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Romans is Paul’s longest letter and is written to the church in Rome, a church that he didn’t plant and isn’t fully acquainted with. His purpose in writing is to introduce himself and confirm what the church in Rome believers about the gospel. In these opening verses Paul on two occasions shares the gospel, culminating in verses 16 and 17. The gospel is to be our way of life, not a religious practice once a week. Paul’s concern for the roman church is that they will remain firm in the gospel and not be ashamed of it. We too are to be sincere about the gospel and proclaim it in each and every opportunity that comes our way.



Romans 1 v 1-17 

[00:00:00] So we begin a new series this evening, Romans. I wonder what you know about Romans. Well, let's begin with probably something you do know, and that is Rome itself. Um, in, while I was at Union College, I got in trouble a lot. Um, I got in trouble with the police. I got into trouble with the Swiss guards. The Swiss guards are those guards that are at the 

And I got in trouble with Moroccan traffic wardens. Now you're going, what on earth is he talking about? key figure in all of this, and that is the Reverend Andrew Mullen. I blame him for everything. Andrew and I, whenever we were at Union College, we [00:01:00] travelled a lot together. Whenever we would have that space, a longer space between the Christmas break after exams were over and before we'd start again at the end of January, or indeed into February, we'd go away somewhere. 

We decided one year we'd go to Rome. I'd never been to Rome. And I was quite excited to get to Rome. Some of you possibly have been to Rome. Maybe some of you have been to Israel and the Holy Land. And if you have, you know there's a significance in going to these places. It's not because Andrew Mullen's going to get you in trouble. 

But you're walking in the very places that the Bible speaks of. And I'm sure the Holy Land is wonderful, and I hope someday to go there and do that, but my experience is Rome, and then Pompeii, Pompeii isn't in the biblical text, but it's that time of church or of biblical history and church history. We got in trouble with the Swiss Guards because we attended [00:02:00] an audience with the Pope in the Vatican. 

Maybe I shouldn't confess to that. Don't worry. There was thousands others there. It wasn't... We weren't having a wee cup of tea together with him. And if it does, if it does settle, we did walk out in protest. And that's how we got in trouble with the Swiss Guards. Don't worry, we didn't have banners or anything like that. 

It actually was lunchtime and we needed to go. But Rome is fascinating because of its history. And what is fascinating about it is, we are in three millennia of the church. The New Testament Church, and for those first a thousand years, the church was very much based Jerusalem, Alexandria, in North Africa, and in the East. 

The second millennia, that second thousand years that took us up to the year 2000, where the church was very much centered in Europe, with Rome being the center of the church for the first 600 years or so of that time before the Reformation. And then the [00:03:00] church spread throughout Europe and, and as we now enter this third millennium, well, some would say that no longer is it the east, no longer is it the west, but the church's center is in the global south. 

And so for the next thousand years, we should expect the global south to dominate the scene of this New Testament church. Rome is significant because it has shaped us. for who we are today. This letter of Romans that was written to the people and to the church in Rome is the longest of Paul's letters. 

But it's also the core for what we believe as Christians. This is Paul's systematic theology of what it means to believe the gospel. And that's why within the first 17 verses twice he tells us what that gospel is. And very clearly he tells us that he is not ashamed of it. It's the [00:04:00] key doctrines, but the overarching message of Romans from chapter 1 through to chapter 16 is the gospel itself, that there is only one gospel. 

For humanity to know and to follow. And it's this gospel that is what Paul has in his heart and he wants to teach it because he wants it into the hearts of others. Paul wants the church to be clear about the gospel and to live by it. Now Rome isn't significant simply because Paul wrote to it. Sixteen hundred years after Paul, a man named Martin Luther would go to Rome. 

He would go on a pilgrimage to try and find answers for what was troubling him. Luther went to a place called the Holy Steps. And he climbed them, and as he climbed each step, he would recite the Lord's Prayer. Our Father, [00:05:00] who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Each of those steps that he climbed, he recited that because he was crying out to God, because he was troubled by God. He was troubled by God's justice. Luther devoted himself to the pursuit of holiness by obedience, fasting, and prayer. 

And this is what he said. I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, Apparently that's a real word. It was I, if I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, and other work. [00:06:00] For Luther, when his distress persisted, in understanding this righteousness from God, His mentor urged him to study scripture, and he turned to Romans chapter 1, verse 17. 

Later in life, Luther would reflect on this time in his life and this life changing experience. Not the life changing experience of climbing those steps in Rome, but actually turning to the book of Romans. And this is what he said, though I lived as a monk without reproach. I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. 

I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love. Yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes. 

Luther raged against God. He couldn't fathom or [00:07:00] understand God. And part of that was because of who he was as a person, but the other part is because of what he was told, that it was a works righteousness. This is why it was such a hard thing for Luther to comprehend, because he believed he had to work for it. 

And although he raged against God, his troubled conscience drove him to meditate. on Romans 1 17. Day and night he pondered the connection between the righteousness of God, especially the statement, he who through faith is righteous shall live. And you know, Luther was right to study Romans 1 17 so carefully because in that he found, as we find, the gospel. 

This is what Luther read. For it is the righteousness of God, sorry, for in it, the, speaking of the gospel, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith. As it is written, the righteous shall live by [00:08:00] faith. Faith alone. Sola Fide. By faith alone. That is how we live the Gospel life. And that's what Paul wants to tell us throughout these next 25 moments that we will look in this letter to the Romans. 

That we live by faith. We don't live because of us. We live because of him and his way of salvation. But Paul is writing to the church. Yes, he is writing to the church in Rome at that time, but his message has been for the church in every age. And so, like all of Paul's letters, he begins with a greeting for the Romans in verses 1 to 7. 

And that's where we'll begin, looking at how Paul greets the church in Rome. Now we have to understand, this is not a church that Paul planted. In fact, by the time Paul is writing the Romans, [00:09:00] he's never even been to Rome. So, we actually know very little about how this church started. What we do know is that in Acts chapter 2 and verse 10, we're told that there were those from Rome who were present on the day of Pentecost. 

They heard it. And they returned and we believe it was that message that went back to Rome with these either faithful pilgrims, Jewish pilgrims, or whether they were Gentile traders. They went back to Rome and so the church grew. And in writing Romans, Paul is writing it around. 57 AD, probably while he's wintering in Corinth, where he had a long, fruitful ministry, and we're told that in Acts 18. 

And Acts chapter 20 verses 1 to 3 tells us that Paul spent three months in Greece. So that would give him enough time to compose Romans, and on top of all of this then, several names from the greetings that come in Romans 16 are connected to Corinth. They include Gaius. [00:10:00] Erastus and Phoebe of Centaury. 

And Paul directs the church in Rome to welcome her, as she probably delivered the epistle and came from Corinth. And once winter passed and the Mediterranean was safe to travel, Paul planned to bring a gift from the Gentile believers in Corinth to the Jerusalem church. And after he had done that in Jerusalem, he would then make his way to Rome, he would preach the gospel there, and then travel west to start churches in lands where the gospel was unknown. 

And we believe that his aim was to go to the furthest ends of the earth. which in those days was what we now know as Spain. And Paul says in Romans 15, verses 23 to 24, But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, in other words, he's done everything he can in that region of Greece, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, so he's known about this church and he's heard of its reputation, I [00:11:00] hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey there by you once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 

Isn't that a wonderful line at the end? He wants to enjoy their company. He's not going to be an itinerant preacher. He's not going to be the headline each Sunday that the Apostle Paul has come. And by the way, this is how he finishes. We're going to see why this is significant because of how he starts this letter. 

This is Paul, a believer, seeking out brothers and sisters in Rome who he can have fellowship and company with. So Paul hoped to visit the Roman church. He knew many individuals there, but wrote Romans to begin a relationship with the entire church. And his presentation of the Gospel is both self introduction, and it's also a gift to the Romans. 

In fact, Paul did visit [00:12:00] Rome, as we know, but not as he intended, because he arrived as a prisoner, following his unwarranted arrest in Jerusalem. And so he begins this letter in verse 1 by saying, I'm Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart. for the gospel of God. And in this opening verse, Paul sets out exactly who he is, and it might surprise you. 

Because as we've seen with many of Paul's other letters, he isn't going in all guns blazing. He's not telling them that he is the great apostle and he should be understood, Julos. 

I'm a slave, I'm a servant of Jesus Christ. Now there's no [00:13:00] sense here that Paul is alerting himself on them. In other words, he's not trying to, uh, push himself on them. He'll tell us in a few verses how he has a heart for them, but that he's just like them. Because even though he says he is an apostle, look what he says in verse 1. 

He says that he has been called to be an apostle. This is not a job that he wanted. This is not a job that he assumed. This is not a job that he went to college and qualified for. This is a calling, not by man, but a divine calling. by God. And so he's letting the church know in this greeting, in these first seven verses, that this is an office given to him rather than assumed and that he's not going to take advantage of it. 

And the third thing he tells us is that his message is the gospel. It is the one gospel. He [00:14:00] doesn't come as another rabbi or another academic to teach. He is coming with the good news that transforms lives. And the Romans know this, and it seems that the Romans have been a healthy church. Because this isn't a letter where he's correcting them on error as he does to the church in Corinth. 

There's something different about the church of Rome. It's akin to the church in Philippi. But the difference is, Paul planted the church in Philippi. But he's done nothing or had no hand in the planting of the church in Rome, yet there's something here that is to be credited to them for their faith in the gospel. 

What Paul is doing is writing to encourage them. We believe, encouraging them that they are on the right path in their worship and in their witness. And in verse 3 of this first chapter, Paul tracks the history of the gospel. And this is important. He speaks of God's Son descending from David. This not only fulfills what the prophet said, but he is [00:15:00] confirming that this is the message that has been throughout human history. 

That this isn't something just made up. This has been from the foundation of the world. that God has foretold directly and through his prophets of the coming Messiah from the line of David that root and stump of Jesse. Because it has always been God's intention to save his people. This is what would lead us to think that this is a Jewish church or, uh, Jews who were converted and started this church. 

But of course, in the imperial city in Rome, there would be Gentiles. Of course there would be. And this is the place where they gossiped the gospel. We know, not through scripture, but through accounts in church history of how the Christians went out into Rome, and they actually got the Roman populace scared because of what they said. 

And many were seen to come to living faith, so much so that when Nero [00:16:00] destroyed the city, he blamed it on the Christians. In many ways, verses four to six are an overview of the Gospel message itself, and it concerns three key words. Resurrection, grace, and faith. Resurrection, grace, and faith. And Paul is clear that salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus because it is in the resurrection that eternal death is defeated. 

And this is good news, that we need not face that death. Yes, we will all fade and perish. We know that. That is the nature of life. But beyond that is eternity. And believing in the resurrection of Jesus means that we have the assurance of eternity in heaven. Ignoring this truth about Jesus and denying the resurrection will only lead to a lost eternity in hell. 

Paul, right from the very beginning in this mini overview of the Gospel, is making it clear that [00:17:00] salvation is through Christ. Yes, through his death, but through his resurrection. Because that proves that he is the Son of God. No one can come back from the grave. No one can rise again. Only Christ. Because he is the Son of the Living God. 

Paul then goes on to speak about grace and, and grace is something that he has received. So he's terming grace as a gift and of course we'll know that that's how he'll continue this in this letter to the Romans. Through Jesus, Paul has received a gift of being Christ's Apostle. That's why he says that I'm a servant. 

Jesus Christ. I have been called to be an apostle. But now he's saying, well it's actually God's grace that has allowed that to happen. Because it's not of his own merit, it's completely because of Christ. And this brings us back and gives further understanding to this apostolic role that he [00:18:00] has and that he sees in himself. 

God's gift to Paul has been given by the grace of God for a specific purpose. And that was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. His duties, his responsibilities as an Apostle may have been hard to bear, but the purpose is to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations, he says in verse 5. 

That's what Paul was, to go out to the nations there, as that, as that closing statement says. To the Gentiles, to bring them in, and there's an interesting bit that comes up later where the whole of human history in Romans is described in three acts. An act where the message of salvation is for the Jews, then a second act where there is a message of salvation to the Gentiles, the time in which we're living, but there's a third act that we don't fully understand. 

Because somehow the third act is these two coming together when Christ will return. You see, Paul [00:19:00] himself, he had dedicated his life to observing and teaching rules that set Israel apart from the Gentiles. But in Acts chapter 9, God appointed Paul as an apostle to the nations and Paul calls them to the obedience. 

Now this phrase there that we have in verse 5 can have two meanings to it. It may mean the obedience that is motivated by faith. In other words, we do it because we have faith. And that means that our obedience springs from our faith. Or, the obedience of faith. Which is the obedience that consists of faith. 

If this is the case then, Paul, the Apostle, summons hearers to obey God by believing the gospel and accepting its teachings. So that we can go and call those to be obedient to faith in Jesus Christ. And Paul completes his greeting in [00:20:00] verse 7, the second part there, by saying, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Grace to you and peace is Paul's favourite blessing. Grace is God's unmerited love, and it almost captures the gospel in one word. And Paul urges, or sorry, uses grace 24 times in Romans. He says we are justified by grace in Romans 3, 24. We rest on grace in chapter 4, 16. And we stand before God by grace in chapter 5 and verse 2. 

And what does grace do? Well, grace brings peace. Because it assures us that God is generous towards us. Grace lets us enjoy success, knowing that it is God's gift. And grace lets us endure adversity, knowing that we still have His favor. What an introduction Paul gives us. [00:21:00] What a greeting to the church. 

Imagine if you got a letter like that, that said, look to Christ. Look to his goodness, look to his grace that is poured out freely upon you. And you see, when we have grace, when we know God's grace through Jesus Christ, then we can do exactly what we said. We can enjoy his goodness. Yes, the success is in life. 

Knowing that it is God's gift towards us. It's part of his way of blessing us. When we can celebrate, when we can cheer on, and when we can enjoy, but, but grace also lets us endure adversity. Knowing that even in the hardships of life, we still have God's favor. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that wonderful to know tonight? 

That you can celebrate tomorrow because of God's grace, but in case tomorrow isn't a day of celebration, and if it is a day of adversity, then you can still trust in grace because you still know God's favor. [00:22:00] Because it is all for His purpose. Even if we may not understand. And to this church in Rome, the imperial capital, this is what they need to hear. 

This is what they need to know, as they stand firm in the gospel. Well, let's move on to the second part. It's verses 8 to 15. It's thanksgiving prayers and a plan. And having brought his greeting, Paul now speaks to the church in a pastoral way and states his connection to the church. And so he begins by stating that he prays for the church in Rome. 

And he does two things in this prayer. And we have to remember that whenever we hear his heart of prayer for this church, this is not a church that he planted. He doesn't know it intimately as he did the Philippi church. He doesn't really have that strong a connection to it, but he prays for it, and there it is, in that imperial city, a beacon of light in the darkness. 

And Paul encourages the Roman [00:23:00] Christians that they are in his heart, and in his prayers, and his prayers are one of gratitude. He prays with thanksgiving, with thankfulness for who they are, and for what their faith is, and how they live it out. But Paul, knowing that he didn't plant the church in Rome, he therefore lacks clear authority over it. 

And so he changes, or he modulates his tone. He doesn't think that he has everything to give and nothing to receive. In verse 12, he hopes that they may... be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. And isn't this a wonderful thing to hear from the Apostle? He recognizes what a true community of faith is. 

Yes, he has much to give, but also he recognizes that he has much to receive. 

And that's what the Church is to be. It is to be a place where we [00:24:00] contribute, but it's also to be a place where we receive, because not one single one of us. or any of us, will ever have the full counsel of God in our minds and in our hearts. We grow in discipleship, that's why we take Wednesday evenings so seriously, whenever we think of what it means to follow Jesus. 

We grow in it until the day we die, because the church is that place where we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, that we recognize that we have things to offer and give. And that we have to receive as well, so that we can be ready for that day when Christ will call us home. And I'm finishing off this section, Paul laments in his ability to reach Rome sooner in verse 13. 

In Romans 15, 19 23, Paul mentions his commitment to preach the gospel where no church existed from Jerusalem to [00:25:00] Iconium, that is in Israel. Asia Minor, Greece and Macedonia. And once Paul and others evangelize those regions, he feels free to go west and to discharge his obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 

Paul's a cultured man and surely he preferred the Greeks, but he willingly served fools and barbarians. He refused to limit the scope of his work, and he hoped for fruit on every branch. And whenever it comes to evangelism and the gospel, we often think, wouldn't it be great if we just spoke to people just like us? 

We, uh, in growing up, we had a midweek in our church on a Tuesday night. And one of our dear old elders, who was my Bible class teacher, without fail, would pray every single Tuesday [00:26:00] evening for the Roman Catholics. And the Roman Protestants, because there was no distinction. Each one running to hell. And all too often we, we think, well we'll just talk to people like us because they're the ones we're comfortable with. 

It actually turns out they may be the ones who don't want to hear the Gospel at all. And that there may be other sheep whom God is leading us to. We cannot be blinkered. We cannot be closed eyes to one demographic. We must know that the gospel is for everyone and as such we must bring it to everyone in the workplace, in the home, across the barriers and divides because the gospel is worth it. 

If you don't believe me, read the latter chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and see exactly what Paul did. He took it to [00:27:00] those who weren't like him. He took it to those who were religiously different from him and politically different from him. Because the gospel is greater than any divide we can think of. 

Because it is only the gospel that can save humanity. Thanksgiving, prayer, and a plan. Paul's plan was to visit this church, en route to plant other churches. The barbarians were in Spain. That was the ends of the earth. And so, of course, the stories had been told about all these barbarians. You know, if he'd headed north to England, my goodness, how much worse would it have been for him? 

But he had his mind set on Spain, and that's what he was going to do. He reached across the divides for the sake of the gospel. And we must follow likewise. Well, that's what concludes this evening. Our time is finished. And we come to [00:28:00] what is the heart of this letter. And we're gonna, don't worry if this is going to seem short now to finish, don't worry. 

This is going to be picked up time and time and time again. Because Paul says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also the Greek or Gentile. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed for, from faith, for faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith. 

Whenever I went to university in England, after finishing college, I attended a small Christian fellowship on the campus where I studied. We were a minority on that campus. There were a couple of thousands of students on that campus, and 20 of us met each Tuesday evening. We called ourselves the Balls Park Christian Fellowship, and in the first few weeks of my first year, we were grounded in verse 16. 

And up until recently, [00:29:00] I still had a little verse card that was given to me in October 1997 that reminded me every time I opened my Bible not to be ashamed of Being the minority group on campus, it would have been easy to just hide. But we had to remind ourselves not to be ashamed of it because it is the greatest message in the world. 

Because it is the message that brings the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. No one will be turned away if they come with believing faith. And I wonder how easily can we become ashamed of the gospel? We get embarrassed by it. We don't want to talk about it. We'd rather talk about anything else under the sun, except the gospel, even in church. 

The one place where it should be the safest to talk about the gospel.[00:30:00] 

See, once we get into the world out there, we have the opportunity to speak, but all of a sudden our mouth go dry and, and the words don't come. Turns out we're not as brave or confident as we thought we might be. But I wanna encourage you this evening, there's three things in these two final verses that should help us because the first thing is the gospel is the power of God for salvation. 

I can't save anyone. That same Bible class teacher used to tell us, if only I could lift you up in my hands each Sunday morning, if only I could lift you up in my hands and bring you to the kingdom, I would, but I can't. Because he knew that the message was not his. The power of that message was not his. 

It is the power of God unto salvation. It is only the gospel that can save. Words help in preaching and proclamation. But those words cannot [00:31:00] save. It is only the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves. And so, know that. That you are simply the messenger pointing people to Jesus. Because it's not your power to save. 

It's the power of God. So trust Him. That when you go to open your mouth, He will give you the words and the confidence to speak. But also secondly, salvation is for everyone. Salvation is not resigned to a small group or to one country in particular or one part of the world, it is for everyone. And so as we go out into the world and as we look in our places of work and in our homes and in our wider family and in our communities and neighbours, it is for everyone. 

No one is to be discriminated against. We are to proclaim this good news because it is good news that everyone is to hear. And thirdly, the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, because what does the gospel [00:32:00] do? The gospel message speaks well of God. The gospel communicates who God is. It's his very being. 

It's his love towards us. That's why Paul's not ashamed of it, because it is God's good news. It reveals who he is. See, if we go back to where we started, the experience of Martin Luther. is illuminating for us because for years, Luther took the righteousness of God to mean God's righteousness in judgment. 

He understood the righteous shall live by faith to signify God's demand that people prove themselves faithful by doing what they can, a works righteousness. But because Luther was acutely aware of his sins, Romans 17, I'm sorry, 1 verse 17 provoked terror of God's wrath and anger at God's demands. And Luther contemplated this problem for years. 

At last, by the mercy of [00:33:00] God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning. The righteousness of God is, the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel. Namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written. 

He who through faith is righteous shall live. Sorry, he who, He who through faith is righteous shall live. Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Luther was transformed by this righteousness of God that led him never to be ashamed of the gospel ever again. 

later began to run through Scripture from memory and found similar teachings, and besides the righteousness of God that makes us righteous, he also found the power of God that makes us strong, and the wisdom of God that makes us [00:34:00] wise. And this is the Gospel, and the benefits of salvation. The Gospel is given, the Gospel is offered through Jesus Christ, and Him only. 

It is the only power to save us. So I ask you this evening, are you ashamed of the gospel? Or do you live in it day by day? Do you know its power in your life? And do you understand the power it can have in transforming sinners onto righteousness? The gospel is the most powerful thing we have because it encapsulates who God is and what his love is towards us. 

Everyone gathered here this evening is invited to trust it. Yes, for the first time to salvation, but to trust it tomorrow in the step you take, be you in primary school, secondary school, or in the rest of life. To trust the gospel, because as Paul [00:35:00] goes on to say in Philippians 3, verse 7, But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 

What Paul's saying here, I trust the gospel, I don't trust the world. Will it be so with you? Will you trust it? Will you believe it? And will you take it to the ends of your world? Not showing any favoritism or partiality, but telling each and every one who crosses your way. Let's pray. Our Fathers, we begin this evening in Romans. 

It's a message for us. We are to trust it. We are to trust the gospel and live by it. Thank you that Paul gives us these words that we can echo if we truly believe it, for I am not ashamed of the gospel. Father, where we are weak, give us strength. Where we need wisdom, make us wise unto these things, as we continue to look to you as the one who leads us.[00:36:00] 

In Jesus name. Amen.

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