Summary: In this sermon I relate the purpose of July 4th and patriotism to our Christian patriotism, as reflected in Paul’s attitude toward his fellow Jews.
July 3, 2005 Romans 9:1-5
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Freedom Fighting in the 21st Century
Here’s a history quiz for you - what exactly happened on July 4th? It was the date that the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, announcing the separation of the 13 North American British colonies from Great Britain. I wonder how many people even KNOW this? The 4th of July has ended up being a reason to spend money, drink beer and blow up things. The purpose of it is so that we take some time to appreciate our freedom, our country, our heritage and our history. I wonder how much the history of our Independence has been lost over time?
Luther had a high regard for history. He said, “history is nothing else than an indication, recollection, and monument of divine works and judgments, showing how God maintains, governs, hinders, advances, punishes, and honors men, according as each one has deserved good and evil. And although there are many who do not recognize and regard God, yet they must take warning from history.” This is why the Bible is plum full of history - otherwise known as HIS story. History helps us to appreciate what we’ve got, understand what’s going on, and perhaps make better decisions in the future. I’ve found in my life that the more I experience history the more I seem to appreciate it.
This can happen when it comes to our spiritual history as well. We can learn a lot from the history of our faith. If you don’t know why Luther broke off from the Catholic Church - if you’ve never read the Augsburg Confession or the Formula of Concord or the Large Catechism - you’re missing some really important lessons from history. In reading these things you would grow to have an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus - how we Lutherans are truly set apart from any other even Christian organization with our Law and Gospel approach of Scriptures. This is not something to brag about. But the more we study it, the more we will then grow to appreciate it, understand it, believe it, and grow in our fellowship in Christ. If we learn more history, perhaps we will not be apt to repeat some mistakes that were made in our past.
The reason I bring up this idea of HISTORY is because in today’s text Paul talks a lot about history - the history of his race - the Jews. His appreciation of this history is not so much with the physical side - they didn’t have so much to be proud of there - but of their SPIRITUAL history. He mentions five points of history that he appreciated when it came to his race of Jews.
First of all, he fondly recalls that they were adopted as sons. There’s a popular mantra that is spoken within the Christian airwaves which state that “we are all children of God.” They use this creation to infer that we have an innate goodness in us that God just has to love because He created us. The Scriptures, however, state in Romans 3:12 “All have turned away, they have together become worthless;” Genesis 8:21 says that “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” 1 John 5:19 also says, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Man is special in that he has reason and he has a will, but even these are only like idling motors, with nothing but anger towards God. (Romans 8:7) In today’s text, even Paul recognized that even though the JEWS were created by God - they still needed to be ADOPTED as God’s sons. This means that they were NOT NATURAL sons of God. As a result of the Fall, they also were under the family of Satan. The miracle is in the fact that God in His mercy chose Abraham out of all the people of the devil’s world to be the forerunner to Christ. (Joshua 24:2) He chose to ADOPT the Jews and make them His special people. This made Paul - a Jew - feel special - that God chose to ADOPT them.
Since God had adopted them, He decided to treat them special - like His own special children. When the Israelites went through the desert - a pillar of fire accompanied them by night, and a pillar of cloud by day. This fire reflected the glory of the LORD. Whenever the Israelites were in trouble, God came to the rescue. The glory of the LORD was seen at the splitting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, the fall of Jericho, the strength of Samson, the building of the temple, Gideon’s victory, and so many other ways. All of these acts of glory happened through the Jews. All the nations around them recognized it. Their history was full of these glorious things happening. Paul loved to see how God let his glory shine through the way He treated the Jews.