This summer I have spent time at my parents farm in West Virginia, in Allegany State Park in the Southern Tier of Western New York, one night I went to the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, walked across the Hudson River, and we had planned to be worshiping outside today. Looking at the ocean is perhaps one of the most terrifying or awesome sights one can see for it tells us something of the God who created it. Hiking through the mountains and hills and looking at majestic trees can cause the same feelings of awe at the majesty of the Creator and Judge of the world. When we look around at such scenes we clearly perceive the eternal power and divine nature of the creator who is blessed forever! Amen! Thus creation does something similar to the law of God in Scripture for it reveals what God is like. The visible creation shows us God’s invisible attributes. So nature unmistakably shows us that we are not God and that our constant attempts to be like God are futile. The apostle Paul puts it this way, hear God’s word:
No doubt the Jewish Christian who heard these words for the first time was giving thanks to God for this message. These verses sounded a lot like what they had heard in the synagogues about those awful Gentiles because they practice idolatry. So many Christians, especially those who had been involved in the synagogues before they came to know Christ, when they first heard these lines would be cheering Paul on as he denounces them and maybe even thanking God that they are not like them. Paul uses the third person “they” and “them” throughout these verses so that you are thinking of other people. Even today we might think of the idolatry of voo doo that continues to be practiced in Haiti and the ancestor worship that is still prevalent in places like Cameroon. Thus we think that they are awful. And like that point in Nathan’s confrontation of King David when he said, “You da man!” – Romans 2:1 says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Rom 2:1). You have been caught in Paul’s trap. He wanted you to think he was talking about the Gentiles and then spring the trap so that you realize he was talking about you all that time. Then we go back and re-read these verses and realize that it is talking about the history of all humankind – not just other kinds of people, for it began, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” or people (Rom 1:18). Thus creation shows us God’s wrath – it is a scary picture for it shows us His eternal power and divine nature so that you are without excuse but then you worship created things and creatures rather than the Creator God. The creation is like the law that shows us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. What the creation cannot show us is how to be saved. Nature cannot tell us of the grace of God unto salvation. The visible heavens and earth do not tell us of Jesus. Thus listen again to the apostle Paul, hear God’s word:
So we cannot look to creation for the gospel of Jesus Christ but faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. I could talk all evening about God’s love and about God’s grace and about this gospel. But what you need to hear in order to produce faith (whether you believe for the first time or continue to believe after hearing it a million times)…what you need to hear in order to produce faith is this: Jesus Christ came into the world to save you, an ungodly sinner – He forgives you your sins and God counts you as righteous for Jesus’ sake. He is not just a Savior in general and forgives people generally, He has come so that you will live. Hearing and believing this good news, you have a message to share with others.
I will share illustrations, especially from Hamilton, here. His portrait is included in this post.
These verses from Romans 10 are in the context of Paul lamenting how the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people had heard but rejected this good news rather than believing in Jesus. Thus Paul suggested that the best way to reach his kinsmen was to share the gospel with the ungodly barbarians living in Spain. Somehow this would make the Jewish unbeliever jealous and want what these awful idolaters in Spain were receiving. Unfortunately a growing number of Americans seem to be rejecting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior today. Thus the best way to reach our fellow countrymen according to our earthly citizenship is to share this gospel with those who are different. But hearing and believing the good news that God loves you with a love in Christ that will never let you go, you have a word from God to share that your neighbors are not going to hear by looking at the scenery but only from your lips. I pray that not only you have ears to hear but that those you share with this week will also have ears to hear this word from God.