Readings: Genesis 25:19–34, Romans 8:1–11 & Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
I began last Sunday’s sermon with a short explanation about the passage from the Letter to the Romans for that day. In the passage, Paul was attempting to explain why it was so difficult for people to be reconciled to God only by obeying the commandments and statutes of the Torah (otherwise known as the Law). Remember, the Jewish people of Paul’s day believed the only way that a person could be reconciled to God was by observing the Torah. However Paul had claimed that by the grace of God alone, people were reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In last week’s passage, Paul argued that while people might want to uphold the Law, ultimately they are unable to because they are under the control of sin. They might want to do the right thing, but they often give in to temptation and allow themselves to be led astray. That’s what he meant when he said, “So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin”.
I said last week that in chapter 8, which of course is where today’s passage is taken from, Paul will explain how we have been set free from the law of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that the Spirit of God, which now resides in us, will lead us into new life. So that is where we find ourselves this morning, with today’s passage from the Letter to the Romans.
Paul begins this passage with the following words, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death”. What Paul is saying, is that people who believe that God has revealed Himself in and through Jesus are no longer condemned to be slaves to the law of sin, because the Spirit of God, which now resides in those who believe, has freed them from the law of sin and death.
The way in which this has happened, is that by dying on the cross and then rising to new life, Jesus has broken the hold that death has held over the lives of human beings. And now, because people believe that God has been revealed in and through Jesus, they are more likely to follow the way of life that Jesus has demonstrated in the example of his own life. In turn, this means they are more likely to resist the temptations that are present in life which can lure them away from following God, and instead they are more aware of remaining in a good relationship with God by following the guidance that Jesus provided through his own life.
Those of us who can live our lives in this way, are like the ‘seeds sown in good soil’ in the ‘Parable of the Sower’ from the Gospel of Matthew. Our belief in Jesus, and in God, is strong enough to sustain us in difficult and troubled times, and we are less likely to be lured away from God by things such as wealth, status and power. In the words of Paul, we have been reconciled to God.
And having been reconciled to God, not through anything that we ourselves have done to deserve it, but rather by the grace of God, we are called to bear witness to God in the world today. You might ask, just how do we do that? The simple answer is: through the example of our own lives; by aspiring to live our lives as Jesus lived his. We will never be as perfect as Jesus was, but we can strive to be more like him. His teachings are laid out before us in the Gospels for us to read and follow. I would especially encourage you to read chapters 5 to 7 of the Gospel of Matthew, which contain the teachings that Jesus delivered in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
We may not necessarily be able to successfully follow every single teaching found there, but if we genuinely endeavour to do the best we can, we then become living examples of the faith just as Jesus himself was, and we become effective witnesses to God in the world. And through our witness, we never know just what affect that might have on the lives of those people who we come in contact with. But the one thing we can be sure of, is that by the grace of God, our witness will bear fruit; some of it a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty.