When we submit to God’s will, we partner with Jesus, The Prince of Peace, who crushes Satan under our feet.
August 24, 2023
Speaker: David Mitchell
It’s good to be with you this morning. Just so you guys know what you’re in for, my 10- and eight-year-olds were in the first gathering. I asked them both what they thought. I asked my eight-year-old, “Was it boring?” He said yes. I just want you to know what you’re in for.
If you find it to be better than boring, could go and put that on Yelp or something because his review is really pulling the ratings down. That’s what you’re in for. It’s always good to get your first review from your kids. They’ll tell you the truth, and everyone else will just pretend it was good.
We are in the final chapter and the final 10 verses of Romans. If you’ve been at Vintage over the last year and a half or so, we started maybe 20 months or so ago with Romans chapter one, and here we are today, wrapping up this letter. The passage that we’re going to be in today is Romans chapter 16. The last chapter and the last 10 verses are verses 17 through 27.
Verse 17 begins, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. Such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you. But I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Timothy, my coworker, sends his greetings to you, as you Lucius, Jason, and Sozzi Pater, my fellow Jews, I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter greet you in the Lord. Gaeus, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s Director of Public Works, and our brother Cordis send you their greetings. Now to Him who is able to establish you, in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed or made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith to the only wise God be glory forever, through Jesus Christ, amen.”
In this passage, in verse 19 of the final chapter of this letter to the church in Rome, Paul invites us to consider three big ideas: obedience, wisdom, and innocence. This morning, I want to explore with you what it looks like to be disciples of Jesus who choose to be obedient, who choose to be wise, and who choose to be innocent so that verse 25 may be true of us. It says that the God of glory would establish us, would fix us, would root us, so that we would be directly set on the purposes of God.
In Romans, chapter one, Paul will write to this church and he will say, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Then, at the end of this letter, he says, “Everyone has heard about your obedience.” So he says, “Your faith is reported all over the world.” And at the end of the letter, he says, “Everyone has heard about your obedience.”
Here is Paul, a missionary who is traveling all over the globe to share the message of Jesus. He’s telling this group of people who are rooted in one city in one part of the world that you don’t have to travel all over the world to have an impact all over the world. Your faith and your obedience can have an impact far beyond the walls of this church, far beyond the constraints of this city, and even beyond the land of this country.
Faith and obedience, Paul is saying, are not just these side projects for disciples of Jesus. They are the central missionary purpose of the disciples of Jesus. If you and I say, I’m passionate about missions, I’m passionate about being a missionary around the world, that is wonderful. These verses are not to limit that. They’re not to keep us lazy on our couch and say, well, I’m faithful and obedient. So who cares? No, we are to be faithful and obedient because the world is watching.
He says that everyone has heard about it. “Your faith is being reported through all the world.” Here’s this reality as well. In this passage, Paul says, everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice. He’s calling them obedient. I don’t know about you, but obedient is not a word I long to be described as. I’m speaking to an American audience. So I know you understand. It’s a disobedient group of people. I joke of course.
But obedience. The word in the original means submissive or compliant. Do you like that word to describe yourself? Think about that on your gravestone. Here lies David Mitchell. He was compliant. Does anyone want to throw up? It feels gross, doesn’t it? That is not what we want to be.
We are not people who walk around saying I’m just here to be compliant. What is Paul talking about when he says everyone’s heard about your obedience? “I rejoice because of what I’m hearing about your obedience.”
Remember the context. Earlier in Romans 12:2, which for the people listening to the letter for the first time would have been about 20 minutes ago. In our case, it was 20 months ago. He says, “Do not be conformed to this world.”
So church, if you and I are called to be obedient and compliant, we need to be thoughtful and careful about who and what we are compliant to. We are not called to be conformed to this world. But we are called to be compliant to God. We are called to be obedient, submissive, and compliant to the purposes of God in our lives.
Earlier in this letter, Paul wrote to them and said in Romans 5:19, “Just as through the disobedience of one man, that is Adam, many were made sinners. So also through the obedience of the one man, that is Jesus, many will be made righteous.”
Here’s the thing about obedience. Disobedience has the power to expand the impact of sin in our lives. You and I have experienced that in our own lives. Paul will write to those in Corinth and say, you are not your own. You were bought at a price.
Not only are we not our own, in the sense that we belong to God, but also our choices don’t stop with us. As he says to the Roman church, just as through the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners. I have to look at that verse and reflect and say, what impact has my disobedience had on the lives of those around me? How has it hurt them? How has it kept them from God? How has it harmed them?
Just as disobedience expands sin, the counter is that obedience expands the Kingdom of God. He said that through one man’s obedience, that is Jesus, many were made righteous. Church, obedience, this thing that we resist, this thing we don’t want to be said about us, is the central thing if I say I want to be part of the expansion of the Kingdom of God in this city, in this country, and around the world. If I want there to be reports about my faith and have someone say, “Everyone’s heard about your obedience,” then I need first and foremost to commit to being obedient and compliant to Him.
The counter to this is in the verse earlier. In Romans 16:18, he’s talking about division, and he says that those who cause division are teaching according to their own appetites. I think in our culture, in our society, in our country, we will allow anything to be permissible based on our appetite.
That’s what your appetite is for? Okay. Go ahead. I’m just following my appetite. An appetite is something that longs to be satiated. It longs to be satisfied.
He’s saying that these appetites were guiding them and causing them to go away. An appetite is so important because it drives actions. You and I know what lengths you will go to to satisfy that appetite. Has anyone had cravings or something? Especially mothers, have you had those things where you are telling your husband at around 11 P.M. to 2 A.M., I need you to go to Walmart. And on aisle four, there are some dill pickles. I need you to bring them home to me.
I’m a Tillamook ice cream fan. For a number of summers, I had an appetite, a craving for the small batch Tillamook ice cream. They would stock it at Sprouts, which was great because there’s a Sprouts right by my gym. It felt great. I would do like 10 curls and then be like, alright, I think I’ve earned this thing. The small batch is great because it’s about a third the size of the big tubs so you don’t feel as bad until you buy three.
I would buy this Tillamook ice cream and it was so amazing. There was a hazelnut version. There was a caramel version. Then it stopped showing up on the shelves at Sprouts. At first, you can’t be that needy about it. I had to pretend it was fine. Then it never showed back up.
So I did what any sane, rational person would do. I Googled the Tillamook email address. I crafted this email. It began with a poem about my love Tillamook. But I was asking, “Where is this Tillamook small batch?” As it turned out, I was the only one supporting the market in this part of Colorado.
I needed you. I needed you to buy that thing. Why am I saying this? Well, it’s a little commercial break. But more than anything, it’s about how our appetites drive our behavior. We live in a world where the message of the world will be, you are not responsible for your appetite. You must simply do what your appetite tells you to do.
Paul says no. Paul says we are not to be directed by our own appetites. We are to develop an appetite for the things of God. We are to develop a craving for the things of God. We are to be the kind of obedient people who comply with him and say, God, I’m not going to let my own appetites drive me. I’m going to let your purposes drive me.
The question to consider is whether there are any places in your life where you’re out of compliance, where you’re disobedient to the things of God.
The Gospel is a gospel of returning. Dustin shared it earlier before the bread and cup about the prodigal son returning. I just want to encourage you. If you’re in a place of disobedience, out of compliance with the things of God, His invitation today is to return.
If you look at your surroundings and say, like the Prodigal Son, why should I be eating the food that is served to the pigs? It’s time to return home. That’s what obedience looks like.
He says everyone has heard about your obedience, and I rejoice because of you in that, and then he says, “I want you to be wise about what is good.” Not only are we, as disciples of Jesus, called to be obedient but we are also called to be wise.
In Proverbs chapter two, this remarkable chapter on wisdom will describe wisdom as a hidden treasure. Romans chapter 16, in just a few verses time, will talk about the mystery hidden that has now been revealed. God is in the business of showing you things that were previously hidden and revealing to you things that were previously hidden. The same is true of wisdom. He calls it a hidden treasure.
As disciples of Jesus, we are designed each day to wake up and go on a treasure hunt. In Proverbs chapter two, he describes what that treasure hunt looks like, what it looks like for you and me to choose wisdom.
He says, I want you to store up my commands. In Proverbs chapter two, he says, turn your ear, apply your heart, store up God’s commands, cry out for understanding, call out in the streets. He says to search for it like hidden treasure.
You don’t just get wisdom by accident. You don’t just wake up one day and randomly become wise. That’s called arrogance. You don’t get wisdom from your favorite news anchor. You don’t get wisdom from CSI Miami. You get other stuff. That’s okay. Be very intentional about where you are looking for wisdom. Proverbs chapter two will say it’s a hidden treasure.
Sometimes, if you’re talking with young kids, you’ll say, “It’s hidden. But by the way, you might want to check over there.”
This is a hidden treasure. The world can’t see it, but you can see it. He says in Proverbs chapter two that wisdom comes from the mouth of God.
I love what it says of the prophet Samuel in First Samuel chapter three. It says, “God let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” Why do words fall to the ground? Words fall to the ground when you’re saying something and the person you’re trying to speak to is too far away, either literally or sometimes emotionally.
Where your words fall on deaf ears, as we say, it’s like if you’re a parent. You come out into your driveway, trying to find out where your kids are. I swear, our neighborhood at 5 P.M. is just a collection of adults looking confused, yelling for their kids. You’re yelling out, and they’re too far away. So your words are falling to the ground.
But it says of Samuel’s relationship with God, “God let none of his words fall to the ground.” How does that happen? It happens when you’re so intimate with God that your mouth and His mouth are so close together that there’s no room for them to fall.
If we are to be people who choose to be wise about what is good, which is the command in Romans 16, then we must be close enough to the source of wisdom. The source of wisdom is the mouth of God. That is where wisdom comes from.
We are also to develop an appetite for wisdom. We talked earlier about places where we might be disobedient or out of compliance with the purposes of God. I want you to pause, just for a moment to consider what you are craving. What is your appetite telling you to do?
Consider what it might look like to develop an appetite for the wisdom of God. To develop a craving for it. To develop an addiction to the wisdom of God. It says that I have to find it in Proverbs chapter two. This is not a passive speech.
He’s not saying, just hang out and the wisdom of God will come. He says, turn your ear, apply your heart, cry out aloud, go searching for it, store up His commands. Then you will know wisdom like hidden treasure.
He says I want you to be obedient. I want you to be wise about what is good. Then he says, I want you to be innocent about what is evil.
A quick side note on being innocent about what is evil. Have you ever noticed how evil goes after innocence? Evil goes after unborn children. Evil goes after our schools. Evil goes after innocence because evil is a coward, and evil will go after things that cannot defend themselves.
That’s why it’s so essential for us as disciples of Jesus to be obedient and wise and established in the things of God that Paul will write about later because there are times when you and I have to stand between evil and innocence.
We have to be that response of courage and conviction that tells evil to go no further. In this passage, Paul says I want you to be innocent about what is evil. The word innocence here means to be unmixed, to be pure.
So let me ask you a hard question. Are you mixed up in any things you shouldn’t be mixed up in? When you’re mixed up with something, it can feel impossible to get it unmixed. The truth is, it is impossible. But God is in the business of doing impossible things.
In Romans chapter 15, it says, I want the strong to carry the weak. In the original text, it says I want the possible to carry the impossible, meaning I want the possibility of God in you to come alongside those who are in impossible situations.
He says I want you to be innocent about what is evil. I want you to be unmixed from the things of this world. I want you to be unmixed from evil. I want you to have a purity about you or a refinement about you where there are no other ingredients in here.
Jesus will say to His disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you as sheep amongst wolves. I want you to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Why is Paul telling us to be innocent about what is evil? Because we are sent into the world. Jesus is not asking them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves just so they can hang out. He says, I’m sending you into the world.
He doesn’t say I want you to be wise as doves and innocent as serpents. That’s sometimes how we behave, and sometimes how we feel. I get it. I want you to be innocent about what is evil. I want you to be unmixed in this way.
Sometimes we confuse naivety with innocence. He talks about how those deceptive teachers, with smooth talk and flattery, deceive those who are naive in Romans 16:18 .Innocence and naivety are different things.
We are not called to be ignorant or naive. We are called to be wise and innocent. We are called to be conscious of the truth and actively choose to stay away from lies. We are called to be innocent, to be unmixed, and to not get mixed up in false teachings.
We are called to be obedient, we are called to be wise, and we are called to be innocent. In the next verse in verse 20, he will say, “for God will crush Satan under your feet.”
I think this verse has both the future application of when God will, for the final time, crush Satan under His feet like the prophets have spoken about. But I think this verse also has a present reality in our lives. It is linked to this idea that if we choose to be wise about what is good, if we choose to be innocent about what is evil, and if we choose to be obedient to the things of God, then in that, we partner with God, and the God of peace will crush Satan. He says, not under His feet, but under your feet. Everywhere you and I tread, we get to keep evil down if we choose a life of obedience, wisdom, and innocence.
He could have said the God of wrath. He could have said the God of all kinds of things.
But who crushes? The God of peace. He says the God of peace crushes Satan under your feet. That is the miraculous power of the peace of God when you and I choose to partner with Him through obedience, wisdom, and innocence.
This passage speaks about the mystery hidden, now revealed in verses 25 through 26. He says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you, in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith, to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.”
This entire letter to the Roman church 2000 years ago is about things hidden that are now revealed. When we step back and think about all that Paul has written about through the 16 chapters, as we close the letter today, he will say in Romans chapter 11:25, I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery.
He goes on to say that all of Israel will be saved. In this letter to the Roman church 2000 years ago, this mystery that was hidden is now revealed.
He says that it was written about through the prophets. Isaiah had written about it thousands of years earlier, how God was not only going to redeem Israel but also redeem the Gentiles. But they didn’t know what that looked like. They didn’t understand that prophetic teaching.
He’s saying to them that mystery is now revealed. If you go from Romans chapter one through Romans chapter 16 and ask God, where are all the things that were once hidden that have now been revealed to me?
You find in chapter one he says, the righteousness of God is revealed. In the very next verse, he says the wrath of God is revealed. In chapter two, he says His righteous judgment will be revealed.
We like the revelation from God to be just all the nice, fancy, fluffy stuff. He says the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
When we think about the things hidden that are now revealed, we have to embrace and understand the character of God that is revealed and what his posture is towards all wickedness and darkness. The wrath of God is revealed, and the righteous judgment of God is revealed in how He deals with sin and darkness.
Paul will go on in chapter eight, verses one and 18 to speak about the other parts that are revealed. He says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because, through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gets life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” That is something that was hidden, no condemnation, that has been revealed.
Lastly, in chapter eight, verse 18, he says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Romans is for a group of people who longed to search out hidden treasure. You say, God, I want to be the kind of disciple who sees things revealed that were previously hidden. What Paul says in Romans chapter eight, verse 18 is this might be a lot of revelation, but let me explain something to you. God’s not done yet. He has more revelation to bring. He’s going to reveal His glory in us.
You and I don’t, as disciples of Jesus, just get to be recipients of revelation. We get to be platforms for the revelation of God. That we might be the kind of people through obedience, through wisdom, and through innocence, the world is able to look on and say, I never knew that about God until I saw it demonstrated in your life. Now the thing that was hidden from me has been revealed.
You and I get to be a source of revelation to the world if we partner with God. The world out there that things are hidden from, that they might see things in us that tell them things about Him. That is the invitation of this revelation.
As we wrap up this letter, He says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you.” The word “establish” means “I fix firmly,” “direct myself towards,” and “I strengthen.” Paul, 16 chapters earlier in Romans 1:11, begins the letter and ends the letter with the same thought. He says in chapter one, verse 11, I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to make you strong. It is the same word, “to be strong,” “to be established.”
As he writes in chapter 16, verse 25, it says, now may God establish you. That is what Romans is about for us.
When you think back, and you say, what are these 20 months all about? What are these 16 chapters all about? It’s that you and I might be strong disciples established in the things of God.
It’s the same word that is used in Luke 9:51. When it says of Jesus, “As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The word “resolutely” is the same word as “to be established” or “to be strong.” Other translations will say, “set His face.”
When He had not the throne before Him but the cross before Him, He established Himself and set Himself towards it and made that journey.
Paul will write to the church in Rome of this thing that no one could ever have predicted to exist: a group of men and women in a relationship with each other under the umbrella of the grace of God. It was the first time in human history this had happened. These were people who had been at war with each other for thousands of years. Yet they found reconciliation in God. Together, they can sing a song of worship and say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” To that church, Paul says I want you to be established.
We are not, as disciples of Jesus, called to be passive in our faith. We are called to be obedient to Him. We are called to be wise. To choose wisdom and go search for it. We are called to be innocent about what is evil. We are called to be established, to be fixed firmly after the purposes of God.
Let’s stand together and pray.
Father, God, we thank You for this letter and how it speaks to us thousands of years later about what it means to be committed disciples of Jesus.
Where there is disobedience, we pray you would bring conviction and clarity of a path forward.
Where we’re mixed up in false teaching or mixed up in things we shouldn’t be in, God would you come and help us get unmixed?
Help us to be wise. Help us to choose wisdom so that this city, this community, and this nation would thrive.
Your word says without wise leadership, nations fall. We want to be in a place where cities and communities and countries rise because of the wisdom of God.
So we pray, God, we commit for this teaching to be established by You. We thank You for your goodness. We worship You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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