This morning we begin a new sermon series in the book of Romans. We are going to journey systematically through this entire book, verse by verse, over the next few months. It promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking study, and I hope you will be faithful to come to every single service. Romans is one of the most popular and familiar books of the entire Bible, and it is my prayer that we will be challenged by it and able to apply its teachings anew and afresh in our lives.
Paul is the author of this book. It is actually a letter, or an epistle, which he wrote to the Christians living in Rome. The origins of Christianity in the city of Rome is uncertain, but most scholars tend to believe that the persecution of believers in Jerusalem led to a dispersion through the world. As such, some of these early disciples may have fled to Rome (among many other places) in order to escape the calamity. These Roman Christians met in home-groups throughout the large city and became well established there over time.
Paul wrote this letter from the city of Corinth, most likely during the winter of 56-57 AD. In the years immediately prior to this, he had been traveling through the regions of Asia Minor and Macedonia on his third missionary journey. Throughout the trip, he had been receiving an offering from the Gentile churches that he intended to take back to Jerusalem. However, winter had arrived and Paul decided to tarry in Corinth until the spring before returning to Judah with the money.
The letter to the Romans contains a thorough examination of the doctrine of salvation. Theologians and Bible scholars refer to this as soteriology or “the study of salvation”. As such, I have decided to call this series by that name - “Romans: The Study of Salvation”. Each of these sermons will focus upon some particular aspect of salvation, and together they will makeup a comprehensive teaching on the entire doctrine.
Salvation is the fundamental message of Christianity. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. That said, this series will bring us back to the basics and remind us once again of the essential elements of our faith. These sermons will delve into several indispensable truths of Christianity, in which there is no room for various interpretations. Romans presents Christianity 101, the foundation upon which the rest of our faith resides. So… let’s begin by identifying and considering the message of salvation, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I. THE GOSPEL OF GOD (Romans 1:1-7)
Paul opens his letter to the the Christians in Rome by identifying himself as a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ. He further states that he has been set apart by God of the sake of the gospel. The English word “gospel” originates from the Greek word “euaggelion” which means “good news”. The gospel is, in its broadest sense, the message of salvation through Jesus Christ which is certainly good news! Spreading this message is the lifework and consuming passion of Paul, and the fundamental theme of this entire letter.
The gospel was not a promise that had recently come into existence. On the contrary, it had been declared by the prophets in ancient Israel and written about in the Old Testament Scriptures. These prophecies of old anticipated the coming Messiah, who in his humanity would be a descendent of King David, and in his deity the Son of God who would rise from the dead as testified by the Holy Spirit. This is a description of the Lord Jesus, who came to deliver His people from their sin and forever secure their great salvation.
In Christ, Paul and his colleagues have received both grace and apostleship. As recipients of grace, they are empowered by God to share the message of salvation. As called apostles, they are compelled to share it as their act of ministry. The word apostle is defined as “one who is sent as a messenger”. Paul and his friends are evangelists who have been chosen by God to carry the gospel specifically to the Gentiles.
Just as Paul has been chosen by God, so too have the recipients of this letter - the saints who are in Rome. As fellow believers in the Lord Jesus, the Roman Christians also share in the magnificent calling of Christ. They are an important part of the family of God, and Paul greets them with his customary salutation “grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. PREACHING THE GOSPEL (Romans 1:8-15)
As is typical of Paul’s letters, the apostle takes a moment at the outset to commend his readers and express his gratitude and prayers for them. This complementary approach demonstrates that he loves them as people, even if the message that is forthcoming might step on their toes. In this letter, Paul applauds the Romans stating that their reputation of steadfast faith has spread throughout the whole world. It causes me to wonder about the reputation of our church’s faith…
Paul goes on to say that he talks about and prays for the church in Rome all the time, and longs to come and visit them. He looks forward to meeting the Roman believers and supposes that the encounter will be mutually beneficial to both he and them. He tells the Romans that he has planned to come for some time, but various circumstances have prevented him from doing so. Yet, he remains determined to someday soon journey to Rome and meet them face-to-face.
I read somewhere in a commentary that Paul was a “pioneer evangelist”. A pioneer is someone who goes places that no one has ever been before. Like the pioneers who gradually settled the unexplored regions of the American west, Paul carried the gospel to people that had never heard it. Because the Christian church had already been firmly established in the city of Rome, Paul had not ever travelled there. His obligation was to people and places where the message of Jesus was scarce or even absent. Still, he longed to one day preach the gospel in Rome nonetheless.
III. NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL (Romans 1:16-17)
Despite the heavy persecution that was upon Christians by this time, Paul boldly declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel. He is resolved to share the good news of Jesus Christ openly and unapologetically for as long as possible. In some of his other letters, Paul mentions the hardships that he has endured for the sake of his calling, and concludes that his present sufferings are a small price to pay for the work God’s given him. The depth of his commitment should challenge us to consider the measure of our own… Paul is not ashamed, but are we?
Inherent to the gospel message is the “power of God for salvation”. In the same way that the potential for a tremendous explosion rests inside a tiny atom, so also the unlimited strength of God can be found in the gospel message. But this power is unlocked only when the message is believed - it remains dormant when the gospel is rejected. When any person - whether a Jew or a Greek - hears and accepts the gospel by faith, the righteousness of God is imputed upon them and they are eternally saved and secured by the hand of the Almighty. This salvation is effected solely on the basis of faith alone.
The gospel is the message of salvation. As stated in the introduction, It is at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is the promise of God unto redemption through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
In the opening paragraphs of his correspondence to the Romans, Paul names salvation as the primary theme of his letter. In the chapters that follow, he will discuss the necessity of salvation (why we need it), the mechanics of salvation (its various parts how they work), the heirs of salvation (who it is intended for), and the practical effects of salvation (how it is manifested in our daily living).
In closing, did you believe the gospel? Have you heard and accepted it by faith? The power of God unto salvation is released in your life only when you place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you have never done so before, would you be willing to trust in Him today?