Series on Romans – Part 1
Sermon by Jonathan Martinovici preached on the 7th of January 2018.
Part 1 – Romans 1:1-17
Today we will cover Romans 1:1-17. Next week we will cover Romans 1:18-32.
We will divide the text of verses 1-17 into three sections, thus:
- Verses 1-7.
- Verses 8-15.
- Verses 16-17.
Section 1 – verses 1-7.
- This letter begins with the name of the author, Paul. This is quite normal for the time when the letter was written.
“a bondservant of Christ”.
- The word “bondservant” in our English Bibles is translated from the Greek word “doulos”, which is numerously translated “slave”, “servant”, “bondservant”, etc.
- The word “bondservant” carries the connotation from the Old Testament, of a slave who, when he had served his time under his master and was no longer under obligations to remain his slave, still preferred to do so rather than leave his service, saying, “I love my master and do not wish to leave him.” And the slave would thus have a hole bored through his ear to signify that he is a slave now out of love to his master, and not as his debtor. So this translation, “bondservant”, emphasizes the fact that Paul was willingly a servant of Christ, and loved Christ and wished to serve Him.
- That Paul mentions, before mentioning that he is an apostle (and thus claiming his authority to instruct the church authoritatively), that he is a servant of Christ, is perhaps reminiscent of King David’s inscription on his Psalms, “The servant of the LORD”, rather than mentioning that he was a king. May we always count it all joy to count ourselves the servants of Christ, and give all the glory to Christ.
“called to be an apostle”
- “apostle” – one who is sent.
“separated to the gospel of God”
- “gospel” – good news.
- Paul was sent to preach Christ; to preach the gospel of God in Christ. His primary calling from God was to preach the message and good news of Christ.
“which He promised”.
- “which” – the gospel”.
- “He” – God.
- God promised the gospel.
“before through His prophets”
- The Old Testament prophets, who were likewise sent by God to give authoritative revelation from God, and to foretell the Messiah.
“in the Holy Scriptures”
- The words of the prophets are contained in the Holy Scriptures (the first half of the Bible we hold in our hands).
- In the Old Testament Scriptures, God promised the gospel which Paul preached, and to which Paul was separated.
The gospel concerns Jesus, “[God’s] Son, the Christ, our Lord.”
- That Jesus is called “God’s Son” refers to the fact that Christ shared the same nature as God, “being in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6). As an old creed says, “True God of True God.”
Christ who is “of the seed of David according to the flesh”.
- This indicates that Christ had a human nature, and that His bloodline was traceable through to King David, as God had foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures. As an old creed again says, “True Man of True Man.”
“and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.
- Christ’s resurrection is the declaration that He is the Son of God, in very nature God.
- This is not intended to be a full presentation of the gospel. Paul soon goes on to explain more fully the gospel he was set apart to preach in the coming chapters. We will get into this shortly (in the last part of this message).
- The gospel has content. Paul’s main ministry was to preach the gospel – to communicate it verbally.
- The gospel includes the content above.
- Through God.
- the apostles.
“have received grace and apostleship”
- All believers have truly received grace, and all believers are truly sent to preach the gospel. But number of the apostles themselves is restricted to the twelve. There is no more any man sent to deliver authoritative, inerrant words from God. There are no more apostles.
“for obedience to the faith among all nations”
- the grace and apostleship given to the apostles was meant to lead to obedience to the faith among all nations for Christ’s name. It was meant to lead to people in all nations believing the gospel.
“for His name”
- The grace, apostleship, preaching, etc. given to anyone, is for the name of Christ, the name of God. It is for God’s glory. It is to glorify God.
“among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- The Roman Christians were the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan, or a partial fulfillment of it.
Section 2 – verses 8-15.
The example of Paul of commending and praising the Romans for their obedience to God, and telling them of his thankfulness to God for them.
- We should sometimes do likewise.
- Paul intended to come to see and meet and preach to the Christians in Rome, but had been hindered. (1:13)
- The Romans had heard of Paul, but never seen or met him. (implied in 1:13)
- They wished to meet him. (implied in Paul’s words in 1:13, “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planed to come to you (but was hindered until now)…”
- Paul was first the famous persecutor of the church, and next the famous preached of the faith he once tried to destroy. (Galatians 1:23)
- The apostles were physically limited. Not all Christians in their day knew the apostles.
- The Romans knew Paul in writing before they knew him in person.
- The apostles and early Christians needed fellowship. They were not above this need, to see each other in person, rather than only in writing. (see also 3 John 13-14)
- We are certainly not above this need either. We are also continually warned in Scripture that we need to assemble together.
Section 3 – verses 16-17.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.””
- These words may be viewed as a preface to the account that follows. This is clear by the fact that the sentence immediately following begins with the word “for”, indicating that he is about to explain what he has just said.
- He has already said that he is ready to preach at all times.
- The reason he gives is in the words just quotes.
- His explanation of the claim in the above quote follows it.
- The first large section immediately following the above quoted passage is 1:18-3:31.
In this first major section (1:18-3:31), the apostle Paul gives two reasons why he is ready to preach the gospel at all times; or, perhaps more clearly, he is ready at all times to preach because of two things which are revealed.
Paul is ready to preach because:
- God’s wrath against man is revealed (Romans 1:18): “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”; and
- The righteousness of God through Christ, the substitute and propitiation (sacrifice that turns away and satisfies wrath) for our sins, is revealed (Romans 3:21-31): “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed. . .even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified feely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. . .”
These two above things conjointly give the reason why the gospel must be preached. For:
(1) (a) If it is not true that God is wrath, if it is not true that God is angry with men, that men have provoked God’s absolutely pure and just anger, then there is no need to be preaching a salvation, for there is no need for salvation when there is nothing to be saved from, and there simply is no provided salvation because we are simply not in danger. For if we have not provoked God’s just anger, then we are in no wise in danger of His wrath. But (b) we are certainly in danger of God’s wrath, and all in nature and conscience testifies of this, so that we are without excuse. And thus it is needful for us, if we are to have any hope, to have salvation, to be delivered from the coming wrath which must surely come upon us because of our sins, and because God is good. But (c) If all that had been revealed was God’s wrath, and if there had never been a good news which God had revealed was a true message, then there could be nothing to preach, no good news to preach, and no hope, and thus no reason for Paul to preach anything merely upon the grounds above. All that has been said so far could bring nothing but misery to men, and utter hopelessness. And:
(2) If it is not true that God has made a way of salvation which was infinitely pure and just – that One who was in very nature both God and Man should voluntarily bear the full punishment for the sins of men so that they might be saved – then there could be no hope of salvation and deliverance from the wrath to come. But God has provided just such a salvation. Christ, who was in very nature God, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh and so was also very nature man, is set forth as a propitiation for our sins. And anyone who believes in Him will be saved by faith. For in the very nature of the case the sinner can do nothing to make this salvation more secure – for all his efforts are stained with sin – and also there is nothing in the very nature of the salvation God has provided which can make it any better than it is, for it is super-abundant to save, and was intended and designed so.
Thus, because man had sinned, there was a need for a remedy; but none could in the nature of the case at all be demanded of God. But God provided one out of free mercy and grace and love. And this is a salvation perfectly according to the desperate need man was in because of his sins. And anyone who trusts in Christ will be saved.
- Thus, Paul had these two reasons conjointly to preach the gospel. Paul would tell the whole world of the salvation that is in Christ, this abundant salvation, this full salvation, this perfect and super-abundant salvation.
- Let it be most closely observed, that Paul considered the substitutionary propitiation of Christ to be the substance of the good news which people were to believe to be saved.
- Paul is also ready to preach because whoever believes, whoever rests their hope fully and solely on Christ’s death for their salvation, will be saved. This is clearly taught in the above passage.
- Paul is also ready to preach because none can be saved without hearing this good news, as he says later on in 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
This is the gospel which all people are to believe to be saved.
This is the gospel which we as Christians are called to preach.
May God strengthen us with His Spirit to do so in all things, knowing that He has promised that anyone who believes will be saved. Amen.