************ Sermon on Romans 11:33-12:1 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 1, 2009

Romans 11:33-12:1
Combined Reformation Service - November 1, 2009

"Therefore." "Therefore." The most important word in the last five chapters of Romans. Which is why I stopped my Scripture reading with the first word of Romans 12:1.

"Therefore." Oh, the depth of the foolishness of those who overlook this word. Oh, the mistakes made by those who overlook this word. Oh, the bad theology even heresy of those who overlook this word.

"Therefore." In the Greek, just three letters. A tiny little conjunction. It joins what came before to what comes after.

Review with me, for a moment, what comes before. In the first chapters of Romans, we learn about Sin; Rev Lindemulder spoke to us about this. In the middle chapters of Romans, we learn about Salvation; Rev Godfrey spoke to us about this. In the final chapters of Romans, we learn about Service; it is my privilege to speak to you about this. I hope you all recognize that the Catechism follows this outline like Paul's letter to Rome, it follows the outline of Sin, Salvation, and Service.

Now, what joins the three topics together? "Therefore." We are sinners. God saves us from our sin in Jesus. "Therefore." Do you see the connection? Saved sinners pay careful attention to the "Therefore." You are saved from your sin "therefore" respond to God's grace with a life of service and thanksgiving and good works.


I Federal Vision Theology
Something that we hear a lot about in the United Reformed Church is Federal Vision Theology. The URC has recognized that Federal Vision Theology dismisses or overlooks Paul's "therefore." The result is bad theology, error, and even heresy.

Federal Vision theology goes wrong when it fails to carefully distinguish salvation from service or to put it another way justification from sanctification. Federal Vision Theology fails to realize that Paul has inserted a "therefore" between these two topics.

Listen to a couple of statements and decide if they are true or false:
-We are saved by faith alone. TRUE.
-Faith is a gift of God. TRUE.
-Faith only apprehends and rests on Christ. TRUE.
All of this means that faith and salvation are only and totally a work of God.

Now, let's respond to the statements from a Federal Vision point-of-view:
-We are saved by faith alone. TRUE.
-Faith is a gift of God. TRUE.
-Faith only apprehends and rests on Christ. FALSE.
Federal Vision Theology says that saving faith is more than apprehending and resting on Christ; it also includes virtuous qualities like love and hope which helps to make a sinner right with God.

Do you see what has happened? Something has been added to faith. Works have been added to faith. Love and hope have been added to faith. Suddenly, my faith has value (cf Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 61). Suddenly, my works help to make me right with God (cf Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 62). Suddenly faith is not really faith anymore.

Do you know who else teaches this? The Roman Catholic Council of Trent! This is the Council that met in 1547 in response to the Protestant Reformation. Federal Vision Theology is a return to Roman Catholic Theology.

It gets worse. Under Federal Vision Theology I no longer need the righteousness, the perfect obedience, of Christ because I have my own. I need Christ's blood but I don't need His obedience. So, Christ is but half a Savior (cf Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 30; Romans 4:25). Federal Vision Theology is a departure from the Reformation teaching that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Do you see what Federal Vision Theology does? It skips the "therefore." It makes Service part of Salvation. It makes good works part of Salvation. It makes thanksgiving part of Salvation. It forgets that Salvation and Service are separated by the "therefore."

II The Glory of God
We are sinners. We are saved. "Therefore." Therefore what? It all comes down to one thing: the glory of God! Listen to what Paul says:
(Rom 11:36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
This is Paul's conclusion after speaking about Sin and Salvation for eleven chapters. Everything is for the glory of God. The goal of salvation is not salvation it is God's glory. The result of good works is not our glory but God's glory. Everything points to God and His glory.

"To him be the glory forever!" (Rom 11:36). The glory of God is one of the pillars of the Reformation. But what is it? Let's first of all say what it isn't. Most of you know the story of young Martin Luther walking down the road during a thunderstorm when a lightning bolt struck just feet away from him. He cried out, "Save me, Saint Anne, and I will become a monk!" Luther's dad was a miner, and Saint Anne was the saint of miners. So, it seemed natural to Luther to pray to her to save him and, afterwards, to thank her for that salvation. Luther later recognized he was giving to Saint Anne what properly belongs to God alone. Luther later recognized that to God alone be the glory! Luther later recognized that God does not share His glory with anyone or anything.

"To him be the glory forever!" (Rom 11:36). What is meant by glory? In the Greek and Hebrew language the word for glory has the meaning of being weighty or important. God certainly is weighty or important. He is at the center of life and existence. Paul says that it is only "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Furthermore, or especially, God is at the center of salvation. Paul says, "For from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom 11:3). Faith is from Him. So is Christ. So is salvation. Even our service (Eph 2:10). Do you see the glory of God, the weight of God, the importance of God? Everything centers on Him.

"Therefore." Don't ever forget the "Therefore." God has saved us. God has redeemed us. God has washed us and cleansed us and ransomed us. "Therefore." Therefore, to Him be the glory forever. Amen!
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