Introduction to the Book of Romans

Title: Introduction to Romans

Text: Romans 1:1-7

Time: May 28th, 2006

We’ve just finished up a teaching series on the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus Christ. I started that last year and I’ve been teaching verse-by-verse through the whole sermon series. Now I’d like to start a new teaching series from the Book of Romans by the Apostle Paul. One-half of the New Testament was written by the Apostle Paul. Much of what we know of as Christianity, much of what we read in our Bibles, much of what we follow in the Christian church, much of the very gospel we put our hope in comes from the teachings of the Apostle Paul. We just celebrated the Lord’s Supper last week, and what did we read from in the Bible to guide us through? The writings of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. Jesus gave us the gospel, but it took Paul to explain the gospel, the details of the gospel. You may have heard of the Romans Road, it’s a popular outline of the gospel. We’ll find that here in the Book of Romans, we’ll get to that in the weeks ahead. The Reformation of the 16th century, with Martin Luther and John Calvin, and the Protestant church, would have been impossible without the writings of the Apostle Paul. So, second to Jesus Christ himself, we owe a great debt to Paul. And there is no better place to understand Paul than to understand the Book of Romans. So we will go verse-by-verse through the Book of Romans and just like we did with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we’ll learn truths that are at the heart of the Christian faith, truths we can use immediately in our lives. And we’ll grow mature too through learning these truths, as we did learning the truths of the Sermon on the Mount. The Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Romans around the year A.D. 55. He wrote it as a letter to the Christians in the great and famous city of Rome, capital of the Roman Empire, the greatest power of the world in the 1st century. Jesus had died and rose again and returned to heaven about 20 years before, but already there were small communities in towns and cities in the Middle East and in parts of Europe and Northern Africa. Now you have to realize that the church was in its early stage, it hadn’t worked out many of the things we take for granted. A lot of the doctrine or thinking about the Christian faith hadn’t even been formulated yet. In the Book of Romans we can see the early beginnings of basic Christian theology being explained for the first time by Paul. So when we go to the Book of Romans, along with the Gospels, we are going back to the source of all Christian truth. It’s good for each believer and each Christian church to go back from time to time to the fundamentals, to the source, to the basic teachings, because over time it’s possible to get off track, to lose our way. That’s why the Book of Romans is so important; it helps us find our way back to the truth, and reminds us to stay on the right path of truth before we go off it. One of the greatest truths that is explained by Paul in the Book of Romans is the Gospel. Jesus was the gospel, he was the good news, his life, death, and resurrection, his invitation to trust in him for salvation, for forgiveness of sins, for eternal life. But Paul in Romans explains the gospel better than anyone, helps us understand the gospel, and helps us never depart from the gospel in our lives and churches. It brought Christianity back to the gospel during the Reformation, it can bring our lives back to the gospel today if we’ve gotten off track, which we all do from time to time. So let’s learn from the Book of Romans, let’s learn the essential truths of the Christian faith, and let’s grow strong and mature as a result. Romans 1:1-7 (read). Paul teaches three things from this brief introduction: one, identifies Christians, two, clarifies the gospel, three, lists benefits of the gospel.

First, Paul identifies himself and all Christians with the gospel. V. 1,6-7a: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” Also, “And you are also among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.” According to Paul, Christians are servants of Jesus, called to be saints and apostles, set apart for the gospel and loved by God. Now there are lots of things in these few verses that Paul is teaching. He packs a lot in just a few lines, and he does that through the whole Book of Romans. That’s why we have to stop and hear what he’s saying at a slower pace. He says that Christians are servants of Christ. Do you think of yourself as a servant? Is there anything inside of you that reacts against being a servant? If so, you are a typical American who doesn’t like to think of himself or herself as a servant of anybody. But Christians are not servants of just anybody; we are servants of Jesus Christ. Can you be a servant of Jesus? What does a servant do? Serves his master. A servant spends his life serving someone else not self-serving. Today we have all kinds of self-serve products because it’s not popular to find people willing to serve others. I was in Las Vegas, Nevada one time at a convention when there was a company at the convention giving away free shoeshines. There was a man shining shoes. So I stepped up on the seat, like a platform, and this guy starts shinning my shoes. But it was a weird feeling because I never had anyone shine my shoes and I was uncomfortable for him because here he was serving me and shinning my shoes while I just sat there like some rich dog with money to burn by paying someone to shine my shoes. But the guy didn’t seem to be bothered, didn’t seem to resent me sitting their like a king while he did menial labor making my shoes shine. That’s how we have to be in respect to Jesus. We’ve got to serve Jesus, be a servant of Christ, and get used to making his shoes shine, making him look good, doing what he needs done, without feeling resentment or let our self-pride react against it. So I ask you again, can you be a servant of Jesus? That’s what we are called to be. Another thing, we are called to be: saints and apostles. Now we are all called to be saints and all called to be apostles, that is, sent ones into the world to represent Jesus. Paul was called to be an original apostle, we are called to be modern day apostles. We are all “sent ones” because that’s what the word “apostle” means, “sent one.” We are all sent into the world to speak and act as Jesus would. If you are a Christian, are you taking your responsibility as an apostle seriously? Some teenagers today where wristbands with W.W.J.D, What Would Jesus Do? Do you live with the awareness that you have the responsibility to continue the life of Christ in the world? Are you doing that? And then Christians are set apart for the gospel. Believing the gospel, when we really believe it, sets us apart from the rest of the world that doesn’t believe it. If you don’t act, speak, think differently than the unbelieving world, you are not yet set apart for the gospel. How does the gospel set us apart from others? We are given new hearts when we believe the gospel, and because we are different inside, we act different outside. One of the key ways we know we are Christians is God begins to change our life through the Spirit. Is your life changing? It should be.

Second, Paul clarifies the gospel. Vv. 2-5, “The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by is resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” Did you know that there were Old Testament prophets who described the ministry of Jesus hundreds of years before Jesus ever came? Paul mentions this fact. For example, there was Isaiah, who in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah describes the Messiah dying on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. (read Is. 53). Now Jesus came and proclaimed that he was the Messiah, but his resurrection from the dead proved it. So now we have the complete gospel, which the Old Testament prophets hinted at, and Jesus fulfilled, we have this gospel to believe, live and proclaim to others. What is the gospel? It’s that a long time ago our original parents lived in a perfect world. But they ruined it by disobeying God. The moment they sinned they began to die and grow old, and worse of all, they became separated from God, which if they continued in that state they would die and be lost for all eternity. So God made it possible through blood sacrifice for our parents to receive forgiveness of sin. But that was only a temporary fix; the real solution was for Jesus to come and become himself the sacrifice for all time. Now by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus, we are forgiven and receive eternal life. But the tragedy today is that most people haven’t done that simple thing. Most people in Jamestown are lost and separated from God and heading for a godless eternity. Why? Because they have not repented of sins and turned to Jesus in simple trust. Or they think they are saved because they said a few words, said a few prayers at some point in the past, and presto chango that saved them. Well it didn’t. Nobody just mumbles his or her way into eternal life. They must come as all true Christians have come, through repentance and faith. Repentance means you turn away from your sins, and faith means you turn toward Jesus. Paul mentions the obedience of faith. That’s how you know you have real faith, are you willing to obey God? When you really become born again of God your heart is changed. You are given the power to turn away from sin and turn toward God. Without this power to change you don’t change. Some people, many people, think they are saved, but their life doesn’t show any change. That means they aren’t really saved, only they think they are, which is worse than not being saved in the first place. Are you saved from sins? Is your life different because of it? I hope so, or else you have to go all the way back to the beginning and get it right. But there is more.

Third, Paul lists the benefits of the gospel. V. 7b, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace means unmerited favor, it means getting treated better than you deserve. You run into grace once in a while in life, for example, when you are stopped by the police for going over the speed limit, and he lets you off with a warning. That’s grace. Or when you break something in the store and the store doesn’t charge you for it, or doesn’t try to bill you for it, but just lets it go. That’s grace. Or if you are married and you are unfaithful, but you ask forgiveness and your spouse forgives you and gives you another chance without divorcing you. That’s grace. Or when someone borrows your car and wrecks it but then forgives you and says, “O forget it, it’s ok, I’ll take care of it.” That’s grace. We run into grace sometimes, but not mostly. Most of the time people don’t give us grace, and we probably don’t give them grace either. But in the gospel, God gives us grace, or unmerited or unearned favor. You don’t deserve to live in eternal happiness forever with God. Why? Because you have spent much of your life as I have, rebelling against God’s rule in our lives. Why would he let such a one into his heaven when we’ve only showed contempt and resentment for his will and his way in this life? You’ve already shown that you are perfectly willing to disobey God and put your own will ahead of his, and now you expect him to let you into his perfect world and mess it all up? You know you would carry on with your disobedience and rebellion in heaven. In fact, because of your many sins, disobediences and rebelliousness, you deserve not a reward but punishment, you deserve hell, or eternal damnation, for your attitude and actions against God. But despite your sins and disobedience, God takes you in, through the blood of Jesus and by your trusting in Jesus, God takes you in and treats you as if you’d never carried on with sin and evil in this life. That’s grace. Paul also mentions peace. Because God is no longer against us because of our sins, we are at peace with God finally. Have you made your peace with God? Have you admitted honestly and frankly that you’ve spent your life sinning and disobeying God because you wanted your own sweet way rather than his? Have you admitted to that? Have you seen how bad you’ve treated God? Here God is the one person who deserves all respect, but you’ve given little or no respect. God deserves infinite respect — you can’t even count how much respect he deserves from us, he planned for us, he provided for our existence — and we give him very little of what he deserves. That’s an insult to God. You deserve hell just for that. But God in his grace, unearned favor, loves and forgives you and accepts you as his own, as if you were just the most deserving child. You have been a bad child, but God treats you as if you’ve been a wonderful child. That’s grace. And that gives us peace in our hearts. Do you have God’s peace in your heart today? Do you appreciate what grace God is offering?

We’ll be having the Apostle Paul explain the gospel to us week after week in the Book of Romans, so you won’t want to miss any of this. It will revolutionize your life because you have never even understood the gospel unless you hear Paul tell it. I’m afraid a lot of people think they know the gospel and they don’t. I’m afraid that a lot of people think they are going to heaven, and they are not. Now I want you to ask yourself as I go through the Book of Romans, ask yourself one question, “Am I really a Christian, am I really saved, am I really going to heaven, are my sins really forgiven, do I really have peace with God?” What could be more important than that? Being forgiven of your offenses against God and going to eternal happiness with God, what could be better or more important to know? What good is winning the million-dollar lottery if you die and go to hell? What good is getting the best job in the world, making the best money in the world if you aren’t forgiven, and on judgment day you are condemned to eternal suffering? What good is living in the nicest house or apartment, driving the best car, having all you’ve ever wanted if you aren’t saved? The Apostle Paul talks about the most important thing in all of life. What good is it if you get married and live happily ever after for the rest of your life but die and go to hell? Make sure you are saved. Don’t miss this one thing. If your mind wanders easily, make sure it doesn’t on this. If you have a low attention span than ask someone to slap you ever so often to make you pay attention. If you don’t make it to heaven, it won’t be my fault because I’m explaining it as easy as I can using the Book of Romans. Bring yourself and bring a friend, if they are a friend who needs to hear salvation. Or pay close attention to what I’m saying so you can repeat it word for word to your family and friends so that they won’t die and go to hell. It’s easy to lose the gospel. Did you know that less than 100 years after the coming of Jesus Christ, less than 100 years after Paul wrote the Book of Romans where he explains the gospel in as clear a way as possible, less than 100 years later, most of the church and most of the leaders and most of people had lost the basic message of the gospel? It’s true. Go back and study church history, Satan changed the topic and got people off on doing and being as best as they could with good works and things, thinking that was the way to heaven. And it stayed that way until around the 16th century when a monk named Martin Luther and another Christian leader named John Calvin said, “Hey church, hey Christians, read the Book of Romans, listen to the Apostle Paul, he explains that salvation is by trusting Jesus not by earning a place through the doing of good deeds, you can’t earn enough, you can’t pay enough, you must go through Jesus or you don’t go through.” So we are going to rediscover the gospel, and hopefully if you are saved, you’ll be more confident about it, and if you aren’t saved, well, then you’ll get saved.

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