We are beginning a new study today on Sunday mornings in the book of Romans. I have preached through Romans before many years ago, but I don’t think very many of you were here then. And so I want to look at it again as Romans is the most thorough book concerning the nature of our salvation. Many notable people down through the years have credited the book of Romans as the source of their salvation, such as Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley to name a few. And so it is an unparalleled source for understanding our great salvation.
In beginning this book today though I want to skip the usual longwinded background information that one would commonly begin with. I think that in the course of our study a lot of that information will be covered in due time and so I would rather just jump right into a verse by verse exposition of the word and let it explain itself as we come to it.
In this first section Paul is giving us an introduction of sorts to the letter and to himself and so let’s start by looking at the first verse. Vs1, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”
So the author obviously is Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, who was a Pharisee of Pharisees, a Jew, once a persecutor of the church, now residing temporarily in Corinth, who is on his third missionary journey, headed ultimately for Jerusalem. He is the author of this letter to the church at Rome whom he had never met. And it’s an unusual letter in that respect because all the other letters by Paul were written to churches he had either begun or visited personally.
Now notice this phrase, Paul; called to be an apostle. Being a Pharisee, being a Jew, being of the school of Gamaliel, was not the credentials of importance to Paul. It was that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. And furthermore, that he was called to that office. God appointed him. Not through the agency of man. Apostle means sent one. And Paul had been expressly sent by Christ. Christ revealed Himself to Paul, so that he had seen the resurrected Christ. Acts 1:22 says that the requirement for an apostle was that they were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.
Paul says in 1Cor. 15:4-8 concerning the resurrected Christ “that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” So Paul had met that criteria.
There were also the signs of an apostle, which are given to confirm that apostleship. In 2Cor. 12:12 Paul wrote that “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” And Paul certainly had exhibited those signs. But though his apostleship was something that was important to him and also for the sake of the authenticity and authority of the gospel which he preached, yet he emphasizes still another aspect of his ministry, that of being a bondservant of Christ.
It’s interesting that Israelites came from a background of slavery. They were enslaved to Egypt for 400 years. So to be called a slave was abhorrent to a Jew. It invoked the worst aspects of their heritage and one that conjured up feelings of shame. So it is remarkable that Paul embraces this title, with all it’s implications of servitude and humility. He embraces it because this attitude is essential not only for the preaching of the gospel, but it is essential to the foundation of Christianity. Christianity is submission to Christ as Lord. There is a general attitude of modern Christianity which freely accepts Christ humbling Himself to be our servant, to bring us to God by virtue of giving up HIs life for us so that we might receive grace. We have little problem accepting Christ as a servant, but we balk at becoming a servant of Christ. We balk at Jesus being Lord of our lives and having complete control of us. And yet there can be no real conversion without that kind of submission.
The crux of our problem before conversion is that we want to live for ourselves, to choose for ourselves what is good, or what is wrong. We want to be independent, we want to make our own decisions. And that is essentially rebellion against God. So many so called Christians eagerly accept what they think is the whole of Christianity – the grace of God whereby we are declared righteous and forgiven – and then continue to live a life characterized by making their own decisions, living as they think is right, doing as they please. There is no sense whatsoever after their so called conversion that they are now servants of Christ. Unfortunately, they have failed to seize upon true saving faith. They have merely seized upon a license to sin with impunity; to go on living in sin without any sense of judgment. And I’m afraid many who think that they are justified before God on the basis of grace will be found to be lacking at the judgment on the basis of obedience. Notice in vs 5 that Paul says that grace was given to bring about obedience. Rom. 1:5 “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.”
Now concerning his ministry as a servant and an apostle, Paul says he was set apart for the gospel. Set apart means appointed, separated for a specific purpose. Paul says in Galatians 1:15 “But when God, who had set me apart [even] from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” Notice in that verse Paul equates being set apart from the time before he was born. While he was still in the womb, decades before he even had been converted on the road to Damascus, God had set him apart to preach the gospel. That is a wonderful expression of the foreknowledge and election of God in regards to our conversion. Heb.12:2 says, Jesus is the author and the finisher of our salvation.
But I think that to be set apart also speaks of sanctification. It speaks of being set apart from the world for the purpose of righteousness. I think it means being set apart from the normal priorities of the world so that we might fulfill the priorities of God. It speaks of the purpose of all believers in being ministers of the gospel. That is the reason that we are here on earth. To be holy, to live righteously, and to be a witness to the power of the gospel to those who are without God. Our light is to shine so that we might be a beacon of hope to a world that is perishing, that is in darkness. It is not to hide our light under a bushel so that we don’t offend. It’s not to try to placate the ungodly so that we do not make them mad at us or not like us anymore. It’s not to sit on our hands and do nothing and sanctimoniously say that we are just going to trust God to do it, when in fact God has entrusted us to be ministers of the gospel. And that includes you. If you are a Christian, then you are called, you are set apart from your mother’s womb for the purpose of the gospel. I pray that you did not receive the grace of God in vain but that you are obedient to your calling.
Now what was Paul set apart for? He says he was set apart for the gospel of God. Gospel means good news. It is the good news given to a world that is dying, that God sent Jesus to die in our place, that we might receive life from God. The good news is what God has done for us, not what we might do. God did what we could never do, and that is provide atonement for our sins, and give us the righteousness of Christ, that we might have eternal life. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
This gospel of God that Paul is set aside for is further described in vs 2 as the same gospel “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Its important to understand that there is but one gospel in all of the Bible. The gospel is promised in the Old Testament, proclaimed in the gospels, and explained in the epistles.
There are so very many scriptures in the Old Testament which prophesy of the fulfillment of the gospel in Jesus Christ. One prime example is that found in Isaiah 53 which speaks of the suffering and death of the Christ which provided an atonement for sinners. And in our sermon last week from Matthew 1, the story of Christ’s birth, we read the prophecy from Isaiah which was fulfilled concerning the virgin birth of Immanuel, meaning God with us. Jesus was promised as far back as in the garden of Eden, at the fall, when God said that one would come from the seed of the woman who would crush Satan’s head. Furthermore, all the types and shadows and symbols of the temple and offerings and sacrifices were in fact prophecies foretelling the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So this gospel was promised by the prophets of the Old Testament, but furthermore, Paul says it is the gospel concerning His Son, “who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This is as I said last week when we talked about the birth of Jesus Christ the most important thing to note. The virgin birth emphasizes Jesus’s humanity, to be sure, but more importantly it emphasizes His deity. Mary was a descendant of David and it is important that the Messiah came from the Davidic line, but more importantly that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. He was the only begotten Son of the Father. Paul says in Titus 2:3 that Jesus is “our great God and Savior.” He says in Col. 2:9 that “in Him all the fullness of the godhead is concentrated.”
So Paul makes clear here the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ; He was fully man and fully God. The Son who without laying aside His divine nature took on the human nature. In 2Sam. 7:16 is found the beginning of the promise to David for a kingdom that will not end. God promised him that “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” And this promise was repeated to David through the Psalms and then by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah so that when the wise men sought the new born King of the Jews, they were told that He must be born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, for He was to be of the seed of David.
In saying that Jesus was declared the Son of God with power Paul is saying that though Jesus was from all eternity the Son of God, yet during His life on earth His power and glory was hidden from view. But by means of His resurrection from the dead, that glory was manifested to His disciples. His resurrection declared His deity, and manifested HIs glory as the Son of God in all His power and glory.
And Paul adds to that statement that Christ’s manifestation with power was according to the Spirit of Holiness. That simply means that the Spirit of Holiness that dwelled in Him became evident. His Spirit shone forth in a way that had not heretofore been seen by men. God who was in Him, who was Him, who is Spirit, became evident, or was manifested in Him after the resurrection. In a way that is hard for finite, mortal man to comprehend, God is one and yet separate. Listen to how Jesus prays to God speaking of this unity in the upper room; John 17:20-23 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, [are] in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” Now I am not going to take the time now to delineate that doctrine further, but that indicates the unity with God, the oneness with the Spirit of God that Christ manifested in His resurrection.
In Romans 8:9 Paul gives us some additional insight into the mystery of the Godhead. He says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” So you see in that verse the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are used interchangeably. So Paul in saying that Christ was raised from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness is just another indication of the deity of Jesus Christ which is he delineates further with the name and title, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this title Paul combines the human name of Jesus (Jehovah saves) with the title of Messiah (Christ is the Greek equivalent to Messiah) and then Lord (owner, master, ruler, soveriegn). It is in this full name and title of Jesus Christ the Lord that the gospel reaches it’s fullest expression. Without Him existing in all those realms salvation is impossible.
Now it’s to this doctrine of Jesus is Christ and Lord, that Paul ascribes himself as an apostle. Vs.5, “through whom (Jesus Christ the Lord) we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake…” This statement may be interpreted as I have read it in the NASB, which list grace and apostleship as two distinct things Paul has received. Or it might be better translated as the “gift of apostleship”.
That gift of apostleship was described in Acts 26 when Paul recounts his experience on the Damascus road, and a bright light shone upon him, and the voice of the Lord spoke to him. Acts 26:15-18 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the [Jewish] people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’”
So it’s clear from that text that Paul received his apostolic commission directly from the Lord Jesus. The purpose of Paul’s appointment was to bring about the obedience of faith. Please understand this principle; that obedience is based on faith and springs from faith. Obedience is the evidence of faith. That’s why James said, show me your faith by your works. Faith without works is dead. That’s why the Lord said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Faith and obedience can be compared to identical twins. When you see one you see the other. A person cannot have genuine faith without obedience, and cannot have obedience without faith.
Paul illustrates this symbiotic relationship of faith and obedience in two passages; one regarding faith, and the other regarding obedience. He says in Rom. 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” Then in Romans 16:19, “For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you.” So to put it another way, justification and sanctification are both essential elements of our salvation.
So having related that the gospel has brought about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles, Paul then includes the church at Rome as those who are being obedient to the faith thus proclaimed. He says in vs 6 “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” It’s interesting that Paul equates his call with the effectual call of those in Rome, these Gentile believers. God called them with the same effectual call that He has employed to call all the saints of God. For without that call of God men cannot respond to the gospel. Jesus said in John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
And notice how in the next verse that essential call of God is reiterated. Vs7 “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Let’s not miss the love of God Paul speaks of here; to all who are beloved of God in Rome…” So much is made of God’s love today that love has become in certain circles a euphemism of God. I do not agree with that kind of title, because I think it shortchanges God to assign Him only one attribute and define Him by only one definition.
However the fact that God loved the world is clearly the motivation for the gospel. John said in 1John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.” In John 3:16 again he states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Divine love then is God seeing our helpless estate, and sending Jesus Christ to take our place in death so that we might be receive pardon and new life in Christ. God’s love is not winking at sin. God’s love is not ambivalence towards sin. God’s love is not loving us just the way we are. But love is making it possible for us to be born again, to be made new, to be righteous.
Notice that we are called as saints. The effective call of the Holy Spirit illumines our eyes to the truth, gives understanding to the gospel, convicts us of our sin, makes clear our need for a Savior, and as we receive that light by faith, He gives us the power to become sons of God. He gives us new life, new desires, that we might turn from serving ourselves to become servants of God. It’s an effectual call of God that transforms us from sinners to saints, and translates us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God. John 1:12-13 says “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Now to such saints as we who have believed are, Paul gives a salutation that only Christians can receive. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Only by the gift of God can we have peace with God. We have grace because He loved us and sent Christ to die on the cross in our place and because His Spirit has called us with an effectual call as saints.
And because we have received the grace of God then and only then can we have peace with God. We who were formerly enemies of God have been brought close by the blood of Jesus Christ. So that by faith we are obedient to Him and we love Him because He first loved us.
I pray that if you have not yet been born again, that you have heard the call of God today, and that you will receive the gift of HIs Son, believing in Him, and following Him with the obedience of faith. This is the gospel which was manifested in Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the gospel that Paul writes of here in Romans. I pray that you will receive it as the word of God.