First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by any means, now at length I might have the prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end that you may be established – that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was hindered, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks, and to Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Father, thank You for Your word; thank You for that great statement, “The just shall live by faith.” We thank You that because of what You have done on our behalf, that You have graciously poured out of Yourself to the uttermost, because of that, and our trust in You, we are made right. We’re made righteous. And Lord, we thank You that You have not only justified us, but You continue to transform us by the renewing of our minds; You continue to sanctify and cleanse us by the washing of the water of Your word, and so, we ask that You would do just that today, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
It has been a rather eventful week. Oh, I hear some groans. I received a text message about 10:00 on Tuesday night, from someone within the church, let there be light, and the text said, “Give me some words of encouragement pastor.” And I just responded, “Jesus is the King of kings.” Amen? He is on the throne. And we need to recognize, as His people, that His kingdom is different from the kingdoms of this world. I had the privilege, this last Wednesday, to teach the seniors’ Bible study here on Wednesday morning, and we were in John, chapter 19, and you may remember, that is the portion of scripture where Jesus comes before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of that time in Judea. And Pilate is informed by the Jewish leaders of the day that this Jesus is calling Himself a King. They were seeking to try and cause a problem with Jesus with the Roman government, saying that He is seeking to cause some sort of insurrection, which of course that’s not what He was doing. And so Pilate asks Him, “Are You a King?” And Jesus says, “Were you told to ask Me this, or is this really your inquiry?” And so he presses, Pilate does, a little more fully, and Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, then would My servants fight. But My kingdom is not of this world.” And I think it’s so very important that we, people who are part of the kingdom of God by grace through faith, recognize that our citizenship, we have dual citizenship, if you will. Our earthly citizenship may be of a nation, but our eternal citizenship is of heaven. And Jesus is the King of kings, and He is on the throne, and nothing will ever dethrone Him. And so I know there are some people who are bothered by the election results this last week, not just nationally, but locally; I know there are some people who are rejoicing. And in this crowd, this big, there are some of both sides, some who are rejoicing and some who are a little bummed and blue. But Jesus is on the throne. Let’s remember that He is the one who raises up one and puts down another. Let’s remember that ultimately promotion comes from the Lord. Let us remember that God is the one who has allowed the leaders that are leading us as a people in this nation at this very moment. And I got some interesting feedback, and I expected to from the article that I posted on our website – crossconnection.net – that I titled “God voted Obama.” And some people didn’t like that, and I understand that, but we need to recognize that ultimately, God chooses who will lead. And so, as we look at our nation, God has placed the leaders into their capacity, in their positions as leaders, for such a time as this, for a purpose. And we should never, ever, ever trust in an earthly politician. Salvation is of the Lord. So, recognize that our trust, ultimately, is in Christ Jesus our Lord, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen? Remind your friends and neighbors, family member, co-workers of that, if they’re a little bothered, remind them that Jesus is on the throne, and we serve the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen?
Just another thing to consider, Paul is writing a letter here to a church that was in the capital city of one of the most wicked regimes that ever came about. It was a group that was, as time went on, completely against Christianity. And ultimately, Paul, the author of this letter, about, just a little less than 10 years after he would write this letter, would be put to death by the state, by the Roman empire. He would be beheaded by decree from Caesar Nero, because of his proclamation of the gospel. And so, recognize as we go through this letter, that even in this letter, when we get to chapters 12 through 15, Paul is going to exhort the Christians of his day, living in the capital city of a very wicked empire, he says, “Obey those who are put over you in authority. And to recognize that they have been placed there by God.” And I’m sure that was a hard pill to swallow for some people in Paul’s day, and maybe it is for us in ours. But, as I said in the post that I put up on crossconnection, I am praying for, just as I was before Tuesday, I am praying for our president and for our government. I am praying for President Obama because he just inherited a really bad economy…from the last guy. He’s got a lot of work to do and he needs a lot of prayer. And we need a lot of prayer as a people, as a nation. Amen? But of course, that’s not exactly what we’re here to talk about today. We’re here to talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is far better than politics. And I can tell you, I am so happy that the political season is done. And I really wish that it wouldn’t start immediately, although it looks like it’s going to again. But I’m looking for the day when Washington is not our biggest concern at all.
So, Romans, chapter 1, as we have been seeing, Paul is laying the groundwork for what he is going to say to a church that was a young church, primarily filled with people who are new believers, people who didn’t have a common heritage, didn’t have a common cultural background. And to be very frank with you, as I’ve been going through these verses again, and reading through and preparing to teach here in Romans, chapter 1 again, I’d forgotten just how weighty each of these verses in Romans was, since the last time that I taught it, four years ago at the Bible college level. And at the Bible college, I am constrained by 13-15 sessions; I have to finish a book within 15 sessions most of the time, and so you kind of have to fly through and over sections of the book of Romans with little comment. And even though, well, as I’ve been looking at these verses through kind of like a 10x lens, if you will, I realize just again that my planned timetable may be a little ambitious. And here we are at week 3, and I’m already backpedaling on that proposed timetable. I had said that we would probably be done with this in June or May, May or June of next year, and by God’s grace that might happen, but it’s very, very unlikely. So, amen, we have ‘til Jesus comes back.
Romans 1, verse 8, Paul says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Following Paul’s opening greeting there in those first 7 verses, especially verse 7, where he says, “Grace and peace to you at Rome, those that are beloved of God, called to be saints in the church of Rome,” now he says, “First, the chief thing that I want to do, before I get into anything, first, I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all.” There are several important things we should note in those words. First and foremost, thanksgiving to God should be of supreme importance to us, as it was to the apostle Paul. Let me say that again, thanksgiving should be of supreme importance to us, just as it was to the apostle Paul. Now, we know very well that, just in a short couple of weeks, we’re going to be celebrating Thanksgiving as a holiday here in our nation; which I think it is fitting, it is good, that we recognize and give thanks on a specific day set apart for that, as a people and as a nation. But it is sad that we only do that one day a year, furthermore it’s sad that it’s often preempted by football and turkey. And so recognize that more than any other thing, that day is to be set apart for thanksgiving, and reality is our days should always begin with thanksgiving, because here Paul makes it a chief part of his life, a chief part of his open to this letter. Paul, in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he said in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verses 16-18, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So, recognize that it is God’s will that we give thanks. It’s God’s will that we give thanks.
And one of the reasons that the nation of Israel in the Old Testament came under the judgment of God was because they were not thankful. They did not give thanksgiving for what they had received from the Lord. They failed to recognize all that God had given to them as a people. And so God judged them for their lack of thanksgiving, because this is God’s will, that we would be thankful. Now to be thankful means that we need to actually take time to observe and examine what we have, to consider what we are thankful for. So just even the concept of saying, “You should give thanksgiving; you should give thanks to the Lord,” you have to step back and say, “Well why should I give thanksgiving?” Well, Paul indicates here one of the things that he is thankful for, he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” So, the second thing we see there is that proper thanksgiving to God is made through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only acceptable channel for thanksgiving. And then thirdly, thanksgiving to God should be specific, for who He is and what He has done. And so Paul says, “I thank God for you, there in Rome, that your faith is well spoken of throughout the whole world.” Are we thankful for faith? Are we thankful for the faith of our children, if they have put their faith in God; for the faith of our family members; for the faith of our neighbors or co-workers or friends. We ought to rejoice in, and give thanks for faith. Do you know that there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents, when a person puts their faith in Christ Jesus for salvation? There’s joy and rejoicing among the angels. And so heaven rejoices and gives thanks for faith, for saving faith. And Paul did here as well, for the faith of those at the church in Rome.
Now, it’s an interesting concept that Paul says, “I’m giving thanks for faith.” One of the reasons being because faith is a gift; I mentioned this last week in Romans, chapter 12, verse 3, that God has dealt to every man a measure of faith. And so I believe that God has planted, in the heart of every human being, a measure of faith, a seed of faith. Now the question comes, well if salvation is by faith, is by grace through faith, then why aren’t all people saved, having that measure of faith given to them. Well, that faith needs to grow into saving faith, putting their trust and their confidence in the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Jesus, who has won our salvation for us, by His death, burial, and resurrection. And faith is increased, or faith grows by the fertilizing affect of the word of God, because Paul says in Romans, chapter 10, verse 17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And so this is why it’s so important, why the exhortation is given by the apostle Paul in Romans, chapter 10 to preach the gospel, to go forth and declare the good news. He even quotes Isaiah, saying, “How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim the good news.” You may say, “How beautiful are the feet of them?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that feet are all that greatly beautiful. Some of you may really be into feet, but I ain’t one of them, I don’t know, I just kind of like, we keep shoes and socks on them because we’re not really excited. I mean…yeah, feet. You know, I mean, it’s just not that big a deal. But what does that mean, how beautiful are the feet of them? Now, Pat and Sherry could speak to this because they are working among Muslims, they are working in Pakistan and in the Philippines, and you may or may not know, but in Middle Eastern cultures, especially among the Arab peoples and the Jewish people, feet are considered vile and dirty. They are considered one of the most dirty parts of the human body. In fact, you may not know this, but it’s actually a very offensive thing to do this in an Arabic culture to someone…to show the bottom of your foot to them. You may remember when Saddam Hussein was deposed, and when we were moving into Iraq, and the Iraqi people were tearing down that huge statue to Saddam, and they were hitting it with their shoe, and people were like, “What’s that all about?” Well, that’s a very offensive thing, cursing an individual in the Arabic world. You may remember that when President Bush, the last president was there in Iraq, somebody threw a shoe at him at a press conference. Now to us, we just go, “What are they throwing shoes at the President of the United States?” But to them it said something in a big, big way. You remember when Jesus set aside His outer garment began to wash His disciples’ feet, which was the job for the lowest servant of all, and none of Jesus’ disciples would even stoop to that level, to do it, and Peter didn’t like the fact that Jesus was going to try and wash his feet, because he saw it as putting Jesus in a place of being lower than him. So, when you read, “How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news.” One of the awesome realities of that is that the gospel, the good news of Christ, is so very glorious that it makes even the dirtiest part of us glorious as well. He transforms us, by the gospel. Such an awesome reality, the work that Jesus is able to do.
And so the gospel needs to be declared, and Paul says, “I am a servant of Jesus Christ, called to the gospel of God.” And so he was one who declared the gospel everywhere he went, because he knew that people need to hear it for that measure of faith to grow into saving faith and for them to come to salvation in Christ Jesus. But Paul says to the church at Rome, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Now, what is it about faith that could be newsworthy? I mean just the fact that people were putting their confidence and trust in Christ Jesus in the capital city of the Roman empire, in the city of Rome, it may be an amazing thing, I mean, yeah, they were coming out of paganism, and now they were putting their faith in Christ Jesus for salvation, but is that newsworthy? Is that to be spread throughout the whole world, that these people had converted from paganism to following the one true God? Perhaps that is newsworthy, but I suggest to you that faith becomes newsworthy when faith moves those who have it to action. Faith becomes newsworthy when faith moves those who have it action. Faith that is mere mental acknowledgment of truth has little consequence, but a faith that becomes active by works is a faith that is truly newsworthy. The proof that what has been acknowledged in belief, the proof that it has become reality in the believer, is how it affects the way in which they live; how it transforms their day-to-day practice; how it stirs them to do something different than they used to do. Look at what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1, you can turn there if you’d like, a few books to the right, 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1. It’s very similar to what he writes here in Romans 1, 1 Thessalonians 1, verse 2, “We give thanks to God always for you, always making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, your labor of love, your patience in hope,” or “of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.” So Paul acknowledges the Thessalonians, that they were working out their faith. The apostle James, in James, chapter 2, verse 14, says, “What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith and has not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you says unto them, Depart in peace and be ye warmed and filled, notwithstanding you give them not those things which they are needful to their body; what does it profit? Even so faith, that has not works, being alone, yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You see faith, putting your trust and your confidence in Christ Jesus for salvation, receiving Him as Lord and Savior, will transform the way that you live. We’re not saved by our works, as I’ve mentioned many times before, but we are saved for good works, and the good works of faith prove that faith it vital, that it is real. And so Paul says, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” And I think we can only read that by recognizing that these people were transformed in the way that they live. They were transformed in how they showed their faith in action. They had become the light of God in a very dark place. Just as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the foot of men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bush, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light therefore so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Would to God that us, as the people of God, would shine forth in the darkness of this world. The apostle Peter says, in 1 Peter, chapter 2, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, God’s own peculiar people,” special people, some of us more so than others. And what has He called us forth to do? To proclaim His praises, to proclaim “the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” That’s what it is to proclaim the gospel, is to show forth the glory of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light; to let our good works so shine before men that they would see our good works and they would glorify our Father who is in heaven.
And so Paul continues, verse 9, “For God is my witness,” Romans 1:9, “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length that I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end that you may be established. That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” There’s a ton there. Lets unpack it a little bit. Paul says, “God is my witness.” The idea of God being one’s witness is an exceedingly important truth. We can easily fall into a practical deism. What do I mean by that? Well, we can live our lives as Christians in such a way that fails to recognize the active participation, the active interest in our lives of God. And so we begin to live in a practical form of deism, which says that God is far away and uninterested in the things, the affairs of our lives. And so when we have elections that don’t go maybe the way that you hoped would, you start to freak out. What are we going to do? And then we need to be reminded, God’s here! Right now, in the midst of this. And I suggest to you that the fear that some people have in the midst of what’s happening, not just in our nation, but in the world, the fear that some Christians have is an indication that they’ve failed to recognize that God is now here, that He is here with us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit; Christ is in us, the hope of glory. The Spirit of God is not only with us, He is in us, in salvation. And so this concept of God being witness indicates to us that God s interested and watching what happens in our lives. He’s knowledgeable about what you’re facing. He’s interested in those things that burden you. He says, “Cast your cares upon me, for I care for you. Come to Me, all you who labor and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am”…His burden is light. Amen?
So, God is my witness. Paul is using that here, though, as a declaration of, kind of a, you know he’s saying, “Listen, God knows how much I pray for you. God whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son know that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” So Paul was one who prayed to God, without ceasing. He practiced what he preached. I just mentioned 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5 a few minutes ago, verse 17, “Pray without ceasing.” Paul practiced that, he lived a life where he was constantly coming before the Lord in prayer, “bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Being anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, he was letting his requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, was guarding his heart and his mind in Christ Jesus. Those things that were lovely and true and honorable and of good report, that was where he was putting his focus. And in the midst of a world that was turbulent and filled with trials and difficulty and persecution, he could have peace. Why? Because Jesus said, “In the world you’ll have much peace, or in the world you’ll have much trouble, but in Me you might have peace.” Why? “Because I’ve overcome the world.”
And so he says, “God, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Paul served God in spirit, not according to the letter of the Law. He’d been set free by the gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve God in spirit and in truth. And with such sacrifices God is well pleased. “God, whom I serve in my spirit, with my spirit, in the gospel.” His service to the Lord, preaching the gospel, going about as a follower of Jesus Christ, it was a spiritual act of worship. He says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 31, “Whatsoever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Paul recognized that every aspect of his life, even the mundane regularities of life, can be worship to God. Eating a meal can be worship to God. Drinking a bottle of water can be worship to God, as you’re giving thanks to God for what He’s given to you. Those things, even the smallest thing can be brought to a place where it’s worship and service to Him. Now, at lot of times, we filter worship through the idea of coming to a church building on a Sunday morning and having people lead us in songs and we’re worshipping, but even driving in traffic on the 15 Freeway can be worship, if it’s done as unto the glory of God. It can be a spiritual act of worship. Now Paul already made this very clear, previously, as we saw last week in verses 1-7, that Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ, in the gospel. And now he says, “The Lord, whom I serve in the gospel.” Why restate it? Well, 20 times in the first 9 verses Paul has made reference to God and Jesus Christ. The Roman culture, which was heavily influenced by a paganism of Greece, all kinds of deities, that Roman culture had an abundance of gods that they worshipped, and yet Paul is emphasizing the fact that there is one God whom we serve. There is one God who is holy and powerful, we see in verse 4; there is one God who extends grace and a calling, in verses 5 and 7; there is only one God who must needs be proclaimed among all nations, in verse 5; there is only one God who loves us and grants us peace by forgiveness, in verse 7; there is only one God whom we serve and pray to without ceasing. And so he’s emphasizing – God is supreme! God is supreme! He is to be worshipped.
And he says, “I make mention always of you in my prayers.” Praying for the church there at Rome. He was a prayerful individual, and he makes clear that that is one of the ways that we serve God. But it’s one of the most overlooked services to God. You and I, because of the work that Christ has done on our behalf, we have access before God, the King of kings. We can come before Him at any time. His throne of grace is open to us. We have opportunity to not only pray for our own needs, as we are instructed to do by Jesus; He says, pray for your own daily bread. So, we do pray for our own needs, but we’re given opportunity to pray for the needs of other people, both in our sphere of influence right around us, or on the other side of the world, we can be actively involved in what is happening in God’s kingdom at any time, through prayer. And yet, there was a study done not too long ago, and again, you know, 80% of statistics are made up right on the spot, but it was found that the majority of even pastors pray a maximum of 7 minutes a day, not including the time they pray right before their meals. So if prayer is a service in the kingdom of God, it’s one of the most overlooked services of the members of the kingdom of God. And Paul says, “I pray without ceasing.” And his prayers were specific, he says, “I pray for you without ceasing.” He made mention of the church in Rome. Although he didn’t know everyone who was a part of the church there, he was bringing them before God, interceding on their behalf. They were in his heart in prayer. And not only was he praying for them, but he was praying and bringing a request to God, that God would make an opportunity for him to be intimately involved in the work of the church, that he would have an opportunity to visit and minister there. He says, “I’m praying that there may be a way, in the will of God, that I would come and visit you.” So Paul confesses here, “I don’t know exactly what God’s plan is, what He’s going to do tomorrow or next week, but I’m praying that in the process of time, He’d make a door open so that I could come there and minister in the city of Rome; so that I may be able to impart to you some gift. I long to see you.” His longing desire was to be with the church that was there in Rome. And not just to see them, but to impart a gift to strengthen and establish them; that he could use that which God had gifted him with to see them come to greater faith, to see them excel in the work. And it wasn’t just a, “Hey, I’m gonna be the guy, the apostle that comes and ministers to you.” But he says that you’re going to minister to me as well, that I may be comforted together with you by our mutual faith. One of the great experiences that I’ve enjoyed in visiting other believers in other places is the mutual encouragement and strengthening that comes, and it’s an amazing thing, because you say, “Well, I’m going on a mission trip, and I’m going to go there and bless those people.” And then you’re there and you’re serving God, seeking to bless those people, and you almost feel guilty because you’re being so blessed in the process. And people say, “You’ve been such a help to us in coming here.” And you say, “I don’t feel like I’ve helped you at all, but you’ve been such a blessing to me; I’m such a glutton for blessing.” It’s an awesome thing to be able to serve the Lord, not just here, but in other parts of the world, and to experience that mutual blessing that comes in that service. And so Paul says, “I want to come there and minister among you because I know I’m going to be blessed when I do.”
“Now I would not have you be,” verse 13, “be ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but I was hindered, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” Paul wanted the church at Rome to know that he had not only prayed for the opportunity to visit them, but he actually purposed and endeavored to do so, and yet a door had been closed, he was never quite able to make it there to this time. Now, he’s going to get to Rome eventually, and it’s not going to be in the fashion, or in the way that he thought that he would. To this point Paul had already been on 3 different missionary journeys, traveling around the region of modern-day Turkey and Greece and Macedonia, and his goal was to be able to visit Jerusalem one last time, and then go to the city of Rome. And that ultimately did happen, but it happened under the guard of the Romans, because they carried him there as a prisoner of Rome. But he says, “I’ve wanted to come and be there, to minister among you, but I’ve been hindered from that.” Now herein is a very important truth for us to recognize, that hindrance in life and in ministry are often God ordained and purposeful; hindrances is life and ministry are often God ordained and purposeful. But we just get frustrated in them. Have you ever wanted to go and do something, and serve the Lord in some way, and it just seems like everywhere you turn you can’t get there, you can’t do it, no one is letting me? And yet God is doing a work. Just like in Acts, chapter 16, where Paul was endeavoring to go into the cities of Asia Minor and there was a hindrance, the Lord would not allow him to go into Asia Minor during that period of time; the Spirit of God kept him from there. And I’m sure there was a part of Paul that was just exceedingly frustrated. And then at another point, he says, you know I’ve tried to come to you there in Rome, but I’ve been hindered from coming to you there in Rome, and to be quite honest with you today, I’m very thankful that Paul was hindered from ever getting to Rome to this point. Because would we have had the letter to the church at Rome had Paul had an open door to just go straight over there? That it was in one way the hindrance, the God ordained hindrance that kept him from going there that inspired the authoring of this letter. And so it’s so important for us to recognize verses like Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will,” what? “direct your paths.” So, it’s so hard for us, in the middle of that, to trust in Him and not lean upon our own understanding, and just say, “Well Lord, I’m going to put it into Your hands and You’re going to work it out.” That’s just so foreign to us, especially if you’re like me, that type A personality that just has to do something. I gotta do it; I gotta make it happen. I gotta fix it so I can get to where I want to get. And the Lord says, “No.” And you feel like you’re just kicking against the goads, and the Lord’s saying, “Hey, just, I’ve got a plan, a perfect plan.” Proverbs 16, verse 9, “A man’s heart devises his way, plans his way: but the Lord directs his steps.” How many of you have experienced that? You have a plan, and Pastor Pat used to have a little magnet on his filing cabinet in his office – Man plans and God laughs. And so, you have a plan, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this, and the Lord goes, “No-o-o, let’s do this.” And we can go kicking and screaming, or we can just say, “Lord, Your will be done.” We should be thankful to the Lord that He, in His perfect wisdom hindered the apostle Paul from getting to Rome, or to the Romans, because we have this letter now as a result. Now, be that as it may, we ought to be careful to pray for God to direct us, for Him to lead us. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 11, Paul says, “Now God Himself our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” So, he prays, “Lord, You make it happen. I’m just going to lay it before you. You know the desires of my heart, and I’m going to allow You to be Lord over that. I’m going to allow You to direct and lead as You would.”
Now why was Paul so vehement in his pursuit to visit the church at Rome? It says in verse 14, “I am a debtor to both Jews and Greeks, and to the Barbarians;” sorry, “to both Greeks and Barbarians; both to wise, and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome.” Paul counted himself as being in debt to share the gospel; that it was something he was obligated to do. “I must do this.” These are the kind of things that stirred Paul to go to cities like Philippi, and Athens, and Corinth, and Ephesus. These are the things that pressed upon him to desire to go to Rome, “I am a debtor to preach the gospel, and I’ve made sure that I’m ready to do that.” Why did Paul count himself a debtor? For several reasons: Number 1, he was obligated because freely he received, freely he ought to give – Matthew, chapter 10, verse 8, Jesus said that. He felt like he was a debtor because he had freely received this great gift, that is intended not just for him, but for all of humanity, and so he felt like: I have it, it must carry it to those who have not heard yet. He was obligated because God loved the whole world, and God’s love compelled him to do so. John 3, verse 16: “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.” Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5, verse 14, “The love of Christ compels us.” So he was compelled to carry this good news to those who hadn’t received it. He was obligated because he had been given an apostolic call by God. He was obligated because Christ had commissioned him, and us, to go. So we are debtors, because we have been given so great a gift; we are debtors, we are obligated to carry it to those who have not yet received it. The question is: have we recognized our debt to spread the wealth of grace that we have freely received, and not to hoard it…not to hoard it. I mean, the illustration’s been used many times before, but it has been, because it’s effective: the idea would be if you suddenly came about finding the cure for cancer, it would be a crime for you not to share that. And so we have been given the cure for sin and death, in Christ Jesus, and it is a sin to hoard it, and not freely give it out as much as we possibly can. And so Paul says, “As much as is in me, I’m ready to preach the gospel;” the question is, are we ready to give it out, have we studied to show ourselves approved as unto to God, as workmen, workwomen who are not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth? Have we set ourselves to be ready, as Paul says in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, I’m sorry, 2 Timothy, yeah, chapter 4, verses 1 and 2, “I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead at His appearance; preach the word; be ready in season, and out of season; convince, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Are you ready, at a moment’s notice to share the gospel of grace? Paul here says he’s ready to preach the gospel, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, he says he’s ready to go wherever God would will; in chapter 10 of 2 Corinthians, he says he’s ready to do hard and unpleasant work; in chapter 4 of 2 Timothy, verse 6, he says, “I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand;” he was ready to die. He was ready to preach the gospel, because he had prepared to do so.
And then this great statement, verse 16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” There is a temptation, and every single one of us here today know this, there is a temptation to be ashamed of the gospel. Why? Well, because Paul says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, that the gospel is foolishness to those that are perishing. He says specifically, to the Greek minded individual, the gospel is a foolish stumbling block. The idea that God became a man, and sacrificially gave Himself for our sins on the cross of Calvary 2,000 years ago, was crucified, died and buried, and that He rose from the dead the 3rd day, that, for our sins, that concept, that declaration, that gospel, to many people, is absolute absurdity. It’s foolishness to those who are perishing. Paul says here, “It is the power of God unto salvation.” Why? Well, because as he said, his concluding words in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1: the foolishness of God is wiser than man. God knows what He’s doing.
And so the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, it is the very power of God to bring about salvation, note this, for every one that believes. Would you underline those words in your Bible; “for every one that believes.” Now we don’t have much time; I just want to quickly highlight that – “for every one that believes.” You see, John 3:16 says, “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.” God loved the world, whoever puts their faith in Christ for salvation shall have everlasting life. This, “every one that believes,” here in Romans chapter 1, verse 16 is perhaps our biggest contention with those who would consider themselves reformed in their soteriology. Those that would hold a reformed position of salvation would say that salvation is only for a group that God has elected for salvation. It’s not for whosoever will come. It’s not for everyone that believes. And let me just make very clear, we here at Cross Connection don’t hold to that reformed position of soteriology. Now I recognize that there are some, within our church, who may, and we’re not going to pick a fight with people or kick them out because they do, but I think that you should recognize that our position is this: whosoever will, may come. Our position is the position of Romans, chapter 3, verse 22, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” Our position is this: Romans, chapter 10, verses 11 and 23, or the whole section there, but specifically, we read there, “For the scripture says, Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.” Now the book of Romans has a lot to say about predestination and election, and we’re going to talk about that as we go through these passages, but it must always be filtered through the context of those same verses from the same book…every one who believes…upon all, and unto all who call upon Him. What are the implications of this? The implication is that, because we believe that salvation is available to all humanity, then we are compelled to preach the gospel to all humanity in every place. This is why Paul would be so compelled to go to the city of Rome, to go to all these different places and say, “I am a debtor to Greeks and Barbarians,” and Barbarians just means Gentile foreigners, not like guys, ugha ugha, barbarians, it’s just Gentile foreigners that were non-Roman citizens, or non-Greeks. The gospel is for all humanity, it’s not just for the nation of Israel, the Jewish people, although Jesus came to the Jew first, and by way of the line of Abraham. The gospel is for all peoples, in every place, at every time. And so, we are compelled by this, to preach the gospel; we wholeheartedly affirm the availability of salvation unto all and upon all that call on the Lord, and recognize the importance to openly preach and offer the gospel to all people. That is our position here at Cross Connection. We preach to everybody, because all sinners need salvation. And the gospel is the power of God to bring salvation to every one that believes.
“For therein,” verse 17, and we’ll close, “for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Those that will be justified are justified by faith, not by the works of the Law, which we’ll get into more over the next couple of weeks. “From faith to faith, the just shall live by faith,” Paul is here quoting the prophet Habakkuk, in Habakkuk, chapter 2, verse 4, where he wonderfully states that truth, “The just shall live by faith.” These words are quoted 3 times in the New Testament: once here in Romans, then again in chapter 2 of Galatians, and then again in chapter 10 of Hebrews, and in each place, the verse is kind of broken up in a different way. And so here, in the book of Romans, it’s talking about those that will be justified, are justified by grace, through faith. When you get into the book of Galatians, they live by faith, not only are we saved by faith, but we live by faith. And then when you get to the book of Hebrews, then we talk about faith itself. What is faith? It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” and only by it, are we pleasing to God, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” “The just shall live by faith.” The rallying cry of the church. Jesus paid it all, all to Him we owe, sin had left its crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Father, we thank You, we thank You for Your grace; we thank You that, as we’re going to see here in Romans 1 and 2, that there is no possible thing that we could do to make ourself right, there’s nothing that we could do to save ourselves, but Jesus, You made the way. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift that You offer is eternal life. Thank You for salvation, Jesus. Thank You that You have made the way open. Thank You that You call to us to come, “Whosoever will, let him come.” God, thank You for the work that You do, the work that we ourselves could not do. Thank You for the salvation that You offer us in Jesus Christ. And Lord, would You compel us, by Your love, compel us by Your love, to share the gospel of grace with others. Lord, use us to be Your ambassadors this week we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.