I became a Christian in my pre-teen years. While my faith did not grow significantly during teen years, I cannot underestimate the value of a church family providing models of maturity and prioritizing the worship of God and teaching of the Scriptures. There is a longer story, but I became more intentional in spiritual growth in my senior year of HS and post-HS years. I came to the realization that if my faith was to be genuine, I needed to read Scripture and understand it for myself – not just listen to what others have to say/teach from the Bible.
I began my journey of reading the Bible cover to cover. Pages from the Gospel of Matthew and the letter to Romans became well-worn. These two books were formative for my personal relationship with Jesus and the beginning of my call into ministry. The vivid and authoritative teaching of Jesus was powerful to me, and I both feared and fell in love with Jesus.
- I feared Jesus who said many can call Him Lord, but will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they did not truly reverence Him (Mt 7:21-23). Christianity is not meant just to make our life better but to make our life centered. In other words, we cannot merely add belief in God to our regular schedule without our belief transforming our behaviors, attitudes, and actions. We cannot have Jesus as our Savior from sin without also having Him as Lord of our life.
- I also fell in love with Jesus who invited me to look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, both whom God provides richly. And, if God cares for these, then He also will firmly uphold and generously sustain my needs.
- Further, the simplicity yet profundity of the “Roman Road” enamored me with a mighty God who is rich in mercy and demonstrates His love toward sinners through the death of His only Son. And “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us; and nothing can separate us from God’s love.”
Christianity is not meant just to make our life better but to make our life centered.Tweet
Today is our last in a series of message from the book of Romans. We’ve spent the last 6-weeks teaching from various passages in this book. It has not meant to be an exhaustive study like some: John Piper spent almost 9 years, and Martin Lloyd Jones spent 13 years preaching through Romans, with Lloyd Jones dying before he could finish the book – made it to chapter 14! He said, “Romans is the greatest masterpiece ever written; it is a colossal and incomparable statement of Christian truth.”
Church reformer Martin Luther said, “[The book of Romans is] The chief part of the New Testament, and the very purest gospel, which, indeed, deserves that a Christian not only know it word for word by heart but deal with it daily as with daily bread of the soul. For it can never be read or considered too much or too well, and the more it is handled, the more delightful it becomes, and the better it tastes.”
John Calvin wrote: “When anyone gains a knowledge of this epistle he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”
English poet, Samuel Coleridge, referred to Romans as, “The profoundest piece of writing in existence.”
Scholar F.F. Bruce once said: “There is no telling what may happen when people begin to study the Epistle to the Romans.”
William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English, believed that every Christian should memorize Romans.
John Chrysostom used to have someone read Romans out loud to him twice each week. After hearing it read so many times, he said this: “Romans is unquestionably the fullest, deepest compendium of all sacred foundation truths.”
“Every movement of revival in the history of the Christian church has been connected to the teachings set forth in Romans… and it is probably that every great spiritual renovation in the church will always be linked, both in cause and effect, to a deeper knowledge of this book.”
For SPBC, we have studied passages in Romans and preached this series GOSPEL Dashboard because I/we want clarity about our vision for growing godly generations. So, we end this series with the first chapter – which some would describe me in typical fashion being a little backwards. But my friend Jim Benson says, “Recognition of any type is appreciated.” Today’s passage will remind us the source of our unity and zeal for our urgency.
EXAMINE Romans 1:16-17 GOSPEL Life
The gospel gives hope for everyone.
- Once was Saul, with tradition and expectations of family to be a good man (Jewish faith), and a community leader (named after Israel’s king).
- Saul was a religious radical. Jewish oral tradition written in what is known as the Mishnah taught: “At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen [for the fulfilling of] the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the bride-chamber, at twenty for pursuing a calling, at thirty for authority.” To some, being viewed as religious is positive. Many want religious people for our neighbors and community involvement because they don’t want immoral or untrustworthy people for their neighbors. Yet, Saul’s religiosity spiraled to radicalism that it led him not just debate those with whom he disagreed but efforts to destroy them.
- Likewise, many so called Christians have the attitude and mindset that their mission is to “own the libs” or “triggering the millennial snowflakes,” or “demolishing the Dems.” Undoubtedly, the Christian is to contrast secular worldviews and take every thought captive to obey Christ, but our war is against philosophies not people (Mt 10:16; 2 Cor 10:3-6; Eph 6:12; Col 4:5-6; 1 Pet 2:12). So, be careful your supposed faith convictions are not creating a monster opposed to the movement of Jesus, as Saul/Paul did (Ac 9:1-4).
- Saul/Paul was a sinner against Jesus. In fact, the name “Paul” means “little,” which reflects Paul’s humility. Frequently, Paul’s letters indicate a man who viewed himself as the least of all apostles, and the chief of sinners whom God extended ample mercy and copious patience (1Tim 1:12-16).
- If/since God saved Paul, then no one is irredeemable (don’t give up on anyone – keep praying and witnessing) and the invitation to salvation should be broad. As Jesus said, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, and blind and lame… Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:21-23).
- We’re going to put up a large wall board for #WhosYour1. I will be challenging myself, and we will challenge one another to make Jesus famous and believe that God’s grace is good news for every sinner.
The gospel gives purpose for believers.
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God… 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations
- Paul was a servant of Jesus. He served by praying, spending time with disciples, and learning about the Scriptures (Acts 9; Gal 2).
- Paul was a living sacrifice for Jesus, willing to be unappreciated, misrepresented, and ill-treated. Everywhere he went, he did not shrink from speaking about Jesus.
- Paul traveled to and started with synagogues in preaching the gospel. For him, this was the low-hanging fruit.
- Paul was also a tentmaker and engaged sharing the gospel in the marketplace. Paul was willing to take the gospel in the most hostile and hard to reach areas.
- Ultimately, Paul understood that Christians are set apart to bring about obedience of faith for the sake of Jesus among all nations. This was not Paul’s idea but Jesus’ (Mt 28:18-20). Jesus has the authority and His followers do not have liberty to change the Great Commission into a good suggestion.
- As Christians, we are set apart for the gospel of God.
– Some people receive their paycheck or direct deposit and they have their budget to account for all their bills: housing, utilities, food, clothing, etc. But they also set apart money for entertainment. Things that are set apart have a distinct purpose that nothing shall interfere…. AND maybe it goes beyond a paycheck to one’s calendar. If their favorite team/show plays on certain days/time, then space is blocked off so nothing else encroaches.
– “But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Ac 20:24)
- Let us strive to stay clear of being caught up with partisan politics or entangled with worldly pursuits. Instead, let us be disciplined like an athlete competing for a crown, or diligent like a farmer working hard for a harvest of food for his family (cf. 2 Tim 2:4-6). Be set apart for God’s purposes.
Things that are set apart have a distinct purpose that nothing shall interfere… space is blocked off so nothing else encroaches. A Christian is set apart for God’s purpose.Tweet
The gospel gives confidence in the Scriptures.
2 gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
Paul’s preaching of the gospel did not arrive from his imagination but revelation. Christianity was not new in the 1st Century, but a continuation of what God was revealing about His His truth and love for centuries through prophets (cf Lk 24:27; n 5:39; Ac 2:14-40). From Genesis to Malachi (and all those funny names in between), God had been whispering promises of a Rescuer. God knew that His children tried and tried to do well but they kept falling short. He was not seeking people who could try hard but trust fully.
As Paul asks, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness…” Faith was credited to Abraham before his circumcision (religious works), which were merely a seal and sign to make him the father of all who believe (Rom 4:3-12).
In another letter, Paul said, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1Cor 15:3-4).
Christians have a big Bible with 66 books but with a scarlet thread of each story whispering the promise and person of Jesus. We read the Bible as a mystery novel – the second and third time. Once we know the end of the book then we are able to return reading and seeing how all the hints and clues pointed to the mystery revealed. The NT reveals what was concealed in the OT. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:2-3).
- In Genesis, Jesus is the Word of God speaking creation into existence. Further, Jesus is the promised offspring to bless all the nations.
- In, Exodus, Jesus is the Passover Lamb who stops the plague of death upon God’s children.
- In Leviticus, Jesus is the holy temple and sacrifice that enables us to enter the presence of God.
- In Numbers, Jesus’ Spirit is with His people to guide them with a cloud by day and fire by night.
- In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the prophet greater than Moses who will write His commands upon our hearts.
- Israel’s books of History teach us that Jesus is our forever king, who is not corrupt but righteous and compassionate.
- In Esther, Jesus is our faithful advocate risking His life to save ours.
- In Isaiah, Jesus is our suffering servant, who by His stripes we are healed.
- In Jonah, Jesus is the true missionary unafraid to go to the Ninevite unbelievers and preach truth so that we can repent and receive forgiveness of our sins, grace for our guilt, and victory over our shame.
- In Micah, Jesus is the Shepherd Ruler to be born in the tiny town of Bethlehem.
- In Zechariah, Jesus is the Shepherd who was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, and people would mourn the one they pierced.
Christians have a big Bible with 66 books but with a scarlet thread of each story whispering the promise and person of Jesus.Tweet
And ~300 prophecies about Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.
- The Bible is the book which Christians stand and share. We do not edit it, but we pass it on to others because we have seen it endure the test of history, and we know its impact upon lives today.
– Catholic Church leaders excommunicated and punished persons who translated Scripture – see John Wycliffe (1330-1384).
– French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) predicted “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” Yet, within 50 years after his death, the very house he once lived became the Evangelical Society of Geneva, which hosted printing presses for Voltaire’s work, and even the paper he purchased, then began printing Bibles, and gospel tracts.
– In America, 87% own a Bible but < 10% have read all of it, and ~50% have only read some of it.
– According to VOM, there are 52 countries where the Bible is restricted/dangerous/illegal to obtain.
- Make a goal of systematically reading Bible… w/ others.
The gospel gives us strength to endure.
6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you
10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—*
12 that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours & mine.
13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
*strengthen is same word used in 16:25 “Now, to Him who is able to strengthen you, according to my gospel…”
Many Christians miss this point. Paul is writing about the gospel not just to unbelievers but saints. Paul longs to see the saints at Rome to strengthen them in the faith, and to be strengthened by their faith.
The gospel is for both salvation and sanctification. We rehearse and repeat the gospel to one another that we can endure the adversities and hardships of life.
We never graduate from the gospel. It is the ‘A to Z’ of Christianity, not just the diving board but the ocean pool itself, which we can never plumb the depths. Like getting water from a well, the best water is not by getting a wider opening or bigger bucket but going deeper to the source.
Similarly, we get the purity and sweetness of God not through widening diverse religious beliefs or attending bigger churches but by driving deep in the heart of Jesus.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Paul had been imprisoned in Philippi, smuggled out of Berea, chased out of Thessalonica, mocked and laughed at in Athens, and the Corinthians viewed his message as foolishness. And it is from this backdrop that Paul claims to not be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God! 
Jesus recognized the possibility that some would be ashamed of Him: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Paul had been imprisoned in Philippi, smuggled out Berea, chased out Thessalonica, mocked and laughed at in Athens, and the Corinthians viewed his message as foolishness. And it is from this backdrop that Paul claims to not be ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God.Tweet
Why were/are people ashamed of the gospel?
- The gospel takes away our excuses for being our own god.
Rom 1:20-22 “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him or show gratitude to Him as God. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.”
- The gospel takes away our earning grace.
Rom 3:10-12, 23 “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understand or seeks God. All have turned away… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Rom 5:17-18 “by one man’s trespass, death reigned… and condemnation for everyone”
This offends the popular belief of humanity having innate goodness, that our good works will outweigh the bad in the end, or that heaven is our default.
Illus: I’m not saying humanity does not have some good and innate value, just that no one is perfect. If you have 1 sin of commission OR omission, then you fall short! Like getting 1 digit off a phone number will not connect you to the person you desire to reach, such with God.
- The gospel forces us to acknowledge our emptiness apart from God.
If we are willing to acknowledge our emptiness, then we can overflow with abundant goodness and unending joy. The paradox of dying to self, results in resurrection life for us. In repentance, Jesus redeems. The Spirit comforts the confused and crushed. God exalts the humble and brings low those are lifted up. By grace through faith, He mends the broken, makes order from chaos, and molds us into His masterpiece.
Rom 5:8 “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
Rom 5:19; 6:23; 8:1 “For just as through one man’s [Adam] disobedience many were made sinners, so also through one man’s [Jesus] obedience the many will be made righteous… Though the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord… Therefore, there is no condemnation existing for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
We do not need to be ashamed of the gospel because it is good news, not just good advice. Advice is something you must do, or the urging to accomplish something. But news is an announcement of what has already happened.
For example, what would we do if there was an invading army coming toward our town? After asking why they’re invading SP with nothing of significance, we would then explore wisdom from professional military advisers. We would listen to advice about fighting in the trenches, and give counsel for where marksmen should position themselves, and where tanks or combat vehicles should be located. HOWEVER – if a distinguished leader with his forces has already intercepted the enemy army and defeated our adversary, then what does our town need? At that point, we do not need advisers but we need ambassadors. We would need ambassadors from our ally army to come announce, “good news of great joy for all the people!” We would rejoice at the commands: “Do not fear. Stop fleeing. Stop hiding in fortresses. Stop trying to save yourselves. Our Commander has already saved you.”
We do not need to be ashamed of the gospel because it is good news, not just good advice. Advice is something you must do, or the urging to accomplish something. But news is an announcement of what has already happened.Tweet
At that point, then we would respond either with doubt or trust.
- Doubt = dismissal.
- Trust includes taking one step…
… or a readiness to run to the Father who knows you have rebelled in prodigal living and drifted into severe disobedience, but today you have clarity. Today your eyes have been opened and heart awakened to the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 Many of the above quotes come from https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/why-preach-romans-1409174.html.
 Charles L. Quarles, “Paul,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1255.
 Doubters should examine the evidence, perhaps start with my series, “Why Believe? https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2021/05/25/why-believe-in-christianity/
 Indebted to J.D. Greear’s writings and sermon(s) on this point.
 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988).
 See Tim Keller on many writings… or Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind The Birth Of Christ, p.21.