Romans Chapter 1
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Iíve done quite a few series here on the Ministerial Alliance program and in every case Iíve done whatís called a topical study- that is, Iíve covered a topic such as "Five Essential Bible Passages" or "Rain" or "Suffering". However, thatís not how I typically preach. Instead, I typically go through a book, verse by verse and section by section. Not only is this how God laid out the Bible for us, but doing this helps prevent the doctrinal error of taking things out of context. This approach also ensures that we read all the verses in the Bible and not just the more popular ones. With that in mind, Iíd like to cover Paulís letter to the Romans. Romans is an incredibly deep work and thereís no way I can do the whole book justice in 15 minutes a day over 5 days. What Iíll do, though, is cover 1 chapter this week- even then, I canít do it justice, but at least maybe weíll scratch the surface. Next time Iím on the Ministerial Alliance program, weíll look at chapter 2. May God bless this message, may it glorify Him, and maybe the truth of Jesus Christ shine into hearts of darkness. Amen!
Romans starts off with a lengthy greeting from Paul which is:
Romans 1:1-7 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God (2) which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, (3) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, (4) and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (5) Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, (6) among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; (7) To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In typical Paul fashion, he lays out a massive amount of information in this greeting. First, he identifies himself as "Paul" and then gives his qualifications with "a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostleÖ" Letís examine those words a little bit. First, in claiming to be a servant, Paul is truly humbling himself. Heís not saying "Look, folks, Iím an apostle and therefore, Iím a little bit above you." No, Paul is putting himself on the level of "servant". And this is a reminder to us that if Paul put himself as a servant of Christ, then where should we put ourselves? Am I going to elevate myself above Paul? Heaven forbid! So, then, all Christians ought to consider themselves as "servants" of Christ, as Paul does here.
Also note that Paul considers himself a servant of Christ first. Paulís first responsibility is to please Christ, not men. In fact, he tells us this plainly in:
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
Like Paul, our first responsibility should be to Christ. Christians should not seek the approval or adoration of men, but should seek to do as they have been commanded by Christ. Those commands include "love your neighbor as yourself", "go, and make disciples", and "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind." Our task is not to look at ourselves first, but to look to others first. Our task is to preach the word and spread the gospel.
Paul then says "called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God". If you know of the life of Paul, you know that he received a revelation from the risen Christ, unlike the other apostles who associated with the earthly Christ. As such, and given Paulís pre-conversion persecution of Christians, there was some understandable suspicion of Paul- documented in Galatians 1:23 and Acts 9 from the other apostles and believers. In most of his letters, Paul makes mention of his calling. His life of suffering for the gospel and his inclusion in the New Testament are dramatic testimony to his conversion and apostleship.
Note that Paul calls the message entrusted to him "the gospel of God." These are important words. "Gospel" means "good news". And why is the gospel such "good news"? Why isnít the message of religions equally good news? If you understand what the gospel truly is, then the answer will be evident. The gospel is good news because it says that Christ did the work for us. All religions have a doctrine of works- you have to do this, you need to clean yourself up to become presentable, you need to do good works, you must meet this stage of karma to pass to the next life, and so on. But the gospel says simply "Christ has done it, done it all, and done it for you." This is the message of the cross and Paulís going to spend a good part of Romans explaining it to us.
The gospel is not the gospel of Paul, or the gospel of Peter. If youíve kept up with the news youíve probably heard of the "Gospel of Judas". Bzzzzztttt!!! Itís NOT the "Gospel of Judas". Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not the gospel of those men, they are "The Gospel According to.." those men. As Paul just stated, it is the "gospel of God." This is important because it says that is God Himself who makes the gospel effective. As Paul says in:
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
And as he says just a little later in Romans 1:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
So, this gospel that Paul is preaching is not a made-up philosophical thing of man, but is truly the good news as presented by God Himself. No religion can make that claim.
Paul qualifies or demonstrates the accuracy of his claim by appealing to the Old Testament scriptures (which were the only Scriptures available at his time, donít forget). He says "Ö which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the fleshÖ"
Now, before we move too far, letís not lose sight of what Paul says concerning the Scriptures- he calls them the "Holy Scriptures" and that word "holy" is very, very important. What Paul is saying is that the scriptures are pure and perfect in every way. He expounds on this in his instructions to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In Romans, Paul calls them the "Holy" Scriptures and when talking to Timothy, he calls them "inspired" or, literally, God-breathed. I discussed the authenticity of the Bible just recently here on KLMX and if you go to our church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org, youíll find the text of those messages.
According to the Holy Scriptures, then, Jesusí appearance was foretold by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. This is why itís so important for Christians to read and study the Old Testament- we need to see the prophecies which foretold Christ. As Paul says later in Romans:
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
And in fact, the subject of one of my first messages on KLMX was "Christ in the Old Testament" and again you can find the text of those messages on the church website (www.fbcdesmoines.org). But here in Romans, Paul is giving us the ultra-condensed version of those prophecies when he says that the prophets foretell Christ, and he gives some of the key fulfillments when he says "Öborn of the seed of David, according to the flesh."
But a fulfillment of prophecy is useless unless itís accompanied by further evidence. And that evidence in the case of Christ is that He was, as Paul states "declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." The ultimate evidence of Jesusí claim to Messiah is the fact that He was resurrected from the dead. This resurrection is absolutely key to the Christian faith. Paul tells us in:
1 Corinthians 15:13-14 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. (14) And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
Paul knows what heís doing here and the evidence that he gives for Christ in this ultra-condensed version is the absolutely essential evidence: a) itís the gospel, b) itís the gospel of God, c) Christ was foretold, and d) Christís resurrection is evidence of who He was.
Verses 5-6 tell us:
Romans 1:5-6 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, (6) among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
And like every other part of Romans, this passage is loaded. Notice that Paul says "through Him we have received graceÖ" It is only through faith in the works of Jesus Christ that we receive grace. Note that this grace is not an end in itself, but Paul says "Öwe have received grace and apostleship FOR obedience to the faithÖ" A person cannot call themselves "Christian" and be disobedient to the faith. Obedience does not produce faith; rather, true faith produces true obedience. Jesus tells us so here:
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
We also know from Hebrews that:
Hebrews 5:8-9 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (9) And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
It should be clear that obedience is a result of faith. Itís clear that faith is not produced by works:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
This passage clearly says that faith is "not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" and is equally clear that faith is "not of works, lest anyone should boast." But neither is faith empty- faith produces works pleasing to God. The entire book of James discusses this point.
Lastly we see Paul including his readers in the same calling that heís received when he says "among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ". We have seen in 1 Corinthians 1 that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" and Jesus says plainly that "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws himÖ" (John 6:44) Therefore, salvation requires a calling from God to be effective. This is why Paul calls it simply the "power of God" rather than "the decision of men acting upon the power of God."
Well, our time is drawing short for the day. Tomorrow, weíll continue on in Romans 1 and see what kind of amazing insights, revelations, and instructions it contains. For now, let me leave you with Paulís blessing to his readers:
Romans 1:7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Forward to Part 2