20 December 2020 (Advent Fourth Sunday - Christmas Carol Service) Romans 1:7
After Jesus’s death and Resurrection, Jewish leaders and people did all that they could to destroy Christianity. The disciples and the early church faced many challenges and persecution. The law was not to declare Jesus as Christ. During that time, there was a great persecution against the early Christian church at Jerusalem. The early Christians were scattered throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria.
Saul was a learned Pharisee who followed Jewish Theology. He played a major part in persecuting the early Christians. We read about it in Acts 9:1&2. Saul was a person greatly feared by the early church. But God met him on the road to Damascus. His life was transformed when God separated him to spread the Gospel to the gentiles. He started living for Christ. Paul saw the Light and witnessed the Light from then on in his life. Paul established the early Christian Churches among gentiles and encouraged them with his epistles. He addressed the issues they faced with solutions to the early church. Paul’s guidance is valid even today when we face similar situations and difficult situations.
Apostle Paul wrote the epistle of Romans to the early church in Rome. In Romans 1:7 he says, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Here, Saint Paul says that those in the early church in Rome were called to be saints. By saints, he means that they are people separated for God. Those who accept Jesus Christ are set apart for Him. They dedicate themselves to live a life of witness as God’s chosen people. They are set apart to live a holy life for Jesus to fulfil the purpose of His birth.
Apostle Paul mentions in verse 8 that the faith of the Roman Church was spoken throughout the world. Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In verse 11, Paul mentions that the Roman church should be established and strengthened in their faith. In verse 12, he also mentions a mutual faith that comforts both Paul and the Roman Church.
We are familiar with the reason for the first Advent. Jesus was born “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Isaiah’s prophecies were fulfilled and Jesus was sent to the world as Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. The Almighty Father sent His only begotten Son to save us from perishing and for us to inherit eternal life.
When Saul met Jesus, his life was transformed. He became an Apostle who bore sufferings for Jesus. We have met Jesus. We should be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that” we “may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Are our lives transformed? When transformed, Paul became an Apostle. We are led in our Christian life by the Light. Are we leading people out of darkness to the everlasting Light? What are we doing for Jesus, the Light of the world?
We are called to be set apart for God, to live a holy life pleasing in the sight of God. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we are His chosen people. 1 Peter 2:9 says we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Are we living our lives set apart for God from the ways of the world?
The faith of the Roman church was spoken throughout the world. How is our faith? All of us can say that we have our faith on Jesus. We who have faith on Jesus, should be seeking Him diligently. Our God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Isaiah 55:6–7 says “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” How are we seeking Him?
Paul wanted to impart some spiritual gift to the Roman church so that they would be established in their faith. Matthew 24:13 says that those who endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. When we seek the Lord and His will in our lives, our faith will be established and strengthened in Christ. Are we seeking the Lord diligently to run our race faithfully to the end?
As we prepare to remember and celebrate the first Advent of Jesus, let us reflect on our faith on Jesus. The purpose of the first Advent will be fulfilled in our lives only if our lives are transformed and we live a life separated for God. Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection will be meaningful only if we are established and endure to the end. We will be established only if our faith is on Jesus, the solid Rock. In addition to our faith and being established, our faith should comfort our fellow believers to be established and strengthened in their faith. Our faith should bring more people to His flock. By doing these, we will fulfil the purpose of the first Advent of Jesus and prepare us and our neighbours for His second Advent.