Introduction: The Man and His Message Part 1 – Romans 1:1-2, 7a
Pastor Mark Hardy October 2, 2011
This morning we begin a study of the epistle or letter to the Romans. My first in-depth study of Romans was in a college class with Dr. Woodrow Kroll, who now leads Back to the Bible ministry. It was by far my favorite class; I devoured the material and aced the class.
Romans is not the first of Paul’s epistles, but it is placed first among his thirteen epistles in the New Testament because it is not only his longest work, but also his greatest work or magnum opus. There is no other letter like it in the New Testament. No other book more completely sets forth the great doctrines of the Christian faith than Romans. This is why it has rightly been called “the Constitution of Christianity,” the Christian Manifesto,” and “the Cathedral of the Christian Faith.”
No book in the Bible has played a more significant role in the history of the church than Romans. Such great men as Augustine, the most brilliant theologian of the early centuries; Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation; and John Wesley, the catalyst of the great evangelical revival of the 18th century; have all attributed their conversion to Christianity by the influence of Romans. John Bunyan wrote his classic work Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison after being inspired by his study of Romans. And countless others have had their lives and ministries transformed by the powerful truths of this book.
Concerning its importance in our daily lives:
• John Calvin declared, “When any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.” (Mac. p. X)
• J.I. Packer said, “There is one book in the New Testament which links up with almost everything that the Bible contains: that is the Epistle to the Romans…From the vantage-point given by Romans, the whole landscape of the Bible is open to view, and the broad relation of the parts to the whole becomes plain. The study of Romans is the fittest starting-point for biblical interpretation and theology.”
• Frederic Godet proclaimed, “The Reformation was undoubtedly the work of the Epistle to the Romans, as well as of that to the Galatians; and the probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.”
• No wonder Martin Luther stated, “This epistle is the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.” (Schreiner p. 1)
Now to understand Romans it can be divided into two main parts: The first is doctrine or principle in chapters 1-11, which is the most systematic and detailed exposition of theological truth in the Bible. The second is duty or practice in chapters 12-16. What we believe is intended to be lived out in our behavior. This morning I have enclosed an overall outline of the letter in your bulletin.
As we come to the Introduction of the letter in 1:1-17, it is like all ancient letters, for it consists of the name of the sender, the recipient, and a greeting. However, this introduction is the longest of all of Paul’s letters probably because this is the only church to which he wrote that he had neither founded nor visited. Now the opening is in vv. 1-7 and is so masterfully written that it encapsulates and summarizes the entire sixteen chapters of the letter; his thanksgiving and prayer are in vv. 8-15; and then the theme of the letter is in vv. 16-17. Turn with me in your Bible to Romans 1.
In Romans 1:1-7 we see eight aspects concerning Paul and the message he so boldly proclaimed. This morning we will be looking at only the first four.
The first aspect is this:
I. The Author of the Letter is Paul
A. Look at v. 1: Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle… (Stop there)
1. The fact that Paul is the author of the letter to the Romans is indisputable and universally acknowledged. But do you know that by using his Roman name “Paul” that he is actually declaring that he is a new person in Christ?
2. His original Hebrew name was Saul, after the first King of Israel. He was born in Tarsus (Acts 9:11) and brought up as an orthodox Jew, although his father was a Roman citizen and so was he (Acts 22:28).
3. He was a brilliant student and had personally studied under the renowned rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). From the time of the stoning of Stephen onward (Acts 7:58; 8:1, 3; 9:1), Saul became well-known for his hatred of Christ and his persecution of the Christian church.
4. Speaking of his pre-Christian life, he said in Philippians 3:4-6, “…If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
5. He had reached the pinnacle of success in his religion of Judaism, but one day on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians Saul had an encounter with the risen Christ who stopped him in his tracks and struck him blind, according to Acts 9 (vv. 2-6; 26:12-18). This experience literally changed his entire way of thinking and living forever.
6. Saul is first called Paul in Acts 13:9 and indicates that he was a radically new person in Christ.
B. Notice that Paul then identifies himself as “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.”
1. Not only was he a new person, but he also had a new position. The word “bond-servant” (doulos) here literally means slave, a person owned by someone else.
2. Paul wore this title gladly (Gal. 1:10; Tit. 1:1) as he reveled in the Old Testament picture of a slave who in love binds himself to his master for life (Ex. 21:2-6).
3. Many of the great men in the Old Testament were referred to as “servants” of the Lord, which carried the idea of dignity, nobility, and honor. Such as: Abraham (Gen. 26:24; Num. 12:7; Ps. 105:6, 42), Moses (Num. 12:7-8; Deut. 34:5; Josh. 1:1; 14:7; Isa. 37:35), Joshua (Josh. 24:29; Judg. 2:8;), David (2 Sam. 7:5; Ps. 89:3), Isaiah (Isa. 20:3), the other prophets (2 Kgs. 17:23; Jer. 29:19; Amos 3:7; Zech. 1:6), and even the Messiah (Isa. 42:1; 53:11).
4. However, the term also conveys the idea of absolute servitude and utter devotion and obedience to one’s master. Since Paul was purchased out of the slave market of sin by his Master, Jesus Christ, he belonged to Christ without reservation.
5. His new position as Christ’s slave meant that his will was only to do the will of His Lord and Master. He was completely surrendered to Him.
6. Now since every believer has also been purchased by Christ and belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20), as a “slave of Christ,” can you say the same thing about your devotion and obedience to your Lord and Master?
C. Paul then says that he was, “…called as an apostle.”
1. As a new person, Paul not only had a new position as Christ’s slave, but he also had a new privilege since he was “called as an apostle.” The word “called” (klatos) here speaks of being effectually chosen and appointed.
2. William Newell said, “‘Called’ means designated and set apart by an action of God to some special sphere and manner of being and of consequent activity.” (pg. 3) God Himself was the one who “called” Paul, he didn’t appoint himself nor was he chosen by men (Gal. 1:1).
3. In Acts 9:15-16 Jesus said to Ananias about the recently converted Saul, “…he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel, for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
4. Now the word “apostle” (apostolos) literally means, “one sent as an ambassador, delegate, or messenger.” Although every believer has been sent into the world as a witness for Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8), the formal title “apostle” was reserved for only thirteen men: the Twelve, Matthias replacing Judas, and Paul (Matt. 10: 1-2; Lk. 6: 13; Acts 1:26; 1 Cor. 15: 5-8).
5. For a man to be a true apostle he had to meet these criteria: 1) He had to be directly called and commissioned by Christ Himself (Jn. 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Acts 9:6;, 15; Gal. 1:6); 2) He had to be an eyewitness of the risen Christ (Acts 1:8, 21-22; 9:1; 26:15-18; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 3:2-8; 1 Jn. 1:1-3); 3) He had to be invested with “signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12); and 4) He had to be given divine revelation to proclaim authoritatively (Jn. 14:26; Gal. 1:10-12, 16-17).
6. Although Paul was not one of the original Twelve, he met all the requirements and was in no way inferior to the other apostles (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11). Romans 11:13 tells us that Paul was the “apostle to the Gentiles.”
7. What a privilege! He had been transformed from a Christ hater and church persecutor to Christ’s slave and His apostle to the church.
8. These thirteen apostles had Christ’s authority, in that, when they spoke it was actually Christ Himself speaking through them. The message of the apostles is the inspired Word of God.
9. Therefore, their teachings became the foundation of the church (Acts 2:42; Eph. 2:20), and their authority extended beyond local bodies of believers to the entire believing world.
10. However, once New Testament revelation was completed and the canon of Scripture was closed, the apostles were no longer needed and they simply faded off the scene. There are no more apostles today, regardless of what you hear on TV!
11. So the author of this letter is Paul, who as a new person had a new position and a new privilege. We’ll come back to v. 1 later. The second aspect concerning Paul and the message he so boldly proclaimed is this:
II. The Addressees of the Letter are Romans
A. Look down at v. 7: To all who are beloved of God in Rome… (Stop there)
1. Here we see that Paul is writing this letter to “all” of the believers “in Rome,” not just the leaders or those Paul greets by name in chapter 16. Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire, the largest and most important city in the first-century world.
2. It was located about fifteen miles from the Mediterranean Sea and had an estimated population between one to four million people, the majority of which were slaves.
3. Now how a church was established in this great imperial city no one knows exactly. But we do know is that it wasn’t Paul because he tells us in this letter that he had never been there (1:10-11, 13, 15).
4. And although the Roman Catholic Church says that Peter founded the church after leaving Jerusalem and was its first pope, this is simply not true.
5. We know this because in 15:20 Paul says, “…I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation.” If Peter had founded the church at Rome, Paul would have never desired to preach there (1:15).
6. The church at Rome was probably started by some of those who were “visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,” that were present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, according to Acts 2:10. Some of these visiting Romans where among the 3,000 people who were saved as a result of Peter’s sermon (2:41), and so, when these new believers returned home to Rome they began meeting together and founded the church.
7. Now by the time Paul writes this letter the church had grown to a considerable size and was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, but the majority of these believers were Gentiles (1:5-6, 13; 11:13; 15:15-16). We will discuss these Roman believers in more detail when we get to v. 7.
B. Now Paul wrote this letter to the Romans at the end of his third missionary journey, during his three month’s stay in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3; Rom. 15:26), just before he went to Jerusalem to present to the poor saints there the contributions that he had collected from the Gentile churches in Macedonia, Achaia, and Greece (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:24-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:9).
1. The date Paul wrote this letter was sometime between A.D. 56-58 in the early spring, just before he left Corinth for Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25) to arrive before Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
2. Since he had finished his missionary campaign in the East, Paul now set his sights on the West, particularly Spain—the oldest Roman colony (Rom. 15:24). Although he had tried to visit Rome on numerous occasions and each time had been hindered from doing so (1:10-13; 15:22), now his intention was to visit Rome first before going to Spain (Acts 19:21; Rom. 15:23).
3. Now Paul had several purposes for writing this letter:
• He wanted to build them up in the faith, so this is probably why he wrote such a complete exposition of the gospel in written form. He also wanted to be personally encouraged by them (1:11-12).
• He wanted to preach the gospel in this great city (1:15) and to enlist the Roman believers to help him establish a strategic base of missionary operation there in the West (15:24, 28), comparable to the church at Antioch in the East.
• He wanted to enlist their prayer support for his safety and success as he traveled to Jerusalem before coming to Rome, since the Jews were plotting to kill him (15:30-32).
• And he wanted to encourage the Jews and Gentiles in the church to love one another and to work together as one body (14:1-15:13).
4. Paul finally did make it to Rome, but not as he thought. John MacArthur tells us, “When he finally came to Rome it was at the expense of the Roman government, due to his insistence that, as a Roman citizen, he be tried before Caesar concerning the charges brought against him by the chief priests and other Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 25:2, 11). His ministry in Rome was therefore as a prisoner, and it was during that imprisonment that he wrote the epistle to the Philippians, in which he sent greetings from “Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). It was also likely from Rome that Paul wrote Ephesians (Eph. 3:1; 6:20), Colossians (Col. 4:10), and Philemon (Philem. 1).” (Pg. xix)
5. Isn’t it amazing that no matter what Paul’s circumstances, he continued to trust the Lord and serve Christ, even here in Rome in the midst of prison. He could only do this because he constantly saw himself as a “slave of Christ.” Is that how you see yourself in the midst of your trials, sufferings, and persecutions?
6. The third aspect concerning Paul and the message he so boldly proclaimed is this:
III. The Author of the Gospel is God
A. Look again at v. 1: Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
1. As a new person in Christ, Paul had a new position, a new privilege, and also a new purpose as he was “…set apart for the gospel of God.” The word “gospel” (euangelion) literally means “good news.”
2. It is the good news that we can be saved from sin and eternal death through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf. The gospel is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
3. Now notice that this is the “gospel of God.” In other words, it is God’s gospel!
4. God is the source of the gospel; it originated with Him. It was not invented by man.
5. What amazing grace and love toward undeserving sinners that God Himself would originate and initiate the gospel. John 3:16 says that it is, “…God (that) so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
6. Jesus said constantly, “I am not come of Myself, but My Father sent Me.”
7. It is this “gospel of God” that is the overall theme of the entire letter of Romans. The letter both begins (1:1) and ends (16:25-26) with the good news of the gospel.
8. John Murray accurately stated, “Its theme is the gospel of His grace, and the gospel bespeaks the marvels of His condescension and love. If we are not overwhelmed by the glory of that gospel and ushered into the holy of holies of God’s presence, we have missed the grand purpose of this sacred deposit.” (p. xi)
B. Now it was to this “gospel of God” that Paul was “set apart.”
1. The word “set apart” (aphrismenos) here means separation in the fullest sense. It refers to being fully devoted and wholly consecrated to ones assigned task.
2. And that’s what Paul was! As Christ’s slave and the apostle to the Gentiles his new purpose was to single-mindedly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Paul was set apart by God for this divine purpose long before his Damascus Road experience, for in Galatians 1:15-16 we read“…God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…”
4. The gospel of Jesus Christ was Paul’s message; he had no other! In 1 Corinthians 2:2 he declared, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (9:23) “I do all things for the sake of the gospel…”
5. Now why is the gospel so important? Because it is the only way to heaven.
6. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” And Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
9. Let me ask you: Do you know God’s purpose for your life? Are you as fully devoted and wholly consecrated to your God-given task as Paul was to his? Or have you allowed yourself to be entangled with the affairs of this life? (2 Tim. 2:4)
10. The fourth aspect concerning Paul and the message he so boldly proclaimed is this:
IV. The Affirmation of the Gospel is Scripture
A. Look at v. 2: Which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.
1. Although Paul was often accused by the Jews of preaching a message that was contrary to Old Testament Scripture, it was nothing new. It was what God had “…promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
2. God’s “prophets” here refer to all the Old Testament writers who were spokesmen for God. And the “holy Scriptures” is a reference to the divine revelation of the Old Testament.
3. There is an essential continuity between the Old Testament and the New. Old Testament Scripture has always promised the coming Messiah, which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
4. It is estimated that there are 332 Old Testament prophecies about Christ, most of which were fulfilled at His first coming. These prophesies go from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 4:2 and everywhere in-between.
5. They cover His virgin birth (Isa. 7:14) to His sacrificial suffering (Ps. 22; Isa. 53) to His eternal rule (Dan. 7:13-14), and many other things. Even in the Jewish sacrificial system, every sacrificed lamb merely foreshadowed the eternal Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29).
6. Therefore, the gospel is affirmed or attested to be true by the Old Testament Scriptures themselves. And by quoting from the Old Testament sixty-one times in Romans, Paul demonstrates to the Jews that their Scriptures are really speaking about Jesus Christ and that the gospel is nothing new.
7. Jesus did the same thing by saying that the Old Testament Scriptures bore witness of Him (Jn. 5:39) and using them to explain to people about Himself (Lk. 24:25ff, 44f). And His apostle also did this to prove that Jesus was truly the Messiah and that He must suffer and rise again from the dead (Acts 2:14ff; 13:32ff; 17:2ff; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:10-11).
8. The affirmation of the gospel is the Scripture itself.
I close this morning with the following challenge by Woodrow Kroll, “Be prepared. Before you read Paul’s epistle to the Romans, make sure you are ready for the result. You cannot say what might happen if you undertake an intensive study of this epistle. What happened to Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, who left a mark on the world, could happen to you today. So, let the reader beware. This letter is like spiritual napalm, burning away the stains of sin in your life. It’s like genetic engineering, rearranging your priorities to fit those of your Creator. It’s the literary equivalent of the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Charta blended into one. Do not begin a serious study of this epistle unless you are willing to bear the consequences. Reading through Romans repeatedly results in revival.”
I hope we are all up for the challenge! May the magnitude of the truth of Romans and the depth of its riches be powerfully used of God to transform our lives to be more like Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.