Romans Lesson 1 - Truth for Today!
The book of Romans has been considered by many scholars and theologians throughout the ages to be the magnum opus of all Paul's letters--as well as the pillar of Christian doctrine and practice. So in this message Stephen reveals to us why this book is not only essential for Christians . . . it is essential for Christianity.
Romans 1, Introduction
For the last 11 years we have attempted to preach our way through the entire Bible. We’re not yet halfway through.
For those of you who are newcomers, we have been alternating between Old Testament and New Testament Books.
In the Old Testament we began with the Book of Beginnings (Genesis) and have thus far studied up through the Escapades of Esther. In the New Testament we began with the Gospel by Matthew and have thus far completed the adventures of the Apostles in the Book of Acts.
Today we begin our journey through the Book of Romans.
At first glance I had decided to complete the first paragraph of chapter 1. Upon further study, I decided time would limit us so I decided to just begin with exposition of the first verse. As I studied further I realized that we would only have enough time to cover the first word. And then, as I studied further, I decided we didn’t have enough time to do any of that.
We have just enough time this morning to simply introduce this letter to the Roman believers.
And I hope that when we are through this morning with the introduction, the question you will have in your mind will not be, “Why should we study the Book of Romans?” but, “How in the world did we think we could ever survive without an understanding of the Book of Romans.”
Several centuries ago, the study of the Book of Romans, caused Martin Luther the Reformer to write,
READ MARTIN LUTHER
The truth was, the believers in Rome were starving for this bread – they were hungry for spiritual direction from God.
They were wondering about everything from the security of their salvation to the way believer’s were to act in church. They were confused about Israel’s part in God’s historical plan and they didn’t know if Gentiles and Jews were to remain distinct or become one.
They had questions about divorce and remarriage; they even wondered about paying taxes to political leaders who were dishonest and immoral. Many believed that paying taxes to a corrupt government was inconsistent with Christianity – and God through Paul’s letter would answer that question.
The believers in Rome were struggling perhaps more than anything else with the corruption of their culture and how they were to live when surrounded by wickedness.
The Roman historian Seneca referred to Rome during the days of Paul as a cesspool of iniquity. The immorality of Rome – especially among it’s upper class – was beyond description. The political leadership merely reflected the morals of this kingdom.
Roman women in the upper class were said to number their years by the names of their husbands they changed as often as they would change their calendars to a new year.
In the days of Paul, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and bestiality were considered within acceptable societal boundaries.
There were Roman philosophers in the first century who actually mocked a man and a woman who married in a heterosexual union and had fidelity in that union.
Perhaps the greatest crimes committed were against children. Pre-born and new born children were at great risk in the days of Paul.
Abortion was commonplace and killing even the newly born baby was an acceptable way to get rid of an unwanted or sickly child.
One Roman writer living during the first century said “We in Rome slaughter a fierce ox. We strangle a mad dog. And the child who is born weak and deformed, we drown without legal recourse.”
A Roman letter was discovered that dates to a few years before the ministry of the Apostle Paul. It was from a man to his wife and it included these unthinkable words.
We know from history that many of these children were left outside the home at night and then picked up by child prostitution rings who raised the children for their purposes. During the days of Paul, child prostitution proliferated as children abandoned by parents who didn’t want them fell into the clutches of evil men and women.
In fact, we also know from church history that it became the ministry of the early church to go out at night and pick up these babies from the homes that had simply set them outside to die of exposure to the elements, or wild animals or prostitution rings.
In addition to sexual vice, drug addiction was rampant. In fact, we know of a revival that took place during the ministry of Paul where the new converts brought their pharmakia (drugs) and piled them in the street.
Add to that the fact that religious superstition abounded. The people could simply choose their god and most people chose several that made them comfortable and gave them a sense of security. The most popular religions of Paul’s day were religions that included sexual elements and the worship of the body within their religion practices.
Furthermore, it perhaps goes without saying, that in the days of Rome, life was cheap. By the time Romans had been written, the lower class people had already formed labor unions, not to receive better working conditions but so they could simply ensure a decent burial.
Man was just another animal – to act like an animal and to treat each other as animals was common living.
In fact, in actuality, to be an animal meant better treatment at times than being human.
This Book is not just truth for yesterday, it is truth for today.
For today, as in the days of Rome, life is cheap. Animals are in many ways more protected than humans.
Today there is a legal penalty for destroying the egg of an eagle, but you can dismember a child within the womb and be protected by the law.
If there was ever a time when believers needed to learn rock solid truths about their Sovereign God, and the dignity of humanity in Jesus Christ – it was then. And it is now.
The National Organization of Women along with the First Lady has proudly defended the policy in China of allowing only one child per couple. This has led to infanticide and abortion on such an incredible scale that China today has reaped a problem that doesn’t make most news reports.
In China today, after years of forced abortions and infanticide of females – since they can only have one child, they abort or expose a female but keep the male babies who can carry their family name and care for the parents in their old age – one news service reported some time ago that there are now approximately 700 single men for every 100 single women in China.
Abortion has impacted America. I read just this past week the incredible news that the Governor of Iowa is begging for people to immigrate to his state. Why? Because at the same time unemployment is less than 3%, the population of his state is slowly shrinking. Is anybody connecting the dots?
Furthermore, today as in Rome, the destruction of the definition of a family seems in its final phase.
Already the Family Law Quarterly, under the guidance of Georgetown University Law Center proposed that in America, we ought to move to have licensed parents or caregivers. It actually suggested that parents, whose ideas, “of child rearing and family life are not in line with community standards” should be required to give their children to those who will rear them according to community standards.
A commercial that aired just a few days ago during the Olympics revealed just another symptom of our inability to define a family the way God’s word defines a family. It showed two women holding a baby that had just been adopted by them and one woman finally saying into the camera, “We are a family.”
To say anything against a lesbian couple adopting a baby and calling themselves a family would be considered politically incorrect. I’ve actually thought of entitling our study of Romans with those words, “Politically incorrect.” Simply because so much of what we’ll learn in just the first chapter goes against the current of what’s considered sophisticated and mature and normal and acceptable.
Since life is cheap, and a moral guideline has all but disappeared, medical ethics are now more confused than ever. Not too long ago I read where a father was dying of kidney failure. They artificially inseminated his 16 year old daughter with the help of physicians. Seven months into her pregnancy, the baby was taken by C-section, it’s kidneys were removed and transplanted into the father and the infant was left to die of uremic poisoning.
We’ve lost the definition and value of life because we’ve lost the definition revealed in this Book.
We have become more like Rome than ever before. And the more we become like Rome, the more we need the Book of Romans.
It is truth for today!
Before you even finish the first chapter of Romans, Paul is introduced to us. A man who was called by God, he said in another letter, while he was still in the womb. Thus, the value of life begins in the womb.
Before you finish even the first chapter of Romans you discover human relationships defined by what God considers correct and holy and fulfilling.
It is in the first chapter alone that you discover the creative genius of God and how mankind has dignity and honor as His chief creation and calling. You see, whenever you deny the authority of God as revealed in the Bible you condemn yourself to confusion and, ultimately, barbaric acts upon the other human beings because human beings no longer have dignity and honor within God’s creation. Thus an eagle egg in a nest has more value than a baby in a womb.
Here’s how far we’ve come: we expect animals to be treated like humans and humans to treat each other like animals.
The Book of Romans was a letter sent to penetrate the darkness of an immoral, pagan, superstitious, hungry, needy, lonely, searching society.
I can’t think of anything that describes our culture any better than that of Rome.
Well, if I don’t stop and get to the outline of this Book, we won’t even get the introduction finished today.
If you have your notes you will discover the author – and the story of his dramatic conversion which you can read sometime this coming week. I have also given you the theme verses and an outline and brief survey of this letter.
You do not need to know most of this for the test – however, I am going to give a pop quiz next Sunday. And the person who can stand and recite word perfectly the theme verses will receive a $25.00 gift certificate to Adams’ Christian Bookstore. And a different person who can stand and recite the outline will receive a $25.00 gift certificate as well.
You say, that’s religious bribery. Paul doesn’t say anything about that in Romans.
The introduction of the letter takes place in chapter 1 verses 1-17. I have spent time this morning introducing the introduction.
The first division is chapter 1 verse 18 through chapter 3 verse 20. It asks and answers the question, “Is the whole world really lost?” Perhaps you’ve been asked, “What about all the heathen who’ve never heard the gospel – are they condemned to hell when they die?” The answer is yes, and in this first division of Romans, Paul explains why.
The key word is condemnation. And we will discover the wrath of God revealed against sinful, depraved humanity.
The second division is chapter 3 verse 21 through
chapter 8 and verse 39. It asks and answers the question, “Just how does God save sinners.” The key word is salvation, or the righteousness of God revealed to man.
The third division is chapter 9 through the end of chapter 11. And it addresses the question, “Whatever happened to Israel?” Other questions are addressed such as, are Israel and the church one and the same? Is the church a continuation in the same covenant between God and the Jew? Does baptism then correspond to circumcision and infants are to be baptized into the community of believers? My reformed friends would say yes. I believe Paul says no.
The final division in the Book of Romans takes us from chapter 12 through chapter 15 and it asks the critical question of application, “What difference does all this make in my own life?” How should I live as a result of studying the Book of Romans?
The key word is exhortation – the will of God revealed for mankind.
Paul ends the letter with personal remarks and greetings.
An author by the last name Godet once wrote many years ago these provocative words, “There has never been and probably never will be an important spiritual movement in the history of the church that cannot be connected to the Book of Romans.”
Throughout the history of the church, there have been episodes of revival and reformation within and over and through the church. However, upon closer observation, the people who were revived and the sinners who were converted already had, for the most part a belief in the existence of God as described in scripture; a respect for the authenticity and authority of Holy scripture as well as a guilty conscience over personal sin. In other words, they had a basic understanding of the doctrines found in Romans.
I personally believe that revival cannot occur in our generation as in the past because today, there is not a belief in the existence of the Biblical God, there is not a respect for scripture as authoritative and there is little or no guilt over sinful acts or even sinful nature. Revival cannot and will not occur unless first of all, we as the people of God are again exposed to and submissive to the truth of God’s word.
So, if Godet was right, and I believe he was, while Christian leaders around us are lamenting and pleading, “We need a return to the days of revival – oh we need revival – oh we need to pray for revival,” somebody needs to stand up and say, “What we really need is a return to the truth of Romans and if we return to an understanding of this truth, revival may well come.”
What are some of those truths that pave the way to revival?
Well, there are several key doctrines taught throughout the Book of Romans:
First the Book of Romans pronounces the total depravity of mankind.
That is, we are not lightly sinful – we are totally sinful. And we are sinners, not because we sin;
we sin, because we are sinners.
You never had to teach your son how to lie – then where’d he learn how? No, you had to teach him how to tell the truth. Why? Because lying came naturally – honesty had to be developed.
You never have to teach your daughter how to manipulate you into giving her what she wants. Where do you think she learned that from? Her mother! Eve. That’s right – Eve!
We were born, knowing intuitively how to do all the bad things – Jesus Christ is in the process of refining and transforming and revolutionizing our character so that we do holy and righteous and selfless things.
Our penchant for running after sin rather than sin having to run after us is best summed up in that little story about a kindergarten girl who came home from school
READ STORY OF LITTLE GIRL.
Truth is, sin doesn’t run to catch us; we most often run to catch sin.
The Book of Romans, secondly promises the future damnation of all unbelievers.
This is an unpopular message today. Yet, the Book of Romans declares without apology in chapter 6 verse 23, “The wages of sin is death.”
What bothers me ladies and Gentlemen, is not so much that our society is ignoring the warning of the Bible, but that the so called church is ignoring the warning of the Bible. It isn’t so much that society has rejected the God of the Bible, but that the modern church has rejected the God of the Bible.
A man in our church gave me this article from the News and Disturber, that wonder work of truth and virtue.
I am deeply disturbed by the fact that our culture is dying of thirst while the church is a well without water. At the very time our society is starving for the bread of truth, many churches have stopped baking it.
I want you to know that we here in this church believe that pleasing God is better than feeling good. Sometimes truth hurts before it heals.
And while this particular church has announced , and many like it, that it isn’t attempting to convert anybody, I want to make an announcement – “We are attempting to convert everybody.”
Why? Because the Book of Romans tells us of a coming judgment day – that the payment for sin and depravity and unbelief is death. An eternity in hell instead of in heaven.
Third, the Book of Romans proclaims the only deliverance of humanity.
Let’s finish that verse – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9, 10)
In chapter 8 alone Paul shouts with the joy of one who has been delivered.
Delivered by the Son of God (vv. 1-4)
Delivered by the Spirit of God (vv. 5-13)
Delivered into the family of God (vv. 14-23)
Delivered through the promises of God (vv. 24-25)
Delivered in the prayer of God (vv. 26-27)
Delivered by the providence of God (v. 28)
Delivered for the purposes of God (vv. 29-30)
Delivered by the power of God (vv. 31-34)
And delivered by the unstoppable love of God (vv. 35-39)
Fourth, the Book of Romans prescribes the holy development of the believer.
If it is indeed true that revival cannot come to the believer apart from an understanding of Romans, then you cannot walk in holy living without an understanding of the truths found herein.
What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
What does it mean to have our minds transformed?
What does it mean to love one another?
I want to tell you something about my own desire. By the time I finish preaching and teaching through this Book of Romans, I want to be a different man. I want to dream differently – with eternity more in view. I want to be enamored more than ever in my affections for Christ. I want to think cleaner and wiser. I want to despise sin and shun temptation more intensely, I want to be a more godly example to my family at home; I want to love and serve Christ’s church here with greater fervency.
You see, we are indeed about to begin, as one man wrote of Romans, to climb the heights of Mount Everest where we can catch a more brilliant, life changing glimpse of our great and sovereign, exalted Savior. That leads me to my final point. The Book of Romans parades before us an awesome display of God attributes.
We are about to study, not just a letter from Paul to some Christians in Rome, but a revelation about God Himself.
Who He is. What He’s done. What He thinks like. What He plans to do. How He redeems. How He loves.
The church in our generation has become bigger than ever, while our God has become smaller than ever.
Romans will restore our vision of the magnificent, holy, sovereign, gracious God.
No wonder Martin Luther wrote centuries ago, “I studied Romans and it was as if the doors of paradise had swung open.”
The question is not, should we study the Book of Romans, but how can we afford not to?
Without a doubt, ladies and gentlemen, this letter to the believers living in Rome is truth we desperately need for today.
“To Hilarian my wife, heartiest greetings. Know that we are still, even now, in Alexandria. Do not worry, if when all others return, I remain in Alexandria, and as soon as I receive wages I will send them to you. If you have our child while I am away and it is a boy, let it live. If it is a girl, expose it and let it die.”
One column is dedicated to interviewing a pastor from some local church. This church in Raleigh was featured and it espouses nothing less than the religious superstition of Rome. “What are you known for” “We have a positive spiritual message, so that we can feel better when we leave than when we come in.” (this gentleman by the way, tongue in cheek wrote at the bottom of the article, “hey, sometimes I don’t feel better after your sermons, can you work on that?” What’s your congregation’s favorite song” “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me – we sing it every Sunday” What would you say to someone who’s thinking about giving your church a try? “They would be welcome regardless of who they are and regardless of their belief system,” the pastor said, “we don’t try to convert anybody” . . . he went on to say, “We need to stop being so religious and be more spiritual. We need to practice more spirituality.”
This reminds me of that ancient Hebrew word – baloney!
“Romans is the true masterpiece of the New Testament which is well worthy and deserving that a Christian should not only learn it by heart but also that he should daily deal with it as the daily bread of his soul. The more it is handled the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”
STORY OF LITTLE GIRL
At the dinner table she announced very calmly that Billy had actually kissed her on the lips during recess. “How did that happen?” her mother gasped. The little girl responded, “Well, it wasn’t easy, but three of my friends helped me catch him.”
Add a Comment