1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was born ⌊a descendant⌋ of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared Son of God in power according to ⌊the Holy Spirit⌋ by the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God, called to be saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Ro 1:1–7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Romans: The Man and the Message
March 1, 1981
Take your Bible now and open to the first word of the book of Romans. We’ll be kind of getting a little bit of an overview tonight, I trust, so you’ll need to be looking at the book.
We embark, I believe, tonight on a life changing adventure. I’m convinced that people will be utterly transformed in mind and heart as we move through this very special journey in the book of Romans. The reason I have that confidence is because that is what has happened in the past. It’s amazing if you just go back in history and see how the book of Romans affected people’s lives. The greatest reformations and revivals that we know about were results of the power of this book.
For example, in the summer of A.D. 386 a man named Augustine, a native of north Africa, who had for two years been the professor of rhetoric at Milan, sat weeping in the garden of his friend, Alpeous(?). He was almost persuaded to begin a new life and yet he found it impossible to break with his old life. As he sat, historians tell us that he heard a child singing in a neighboring yard, “Tolei Legae, Tolei Legae(?)” a little melody that says “Take up and read … take up and read.”
It struck him that perhaps that was something he should do and so he picked up a scroll which lay at his friend’s side, that scroll contained a portion of the book of Romans. He read it, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”
“No further would I read,” he said, “nor had I any need, instantly at the end of this sentence a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” And in that very moment from one sentence in the book of Romans the church received the great Augustine … the framer of much of its theology.
In November, 1515 there was a priest by the name of Martin Luther who himself was known as an Augustian monk, who was the professor of sacred theology in the Catholic university of Wittenberg(?). And to his students he began to expound the epistle to the Romans. And from November of 1515 to the following September of 1516, he daily spent himself in the understanding of that epistle. And as he daily prepared his lectures, he became more and more appreciative of the centrality of the Pauline doctrine of justification by … what?… faith. He writes, “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the righteousness of God.’ Because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous. Night and day I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby through grace and sheer mercy he justifies us by faith. There upon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise, the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning and whereas before the righteousness of God had filled me with hate, it now began to fill me inexpressably with a sweet love. The passage of Paul became to me the gateway to heaven.” And need I say what contribution Martin Luther made?
It was the evening of May 24, the year was 1738. There was a man by the name of John Wesley. His biographer says that he went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where a man was reading Luther’s Preface to the epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine he wrote in his journal while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, “I myself felt my heart strangely warmed.” Wesley goes on, “I felt I did trust in Christ and Christ alone for my salvation and an assurance was given me that He had taken my sins away, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” And so it was in Aldersgate Street at the reading of the book of Romans that John Wesley was redeemed. And we all know the contribution he made.
Luther said, “Romans is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel.” John Calvin said, “If a man understands it, he has a sure road open to him to the understanding of the whole of Scripture.” The brilliant commentator Godeau(?) called Romans the cathedral of the Christian faith. Colleridge(?) said “It is the most profound work in existence.” Dr. John Cairns(?) of Scotland wrote this, “The gospel tide nowhere forms so many deep dark pools where the neophyte may drown as in the book of Romans. You will have something like a glimpse of the divine depth and richness.”
In the history of the church there was a very important man by the name of William Tyndale who also wrote regarding the epistle to the Romans. And in the prologue to the epistle to the Romans which he wrote for his 1534 edition of the English New Testament, he wrote this, “I think it meet that every Christian man not only know Romans by rote and without the book but also exercise himself therein ever more continually as with the daily bread of the soul,” end quote.
Dr. John A. McKay for 23 years the president of Princeton Seminary said this, “It seems increasingly clear that the chief need of contemporary Christianity and of society in general in this confused and revolutionary time is an evangelical renaissance, by that I mean a rediscovery of the evangel, the gospel, in its full dimension of light and power together with the elevation of the gospel to the status that belongs to the gospel in the thought life and activity of all persons and organizations that bear the name Christian.” And for him that affirmation came in the epistle to the Romans.
Now you can go through history far beyond what I did and you will find transformation after transformation in individual lives, in nations and across the world that came when men discovered the realities of the book of Romans. It is deep, it is profound, it is divine and yet it is within the grasp of all of us.
Dr. Barnhouse had a great thought on Romans. And by the way, he wrote four or five volumes on it. He said this, “A scientist may say that mother’s milk is the most perfect food known to man. And the scientist may give you an analysis showing all of the chemical components. He may give you a list of all the vitamins in the milk and an estimate of the calories in a given quantity. But a baby will take that milk without the remotest knowledge of its content and will grow day by day. So it is with the profoundest truths of the Word of God. Some of us may be able to analyze it, some of us may not, but all of us do well to drink and to grow.”
Two great scholars applied two adjectives to Romans. The first great scholar was a man named Sandae(?) who wrote perhaps the most definitive commentary ever written in the English language on the book of Romans. And Sandae said that the book of Romans is testamentary. And he meant by that that it is Paul’s last will and testament. In it he distills the essence of the last word on the Christian faith. It is the last will and testament of Paul. It says all that he intends to sum up and say about the gospel. Burton(?), another brilliant commentator said, “It is prophylactic,” and prophylactic means something that guards against infection. He said that the epistle to the Romans is the prophylactic for the church, it ever and always is that which saves the church from heresy, it is the guardian of the church.
And so, this is a marvelous book. And we could go on and on just talking about all of the things that its accomplished. It quotes the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book, 57 times. The most common words in Romans are the word God—153 times, the word law—72 times, the word Christ—65 times, the word sin—48 times, the word Lord—43 times and the word faith—40 times. It’s about God, the law, Christ, sin, the Lord, faith and all the ramifications of those terms.
Now stay with me, this is going to go by real fast. The teaching of this book is absolutely breathtaking. It is breathtaking what is in this book. It answers all of the important questions, all of them. Let me give you the ones that it answers just as an initial look and this only scratches the surface. Now don’t try to write these down, find yourself under the bed saying the Greek alphabet, I’m going to go too fast.
Here are the questions that it answers. This one epistle … what is the good news of God? Is Jesus really God? What proves He is God? Why did He come? What is a saint? What is God like? How can God send people to hell? What will happen to people who have never heard the gospel? Why do men reject God and Christ? Why are there false religions and idols? What is man’s biggest sin? Why is there sex perversion, hate, crime and those other things and why are they so rampant? What is the standard by which God condemns people? How can a person who has never head be held responsible? Are Jews more responsible to believe than Gentiles? Who is a true Jew? Is it any advantage to be Jewish? How good is man? How bad is man? Can anyone keep God’s law? How do we know we’re sinners? How are we justified and forgiven? How is a Christian related to Abraham? What is the importance of Christ’s death? What is the importance of His resurrection? What is the importance of His present life? For whom did Christ die? Where can men find real peace and hope? How are we related spiritually to Adam and how are we related spiritually to Christ? What is grace? And what does it do? How does a person die spiritually to be reborn? What is the Christian’s relation to sin? How important is obedience? How are law and grace related to one another? Why is it such a struggle to live the Christian life? How many natures does a believer have?
Have I hit any that you’re interested in? What does the Holy Spirit do for us? How intimate is a Christian’s relationship to God really? Why is there suffering? Will the world ever be any different? How can I pray properly? What does predestination mean? How secure is a Christian? What is God’s present plan for Israel? What is His future plan for Israel? Why have the Gentiles been chosen? What is our responsibility to Israel? How is a person saved? And what is the basic bottom line for Christian commitment? What is the Christian’s relationship to the world, to other Christians, to the unsaved, to the government? What is love and how does it work? How do we deal with neutral things, things that are neither right or wrong? What is true freedom? How important is unity in the church?
Now those are just a few. But I just ran you from chapter 1 to chapter 16. Those are a few of the questions the book answers. Is it any wonder that Godeau say, “O St. Paul, had thy one work been to compose an epistle to the Romans, that alone should have rendered thee dear to every sound mind.”
You want to know what the key to the book of Romans is? Chapter 1:17, the last line, “The just shall … what?… live by faith.” That’s the key … that’s the key.
Deisman(?) writing in the Expository Times said, quote: “Fire, holy fire shows between the lines of Romans. This holy divine flame is what warms and inter-penetrates us. The deep understanding of human misery, the terrible shuddering before the power of sin, yet at the same time the jubilant rejoicing of the redeemed child of God, this is what for all time assures to the Roman epistle a victorious sway over the hearts of men who are sinful and thirst for redemption,” end quote. This letter will delight the greatest logician. This letter will captivate the mind of a consummate genius and yet will bring tears to the humblest soul and refreshment to the simplest reason. The book, get ready, will knock you down and then lift you up. It will strip you naked and then clothe you with eternal elegance. It could take a Bedford Tinker like John Bunyan and turn him into the master who penned the Holy War and Pilgrim’s Progress.
And Romans speaks to today. It speaks to the issues we face today morally for it speaks about adultery. It speaks about homosexuality. It speaks about perversion. It speaks about killing and hating and lying and civil disobedience. So it speaks to us morally. It speaks to us intellectually. It tells us why man is so confused because he possesses a reprobate mind. It speaks to us socially. It tells us how we are to relate to one another. It speaks to us psychologically. It tells us where true freedom comes to deliver men from guilt. It speaks to us spiritually for it answers our despair with a hope in the future. It speaks to us internationally for it tells us the ultimate destiny of the earth and specially the plan for the nation Israel. It speaks to us nationally for it tells us our responsibility to the government. It speaks to us supernaturally for it defines for us the infinite power of God. And it speaks to us theologically because it teaches us relationships between flesh and Spirit, law and grace. But most of all, it brings God to us profoundly.
An anonymous poet wrote these marvelous words, listen. “O long and dark the stairs I trod, with trembling feet to find a God. Gaining a foothold bit by bit, then slipping back and losing it. Never progressing, striving still with weakening grasp and faltering will. Bleeding to climb to God while He serenely smiled unnoting me. Then came a certain time when I loosened my hold and fell thereby, down to the lowest step my fall as if I hadn’t climbed at all. Now when I lay despairing there, listen, a footfall on the stair. On that same stair where I afraid faltered and fell and laid dismayed and lo when hope had ceased to be, my God came down the stairs to me.” And that is Romans. It is God finding the desperate sinner.
Well, I hope those thoughts give you a sense of anticipation. You’re never going to be the same. Now with that we’ll get into the book.
First word, “Paul,” and, beloved, I have to tell I just couldn’t get pass that word. I no longer said it and read it then I just kept saying, “Paul.” How could you ever understand Romans if you didn’t understand Paul? How could you feel his heartbeat if you didn’t know something about him? And so in giving you somewhat of an overview tonight, I want to deal just from the vantage point of Paul. The very word just fills my heart. I spend hours with this individual, reading what he wrote, dissecting every word that he wrote, trying to emulate him. The very name speaks to my heart.
And I don’t know if I’ve ever preached a sermon just on Paul to put him in perspective. And I’m not sure this is the kind of sermon that ought to be preached on him, he deserves far more than I’m able to do, but just to give you a little glimpse of this incredible man … Paul.
That wasn’t always his name, you know. That was his new name. His old name was Saul. And he was a good Jewish boy named for a good Jewish king … Saul. He was born in Tarsus. Tarsus because his father, though a Jew, was involved in the Roman culture as a Roman citizen. He was born in Tarsus and Tarsus was a university town. It was a center of Greek culture. Tarsus was located in Cilicia and that is at the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. You go east by Spain and north Africa as far as you can go toward the coast of Israel and up in that northeast corner was Tarsus. He also received a portion of his education in Jerusalem under the most distinguished doctor of the law, a man by the name of Gamaliel who was, by the way, the grandson of perhaps the most famous rabbi who ever lived, Hillel. He studied under this very distinguished doctor and so he was not only erudite in matters of Greek culture and philosophy but also in the matters of Jewish law.
It is said in those times that there were three great universities in the Greek world, one at Athens, one at Alexandria and one at Tarsus. They were the Harvard, Yale and Princeton of their day. And he was educated at Tarsus and then further educated in the Jewish school of Gamaliel.
Now also in keeping with the tradition in a Jewish family, he had to learn a trade. And so he grew up learning the trade of his father. He was taught to work with hides, to be a leather worker, a tent maker. And history tells us that that was a rather common occupation in Tarsus. He was educated up until the age of about 13 and apparently at 13 was packed off to Jerusalem to study with Gamaliel who, by the way, was called quote: “The beauty of the law,” because he so personified the law, the Mosaic and the traditional law of Israel.
Now the kind of education he would have had under Gamaliel would have been a memorizing and interpreting of Scripture between he and Gamaliel in a question and answer format. So from the time of 13 he was in an interchange with this greatest of Jewish minds. Since he never met Jesus in his earthly life, he probably completed his education and then returned back to Tarsus. And some historians believe he became probably the leader of a synagogue there. No matter where he was he always became the leader … didn’t matter where. And it seems very obvious that that is what would have happened in Tarsus.
And so, there he is in Tarsus. He’s had a consummate Greek education. He’s had a consummate Jewish education. He’s got all of the credentials to move around in the Roman world. His father is a Roman citizen and that makes him one and yet he has all the Jewishness that gives him access to that whole area. And so he is marvelously prepared. And he becomes a zealous Jew, extremely zealous, utterly zealous, utterly committed to the Judaism that he was given. In fact, in Philippians 3:5 it says he was circumcised the eighth day. He was of the stock of Israel. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. He was an Hebrew of the Hebrews. As touching the law, he was a Pharisee. And you couldn’t get more committed than that. He had zeal to the place where he began to persecute the church. And as touching the righteousness which was in the Jewish law, he was blameless. He was a first-class legalist … kept the law.
Sometime probably when he was up in Tarsus this thing with Jesus happened. And he began to hear about the fact that Christians were filling the city of Jerusalem with teaching about this Jesus being the Messiah. He was angry at this heresy. He was angry at this affront to traditional Judaism. And so we find him in the city of Jerusalem early in the book of Acts. A persecution breaks out and he is right in the middle of it.
Now turn with me to the book of Acts and I just want to point out several things … 8:1. You have to get a little background before we go into chapter 8 and it comes in the testimony that he gave before Agrippa in chapter 26. Just listen, this is what he said to Agrippa. He said, “I verily thought within myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” He said, “I determined in myself that I was going to put a stop to that cult around Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints that I shut up in prison having received authority from the chief priests and when they were put to death I gave my voice against them and I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme. And begin exceedingly mad, or furious against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.”
Now he is really really angered. And we find in verse 1 of chapter 8 that Saul was consenting unto his death. Whose death? The death of Stephen … the death of Stephen. For in chapter 7 you have Stephen being stoned. And if you look at verse 58, “They cast him out of the city and stoned him and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet whose name was … what?… Saul … Saul.”
That was typical stuff for him, to be involved in the execution of a Christian. Luke literally says that he laid waste the church. At that time verse 1 says there was a great persecution against the church at Jerusalem and they were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Verse 3, “And Saul made havoc of the church. He entered into every house and hailing men and women committed them to prison. The result, they were scattered everywhere.” He literally cleaned them out of Jerusalem.
Now he had an organized approach. By the way, the word “he made havoc” or “laid waste” is a Greek word describing a wild boar rampaging through a garden. It also is used to speak of an army devastating a city. The man was just as fanatical then as he became later on the behalf of Christ.
Well, while he was in Jerusalem and got everybody scattered, he says in Acts 26, “I even persecuted them to foreign cities.” He got word that there was a big group of them in a city called Damascus. Go to chapter 9. “And Saul,” verse 1, “yet breathing out threatening and slaughter.” And he’s like a wild bull, just snorting and breathing out fury. And he’s breathing this out and he’s after Christians. And verse 2 says, He went to the high priest and desired letters which would give him the right, kind of like some kind of an affidavit that would give him permission to arrest these Christians in another city, letters to the Damascus synagogue so that they would give him permission to come in and bind these men and women and drag them back to Jerusalem. So he isn’t content with just cleaning Jerusalem, this has become a literal vendetta with the man. He is consumed with capturing and executing Christians … like a war horse with the smell of battle in his nostrils, he’s breathing out fury and looking for new fields to conquer. His sin is like that of Haman the Agagite who wanted all Jews to be exterminated.
So he headed for Damascus. That is an incredible city, by the way. It still exists, I’ve been there. Maybe the oldest city in the world. It predates Abraham. And there was there a population of about 150 thousand people, as best we can tell. It was 160 miles northeast of Jerusalem. And a caravan took six days to get there. So he put together his entourage and for six days he went northeast and up, of course, because it’s a more mountainous area, he would go down first, and down the Jordan valley perhaps and then up the Golen Heights and then on across to Damascus. And there was as far as we know a large Jewish synagogue there.
But you’ll notice in verse 2 a most interesting phrase. He desired letters to Damascus 9, to the synagogues that if he found any of this way … interesting phrase … this way, that became a title for Christians. They were a part of the way. And he said if he could find any. didn’t care who they were. he would bind them and bring them back. Then something very amazing happened. Verse 3, “And as he journeyed he came near Damascus and suddenly …” And, people, with the word “suddenly” the whole course of human history changed dramatically.
“There shown round about him a light from heaven.” And if you read Acts 22 and 26 where he recites the testimony, it says there that it was noon and at noontime in the middle of the day in that part of the world, the sun itself is bright enough to blind you. And this must have been some light to surpass the sun. “And he fell to the earth and he heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”
You know, some people really have to have a dramatic thing happen to get their attention. That was him. He said, “Who art Thou, Lord? The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest, it’s hard for thee to kick against the goads.” Goads were long sticks and in the end of it they had a pointed nail and if they wanted the ox to move a little faster with the plow, they just gave him a good shot with the goad. Sometimes they would apply it to the heel of the ox and he would keep his feet moving so he wouldn’t get poked in the delicate portion, the back of the heel. It’s hard for you to do this, isn’t it? And verse 6 says, “He trembling and astonished …” And there’s no way that those little English words are going to convey to you the absolute panic that’s in his heart. I mean, he has been killing Christians all over everywhere and now he is facing the one whom he has been persecuting, Jesus the Lord, and he is panicked. There’s no way to understand the horrifying reality of hearing “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes.”
The Jesus, who went about doing good, who went about healing, who took out the demons and delivered people from death. Jesus who was crucified, rejected by Israel. Jesus whom Stephen had called upon in his own death. Jesus whom he hated. Jesus whose followers he had mercilessly killed. Jesus was alive. And all the bloodshed drowned Saul in a sea of sorrow. He was shattered. He was penitent. He was broken. He was devastated. He was destroyed.
And then you pick up some hair-brained guy who says he had an epileptic fit … cause he doesn’t want to admit to a miracle. One other writer said, “If this is epilepsy, oh sweet epilepsy.” His sin was enormous, people. It was enormous. His total life was wrapped up in the annihilation of the church. And had his plan succeeded the church would have been smothered in its very birth. It would have been drowned in its own blood. And, you know, he never forgot the enormity of his sin. He never forgot it. I can imagine that when he looked back on all those Christians whose lives he had taken that there was just a shuddering in his heart. That’s why in 1 Timothy he says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who enabled me that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry who before was a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious. But I obtain mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love. And this is a faithful saying, he says, of all the sinners, I am … what?… chief.” He never forgot that. He meant that.
But on that road he was marvelously transformed. He was blind. He was speechless. He was utterly devastated. Verse 9 says he was three days without sight and didn’t eat or drink. He committed his life to Christ. And I remember when I taught the book of Jude saying that there wasn’t any human Christian who could deal with him, you understand that? You see, if a Christian got near him, it would be all over. The only way you cold get to this guy was God had to do it alone. Even when he became converted and tried to have an audience with the Apostles, the Apostles were too afraid to let him in. Nobody could get to him. He was a bran plucked from the burning. God had to do it. He was marvelously transformed.
I love this, verse 20, just love this, this is him … this is him … this is all there is to say about his personality, “And immediately he preached Christ.” I mean, if you just said, “Paul and immediately,” that would fit. He did everything that way. He was utterly and totally committed to whatever it was. And just as soon as he was transformed, he was wholeheartedly committed to preaching Christ in the synagogue and he was preaching that He is the Son of God. So he began the work of evangelizing Damascus.
Well, verse 21, “All that heard him were amazed. They said, Isn’t this the one that destroyed them who called on this name in Jerusalem? And he’s come here for that intent that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? I mean, what’s going on here?” The guy has changed boats in mid-stream. “Saul increased the more in strength and he confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus by proving that this the Christ.” They couldn’t handle it.
You say, “Where did he get all that information so fast?” Divine inspiration, God gave it to him. Didn’t take long, verse 23, “After many days were filled, the Jews decided to kill him.” You know what he did then? He got out of town, the first thing he did. And then the text tells us he spent some years in Arabia. And if you read Galatians 1, I’m not going to take the time to do that, it tells you that he went to Arabia. And it’s probably likely that he spent nearly three years there. Those were the years, I think, when he got his seminary training and he got it directly from the Lord. I think he was imputed with direct revelation from God because in Galatians he says I didn’t get my message from any man, I didn’t go to Jerusalem and get it, I didn’t get it from the other Apostles, I didn’t get it from anybody but the Lord Himself. And that’s what qualified him, I guess, to be an Apostle. First, he had seen the resurrected Lord, and secondly, he was given the Word of God personally from the Lord Himself.
After those years, you know what he did? He decided to go back to Damascus and preach some more. And you know what happened? They tried to get him again. Second Corinthians 11 says they let him out of the town with a basket over the wall. And then he finally went to Jerusalem. And as I said earlier, when he got to Jerusalem he tried to join the other Apostles. Look at verse 26, “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples but they were all afraid of him and they didn’t believe he was a disciple. They said, Wait a minute, that’s an old trick. He says, I’m one of you, I’m one of you.” And he gets in with all the disciples and we’re all done … he’ll kill us all. They said we’re not going to do that. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the Apostles, declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way and how He had spoken to him and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus and he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. Barnabas became his escort. They took him. And what did he do in verse 29? He spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Grecians and they went about to do … what?… to kill him.
He’s really quite a guy, isn’t he? He just can’t stay out of trouble … just the way he is. And finally the dear brethren sent him away. They had about all they could handle … he created so many problems. So they sent him back to Tarsus, verse 30. From Galatians 1 I think we can conclude that he only spent 15 days with Peter. It’s hard sometimes to put all of these places like just when it was that he went to Arabia and some of these parts of the puzzle, but it seems best from Galatians 1:18 to assume that he spent 15 days with the Apostles and with Peter and then right back to Tarsus. And according to Acts 15:41 most likely in Tarsus he founded a church and probably founded several churches. He really was always founding churches and evangelizing and being busy, but in Acts 15:41 it says he went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches which if he went to confirm them they would have had to have been founded and the only time he was there was when he went back there after being in Jerusalem.
Now, stay with me and we’re going to see very important transition, after his marvelous ministry of founding churches in the area of Cilicia, Tarsus, Barnabas decided that it would be well to bring him to Antioch. Seven years after the Jerusalem church had really been formed they sent to establish a church in Antioch which was far north of there in Syria. And Barnabas felt that Paul would make an excellent pastor for the Antioch church. And so, he went to Antioch. And he and Barnabas sort of became cohorts there. And we find in chapter 11 and verse 30 Barnabas and Saul together ministering by bringing relief to Judean Christians during a time of famine.
So they ministered together from Antioch. Now after the relief of chapter 11, they returned to Antioch and Paul maintained his ministry there. Now come to chapter 13 and here’s the key. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch,” verse 1, “certain prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch and Saul … and Saul.” He was one of those five elders, five leaders, five shepherds. And you’ll notice they were ministering to the Lord, verse 2, and they were fasting and the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I’ve called them. When they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them away and they were sent forth by the Holy Spirit and departed,” and that’s all you need to say. And then began the ministry to which the man was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
And from chapter 13 through chapter 21, Paul takes three great missionary journeys. Finally in the third journey he goes al the way to Ephesus, stays there for several years. He leaves Ephesus and he goes to Macedonia and finally to Corinth for the third time. And there in Corinth he writes the epistle to the Romans. And so in just a brief view you’ve seen the sweep of his life.
Now listen. Why did he write Romans? Go back to the book and let’s see. Why did he write it? First of all, he wanted to go there for several reasons, for their sake … 1:11, “I long to see you.” Why? “Well I want to impart unto you some spiritual gift. I want to minister to you. I want to establish you.” He wanted to go there for their sake because they had not been founded by an Apostle for he says in chapter 15, “I wouldn’t go and build on another man’s foundation.” They had not been founded by an Apostle but most likely had been founded by some travelers who had come from Judea. In fact, if you read Acts 2:10 it says in the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended there were sojourners from Rome there. And in the marvelous conversion of the 3,000 and then the 5,000 and who know how many thousand that happened in a few weeks, some of those sojourners from Rome, no doubt, took the gospel back. That’s perhaps the best explanation. So there had been no apostolic establishing. And I think in Paul’s heart he sensed the tremendously strategic location of the Roman church in the heart of the Empire and he knew they needed to be solidified and he said, “I want to come in order to impart to you some spiritual gift in order to establish you.”
Also, verse 15 says, “I want also to preach the gospel to those that are at Rome.” Not only for the church do I want to come but for the lost. His heart literally could see the tremendous potential of reaching Rome for Christ. And then I think he thought about himself, too. Chapter 15:32 he says, “I want to come to you with joy by the will of God so that I can be refreshed.” I mean, I just want to fellowship with you. So he wanted to go for the sake of the church, for the sake of the lost, for his own sake. And I think, too, he wanted them to know him for several reasons. First of all, so they could pray for him. Chapter 15:30, “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the love of the Spirit, strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” He wanted people praying for him. He wanted them praying for him.
I think also he wanted them to know him because he had another plan in mind. Verse 28 of 15, “When I have performed this and sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.” He had this great dream of going on to Spain. And he was saying “I’d like to know that when I get as far as Rome you’ll give me the supplies I need to get to Spain.” So there was spiritual reasons to build the church, establish the church, win the lost, refresh himself, to gain their prayer support. He wanted them to know him. He longed to go there. And he wanted them to provide resources. He wanted to build up that strategic church.
And so, the letter really was to be an introduction of himself as an Apostle, of his doctrine so they would have no question about it. And so he pens a monumental treatise to establish them in the truth to show that he was truly an Apostle, to give them confidence in himself, and just in case he never gets there, to give them the absolute last word on the gospel of Jesus Christ so they will be established. And so he writes.
He got there, you know. But he got there at the expense of the Roman government who took him as a prisoner. And his ministry in Rome was as a prisoner, wasn’t it? But from his prisoner’s platform he had a marvelous ministry. And as he said to the Philippians, “All the saints in Caesar’s household greet you.” God put him right in Caesar’s household. And he was winning those people to Christ. Finally he had his head chopped off in Rome for the testimony of Christ.
Beloved, the triumph of the gospel during those three journeys of Paul is beyond words to express. The man was incredible. Energized by the Spirit of God he accomplished things far beyond what any of us could imagine. Do you know history tells us that at the close of the apostolic period it is believed that there were one half million Christians? Pretty amazing … one half million. Heaven only knows how many were the result of Paul … what an effective tool and without the printed page and without the media, with his reproductive life. Truly he was separated from his mother’s womb to proclaim the gospel.
And he wasn’t a whole lot to look at. I looked up a second century description of Paul written by some presbyter somewhere. And this was the description. “Small of stature … and there’s an unconfirmed report that he was three cubits which would be four feet six … bald with crooked legs, a hooked nose, scars all over his face from his stonings and beatings.” And the writer said, “Full of friendliness.” He’d have to be or he’d scare you to death if he looked like that. If you study the account of the New Testament, it’s very likely also that he had a very difficult oozing eye disease that made him less than pleasant to behold.
Not your typical Charismatic leader. Not your typical superstar. What made him great? Can I close with this? What made him great? Three things and they are the things I want you to learn tonight. Three things, listen carefully.
Number one, he had a biblical mind … he had a biblical mind. The man was absolutely saturated in the Word of God. To start with, he had a great intellect. He was deeply knowledgeable in the Old Testament and it comes through. He knew the Word of God.
Can I illustrate that to you very fast? In the book of Romans, for example, he talks with great facility about Abraham. He talks with great facility about Adam. He understands law and grace. He understands flesh and spirit. Listen to this, he quotes Moses, he quotes Hosea, he quotes Isaiah, he quotes David, he quotes the Psalms, he shows familiarity with Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. He quotes Malachi. He quotes Jeremiah. He alludes to Daniel. He quotes from Joel 2, Nahum 1. He refers to 1 Samuel, refers to 1 Kings, and builds on Ezekiel 37. Fifty-seven times he uses the Old Testament. His thoughts just constantly intersect with the Old Testament … most dominantly with Isaiah which indicates to me that he probably had mastered Isaiah’s prophecies.
What made him great? I think what made him great was a biblical mind. His mind was saturated with the Word of God. I mean, it just comes out all the time as you go through Romans. I wish we had time to just develop it but it’s just everywhere, this biblical mind, this just facility with it. For example, in 9:33, “As it is written, behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone, a rock of offense and whosoever believes in Him shall not be ashamed.” He just freely speaks from Isaiah.
You find in the tenth chapter just repeatedly he does this. Verse 11, “The Scripture says …” that’s verse 11. Verse 15, “As it is written …” Verse 17, “Faith comes by hearing a speech about Christ …” Verse 20, “Isaiah is very bold and says …” “To Israel,” verse 21, “he says …” Very very free with this. It says in verse 2 of chapter 11, “Know you not what the Scripture says …” Verse 8, “According as it is written …” And it goes on like that. I’m just picking them out as I can look down the line. Verse 26 of 11, “As it is written there shall come out of Zion a deliverer.” Chapter 12:19, “As it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And it just goes on, 14:11, “For it is written,” 15 also has some quotes from the Old Testament as well … 15:3, “As it is written …”
In other words, he just thought biblically. And I guess 15:4 would climax it. “Whatever things were written in earlier times were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Everything was based on the Scripture, had a biblical mind.
Secondly, he had a resolute will. He had a determined will, maybe that’s a better word. He had a determined will. A biblical mind and a determined will … you couldn’t put the man off his track. I mean, he was indomitable. You could throw him in prison and it didn’t even phase him. He just started an evangelistic meeting in the prison. You could stone him as they did in the book of Acts and throw him on the dump and God would raise him from the dead and he’d go right back in town and finish his sermon. He’d be preaching in the middle of the night, a guy fell out of the window and died, fell all the way down to the bottom, broke his neck and died. Just went down and raised him from the dead, brought him back up and made him listen to the rest of the sermon. A determined will … he was committed to the task. I mean, he went everywhere from Jerusalem to the eastern shore of the Adriatic, opposite Italy, and he preached over and back time and again. He was always a foundation builder … 15 years of labor, planting seeds, working and working and working. So faithful … so faithful.
He said, “Oh,” he said, “they keep telling me in every city, “Acts 20:23, “that bonds and afflictions await me, but none of these things move me.” I like that. “What do I care about that? I just want to finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. Don’t tell me about that, I don’t care about that.” Said in 1 Corinthians 9, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.” And you could … they tried everything to stop him. This is what he says, he says in 2 Corinthians 11, “I was in labors far greater, in prisons more often, in scourgings above measure, in exposure to death, of the Jews five times I received 40 lashes minus one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I had been the deep, in journeyings often, and then this, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils of mine own countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils at sea, perils among false brothers in labor, toil, watching, hunger, thirst, fasting, cold, nakedness and besides this I have to take care of the church. Phew …
And he experienced all that before he wrote Romans. He never deviated from his conviction. And he said to Timothy, he said, “Timothy, preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season.” He says, “And you’ve got to do it and pick it up because the time of my departure is at hand. I’m ready to be offered. I need somebody to take the mantle.” Oh, what resolute determination … what a man … active, animated, determined, dynamic. And in the midst of all he was gentle, he was humble, he was meek … incredible.
A biblical mind, a determined will … thirdly, a loving heart … a loving heart. You can’t say anything about Paul unless you say that. Oh how he loved. He had a great sense of God’s love, Romans 5:5 he said, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” In Romans 8 he says, “What shall separate us from the love of God?” He had a great sense of God’s love. And he also had a great love for God. You find in Romans 15:30 he says, “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the love of the Spirit.” And he says it to the Corinthians, “The love of Christ constrains me.” He understood God’s love and he loved God in return. He also had a great love for Israel. In 9 he said his love for Israel was so profound that he could almost wish himself accursed from Christ if it could mean the salvation of his brethren. Oh what love.
He had a great love for the church. You reach chapter 16 you see his love for the church. He lists all those dear people that helped him in the ministry and that chapter just oozes with his love for the saints. And he had a great desire to see others love, too, and that’s why in chapter 13 he says that the one commandment God wants you to keep is to love one another. Filled with love.
Now you show me a man with a biblical mind and a determined will to obey God’s plan at all cost and a man filled with love and I’ll show you a man that will turn the world upside down. Now I just want to come to the pinnacle and then I’m going to close and that’s this. Over everything else the thing the man lived for was to glorify God. Isn’t that the greatest thing of all? That’s it. He lived to glorify God. Look at 11:36, he says, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever amen.” Chapter 15:6, “That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 9, “That the Gentiles might glorify God.” Oh that was his passion. Chapter 16:27, “To God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ forever amen.”
That’s … that’s what he lived for. He lived for glorifying God and that demanded of him a biblical mind and a determined will and a loving heart. He is the man who wrote this book. What a man. He never could forget the pit from which he had been digged. And so he always maintained his humility. And yet he was the greatest of men. The words of John Chrysostom, that early church father and golden-tongued preacher of Antioch, pay the greatest tribute to Paul. Chrysostom wrote a homily on the letter of Paul to the Romans and this is what he said, “John Chrysostom loved the city of Rome most of all because there Paul died and there he would be raised up to meet the Lord in the air.” And Chrysostom said, “He would like to see the dust of Paul’s body that sowed the gospel everywhere, the dust of that mouth which lifted the truth on high, and through which Christ spake great and secret things and greater than his own person … the dust of those hands which … of which off which the serpent fell into the fire and through which the sacred writings were written … the dust of those feet which ran throughout the world and were not weary … the dust of those eyes which were blinded gloriously but which recovered their sight again for the salvation of the world … the dust of that heart which a man could not do wrong to call the heart of the world, a heart so enlarged that it could take in cities and nations and people, yet which burned at each one that was lost which despised both death and hell and yet was broken down by a brother’s tears.” So the tribute of Chrysostom.
What does all this say to you? What does it say to you? Here’s what it says to you. Let Paul speak. First Corinthians 11:1, listen, don’t look it up, just listen, he said this, “Be ye followers of me.” First Corinthians 4:16 he said, “Be ye followers of me.” Philippians 3:17 he said, “Be followers together of me.” Same verse, “You have me for an example.” Second Thessalonians he said, “For you know how you ought to follow us and to make ourselves an example unto you to follow.” Let him speak.
What does he say? It would be like me. What is he like? A biblical mind, a determined will, and a loving heart whose highest goal was to glorify God.
Our Father, we thank You tonight that we’ve had such a wonderful time just getting started looking at this man and this book, incredible book. O fill us, Lord, with the will and the desire and the love of Paul. May we experience in some small way what this man was knowing that we possess the self same Holy Spirit. Give us that biblical mind, that determined will, that compassionate loving heart. Help us to live for Your glory no matter what the cost. Use us, if not an extent in whatever extent You have planned for us for the advance of Your Kingdom and we’ll praise You in Christ’s name. Amen.
This transcript, along with related media, can also be found here on the Grace to You website.
The Preacher of the Good News
And Now for the Good News—March 8, 1981
Romans 1. And I want to read for you verses 1–7, not under any illusion that we’re going to cover them all, but we’ll read them. “I, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an Apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He had promised before by His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be at Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The thrust of Paul’s introduction to the epistle to the Romans is in a phrase at the end of verse 1. The phrase is “the gospel of God.” That is really the theme of the entire epistle, the good news from God.
A quick look at any newspaper, a passing glance at any weekly magazine reminds us that in our world the news is bad and getting worse. And what is happening on a large scale is only the multiplication of what is happening on an individual level … bad news. In fact, that has become a colloquialism in our time … bad news.
You see, menand women are in the grip of a terrifying power. And that power grips them deep inside their own being. And it pushes them to self-destruction. That power is sin and sin makes for bad news. Just by way of capsulizing our thoughts about this, I see four major areas where sin produces bad news for the human race, and they’re somewhat sequential. And I don’t offer these as exhaustive or comprehensive but just to provoke your thinking.
The first bad news that sin brings upon an individual is selfishness. It’s bad news in human existence that every one of us is bent on fulfilling our own particular desires at any price. The basic element of sinfulness is the dominance of the I the ego, the self. It all even began that way when Satan fell. He said, “I will … I will … I will … I will … I will,” five times. Man has inherited this propensity with the coming of sin. He is utterly self-centered. He will do his own thing, if permitted. And whatever a society will permit, he will do. He will go as far as society’s toleration will allow. Man will consume everything in sight on his own lust. He will consume things and he will consume people and he will consume himself. When a friend or a spouse or a lover or a family member ceases to provide what an individual wants, they are discarded like an old pair of shoes that are useless. We live in a world where people are demanding their rights. And this is nothing but the manifestation of what is deep in the heart of man, self-destructive selfishness. Everybody wants rights.
And the ultimate goal of life is to achieve self-satisfaction … self-satisfaction, whether you’re in business or marriage, or whether you’re in love, man winds up perverting everything because of his selfish lust for gain, for fame, for dominance, for popularity, for money, for physical fulfillment. And so, sin pushes humanity in to a selfish self-consumption. Somebody said we ought to use things and love people, but instead we love things and use people. The end of it is that man is unable to sustain a meaningful relationship. He’s unable to really love. He’s unwilling to give and thus he forfeits that which is the most obvious source of true joy, selflessness. Man becomes dominated by a selfish greed that alienates him from every one and every thing.
And the result of all of this is that man really comes to a place of utter loneliness and despair. And he finds that all of the things he consumes on his own lusts bear the law of diminishing returns in them so that the more he gets the less it satisfies. And so the first thing that sin has produced by way of bad news is that we are selfish and it is a trap that leads us to despair.
Now that bad news that sin produces selfishness leads to a second thing that’s also bad news. Man is not only selfish, he is guilty. Self-consumption, using people, abusing people, doing whatever is necessary to gain your own ends brings about guilt because God has designed man to feel something when he sins otherwise man could never prevent himself from going to hell. It’s like pain. God has given you pain so you know whenyour body is injured and you’ll get help for your body. God has given guilt as a way to tell us that we are on the wrong road and something has to change. And so, man is oppressed with guilt. And the bad news is that man lives in anxiety, he lives in fear, he lives in sleeplessness, he lives with psychological problems, ulcers, myriad illnesses caused by his guilt which he may try to alleviate with drunkenness or suicide or something else. We live in a frightful world where people are panicked over their guilt. They try to cover it with a frivolous facade. Some try to turn their heads away from real guilt by money, possessions, alcohol, drugs), sex, travel, psychoanalysis, blaming their guilt on society, blaming their guilt on some antiquated biblical tradition that’s imposed it upon them, blaming their guilt on God, on Christians, on the church, on their parents, on some prenatal trauma. I even heard one guy who blamed his guilt on a banana his mother gave him when he was little.
Selfishness leads to a consumptive sin and it inevitably brings with it guilt. And when you try to blame someone for it,, that only compounds the guilt because now you know you’re guilty not only of the sin but of trying to push it off on somebody who doesn’t deserve it.
And that gives us some more bad news. For selfishness leads to guilt and guilt leads to meaninglessness. Man is caught in a trap of his own selfishness. It takes him nowhere but to an over-burdening guilt. And sooner orlater he says to himself, “Is this what life is all about? Better that I should not have been born.” Life becomes an endless cycle of trying to be fulfilled when it is impossible and bearing only guilt. And in that kind of life there’s no fulfillment. And where there’s no fulfillment, all the basic questions are asked. “Is this all there is?… Where are the real answers?… What are the real quest ions?… why am I alive?… What is the meaning of my life?… What is truth?… How do I find out what is truth?” And man is fed a steady diet of lies by the consummate liar Satan who runs the world’s system. And the lies never really answer the question of meaning. So he never gets an answer.
The news is always bad. That’s what Edna St. Vincent Malay meant when she said, “Life must go on, I just forget why.” We live a series of 24-hour periods without significance, nothing changes all is emptiness. And as the main character in one of Sarte’s novels said, “I decided to kill myself to remove at least one superfluous life.”
Now we find a fourth element in this chain of bad news that is brought about by sin, and that I like to call hopelessness. You startout with a consumptive selfishness and finally you wake up to the fact that it has the law of diminishing returns and when it’s all over and done, all you have left is guilt for all that you’ve done to get where you are. And born out of this trauma and anxiety from guilt is the meaninglessness of life and born out of the meaninglessness of it all is the bad news that you’ve got nothing now and nothing later either. And so there is an utter hopelessness. There is no possible fulfillment in a selfish self-centered guilt-ridden meaningless life, only the starkness of death. And then what? No hope. And so people mask death which I believe is the ultimate obscenity to most people, but they mask it by laughing at it or mocking it or covering it somehow to alleviate the fear that it brings. But it is ultimately the worse news of all. There’s nothing here and there’s nothing there either. Bad news … bad news.
Thousands of babies are born every day into a world filled with bad news … bad news. And all along, men find themselves going deeper and deeper into the dilemma because they are pushed there by the liar Satan who keeps pumping the lies through the system in which they live. And the manifestation of all this sin produced bad news is what you read about when you pick up the Los Angeles Times, bad news. And even the little bits of good news, so called, are like moments of rest in an unending saga of bad news. It’s like somebody said about peace treaties. Peace treaties and times of peace are only those moments when everyone stops to reload. Even sinners have to sleep. And a brief respite and maybe some so-called good news is short lived.
Is there any good news? Really good news? Good news about sin that it can be dealt with? Good news about selfishness that you don’t have to live that way? Good news about guilt and anxiety that it can be alleviated? Is there any good news about the meaning of life? Is there any good news about the future life after death? Is there any good news?
I submit to you that Paul says in verse 1, there’s good news and that’s the gospel … the good news of God. And that is what Romans is about. Paul begins in verse 1 with the good news of God. And in chapter 15, as he draws to an end, in verse 16 he says, RI the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the good news of God.” So bracketing this epistle is the great reality that Paul is bringing good news … good news.
Paul also called it the blessed good news. He called it the good news of salvation. He called it the good news of Jesus Christ. He called it the good news of His Son. He called it the good news of the grace of God. Whatever he called it, it was good news. Good news that sin could be forgiven. Good news that guilt could be removed. Good news that life could have meaning. Good news that the future had a reality that was eternally glorious. Good news … you’d think that we were preaching the bad news the way the world reacts. But that’s how twisted they are because they are under the influence of the liar. We have the good news.
Now as we go through the book of Romans, we will see the incomprehensible riches of the good news unfold before us. But may I suggest to you, and I’ll take a second to do this, I didn’t plan to, may I suggest that the entire thrust of the 16 chapters of Romans is distilled into the first seven verses? I can understand Paul. He is so utterly thrilled by what he’s going to say that he can’t wait to say it all until he gets to the end of 16. So he summarizes the whole thing in the first seven verses. It distills the entire thrust of this entire epistle. It capsulizes, it summarizes it and then it unfolds. It’s as if the seed is in the first seven verses and the full bloom comes as you go through the 16 chapters.
Now look at verse 1 for a moment at the phrase “the gospel of God,” “the good news of God,” euangelion … euangelion. That term is used by Paul 60 times in his epistles; 60 times he talks about good news. It’s a very favorite term. No wonder, that man lived all his life hearing bad news and once he heard the good news he couldn’t help but tell everybody in sight about it. Tindle wrote, “The word euangelion signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings that makes a man’s heart rejoice and makes him sing and dance and leap for joy.” And I think in that he really captured the meaning. It’s good news, a good, merry, glad, joyful news. Good news that God will deliver us from our selfish sin. Good news that God will forgive and free us from guilt. Good news that God will give meaning to life and make it abundant. And good news that there’s hope for life to come.
And would you notice, also, in verse 1 that it is good news from God? And that’s the thrust of the Greek. It is “from God.” And it’s important that Paul say that because the word euangelion was a common Greek word. And you know how it was used? It was used in the cult of worshiping the emperor. It was connected to the emperor cult. Now you remember in the Roman Empire, the people were required to worship the emperor as if he were a god. And whenever someone from the emperor’s official party was to make amonumental announcement about some great event relative to the emperor, it was called euangelion, good news. For example, “Good news, the emperor has given birth to an heir.” That would be one way it was used. Or, “Good news, the heir has come to age.” Or, “Good news, we have a new emperor as he accedes to the throne.” This was the euangelion.
But Paul says this, listen: “I’m writing to you at Rome who are used to hearing the euangelion of the Roman Empire and I’m telling you I’ve got good news but it’s not from Caesar, it’s from … whom?… God.” That’s really good news because frankly most of the Caesars were bad news to begin with. It’s good news from God.
Now you can’t help but stop and think, why should God give me good news? I don’t deserve it. You’re right. But that’s the way He is. He brings good news to those who are undeserving.
Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse, I think, captures the thought in a most fascinating paragraph in which he recounts a story. Listen to it. He says it was told about a young man in France, much loved of his mother who pursued a wicked course that took him deeper and deeper into sin. He became enamored of an evil woman who dragged him further and further into unrighteousness. The mother, naturally, sought to draw him back to a higher plane and the other woman resented it bitterly. One night, the story goes; the evil woman chided the man with an accusation that he did not really love her because he allowed his mother to interfere. He vowed that he loved her. She appealed to his drunken mind saying, “If you really love me, you will rid us of your mother and her constant pleadings.” Well, according to the legend, the young man rushed from the room to a nearby house in which his mother lived and dealt her death blows, tearing the heart from her body to carry it back to his lover as proof that he had taken her life. Then, says Barnhouse, came the climax of the tale. As he rushed on in his insane folly, he stumbled and fell and from the bleeding heart there came a voice, “My son, are you hurt?” Barnhouse said, “That’s the way God loves.” Utter and absolutely forgiving, so does God love.
Charles Wesley put it in a hymn. “Depth of mercy, can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear me the chief of sinners spare? I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face, would not hearken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls.” And so did Wesley wonder at the good news from God to undeserving men.
Beloved, this is good news. Aren’t you glad for the good news?
Now we’re going to see these seven verses and we’re going to watch in the weeks to come the unfolding of the good news. And there are basically seven aspects to it. Let’s begin with the first one … the preacher of the good news … the preacher of the good news.
Maybe it’s because I’m a preacher and a minister that I find myself drawn to spend some time on this because it speaks to me so much. And if you’ll indulge me, for a moment, I’ll preach to myself.
Now God called a unique man to be the major spokesman for the good news. Verse 1, Paul, you remember him? Paul, he was that man, the preacher of the good news, uniquely, was committed to him the mysteries, that which was hidden from the past generations and peoples and now revealed, as he says in Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1. He was God’s keynote speaker for the heralding of the good news. That remarkable Jew with Greek education and Roman citizenship, that man with incredible abilities as a leader, a fighter, highly motivated, determined, articulate, brilliant, specially called and converted by God Himself, that man who completed three missionary journeys proclaiming the good news from Jerusalemto Macedonia and crisscrossing that territory, Paul that very unique servant who could do miracles and yet could not rid himself of his own thorn in the flesh, Paul who could raise Eutychyus from the dead, yet himself be stoned to death and again later and finally in his life have his own head chopped off, Paul who could break prisons to bits as he did in Philippi and yet himself was a prisoner, Paul is the preacher. And may I remind you that every preacher who’s ever preached since has depended on Paul’s sermons for his material. Thirteen books of the New Testament, the legacy of this man through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Now he tells us three things about himself in verse 1. First, Paul a servant of Jesus Christ. The word is slave, really. Look with me for a minute at Exodus 21. Let me see if I can give you a Jewish context for Paul’s thinking. In Exodus 21, we find out about the servant master relationship among God’s people as God gives some laws to them. And in verses 5 and 6 we read this, “If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife and my children I will not go out free.” In other words, if the servant says I don’t serve because I have to, I don’t serve because I’m forced to, I don’t serve because I’m paid to, I don’t serve because I’m afraid not to, I serve because I love my master,, therefore I’ll never go free. He became known as a bondslave.
That is really the essence of the word doulos used in Romans 1, bondslave. And look what happened in verse 6. His master would bring him to the judges and they would affirm this. He would also bring him to the door or to the doorpost where there would be wood. And his master would bore his ear through with an awl and he shall serve him forever. If you said I want to serve out of love, and I’ll never leave because I love you, then you weretaken to the door and right here where ladies get their ear pierced which is insignificant, a very significant thing happened, that ear lobe was pressed against the wood and it was drilled and permanently the mark was there, I am a slave of love.
Now that is the essence of what is behind Romans 1:1, go back now to that portion. And Paul is saying that I am a bondslave. This is something that I have chosen out of love, not fear.
There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Perhaps they all didn’t understand this Jewish concept, perhaps some of them did. I’m sure some of them served out of love. But most of the slaves in the Roman world in the Greek culture were looked down on. They were treated not as persons but as objects, tools. If you wanted to, you could kill your slaves. It was inconsequential. Therefore some Bible commentators are saying in this passage that Paul is using doulos only in its Jewish sense, that he is speaking only about the affirmation of his love and he is speaking about the dignity of such service. And, by the way, in the Hebrew use of the concept of servant, someone in the highest ranks could be called a servant. Kings had servants, ministers who ministered to their royal needs. And so in a Hebrew sense, a servant could be a lofty term of great honor and great dignity.
For example, in Genesis 26:24 it says Abraham was a servant. In Numbers 12:7 it says Moses was a servant. In Joshua 24 it says Joshua was a servant. In 2 Samuel 7:5 it says David was a servant. In Isaiah 20:3 it says Isaiah was a servant. And in Isaiah 53 it says when the Messiah comes, He will be a servant. And so many commentators feel that what Paul is saying is, “I am a servant of Jesus Christ,” as an emphasis of the dignity of his office in a Hebrew sense rather than the demeaning Greek sense.
But I really think that misses the point. Yes, there is a certain exaltation, there is a certain honor, there is a certain marvelous incomprehensible dignity at being called a servant of Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which you wait on the majesty and the royalty of the King of kings and Lord of lords. And so that is true. But it’s not true to separate that from what the Gentiles would have understood about that same term. And for the Greek word itself, doulos, it meant abject slavery, as a bondslave. No dignity but humility. And I believe Paul wants us to see it in that sense as well.
He chooses two other words to speak of his servitude. First Corinthians 3 gives us one of them, verse 5. And here obviously his emphasis is on humility. “Who then is Paul? And who is Apollos? But diakonos.” we get the word “deacon” from it, it means “table waiter.” If you looked in that culture, it really meant busboy. But who are we but table waiters by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man, I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters, but God that gives the increase. We’re nothing, he says, but table waiters.
And later in 1 Corinthians 4:1 he says this, “We are servants of Christ,” and he uses a different word. He uses the word huperetes, it’s the word translated in the authorized, ministers. It’s huperetes, huper means under, etes comes from a word that means to row. It’s an under rower. They had a trireme ship with three decks. And on those lower three decks were three levels of galley slaves who rowed those hulking ships. And Paul says will you remember me as a third level galley slave. That’s humility. You can’t get any lower than that.
So, yes I believe there is a Hebrew thought here of dignity, of honor, of respect, but it is marvelously mingled with the humility of the meaning of the Greek term so that Paul paradoxically finds himself both exalted as the servant of Christ and debased as well. An expression of humility and dignity. And this is an ambivalence that every representative of Jesus Christ carries.
Sometimes when I think of the dignity of what I do, it overwhelms me, Sometimes when I realize that I stand up and proclaim the gospel of God? When I stand up and proclaim what I have gleaned out of the Word of God and the ministry of Paul and the teaching of the Scripture under the power of the Spirit of God, I realize that there’s no higher calling in the world than that. And there is a marvelous dignity and the Bible says never speaka word against one whorepresents Christ, don’t accuse an elder unless you have good grounds and do it before two or three witnesses. And the Bible says give honor to whom honor is due. And the Bible says pay them double what you should pay them if they work hard in the Word and doctrine. And the Bible says respect them. And the Bible says obey them and submit to them and set your life to follow their example. It is a lofty thing. And yet there is that marvelous spiritual ambivalence that says it is the humblest kind of service because you know that whatever it is that you do, you have absolutely no right to do it because of who you are. And who you are is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3, you’re nobody, you’re nothing.
And so, Paul was a servant with all that that encompassed. He was a servant of Christ. That meant he had to absolutely obey Jesus Christ. And yet there was a dignity there that was marvelous.
Secondly, the preacher of the gospel says not only am I a servant of Jesus Christ but called an Apostle. The best rendering of the Greek is a called Apostle … a called Apostle. The idea is that he was an Apostle not because he decided on his own, but because God decided and effectually called him. There is no human appointment here. By the way, the term “apostle” was first used by the Lord in Luke 6:13. He called His Disciples Apostles. Now Paul was called an Apostle by God.
Quickly look with me, just a moment, at Acts 9. And you remember from last week that Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. The Lord stopped him in his tracks. Slammed him in the ground, blinded him. And then there came a man by the name of Ananias who cared for him. And verse 15 of Acts 9, “The Lord said through Ananias to Paul, Go thy way for he is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My name.” He is a … what?… Chosen vessel. It wasn’t his choice. It was God’s choice.
The twenty-second chapter of Acts,, Paul looks back. And he remembers what Ananias told him. Ananias came to him just as the Spirit instructed him in chapter 9. He said to him, verse 13, “Brother Saul, receive your sight. In the same hour I looked up upon him and he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldest know His will and see that Just One and should hear the voice of His mouth,” that being Christ, “for thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.”
Look at 26:16. “The Lord says, Rise and stand on thy feet for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose.” Paul is recalling his testimony.’I have appeared for the purpose of making thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen and of those things in which I will appear unto thee,” and He appeared to him two more times, “delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles unto whom now I send thee to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God that they may receive forgiveness of sin and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me.” And then he says, “Where upon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” I obeyed. He was called an Apostle.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 9 he says, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.” He says don’t give me a reward, don’t give me an honor, don’t name a school after me or put a plaque on the wall or build a statue, pray for me. God has given me a task to do I didn’t ask for and if I mess up I’m in a lot of trouble. In Galatians 1 he said, “I am a servant called an Apostle,” and he said, “God has placed me into this ministry.” He says in verse 10 of Galatians 1, “Do I seek the favor of men or of God? Do I seek to please men, for if I yet please men I should not be the servant of Christ.” And he says, “I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He says my call was from Christ Himself.
Now I think that’s a very important word. That if you’re going to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, you better know that He called you. I wouldn’t take one step forward if I wasn’t sure that God had placed me in the ministry, it’s far beyond me now. The term apostolos which is translated back in Romans 1 as apostle means “a sent one, a commissioned one, a dispatched one, a messenger, an ambassador, or an envoy.” And by the way, in those days they called certain boats apostolic boats. And apostolic boats werenot boats that carried apostles, it had a secular use. An apostolic boat was a cargo ship. It was dispatched with a cargo for another city. And so it meant anything dispatched or sent. And Paul is saying I’m sent, but my being sent is not a self-made decision.
Do you know that the term “apostle” appears 78 times in the New Testament and far and away the majority of those times refer to the Twelve and Paul who were specially sent … specially sent.
This week I read the story of a dear old black preacher. He preached out in a little country church. He preached his heart out and was a humble and godly man. And a young man came to preach one Sunday night who was cocky, self-assured, thought he was more than those folks really deserved. And he preached and it was apparent his attitude. And when he was done, the dear old black preacher went up to him and said this, “Young man, was you sent or did you just went?”
I think maybe there’s a lot of people who wasn’t sent they just went. But Paul was sent. And he knew it because God had affirmed it to him.
I’ve been reading the last two weeks, a book entitled The Reformed Pastor,” by Richard Baxter written in 1650. And the first hundred pages he calls the clergy to task in Britain in 1650 and says to them, “Before you keep preaching, you better go back and find out if you’re redeemed.” And he goes for a hundred pages of that. You better be sure God has sent you.
There is also an official sense in which we have to understand the word “apostle.” An apostle was a very official office. It had a broad sense and everybody who bears the message of Christ is sent. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. We’re all sent. We all are apostles with a small “a”. And the New Testament lists various people who are apostles who are outside the Twelve and Paul. But they’re the ones with a capital “A”, an official office. And if you were to study the New Testament you’d find that they had to be directly called by Jesus Christ, that is directly and verbally and personally by Him. They had to have been eye witnesses of Christ and His resurrection. And Paul was because he saw Him on the Damascus road. They were endowed with a special ability from the Holy Spirit in which they could write correctly the New Testament because Jesus made the promise to them that the Spirit would come and live in them and lead them into all … what?… truth and bring to remembrance everything He had said.
They also were given the ability to do signs and wonders and mighty deeds and miracles which are called by the Apostle Paul the signs of an Apostle. And their office was not restricted to a local church, nor to any short period of time. But they became the foundation on which all the history of the church is built. So these unique Twelve plus one, Matthias replacing Judas, were the foundation. They had to be called by Jesus Himself. They had to be eye witnesses of His resurrection. They received the Holy Spirit by which they could write the revelation and they could do signs and wonders and mighty deeds. And their office extended far beyond any local congregation. And Paul was one of those very special, special people. And he knew that God had called him.
You know, in Jeremiah 23 it says there were some prophets who went but they never were sent. And the people should never listen to them. Oh, beloved, I tell you, there are so many prophets like that today who are out there talking but should not be listened to. They are damned prophets, false prophets. And then there are those who never were sent, they just went. They have not the anointing of God on them. And we are not to listen to them. They have corrupted the church through all the centuries of its existence and continue to do so even now.
And so says Paul, I am a servant of Jesus Christ, a called Apostle. And by the way, he calls himself that at the beginning of several other letters as well. And thirdly, and we’ll stop with this point, separated unto the gospel of God.
You want to know something basic? You can’t serve God unless you’re separated. It can’t be done. It’s a rich, rich idea. The word separated is the idea of setting apart. You can go back into the understanding of the Old Testament into the thirteenth chapter, for example, of Exodus and you’ll see that God wanted set apart unto Him the first born of man, the first born of the beasts. You can go to Numbers 15 and you’ll see that God wanted the first fruits of the crop. You can go to Numbers 8 and seethat God set apart the best of men, consecrated the Levites to His service. You can go to Leviticus 20 and see that God took the whole nation of Israel and according to Leviticus 20:26, He separated them from the other nations and said,, “This people is holy unto the Lord.”
Every one of those Scriptures I just gave you, the separating of the man and the beast, the separating of the first fruit, the separating of the Levites and the separating of Israel, in the Septuagint version, the Greek version, uses the word aphorizane and that is exactly the word used here. It means separation in the fullest sense. Those animals and those first-born sons were utterly separated to the Lord. The first fruits, the same. The Levites, the same. The nation, the same. There was to be no intermingling. And Paul knew that once he was called an Apostle, he was disconnected from the past. By the way, aphorizane has in the middle of it a little phrase, phoriz that may be the root of the word Pharisee. Pharisee meant a separated one. And all his life, to this point, his adult life, Paul had been a Pharisee, separated unto the tradition of the Jews. Now he says, I am—if you will—a Pharisee separated unto the gospel of God. Good news, no more of man’s bad news.
In Galatians 1:15 he said, when it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb and called my by His grace. Paul was separated from his mother’s womb. On the road to Damascus he was separated unto the gospel of God. And then he became a pastor of the church at Antioch. And in Acts
13:2 the Bible says the Holy Spirit said unto them, “Separate me—Paul and
Barnabas—and send them to the work I have for them.” He was a separated man. The secret of his service is that he was a bondslave. He utterly surrendered to the Lord. He was an Apostle sent to carry the message.
And, beloved, he cut the cord.
I tell you there are more people in gospel ministry who see little fruit and no power, even though they may understand that they’re to be servants and they may have been called, but somewhere along the line they are unwilling to be separated. Would you look with me at one Scripture?
The last one we’ll look at for this time.
Second Timothy 2. Do you remember the situation in 2 Timothy
chapter 2? Timothy was a servant of the Lord, servant of Christ. Timothy was an apostle, small “a”, not one of the Twelve, plus Paul, but nonetheless a messenger sent. But Timothy had come to the point in his life where everything was coming apart. He lost it. You know what was happening to him? Well, just looking in this letter alone you can find a lot of things.
Verse 6, chapter 1, “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” What do you mean “stir up the gift of God”? What was the gift of God? Well, the “gift of God” was the particular ability that he had for ministry, the preaching and the teaching. And that was a gift of God given to him and it was confirmed to him by those who were knowledgeable and confirmed by the laying on of hands.
In other words, he was getting lazy in the ministry. He just wasn’t functioning. And then he says, not only are you not functioning, verse 7, but God has not given us the spirit of timidity. He had become timid instead of bold. Verse 8, ‘Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” Now get this, this is Timothy personally discipled by Paul, gifted enough to have followed Paul as the pastor of the Ephesian church, this is Timothy of whom Paul said to the Corinthians, “I will send him to you to straighten you out because he’ll bring you unto remembrance of all my ways.” This was reproduction. This was number one son. And he is not functioning. And he is timid. And he is ashamed of the gospel and even of his association with Paul 2:15, “Be diligent to show yourself unto God a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Apparently he wasn’t even really doing his job with the Word of God. But verse 16 says he was involved in profane and vain babblings, hassling with philosophers. Verse 22 indicates that he probably was getting embroiled in some youthful lusts. Verse 23, that he was striving in foolish and unlearned questions. He lacked gentleness.
In other words, the whole thing was coming apart. He had been sucked into the system. And the word comes to him in 2:4, Paul says this: Timothy, have you forgotten that you’re a soldier, verse 3, have you forgotten that you’re supposed to endure suffering as a good soldier? And do you remember this; no man that fights the battle can entangle himself with the affairs of this life?
Do you hear that, what he’s saying? Timothy, you cannot be caught in the lusts of this world. Timothy, you cannot be caught in the philosophy of this world. You cannot be caught in being ashamed of the gospel by the intimidation of this world. You cannot be caught into the easy come-easy go society. You must be diligent to stir up the gift of God. Timothy, have you forgotten that you cannot entangle yourself with the affairs of this life? When you go into the ministry of Jesus Christ, you cut the cord, you sever.
That’s the kind of man Paul was. A servant of Christ but not just that, called an Apostle but not just that, separated. And he never got himself entangled with the affairs of this life. I’ve known men who have gone out of the ministry because they loved money or possessions. They couldn’t cut the cord. They fell into moral sin. The world lured them. Or they were more concerned about their reputation, so when they got an opportunity to speak, they made sure they never offended anybody, and in so doing, they offended God for they were not separated. What an example he is to U.S.
His position—he was a servant. His authority—he was sent by God. His power—he was separated. His message—good news and good newsthat has come from God Himself. Now you know the preacher. Next week—or two weeks, or three weeks—I think until I get back to this subject, next time the promise of the good news, verse 2. And we might even get to verse 3. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You for speaking to my heart tonight, for refreshing again in my own soul what it is that I am to be because I know this man is the example for he said, “Be ye followers of me as I am of Christ.” May I, too, be a faithful servant, understanding both the dignity and the humility of such service rendered. May I have that affirmation of being called, though not an Apostle as the Twelve and Paul, yet as one sent, building upon their foundation. And may I, Father, toot be separated. May I be disentangled from the affairs of this life. May I not be lured by the weakness of the flesh to forego the diligence of study to rightly divide the Word. May I not be lured by the world, to be timid. May I not be lured by the world to be ashamed of the Lord or of those who represent Him, though they be prisoners. May I not slip to make my ministry a philosophical debate. May I not be lured by the lusts of unrighteousness.
May I not find myself argumentative, breeding strife, lacking gentleness.
In sum, as the Spirit of God said to Timothy, may I be a good soldier who knows that he cannot be entangled with the affairs of this life.
And I would pray that for all this, Your people. All of us fight the warfare, all of us are Your servants, all of us have been called and sent to this world to be witnesses and all of us must be separated. Teach us what that means in application in our own lives that we may carry the good news to a world literally dying from all the bad news. And may there be many who hear that good news because we, too, have been faithful. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
This transcript, along with related media, can also be found here on the Grace to You website.
The Promise and the Person of the Good News
And Now for the Good News—March 15, 1981
Let’s look together at Romans 1 this morning. We’ve recently begun a study of the book of Romans on Sunday nights. I would encourage you all to be a part of this tremendous rich exciting privilege. And this morning we’re looking at one of the messages as we move through the first seven verses in the introduction to this great epistle.
As a setting, I want to read verses 1–7, so follow carefully as I do. May I point out as you look at your Bible and listen that in these first seven verses, Paul gives us a summary of what he will develop in the following 16 chapters.
Paul, A servant of Jesus Christ, a called Apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He had promised before by His prophets in the holy scriptures. Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Socrates once said, “O that someone would arise to show us God,” end quote. And Socrates was really articulating a hunger that is in every human heart. One theologian put it this way, he said, “In every man there is a God-shaped vacuum.” Man’s eternal soul is so made that it knows no rest until it finds its rest in God. And there is no greater, no more graphic illustration of this than the proliferation of religions around the world and through the history of mankind. It isn’t a question of whether man will worship, it is only a question of what he worships. It is not a question of whether man will be religious, it is only a question of how he defines that religion. For man’s eternal soul seeks for God. But in the bent of his perverse nature, inevitably man rejects the true God and forms, as we find later in Romans 1, gods of his own making. And in his worship of these gods, there is no solution to his sinful confusion but only an intensifying of the emptiness.
Now there’s a basic problem. And maybe I can define it for you in this way. Imagine a little box, a cube—if you will—utterly closed in on all sides. That represents man’s world. Inside the box man exists. He exists in a time-space capsule. Outside is the supernatural. Outside is eternity. Outside is God. Man bangs around inside his little cube, it has no windows. He speculates about what’s on the outside. He plays games with his fantasy. He searches to know God. But it is impossible for him to escape for by very definition, the natural cannot enter into the supernatural. That which is confined to time and space cannot escape into eternity and infinity. And so man is confined in his little cubicle.
But there’s something in him that longs to comprehend what’s outside. And so, he invents gods that he thinks exist and he dreams of worlds of fantasy. I believe that that is the reason we have not only a proliferation of religion in our world, but today we have a proliferation of interest in the fantasies of space travel, star wars, extraterrestrial beings. All of these are a part of man’s fantasy as he wishes so desperately so get out of his box. But he can’t. All of the religions of the world tell him he can. “You just be a good person and you’ll burst out of your little box and discover God. Just be sure that you fulfill these routines and these rituals and carry out these liturgies and you’ll escape and you’ll meet God.” The pagans used to say if you just get yourself into “ecstasia” and “enthusiasmas”, states of some kind of high, you’ll perceive God.
But it’s all a lie because man is confined by his very nature. None of us can go into a phone booth, take off our clothes and come out Superman. Go into a phone booth and take off your clothes and you’ll come out into jail. Nobody has that capacity, as much as we would like to be able to do it. And that’s where Christianity enters the scene. Christianity acknowledges that man can’t get out of his box and Christianity says good news, God has invaded the box from the outside. God has entered in to tell us what’s out there and to tell us, too, can dwell out there in His presence forever. That is good news, folks. Man is a prisoner. He is a captive. And the end of his captivity is devastation forever unless he escapes. And that’s the good news of Christianity. Man couldn’t get out, but God could get in. The natural cannot come into the supernatural, but the supernatural can condescend to the natural. And that is exactly what God did. And that is the good news of God that Paul mentions in verse 1, the good news.
In a world filled with bad news, it’s really remarkably wonderful that God has given us good news. Especially when you think about the fact that we are so unworthy of any good news. And yet Paul reiterates again and again and again about the good news. He calls it the glorious good news of the blessed God. He calls it the blessed good news. He calls it the good news of the grace of God, the good news of peace, the good news of your salvation. And in chapter 1 of Romans he defines what it is, look at verse 1, it is the good news, that’s what euangelion means, the gospel, it is the good news of God. Then in verse 9, it is the good news of His Son. Then in verse 16, it is the good news of Christ. And there’s a progression there. First it is the good news of God about what? About His Son. Who’s His Son? Christ. It is the good news that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has come into the world. And it is the message of Romans. It begins with the good news of God and in 15:16, as Paul comes close to his ending, he talks again about the good news of God.
And he in chapter 2, look at this, verse 16, says a very interesting thing, the end of verse 16, he says it is my good news. And he uses a possessive pronoun. It is mine. In what sense is it yours, Paul? It has come into my possession by faith in Christ and it is also mine to preach. And so at the end of the epistle, again he says this in verse 25 of chapter 16 at the very last benediction, “Now to Him that is of power to establish you according to my good news,” what is it about, Paul? “It is the preaching of Jesus Christ and it is according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God is being made known to all nations for the obedience of the faith.” It is my good news about Jesus Christ that God has revealed to me which in the past has been hidden and now is made manifest and is granted to me to preach. My good news.
If you want to know the real key, the real sunum bonum, the real major thrust of Paul’s ministry, it is the good news of God. That’s why he said to the Corinthians 2:2, “I am determined to know nothing among you except Jesus and Him crucified.” That’s why he said in 1 Corinthians 9:23, simply stated, “I do all things for the sake of the good news. I do not come with excellency of speech, I do not come with man’s wisdom, all the years of training,” he said, “I set aside and my utter focus is on the good news.” God has come into the box to tell us what He’s like and tell us how to know Him and how to escape into His eternal kingdom. And who is the good news about? His Son Christ Jesus for He is God come into the box. Jesus Christ is the good news, people. Everything besides Him is bad news. He is the utter incomparable personality of all of human history.
You know, even unbelievers recognize that. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The name of Jesus is not so much written as it is plowed into the soil of the history of the world.” Socrates taught for 40 years. Plato taught for 50 years. Aristotle taught for 40 years. And Jesus for less than three years, yet the influence of the three years of Jesus’ ministry far outstrips the combined 130 years of the three greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus never painted a picture, yet some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, Divinci and many other artists found in Him their inspiration. Jesus wrote no poetry, but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets have been inspired by Him as by no other. Jesus wrote no music and yet Heiden and Handel and Beethoven and Bach and Mendelssohn and myriad others reached the highest perfection of melody in the sweetest sounds in compositions about him.
Jesus has obviously infected and affected human society as non other human being. The incomparable Christ is the good news. And what makes it such good news is that we’re such bad people and so undeserving of it. We don’t deserve the good news. Charles Wesley, I think, expressed the right thought in this hymn that he wrote, “Depth of mercy, can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God, his wrath forbear and me the chief of sinners spare? I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face, would not hearken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand faults.” And we all identify with that, don’t we? Wesley said I don’t deserve good news. And that even makes it better news that God is so gracious.
Now Paul is going to unfold the good news in 16 chapters in Romans, but he can’t wait. He can’t wait for 16 chapters to say it so he sums it up in seven verses. And this is in seed what flowers in the rest of the epistle, carefully chosen. You know, I was struck again as I read these words, I kept reading through verses 1–7 over and over and over and over. And it literally thrills me that the incredible infinite mind of God who is able in a few words to distill and condense the infinite truth of the gospel. You know how hard it is to do that? I mean, look at me, it takes me a long time to say simple things where the infinite mind of God can say vast infinite things in few words. I thought about these seven verses. I counted the words and I said how could God so choose the terms to run the gamut of the gospel in just those few words? And then I was reminded that in English, 297 words are in the Ten Commandments and they sum up all of God’s moral law. God set His whole moral law in 297 words and then He distilled it even more and put it in two verses, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength; your neighbor as yourself,” this is all there is. What precision.
The Lord’s prayer, the disciples’ prayer which condenses all of the teaching on prayer that is essential is 65 words in English. That’s God. Man doesn’t have that capacity. If you don’t think so, the other day I read in an article about a recent federal directive to regulate the price of a cabbage, 26,911 words. The infinite genius of the mind of God working through the Apostle Paul distills the gospel in seven verses and covers everything from the incarnation to the Christian life. Marvelous.
Now, let’s look then at the gospel in miniature, as it were, in these seven verses and we’re just going to take one little piece out of the middle of it. First, let’s meet the preacher of the good news. Verse 1, we’ve already gone through this, just to review. Paul is the preacher and if you look at 16:25 you’ll be reminded that he affirms it at the end of the epistle as well as at the beginning. Paul, and he says three things about himself, a servant of Jesus Christ—and he uses the word doulos, has to do with bondslave, someone who is a slave by choice, by love, by affection, by willingness. He is a bondslave of Jesus. And mingled in there we saw both honor because who it is He serves and humility because of the fact that he is a slave. And so there is a marvelous tension in Paul’s life between being exalted and being honored to be called to Christ as a servant and yet being humbled because he is a servant.
And then we see not only is he a servant but he is a sent one. He is a called Apostle. He didn’t choose on his own, Christ put him in the ministry. It was a divine calling, giving sort of a divine quality to his function as an Apostle. He is a slave. He is sent. And thirdly, he says he is separated. He cut the cord with everything. He was literally consumed. As I quoted earlier, 1 Corinthians 9:23, he says “I do all things for the sake of the good news.” That was his whole life. If it didn’t relate to that, he didn’t do it. He didn’t do things on the side. He was utterly given over.
And, beloved, I believe with all my heart that those are three things necessary for any life of any one who preaches the gospel, a sense of slavery both of its dignity and its humility, a sense of being sent—that is you don’t just go, God commissions you, you are called by Him. And a sense of separation so that there is a single-mindedness in the ministry.
So, we meet the preacher of the good news. Secondly, let’s look at the promise of the good news … the promise, verse 2: “Which—that is the gospel of God—which God had promised before by His prophets in the holy scriptures.” Now he says the good news is not something out of continuity. It isn’t a novelty. It isn’t a new idea. It isn’t a change in the strategy. It isn’t a shift in the plan. It isn’t something dropped in that’s obtuse. It is the gospel of God which was promised. It gives us the Old Testament continuity. And this is utterly important.
You’ll recall that the Apostle Paul was accused of being anti-Jewish. The Judaizers went around condemning Paul and condemning his message because they said he’s anti-Jewish, he speaks against Moses, he speaks against the law, he speaks against this people, he speaks against the temple. They accused him in Acts 21 of dragging Gentiles into the inner area of the temple where they were forbidden to go. They accused him of desecrating Moses. They accused him of denying circumcision and the sustaining of the law. They were saying he preaches some new, some revolutionary new message that is no way connected to traditional Judaism. And so, Paul—in order to put the record straight—says the good news of God which I preach is not new good news, it’s old good news that was indicated to us in the promises of the prophets who wrote in holy scripture.
That verse 2, I tell you, you could preach on it for weeks, it’s just loaded with truth. The Old Testament promises of the New Testament gospel, oh my, just in one area there are at least 332 prophecies in the Old Testament referring to Christ most of which were fulfilled in His first coming. The Old Testament is literally loaded with truth, laying out the ground work for the coming of the New.
Jesus faced identically the same situation that Paul faced. Jesus did not connect up, as it were, with the extant or contemporary Jewish theology of His day. He did not identify the Pharisees their devotion and called it hypocrisy. He denied the theology of its day … of His day its validity and called it the tradition of men. And so, the people said, “Is this new truth? Is this something other than what we’ve been taught? Or are you in continuity? Is this really the one speaking for God? I mean, he doesn’t say what the Pharisees say. He doesn’t identify with the Jewish establishment. He doesn’t do what we do. His disciples don’t fast when we fast. He doesn’t treat the sabbath like we treat the sabbath. He doesn’t teach what we learned.”
In fact, quite the opposite. Jesus said to them in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said by them of old,” in other words, your tradition teaches you, “but I say unto you …” And He gave them completely different instruction. And He said it over and over again. “You have heard it said.… but I say … You have heard it said … but I say …,” but the “you have heard it said” part was not Old Testament, it was the perversion of their tradition that He was denying.
Did Jesus come with a new revelation disconnected from the old? No, He did not. And listen to His own words in Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law of the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.” I came to fill it up. And until heaven and earth pass, not one jot, not one little tiny mark or one tittle shall in any way pass from the law till all is fulfilled. I am not come to set the law aside but to fulfill the law and to do away with the traditions of men that have perverted it. That’s why He said your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.
So, the good news was old good news. Jewish people say, “Well, I can’t become a Christian because I’m Jewish and I would be denying my heritage.” No, the fact is if you’re Jewish and you haven’t become a Christian you’ve denied your heritage because you are completed only in the new covenant as Jeremiah 31 said, as Ezekiel 36 and 37 promised. When Jesus Christ arrived on the scene, He began to teach the good news of the Kingdom and the people wondered if it was revolutionary, but He cleared the air and said no, it’s just that your theology today is so heretical you’ve lost the continuity. Hebrews 1 says God at sundry times in time past through diverse means spoke unto the fathers by the prophets and God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things by whom also He made the world. And He went on to say who is the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person. God spoke in the Old and God spoke through His Son in the New.
In 1 Peter 1, you read verses 8–12. And it says, “The prophets wrote and they didn’t understand what they wrote and they looked at what they wrote and they searched what manner of time or what manner of person was signified in what they wrote.” They knew they were writing about a future that they couldn’t yet understand. And the writer of Hebrews says they were not perfected without us. In other words, there was an incompletion until the coming of the new covenant. So the good news has been promised throughout all the Old Testament.
Every sacrificial lamb spoke of the ultimate lamb. Every verbal prophecy spoke of the time when the Messiah would come. All of the truth about restoration and the Kingdom spoke of what the Messiah would do. And then the incredible event of all history, when it all comes to consummation, they killed the Messiah and deny that He had any continuity at all with the Old Testament. Paul says, “The gospel is the gospel of God, it’s the gospel of God’s Son, the gospel of God’s Son Jesus Christ and it is exactly what was promised.”
By who? Look at verse 2, “by the prophets.” What does the word “prophet” refer to? It refers here to all the scripture writers because it says “by the prophets and the holy scriptures.” And by the way, just to show you this, the Old Testament, in the mind of a Jew, is called “the law and the prophets.” They just call it the law and the prophets. Basically they divide it to those two general categories. Some would single out the writings, Hagiographa. But basically it’s the law and the prophets. And the prophets would encompass everything but the law. And the law was written by whom? Moses and, of course, in the Bible Moses is called a prophet. So that the term “the prophets” can encompass all of the writers of the Old Testament. And that’s exactly what he’s saying. The gospel was promised before by the writers of the Old Testament, note this, in the holy scriptures. That is a very important statement. The holy scriptures.
What do you mean by that? That the scriptures are holy. They’re not authored by men. They are not designed by men. They do not reflect the thinking of men. They are holy, it means set apart, divine, unique, sanctified, righteous, godly, the holy scriptures. People say why should we believe the Bible is inspired? For one reason, the Bible says right here it’s holy. These are holy scriptures. And they spoke of the gospel.
In John 5:39, our dear Lord said, “Search the scriptures.” Told the Jews to look at the Old Testament, “For they are they which speak of Me.” On the road to Emmaus He said to them, opening the scriptures, “He spoke of all the things concerning Himself, beginning at Moses and the prophets.” He said if you knew the Scripture, you would know these things. Repeatedly He affirmed that. In Hebrews 10:7 he says, “In the volume of the book it is written of Me.” The Old Testament is filled with the promise of the good news whether you go to Genesis 3:15 at the beginning and talk about the seed of the woman or you go to Malachi 4:2 at the end and talk about the Son of righteousness who rises with healing in His beams, or anywhere in between, you will find the revelation of Jesus Christ.
One writer put it this way,
I find my Lord in the Bible wherever I chance to look. He is the theme of the Bible, the center and heart of the book. He is the Rose of Sharon. He is the lily fair. Wherever I open my Bible, the Lord of the book is there. He at the book’s beginning gave to the earth its form. He is the arch of shelter bearing the brunt of the storm, the burning bush of the desert, the budding of Aaron’s rod. Wherever I look in the Bible, I see the Son of God. The ram upon Mount Miriah, the ladder from earth to sky, the scarlet cord in the window and the serpent lifted high, the smitten rock in the desert, the shepherd with staff and crook, the face of my Lord I discover wherever I look in the book. He is the seed of the woman, the Savior virgin born. He is the Son of David with whom men rejected with scorn. His garments of grace and of beauty, the stately Aaron deck(?), yet He is a priest forever, for He is of Melchizedek. Lord of eternal glory whom John the Apostle saw, light of the golden city, lamb without spot or flaw. Bridegroom coming at midnight for whom the virgins look; wherever I open my Bible I find my Lord in the book.
Paul said it was promised, the gospel by the prophets in the holy scriptures. Beloved, don’t you for a moment ever question the holiness of Scripture.
Later on in Romans, Paul will develop this as he develops every other theme. In Romans 7 and verse 12, he says, “The law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good.” God’s truth is pure.
Now listen to this. Holy men of God moved along by the Holy Spirit wrote the Scripture. You have holy God moving along holy men by His Holy Spirit to produce, says Paul, a holy Scripture, unique, pure, the work of God. And it is in that Scripture that we find the third point, the person of the good news.
We’ve seen the preacher Paul and the promise, the Old Testament, the person of the good news, verse 3 and 4. Now here’s the heart. “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”
Now what he’s saying here is, really verse 2 is a parenthesis, it is the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ His Son, that’s the good news, folks. The good news that God came in the box in the form of Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus—that means Savior, Christ—that means anointed one, Lord—that means sovereign ruler. He is Jesus for He will save His people. He is Christ for He has been anointed by God as King and priest. He is Lord for He has always been. In Romans 9:5 Paul says He is God blessed forever. And then Paul also says He is over all. Philippians 2 tells us He is God. Colossians 2, the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Him. So He is the Lord God. He is the Christ the anointed one to come back and reign in the earth. And He is Jesus who saves His people from their sins.
You want to know what the good news is then? The good news is God became a man. God became a man. A real man, He came into the world born in a family like all of us have a family with flesh like we have flesh. He was actually born of a virgin but nonetheless born of Mary.
Why? That He might become one of us according to the flesh, that He might have that perfect humanness, that He might be a sympathetic high priest, that He might succor us, that He might understand us, that He might be at all points tempted like as we are yet without sin, that He might be a man who could die for men, who could take the place of men, who could substitute for men, who could bear the brunt of God’s wrath for men. He had to be a man. And He wasn’t just any man. Look what it says. He was of the seed of David. It wasn’t just any family, it was the right family, it was the royal family, the only family that had a right to rule in the land, a right to establish the throne on Mount Zion in that holy hill in Jerusalem, the holy city and from there to rule the world. He was the right man in the right family. If He hadn’t been the son of David, He couldn’t have been the Messiah. He would have contradicted 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 89, Isaiah 11, Jeremiah 23, Jeremiah 33, Ezekiel 33, Ezekiel 37. All of them would have been contradicted if He had not been the son of the family of David. So He was a man and He was the right man.
And repeatedly at His birth, in Luke 1 I think at least five times in that chapter it says He’s the Son of David … Son of David … Son of David … Son of David … Son of David. The good news, beloved, is this: God has become a man and that man is fully man, fully a Son who can sympathize with man, who can bear the sin of man, who can substitute for man, who can take the punishment of God on man. And not only is He just man but He’s the right man who even with all of that has the right to rule and to reign, who can restore the Kingdom and redeem the creation. Oh, what news.
Then you hear some peabrain come along and say, “Well, we don’t know if Jesus ever really existed.” You know, even outside the Bible, people don’t deny that if they have their head screwed on. You can go back to historians of the early time, Tacitus who lived in A.D. 114 tells us that the founder of the Christian religion, Jesus Christ, was put to death by Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. It’s an established fact. Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan on the subject of Christ and Christians. Josephus, the Jewish historian, writing in A.D. 90, even before John wrote Revelation, has a short biographical note on his … in his writings on Jesus who is called Christ. The Babylonian Talmud talks about Jesus Christ.
You know what Josephus said? Josephus died before John wrote Revelation and this is what Josephus the historian said in Volume 2, Book 18, chapter 3, page 3 of Jewish Antiquity, quote: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principle men among us had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him for He appeared to them alive again the third day as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians so named from Him are not extinct at this day,” end quote. No way to deny that He lived and He was a man.
And John says it this way, 1 John 4 and verse 2, “By this you know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesses not Jesus is not of God, and that is the spirit of antichrist.” People who want to deny that God came in real human flesh are from the antichrist. He was man.
May I hasten to add this as we draw to a close? He had to be more than man. He had to be God also. For if He was man, even the best of men, even the right man of the seed of David, but not God then He could not have withstood the punishment of God, He could not have risen from the dead, He could not have overcome but would have been conquered as all men are conquered. And so, verse 4 adds He was declared to be the Son of God with power. And how was that power displayed? By the Spirit of holiness. That’s another way of saying the Holy Spirit. Through the resurrection from the dead.
Listen, if there was ever any question in anybody’s mind about whether He was the Son of God, the resurrection should have ended it. He had to be man to reach us, but He had to be God to lift us. And so, the second way, and mark it in verse 4, the second way He manifested His Sonship was in His resurrection. It says, “And He is declared the Son of God through a powerful act wrought by the Holy Spirit in raising Him from the dead.”
Listen, if some guy came along and said, “I am the Son of God,” and he was a phony, do you think God would raise him from the dead? God would be playing into the hands of a phony. If God raised Christ from the dead, it was an affirmation that what He said was true. And so, He was begotten in resurrection. He is a Son twice born. And the key to this thing is the word “declared.” Do you see it in verse 4? Declared … it could be translated various ways. It is a marvelous word. It is the word in Greek horizo. And we get our English word “horizon” from it. Horizo means horizon. And horizon is the clear demarcation line between earth and sky, isn’t it? And what he’s saying is this, there may have been some question in some people’s minds about whether He was the Son of God when they looked at His humanness, but the line was drawn in absolute clarity, the horizon between earth and sky is instantly made clear by His resurrection from the dead, you see? As clearly as the horizon divides the earth from the sky, so clearly does the resurrection divide Jesus from the rest of humanity. He is God. When God raised Jesus from the dead, irrefutable evidence marked out and distinguished the Son of God from all other human beings as clearly as the horizon distinguishes the sky from the earth.
Now listen. He became a Son in incarnation, but that was clearly marked out to end all question in resurrection. That’s the good news. The good news, people, God came into the box, became a man. The good news, He can get back out of the box because He’s also God and He can take us all with Him. And He demonstrated His ability to do that in His resurrection from the dead which was energized by the Holy Spirit. And we’re going to talk about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ in our next study. So we won’t do that this morning.
Listen, in the eighteenth century, the United States Congress issued a special edition of the Bible of Thomas Jefferson. It was a very simple Bible that Jefferson had. It was just like your Bible or my Bible except Jefferson had gone through and eliminated all references to the supernatural. And all Jefferson wanted of Jesus in His Bible were some historical facts and the moral teaching of Jesus. He cut all the rest out. Here’s the last statement in Thomas Jefferson’s Bible, these are the closing words: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” That’s the end.
But that’s only the end of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible. That is not the end of the gospel, right? Thank God our Bible ends with He is risen and He is coming back for His own. Good news, people, good news. Jesus Christ has come into our world to tell us about God, to take us back out into God’s glorious eternity. When I think about the Lord Jesus Christ, I think of Paul’s term “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then his term in verse 4, “The Son of God.” He uses all of the terms that pick up all that Christ is. I marvel and wonder at the incredible majesty of the person who is the good news of God.
Someone wrote: “I know a soul that is steeped in sin that no man’s art can cure, but I know a name, a name … a name that can make that soul all pure. I know a life that is lost to God, bound down by the things of earth, but I know a name, a name … a name that can bring that soul new birth. I know of lands that are sunk in shame, of hearts that faint and tire, but I know a name, a name … a name that can set those lands on fire. Its sound is a brand, its letters flame, like glowing tongues of fire. I know a name, a name a name that can set the soul on fire.” Let’s pray.
While your heads are bowed just in closing, do you know that name? Do you know the good news? Jesus is come, told us about God, taken our punishment, conquered death, shown that He can burst out of our little box and take us with Him to God’s eternal world. I hope you know Him. If you don’t, right where you sit, open your heart and invite Him in. The hymn writer, Samuel Stenet(?) wrote, “Majestic sweetness sits enthroned upon the Savior’s brow; His head with radiant glories crowned; His lips with grace o’er flow; no mortal with Him compare among the sons of men, fairer is He than all the fair who fill the heavenly train. He saw me plunged in deep distress and flew to my relief. For me He bore the shameful cross and carried all my grief. To Him I owe my life and breath and all the joys I have, He makes me triumph over death and saves me from the grave.”
Father, thank You for that … great confidence that Jesus Christ is good news. And may no one live another day without that knowledge, in Christ’s name. Amen.
This transcript, along with related media, can also be found here on the Grace to You website.
The Provision, Proclamation, Privilege, and Purpose of the Good News
And Now for the Good News—March 29, 1981
We’re in Romans 1 again tonight for our study of God’s Word and looking at the first seven verses. Again, as we examine a very important introduction to the book. We spent a little more time with this introduction because we really feel it sets the tone for the rest of the epistle. And again tonight we look back at these same marvelous seven verses. Let me read them to you as a setting for our thinking tonight. Romans 1 and verse 1:
Paul, A servant of Jesus Christ, called an Apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He had promised before by His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you notice that that’s one sentence? Paul is famous for that. He writes “Paul” in verse 1, “to all that be in Rome” in verse 7, and adds practically the entire gospel in the phrases in between. And so, we have been dealing with those very important phrases and shall again tonight look at this same marvelous passage.
There was an extremely wealthy man who possessed vast treasures of art. The man had one son who was a very ordinary boy, who passed away his adolescence in obscurity and had little effect on anybody. He reached a certain age in his life and he died rather unexpectedly as a young man. The father mourned the son greatly. Within a few months after the death of his son, the father died as well.
And he left this incredible wealth bound up in art treasures. He left a will and he said that everything was to be auctioned. And strangely enough in the will, the father stipulated that one particular painting had to be auctioned first and that was a painting of his son done by an artist that no one really knew. And so the auctioneer in accord with the will did exactly what was to be done and first of all, to the large crowd that had assembled, he directed their attention to this painting of the rather obscure son of the wealthy man and started the bidding there. No one knew the boy. No one knew the artist. No one really cared about the boy.
A long time passed without any bid at all and finally an old black man who had been a servant in the house of the wealthy man came forward and he said he would like to place a one dollar bid on the portrait of the son whom he loved very much. And at that point in his life that was all he could afford. There were no other bids and the black servant was able to purchase the painting of the son for one dollar.
Then the dramatic moment came as he read the next portion of the will. It said this. “All the rest of the treasure shall go to the one who loved my son long enough and strong enough to purchase his portrait.”
There is no way to comprehend the riches that God has provided for those who love His Son … no way. They are infinite. Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure. The Bible says eye hath not seen, nor ear heard the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. And this, beloved, is the good news, isn’t it? That if we love the Son, we inherit all the riches of the Father. In Christ we have treasure beyond imagination. The Bible says that if we love the Son we will have a faithfulness that will never be removed. We will have a life that will never end. We will have a spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within us. We will have a gift that will never be lost. We will have a hand out of which the resources will never end. We will have a chain that will never be broken. We will have a love from which we can never be separated. We will have a calling that will never be revoked, a foundation that will never be destroyed and an inheritance that will never ever ever fade away. Now this is the good news.
And this is the message of the epistle to the Romans, that God has good news for those who love His Son. And then as we are beginning the epistle, we are examining just the introduction in the first seven verses. And already we have begun to sense the riches and we’re going to see more tonight.
Now these seven verses contain the seed of truth that blooms fully in the remaining sixteen chapters. And we have noted for you that there are at least seven elements to this introduction, seven features regarding the good news. There is the preacher of the good news, the promise of the good news, the person of the good news, the provision of the good news, the proclamation of the good news, the privileges of the good news and the purpose of the good news.
Now let me remind you briefly of the first three. First of all, the preacher of the good news is introduced to us in verse 1, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called Apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” And there we have met the preacher of the good news. And it points to us to a very important reality and that is this, that God has chosen human vessels to be the instruments of the transporting of the good news. Paul, a man like us, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called Apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, pointing to the fact that God has chosen to use human agency. God has designed to use men and women to proclaim the good news. In fact, it tells us in 1 Corinthians that God has chosen by the foolishness of preaching to proclaim His message and even use weak and ignoble and foolish preachers to do it.
So, no one’s faith stands in the wisdom of men, but it stands only in the power of God through the weakness of men. God’s people are still the instruments. Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The preacher—a human instrument.
Secondly, we looked at the promise of the good news. Verse 2, “Which He had promised before by His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” The good news, or the gospel had already been promised in the Old Testament. That’s why in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said I didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. I came to fill it up, to bring it to fulfillment, to bring it to fruition, to bring it to wholeness, to bring it to completeness. The New Testament is the Word of God that completes the Old Testament, that consummates the promise. So the good news is going to come through a human preacher and the good news is going to be based upon the promises of God in the Old Testament.
And thirdly, we saw not only the preacher and the person, or rather the preacher and the promise but the preacher and the promise and the person. What and whom is the heart and object of the good news? Look at verse 3. “It concerns His Son Jesus Christ our Lord who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.”
The person of the good news is Christ. That’s the issue. It is what you do with God’s Son the Lord Jesus Christ that determines whether you inherit the riches of the Father. And there is in those two verses an absolutely wonderful presentation of Christ. We see His humanness in verse 3, He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. He was a real human being. We see His deity in verse 4, He was declared to be the Son of God with power through the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead. We see His humanity. We see His deity. He had to be man to take man’s place. He had to be God to conquer sin and death and hell and Satan.
Now I want you to notice one thing in verse 4, just as we conclude our thoughts on the person. It says that this was accomplished, that is His power and resurrection according to the Spirit of holiness. That is another way to say the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit working in Christ Through the agency of the spirit, Christ did what He did. He expressed His power and He was raised from the dead through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Now this relationship is very important. If you look back, for example, at Matthew 3 for a moment, let me take you just on a very fast tour of how Jesus was related to the Holy Spirit in His incarnation. The Holy Spirit’s the third member of the trinity, as you know. And within the trinity, they were equal, and yet when Jesus was incarnate, He submitted Himself to the will of the Father and to the power of the Spirit in a voluntary submission. And we find that at His baptism in Matthew 3, He was baptized in verse 16. He went up out of the water. The heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. And a voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Now the Father was bestowing on Christ the Spirit. Now mark this. I believe that from this time on, and this was the initiation into His ministry, His ministry was controlled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now follow a little further into Matthew 12 and verse 31. He said this to those who accused Him of being of the devil. They accused Him of being of Satan. They accused Him of being representative of Beelzebub which was a pagan term for Satan. And He said in verse 31, “I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, a word against the Son of Man can be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
Now what was He saying? He’s saying you might say something against My humanness, and that would be forgivable. But when you blaspheme the Spirit of God who is doing the work through Me, that is unforgivable. Now we’ll see in full what that means. But the point that I want you to see is this, that when they denied the works of Christ, He says you’re not blaspheming the Son of Man, you’re blaspheming whom? The Holy Spirit. Why? Because He had surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit. And when they blasphemed His works, they were blaspheming the Spirit because it was the Spirit working through Him.
And so, you have just in this introduction in that one little phrase, not only an understanding of the humanity of Christ and the deity of Christ but His relationship to the Holy Spirit. One of the most marvelous of all theological categories.
Well, listen to what it says in Luke 4:1, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan.” After His baptism He went from that place full of the Holy Spirit.
In John 3:34, it says this: “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. The Father loves the Son and hath given all things into His hand.” When God gave the Son the Spirit, He gave Him the Spirit without measure. In other words, in absolute and utter fullness.
Now this is a mystery, people. Jesus is God. He’s one with the Father and one with the Spirit. The trinity is one and yet distinctly three. But in a marvel of the incarnation, there was some kind of separation. The Son took on a voluntary submission, did only the will of the Father and only through the power of the Spirit. And so it was the agency of the Holy Spirit that empowered Him in His voluntary humiliation. It was the agency of the Holy Spirit that was doing the work through Him. And that shows you … that shows you the utter submissiveness of Christ. And when it says in Philippians that He set aside these things, that he took on the form of a servant and was found in fashion as a man and humbled Himself, it really means that. He did only what the Father showed Him to do and only in the power of the Spirit. Quite a submission for one who is fully God and has been and will be for all eternity.
And so, it was the Spirit who empowered Him in His resurrection. You say, “Why is that important?” It is important because it indicates to us that the trinity, that God Himself is involved in the living and the dying and the rising of Christ. And the greatest affirmation that Jesus was who He claimed to be was that God Himself raised Him from the dead through the instrumentation of the Holy Spirit. So Christ is the Godman, fully man and fully God. And that is fully indicated in that God Himself raised Him from the dead through the agency of the Holy Spirit. That’s good news. He came to identify with us. He came to be a man as we are men, to suffer, to understand the role of human life but at the same time He was God and He overcame by the power of the Spirit and rose from the dead.
The marvel of His humanity and deity and that mysterious union we can never fully understand. And we can never fully understand how He was related to the Father and how He was related to the Spirit because it is so mysterious. We can’t really grasp it all. But that is precisely what the Bible teaches, fully man and fully God.
I think maybe you can understand it a little bit by just looking at illustrations of it. Listen to Matthew 17:24, “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tax money came to Peter and said, Does not your Master pay taxes? He said yes.” Now that’s interesting. Jesus paid taxes. Think of that the next couple of weeks, it will make you feel better. Jesus paid taxes. That shows His humanness. That shows that He was a man like other men.
“And when he was come into the house, Jesus spoke first to him, saying, What are you thinking about, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute, of their own sons or strangers? Peter said unto Him, Of strangers. Jesus said unto him, Then are the sons free.” In other words, He’s saying in effect we don’t really belong to the system. They really tax their own and we are not of this world, but nevertheless, lest we should offend them, right? We don’t really belong to this world but lest we should offend them, we’re going to pay our taxes just like everybody else. And then He says this, “Go down to the sea and throw in a hook and pull out the first fish you catch and open its mouth and you’ll find a piece of money. Take that and give it to the tax collector for you and Me.”
Now wait a minute. It’s one thing to pay your taxes, but that’s another way to get the money that none of us can handle. You see, there you have a perfect illustration of the marvel of His humanity and His deity. He paid His taxes but He had ways of providing that were absolutely supernatural.
In Mark 4:35, and we’ve read this recently, “The same day when the evening was come, He said unto them, Let’s pass over to the other side—going across the Sea of Galilee—and when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the boat and there were also with Him other little boats, a little flotilla going across. There rose a great storm of wind and the waves beat into the boat so that it was now full.” Now you know as well as I do that it’s okay for the boat to be in the water but it’s not okay for the water to be in the boat. And get this, verse 38, “And Jesus was in the stern of the boat asleep on a pillow.” Now that’s His humanness. He was tired. The crowds literally dogged His steps without relenting. He was tired and He was asleep in a storm.
“And they said to Him, Master, don’t you care that we perish? And He arose and buked the wind … rebuked the wind and unto the sea He said, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” You see His humanity, in the one hand He’s asleep because He’s so tired. On the other hand, He stops the storm instantly. You can’t explain the mystery, you can only see it.
Luke 23:39, and one of the malefactors who were hanged railed at Him saying, “If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked Him saying, Dost not thou fear God seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done nothing amiss.” There you see His humanness. He’s a victim, mercilessly hammered to a cross with a cloak of blood and flies, spit on, mocked, stared at in His nakedness, humiliated. “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” That’s His deity. And you see this co-mingling all through His life.
So, we meet the preacher. We see the promise and the person of the good news, Jesus Christ, God in human flesh doing the will of the Father whose Son He has become in the power of the Spirit.
Now let’s come, number four, to the provision of the good news … the provision. If you love the Son, what happens? If you receive the good news, what happens? Two things first pop out of the treasure-trove that God has provided. Verse 5 says, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship,” and you can stop there.
What is it that the good news gives us? What is it that the good news bestows upon us? What is the treasure that we inherit when we love the Son? First, grace … second, apostleship. First, watch this, conversion … second, vocation. First, to be called; second, to be sent.
First, let’s look at grace. We receive grace. What do you mean, Paul? Well, there is the possibility that he could be meaning the grace of apostleship, that’s possible. But I like to think he’s saying something more distinct than that, that the translation of the Authorized is right, that he is saying we have received grace and apostleship. What is grace? It’s unmerited favor, unearned favor. The good news is that salvation is by grace. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should … what?… should boast.” We’re saved by grace, the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. It is grace, unmerited favor, the kind good will, the mercy, the loving kindness of God grants this as a gift and all we do is respond in believing.
A baby breathes because it is slapped. And we enter into the Kingdom of God and receive the gift of life from Him because with divine sovereignty He whacks us and we begin to breathe spiritually. If we are alive, it is because His breath has been breathed into us. We are born from above. There’s no place for self-congratulations. There’s no place for human achievement. We are not saved by works. In fact, in Romans this will be developed for us in the third chapter so that you could never miss it. In Romans 3:24 it says, “We are justified freely by His grace.” Verse 27, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law or works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” We believe and God is gracious.
In Romans 5, he’ll develop that more in verses 20 and 21 talks about where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Mercy without cause, kindness without deserving. So, salvation did not come by confirmation, salvation does not come by communion, does not come by baptism, does not come by church membership, does not come by church attendance, does not come by trying to keep the Ten Commandments or trying to live the Sermon on the Mount. It does not come by giving to charity. It does not come by believing there is a God, or there is a Christ. It does not come by simply being moral and respectable. It does not come even by claiming to be a Christian. It comes when we receive by faith the gift of grace. By the way, hell will be full of people I’ve just described who think they have salvation in the wrong thing.
And so, Paul says we receive grace. That’s the first provision of the gospel that you don’t have to earn it. You couldn’t if you wanted to. It’s impossible. “For by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
Dr. Barnhouse had a good word. He said this: “Love that looks upward is worship. Love that looks outward is affection. And love that stoops is grace.” And God has stooped to give us grace though we don’t deserve it.
The dying saint Pacean(?) said this: “Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, through earth and through hell and I would still be the same sinful polluted wretch unless God Himself should cleanse me by His grace.” And we’re going to see a lot more about grace, so I’m just going to leave it there. But it is free. It is a gift. The first provision—grace.
The second, apostleship. And I think Paul is expanding his thinking here. He starts with himself, “Paul,” by the time he gets to verse 5 he has the word “we.” We have received grace. And I think he embraces the believing community. We have received a certain kind of apostleship. I know he sees himself in that “we” and he sees the other apostles there and those who worked with him. It’s also possible he senses the breadth of that term in its broadest possible context. The gospel not only brings us the grace of salvation, but the task of apostleship.
And we saw, didn’t we, in our study this morning that it means to be sent, to be a sent one. We are called and saved to be sent to reach the world. And for Paul, his apostleship was that very unique apostleship, a very unique … in fact, there was none like it. There was the Twelve, Judas fell out, Matthias was added, that kept the Twelve in tact. And later Paul appeared on the scene as born out of due season, an Apostle as truly as any of the others who saw Christ personally after the resurrection. And yet there was a uniqueness about his apostleship. And I think he sensed that. But he also realized that all of us are encompassed in the concept of being sent ones. You know that Hebrews 3:1 calls the Lord Jesus an Apostle? He was sent from the Father.
So, in its widest sense, I believe, the term refers to any gospel messenger. Commentator William Hendricksen agrees with that. He says, “Anyone who is on a spiritual mission, anyone who in that capacity represents the sender, anyone who brings the message of salvation is in a sense an apostle.” But please don’t be confused. We are not equal to the Apostles of the New Testament. They were unique for their own time.
But you can find as you study, and we’ve seen this in past lessons so we won’t belabor the point, that there were many who were sent ones. For example, in Romans 16:7 it says, “Greet Andronicus and Junias,” have you ever heard of them? You know anything about them? I don’t. It says, “Who are of note among the apostles.” What kind of apostles were Andronicus and Junias? Well, certainly not apostles with a capital “A”, not the official ones. But they were dispatched. They were sent ones on a mission of proclaiming the truth of Christ in His behalf. And so, I believe this is what we are learning here that there is not only the grace of salvation but the challenge of being sent.
By the way, in Acts 14:14 it calls Barnabas an apostle. He wasn’t one of the Twelve and nor was he the equivalent of Paul in that sense. And this goes on throughout the Scripture. You have the term apostle being broadened and broadened in many texts so that we can’t confine it to just some limited specific individuals.
Now let me just see if I can give you an illustration to help you. I grew up with athletics as a background. And I was on a lot of different teams. And some coaches that I played for in various sports were kind souls. Others were not so kind, winning was everything. But I can remember several different teams that I was on in my life where a boy would come and he would try out for the team and he really wasn’t very good, didn’t have a lot of ability. But maybe his father had died, or maybe he was a poor fellow or maybe he was just kind of the sort of person that draws sympathy out of you. And every once in a while a coach would just put him on the team, you know. Just give him a uniform, make him feel a part. But he’d never play, never get in the game.
And I thought about that in reference to this. The Lord doesn’t work that way. If you get on the team, you’re going to get in the game. It’s going to be grace and apostleship that He’s called us to. It is not just to be redeemed, it is to be redeemed and then sent. He graciously puts us on the team. And by the way, we’re all like that little kid who couldn’t do anything. And He puts us on the team and then He uses us. And we saw this morning in our study, what a tough bunch we are to work with. The good news, beloved, is that He provides conversion and vocation, the high and holy privilege of serving Jesus Christ.
Oh my, do you have any comprehension of what a high calling that is? It says in Ephesians 2:10 that we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. We have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works. That’s the whole point.
A victor at the Olympic Games in ancient times was asked, “Spartan, what will you gain by this victory?” He replied, “I, sir, shall have the honor to fight on the front line for my king.” That’s it. We’re called to serve with all of our limitations.
D.L. Moody gave an address one time in Chicago. And it was typical Moody. At the close of the address a highly educated man came to him and said, “Sir, excuse me, but you made eleven mistakes in your grammar tonight.” Mr. Moody said, “I probably did. You see, my early education was very limited and faulty, but I’m using all the grammar that I know for the cause of Christ. How about you?”
That was the right answer, wasn’t it? One time some fellow came up to Moody and said, “I don’t like your invitation. I don’t think it’s the right way to have an invitation.” He said, “Well, you know, I appreciate that.” He said, “I’ve always been uncomfortable with that, too. I wish I knew a better way. What’s your method of inviting people to Christ?”
“Oh,” the fellow said, “I don’t have one.”
He said, “I like mine better.”
Whatever our limitations are I believe that God wants us to not only have grace but apostleship, to be sent. And I know the primary point here is that Paul is reflecting on his own apostleship and the grace of God in his own life. But it’s much bigger than that.
Dr. Barnhouse reflected on a very interesting time in his life that parallels an experience I had and I just want to share them with you. He was being ordained into the Presbyterian ministry and he writes: “That the moderator of the Presbytery asked me questions and I answered them. They told me to kneel down. Men came toward me and one man was asked to make the prayer. I felt his hand come on my head and then the hands of others touching my head and pressing down on his and the other hands. The ring of men closed in on me and one man began to pray. It was a nice little prayer and had one pat little phrase in it, ‘Father, guard him with Thy love, guide him with Thine eye and gird him with Thy power.’
“I kept thinking about those three verbs: guard, guide and gird. It seemed as foolish as performing a marriage ceremony upon two people who had been living together for a quarter of a century and who had a family. I knew I had been ordained long ago and that the hands that had been on my head were hands that had been pierced and nailed to a cross.
“Years later, the man that made the prayer that day signed a paper saying that he was opposed to the doctrine of the virgin birth, the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of the miracles of Christ, the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures as tests for ordination or a man’s good standing in the ministry.
“When I read his name on that list, I put my hand on the top of my head and smiled to myself wondering how many dozen times I had had my hair cut since his unholy hands had touched me. And I had the profound consolation of knowing that the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, wounded and torn because of my sin, had touched me and given me an apostleship which was from God and which was more important than any that man could approve by their little ceremonies.”
Now you’ve got to hear Dr. Barnhouse preach that to understand how strong he said it. God gave him his ministry and his mission. I read that and thought of my own ordination. Good and godly men were there. They asked me all kinds of questions. And they came up and they put their hands on me and they prayed and all of them signed my ordination certificate. In fact there weren’t enough lines for them and there’s one name written bigger than any other name, it must have been an ancestor of John Hancock … great huge writing, he wrote his name on the first line of my ordination that hangs on my wall.
Not long after that, he abandoned the ministry, was involved in replete immorality, denied the faith, denied Christ, became an outspoken atheist, became a philosophy professor at USC. And I, like Dr. Barnhouse, thank God that my apostleship, my ministry didn’t come from men, but it came from Christ Himself.
Listen, what is the provision of the good news? It is grace to save, apostleship to serve. So, we see the good news: the preacher, the promise, the person, the provision. And then we come to the proclamation. Now that we’re going to serve, we’re going to be sent with a message, what is it we proclaim? Verse 5 again, we proclaim obedience to the faith among all nations. And then he says in verse 6, among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.
In other words, just like you’ve been called to Christ, we’re going to go out and call others to Christ. This really extends the last thought, the good news about Jesus Christ which has brought us grace and service leads us to go out and proclaim it and to call for the nations of the earth to be obedient to the faith. That’s a great statement, folks. I wish we had time tonight just to go over the whole thought of obedience to the faith. You ought to write … put a circle around that phrase in your Bible, “Obedience to the faith.” A tremendous statement, a statement just literally jammed with meaning. And it appears again at the end of Romans in 16:26, the next to the last verse. “To make known to all nations the obedience of faith.” The obedience of faith … listen, if there’s one thing about faith, it is that faith is what? Obedient. You show me someone who says he believes and lives a life of disobedience and I’ll show you someone who is not redeemed. For faith if it does not manifest works of obedience is dead. We are not saved by works, we are saved unto good works. And the message of Christianity is a call for people to be obedient to the faith.
When you come to Christ, you affirm the faith. And by the way, that is a very definite statement … the faith. And Jude uses it, “The faith once for all delivered to the saints.” It means the content of the gospel, the content of the message. It means teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. That’s how you go about preaching. It is obedience that we preach, obedience to the faith, the duly constituted faith. We are preaching a message of obedience. And sadly that isn’t the message that people are hearing today. We must call people to faith but faith that obeys is the only genuine faith. People say they believe and live the life of disobedience, they lie and the truth is not in them. People who really believe will obey.
And so, the design of our apostleship, the design of Paul’s apostleship was to bring all nations to obedience to the faith. And the faith is more than just believing in Jesus, it’s the faith. It’s all that our faith embodies. The faith once for all delivered to the saints. If you want to know what “the faith” really is, it is the full content of the Word of God revealed. We call people to obey.
Now listen to me. It is not faith plus obedience equals salvation. No, it is an obedient faith equals salvation. True faith is verified in obedience. That’s why the Bible constantly says that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is Lord because that demands submissive obedience. There’s no faith without obedience. There has to be obedience for faith to be genuine.
Look at, for a moment, a good illustration right in Romans 1:8 … verse 8. “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” How so? How was it that their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world? Chapter 16:19, here’s how, 16:19, “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.”
In the beginning it is your faith that is spread abroad. In the end it is your obedience that is spread abroad. Why? Because one must exist with the other. It is not faith unless it obeys. Salvation is submission. Salvation is affirmation of the Lordship of Christ.
Now you don’t want to have a theology that makes a Christian out of somebody who lives a life of absolute disobedience. There is no recognition of the Lordship of Christ. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth,” Romans 10:9 and 10, “Jesus as Lord,” and that means obedience to His Lordship, “that shalt be saved.” That is the true stuff of which salvation is produced. “Let all the house of Israel know—says Peter—that God has made that same Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” And Jesus said to the Pharisees, in effect, in Matthew 5, “I don’t care what you believe, by the way you live you deny salvation.” A faith without obedience is a faith that won’t save anybody. It is piling on the broad road that leads to destruction. That’s what it is. It’s building a nice big religious super-structure on sand. A faith without obedience is no saving faith. It’s the kind of thing that deludes and deceives but doesn’t save.
People say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus … I believe in the Bible … I remember when I walked the aisle … I remember so forth and so forth …” That doesn’t save unless there’s a life of obedience. Listen to Hebrews 12:14, “Follow peace with all men,” now listen to this, “and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” No holiness, no heaven.
So, the proclamation is to bring all men to the obedience of faith, to the obedience of faith. And, beloved, this is something he says in verse 6 that we should long to do because it’s something we’ve received, “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” In other words, you’ve been called to this, now you go call the other nations to this same thing. It’s a great statement in verse 6, “Ye also are the called of Jesus Christ.” We’ve been drawn to Christ. We’ve come out of that life of disobedience into a life of obedience, out of unbelief into faith. And he says because that’s happened to us and we’re a part of those called to Christ, we ought to carry the message to call others. We sang that chorus, “God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name, I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name. In Jesus’ name I come to you to share His love as He told me to.” He said, “Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely … what?… give. Go in My name and because you believe, others will know that I live.” That’s what he’s saying.
We are sent for obedience to the faith among all nations because that is what has happened to us. We are the called who have been drawn to Christ.
So, we see the preacher of the good news, the promise of the good news, the person of the good news, the provision of the good news—grace and apostleship, the proclamation of the good news. And it is a proclamation of obedience. Beloved, don’t ever leave that part out. Can I give you two in closing? The privileges of the good news … the privileges.
Look at them in verse 7. “To all that be in Rome,” and he sure can extend it beyond that, to all believers. He … he gives them three marvelous truths about their privileges. First, they are beloved of God. Second, they are called … and you ought to put a comma after that, and if you have some words in italics, that means they aren’t there in the original. There’s three things here: beloved of God, called and saints.… beloved of God, called and saints. Those are the privileges of the good news.
What does it mean to be beloved of God? Well, it just means we are loved. And that is all over the Scripture. God has loved us. He has put His love upon us. In Ephesians 2, I just love that verse, verse 5 … verse 4, rather, “God who is rich in mercy for His great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in sins has made us alive together with Christ.” He loved us. He loved us even when we were dead in sin. In 1 John 3:1 it says, “Behold what manner of love.” And the word “what manner,” a very interesting Greek word, potapan(?), it has to do with something that’s foreign, something that’s other worldly, something that belongs in outer space. I mean, what kind of a strange inhuman thing is this to love us?
In Ephesians 1:6 it says that through Christ we have been made accepted in the beloved one. God can love us because He loves us in His Son. Romans 5 says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” Romans 8 says, “Nothing will every separate us from the love of Christ.” Nothing. And so, the privilege of the good news is that we’re loved by God and when God loves God pours out blessing.
Secondly, we are called. We’re called. And that is the effectual call. That is referring to the actual call to salvation. And we’ll see that in detail when we get to chapters 9 and 10. But we have been called. We are saved because of the sovereign act of God. This isn’t referring to some general external call. Not just the proclamation as in Isaiah 45, “Be ye saved all the ends of the earth,” or Isaiah 55, “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” This isn’t just the general call like Ezekiel 33 when He cried, “Turn ye, turn ye,” or Matthew 11 where Jesus said, “Come unto Me all ye that labor,” or John 7, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” or Revelation 22, “And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come,” or Romans 10, “Faith comes by hearing a speech about Christ.” It isn’t just that general calling out of the gospel. This is an indication of that very effectual purposeful call to redemption that comes by the sovereign will of God. We are the called. It’s another word, if you will, for the elect … for the elect. We are the chosen. The Bible says chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. A tremendous truth. We are the called … called by God, the elect.
You can study this through the New Testament. And as I said, we get to chapter 8, 9 and 10, we’ll see it in detail. But there are over and over again statements made to the effect that anyone who is a believer is one who was sovereignly called and predestinated by God.
May I add this quickly? It is never ever calling alone but there is always with that call the act of faith in Christ that goes with it. But nonetheless, we’re called. From our viewpoint, we come to Christ as an act of our will. But from God’s viewpoint, it was determined before the world began and He called us to Himself. It’s a marvelous truth. And we’ll see it unfold as we go on in the epistle.
So, we are the beloved and we are the called. And grab that third one, we are saints … we are saints. You say, “You don’t know me very well.” Oh, but I know you well enough to know that if you’re a Christian, you’re a saint. You know what it means? A holy one, hagios, a holy one. By virtue of being beloved of God, by virtue of being called, you are a saint. You’ve been made holy. What does it mean? To set apart … to set apart from the world unto God.
In the Old Testament, they had many things that were set apart. They said that the holy place was set apart, the Holy of Holies was set apart. The tithe was set apart. The priests were set apart. In Exodus 19:6 says the whole nation of Israel was set apart. In other words, all those things were holy: the holy place, the Holy of Holies, the tithe, the priests, the nation were all holy unto the Lord. In other words, they were set apart unto God.
In the New Testament we don’t have that anymore. The Holy of Holies doesn’t exist, the veil was rent. The holy place is no more, the temple’s been destroyed. The tithe isn’t anymore because we’re not under a theocracy. The priests aren’t around anymore. The nation of Israel has been temporarily set aside. What is left that is holy? I’ll tell you what it is, it is the new temple of God which is His church. And we’re holy. We’re set apart unto God. Set apart from sin unto God. And we’re to live like that.
But think of it, the privileges to be beloved of God, to be called from before the world began to be His child and to be set apart from sin unto Himself … separated to Him. Oh my, fitting that to such a people is the benediction in verse 7, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
You know something? Then only people who could ever receive such a benediction would be those who were beloved of God, called of God, and made holy by God. We’re the only ones who can receive His grace and the only ones who can experience His peace. Grace and then peace …
Now listen as we close. Finally, after all the other points that we’ve seen, I want to give you the purpose for the good news … the last point. We’ve gone through all of them except this … the purpose. And it’s at the end of verse 5.
Why does the preacher preach? Why was the promise made? Why did the person come? Why have we received the provision of the gospel? Why have we experienced the proclamation responsibility? Why has God given us the privileges?
For one reason, the end of verse 5, “For His … what?… name.” And I know that those of you who have been at Grace Church for any time understand this. This simply means that everything focuses on the glory of God. People are to be saved … why? Oh, you say, “To keep them out of hell.” That’s secondary. “Oh, so they can experience the love of God.” That’s secondary. “Oh, so they can go to heaven.” That’s secondary. “Oh, so they can have God guide their life.” That’s secondary.
People are to be saved for the glory of God because it is affrontary to His holy nature that someone should live in rebellion against Him. It is His glory that is the issue. And that is the reason for everything. In Philippians 2 it says that every knee should bow and confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. Salvation is for His glory, the gospel is for His glory. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “We preach the gospel that the thanksgiving of many may redound to the glory of God.” The reason we want to bring you to salvation is so you can praise God’s glory.
See, God is glorified when you believe His gospel. God is glorified when you love His Son. God is glorified when you accept His diagnosis of your sin and your need. God is glorified when you take Him into your life. God is glorified when your plans become His plans and your thoughts become the thoughts that are common to Him. We live and exist for the glory of God.
Madam Gouin(?) wrote, “Glorious almighty God without end, when wilt Thou melt the mountains and descend? When wilt Thou shout abroad the conquering rays and teach these Adams Thou hast made Thy praise?”
And so we come full circle. The good news comes from God. It is the gospel of God, verse 1. And it is preached by the preacher, promised in the Old Testament, personified in Jesus Christ, providing grace and service, proclaimed by those who receive eternal privileges and it is all for the purpose of glorifying God.
I trust that God will be glorified in your life as you respond to His good news and proclaim it. Now listen. I’ve just touched on so many vast subjects, it frustrates me to death. But we’re going to see these unfold as we move through the book of Romans together. Will you bow your heads and listen to these words by William Blaine?
He who wept above the grave, He who stilled the raging wave, meek to suffer, strong to save, His shall be the glory.
He whose sorrows pathway trod, He that every good bestowed, Son of Man and Son of God, His shall be the glory.
He who bled with scourging sore, thorns and scarlet meekly wore, He who every sorrow bore, His shall be the glory.
Monarch of the smitten cheeks, scorn of Jew and scorn of Greek, priest and king divinely meek, His shall be the glory.
On the rainbow circle throne, mid the myriads of His own, never more to weep alone, His shall be the glory.
Man of slighted Nazareth, king who wore the thorny wreath, Son obedient unto death, His shall be the glory.
His the grand eternal wait, His the priestly regal state, Him the Father maketh great, His shall be the glory.
He who died to set us free, He who lives and loves even me, He who comes whom I shall see, Jesus only … only He, His shall be the glory.
And, Father, we know that’s the heart of Paul and the message of the book. Help us to see it ever so clearly for Christ’s glory. Amen.
This transcript, along with related media, can also be found here on the Grace to You website.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Panorama City, CA: Grace to You.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Panorama City, CA: Grace to You.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2014). John MacArthur Sermon Archive. Panorama City, CA: Grace to You.