By Simon ManchesterSunday 16 Jan 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
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Good morning, everybody. Let’s pray again, for a moment, asking God’s help. Our gracious God, as we turn to the scriptures, which you have recorded for us, we pray that the same holy spirit who enabled them to be written, would help us now to profit from them. To see wonderful things in your word and in your goodness, to live them out. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.
We’re beginning a new little series of eight sermons in the first five chapters of the Book of Romans. You probably know that Romans is considered the Mount Everest of Paul’s letters in the new Testament. And this particular letter, is all about a global problem and a global solution. The issue of Romans, the issue of sin and a saviour, is relevant to everyone. The disease of sin is a killer. The solution, Jesus Christ is life giving and the stakes are eternal.
No wonder the apostle Paul, is so urgent and keen for the gospel. Now, Romans is a very meaty letter. It’s not only changed the world. I think of people like Augustine and Luther and Wesley who’ve picked up letter, or heard the letter and been amazingly changed and had a big impact on the changing of the world. But, this letter has also stretched the minds of believers and scholars for 2000 years. It’s a meaty letter. You may know the story of the secular astronomer, who meets a Christian minister. And the secular astronomer says to the Christian minister, “Well, you have such an easy life. I suppose, you just get up on Sunday and you say something like, “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.” And the Christian says back to the astronomer, “Well, you have a particularly easy life as well, because you get up in you lecture. And I presume you simply say, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.””
And of course, the world of astronomy, the world of biology and botany and theology have got massive depths and breadths to them. And we see some of this in the letter of Romans. Christianity is simple. It’s simple enough for a child, but it’s also profound and stretching for the greatest intellect. Now, we’re going to look at the first 17 verses this morning, Martin Lloyd Jones preached 23 sermons on these verses, and I’m going to try and do some justice in just one sermon. I have two headings, the first heading is, The Very Best News To Take In, Romans 1:7. And secondly, The Very Best News To Give Out, Romans 14:17. So, first of all, The Very Best News To Take In, Romans 1.
Well, we’re told the letter is from Paul, he describes himself as a servant and an apostle, which is a very nice blend of humility and authority. And it’s to the Christians in Rome, where he has never been. How did the church begin? Well, we’re not exactly told. We certainly, see that there is no reference to Peter in Rome. But, we must assume the answer to the question, is that on the day of Pentecost, we’re told in Acts 2, that when many nations had gathered in Jerusalem and Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and preached the news of Christ, that many who’d come from Rome, went home believing and began a little church. Paul describes himself in this first verse as set apart for the gospel. In other words, God appointed him for the gospel, or he assigned him the work of the gospel, or he allocated him to the gospel.
And in these opening verses, he tells us five great things about the gospel, things that we should take in. And here are the five. Number one, verse one, the gospel is God’s gospel. It’s not a human invention. Nobody emerged from a cave having written a magic book and said, “Well, I now have the gospel.” This message, which has come to us in a book written by 40 authors, in different languages, over different centuries, is a miraculous work of God. In of course, the religion of Islam and the Mormons, you do have one person who claims that their one book, is to be taken seriously and they hold the world to ransom, but it’s not like this with the new Testament. God initiated the gospel. He is behind the gospel. Just as we face creation, and we must deal with creation. Just as we face salvation, and we must deal with salvation. Just as we see Jesus appear in the world, so the gospel has come to us.
No human came up with the gospel. It’s too unique, it’s too supernatural. It’s too counter-cultural. It’s God’s gospel. Second thing to take in, is that the gospel was promised in scripture, before Jesus arrived. There were 2000 years of prediction in scripture that somebody would come, someone who would come and deal with sin, they would be the saviour, the king, the prophet, and the priest. And the scriptures that go right back to Genesis, predict from Genesis to Malachi, the coming of a saviour king. So, Paul says the gospel was written about in the scriptures. Now, one man called Stan Telchin, who is a Jewish man, was horrified when his daughter became a Christian. And Stan Telchin has written a book called Betrayed. But, it’s actually a book about Jesus, because he decided that he must comb the scriptures to find out whether Christianity was true.
And in the combining of the scriptures, he became a Christian. The last six pages of the book, are references from the Old Testament, pointing to the person of Jesus. So, the gospel of Jesus was promised in the scripture. Third thing to take in regarding the gospel, it is about Jesus. Chapter one, verse three, the gospel regarding God’s son. This message of the church that we are meant to be telling the world, is not a message of rules. You can imagine people wandering past All Saints Woollahra looking up at the building on the hill and saying to themselves, “Well, I’m so glad I don’t go to that place, because I don’t want to sit there and be told by some hypocrite, how I am to live my life and keep the rules when I’m already a pretty good person.” But, that’s not what we do. We don’t major on rules.
We don’t major on feelings. We don’t major on buildings, or clergy, or offertories, or even robes, or music. We speak of Christ. Everything in scripture points to Christ, the law points to Christ, the sacrifices of the Old Testament point to Christ, the promises point to him, the miracles point to hear him. And Jesus does what no other religious leader does. He points to himself as well. Other religious leaders, point to their rituals, or their practices. But, Jesus points to himself. He says, “I’m the bread of life. And I’m the light of the world. And I’m the resurrection. And I’m the way, the truth, and the life. And you need me.” Notice what Paul says about Jesus in verses three and four, he says just two things. One, he was descended from David. That’s his humanity. And the second is he’s the son of God, that’s his deity.
Now, how do we know that he was human? Well, the answer is of course, his birth and his life. Look at those and you’ll see that he was 100% human. How do we know that he is divine? And the answer is, of course, Paul says to look at the resurrection. The resurrection has announced the deity, the son of God, 100% divine. This was a very public occasion, when Jesus was announced to be the son of God. The fourth thing to take in of the gospel, verse five, is that it’s global. Literally, Paul says he used to call the nations to faith. He used to call the nations to faith. Christianity is a global faith. And I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that Christianity actually fits like a hand in a glove, in any culture of the world. You can go to visit believers in India, or Africa, or Russia, or Argentina, or Australia, and they will worship Christ, without having a culture straight-jacketed on top of them.
The wonderful thing about the gospel, is that it is for the whole world and it fits the culture and is worshiped in the form of the culture, uniquely and wonderfully. The whole world needs the gospel, because the whole world needs Christ and mercy. Fifthly, the gospel is received by faith. You don’t get the gospel rescue by being a nice person, by being a clever person. By being a religious person, or a good person, it comes by faith. It’s the empty hand that says to Christ, “I need you.” So, there are five things to take in about the gospel. It’s God’s gospel, it’s promised in the scriptures, it’s about Jesus, it’s for the world. And it’s received by faith. No wonder the apostle, Paul is enthusiastic. Second point this morning, the very best news. Secondly, to give out. Chapter one, versus 14 to 17. These verses in chapter one, 14 to 17, move from the facts, which we’ve just been considering to the urgency.
Paul has said things about the gospel. Now, he describes his zeal for the gospel. Just before we turn to these verses, I want you to know that in one of Lloyd Jones’ sermons on these verses, he asks a very important question in sermon number 19. He says, “What do you do when somebody contacts you?” They’re not a Christian, but they’re dying. They know that you are a Christian and this person has begun to fear for their soul and for their eternity. They know nothing about Christianity. They contact you, because they think that you’ll be able to help them. Now, Lloyd Jones says, “What will you do when you go to the bedside of your friend? It’s no point to you telling them to be good, it’s too late for that. It’s no point to you telling them that you just feel very sorry for them. There’s no point in telling them that you’ll pray.”
Although, that may be useful, it doesn’t help them. And then, it would be a dreadful thing to give to that person, some false assurance and say, “Well, nevermind, you’ll soon be in heaven. And everything will be wonderful.” When they’re not actually, ready to meet Christ at all. This person needs very simply to know that Christ has died. Has died to pay for sin, to make it possible for a believer to safely travel from this world to the next, they need to know that Christ has died and they need in the words of Act 16:31, “To believe on the Lord, Jesus, to throw themselves on Christ in order to be saved.” You don’t need to be an expert to go and visit a person in hospital. You just simply, need to know the gospel, the powerful, wonderful, sufficient gospel. And in the giving out of the gospel, which Paul is so enthusiastic about, he says a number of things.
First, verse 14, he says, “He’s a, debtor.” Literally, I’m obligated. This doesn’t mean that he owes money to people, or something like that debt. It means he’s been given something to distribute. If you’re at a dinner and the hostess gives you a plate of cakes to distribute, you are obligated to distribute. And Paul is obligated. You’ll notice of course, that he is an apostle. And so, he has a very distinct and unique obligation. Every believer has some obligation, but the apostle Paul’s was a primary and a great obligation. Second, he’s obligated to everyone, or anyone. Every creature, every condition described in verse 14, the Jew, the gentile, the wise, the foolish. In fact, he says, “I’m keen to get to Rome.” Not, because there are no believers in Rome, but because he wants to keep preaching the gospel to the believers for their joy and to the unbelievers for their salvation.
So, there isn’t a single person in the world. There isn’t a single person in your suburb, your street, your block of units, who hasn’t been made by God. And if they’ve been made by God, you know that they are in revolt against God and they are soon going to meet God. And they need the mercy of God, today. One of my favourite church signs, which is borrowing actually a sentence of CS Lewis says, “Imagine this is a big sign on the highway, as you drive past.” It says, “You are traveling at exactly, 60 minutes per hour to the presence of God.” And that’s what people need to know. They’re traveling at exactly 60 minutes per hour, into the presence of God. So, thirdly, Paul says, he’s not ashamed of the gospel. He’s a debtor. He’s wants the gospel to go to everyone. And thirdly, he’s not ashamed of the gospel, verse 16.
He might have said, I’m proud of the gospel, or I’m excited about the gospel, or I’m thankful for the gospel, or enthusiastic, but he says, he’s not ashamed. And he’s not ashamed, because verse 16, it’s powerful. The word in the Greek is Dunamis. It’s the word that Alexander Noble chose to describe his new explosive, which he called dynamite. Now, why is the gospel powerful? Well, because it comes as God’s word to you. God does his work by speaking. He caused the creation by speaking, he brings salvation by speaking. And God’s power comes to you in words about Jesus and words, change you. The words of Jesus death, the words of Jesus resurrection. When you believe and trust, your sins are carried away, carried away forever. And there is a new life that is put into your soul. If you go down to the mortuary and you see two bodies lying on slabs in the mortuary, they both look pretty much the same, but if one of them has received the gospel of Jesus, that person is heading for the resurrection.
If the other person has not received the gospel of Jesus, they’re not heading for the resurrection. It is a very powerful, eternity-changing message that comes to us in words about Jesus. And it brings salvation, verse 16. Salvation is a very wonderful word in the scriptures. And it’s a very three dimensional, or multidimensional word. Salvation means for the believer, that the penalty has been removed, the penalty for sin has been removed. It means that the power of sin, is being removed steadily and surely. And it means that one day, the very presence of sin, will be removed completely. So, everybody needs salvation. Some people of course, feel it very deeply. Some people don’t feel it at all. And they’re often the people in the most danger, because they need it, but they don’t feel it. Of course, it’s very wonderful to live in the present, to know your sins are forgiven and to have fellowship with God and with his people.
But, the real wonder and joy of the gospel will come home to us, when we stand in God’s courtroom and suddenly we hear these incredible words, “This person is completely acquitted. They have put their trust in Christ and there is nothing against them. And they are inheritors of the kingdom of glory.” That my friends, will be a day where the gospel really comes home to us. And the gospel not only brings salvation. It brings righteousness, verse 17. This little phrase, righteousness of God, was a phrase that you may know, terrified Martin Luther. It sounded as though, it was just a terrible standard to Luther. He would say something like this, “God is righteous. Well, I’m not. God expects righteousness, I can’t deliver.” And then, in verse 17, Luther saw the gospel. He saw that God gives this righteousness, not to the person who deserves it. That person doesn’t exist.
But, to the person who receives it by faith, with an empty hand. Luther says in his diary, “I hated the expression, the righteousness of God, but he had mercy on me. And I was able to note righteousness and faith and to understand the gift of God.” And I felt that I’d been completely reborn, instantly. All scripture looked different. And as intensely, he says, “As I had hated the words, righteousness of God, I now love to them.” Righteousness of course, is like the father of the prodigal son, running down the road, embracing his son who has returned and throwing over him the robe, the special robe, which we might call the robe of righteousness. Again, 17, this comes by faith. From first, says Paul, to last. We begin by looking to Jesus, we’ll keep looking to Jesus. And one day we’ll find ourselves forever, looking at Jesus.
We’ll lean on him at the beginning of our faith, and we’ll never move away from him. Now, friends, I mentioned a few minutes ago, what you’d say, if you went to the bedside of somebody who’s dying. And interestingly John Newton describes in one of his letters, that very experience. He went to the bedside of a young woman who’s dying and he shared the gospel. And he says this in his letters. “I visited a young woman in her last illness, and having told her the news of Christ. I prayed thanking God that she had not now trusted in fables, but the sure word of God, when I finished praying, she said, “Oh no, sir, not fables. And you are highly favored sir, to tell this news. It’s not until you are in my position, she said, that you’ll conceive the vast weight and the importance of the truths you declare. My hope, is now fixed on the rock of ages. I know in whom I have believed and death presents a glory which cannot be described.” That’s the power of the gospel.
Now, friends, you know that much of the West has turned its back on the true and living God. It’s a very sad and tragic situation. Other countries who simply have idols and temples, that provide no real hope at all, cling tightly to their temples and the idols. But, in the West, we are in a strange culture that has abandoned the true hope of Christ. And therefore, my dear friends, we are in a mission field and we do need to pray that God would have mercy on us. And we do need to remember that we have very great truths to take in, and very great truths to give out.
Let’s bow our heads and pray. Thank you, our gracious God, for bringing to us your gospel, the gospel of Christ. For all, to bring salvation and to be received by faith. We pray that you would not only help us to be good receivers, but also to be those who in some way, pass on this good news and see others live. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.