It's good to be established, isn't it? I'm sure you've seen businesses advertising how long they've been around, "Est. 1853" or something like that. Have you ever thought about why some companies or schools last so long? It has something to do with that word "established," doesn't it? Well today, in our reading from God's word - Paul prays that God establishes us, his readers.
It's a fitting text for us this Sunday as we look to install (or establish into office) our new vicar and elders and Sunday School teachers here at Abiding Grace. In order for them to be able to do their new jobs well, they need to be established in God and established by God. But so do you - in order to be what God has designed you for - you need to be established. This is what Paul writes in Romans 16: "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ..."
You see, that's why I pray that God establish you - because God is able to. He's able to establish you by the gospel. Even though it is true that we do plenty of things that don't make us look so established, so respectable - even though our failures mean that God's face should be established against us - Jesus' face should be set like flint, determined to destroy us in the judgment, that's not what happens.
Look at the rest of our reading. There's none of that here. Instead, Paul praises the "One who is able to establish you by the gospel, that is the proclamation of Jesus Christ." Instead of being established in what your sins do - you're established by the good news about Jesus.
You are established as God's child because Jesus was baptized in your place fulfilling all righteousness and he put the power into your baptism when he gave you his name through that sin-washing water. You are established as a saint because Jesus set his face to Jerusalem, taking your sins with him to nail them to a tree. You are established as heirs of heaven because of the promises Jesus made you. You are established in glory because Christ is risen.
But here's the thing. Even though you know those truths, you still don't always act like such an established Christian, do you? We definitely need to keep reading in Romans: "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God."
How important it is to continue to be established - through the word. You've heard it a thousand times, your devotional life is important, but look at how Paul ties it so tightly together. It's the gospel that makes you who you are - and you don't just come up with the gospel out of your head - it needs to be revealed. This stuff is a mystery to us by nature, and our nature wants to keep enshrouding it in that mystery. So we need to be in it, in these prophetic writings, in this book that by definition makes us say "Wow"!
And you know what that means. First - in your private study time, then in your family time in the word, and yes, then also here at church in Bible Study and Sunday School as we start our new season on Sept. 11 at 9:15 a.m., and as we have our midweek studies at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. It is the Word that establishes you by the Gospel.
Because God has big plans for you. After Paul talks about establishing us by the gospel, he gives the purpose. At the end of verse 26, he says, "so that all nations might believe and obey him." Remember, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16). "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
So get into God's word. And may God establish you so that he can use you. In Christ,
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.