In less than two weeks, Redeeming Life Church will begin a series through the book of Romans. We'll start on September 7th and won't be through the end of Chapter 16 until mid July 2015. I'm excited and for good reason. Romans, a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Rome, is a significant letter. In fact, 'significant' really doesn't even begin scratch the surface.
It was Paul's letter to the Romans that opened Reformer Martin Luther's eyes to the biblical truth that righteousness comes by nothing but grace, through faith in Christ alone. Centuries later Luther's preface to the book of Romans moved John Wesley to Christ alone for salvation. These two men believed that Romans is a powerful letter. It's the most reasoned book of systematic theology in all of the Bible. John Calvin said of this book, "When anyone gains a knowledge of this Epistle he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture" (1) And Frederic Louis Godet believed, "The probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of [the book of Romans]" (2).
I pray Godet is right! It's my prayer that we will see a great revival with in us, the Redeeming Life family, and I pray that revival spreads to an awakening through the Salt Lake valley with the speed and ferociousness of a dry brush fire in high winds.
I'm thrilled to open to Romans 1:1-7 and see what God has to say to us from this text.
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1-7, ESV).That first sentence (Romans 1:1-6) is lengthy and loaded. The ESV translation uses 103 English words to translate the 72 Greek words Paul used to provide a complete picture of his identity and driving passion. Make no mistake, the subject of this run on sentence is Paul. It's about Paul.
1. A servant of Christ,
2. called to be an apostle and,
3. set apart for the Gospel of God.
What's that you ask, "What's the Gospel of God?"
The Gospel of God was promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures and they concern his Son. Who's son? Well, God's, from the previous clause "the Gospel of God."
"And furthermore," you can almost hear Paul saying, "I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you about God's son, just so there's no confusion. It's what I do. It's my thing."
Paul goes on to say God's son was descended from David according to the flesh (which was written in the Holy Scriptures beforehand) and he was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness. Now, you might be asking, "how so? What power?" Paul says it was by his resurrection from the dead.
Then Paul shares the Son's name. Jesus Christ. The name of the same person he said he was a servant of back at the beginning of this long sentence.
And there's more. This Son of God, Jesus, gave Paul and the readers of this letter grace and apostleship so they could bring about the obedience of faith. But Paul was not using this gift to bringing about an obedience to himself or a faith in the man called Paul. Oh no! This is all for the sake of the Son of God's name, for people among all nations, including the Romans who received this letter and are called to belong to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
How can Paul even make such a bold declaration? He's saying he's a servant of Jesus Christ, he's an Apostle, and he's been set apart. This is Paul's answer at the barbeque when a stranger asks, "So Paul, what do you do?"
And when the stranger says, "Really, how'd you get such an amazing job?" Paul might likely respond, "Oh, it's not a job, it's who I am, to the very core. And let me tell you how. . . the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Paul's identity was completely formed by the Gospel. All the way to the core. What forms your identity? What do you say at the barbeque when asked what you do? And are you ready to back your identity up by proclaiming the identity of the Savior of the World, the Son of God, Jesus Christ?
Looking at the book of Acts we find a man totally motivated, moved, and impassioned by the Gospel of Christ. That man is Paul, the same guy.
Church, I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to journey through a letter from God, written through the hand of the Apostle Paul. We won't have a discussion about this in your house fellowship before I get to preach on Romans 1:1-7, but I'd like to highly encourage you to take some time and examine your identity Dig deep and examine what percentage of you is truly driven by the gospel and what percent is driven by something else.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1947), xxix.
2. Frederick Louis Godet, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 1.
*Photo of Scriptures taken by Bryan Catherman, "The Apostle Paul" by Rembrandt is in the public domain.