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Romans 1:1-17-The Introduction
Verses 1-7-Address
Verse 8-13-Gospel Centered prayer
Verses-14-17 Theme
As you recall, we are studying the Book of Romans. We are in chapter 1. The first 17 verses of chapter 1 is really the introduction to the letter. In the first 7 verses, called the address we learnws a bit about Paul, the author, and the church of Rome, the recipients of the letter.
We studied Paul’s call as a servant, His identity, His purpose for writing to the Church of Rome and his mission to explain the gospel to them, so that they will have a gospel-centered world view. In verses 8-14, Paul prays a Gospel-centered prayer for the Roman church.
Today we are continuing along in Romans and we are starting at the 14th verse of Romans chapter 1, and we will continue to the 17th verse, the end of this introduction. This portion provides a transition from the introduction into the body of the letter and in the 16th and 17th verse Paul states the overall theme of the letter.
Romans 1:14–17 NIV
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
I don’t know exactly when it was. Perhaps, 15 years ago, maybe longer. I was at work on break and 5 of us were talking. I don’t remember exactly but there was a large gospel centered event in the cities that weekend, and it was on the news and this was the topic of conversation. Several of them were Roman Catholic, and one of them brought up that he had heard the gospel, and he had questions. He had heard it explained, and this was very different than he was used to in his church upbringing so he wanted some explanation and debate on what this was all about. He had very strong opinions on what he had heard and he was looking for clarification as well as support from the group about his beliefs.
He said something along the lines of I heard this preacher over the weekend, and now tell me if this is true? Tell me if this is what you believe, he asked. And he went on. The preacher said, that all we have to do is believe in Jesus. The preacher said that if we believe in Jesus he forgives our sin, and we go to heaven. The preacher said that there is no sin that God could not forgive, no sin too big. We say a prayer and Jesus forgives us and we go to heaven. Is that right? Is that what you believe?
Now, it isn’t quite that simple but, he has the basic idea, so, I want to push this conversation further, but at the same time, I don’t want to scare him off. I’m thinking to myself, hmm do I have a gospel tract handy? Can I stop the conversation right now and run and out to my car? There are 4 other people that are going to hear the gospel and I am getting kinds excited. This is going to be good I’m thinking. This is all going through my mind.
Is that right? Is that all we have to do to get to heaven, believe in Jesus, say a prayer and your sins are forgiven? Yep I nodded that sounds about right.
Then he says, “Well, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life”. My eyes grew wide, my mouth gapped open. Do you actually believe that he said? Now, my poker face is gone but instead of excitement it is astonishment, and shock, so with my mouth hanging open I nod, uh huh. Well that just makes no sense at all he said. So you are trying to tell me that me a fairly decent hardworking guy, who has been going to church all his life, says a prayer and goes to heaven. Then a criminal can kill people, and steal and live his whole life and on his deathbed just say a prayer and say a prayer and go to heaven too, just like me? well… there is a little more to it but basically yeah, if you both have faith in Jesus...
Again, that’s ridiculous, and unfair. That triggered something, and I recalled something the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5, 12-17 Well, if sin came in by one man, Adam, grace came through one man Jesus. Well, that’s another thing, he said. This business about me being responsible for Adam’s sin, I don’t agree with that either. Everyone is responsible for their own sin. True they are but...I continued to fumble around, I was on the spot. I tried my best to answer the questions, but what I thought was a time of explaining to a willing listener, became more or less a time of pointing out what he saw as flaws and unfairness in the gospel. But none the less, I was obligated to at least try the best I could.
Because I did believe that stuff. I mean I really believed that the gospel, was the power of God unto salvation. I knew, whether I could explain it or not. Whether I could could argue it or not, I knew. How did I know? It happened to me. I was changed. I was no longer the same man I once was the gospel had gripped me taken a hold of me, there was no other explanation
So, because I believed in my whole heart with my whole being that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that the gospel was the only way to be saved, I was obligated to tell others who were perishing. You can’t walk by a house on fire, and not attempt to wake the residents, or to call the fire department. If you see a crime taking place or people heading for disaster you have to tell them. You can’t just walk away-you are obligated. And that is what Paul is getting at in verse 14.
Romans 1:14 NIV
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.
Sometimes it is translated as in-debt. Paul carries a debt because God saved Paul, and God entrusted Paul with the gospel, God’s gospel, the Gospel of Jesus. This made Paul a slave, or a debtor, to tell others. He has to tell people. He is in debt, and it is to all people.
It doesn’t matter whether they are sophisticated, or cultured, or not. It doesn’t matter their social status or nationality. It doe not matter Whether they are smart or foolish, educated or uneducated. Paul is obligated to tell anyone about the gospel.
Romans 1:15 NIV
That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
He is eager to pay that debt, or he says elsewhere like in 1 Cor 9.16 he uses the word compelled.
1 Corinthians 9:16 NIV
For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Have you ever met anyone who is driven? Driven by a cause? Driven by something bigger than themselves. Compelled to change the world? We don’t meet them in person too often but we certainly see them on TV on the news. They are those people at marches and rallies, and these people travel across the country, it is like they are compelled.
Paul is eager to preach, or compelled to preach, and Paul is obligated to preach the gospel Why? Why is it that this man-a jewish man-should be so obligated, eager compelled to preach this gospel.
One reason is in verse 16.
Romans 1:16 NIV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Not ashamed
Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel. Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel?
Remember my opening story? My friend said to me, “This is ridiculous, this whole thing just doesn’t make any sense, he said. Logically it didn’t make any sense. One man paying for the sins of another. That doesn’t make sense. The person who committed the sin should be the one paying for it. How can some sins just be forgiven, how can faith in Jesus allow someone to escape the punishment that is due them for their sins? This is foolishness. Paul wrote about that too elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians, you may be familiar with that.
1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
It was the first time I had personally encountered someone who verbally expressed to me directly that they thought the gospel was ridiculous. To me, one being saved this gospel was the power of God, to him it was foolishness. The wisdom, the logic of the world did not seem to coincide with the gospel at all. When he pointed out how ridiculous it sounded, and when the the other 4 agreed, I began to feel ashamed, ashamed I had opened my mouth.
People lose things for the gospel all the time. The only thing I was losing, was maybe some respect, and my pride. That is pretty small. All over the world people lose their businesses, homes, families, children, and even their lives over this foolishness. By the logic of this world they should be ashamed of the gospel.
Paul knew all about being ashamed, as did the Roman church. Starting in 49 AD and continuing for 5 years until 54 AD the Roman Emperor Claudius began expelling Jews from Rome. That included Jews who became Christians. The little house churches in Rome were being emptied of their friends. Imagine coming to church one-day and looking around, where is Sam? I haven’t seem in a few weeks. It wasn’t snow or cold that was keeping Sam away. He was kicked out of the city.
Removed from his home, from his friends, his work. Christians were being killed, or tortured, stolen from, prevented from working, or buying goods, or selling goods. It was shameful to be a Christian. People would look at all that was happening, and say what idiots, why are they believing that nonsense? They should be ashamed.About the time this letter was written the Christians were returning to Rome, but the damage was done. It was permanently engraved in the culture.
You can imagine, if believing the gospel now seems like nonsense, it must have really appeared to be foolishness in that day. Yet Paul, not only believed but was obligated, or compelled, and eager to preach such foolishness, if anything Paul should be ashamed. But he is not.
Romans 1:16 NIV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
What is it that drives Paul?
Is Paul like Forest Gump-Remember Forest Gump. Forest Gump ran and ran and ran. From the outside, it might appear like he he was compelled to run. But Forest did not have a reason, he said, “then one day for no particular reason, I decided to go for a run, and you know the rest I kept running and running and running.
Until people believe the gospel it may appear to them that we are like Forest Gump for no particular reason we preach the gospel. For those who are yet to believe the Gospel it may appear that this is just our cause. Like the other marchers, with the signs, free the whales! This is just our sign believe gospel.
The reason that Paul is not ashamed, and compelled to preach is bigger than that.
The power of God that brings salvation.
The power of God that brings salvation. I almost can’t get strong enough to describe that phrase. You have heard it said that the Greek word for power is dynemos,where we get the word dynamite from. Then the preposition of, is possessive. so it is God’s power. God’s dynamite. And God has a lot of power. look at Ephesians 1, verse 19.
Ephesians 1:19 NIV
and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
Incomparably great power. That power is the same as his mighty strength.
Paul is not ashamed because in the gospel - the message that Jesus died on the cross for our sin is God’s power that brings salvation. In the gospel is where God’s incomparable power, his mighty strength to save from sin and death.
Salvation from God’s wrath that will be poured out on those who do not turn from their sins and believe in Jesus. The power that brings salvation is the power that was demonstrated to us, when Jesus rose from the dead. That power was revealed to us in its mighty strength when the greatest foe of all men-death took the life of the sinless Jesus of Nazareth, and yet… God’s mighty power raised Him from the dead, God’s mighty power was victorious over sin and death. God’s mighty power seated Jesus at the right hand of Father.
To those who believe.
That is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe.
Romans 1:16 NIV
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
It is for everyone who believes. Pieces are starting to come together now. The general call of the gospel again-goes out to everyone who hears- but the power of God that brings salvation is only to those who believe.
You must believe to receive the power of God that brings salvation.
First to the Jew and then to the Gentile.
The jews were originally God’s chosen people. They were the people God set apart for himself early on in the book of Genesis. The jews are the ones that out of all the peoples on the earth, God reached down, sought out, and set apart for himself.
The jews were the people entrusted with the promises of God throughout History. They were the people that God first revealed His mighty redeeming power, when he bought them out of slavery to Egypt the biggest world power at that time. God displayed to them His mighty power when he led them through the Red Sea. God entrusted them with his word. The word that would contain the promise that he would save his people through the Messiah, Jesus who would come to them.
God first brought the gospel to them by sending them Jesus, the king of the jews, who preached to them of God’s mighty power. Who preached to them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. God first came to them by raising Jesus from the dead to appear to them. God first came to them by the Holy Spirit with all kinds of signs and wonders displaying the power of God that brings salvation. Then after the jews, the gospel came to the gentiles. It came then to the Gentiles, through Paul through the Roman occupation, and missionary efforts of the apostles. It came through the early church spreading throughout the world.
The Paul elaborates more about the gospel in verse 17.
read slow
Romans 1:17 NIV
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Justification by Faith alone.
(The guilty made not guilty)
In the gospel-God’s righteousness is revealed.
That is God’s “rightness” or the “rightness” that God has. This is part of who God is. It is the fact that everything about God, is right, and pure. God is without sin. He is good.
We are far removed from God. we are not right, or pure or without sin. We have done things wrong, we have not done things we should have done, and we have thought bad things. The question is, how can someone who is not right, be made right. Or how can a guilty person be made not guilty?
HereI stand, Here we stand. guilty. We have committed the crime. How can God a just and honest judge deal with that. The sin cannot just go away. The party standing in the courtroom must ne somehow made innocent.
God’s rightness or God’s righteousness comes to us through our faith in Jesus. In other words, what Paul is saying here, is that when we trust that Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross, God sees Jesus’s righteousness. Then God-and this important-declares that we are righteous. This is called the doctrine of Justification by faith.
We stand before God guilty but, by our faith in Jesus-God doesn’t see us, but sees the righteousness of Jesus, and declares that we are just.
By our faith in Jesus- God declares us just. God imputes Jesus’s righteousness to us.
Like I said earlier, this is the theme verse of the the letter to the Romans, and Paul makes it clearer throughout the letter. Like in chapter 3.
Romans 3:21 NIV
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness-the righteousness of God, is given-through faith.
Again, in chapter 4.
Romans 4:13 NIV
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
Not through the law, but the righteousness that comes through faith.
Again in Chapter 5.
Romans 5:1 NIV
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Justified, or made just, through faith.
To sum that up, by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ God declares us just or right in His eyes. The righteousness of Christ. That is that He lived a life without sin, is imputed to us.
We are declared just-not made just- there is a difference. At the moment we place our faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, our status changes. WE are no longer guilty, there ihas been a change in our standing. We still sin, but we are declared righteous.
When we come to Christ, we can come with any and all of our sin. Just as we are. We are declared Just-However the sin in our life may not disappear immediately. We will still sin. If we are engaged in an ongoing sin or if we have habitual or recurring sin although we are declared just- it may not immediately go away. That process is just beginning. We are no longer a sinner-but we still sin. We have begun a new process of being made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That is the next process in the life of the Christian, the process is called sanctification, and that is something different. For now we start with being declared just and although we can’t “see” it, we are declared just by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:17 NIV
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The phrase at the end of this verse, by faith from first to last, is that we will continue to live by that faith in the Gospel of Jesus. It is by that justifying faith, that we are not only declared righteous, but we will be made just as we continue to live in that faith.
The Habakuk quote
Then , Paul in order to further his case, references an Old Testament passage from Habakuk. He does this to show that justification by faith, was in God’s plan all along. His quote is from Habakuk 2.4, and the story goes like this.
The Nation of Israel has turned away from God. Although they are God’s chosen people, they aren’t living like it, they are living in sin. In order to call them back to doing the right thing God sends the Babylonians to attack them. God does this from time to time to Israel. He still does it. He does it to people all the time, they just have trouble seeing it.
Suppose someone is living a sinful life, drugs, or alcohol, or caught up in any number of sins. They are sinning willfully and with no regard for God. From time to time they may have consequences for their behavior. Perhaps, God is calling them to put the sin aside. For Israel, in the time of the prophet Habakuk, God sent the Babylonians.
The justice of God’s righteousness must be carried out. Now, for them the situation is bad and the judgement is coming. Yet, God has promised to keep the Nation as His, and Habakuk knows God’s promises. Habakuk knows that God will not forget his people forever, and totally destroy them. He knows that God’s judgement is temporary. However, right now it looks pretty bad.
Habakuk, protests to God. “Why should these evil people who are attacking us live?”
Habakkuk 1:13 NIV
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
He waits for an answer from God.
Habakkuk 2:1 NIV
1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
He wants the promises of God to show up. Promises that God will preserve his people, but he doesn’t see them yet. It looks really bad. So in Habakuk’s despair, God answers him Habakuk-be patient the time will come when the promises are made manifest, but until that time the righteous will live by faith.
Habakkuk 2:4 NIV
4 “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—
The person who is righteous, will trust in God, and will rely on His promises-even when he can’t see them.
This is a story about honest repentance. We have to be broken over our sin. We have to be in a place where it seems like sin and death are ruling over us, we have to be humble, and bot puffed up. My friends couldn’t see the beauty of the gospel because they were puffed up on their own righteousness. Why would they need righteousness from God when they have their own? But when sin is winning, and we know we cannot get our won way out. When we know that we need the righteousness of Jesus, then we can turn with genuine repentance and by faith trust in the work that Jesus did on the cross.
Then we are declared righteous, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can’t see that we are declared righteous. It will take time for the promise to work itself out, but the promise is there. We will still sin, but we are no longer a sinner, and someday that promise will be made manifest. Even though we cannot “see” it here and now, we praise the Lord for His promise in the here and now. We praise the Lord for the gift of the gospel in the here and now-even when we can’t see it.
Habakuk teaches us that too, at the end of the book Habakuk even in the middle of the judgement being carried out for the sin of the Nation still praised the Lord for His promise.
Habakkuk 3:17–18 NIV
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
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