Romans Lesson 3 - Introducing the Gospel
If someone were to ask you to explain the Gospel, where would you begin? The cross? The Virgin birth? Creation? Well in this message Stephen re-introduces us to the whole Gospel story -- from beginning to end -- revealing just how much we often leave out.
Introducing the Gospel
Imagine camping by some beautiful stream running through a wooded valley. In the morning you go out and wash your face in that clear sparkling water, and you drink some of it too, only to become violently ill a few hours later. Why? Because upstream, there at the head of that stream, a man has poured toxic waste into the water. And all the water that flows now down the mountain and through the valley is polluted. Even though it looks good and clean. There are invisible toxins.
Adam stands at the fountain head of humanity. And he has polluted the stream of mankind. You say, “Hey, that’s not fair, I didn’t eat that fruit.”
Well, you didn’t eat forbidden fruit but you have experienced forbidden sin. You may not have eaten that apple, but you might have stolen one. In other words, you’ve committed your own sin that proves you have indeed been infected with the polluted water of Adam’s nature.
All of us are born into the family of Adam, and our case is terminal.
The reasons the gospel was first promised in Genesis 3:15 was because humanity was cursed and sin would bring it’s penalty called death.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the reason you have to be born again is because you were born the first time into a diseased family, polluted with sin, and condemned to death.
In John 8:44 records the Lord saying the father of humanity is the devil, and humanity likes because it’s just like it’s father who’s nothing more than a liar. See, you happen to have bigger family problems than you ever imagined. You’ve got a problem with some of your relatives that you never thought possible.
We have as a human race been infected – we have drunk from polluted water – we are terminally infected with sin.
You need to be adopted out of this dying family, and become a member of the living family of God.
The religions of the world do nothing more than try and build filters for that polluted water. Religions of the world have become masters at masking the effects of disease – they’ve attempted to produce spiritual medicines to keep the pain of guilt and shame at a minimum – they’ve produced cosmetics that make the soul look less diseased and more spiritual. They’ve even invented ways to deny our condition and have provided self-improvement plans to make us feel better about our sinful selves.
The religions of this culture that do not offer everlasting forgiveness but a system of ritual and works and if you do them well, then maybe you might get into heaven. “Maybe” is not good news.
Several years ago in India, I was in a Hindu temple waiting area – and noticed a plaque on the wall. It had a message on it that declared how to find eternal life.
It read: He who desires to cross the painful ocean of worldly life which is full of the crocodiles of anger, greed and infatuation should catch hold of the Bhagavad Gita which has the disciplines of action, devotion and wisdom as its oars. It will easily take him to the land of liberation.
That was their way to heaven or Nirvana. This was their gospel – hang on to the oars of disciplined action and devotion and maybe you’ll make it through the crocodile infested waters of life to a better life.
In fact, upon further study, you learn that every person must spend time in one of 21 hells that burn away bad karma. Once purged, the soul is recycled to a higher state in the next life and the cycle begins again. If they’ve been particularly bad in the previous life they might be condemned to one of the lowest hells where they are cooked in jars or eaten by ravens.
Buddhism has it’s 7 hot hells complete with torture chambers and quagmire – but there are also 8 cold hells for those guilty of lesser sins.
Frankly, all the man made religions of the world are basically the same in this – they are not good news.
The western world has concocted it’s own religious systems. They may not threaten you with being cooked in a jar or being frozen in a cold hell, but they are equally hopeless and empty in their system of self improvement and self salvation.
They are like the emperor who paraded around town absolutely naked, having been duped into believing in his pride that he was wearing such fine and expensive clothing that only the sophisticated could see the exquisite fabric. And as the King went outside to show off his clothing, which was in effect his birthday suit, his kingdom watched him in silence not wanting to say anything less they betray their lack of intelligence . . . until a little boy said out loud, “Mommy, the Emperor has no clothes.”
The children of God have a message for all the religious throughout all the world. Man made religion has no hope! No answer to offer. Even with all it’s pomp and circumstance, its ritual and ceremony, it leaves a person exposed and naked before One true God before whom they stand condemned in their sin.
A few years ago I showed you a video clip that we took in India where a priest was washing in the polluted waters of the Ganges river, believing it would wash his sin away.
You see, the reason there is so much religion throughout the world is because there is something inside the human heart that knows it needs something outside itself for cleansing. We’ll get to that later in Romans chapter 1 sometime in the year 2004.
There is something about us that condemns us with a sense of emptiness and guilt. There must be some ritual, some cleansing, some way to silence the guilt. There must be something or someone out there who can help!
Socrates once lamented, “O that someone would arise to show us God.”
Mankind knows there must be a way to find forgiveness – there must be a way to eternity – there must be a source of hope – there must be someone who can diagnose our terminal condition and provide a cure.
Paul will be the one to arise and show us God and he will show us the way to God. That way is the sum and substance of the gospel truth.
Is it any wonder then that the word “gospel” in the Greek Bible is a word that literally means “good news.”
Yes there is sin; yes there is shame; yes there is evil; yes there is death – but there is good news too. Paul summarizes the good news in chapter 5 and verse 18. For if by the transgression of the on (Adam’s), death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. . .21. So that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
That is good news. Yes, we’ve all drunk from the polluted stream of Adam’s race, but there is another One who has begun a new race of justified men and women, boys and girls. There is a way to have and know you have eternal life.
And it is through this One – Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians “You have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (1:13)
There is such a thing today as the gospel truth. In an age of deception and lying and distrust and religious confusion and pious manipulation, here at last is the gospel truth.
Paul outlines for us a description of the Good news.
The second point is an important question, Where did the gospel come from?”
And so, in the last part of verse 1 Paul declares this is the gospel of God.
You could render that genitive construction so that it would read, “This is the gospel whose source is God.”
Paul must establish that it has a Divine source or it will have no credibility to a world that was already filled with novel religions.
In fact, during the days of Paul there were also other forms of the gospel.
In 2 Cor. 11:4 Paul warns of men who will preach a different Jesus – a different spirit – a different gospel. In other words, they will talk about the gospel, they will talk about the spirit, they will even talk about Jesus – but it’s a different Jesus.
In Galatians 1:7 Paul warned the believers along that same line when he wrote, “There are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” He goes on to say words that everyone needs to hear today more than ever; “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
In one of the few times Paul ever repeated himself in the same paragraph – he repeated himself here. The word “contrary” in the phrase “if an angel should preach to you a gospel contrary to. . .” is a word that can be translated “more than – or, in addition to”.
Paul was more than likely referring to Judaism in it’s quest, not to necessarily deny Christ, but to add to Christ the works of the law.
They were adding to the gospel. It was Jesus plus something else for salvation.
When I see a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s book on the key to understanding the scripture” or the Book of Mormon which claims is another testament to add to the New Testament, I think of this verse. And the irony is that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism claimed it was an angel who led him to the plates which, translated, provided new revelation regarding the gospel.
What does Paul say? (verse 8 again) “Even if an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel in addition to the gospel I have already in the past tense preached to you, let him be accursed.”
That’s why Paul’s introduction of the gospel truth is so critical. This isn’t Paul’s gospel. This isn’t new revelation from some angel. This gospel has as it’s source God.
This is the gospel of God. And it’s not called good advice. It’s called good news.
Now, if it’s truly from God, then it isn’t something new or novel or inconsistent with what God has already revealed, right?
So Paul makes that logical point next as he introduces the messengers of the Gospel.
Who told us about the gospel? Paul’s answer is, “the prophets”
Notice verse 1b again and verse 2, “This gospel came from God which He promised beforehand through His prophets
in the holy Scriptures.
In other words, this is the old gospel. This gospel isn’t something new. It isn’t something God threw together rather hastily after Adam and Eve sinned. He wasn’t up in heaven watching saying, “I can’t believe they ate that fruit . . . now what are we going to do?”
There’s never been an emergency meeting of the trinity.
I Peter 1:19-20 tells us the plan of redemption preceded the formation of the world.
And the prophets, since the time of Moses have been prophesying of His coming . In fact, the first coming of Christ was prophesied in at least 330 Old Testament passages.
As Paul dictates the Book of Romans, he will quote from:
Genesis 5 times
Exodus 4 times
Deuteronomy five times
I Kings twice
Psalms 15 times
Isaiah 19 times
In Luke 24:25-27 we read, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
In John 5:18 the religious leaders were arguing with Jesus because he performed a miracle on the Sabbath day. When Jesus compared himself to God the Father, they then wanted to kill him. He said to them in verse 39. You search the scriptures (in other words, as Barnhouse paraphrased it, “You’ve always got your nose stuck in the Bible.”) for you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.”
Jesus is saying that the Old Testament was showing the way to eternal life and it was pointing through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
He goes on in verse 45 by saying, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father, the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.”
Can the Lord make it any clearer than that? He goes further to say in verse 47. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My word.
What were the writings of Moses? Say them with me. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. . . (I want to see you afterward!) In other words, “If you can’t hear the truth of Gospel in Genesis, you won’t hear the Gospel truth in Matthew.”
You can’t pick and choose which books of the Bible you think are right and which ones are fables.
If you can believe the very first verse of the Bible – quote it – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth -if you can believe that first verse, then you can believe every other verse in the Bible.
Is it any wonder then that so much attack by Satan through the centuries has been leveled against the first Book of Moses – the Book of Genesis. Why? Because, according to Jesus, if you don’t believe Genesis, you will not believe Revelation.
From the first verse, to the last verse, the gospel of God has been revealed.
And this Book is all you need to discover the Gospel truth.
John Wesley, wrote around 1870 these profound words, “I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. A few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity. I want to know one thing – the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book. Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book – for this end, to find the way to heaven.”
Quoted by James Boice in ROMANS VOL. 1, Baker Books p. 34
Paul declares in his opening sentence, “This is the gospel truth – and it is good news – and you heard about it through the prophets.”
Having established the need for the gospel, and the source of the gospel and the first messengers of the gospel, Paul now moves to the content of the Gospel truth.
Now Paul moves forward to reveal the answer to the next question – What’s the gospel all about? Paul tells us – 1b. “[this is] the gospel of God which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, (now note) 3. Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of
David according to the flesh.”
Now, why mention that he’s related to David? Isn’t it impressive enough to say that he is the eternal Son of God?
Not unless, as Paul fully understands, you know the importance of his royal connection as the qualification to sitting on David’s throne as Messiah.
The prophecy’s had declared that Messiah would be a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah.
The true Messiah must be a descendant from the royal line of David, legally a rightful heir to the throne.
This is why in the very beginning pages of the Gospel of Matthew, the genealogy of Christ is given, tracing Jesus back to King David.
But there’s something even more fascinating about Christ’s human lineage that that.
I given you a diagram of the two genealogies found in the Gospels. One is from Matthew 1 and the other from Luke 3 (not 2!).
In Matthew chapter 1 the genealogy is actually that of Joseph and it traces his line from Abraham, through David – then through Solomon.
God had promised David in I Chronicles 22 that Solomon’s throne would be established in Israel. Thus the future Kings would come from the descendants of David through Solomon – even though Solomon wasn’t the first born son of David – in fact, Solomon’s older brother was Nathan and he as born in Jerusalem – 2 Sam. 5:14.
It is the line of David through Nathan that ultimately produces a girl named Mary.
Here’s the beauty of God’s sovereignty.
Nathan, the son of David, had a lineage that ran on until it culminated in the birth of a girl named Mary. A woman who could pass on to her son the legal right to sit on the throne.
Solomon, another son of David, had a lineage that ran on until it produced a boy named Joseph. A man who had the royal and historical right to sit on the throne as King.
Guess what. Those two distant cousins named Mary and Joseph got engaged.
That meant that, had their been a throne in Jerusalem, their first born child had both legal and royal rights to sit on the throne of David.
In fact, you remember the Christmas story, how Joseph and Mary had to travel back to the home of their forefather as all the Jews were to be part of a census and then taxed.
They went to Bethlehem because Joseph, the head of this household was a direct descendant of King David. Therefore, that baby boy who was born that night and wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a straw filled manger was none other than the rightful King of Israel.
There’s more – so take a deep breath and hang on. Are you alert? Look at the person next to you and say, “Stay alert!”
There is a slight problem.
Centuries before the birth of Joseph, a curse from God had been placed on his particular line.
In Matthew’s genealogy you discover an ancestor named Jechonias. Jechonias had been cursed by God with a curse that took the throne away from any of his descendants. In Jeremiah 22:30 we read where the Lord said, “[Jechoniah] will not prosper in his day; for no man of his descendants will, sitting on the throne of David, or ruling again in Judah.” And none of Jechonias’ 7 sons, or their descendants were given the throne of David.
Well Joseph is a descendant of Jechonias. Therefore, any biological son of Joseph can’t sit on David’s throne because of this judgement.
How do you solve the problem? God’s sovereign design was so masterful – Mary and Joseph were married. But Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of her womb – and Joseph would become, not the biological father, but the adoptive father of Jesus – thus allowing Jesus to circumvent the curse, yet still pass on to Jesus both the royal, historical and legal rights to sit on the throne.
So the virgin birth of Christ is of paramount importance.
Centuries earlier, Isaiah the prophet declared, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, or God with us.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Matthew and Luke both plainly reveal Mary as that virgin. In fact, Joseph was going to put her away privately when he discovered she was pregnant – because he knew the father had to have been someone else – she had obviously been unfaithful to her betrothal vows.
It would take a vision in the night to show Joseph what God had in mind for that baby. For that baby was nothing less than the miraculously conceived Messiah.
Barnhouse clarified it well when he said, “So Jesus was the uncursed Messiah, the legal Messiah, the true Messiah – in fact, Jesus was the only possible Messiah. The lineage of David ended with Him.”
So the Apostle Paul, in introducing the gospel to his audience knows full well that the Messiah must be none other than a descendant of David.
So you read in Romans 1:3 that the gospel concerns the Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.
This son of David was the promised Messiah, the rightful heir to the throne of David.
The Messiah had come. This was indeed, good news!
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