Romans 1 v 1 – 7
We are in an expository series, hopefully through the entire books of Romans. I kind of hope that we will not be able to finish it before the LORD’s return – I mean that! I hope that we will not finish this series before the LORD returns. Amen!?
“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.”
We call this section of the book of Romans as we do the introductions to all the other letters in the New Testament – we call them the salutation, which is just a big word for the greeting. But this greeting is packed with theological truth, because Paul introduces in it almost everything that he’s going to say in the rest of the letter. Now, you know he wrote this letter because God knew that all of humanity will need this letter for as long as they are on this planet before His return. That’s why this letter was written. God knows you need it. God knows you need to read it and let it change your life. And so we need to pay very careful attention of what the Apostle is saying here and not just gloss over it so that we can get to the so-called meaty parts of the letter. We need to pay very careful attention.
Last week I introduced to you the letter. I told you the historical background of it – why Paul wrote it and where he wrote it from – what the main themes are. We looked at all of that last week. I hope you will recall and I hope you will still have that fresh in your memory. I also gave to you a framework – the outline to the Book of Romans – what it is that Paul is speaking about. The book is about the righteousness of God – the Gospel of God – the righteousness of God in the Gospel of God. That’s the theme of the letter and I pointed out to you that we see it – first the salutation and then an explanation from verse 8 to 17, he gives an explanation that he wanted to meet them and he’s explaining to them why he couldn’t come before and why he wants to come. But there’s the salutation first in the first seven verses and then follows the explanation in verses 8 to 15. And then he gets right into the letter and he speaks about righteousness from verse 18 right through to chapter 15:13. His theme is – if you want it in one word: Righteousness – righteousness needed, righteousness imputed, righteousness imparted, righteousness rejected, and righteousness practiced. That’s what Paul has to say to us: What is righteousness and why do we need it – the fact that we need it and why we need it. That has to do with sin, and he gives us the reasons why we need it – because the Gentiles are all under sin. Come on, you know that – you watch CNN. You can see that – you know that – you live in your home. Your family sees it too. You need righteousness! Together with the Gentiles we’re all under sin – you see that every day. The Jews are under sin, not just the Gentiles. In fact, the whole world is under sin. That’s why righteousness is needed. And because it’s absent, there are reasons for the wrath of God, because all are under sin. And the reality of the wrath of God – it can do terrible things to you – the wrath of God. Somebody said to me this week, and I saw somebody on CNN too – somebody speaking about the coronavirus. He said ‘the virus is the truth! The virus can do terrible things to you!’ And somebody said to me ‘you need to be afraid of the virus.’ I don’t think we need to be afraid of it. I think we need to be careful of it just as you’re careful to not bump your toe when you get up the sidewalk. Don’t hurt your body. Be careful with it – don’t run into poles, drive your car carefully. A body is something that can get hurt – take care of it. It’s common sense – you don’t need the laws of the Medes and Persians for that!
But he said ‘the virus can do terrible things to you – you need to be afraid of it!’ I said to him ‘God can do terrible things to you – you need to be afraid of Him!’ Amen!?
Why is it that we’ve come to fear a virus more than humanity fears God? And I’m not saying that we need to not fear it – I’m just saying there’s something wrong when we don’t know that we need righteousness – that we’re all under sin – that we stand under condemnation – that we’re in mortal, eternal danger with God in heaven and us being the way we are! And I have to say to you that I observe only very rarely people who have a fear of God the way they have a fear of other things. What’s the reason? I’ll tell you it’s simple: We believe that the virus is with unwavering conviction, but we don’t believe that God IS with unwavering conviction! That’s the reason – there is no other reason! We believe in the virus with total commitment. We believe in God with crossed fingers. Righteousness is needed! And we do that because we’re all under sin!
And so in the first part the Apostle tells us that righteousness is needed to chapter 3:9-20 – he speaks about sin.
Then he speaks about salvation in chapter 3:21 to 5:21, where he gives us the glorious news that righteousness is imputed – it’s given to us – it’s reckoned to us, because God loves! And he speaks about justification explained, justification expressed in the example of Abraham and justification experienced. That’s the second part.
The third part has to do with sanctification, chapters 6 to 8, where we find righteousness imparted to us through sanctification. He reminds us of our new position in Christ in chapter 6, our new problem in the flesh in chapter 7 and our new power in the spirit in chapter 8. Sanctification!
The fourth part, chapters 9 to 11, he speaks about righteousness rejected and he holds up to us the sovereignty of God and explains to us Israel’s past election, Israel’s present rejection and Israel’s future redemption in chapter 11.
And then finally he comes to service: righteousness practiced and he holds up to us that we need to be consecrated to God, compliant with authority in chapter 13, and have consideration for the weak and the down and out. It’s wonderful – it’s a wonderful letter.
And then there is the final part in the conclusion from chapter 15 to the end of chapter 16 and the 27th verse where Paul’s faithfulness in the ministry, Paul’s future in the ministry, Paul’s friends in the ministry are held up to us. And then the final benediction, also packed with theological truth.
That’s the outline to the letter. Now this morning we come to these first seven verses that I’ve read in your hearing and I’ve entitled my message to you ‘Paul, the missionary (the Apostle, the sent one) – Paul, the missionary of God: his ministry, his message, his mission, his mission field, and his mercifulness – those five things. We’re going to see Paul the missionary, his ministry. What was his ministry? What was his message? What was his mission? What did he want to achieve? What was his mission field? Where did he want to achieve that and how did he go about it? He went about it in great mercifulness and tenderness. And we see all of that in the first seven verses.
Now, let me hold up to you Paul the missionary first. Two things about it each one of these main points for those who are taking notes have two sub points. We have five main points and each one has two sub points and let me point out something else to you about the structure of the message: when we come to his message, we’ll see that his message also has two points here, but it’s got sub-sub points because that message is not a plan – that message is not a proposition. That message is a Person. His Name is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the message and so that’s the heart of this greeting that Paul greets and we’re going to dwell on that some more than on the other points for obvious reasons because when you start talking about Jesus, I hope that you can’t stop. I hope that you get severely distracted and stuck in it.
- Paul, the Missionary
So what do we see about Paul the Missionary? We see two things. His lowliness (not loneliness) and his Lord.
a. His lowliness
He calls himself a servant of Christ Jesus. That’s his lowliness. He’s a servant. He’s not a pope or the king or somebody in a very high position. He sees himself as a servant – a duolos (Greek) – an under rower. When we look at 1 Corinthians 7:21, we see the same thing, where Paul says: “Were you were bondservant” – that’s a servant – “when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a free man of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bond servants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” Paul says I am a servant of Christ Jesus – that’s who I am. He didn’t know that for the rest of the existence of humanity, the name of the Apostle Paul would be known by virtually everybody on the planet. He didn’t know that! He was a simple man sitting there with these feather pens scribbling away the thoughts of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t do it to become this famous – he did it so that you and I can, like him, be bond servants – servants of Christ Jesus. And you and I, in our walk with the Lord, must see ourselves as servants too. And this designation of a servant indicates that Paul is a slave of Christ. But at the same time that word recalls for us the honoured Servants of God in the Old Testament such as Moses, Joshua, David and all the prophets.
Who do you serve? We all serve somebody – we all serve someone. Maybe you serve your boss. Maybe you serve the government. Maybe you serve your wife or your husband or your family or your friends – the drives of your flesh, your own interests. Who are you a servant of? You need to serve someone on this planet! Nobody’s going to put up with you if you only serve yourself. They have a name for that – we call it narcissism – it’s an ugly thing! You’re not going to have a big fan club. Who were you serving? Who are we serving? Are we serving Covid? Are we serving some political agenda, sport, entertainment, work? Who are you a servant of? Do you serve your own ungodly drives – are you a servant of that? The dark side of you has turned you into a bondservant. It will destroy you! You need to be a servant of Christ Jesus as Paul was. That’s his lowliness.
b. His Lord
“servant of Christ Jesus” – there is no one and nothing higher to serve in all of human and heavenly existence. Do you want to serve somebody worth serving? Christ Jesus! Can you think of another name? Can you think of another thing? Tell me, who is higher, who’s better to serve? It’s time we cut it all out already and say: He’s the only One worthy of my service! Do you want to be a true bond servant – somebody bound for heaven? You need to in lowliness, as a servant, serve your Lord.
- His Ministry
Having spoken about himself as a missionary, he speaks about his ministry. And again, we see two things about it: the call to it and the consecration to it.
a. The Call to it
He says “called to be an apostle”. He did not sit around and think: ‘What can I do with my life? What shall I study? Where shall I go?’ He was called. The Lord knocked him off his horse and called him while he was persecuting the Lord’s people – called! All of us are called to Christian ministry – not necessarily full-time ministry. You’re called to Christian ministry in your home, in your place of work, in the mall, in the sports fields, at the concert halls. You are called to service. You are called to it. You’re also called in this way: “Come to Me, all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You are called to it. You know when you heeded the call to other things – to your own sinful drives, to your own depravity, to your own impure motives – you know when those things called you and you followed them. What happened? Was it good? You know what happened – it wasn’t good. It hurt and it broke! Watch what calls you heed – they are coming out all the time! They’re on megaphones: ‘Come and do this, come here, come – I’m calling you to this. Come and vote this, come and do this, come and eat this, come and drink this – come and enjoy this!’ Calls, calls, calls, calls by the world the flesh and the devil, and we heed them and hear them every day! But there’s this call from the Lord of Glory: ‘Leave it behind you – it is dross! Come to Me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ Follow the call! And when you followed the call, it’s not only the call to it, but there’s a consecration to it.
b. The Consecration to it
Something wonderful happens – you’re set apart for it. That’s a beautiful thing – it’s part of our sanctification. That’s what holiness means – it means to be set apart for a specific use – set apart means holiness – it’s set apart for specific use, like the vessels in the temple – the bowls and all the things that were used in the worship. They were holy unto the Lord. What does that mean? Set apart! You don’t use them for everything else – you don’t use them for anything else! You’re a vessel, when you’re called you’re consecrated – you’re set apart to be used by and for no one else and nothing else, but that which He called you too. That’s Paul’s Ministry: he was called to it and consecrated to it. I’ve had to check my own conscience many times as a pastor – even in this past week again. You know, we get tired too sometimes. Can I confess something: you get very irritated sometimes. You know that being among people is not always an easy thing – you find that in your family, don’t you? It’s not easy. And then we’re prone and – Jonathan and I spoke a little about it this week too – you’re prone to become grumpy. You want things to be better – you want other things to be in your life, and then you’re reminded: No, you’re consecrated to this – you’re set apart to this. Each of you needs to have that too.
- His Message
His message is beautiful. Two things about his message. There’s a prophetic promise and a promised Person.
a. The Prophetic Promise
The Gospel of God – that’s the promise which he promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The prophets made a promise. The Old Testament is full of it and you’ll see it if you care to look – where He promised the Gospel of God through His prophets – men that He called and consecrated in the Holy Scriptures – in your Bibles. If you want to know about the prophetic promise, you need to read the Lord’s Word and let your faith grow from that, because it speaks about a promised Person.
b. The Promised Person
About what and about whom is the Gospel of God – the Good News that God was going to tell – about whom or about what is this Good News? He tells us about the promised Person. The Gospel is a person: “concerning His Son.” (verse 3). And we see three things about this promised Person. His personal deity:
(i) His Personal Deity
“concerning God’s Son.” He is the Son of God. Now if you’re the son of somebody or the daughter of somebody, which means you’re the same as they are. You have their genes. You’re genetically descended from them, and that makes you what they were. Amen?
It’s the same with the Son of God – He is God Himself. That verse alone proves the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ – those three words: “concerning His Son”. You don’t need other proof to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God’s Son – He is God Himself – He is the Son of God and God Himself. And as the Son of God and God himself, He is the God who became a Man – we sang about it in our hymn – and as the Son of God and God Himself who became a Man, He is our Redeemer. And as all that and our Redeemer, He is the promised Prophet like Moses, the Priest after the order of Melchizedek and the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and he’s the great King on David’s throne. That’s what those words mean “concerning His Son” and it’s proved by what he says next.
(ii) His Particular Descent
He didn’t just come from any family. He was descended from David according to the flesh. And Paul adds that last clause ‘according to the flesh’ – and he could almost have said ‘only according to the flesh’ – apart from according to the flesh He’s not descended from David. He’s descended from God. It’s only according to the flesh that He is descended from David. And that happened so that God could keep His promises that He would give us great David’s greater son.
(iii) His Powerful Declaration
We see the Declaration and the power. What is the Declaration? He was declared to be the Son of God. That means proved to be the Son of God. Declared says Paul. That’s beautiful and don’t miss the deep theological truth in that: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” So when He came, that Word spoke and what did it say? It declared Him to be the Son of God. That’s the Declaration. And the power! It wasn’t just a little lame sermon: ‘you know, you need a look at it this way…’ It was a powerful declaration in power. Where did the power come from? “According to the Spirit of Holiness.” And that Spirit of Holiness declared Him to be what we call the altogether other. There is no one like Him. The Holiness of Jesus is not the same as the holiness of people. Yes, He is sinless in His Holiness, but it’s not only that – it’s that which sets Him apart – the Spirit of Holiness sets Him apart as the altogether other. There’s no one like Him – never has been, never will be. And God declared that with power. And again, His Name is mentioned before Paul tells us when that happened: “By His resurrection from the dead.” ‘Up from the grave He arose’ we sang. It declared Him to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness. And that is the message.
- His Mission
Now Paul wanted to get this message across to everyone and we see two things about his mission: the grace of it and the goal of it.
a. The Grace of it
“Through whom we have received grace and apostleship”. To be an apostle means to be a sent one. It means to be somebody whom God sent. It’s diplomacy: ‘go and tell people’. And Paul received that grace through Jesus Christ His Lord – grace and apostleship.
b. The Goal of it
What was he to achieve by it? Here is what all the Gospel preaching – what every Pastor, every testifying Christian, every witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, every missionary, every evangelist must set out to achieve. What do you want to achieve through preaching the word? Here it is: The goal of it is this: “…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of God’s Name.” Yes, the Gospel is there to heal your life. Yes, the Gospel is there to heal your relationships. Yes, the Gospel is there to make you a happier and a holy person? Yes. The Gospel is there to bring about a better Society. It’s there for all those reasons, but that’s not principally why we preach. Why we preach is to achieve the following – here is our goal: “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of God’s Name.” That’s the goal of it! That’s why God saves you – so that you can be obedient for the sake of His Name! And you know what being obedient means don’t you? It means doing what you’re told. You do it anyway. Listen to me, people of God. People think they have a problem with obedience. When your child doesn’t want to do what you tell them to do: ‘pick up your toys and put them away’ and they say ‘No’, they’re not actually being disobedient to you – they’re being obedient to something else inside of them. Obedience is not a problem to humanity. We’re all the most obedient people you can find. We all obey something with great abandon. It is not whether you obey or not – it’s who you obey! You are an obedient person. We are often obedient to the devil, to the flesh, to other people, to ideologies, to impure motives and drives and desires that we shouldn’t have – we are obedient to them! Obedience comes naturally to us. What does not come naturally to us is to be obedient for the sake of His Name. That’s why you’re obedient. Why you’re obedient will determine what you’re obedient to. Does that make sense to everyone? The whole purpose of Christian preaching is “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name.” That’s his mission – the grace of it and the goal of it.
- His Mission Field
Where does he want to bring this about – this obedience of faith for the sake of His Name? On the mission field! Where is it? Two things: it includes the fallen among all nations and it includes the faithful among all nations. Look what he says: “among all nations”. There’s not a nation who is not Paul’s mission field – all of them! But it also includes the faithful among all nations that you know that? Look what he says: “including you, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” He wants to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of God’s Name among the fallen among all nations and among the faithful among all nations. That’s the mission field.
- His Mercifulness
I love this about the Apostle Paul – his tenderness – his mercifulness. There is such an English word. Mercy springs from mercifulness. You cannot show mercy if you are not merciful. And Paul was a merciful man. Listen to how sweet the Holy Spirit had made him.
a. It’s Inclusiveness
It includes everyone: “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”. You and I, when we speak to somebody we say: “Say hi to so-and-so and so-and-so” – there’s an exclusion – we pick the ones we want to say hi to. Not Paul. “To all those – all of you – all of you who are loved by God and called to be saints.”
b. It’s Invocation
He ends it off with a beautiful invocation. Notice what he says: “Grace to you and peace.” That’s what he wants you to have – Grace and peace. The easiest way to remember Grace: It’s God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. That’s Grace. He wants you to have it – grace to you. There it is: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense to you and peace – that inward settleness when the whole world around you is in turmoil and everything’s upside down and inside out and it’s ripping you apart in every aspect and facet of your being – peace! Peace in the midst of the storm, peace in the midst of a pandemic, peace in the midst of War – a kind of peace that springs from that reality. That same man who told me I need to be afraid of the virus this week said to me: ‘aren’t you afraid of death?’ I said: ‘No, I’m not.’ I want to say with the Apostle Paul for me to live is Christ and to die – that’s a bargain – it is gain! The Christian does not lose something when he dies – the Christian gains something when he dies! The Christian gains that for which he ought to have been yearning all his life. It’s a gain, and that gives you peace. Where does it come from? God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and from nowhere else, from no one else. Amen!?
And that’s his little greeting – quite a greeting, isn’t it? So we’ve seen Paul the missionary: his ministry, his message, his mission, his mission field, and his mercifulness. We’ve seen his lowliness and his Lord, his call to the ministry, his consecration to it, his message: the prophetic promise and the promised Person and we have seen his mission: the grace of it and the goal of it, his mission field includes the fallen among all nations and the faithful among all nations in mercifulness that includes everyone and invokes for them the grace and the peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.