Romans 1 v 1-7
Turn with me to the book of Romans. We are beginning a journey through the book of Romans in weeks ahead. I don’t know how long we’ll be at it. It’s quite a book. I’ve decided to go with Malachi in the evening, because a wise sister counselled me that perhaps tackling Romans in the morning and Daniel in the evening is taking a horse out of the stable that I don’t have a saddle for. So thank you to my sister – you just confirmed what the Lord had already laid on my heart. So Malachi in the evenings and Romans in the mornings, and I hope that you are looking forward to that. We’re going to walk with our Lord as he guides us by His Word.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and 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, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7To 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.”
I’m going to introduce to you this letter this morning, and then we’ll start digging into it from next Lord’s day, but it’s very important that we know something about this letter and its writer and its structure, so that you have an idea as to the journey that we’re going on. Now it’s true that I put some sources behind me. You know, the thing with pastors as they’re preachers – they milk many cows, but they try to churn their own butter and these are some of the cows that I’ve milked among others – these are the main sources. It’s of course Warren Wiersbe who’s been very helpful with structure and so on, and it’s HCG Moore which I considered to be my favourite commentary on the book of Romans. And good old Matthew Henry has helped a lot with application. And then also John Murray – I know that’s Richard’s favourite commentary on Romans as well and to me it comes at close second. I don’t know if Richard’s aware of them all. If you’re not, I’ll get you a copy, my brother.
So those are the cows that I milked and I hope that you will be able to spread the butter and that it will smooth out your life in days to come. So, acknowledgement to Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Matthew Henry, Dr. John Murray, Warren Wiersbe, HCG Moore and others, as we dip into this book this morning.
Now while all Scripture is inspired of God and it is profitable, there are some parts of the Bible that just does contain more doctrinal truth than others. We know that what Paul has to say in Romans is of more practical value to us than the lists in the Book of Numbers. I’m sure you will agree with me on that. And so it’s not surprising that many great giants of the faith in the past have expressed their deep appreciation for this wonderful letter from the heart of the Holy Spirit. Augustine, you know was converted while he was reading through Romans. You also know, I hope, that Martin Luther launched the entire Reformation on Romans 1:17, ‘the just shall live by faith.’ John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was converted while he was listening to someone read from Luther’s commentary on Romans. And so with all that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that if there’s one book that every Christian should understand, it’s the book of Romans. Why is that so? Well, let me give you some reasons. It presents to us doctrinal truth in a very articulate way – justification, sanctification, adoption, judgement, our identification, our union with Christ. It opens it up beautifully. It also gives to us what we call dispensational truth – not in the sense of eschatological dispensationalism, but with regard to the relationship between Israel and the Church in chapters 9 to 11. I’m going to give you the structure and a few moments. But it also presents us with practical truth – teaching us the secret of Christian victory over the flesh, the duties Christians have towards each other and our relationship to society and to government. This book teaches us about all those things and I think you will agree with me these are very important things to know. So it’s a great exposition of the faith. It’s the complete and most logical presentation of Christian truth in the entire New Testament and some topics such as Christ’s priesthood and the return of the Lord are not dealt with in detail in this book, but they are mentioned and they are related to the other great doctrines that the book does deal with. So I’m saying to you those are some comments about the importance of the book of Romans and why we’re studying it.
Now we need to know something about its background. It was written by Paul the Apostle during his three months visit in Corinth. You can read about that in Acts chapter 20. In Romans 16:23 he shows that he was with Gaius and Erastus in Corinth, both of whom are associated with Corinth. And the letter was probably carried back to Rome by Phoebe who lived at Cenchreae, you know the seaport that served Corinth. And we read also that Paul’s friends, Aquila and Priscilla, they were also originally from Rome. And from the greeting to them by Paul we discover that they are now back in Rome at the time of the writing. Now we need to ask ourselves how did they come to the believers at Rome. We note that Paul does not address his letter to the church at Rome as he does for these other letters addressing them to the church but to all that be [were] at Rome. And so when you read chapter 16, you cannot help but see different groups of Believers in Rome – not just one church, which suggests to us that there was not one local assembly and Paul writes to all of them. And the reason why he writes to them – he was about to close his work in Asia, and he was to go to Jerusalem with his love gift from the churches of Asia and his heart’s burden had always been to preach at Rome. Paul always wanted to preach at Rome, and this long letter was his way of preparing the people in Rome for his coming there. And so while he was at Corinth he also wrote his letter to the Galatians, seeking to answer the Judaisers who were confusing the churches of Galatia. Paul wrote to them as well from Corinth. Paul may have wanted to warn and teach the Christians at Rome lest these Judaisers come there before Paul does and upset all Paul’s plans and poison the people. We know that that’s what false teachers do – they don’t need to convince people of anything, they just need to poison them a little and you struggle to get any truth into them. And you note that in Romans 3:8 Paul mentions false accusations that certain people had made about him. And so his reasons for the letter we can summarize as follows:
a. He wanted to prepare the Christians for his planned visit and to explain why he had not visited them sooner.
b. He wanted to instruct them in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, so that false teachers cannot upset them.
c. He wanted to explain the relationship between Israel and the Church so that the Judaisers don’t lead them astray with their doctrines.
d. He wanted to teach the Christians their duties to one another and to the state as Christians.
e. He wanted to answer any slander about him also.
So when we look at the position of Romans in the Bible, it’s the first of three letters in the New Testament based on one verse of Scripture – Habakkuk 2:4: “The just shall live by faith.” There are three letters in the New Testament based on that one verse the just shall live by faith, and Romans is one of them. That verse is found in Romans 1:17. The theme of Romans is the just. The theme of Galatians is how the just shall live, and in Hebrews 10:38, the theme of Hebrews is living by faith. Three times that verse is used in the New Testament letters “the just shall live by faith.”
Paul’s concern is with the just in Romans. In Galatians his concern is with the fact that they shall live, and in Hebrews with the fact that they shall live by faith – not by works. That’s how that verse tracks through those three letters in which it’s quoted. Romans is the first letter in the New Testament and you’ll note that the order of New Testament letters follows 2 Timothy 3:16, and here’s a little lesson for you – it’s not just something for a Bible triviality, it is something that will help you in reading the New Testament, let me say it to you. In second Timothy 3:16, which is easy to remember because of John 3:16, it says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness” – those four things: doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. Now note how these things that Scripture were given for – how they unfold through the New Testament epistles. In Romans, Paul opens up Doctrine. First and second Corinthians contains reproof, where Paul reproves sin. Galatians contains correction and Ephesians contains instruction in righteousness. That’s how those purposes with which the Scriptures were given unfold throughout Paul’s letters. And if you read with that in mind, I assure you it will be a great blessing for you, and you’ll remember the Word much better as well.
Now what is the theme of Romans? We need to know what the main theme is. Paul’s basic theme in Romans is the righteousness of God – that’s his main theme, the righteousness of God. The word righteous in one form or another is used over 40 times in the chapters of Romans and in chapters 1 to 3 he presents the need for righteousness, in chapters 3 to 8 God’s provision of righteousness in Christ, in chapters 9 to 11 how Israel rejected God’s righteousness and in chapters 12 to 16 how righteousness must be lived in daily life – in daily practice.
So that’s a brief introduction to Paul’s letter to the Romans. I wanted to just whet your appetite for what comes in the first paragraphs that we read. Knowing a bit about the background to the letter, now we need to look at its structure. How did Paul structure the letter? I have it in six parts. If you first of all just look at the first verses up to verse 17 as a salutation and an explanation, in other words a greeting and some explanatory comments from verses 1 to 17, but then the main body part of the letter starts there at verse 18 of chapter 1 and from there right to the end we have six parts, and they all have to do with righteousness. In the first part from chapter 1 verse 18 to 3 verse 20 we see the Lord speaking about righteousness needed. We need righteousness. That’s what he sets out to say to us. And we need righteousness because of God’s Wrath – the reasons for God’s Wrath and the reality of God’s Wrath. What are the reasons for God’s Wrath? The Gentiles are under sin – the Jews are under sin – the whole world is under sin. You and I see that every day – you see it when you wake up in the morning and you walk from the bedroom to the kitchen. You see it in the children you love, the wife you love, the husband you love – you see that we’re all under sin. Don’t you see that or do you live in Paradise already? All are under sin, and Paul starts out by letting us know it’s a serious thing and the Wrath of God abides upon us because of sin.
And then glory to God – the second part continues to speak about righteousness imputed, in other words accounted to us, young people – that’s what the word ‘imputed’ means. It’s accounted to you – it’s given to you free and accounted to you – you don’t work for it – you don’t do it to yourself.
And we see justification explained, justification expressed in the example of Abraham, and justification experienced (second part up to chapter 5:21).
We come to chapter six to eight and we see that righteousness is not only needed and imputed – it’s also imparted. It’s actually put in you! It’s not only put to your account, it’s put within you – it cleans you up, and we see about our new position in Christ, or as Richard put it (he helped me to rephrase that one – he said ‘our merciful position in Christ’). And the second one is what Richard called our ‘maddening problem in the flesh’ and our ‘magnificent power in the spirit’. Those three things: Our new position in Christ, our new problem in the flesh and our new power in the Spirit. Chapter 6 to 8 and that wonderful, eighth chapter on the Spirit is the heart of the letter.
And then it speaks about righteousness rejected in chapters 9 to 11: Israel’s past election, Israel’s present rejection and Israel’s future redemption. And he tells us about the relationship between the Church and Israel in chapters 9 to 11, where we read about righteousness rejected.
Then we come to chapter 12 and it speaks about righteousness practiced – righteousness lived. Chapter 12 to 15:13: Consecration to God, compliance with authority and consideration for the weak. Those are the three things he speaks about in that part.
The final part is the conclusion from chapter 15:14 to 16:27 where we read about four things: Paul’s faithfulness in the ministry, Paul’s future in the ministry and Paul’s friends in the ministry, and then we have the final benediction in chapter 16:24-27.
So that’s a brief outline that we are going to follow along in the series. It speaks about – if you want to write down one word for each of the six parts get your pens ready, I’ll give them to you – they’re all in s’es to help you remember them well.
- Righteousness needed – sin (chapters 1:18 to 3:20)
- Righteousness imputed – salvation (chapters 3:21 to 5:21)
- Righteousness imparted – sanctification (chapters 6 to 8)
- Righteousness rejected – sovereignty (chapters 9 to 11)
- Righteousness practiced – service (chapters 12:1 to 15:13)
- Conclusion (chapters 15:14 to 16:27)
That’s the flow of the book, and we’re going to look at that in days to come and I want to just open up to you what we’ll consider in more detail next week as we now return with all that behind us and I hope inside of us and I hope among us, to look at these first seven verses very briefly in the remainder of our time before we gather at the table. The title of my message from those first seven verses is the following: Paul the missionary – his ministry, his message, his mission, his mission field and his mercifulness. Now let’s have a look at that briefly and we’ll open it up in more detail next Lord’s day, Lord willing.
It’s of course what we call the salutation – the greeting that we are looking at here – these seven verses. And we see these five things: His ministry, his message, his mission, his mission field and his mercifulness flowing through that, as a missionary.
- Paul, the missionary
We see in the first verse two things about the Apostle Paul.
a. His lowliness
Paul the servant. Let me tell you this: every truly great preacher and missionary in the world is nothing more than a servant. Brothers and sisters, we need to stop putting preachers on pedestals. We need to stop turning them into celebrities. We’re servants. That’s the lowliness.
b. His Lord
Jesus is the Lord – not the pastor, not the elders, not the Pope, not some Bishop, not some Arch-Bishop or Cardinal – Jesus Christ is the Lord, and preaches must know their lowliness as the Apostle Paul did, the servant. Notice his Lord: ‘of Christ Jesus’. That’s Paul the missionary.
- His Ministry
I will open it up in more detail next week. There’s a call to it and there’s a consecration to it.
a. The call to it
‘Called to be an apostle.’ You don’t hire and fire yourself as a missionary or a pastor. If you’re not called don’t get into it. Called!
a. The consecration to it
But the Lord doesn’t just call you when He calls you, He consecrates you to it – He sets you apart for it. He said: ‘Called to be an apostle.’ That’s the call. Here’s the consecration: ‘set apart for’. He sets you apart for it – He takes you out of what you’re in. You no longer belong to yourself. You come to a place in your life where you stand up on your two feet as a called minister of Christ, and despite what the world throws at you, you say: ‘I belong to Christ. I’m not my own – set apart for it.’
- His Message
a. The Prophetic Promise
‘The Gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures…’. There’s the prophetic promise of the message and who is the message?
b. The Promised Person
‘…concerning His Son’ and we hear about the Lord Jesus Christ certain things. We see His Personal Deity – the fact that He is God. It says in verse 3 ‘concerning His Son’. We see His Particular Descent – He ‘was descended from David according to the flesh’ and we see His Powerful Declaration: ‘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’.
I will open that up for you in every part next Lord’s day, Lord willing.
- His Mission
a. The Grace of it
‘through whom we have received grace and apostleship…’ It’s never a reward to be called into Ministry – it’s a Grace! It’s never a reward to be saved – it’s a Grace. It’s a free gift in Christ that you receive. God gives it to you. He says ‘through whom we have received’ – not bought, not purchased, not stolen – just received – free Grace and apostleship.
b. The Goal of it
Why did Paul preach? Why did Paul write Romans? What did he want to achieve? Here’s the goal of the mission: ‘…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name.’
That’s why preachers preach. It’s to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of God’s name, and Jesus is named among the Lord’s people. It’s to bring about obedience – not the fizzies, not the fuzzies, not so you feel nice in your heart’s pumping guava juice, but to bring you to the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name, and to bring you to that obedience whether you like it or not. We need to obey God whether we like it or not. Let me confess something to you this morning. There are a lot of things that God says that my flesh just don’t like – I don’t like it – it’s not the way I’m wired. Can you say the same? But let me tell you that it’s better to feel bad for a good reason than it is to feel good for a bad reason. Let me say that again. It’s better for you as a Christian to feel bad and depressed and downcast for a good reason than it is to feel good for a bad reason. And Paul’s goal of writing is to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name, whether you and I like that thing that we supposed to do or refrain from or not.
- His Mission Field
It includes two things: the Fallen among all nations and the faithful among all nations. Notice verse 5, the last part of it ‘among all nations’.
a. The Fallen
That’s where Paul wants to bring about this obedience of faith for the sake of His Name – the fallen among all nations.
b. The Faithful
But not only the fallen – it includes also the faithful among all nations including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
- His Mercifulness
There is such a word – there’s a difference between mercifulness and mercy. Mercifulness springs from mercy. If you have mercy you’ll act in a merciful way and notice how merciful Paul acts towards these people. I love that about him. Two things about his mercifulness:
a. It’s Inclusiveness
‘To all those In Rome, who are loved by God and called to be Saints.’ It doesn’t exclude a single one. He doesn’t write those little WhatApps: ‘Say hi to Jeannie for me and Peter, but not to so-and-so’. It’s to all those in Rome – all those! We’ll learn next week that in your love for the Lord’s people, you need to love them all, whether you like it or not. You know anyway that most of the time when you don’t like somebody else it’s your own fault. How many don’t know that? It’s your own fault! Why don’t you like that person? It’s just a dude – he’s just fallen, just lost, he just has no way to go and he has no one, just needs your love – all of them! It’s inclusiveness.
b. It’s Invocation.
‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grace to you and peace – from whence it comes: God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we’ll look at it in more detail next week. Paul the missionary: his ministry, his message, his mission, his mission field and mercifulness. The missionary: his lowliness, his Lord. The ministry: the call to it and the consecration to it. The message: the prophetic promise and the promised person. The mission: the grace of it and the goal of it. The mission field: it includes the fallen among all nations and the faithful among all nations. His mercifulness: its inclusiveness and its invocation – all because of the grace to us and the peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.