Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
February 14, 2016
Central Passage
Romans 1:1-7
Subject
Promises of God
Description

February 14, 2016

GOOD NEWS

Romans 1:1-7

How do you want to be remembered?  Is there a theme to your life that you want your children and grandchildren to recall when they think of you?  What message and method of your life will you leave as a legacy?

In our scripture today the Apostle Paul is answering all these questions as he introduces himself to us.  He tells us something about himself as a man…about his message…and about his method.

Look at verse 1: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God…”

What do we actually know about Paul?  The truth is that we know very little about him prior to his conversion to Christianity.  We know that he was called Saul…and we know he was born in Tarsus…a city in modern day Turkey.

We know he was a graduate of a secular university…and that at the time he had the best education money could buy.  We also know that he was a Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin…and that he had trained under the then famous rabbi, Gamaliel.

All the evidence suggests that Paul was a very educated man…and a very religious one.  He was a Pharisee…and while we get a negative image of the Pharisees from our New Testament studies…there were some things about them to be admired.  For one thing…they were experts in the Old Testament Scriptures.

And, another thing is that…although misguided…they made an effort to be obedient and faithful to the Old Testament Law.  They were, undoubtedly, the religious conservatives of their day.  I’m sure many of them were like a lot of church people today…able to quote Scriptures at the drop of a hat…but too arrogant and impressed with their religiousness to truly understand the meaning of those Scriptures.

So Paul was one of these folks…both knowledgeable about the Scriptures and extremely pious…but lacking Godly wisdom.  He confessed to that in some of the letters he wrote…that before meeting Christ on the road to Damascus that he had tried to please God in a wrongheaded way.  You see, the difference between Paul and your usual Pharisee or legalist is that he was willing to change his way for God’s way…whereas your normal Pharisee or legalist wants to change God’s way to their way.

Another thing we know about Paul is that he was a tentmaker by trade.  That’s how he earned his living.  Because of the large use of tents by the Hebrew people it was a good and well-paying profession.  There was a great demand for ordinary tents that were used as primary dwellings…and for portable tents used by travelers.  Rough goat’s hair was used for making tents and Paul must have been good at cutting the cloth straight.  His tent making ability may have led to his relationship with Aquila and Pricilla.

There is no evidence that Paul ever had any contact with Jesus before his own conversion on the Damascus Road.  But, early on Paul was well aware of Christians.  In the seventh chapter of Acts we read that when Stephen was stoned…the men doing it laid their coats at the feet of Saul.  So he saw what was happening and, obviously, approved of it…because he took on the role of persecuting Christians.

Jewish religious leaders of Paul’s day were a lot like Muslim Islamic leaders of today.  They wanted to rid the world of people who disagreed with their view of God…just as Muslims want to rid the world of people who disagree with their view of Allah.  And, like Muslims today…the Jews were willing to use government and murder to achieve their purpose.

So in persecuting Christians Paul was being politically and religiously correct in his day.  He thought he knew God.  But, then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and his entire world was turned upside down.

What Paul teaches us is that you can become knowledgeable in Scripture…join the church and follow all its main-made rules, regulations and traditions…and still not know God.  You can be religious 24/7, but until you meet Jesus you won’t know God.

On the road to Damascus Paul found himself so in the light of Christ that he was blinded by it.  But, the moment he regained his sight he had absolute clarity about who he was and what he was to do.  He had been going down the wrong road in life…but in a flash he was turned around…given a new focus, drive and torque.

After his conversion Paul could have said, “I have a PHD, a THD and every other kind of D in religion”...but he instead introduced himself as a servant…an apostle…as a person set apart for the Gospel of God.  Paul could have introduced himself to the Romans as a church planter or an exceptional writer…but he instead called himself “…a bond slave of Christ.”

Those that seek status in the church…some title or acclaim…need to take a close look at Paul.  He wrote most of the New Testament, but no gospel or letter is named after him.  Some of those letters provide evidence of his battle with self-pride…and his quest to be nothing more than “…a bond slave to Christ.”

The Roman people were well acquainted with slavery...because when the Roman army conquered an enemy they brought the survivors to Rome as slaves and triumphantly marched them before the citizenry.  Animals had more rights in the Roman Empire than slaves…so for Paul to identify himself a bond slave classified him with the lowest of the low in the social pecking order of Rome.

How many church people do you know who would begin a letter the way Paul began Romans?  Paul holds the shackle of slavery to his own neck…and in the process acknowledges Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of his life.  If he had wanted to be politically correct during his time, he would have said, “Hail, Caesar.”  But, what he was doing here was saying, “Hail, Jesus.”

Paul also identified himself as an apostle…which caused some in the new Christian group called “The Way” to bristle.  To them the only person who could be an apostle was someone who had personally been with the Lord…and someone Jesus had personally called and given the authority to be an apostle.  And, now this usurper…this man who had been a murderer of Christians…was declaring himself an apostle.  He was, in fact, declaring himself to have the same position as the chosen Disciples of Christ.

How could Paul rightfully do this?  Well, the risen Christ personally spoke to Paul that day on the Damascus Road and gave him a worldwide purpose.  He could not deny it.  So to establish his credentials with a commission to proclaim the good news of Christ…he put himself with that unique group of men who were there at the formation of the church.  His authority as an apostle didn’t come from any man…it came from Christ.  His words bore the authority of God Himself.

Because Paul was a bond slave…one who received his authority from Christ…he was also a man who was set apart for the Gospel of God.  Paul understood that being a follower of Christ was a grand privilege…an honor above all others.

We could spend a great deal more time talking about the man…but what about the message?  Well, he introduced the Gospel as the Gospel of God’s Son…then went on to tells us that God’s Son descended from David and was resurrected from the dead by the power of God.

That’s the message of the Gospel.  God was forever with the Son…and the Son was forever with the Father.  The Father and the Son were in perfect harmony…perfect intimacy…perfect fellowship…sharing their glory.

Then Christ…the eternal Son of God…came down to earth in the flesh and died for our sins.  He could have stayed forever with God in the eternal glory of heaven…but, instead, willingly took on human flesh…becoming a Servant in the flesh.  John 1:14 tells us, “The Word became flesh, and we beheld His glory – the glory of the only begotten of the Father.”

We could never have seen the glory of God if the Son had not become flesh.  The eternal Son of God revealed His glory in His slavery for us.  That’s the message of the Gospel.

And, in verse 5 we see the method: “Through Him and for His name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to obedience that comes from faith.”

The obedience that comes from our faith in Christ is the method.  If you have faith because of God’s grace, you will bear a certain kind of fruit.  Our modern theological world is so twisted today that it offers a watered down

Gospel that promises to fix all of your problems and make you feel happy.  The Gospel does make you happy, and the Gospel does have the ability to help you with life’s problems, but it must do something else first.

The Gospel of Christ is primarily designed to fix your broken relationship with God caused by your rebellion against God.  Everything else flows out of that restored relationship.  The Gospel is God’s command that we be reconciled to God.

Paul writes to what was the proudest, most powerful city on earth…full of man’s glory…and he tells them that God commands all nations…even the proud Gentiles of Rome to place their faith in God’s Son.  So, the only freedom we can ever have is in slavery itself…a slavery to Christ.

Christ became a bond slave for you…and now in His glory calls you to be His bond slave forever.  The Gospel is all about Jesus…who will never force you to serve Him.  Like Paul, you must come voluntarily to Him and voluntarily make yourself His slave.

Paul was one of the most learned men of his time, but what was he doing for God with all his learning?  Absolutely nothing.  He was helping maintain the status quo of a political religious system that had become its own god.  He could quote Scripture better than the average Jew…knew what was perceived to be the Law of God…and he understood Judean religious traditions and practices…but he didn’t know God.  He didn’t know God…because to know God you have to know Christ.

There are seven things primary things taught in the Bible:

  1. Scripture over tradition
  2. Faith over works
  3. Grace over merit
  4. Christ alone
  5. God alone
  6. Church alone
  7. Love alone

In a sense these seven things are one.  The Bible alone is God’s infallible revelation of His glory…which reveals His grace in Christ…which becomes ours through the gift of faith.  God’s grace is uniquely revealed in His Word…which reveals the work of Christ…which becomes ours by faith…all contributing to His glory.

These are precise and potent affirmations of the truth that it’s all about God.  While these things teach us how to have peace with God…the biblical story is more about Him and His glory than about us and our comfort.

Large congregations…which are not necessarily large churches…are built on materialistic values.  And, popular preachers…who are not necessarily preachers of the Gospel…build such congregations on the premise that God wants you to have this or that.

But, does God want you to be comfortable while people are perishing?  Show me that in the context of the entire Bible…not in just a few words pulled out of context.  There’s nothing comfortable about true Christianity.  It pricks at our weaknesses…our self-centeredness and the concerns we have for ourselves.  And, it challenges us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Christianity calls us to pursue one thing…and one thing only.  It calls us to honor and serve our Maker and Redeemer…to affirm our dependence on Him and His preeminence in all things.

God calls us to follow one path…His path.  His commands are never…and can never…be pitted against each other.  His wisdom is never…and can never…be pitted against itself.  His grace is never…and can never…be pitted against His character.

If we find ourselves torn, confused and pulled in different directions…it isn’t because we’re faithfully following Him.  It’s because we aren’t.  God is never confused about anything…but it’s a rare day when we aren’t.

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