Romans 1 v 8 – 15
Please turn with me in your Bibles to the first chapter of Romans. We are still in the salutation and explanation part of Romans. We’ve only just begun with it and let me just remind you what we’re looking at in the Book of Romans. I see it in six parts. There are other ways to understand it as well, but the main lines of thought are the same. I see six things here that all have to do with the righteousness of God.
To me, the Book of Romans is about the righteousness of God – that’s what it’s about. And there are six aspects of righteousness that the book of Romans speaks on. It speaks on the fact that we need righteousness (chapters 1:18 to 3:20), and righteousness is needed because the wrath of God abides on humanity for this reason: that the Gentiles are under sin, the Jews are under sin, the whole world is under sin. You wouldn’t say that if you turned on your TV, would you? Everybody is so high and right and nothing’s to be fixed. Everybody just needs to become like all those people on TV and we’ll be fine. I don’t think so!
The fact is that all the Gentiles are under sin, the Jews are under sin, and the whole world is under sin. And so righteousness is needed and Paul speaks about in the first part we speaks about sin, but then he speaks in the second part that starts in chapter 3:21 to chapter 5:21, he speaks about salvation and also about righteousness – that it is imputed to us. It’s not earned by us, it’s not established by us – it’s imputed to us by the merits of Christ on the cross of Calvary. And he explains justification to us, speaks about justification expressed in the example of Abraham and justification experienced by the believer. In the third part he speaks about righteousness imparted – not only imputed to us, but imparted in us and among us – and that is sanctification.
He speaks in chapter 6 to 8 – in chapter 6: our new position in Christ, chapter 7: our new problem in the flesh and chapter 8: our new power in the Spirit (that is sanctification – the righteousness imparted). Then he speaks about God’s sovereignty in part four – chapters 9 to 11 where we read about Israel and God’s righteousness rejected – Israel’s past election, its present rejection and Israel’s future redemption. That is the fourth part.
Then it comes to very practical things in the fifth part, which speaks about service – righteousness practiced – lived by us. In consecration to God in chapter 12, in subjection or compliance with authority in Chapter 13, and in consideration for the weak in chapter 14 to chapter 15:13.
And then there’s the conclusion from chapter 15:14 on, where we read about Paul’s faithfulness in the ministry, Paul’s future in the ministry, Paul’s friends in the ministry, and then his final benediction. That’s an overview of the book of Romans: Sin, salvation, sanctification, sovereignty and service. That’s what it’s about. It’s about righteousness needed, righteousness imputed, righteousness imparted, righteousness rejected, and righteousness practiced. That in a nutshell is the entire book of Romans.
We are in the first part. The salutation we looked at last week (verses 1 to 7). This morning, we’re going to look at that certain explanation that Paul gives in verses 8 to 17. He feels that there’s something he needs to explain to the Romans – something about the reality of his life and the life of the Romans. Before he gets into all this Doctrine, he needs to explain something. He hasn’t been to see them yet, and he’s always wanted to but God has prevented him from doing that and he’s still hoping that he can come there. And that’s the part we’re in this morning and you think: ‘What can we learn spiritually from that? You know, that was Paul’s business. He couldn’t get to the Romans – you know, Uber was not functioning. And so what’s that got to do with us?’ It’s got a lot to do with us! Read with me:
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
11For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– 12that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, 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.
14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
15So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (ESV)
The title of my message this morning seeks to summarize everything that we see in the passage that I preached to you on and I think some of you have cottoned onto that now. My title seeks to put in a nutshell the entire passage and its main points and then in what I preach I seek to open up those points for you. This passage speaks about the following things: Paul’s gratefulness to God, Paul’s groaning before God and Paul’s eagerness to preach the Gospel of God. Gratefulness, Groaning, Gospel – that’s what you see in that passage. It’s about gratefulness, it’s about a groaning in the Apostle Paul, and it’s about the Gospel – those three things. And those three things actually summarize our entire lives as Christians. We begin our day every day with gratefulness – gratefulness for what? – That we are in the Lord and that we’re believers. But knowing who we are, there are groanings. We want others to know it as well and because of that, we proclaim the Gospel. That’s the Christian life: It consists of gratefulness to God for the fact that you are saved, groanings before God for the fact that others aren’t and preaching the Gospel so that they can be.
Can you see how this passage where Paul just explains why he couldn’t come and visit them and how really he wants to do that summarizes actually what ought to drive the entire Christian life: Gratefulness, groaning and Gospel. And those are the three main points of my message and I have now told you that that’s what it’s about. Now let’s look at each one of those in its parts. We’re going to see Paul’s expression of gratefulness to God, Paul’s explanation of his groans before God and Paul’s eagerness to preach the Gospel of God. Let me say that again the first part Paul’s expression of gratefulness to God the second part Paul’s explanation of his groans before God and Paul’s eagerness to preach the Gospel of God.
- Paul’s Expression of Gratefulness to God
He’s grateful for something. He says: “I thank my God, I thank my God.” There’s the gratefulness and what is it that Paul is grateful for and that you ought to be grateful for? Every day before you get up in the morning and you watch e-news and started grumbling, what is it that you need to be grateful for? Two things Paul is grateful for – and may God give us that we’re grateful for that too – not only that it’s reality in our lives, but that we’re grateful for it every day that it puts joy in your heart! And what are the two things? First thing: He is grateful for the Fellowship of the faithful and the second thing: He is grateful for the fame of their faith.
a. For the Fellowship of the Faithful
Verse 8: “I thank my God” – “first”. He says “first” – before I do anything else – before I have my breakfast – before I say anything else to you about justification, about sanctification, about glorification – about righteousness needed, righteousness imputed, righteousness imparted, righteousness rejected and righteousness practiced – before I say anything of that to you. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ…” For what? “for all of you.” He is grateful for the fellowship of the faithful. You and I ought to be grateful for the fellowship of the faithful. You and I need to stand up every morning and say I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all His people!” And we live in a world where it’s all more important that we do that, because nobody’s grateful for the Lord’s people on this planet. We are in the midst of an American election taking place soon, and I don’t know about you but you turn on your TV and you see what comes from the secularists and humanists – they are so angry about what the Evangelicals are going to do. How many have noticed that? Aw, those Evangelicals! They’re not grateful for the people of God. And I acknowledge that oftentimes it’s our own fault because of the bad example we’ve set. But on the whole, those true saints of Jesus Christ, who are the salt and light of this world – we ought to thank God for them! You need to thank God for the person who loves the Lord together with you. There needs to be an expression of gratefulness to God for the fellowship of the faithful. Paul was sitting, writing to the Roman Christians in deep affliction. And there was gratitude in his heart. He thought: ‘you know over there in the Rome, the Holy Spirit has worked and there are the people of God there and I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of them just because of who they are.’ But a second thing that he’s grateful for (he gives the reason why he’s grateful for them in the second part of verse 8), he says “because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” So he is grateful not only for the fellowship of the faithful, but also:
b. For the Fame of their Faith
Our faith needs to get famous too, people of God. Everybody needs to talk about it. It needs to be proclaimed in the world that those people truly believe! What does that mean? That means they know what God says – they ascent to what God says and they trust what God says. And everybody needs to say ‘those people really believe – those people, they believe- nothing will move them.’ That’s Paul’s expression of gratefulness to God and then he moves on from there.
- Paul’s Explanation of his Groans before God
His groans consists of two things: His groans are in his spirit and they are for the saints.
a. In his spirit
Notice what he says in verse 9: “God is my witness whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son.” That’s where his groanings start. They start from the fact that he serves God in his spirit in the Gospel of His Son. What does that mean? What does it mean that Paul ‘serves God with his spirit in the Gospel of His Son’? Now, let me talk about the Gospel of His Son first. And it’s always good to remind ourselves what the Gospel is. And you need to know it in one sentence – it’s a composite sentence, but you need to know it! And I remind you again that the Gospel is good news. It has to do with two things that happened. There are two witnesses to what happened. There are two realities because of what happened. There are two requirements because of what happened. And then there are two blessings because of what happened. What is the Gospel? Two events: Jesus died and rose again. Two irrefutable witnesses: According to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament – the Old Testament that said it will happen like that – the New Testament that says it did happen like that. Two realities that spring from that: He reigns as Lord and Saviour. Two promises that He gives because of that: He promises forgiveness of sins and Eternal Life. Two requirements: To all those who repent and believe.
So now we’re able to say the entire Gospel in one composite sentence: The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died and rose again, according to the Old and New Testament, He Reigns as Lord and Saviour and promises forgiveness of sins and Eternal Life to all those who repent and believe. That’s the Gospel of God’s Son Jesus Christ.
And Paul explains his groans before God. He says “I serve Him in that Gospel in my spirit.” In other words his innermost part – the dynamo inside of him – it includes his heart – it includes his desires – it includes his motives – it includes his emotions – it includes his intellect and his cognitive powers – with all of that! That’s the spirit all rolled into one like a little ball inside of you that God put there that He appeals to by what is inside of him – the Spirit of God himself! That’s how a man and a woman gets saved – when the spirit of God rises up inside of your inner most part and He tells you: Jesus died and rose again, according to the Old and New Testaments, He reigns as Lord and Saviour and He promises forgiveness of sins and Eternal Life to all those who repent and believe – including you!
Paul says: “I serve Him in my spirit – with that – in the Gospel.” And he calls that God as his witness. He says: “I’m going to call Him as my witness to show you that I’m not saying anything disingenuous to you.” He knows: “That God who did that inside of me by that Gospel knows how I feel about you.” He’s told us how he feels about God: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength” means this – it means to serve Him with your spirit in the Gospel of His Son. That’s what it means to love the Lord with all your heart and means to serve Him with your spirit – that’s everything you are – in the Gospel of His Son. He says that part is in place in my life. But there’s a second thing in place. My groans before God does not only have to do with that, it’s also:
b. For the saints
He says “that that I might see you.” There are three things that he desires with regard to them.
(i) He wants to see them.
Everybody is gone to lock-down knows what it feels like to really want to see people – all of them – not just from the nose up. You know what it’s like, don’t you? I’m not calling you to being irresponsible, but I want to just ask how many miss the hugs? So few? How many miss the hugs? How many miss the hugs, the Lord’s people?
“I want to see you.” Paul says “I want to see you, that without ceasing” he says “I mention you always in my prayers.” Why does he mention them? There’s a specific request: “asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” We live in a land that’s been torn apart by political turmoil and clashing ideologies. And there’s some of you among us here whose children live in New Zealand and Australia, Bermuda, the United States – we’re strewn all over the world! You know what it means when Paul says “that I might just see you” don’t you? That’s the second part of the Great Commandment: to love your neighbour as yourself and especially those closest to you. I know what that feels like. Yesterday, as I was preparing I read an old message that Michael sent me some time back and it brought me to tears. I said to myself “I’d give anything to just give him a hug right now.” Longing to see those you love. This is why this whole thing is so wrong. This is why this distancing is so wrong. It’s necessary but it’s not how we’re supposed to be! Is it how we’re supposed to live – go stand on your little spot 2 meters away? Some of those shops do it so far, if you want to talk to the person in front of them, you’ve got to call them on the cell phone. God made us to be close. God made us to be together and Paul says “I somehow by God’s will may at last succeed in coming to you.” Why does he want to come to them? “I long to see you. I long to see you” he says.
(ii) That he might impart some spiritual gift to them
The second part of verse 11. He doesn’t just want to see them to say ‘how you’re doing buddy’ and high-five and off you go! It was to see them for a specific reason – a reason that always needs to be in the heart of every saint of God. Why do you want to see them? So that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you. I want to give you something from the Lord Jesus that strengthens you. You know: those emotions that are so tattered – that loneliness that you’re in – the despair – that doubt – that lack of hope. I want to give you something to just strengthen you. You know what you feel like when you’ve messed up badly? You start saying to yourself: I don’t deserve to be with other people – I need to go take a long walk off a short pier. That’s what I deserve. It’s then that the Apostle says he wants to give you something to strengthen you. Why does he want to strengthen you? Why do the saints need strengthening? You know what we are we’re all snapped reeds and smoking flaxes. Yeah, we walk around the mall all dressed up, but we are snapped reeds and we are smoking flaxes – you know that and you need strengthening. And the Lord says He’ll never break a snapped reed – He’ll never put out a smoking flax. He puts his pierced hands around that flickering flame and He fans it into fire because He loves. Paul says I want to get something from God to bring to you – to make you strong.
But look at his humility – he knows that he needs it too: “That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” – yours and mine. I need to see you so that your faith can make me strong too. That’s the great Apostle: “I need your faith to make me strong.” Do you know that you need each other’s faith to make each other strong? Do you know that your faith is not just there to make you strong? Your faith is there to make the one next to you strong too! Did you know that? And their faith is there to make you strong. Then encourage each other by each other’s faith.
So the first thing he wanted to see them, the second that he wants to impart some spiritual gift to them.
(iii) He wants to reap a harvest among them.
That’s the other reason for his groaning before God in his spirit for the saints that he might see them, that he might give them a spiritual gift and that he might reap a harvest among them in order that I may reap some Harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. Paul was always looking for fruit to the Gospel so that he could reap it. Sow the seed and water it by the word so that it grows and produces fruit. That’s what you and I need to be doing too.
So what have we seen so far? We’ve seen Paul’s expression of gratefulness to God for the fellowship of the faithful and the fame of their faith. We’ve seen Paul’s explanation of his groans before God in his spirit and for the saints. And for the saints that he might see them that he might impart some spiritual gift to them and that he might reap a harvest among them.
- Paul’s Eagerness to Preach the Gospel of God
There are two things about that. His obligation and his obliging.
a. His obligation (verse 14)
“I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians.” He doesn’t pick and choose who he’s under obligation to. God said: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Not just the Greeks, not just the Jews, but even the Barbarians – all of humanity. I’m under obligation to them. And also to the wise and to the foolish not just to the clever ones out there, but the really not so clever ones too. You see the Gospel doesn’t make a distinction. The Gospel does not distinguish between ethnicity or intellectual capacity. It certainly doesn’t distinguish between the rich and the poor. And he feels himself under obligation. He has no choice. God has given him that commission and he has no choice. And that’s why we see from the servant of God:
b. His obliging
He says “because I’m under obligation both to Greeks, Barbarians, the wise and the foolish.” Notice his wonderful, humble obliging. Verse 15: “So I’m eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. God has put into me that eagerness, that excitement to do it.”
Can you see it’s not just an explanation why he hasn’t visited yet? We live in the world in what we call the information age. When people can’t see each other or they can’t phone each other, they send a quick WhatsApp and it’s just flying all over the place! The Apostle Paul had to pen this letter with great pain and weak eyes on a piece of parchment and he had to send it all the way to Rome to let them know: “I haven’t forgotten you. I’m grateful to God for the fellowship of the faithful and for the fame of your faith. I’m grateful to God!” He explains his groans before God in his spirit for the saints: to see them, give them a spiritual gift, to reap a harvest among them. And his eagerness to preach the Gospel – his obligation and his obliging. So we end where we started. What are the three things that mark the Christian life? Gratefulness that we’re saved, groaning to be together more – to see each other, to encourage each other in the faith, reap a harvest and give spiritual gifts. Groaning for ‘make that possible Lord’. And the Gospel of the Lord Jesus – wherever the Lord opens the door for you to tell other people – that thing for which Paul labours with his spirit: Jesus died and rose again, according to the Old and New Testament, He reigns as Lord and Saviour and promises forgiveness of sin and Eternal Life to all those who repent and believe.