Faithlife Sermons

Set Apart for the Gospel

Advent 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:27
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The Gospel calls us to respond by dying to self and inviting others to do the same.

In 11 days most of us will flip the page or begin a new calendar. This got me thinking about different calendar systems.
If you have Jewish friends, this is year 5780 AM (Anno Mundi, Latin for “year of the world”). Because their calendar starts at creation in what the Gregorian Calendar would label 3761 BC. (or BCE for your atheist friends)
In the year that we would call 45 BC, Julius Caesar proposed his calendar based on the Sun rather than the moon. The Julian calendar was based on a trip around the Sun taking 365.25 days.
By 1582 AD (Anno Dominus, Latin for “year of the Lord”) Pope Gregory XIII decreed that our calendar was out of alignment with the solar system (because it actually takes 365.24219 days to travel around the Sun) so he declared that the day after October 4 would be October 15 (making 10 days disappear).
But there are other calendars as well. The Islamic calendar is based upon phases of the moon and began when their prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. Making this year 1441.
An ancient calendar has been discovered in a marketplace in what is now western Turkey inscribed to begin on the birthday of Caesar Augustus.
The Calendar Inscription of Priene speaks of the birthday of Caesar Augustus as the beginning of the gospel announcing his kingdom, with a Roman decree to start a new calendar system based on the year of Augustus Caesar's birth.
“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [εὐαγγέλιον] for the world that came by reason of him,”
This Priene calendar pre-dates Jesus’ birth by about 5 years. So in a context where a politician was being hailed as “good news that he is a savior who brings peace to his kingdom”, The angel proclaims in Luke 2:10 that the Augustus inscription was “fake news”; the true good news that the real savior for all men was born that day and his name is Christ the Lord.
The good news the Angel announced was prophesied by Isaiah in 61:1 and claimed by Christ in Luke 4:18.
I would like us to take the sermon this morning to reflect on the news that was announced. Join me at
Romans 1:1–7 ESV:2016
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Transition: In a world where we have become exposed to mainstream news, info-entertainment, talking points, and fake news, we have learned that not all “news” is equally reliable.

The News announced is Good (Romans 1:1)

Kingdom/Military Tones (1 Samuel 31:9)

1. Political - Augustus claimed his kingdom was paramount.
2. Jesus claims his kingdom is victorious.
a. Authority over demons, disaster, disease & death
b. Authority over Satan and evil forces
c. Authority earned on the cross and verified by the resurrection.

Announcement prompted Sacrifice or Offering (ISBE quote)

1. The noun meant originally the reward offered to a messenger who brought news of victory in battle or escape from danger. By a natural transference it came to mean the content of the message he brought. The immediate reaction on receiving the news was the offering of sacrifice to the gods as a token of gratitude.[i]
2. Death to self (living sacrifice) is our reasonable response (Rom 12:1-2) to the good news proclaimed in the first 8 chapters of that book.

Birth Announcement (Jeremiah 20:15)

1. Birth gives hope in the future
2. Angel’s announcement wasn’t only the inauguration of a kingdom, but also the arrival of a new life.
3. For us, conversion is not only hell insurance, it is the beginning of new life.
What makes some news “good” and other news “bad” is often a matter of results.
Earlier this week I had opportunity to visit with a person who had been around the Sun a few more times than I have. We talked about a lot of things and I admitted my personal experience is limited to Ronald Reagan to the present.
I asked this man who was the best President in his lifetime. As he thought back he identified the man for whom the Wichita airport is named. He continued, “4 days before I was to board an aircraft carrier He ended the Korean War”
For this man, the ending of the Korean War was “good” news and shaped the legacy of that President.


· Paul says in v. 1 of today’s text that he is set apart to be an apostle of good news, and this news was proclaimed by the Christmas angel to be good news for all people.
Transition: But this gospel was not a surprise.

The News announced was Promised (Romans 1:2-4a)

Many understandings of “Gospel”

1. Matthew writes repeatedly of the “Gospel of the Kingdom” (Mt 4:23); Mark prefers “Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mk.1:1); John prefers the words “witness” or “Truth” and Luke almost always uses it as a verb.
2. Paul warns in Galatians 1:6-8 of those who distort and proclaim a “different gospel” where our works become more important than God’s grace.
3. 1 Cor 15:3 reminds readers that Paul considered the death of Christ of “first importance” but is there more to the gospel?
4. Today many preachers around the world proclaim what has been labeled a “prosperity gospel”. A message that God’s perfect will is to remove all discomfort and suffering from your current experience. This is a HUGE contributor to the numbers of people in Africa and Latin America who consider themselves “Christian”.
5. If the good news is ONLY about God letting people into Heaven after death, then it has very little to do with our lives today. But Jesus proclaimed the “Good News” for years before he died and was resurrected.
6. I believe the Passion of Christ is (as Paul labeled it) of first importance, and CANNOT be ignored, but I also believe the Gospel is a bigger scheme. Paul will write in v. 16 of this chapter that the gospel is the POWER OF GOD for salvation to everyone who believes.
7. The Gospel includes the POWER of God in creation, in calling and protecting his covenant people, in saving mankind, and in establishing a future kingdom for which all of creation groans for its redemption.
People try to separate “religion” and “politics”, but if we believe God rules over every area of a human’s life, then God’s plan is to be pursued and His power is to be valued.
One’s understanding of who God is and what He desires should absolutely influence the way we steward our earth, the way we treat one another.
For the person who claims God has a plan and a purpose and the power to accomplish it, yet believe that ecology, economy, and health are out of His domain is ludicrous.
8. God has a plan and revealing that plan is “Good News”
9. A book I read this week says, “gospel in the nt is the notion that God has accomplished his ancient promises of salvation through the Messiah, Jesus.” And the messiahship or lordship of Jesus invades every crevice of our humanity.[ii]

Jesus does what we cannot (reference)

1. The good news is that Jesus was promised and prophesied to be an instrument of God’s grace.
2. We need grace, because we are inadequate in our own to remedy the sin curse that has been passed down to us from the rebellion in the Garden of Eden.
A young boy was doing his best to lift a rock that was too large for someone his size. He grunted and puffed as he tried various methods for lifting the rock. But, in spite of all his efforts, the rock wouldn’t budge. His father walked by and, after watching his son’s struggle, asked if he was having trouble. The boy answered, “Yes, I’ve tried everything, and it won’t move.” The father replied, “Are you sure you have tried every possibility, that you have used every resource at your disposal?” The boy looked up with frustration and exhaustion filling his face and grunted out a “Yes!” With kindness, the father bent over and softly said, “No, my son, you haven’t. You haven’t asked for my help.”
How often are we like the little boy, struggling with our problems but unable to solve them—because we have not asked for our Father’s help[iii]
3. When Adam and Eve rebelled, God promised a remedy.
Transition: The news is good,; it was promised, and,,,

The News announced Delivers (Romans 1:4-7)

The Gospel delivers Power (v.4)

1. Spirit’s Power in Jesus looked like resurrection
2. Spirit’s Power in us looks like belief (1:16)
· God works in our mind and will to give us the power to believe that Jesus’ death is sufficient for our forgiveness.

The Gospel delivers Grace and Calling (v.5)

1. Grace is giving someone something they don’t deserve (unmerited favor)
2. We are given the privilege to proclaim good news to others, even though we are ordinary vessels.
a. In a strict sense there are only 12 apostles, but in a greater way the Great commission belongs to all of us so that we are included in this apostleship.
I’m sure we have all experienced that drive-thru experience where a stone-faced employee coldly hands a bag out the window.
We have also experienced that person with the bubbly personality and the warm smile that just seems to make the whole meal a more pleasant experience.
There is one chain that capitalizes on this mindset. Their goal is 10/10 customer service and any thank you will receive the response “my pleasure”.
b. Witnessing should not be a chore/duty, it is an honor and based on the grace we have received, it should be our pleasure to offer that grace to others.

The Gospel delivers Security of belonging (v.6)

1. Verses 2-3 hint at one community that was identified as belonging to the Lord, of which Paul was exemplary. But one historian records that only about 10% of the 400,000 living around Rome by the mid 50’s would have been Jewish.
2. Being Jewish identified the community since Abraham, but belonging to Jesus Christ marked this new community.
3. Often we talk about “asking Jesus into our lives”. Notice the wording in v.6. the question is not “do you have Jesus?” but “Does Jesus have you?”

The Gospel delivers Grace and Peace (v.7)

1. Because we are loved by God, He calls us to belong to Jesus and to be holy ones (saints).
2. Because we are loved by God, He extends to us grace.
3. Because we are loved by God, He provides to us peace.
Transition: To men and women who are tired of trying to be good; frustrated by the failures of our own efforts, God provides the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sets us apart for its purpose.
On June 12, 1979, a young man made aviation history when he flew a pedal-powered plane across the English Channel. Taking off from England, he flew for three hours, rarely more than fifteen feet above the water. Finally, after covering twenty-two miles, he landed exhausted on the coast of France. As dramatic as this was, man-powered flight will never be practical. A man simply cannot maintain the necessary energy output for extended flights.
In the same way, no one can live the Christian life pedaling on his or her own power. It is only through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that we can consistently live the Christian life[iv]
The fact that God had a plan to make power, belonging, grace, and peace available to us is the reason why Jesus being born to Mary is not just news, but it is good news.
If the world can get so excited about an immunization for 1 disease becoming available (and that is an amazing feat), we should be even more excited about a remedy available to all for the curse of sin that infects all of us.
Our song of response is a poem written during America’s Civil War. It is a reminder that when things seem dark and evil, God’s power (the gospel) is greater. Join with me as we sing verses 3-4.
[i] R. P. Martin, “Gospel,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 529.
[ii] Chris Kugler, “Gospel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
[iii] Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 55.
[iv] Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 56.
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