Saturday, April 27, 2019

Romans Bible Study #3 - "Paul's Heart" - Romans 1:8-17 (Video and Lesson notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the previous lesson, click here..


Read Romans 1:1-17

Recap vs. 1-7

Paul’s Heart (vs. 8-15)
Remember that most of the people that Paul is writing to have never met Paul.  They certainly would have heard of him, much of it good, but no doubt some of it bad.  After having laid out his credentials to them, he shares his heart with them. This in itself should be a lesson to us.  When we are speaking to others of Christ, they need to understand our heart first. We’re not just trying to “win another one for Jesus.”...put another spiritual trophy in our case.  We have to care about each one as a person.

We will occasionally have a guest minister preach here.  The message might be superb, the delivery might be completely on pitch, but I have to tell you...for me to really partake of what he has to say...I need to know his heart.  I will honor anyone who the Lord has called to preach the gospel, but, I’m afraid that some preach Christ for selfish reasons. Paul in Philippians 1:17 stated the some “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition.”  I don’t want to do that...neither do I want anyone else to do that.

Vs. 8 Paul is not just “buttering them up” here. He genuinely is thankful for the wonderful reputation that the Roman Church (or actually churches)...who probably didn’t have any “spiritual father” but rather had sprung up as more and more Christians moved to Rome from other areas..had a reputation for great faith.  What do we want to be known for here at Fair Haven Christ Fellowship? Great preaching, great worship music, great facilities, children’s ministry? I for one would want to be known as those who have great faith...that is, that we are connected by faith to Jesus Christ. That this is a place to go when you are discouraged and down, because when you go you’ll be energized by the faith and love of the members.  

Vs. 9-10
These verses truly reveal Paul’s heart.  Notice that Paul’s preaching and Paul’s prayers and intertwined.  His preaching was so effective because of his praying. John Stott says “in Paul’s apostolic ministry, preaching and praying go together.”  This has always been true of any man or woman who has truly been used of God. You show me a man who preaches without much prayer and I’ll show you a man whose preaching is shallow and matter how eloquent he is.

Listen to the words of E.M. Bounds:

What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new
organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can
Use - men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow
Through methods but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on
men. He does not anoint plans, but men - men of prayer.
Preaching is not the performance of an hour.  It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make the man.

The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself.  His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with himself...It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God - men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These can mold a generation for God.

Prayer is the preacher’s mightiest weapon...The real sermon is made in the closet.  The man - God’s man - is made in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit, his
weightiest and sweetest messages were received when alone with God. Prayer
makes the man: prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the pastor.

Paul would have said “Amen” to E.M. Bounds.  Paul was certainly one of those praying men. It was Paul’s praying that not only made his preaching but his letter in this letter we are now studying.  He prayed for these people. He described his prayers for them as “unceasing.” Remember, he had never met most of them...had never been to Rome. Let me as you as I ask is your praying lining up with Paul’s?  Do you pray for those you’ve never met...fervently, unceasingly? I’m afraid mine doesn’t line up at all. I want to be one who can pray for those Catholics in Sri Lanka who were just brutally attacked by ISIS as fervently as I pray for the members of my own congregation.  I want Paul’s heart.

Vs. 11-13 Paul, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, had a great desire to see this church established.   Notice the careful, loving way that Paul speaks to them. He commends them for their faith. He tells them how much he prays for them, and how much he desires to see them...a desire that didn’t just come from his earthly desires but from the Holy Spirit.  He tells them that he would like to help them become more established, imparting a spiritual gift to them. This doesn’t mean that there is one particular spiritual gift (as Paul in other places would name), but that He wanted them to be more mature in their faith. Though they had many things going for them, there evidently were not always on solid ground spiritually.  Then, he says, that not only does he want to help them be established, he also needs to be encouraged by them. Did you know that preachers need their congregations as much as the congregation needs the preacher? I certainly need you greatly. You encourage me...and I know that Pastor Mike could say the same. When I see your faith...I get pumped! In verse 13, Paul says that he has been hindered from going to them, though he has often planned to come.  He gives his reason for wanting to come here as obtaining fruit from them. Fruit can be many different things. Some have said that he was hoping to make converts in Rome...that the converts were the fruit. That may be so. Actually, Paul talks of fruit is some places as being money, but I don’t see that here at all. Perhaps, the fruit was the fruit of their faith, which he had heard of but not experienced.

Vs. 14-15 - Let’s talk first about these people he says he is under obligation to.  When he says Greeks, he’s not talking about just people from Greece. The world was dominated politically by Rome, but it was dominated philosophically and culturally by Greece.  When Rome eventually conquered Greece about 100 years before Christ’s birth, Greek culture conquered them. To a Jew, a Greek could mean anyone who was not Jewish. That’s what I think it means in verse 16.  But in this context, it means a learned person. Those who spoke Greek and had adopted Hellenistic (Greek) culture). A barbarian was an unlearned person...someone from the lower classes. He is saying much the same thing when he says “both to the wise and to the foolish.”

When Paul says he is under obligation, he is literally saying I am in debt.  How do you think that Paul was in debt to Greeks and barbarians...people he had never met?  I believe that he was saying that because of the great debt that I owe to my Savior Jesus, I must share the gospel with matter their rank or social status.  We can never pay back the debt we owe to our Savior, can we? Yet, the way we are expected to “discharge the debt” is by serving our fellow men and matter how unlike us they are.  

What would our lives be like if we felt indebted to everyone we met, whether they were pleasant or uncouth...even barbarous?  We are in debt to share Christ with them, to show the love of God to treat them as those created in God’s matter how badly that image has been marred by sin.  

This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
By 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:1-5 NKJV)
John Stott mentions a second way that Paul would have felt indebted.  He says, “...if a friend of yours were to hand me $1000 to give to you, I would be in your debt until I handed it is your friend who has put me in your debt by entrusting me with $100 for you.  It is in this...sense that Paul is in debt. He has not borrowed anything from the Romans which he must repay. But jesus Christ has entrusted him with the gospel for them.”

As a result of all this, Paul says in verse 15 that He is eager to preach the gospel to those in Rome.  Eager is a good translation of this word. It means “enthusiastically willing”, “ready to go.” Paul was on-the-edge-of-his-seat ready to go to Rome just as soon as the Lord gave the word.  This should be our attitude towards God as well. We should be “enthusiastically willing” to go wherever God sends us…”on-the-edge-of-our-seat” ready to obey God. He doesn’t have to drag us kicking and screaming…(Jonah comes to mind here).  
2 Timothy 2:15 NASBS
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Vs. 16-17 - These two verses are seen by many as the theme or the thesis of the whole book.  I see no reason to disagree. Paul will basically take the rest of the letter to flesh out what he is saying in these two verses.  If we can really understand what is here, we will go far in understanding the whole letter.

Paul says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”  Paul had just been talking about his eagerness to go to Rome to preach the gospel.  In my mind’s eye, I can almost see Paul like David before Goliath. Paul in stature was probably small, he by this time bore the marks of much persecution in his body, and in one place he quotes others who said of him, “his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” (2 Cor. 10:10)  Yet, here he is eager to go to the capital of the known world to “slay the giant” of Rome. Paul would readily go before Caesar himself and preach the gospel, even at the expense of his own life.

Let’s talk about ourselves.  Are you ashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ?  Am I? Remember, we all are ambassadors for Jesus Christ.  We represent Him wherever we go. We are to be unashamed and unafraid.   Do you remember what Jesus said about being ashamed of Him?...

Mark 8:38 NASBS
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

God grant us boldness in the face of every kind of opposition!

What reason did Paul give that he was unashamed of the gospel?  He said that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes....

Let’s compare for a moment vs. 2-4 with 16-17.  We said last time that 3-4 was a summary of the gospel. It describes the gospel in the briefest form.  The gospel concerns Jesus Christ, who “was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead…”  We took some time to break that down. Verses 3 and 4 describe what the gospel is. Verses 16 and 17 describe what the gospel does.  We just received a wonderful gift of a 98 Ford Explorer. There are a couple of different ways that I could tell you about this gift.  I could describe what kind of motor it has, I could tell you that it is all-wheel-drive. I could even tell you that it is green, has four doors, and a nice stereo, all of which are true.  The other way that I could explain the vehicle would be to take you out, give you the keys, and say, “drive it.” Verses 3 and 4 are the summary of what the gospel is. Verses 16 and 17 tells you what it does.

The gospel is...the power of God.  The word translated “power” here is an interesting word.  The Greek word is “dunamis.” It doesn’t mean just power, it means “miraculous power.” The Greek word “dunamis.” We get our word “dynamite” from “dunamis.”  That should give you a pretty good idea of what this word means. This is the reason that Paul was unafraid to preach the gospel in Rome. He would be coming with dynamite! This word “dunamis” is in the NT 120 times.  In almost every case, it is referring to “the power of God”, “the power of the Holy Spirit,” or “the power of Christ.” The word is translated in NASB 18 as “miracles.” No wonder! The gospel is the greatest miracle that has ever been!

Why is the gospel so miraculously powerful?  Look back at the text. Because it is the power of God for salvation...What is salvation?  It is one of those theological words that we here a lot...but do we really understand it? Webster’s describes it as “preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.”  Most of the time, if you ask people what we are saved from, they will say that we are saved from hell.  Most Christians would probably give you that answer. But did you know that the NT never talks about being saved from hell?

Matt. 1:21 “...He will save His people from their sins.”  1st time in NT
Acts 2:40 “...Be saved from this perverse generation.”
Romans 5:9 “...we shall be saved from the wrath of God…”

Yes, when we are saved, we are delivered from hell to heaven.  But that is not where the emphasis is in NT. Even in the matter of salvation, we can become exceedingly selfish.  We want it to be all about us...or about the one who we desire to be saved.

Charles Finney
Parents…”cannot bear to think that their children should be lost. They pray for them very earnestly indeed. But if you go to talk with them, they are very tender, and tell you how good their children are, how they respect religion, and they think they are almost Christians now; and so they talk as if they were afraid you would hurt their children if you should tell them the truth. They do not think how such amiable and lovely children are dishonoring God by their sins; they are only thinking what a dreadful thing it will be for them to go to hell. Ah! unless their thoughts rise higher than this, their prayers will never prevail with a holy God. The temptation to selfish motives is so strong, that there is reason to fear a great many parental prayers never rise above the yearnings of parental tenderness. And that is the reason why so many prayers are not heard, and why so many pious, praying parents have ungodly children. Much of the prayer for the heathen world seems to be based on no higher principle than sympathy. Missionary agents, and others, are dwelling almost exclusively upon the six hundred millions of heathens going to hell, while little is said of their dishonoring God. This is a great evil; and until the church have higher motives for prayer and missionary effort than sympathy for the heathen, their prayers and efforts will never amount to much.”

One word that we use today that shares the same root as “salvation” helps explain the concept…”salvage.”  The gospel is the message of a heavenly “salvage” operation. You and I have been salvaged so that we might be useful to God.  

Who receives this salvation?  “To everyone who believes.” When we were in John, we talked quite a bit about what it means to believe.  It doesn’t mean to just give mental assent. It means wholehearted trust. It is not a one time thing. To be a believer means that we trust in Christ for our whole life.  To be a believer means that our life has been radically changed. It means that we are now Christ

“To the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Here “Greek” is synonymous with “Gentile” or “non-Jew.”  God offered salvation first to the Jews. When they rejected it, he then offered it to all of us Gentiles.  Yet, the offer to the Jews was never withdrawn. Later in Romans, we will see that there will be a time...I believe soon...that the Jews will receive the gospel and believe.

“For in it (the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed…”  What is the righteousness of God? It is making things right with God

John Stott
“It seems legitimate to affirm, therefore, that ‘the righteousness of God is God’s righteous initiative in putting sinners right with himself, by bestowing on them a righteousness which is not their own but his. ‘The righteousness of God’ is God’s...justification of the unjust, his righteous way of pronouncing the unrighteous righteous, in which he both demonstrates his righteousness and gives righteousness to us. He has done it through Christ, the righteous one, who died for the unrighteous, as Paul will explain later. And he does it by faith when we put our trust in him, and cry to him for mercy.”

“From faith to faith…” Scholars have been puzzling over exactly what Paul meant by this for many centuries.  I see it as first that we go from faith in our own righteousness (which Paul later describes as “filthy rags) to faith in the righteousness of Christ.  But I also see a deeper meaning that this. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…” In our walk of faith in this life, we may progress in our faith from room to room to room.  Each one calls for a deeper degree of faith. We could almost say, “from faith to faith to faith.” We may walk with God at one level, then a crisis will cause us to call out to him for deliverance.  In actuality, we are being called up a deeper faith. We are just delivered once. We are delivered to deeper faith in him again and again. Each time, the righteousness of God is revealed more and more to us...until that final revelation when we see Him face to face.

2 Corinthians 3:18 NASBS
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Finally, Paul quotes Habakkuk…As it is written, “But the righteous man (or the just) shall live by faith.” We received the righteousness of God by faith.  We aren’t just given the righteousness of God so that we can get to heaven in the sweet by and by. We are given the gift of righteousness so that for our entire lives we can live by faith.  That is what it means to believe. It means to live by faith.

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