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As Paul concludes his letter to the church in Rome, he is keen to impression them the importance of unity in the fellowship. Paul is writing here to the leaders of the church to give them some final instructions. He wants them to be discerning about those who will influence God’s people through their teaching and preaching. He doesn’t want them pulled away by various winds of doctrine. His letter as a whole has given them what they need to know to stand strong, in unity, against teaching that will pull people away.

As Paul finishes he makes sure that he displays his heart to the church and to us. Romans is a rich, dense, glorious book, one saturated with the beauty of the triune God and the redemption he has accomplished. At the heart of it is how to know and live the gospel so that we don’t fall away, but daily be captivated by his great love for us.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

Before we begin this evening, I feel there's one thing I need to clear up from last week. Last week, I used the term Anilongians to describe people from this village. And some of you have been very exercised indeed. In fact, having gone out of your way during the week to correct me and declaring with great pride that you indeed are called a gadgie. Well, let me tell you that when I moved here, I was informed by a wise man that only those born on the shore road are truly called Gadgeese. So, to respect your local culture and tradition, I stand over calling you Anilongians unless you were born on the shore road. Anilongians. But of course, we all know fine well, you're all gadgies at heart. Well, now that I've got that off my chest, we come to what is the end of our studies in Romans. It's drawn to a close as we read these final verses and I always like to let you know what we've read because sometimes we think reading the Bible is too much for us, it's too big for us, but now together publicly we have read verse by verse 15 books of the Bible. I think that's great. I think it's good that we can see how the Bible fits together and we'll see that as we head towards the end of this evening. And as we think about what we have learned, we see one message coming through, whether it be in Nehemiah or Ezra or Ruth or Malachi. or in the New Testament books that we've looked at that are shorter and more familiar to us. The gospel has been at the heart of it all and really as we now come to the 15th book that we've read, it is Romans that crowns the truth of the gospel as we read it. And so as we conclude this letter this evening, we have some final instructions from Paul, as well as some closing greetings before he comes to his great doxology, his great expression of faith of what he believes and he affirms about Jesus Christ and the gospel. In many ways, Paul is singing his heart. So let's have a look at what that means for us. Well, the first half of chapter 16, as we looked at last week, was about personal greetings that Paul gave to church members. And what we discovered was that, in fact, this long list of names was a demonstration of his great heart for this Christian community. In Rome, the imperial city, remember all roads did truly lead to Rome. The church was made up of people from all walks of life, from the wealthiest to the slaves. And all ethnicities, and in detailing those whom he knows, Paul gave us a picture and a flavor of a church that was full of the nations. That when the Great Commission commanded to go into all the world, well it turned out that within a couple of decades after Jesus ascended into heaven, we see a church in Rome that indeed was truly gathering the nations in. And as he finishes his letter, he has one more instruction for the church, and it's to do with their unity. And in verse 17 he says, I appeal to you brothers to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught. And the strong charge comes, avoid them. Paul's heart for this church and his heart for the gospel is that the church would remain committed to the truths of the gospel. Many would come and would try to deceive the church and to divide it for their own purpose. But Paul has said he wants to visit this church and when he does he wants to find it how he has heard about it. Strong in the gospel, a diverse people who are united in Jesus Christ. And this shouldn't surprise us that Paul wants them to finish strong, as it were, here. After all, this is how he started, because remember how he encouraged them in chapter 1 in verses 16 and 17 by saying, 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 to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith as it is written The righteous shall live by faith. You see the gospel is life changing and Paul knows it. He wants the church in Rome to remain strong in its truth and in its power so that their salvation will be assured and others will come to living faith. through its message. These closing verses are mostly, most likely written to the leaders of the church who will read this letter. Paul's already completed his more general greetings to those who are in the church at the end of 16 and verse 16. Now he's wanting to speak to the church and to its leaders not to become carefree. When you read the first half of chapter 16, you certainly get the impression that this is a church Paul recognizes as vibrant and growing, and so he warns them not to become complacent in this. The church is constantly imperiled by forces and figures who will bring about division. And Paul is, Paul's warning is to avoid them and their how to guide to avoid these people is the doctrine that they have been taught. And once again, Paul draws them to the foundation of their faith. He draws them to the gospel because they are to know it. They're to know its power. They're to trust it and they're to tell it. So that there will be no doubt in identifying and no place for those who would come in and divide the church. In verse 18, Paul goes on to say that these people don't serve the Lord, but they serve themselves. It might be that these people will be insistent on Jewish food laws, and so point to a legalism that isn't here in scripture. And Paul's already addressed this. But he wants them to be clear to avoid, and notice how he describes it, their smooth talk and flattery. People will come in, they will deceive, and they will pull people away from the gospel simply by the words that they use. It is through this method, smooth talk and flattery, that they will deceive the heart of the naive. In other words, those young in the faith will be taken in by talk that seems orthodox, but in fact is heresy. And you know, this still happens today. There are still people, as verse 18 says, who do not serve the Lord Jesus, but rather with smooth talk and flattery deceive the heart. It may not be in our churches as would have been in the days of Paul, but with the rise of YouTube and other sources of so called teaching that is to be watched and listened, we can easily be sucked into things that appear important and even interesting, but will draw us away from what is central, the gospel. So this comes with a warning. Be careful who you follow. Be careful who you listen to. I am so often surprised that people will listen to YouTube speakers from a different country who they do not know, nor does the speaker know the viewer, but the speaker's words are treated as gospel without question. Be careful, lest you are pulled away and either enticed by false doctrine or distracted by theological arguments that break the unity of the fellowship of believers. The local church was given just for that. The local community. So that we can know each other. We can encourage each other. and we can grow together in Jesus Christ. Please discern who it is that you're listening to. Question them. Don't take for granted what they're saying is indeed gospel truth. And I have told you before from this pulpit that I am not excluded from that group because you need to listen carefully and test what I am saying so that I do not follow down a road of error and heresy. We must know the word of God and we must know it to be true. That's why verse 6 of the hymn we have just sung has said, O that we, discerning its most holy learning, Lord, may love and fear thee. You see, even in the old words that we sing, tell us to be discerning about what we hear. And that's what Paul's charge is to these leaders, to discern well who it is they're listening to, who it is is coming in and influencing, because they could be distracted from the gospel and indeed make shipwreck of their faith. Be careful. Be very careful. Stick to the gospel and to its truth. So that you will know that indeed you are on the right path, not only to, but with Jesus Christ. In verse 19, Paul gives us a picture of his heart for this church. He's given them a warning. He wants them to remain close to Christ in the gospel, and so he says, For your obedience is known to all, so I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent to what is evil. Isn't that lovely? Isn't that a lovely revelation or revealing to us of Paul's heart? He wants them to be wise as to what is good. He wants them to be wise unto the ways of the Lord. He wants them to know how to live well for him. But he wants them to be so innocent towards evil so that they will be shocked by it. And they'll not even know it's there until they're confronted by it. And it will shock them so much they don't want anything to do with it. This is his heart. He doesn't want them to be simpletons. He wants them to be grounded. But he wants them to be wise. But yet at the same time innocent. So that they will not fall into the ways of evil. of the evil one. And this is his commendation of their testimony because believers across the known world have heard of their worship and their witness and it is a strong witness for the gospel. But again, Paul doesn't want them to be comfortable in their reputation. He wants them to remain sharp so that they can continue to serve the church well and identify the error in teaching that may come Amen. And he finishes this section by assuring them of the work of God, and he says in verse 20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Can't you hear the cheer that goes up whenever the people hear this being read to them? The cheer of the Roman leaders and as they communicated to the church. A day is coming when the enemy of the church will be crushed underfoot. I maybe shouldn't confess it, but when living in Africa, ants were the scourge of our home. And you know what was the greatest satisfaction? Standing on them. And at some times you'd even hear a little crunch. And it felt so good. But it did absolutely no good whatsoever, because what happened? They came back. But when Satan is crushed underfoot, he will not return. And this is the hallelujah that the church of Rome cried at Paul's time and we should cry today because this means that the defeat of Satan will be complete and is the work of God who brings his peace to them as they continue to live for him. This is great assurance and joy for this church in Rome as it faces persecution, but for us today, because we too cry, How long, O Lord, will we see the evil one advance and advance? Well, the answer is a day is coming when Satan will be crushed underfoot, never to have his influence on us again. And so as the people of God, we should cry, Hallelujah! for God's goodness towards us. This is Paul's heart for them to give them such joy and such assurance and he goes on then to bless them. One of his many blessings to this people as he says, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be upon them one last time. But like many preachers at the end of a sermon, this apparent conclusion is followed by one more run of greetings and a final commendation of God, the father and the son. As we go into these final greetings, it's now Timothy who's mentioned here sending his greetings. He is evidently part of the group accompanying the Jerusalem collection. And so Paul also refers to three other fellow Jews and their mention here at the end of the letter serves to enhance what Paul has earlier taught in chapter 9 and verse 6 that God's Word to his people has not failed, nor has God rejected his people. As he said in chapter 11 verse 1, I ask then, has God rejected his people? By no means, for I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. And this is important for Paul to affirm, that there are indeed these Israelites. Jewish converts with him so that the gentile believers don't become conceited and they're engrafting into the covenant promises of God. This is what Paul warned them against. Don't become like the Jews thinking that you're the special people and the exclusivity of the gospel to you because your hearts too will be hardened just like the Jews. And so here Paul demonstrates that the church should be open to whoever will come through in saving faith by including these converts from Judaism. And verse 22 gives us an insight into the mechanics of this letter as we are introduced to Tertitus. He says, I, Tertitus, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Turns out Paul hasn't written this letter, and as would have been common practice, he has depended on a scribe to quite literally, physically write down what he has dictated. And here, Tertitus feels a certain liberty to, to really give a greeting to the church, his own greetings. And this demonstrates another of Paul's earlier teachings about the equality that there is in Christ. He is the Apostle, but there's freedom in the people of God to speak into this letter so that they too can greet brothers and sisters whom they've never met. And verse 23 gives us three names of Paul's supporters. Gaius is the host of Paul. That wonderful ministry of hospitality, of showing Paul what he needed at that time in Corinth. And it would appear that the congregation meets in this home in Corinth, and so it is natural for Paul to send the greetings of the whole church family there. Erastus is a man of high social standing. Along with Quartus, he adds his greetings to those of Paul. Now, nothing is known of Quartus, but the name Erastus appears in Acts chapter 19 and verse 22, as well as in 2 Timothy 4 and verse 20, and it's possible that these three passages all refer to the same man. Amen. Amen. And an inscription was excavated in Corinth in 1929, which bore the name Erastus, identifying him as holding high civic office. And we believe that indeed this may be the very man that Paul is speaking of here. See God proves his word, not just in faith, but in the archeology that we discover in these lands that the Bible speaks of. So that we can be left logically with no shadow of doubt. That, indeed, these people are not made up, but existed, and so God works His will and His salvation in every generation. Chapter 16 identifies to us not just a church in Rome, but a whole support network of those with Paul in his missionary journey. We know that he is on his way to Jerusalem before wanting to go to Rome, but what a picture of the church he presents in this chapter. These final portions of this letter, they exude human warmth and a, and a, very much a, a comfort in God and a confidence in God through his son, Jesus Christ. And although Paul foresees the peril that may lurk in Jerusalem and that opponents of his message threaten the Roman congregations, he takes obvious delight in people he knows at Rome, proclaiming the God of peace will soon crush Satan onto your feet. Amen. And so on display here is what Paul terms in chapter 15 and verse 29 as the fullness of the blessing of Christ. This blessing, Christ's personal presence and guidance and protection, is elsewhere, um, spoken of, including in this passage, as the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. See, the church is more than bricks and mortar. It is more than a gathering on Sundays with weekly activities. Peace. The church is the fullness of the blessing of Christ as we continue to worship and serve today. And this is why the gospel matters, and this is why the gospel is still relevant. We treasure the gospel and the message of salvation it brings, so that we can be united as God's people and proclaim its truth. You cannot deny that throughout this letter the power of the gospel is there to change and transform. It is the only truth that can set our feet on solid ground so that we are assured of the salvation of our loving God. But it is also what we as God's people unite around. It is the gospel that holds us together and spurs us on in good works and service as we were thinking this morning. So let me ask you, how important is the gospel to you? It needs to be the most important thing in your life so that you may live it and you may proclaim it. So I ask you again, how important is the gospel to you? The gospel we will have received in different ways. It will have come to us as we've grown up knowing scripture and from Genesis through to Revelation, we see God's salvation plan on every page. It might be a particular moment where our eyes were opened as we heard the gospel proclaimed that assured us and made us pay attention to this wonderful truth. But to simply leave it at a fixed point in history means we're not living the gospel and in fact it means we're not loving the gospel. Because the gospel is more about the miracle of a moment, as important as that moment is. We are to live the gospel every day. It should shape what we do and how we do it. It should frame our conversations so that we have the right to speak the gospel into lives in our homes and in our communities. The gospel must be what centers us, what keeps us on the path of righteousness. that will lead us to our eternal habitation in heaven. How important is the gospel to you? The gospel needs to be the most important thing so that we will have hope in both life and in death. And as Paul finishes this, we once again hear the truth of this message and in many ways as the letter opened with Paul displaying his heart for the gospel, we now see it at the very end. His heart opened wide as he, as he sings a doxology and don't worry, I'm not going to sing it. to you. But he declares, now to him, Paul gives the glory to God as he says, now to him, who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel. Again, the grounding of what we are to know and the preaching of Jesus Christ. According to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations according to the command of the eternal God to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ. Amen. What a doxology. What a proclamation. What words to have on our hearts as we indeed perhaps could learn these so that they become a confession of our faith as we exude the wonders of the gospel and what Jesus Christ has done. Paul tells us of the privileged position we have, that there was a mystery kept for long ages, but that mystery is now bare open before us, that we would know the gospel. There is nothing hidden because the love of Jesus Christ is fully displayed. Romans is a rich, dense, glorious book, one saturated with the beauty of the triune God and the redemption that he accomplished. So it comes as no surprise that Paul closes with a burst of praise. It's good for us to believe that he to obey and to be thankful for. And at best, our faith and obedience glorify the God who has glory forever. And so we offer his praise through Jesus by faith. This is how we respond to Romans because it has presented to us the very heart of the Gospel. So what's our application? What do we do with this? Well, we return it all to the Lord in praise in Jesus Christ, as we know the gospel burned deep in our hearts. And while Romans can and should be read in its own terms, it doesn't stand in isolation from either its Old Testament precursors, from which it draws a large amount, nor its writings of Paul, the counterparts that come later. God is one. His saving message across numerous times and settings is self consistent and Romans, in a way, draws it all together. The most central aspects of this whole book. The wisdom of God to which it bears witness is at once gratifying because it answers so many questions, but at the same time it's frustrating because it leaves so many unanswered. But it will always be uplifting and properly regarded. The wisdom that we have looked at in this letter to the Romans refers us consistently and profoundly to the mercy of God because of his great love for us. It shows us his goodness. And it shows us His splendor all now, but that is demonstrated in His everlasting glory. We need to set our hearts on the Romans gospel so that our course may be set for that radiant destination that the gospel will bring us to. How important is the gospel to you? I hope it makes your heart sing. I hope a doxology such as this in your own words will overflow so that we will prove to this world that not only is the gospel still relevant but it is the power of Jesus Christ. that we indeed might be saved. So may we each declare this evening. 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 to the Greek for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith. As it is written, the righteous shall live by faith. Well, may we be those righteous people, not in our own doing, but only in God's, that we may live by faith for him. Let us pray. Our Father God, we have crowned this series by reading this doxology and what is the heart of Paul's letter to the Romans. Of no shame of the gospel because it transforms us and it changes us. So we may we never be ashamed of it. May we live it daily and in the harder moments of life, may we know its strength to preserve us. We thank you for the generations that have gone before us declaring its truths. We pray that we, the current generation, will uphold that same truth and may we continually pray for the generations to come. That they too will know the wonders of this gospel, that they will live it in an ever changing world. Father, keep us close to you, that we will not be shifted by any whisper of doctrine, by smooth words and flattery, but may we be grounded in the truth of Jesus Christ. Help us to put away those things that would take us away from you, that we may live well and live for you in these days. What a joy the gospel is. May we know it deep within, and Father by your grace and mercy, may we live it well. In Jesus name. Amen.

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