We are starting a new series on the book of Romans. Today's text is Romans 1:1-17. We are going to go through this book of the Bible to better understand it and what God has done for us.
We are used to seeing viral video clips of people who are unexpectedly caught on camera and it's highly entertaining. Some of the best are those who were caught on camera in awkward situations. There have been some clips where a guy and girl are enjoying an evening at the park, he has his arm around her, then the camera zooms in on them, and they begin waving at the camera, and then all of sudden the guy flushes red, stops smiling, and pulls out his cell phone. He begins talking and as he does he takes a step away from the girl. And the girl looks at him, rolls her eyes and shakes her head. It’s clear something is wrong and someone is not happy, and it is all on camera! It’s clear there is another person in his life, and the one he is with is not the main one. He is now ashamed of what he has done, and he is trying to distance himself from her.
We see his internal decisions flowing out through his actions. He is ashamed of what he has done. He is ashamed of the one he is with.
This chapter of the Bible shows that because of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ we should be unashamed to follow him. Significant relationships are exclusive, they exclude others. If Jesus is our Lord we must be in an exclusive relationship with him where we stand unashamed of who he is and what he has done.
We believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. It is without error or fault, and it is fully trustworthy.
We also believe in the organic inspiration of the word of God. God sovereignly breathed out his word, orchestrating every aspect of it to represent what he wanted people to know. But we also say organic in the sense that God spoke to real people, in real time to communicate. They witnessed the word, they witnessed God, they witnessed what he did.
This book of the Bible was a letter written by the apostle Paul to a church in the city of Rome. He is writing to a church, a community of people defined by their commitment to Jesus and commitment to one another. We don't know exactly how this church started. Paul has never been there, and yet a church is there. Many think it had a large Jewish population and that Jews had traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost and when the Holy Spirit came in power and thousands repented at Peter's preaching, those people went back to Rome, gathered, and a church was born.
Regardless, Paul wants these people to be unashamed in their faith.
Unashamed of Jesus
Paul is not ashamed about Jesus. He is quite confident. From “hello” he is talking of Jesus and what he has done for him. Interesting because…
Rome was large, diverse, and influential. One of the greatest cities of the day. Most nations are named after a group of people. France after the Franks. Columbia after Christopher Columbus. It is generally accepted that the name America derives from Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer. The Roman empire, named after the city of Rome. This city was the identity of the nation. Rome is the power center of the greatest nation of the time.
The Roman army controlled the land. The Roman navy controlled the Mediterranean. Latin was the Roman language and it was spoken all over the world. Rome built the roads that connected the world. The Roman Colosseum held 50,000 people for gladiatorial games, and it all spoke of the power of Rome. The phrase all roads lead to Rome was well known.
What would a Roman want to do with a Jewish Carpenter from the city of Nazareth, a city that wasn't even respected among his own people? A profession that anyone could have. And one who was crucified and buried? Much. Paul tells us this Jesus isn’t just anybody. He is greater than all.
There is much about being a descendant of David. David was the second king of Israel. In many ways he was the first real king. Saul was the first, but Saul was a man of little faith. David was a man after God’s own heart, and that is why God called him to be king. God also promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign forever. Jesus came in the lineage of David. According to the flesh he was of the line of David. According to the flesh Jesus is of a line that has claim to a powerful promise.
But that is only half of who Jesus is. He is fully man but also fully God. And his position of Lord is made clear in his resurrection from the dead. That act was a great stamp of approval on who he claimed to be. It was a declaration of power and the working of the Spirit of God. This is the Jesus Paul has confidence in and whom he proclaims throughout the world, and specifically to this great, influential, and diverse city.
I recently read a book on Rome. It was a technical read and it was about one emperor after another asserting his reign and then being assassinated. The Roman emperors were powerful. They would assert themselves as gods, but they were all human, and they all died. None rose from the grave. Only Jesus could do that. So Paul has my attention.
The gospel, which was promised beforehand through the prophets in Scripture. His confidence in the gospel is not just a blind faith. It is the result of a triangulation of Jesus’s fleshly person, his resurrection and the corroboration of the Scripture. Jesus is the fulfillment of many promises of God. That God would redeem the word from sin. That he would send a messiah, a great deliverer, that he would be a king forever, that he would have the Spirit of God upon him, and that he would make atonement for the sins of the people.
Paul sees all these leading to confidence in who Jesus is, and that leads to confidence in what Jesus achieves. In Jesus there is the power of God for salvation. To Jews, to Greeks, it is the sole hope of salvation.
Even wealthy Romans have problems
Guilt and shame sickness and hardship, broken relationships, death, frustration, etc.
Unashamed of the gospel. Often you are ashamed because your devotion to one thing keeps you from something else you want. Want to be popular, but to do that you have to do what everyone else is doing and those things don't honor the Lord. You like this friend or that person, but your other friend doesn’t like them, so if you associate with them you lose your other friends. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God to salvation. It is the means of being delivered from all that is wrong in the world. It is the power of God to set you free from the powers of darkness, from the power of wrong thinking, from the power of evil. It is what everyone needs, it is what everyone is searching for, even when they don’t know it. Paul knows this is God’s solution to all the problems in the world. It is how you can be reconciled to God. If that is your greatest need, and this gospel solves it, then this is the greatest thing you need. I have it. I want to share it. I don’t want to be afraid!
Unashamed to Be His Servant
Paul describes himself as a servant. Servants are people who serve others. You go out to eat because you need a night off and don’t want to have to take care of other people. You tip a waiter or waitress to serve you. That is their job. They are there to serve you.
Well the word for servant is doulos. It literally means a slave. It is a person who has given up all rights and claims to his own wellbeing. He has become the property of another. He belongs to another. Paul was once a well-known and well-respected Pharisee, a religious leader of Israel, but he gave all that up to serve Jesus. How about that on your email signature?
Paul is not trying to play the game of serving Jesus and being respected in the world. The hope he has in Jesus consumes him. It's not the cherry on top, or the bonus features at the end of the movie. It is the whole movie. Without it you have nothing.
He is a servant before he is an apostle. Servant is primary. Apostle is secondary. He will never be an effective apostle unless he is a servant first. Being a servant of Christ is his primary descriptor. It's not Jewish. It's not male. It's not teacher, preacher, or apostle.
In a similar way we have to be a servant of Jesus before we are anything else. Everyone is a servant to a lord. It's a matter of whether that lord can free them or not. If not a servant, given to the authority of Christ and submitted to his will, we will not be effective at anything else. We will be a Christian in name only, without the reality of him as Lord.
Being a servant of Jesus defended him against the attacks of others. But it also put him on the offensive as one who wanted others to know the goodness of his Master and the life that was in Christ.
Paul’s goal is for others to know the salvation in Christ.
The obedience of faith. The good news of Jesus is that we can be saved by faith. We have all fallen short of God’s perfect standard. Even our best deeds are like filthy rags before him. We are saved by believing in Jesus.
But saving faith trusts in Jesus, and looks to him. Saving faith leads to obeying God. We quit pursuing the world in order to pursue Jesus.
His goal was not just to believe some facts about Jesus. Following Jesus as Lord means we obey him supremely. It breaks from the expectations of the world. It says he is the one controlling my life.
*It is not wishful thinking; it is convictional living.* I'm not just doing what I want and sticking a Jesus sticker on it. It is knowing Christ and his word and obeying it, living for what he calls me to. Conviction is a firmly held belief.
Don't follow Jesus just because your mama told you. Don't go to church just because it's what your grandparents did. That is not what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian means you have a firmly held belief that Jesus is the holy Son of God, born of a virgin, of the line of David, and declared with power through his resurrection of the dead to be the eternal Son of God. And you are convinced your greatest good is attaching yourself to him as your Lord. He is your all in all.
Obligation to all. Barbarians. Rough people. Would end up conquering the Roman empire. If there is a person or type of person that you don't want to have anything to do with, then you don't understand God’s grace to you. You consider your sin much better and more pleasant than the sin of others. Learn grace.
Unashamed of the Church
When I first started to explore the Christian faith I was cool. I had it all together. And there were times in my immaturity I didn't want to be seen with some of my church friends. They were a little goofy, corny. It was awkward enough to go to church. Then people were going to come into my dorm room and hang out and talk about God and stuff. Whoa. That's a little much.
Stopped using people for my reputation. Rested in Christ.
This New Testament book is a letter written to a church. Paul, the one Jesus chose to be his apostle, is tasked with planting churches throughout the world.
He is writing to a group of believers who are in Rome.
You is plural in verse 10. Want to see you. Impart a gift to you.
He wants to see their faces. Be in their presence. He is writing this letter to the saints in Rome. Those who are set apart. Who have set their life apart to God. Paul is giving his life to the church. Not just to believers dispersed and unconnected. He is preaching the gospel, and as people believe, they are gathering into church communities, and he is giving instructions on what they are to believe, how they are to conduct themselves, and what to do when things go wrong. Screens keep people at a distance. They provide a buffer.
- Wants to be mutually encouraged.
- Wants to do something for them. Wants to work. To bless them.
- Without ceasing he wants to pray for them (verse 9).
He has a longing to come to them
And not just to hang out and watch football. He longs to impart to them a gift. What is that gift? Charismatics say it is a word of knowledge or the laying on of hands to empower a gift. Baptists says it's a mission offering and a casserole. Presbyterians say it's a theology book and a cigar.
The word for gift is charisma. It's clear he has in mind something spiritual. It does seem that he is thinking of sharing a word, a message, and praying for them. And he longs for that. When you know Jesus you want to help others know him more. Very different from culture today that wants to minimize relationships, sees meetings as burdens and unnecessary. What if everyone came to church longing to speak an encouraging word to someone else and pray that God would gift them with spiritual strength??!
Paul is making an incredibly long and dangerous trip to Rome because he wants to see this community of people strengthened. He knew Jesus was building his church, and as he gave his life to Jesus, it meant giving himself to the church. He is writing a letter to the church to help them know Jesus more. He is praying for this church daily. He is longing to come to this church to impart a spiritual give to strengthen them. In this he expects them to be strengthened and also that he will be strengthened.
He has been hindered previously, but he persisted. It was hard work, but he kept at it and didn't give up.
A trip to Rome to strengthen a church, and a desire to have this church in Rome help plant a church in Spain, doesn't happen by accident. It comes through a conviction of the place of Jesus in our lives, and the place of his church. Where is that today? We have to regain the place of the church and it begins with regaining the place of Jesus.
There are a lot of people calling the church to not do certain things. Don't ask for money because some people don't like that. Don't call people to go to a Bible study because they feel pressure. Don't tell anybody that anything they ever do is wrong. Reduce church to a TED talk that adds insight and encouragement but never forces them to deal with the deeper realities of Scripture and following Jesus. Essentially it is a Christless Christianity. As though the founder of the religion didn't die and give his life to save his people from their sins. I want to help people along in the journey, and don't want to emphasize those apart from the call of following Jesus.
Church is the place we go to learn about Christ, to identify with him and his people, to follow out the commands he has for us.
Spurgeon. Dearest place on earth. The beauty of the church. Joy follows seeing beauty. It's not that it is only dear and only beautiful. It is often hard, difficult, awkward, and heartbreaking. Yet we see God working in it in powerful ways. Just like your life, just like your family. Do you lack joy? Maybe you don't see what God wants you to see. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you have to be a part of his people, and being a part of his people isn't just showing up anonymously to a service whenever it is convenient for your schedule. It's serving sacrificially. One of the main ways the Lordship of Jesus is worked out is through a commitment to his people. It causes you to grow.
So as you think about Jesus Christ. What is your disposition to him? Are you drawing close to him, or are you seeking to get away? Are you celebrating him and showing everyone you belong to him, or are you turning away from him? Does knowing him make you want to stand up and sing hallelujah, or disappear into the back?