he loved you the day you started.
Everything in this world is destined, one day, to be thrown down. The disciples ask ‘What will be the sign of the end of the age?’ so Jesus tells then what things are not the signs of his coming.
Terrible events are not a sign of Jesus’ return
When Jesus does return. It will be unmistakable. He’ll come on the clouds of heaven and all people will see it. It’ll be like lightning, illuminating the whole sky. That will happen immediately or suddenly after a time of ‘distress’. Terrible things remind us that the return of Jesus could happen at any moment but they are not ever a sign that it’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year.
Don’t be deceived by people who prey on your fears
Ideas of understanding, not being deceived, are really important in these verses. Fear is a powerful motivation. The fear created by the terrible things that happen in the world and exploited by the false teachers and prophets will, Jesus says, be very effective. Many will turn away from faith.
Don’t be tempted to abandon your faith
For some people the thing that tempts you to abandon your faith is a big thing. Suicide of a friend. Loss of a job. Crushing of a hope. If you give in to those temptations, you won’t be alone. If you abandon your faith in Jesus you will be eternally lonely. It’s easy to abandon your faith but it’s so foolish.
Don’t be surprised by the bitterness of those who do
So often the bitterness is nothing more than hatred for people who wouldn’t let them do or believe whatever they wanted. Don’t be surprised if you follow Jesus and that attracts the dislike of other people, especially other people who started down that path and then turned aside.
Do put your trust in Jesus’ eternal words
Jesus says you should ignore any words about the end of the world that don’t match up with what he has to say. He says that the final great theological event before his return will be the destruction of the Jerusalem temple where God was rightly worshipped for 1,000 years. That happened 1,942 years ago. That means the leaves are out on the fig tree. So Jesus’ truth is right at the door. You can trust him on that because his words will never pass away.
Don’t give in to fear. Don’t be deceived. Put your confidence and trust in Jesus and his eternal word which promises that whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.
Paul has outlined the mess we’ve got ourselves into. We’re stuck trying to establish our own righteousness. Righteousness is a status word.
The problem: we can’t achieve the righteousness we really need
We’ll never fill the holes in our lives. We don’t have the power to fulfil our own desire for righteousness. Some things get us commended but the good things we do don’t open any doors with God. Every person is going to be held accountable. Through the law we become conscious of our sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul’s not saying we’re not like God. We’re not like we should be. God’s standard is glory. Even our most perfect day can’t take us back to righteousness. We sink further and further away. We are more and more condemned. Paul wants us to feel a bit frightened so we can appreciate what follows. It’s only when we appreciate the problem that we can really embrace God’s solution.
The solution: righteousness as a gift through Christ
This is the good news. There is a way to be righteous, to be justified, despite our sin and failure because Jesus Christ gives us God’s righteousness. You don’t have to prove your worthiness to anyone because you are justified freely by his grace.
Jesus redeems us
A slave can’t but themselves out of slavery. Someone has to rescue them. We can’t just stop doing wrong. We’re incapable. We are slaves to sin. Jesus liberates us from slavery without any charge. There’s a great cost that was paid by Jesus himself.
Jesus propitiates God
At, one, make – atonement. Propitiation – make favourable towards. God is justifiably angry with us. We’ve got nothing to offer that can satisfy his anger. In the person of his son, he takes that anger upon himself. God does it for us through Christ. He takes the judgment. God has a problem. If he is completely just and is offended when people hurt one another, how can he not punish the people who do those things? Not only is he just, he is merciful and loving and kind. How can he be both? Only if someone else can pay on our behalf. Jesus took the judgment and turned aside God’s wrath. God can declare us righteous without having to punish us for our sin. Now all the sins of all God’s people are covered.
We take the gift by faith
Faith is not a character attribute. It’s not a leap in the dark. It’s a commitment to trust what Jesus has done. There’s no hope of us justifying ourselves but Jesus offers us righteousness. All we have to do is trust him. Whatever else you trust in won’t work. Jesus offers free righteousness. He’s done everything necessary. Why wouldn’t you trust him?
This series on John 1:1-18 could be described as the most extravagant invitation in the history of the earth. For our of love, God himself became flesh and died on a cross so that we might become part of his family.
To know Jesus is to know God
We come to Jesus empty handed offering nothing but Jesus comes to us with his hands full and of the many blessings he gives to us, the one he is most excited about is us being in relationship with his Father. The moment you trust in Christ you can be certain that you are carried to the centre of the Father’s heart.
What is Jesus like? Most clearly we saw his love on the cross. Jesus’ compassion led to him to take on our sin and so giving up the most precious thing he had – the hand of his Father so that we could have it. If you want to know how much God the Father loves his children, look no further than how Christ loves us.
To keep your eyes on Christ is key to living for God
The Son of God becoming a man and entering the pages of human history means that the Christian investment in the promise of heaven, and renewed minds and bodies enjoying God and his creation as we were designed, is worth it.
You need to gaze on Christ as often and deeply as you can. We do not trust in rumours but because we know Christ we are not fools to invest the maximum of ourselves in declaring the wonder of God to the world.
The God who takes us by the hand
The tension between wanting to know God but he’s too perfect was first felt by the Israelites led by Moses. They had created the tabernacle which was the physical place where Moses could talk to God. How long could this last? The Israelites were distrusting and angry. They made a statue of a calf and made it their new god. God was furious. He gave them what they wanted. Moses pleaded that God would stay and give them another chance. God longs to be close but the obstacle is always our sin. It matters to know that God isn’t just existing somewhere in the universe but is with us now.
Moses asks God if he can actually see him. The passing by of God is the OT’s ‘wow moment’. God revealing his glory to us is a reality for us today. The word ‘dwelt’ found its root in ‘tabernacle’. It’s a reference to when God was leading the Israelites through the desert. He’s doing it again. He’s taking people by the hand. Better than Moses, the glory of God was seen face to face as John walked, talked, spent time with Jesus. John was there when god became a man. He saw the closeness of God as he was a disciple of Jesus. Our hope is not a dream. This God will come close if we accept the invitation. We don’t have to go into the darkness alone. God will take us through the next year, through the rest of our lives, to the face of God the Father.
The God who is not fair
God, back in Exodus, kindly gave the Israelites the law. It showed where people had failed to meet his standards. The law gave them a way for them to not get what they deserved. They were allowed to bring a sacrifice. The law was a grace from God. It enabled an unholy people to be with God because they didn’t get what they deserved. The Son of God coming as a man means we have a greater gift. To trust the death of Jesus is to have confidence that you will never be treated as you deserve. You will always be treated infinitely better than you should be. At the cross, Jesus paid it all. His death on the cross is God’s justice enacted. We cannot do this year by ourselves. God’s grace is sufficient for our needs.
There’s a strange curiosity in our culture of returning to Jesus again and again. The representations of Jesus are often negative. We can’t seem to let Jesus go. Why is it that Jesus still has this power to both repel people and attract them?
The true light is seen but the world continues to look away
It’s as if our darkened souls turn away from him. We try to turn down the light. If we can make the light seem weak, we can ignore it. Everyone who sees Jesus glimpses something true about God and something true about ourselves. There’s a tone of sadness about the line, ‘the world did not recognise him’. We may be selectively blind but God isn’t. Our culture can’t let him go. We see but we look away. We exchange the idea of a relationship with God for a debt we can never pay back.
The true light invites you to join God’s family
We discover a promise that is so compelling that we struggle to get our heads around it. God calls you to be spiritually reborn. He won’t allow you to drown in your own darkness. He is a perfectly thorough and a perfectly loving parent. When John describes the rejection, it’s a reference to Jesus on the cross.
God sent his son Jesus Christ into the darkness of our world to find us and bring us home. He sent his son into the darkness so that we can be forgiven and made family.