Sermon on Rom. 1:1-7, preached on Sun, 16 Sep 2018.
To Listen to the Sermon (MP3), Click HereBible Readings: (OT) Ezekiel 37:15-28 / (NT) Romans 1:1-7
I. The gospel of the Triune God
II. The beloved of God
I’d like to read the same passage we’ve read on the previous two Sundays, that is, Rom. 1:1-7, and deliver a message on these first seven verses. I’m not sure how often you’ve heard messages preached from a small section like the previous two sermons that were from the very first word, ‘Paul,’ and then from the rest of v. 1 which is “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” But I’m sure that you don’t usually hear the same passage read on three Sundays in a row as the text passage for three different sermons. You might feel unusual with this practice, but it’s quite necessary because this section opens up the following fifteen and a half chapters of this important letter in the NT. The role of this seven-verse long section in Romans might be compared to the role of Gen. 1-2 or Mt. 1 in the rest of respective books and in the entire Bible. If the origin of all things including humankind that is recorded in Gen. 1-2 is not clearly understood, not only the rest of Genesis, but also the entire Bible will be difficult, if not impossible. Likewise, understanding of this section is truly important for comprehension of the rest. So, we’ve heard about why this Letter to the Romans begins with a name of a person, Paul, and what the rest of v. 1 means to us who are servants of Christ Jesus, called and set apart for the gospel of God, just like Paul.
It seems to be that I give an extended intro before reading the text, but let me tell you one more thing about this passage. The Apostle Paul was in fact so excited and thrilled with writing this letter to his fellow believers! Being so excited, he mentions total 93 Greek words (or in ESV, 132 English words) in a breath, I mean, in one sentence spread out in these first seven verses. Each word in these verses is packed with a full meaning and telling it to his fellow members of God’s household made Paul so excited.
Two important points we must understand from this text: first, ‘the gospel of God or of the Triune God’ and second, ‘the beloved of God.’
I. THE GOSPEL OF THE TRIUNE GOD
And we begin with the first point, ‘the gospel of God.’ Why is the gospel ‘of God’? Paul deliberately says here that the gospel is ‘of God.’ We could easily pass this and move on, thinking that the gospel could be mentioned as ‘of God’ or ‘of Jesus.’ Doing so is quite alright. But, being inspired by the Spirit of God, Paul specifies the gospel in this way, drawing people’s ears to the point he is going to speak about. In fact, this is Paul’s habit; he suggests a word or phrase, then, elaborates it in detail. That’s exactly what he intends here with this phrase, ‘the gospel of God.’ And he begins from v. 2 and goes up to v. 4. In a word, Paul means the gospel or in other words, the good news, is of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
First of all, as in v. 2, it is of God the Father. Hear the words of v. 2: “He [that is, God the Father] promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” God’s prophets spoke and revealed the Father’s ‘promise’ for salvation, the good news for the sinners.
This means that the Father planned our salvation long before time; He had this in His divine heart and spoke about it to people as His promise for them. This is a marvellous teaching. The Father’s promise precedes all of the OT Israel, let alone us of the NT. Truth is that this promise precedes Abraham, precedes Noah, Seth and even Adam. Eph. 1:3-4 is one of the numerous sections of the Bible that unanimously teach this as true. The Father ‘chose’ us ‘before the foundation of the world’ and spoke to us about His election for salvation.
This means that this gospel God the Father promised long ago is truly reliable, dependable and safe, even more reliable than the natural law that raises the sun always in the morning from the east and changes seasons in order. God the Father set His rule in the nature when He created all things and ever since, nothing has been altered or drifted off-track. As we stand on earth which is God’s creation, we never doubt whether the earth will continually be under our feet or whether the sky will stay hung up there rather than falling upon us. We never do that because God’s law set in His creation never changes and it’s truly dependable. More reliable and surer than this law of nature is God’s promise for salvation of His elect. Hear the words the Prophet Ezekiel delivered in Eze. 37: 22-23 which we heard earlier this morning: “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” Is this promise of the Father more reliable in your mind than the fact that the sun rises from the east? It should be because this promise is a verbal revelation of the plan the Father had in His heart before time!
So, by telling us that God the Father promised to us His gospel, His good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life, the Apostle Paul teaches us the weight of the gospel we’ve received and gladly uphold and enjoy now! It precedes all things that exist; the gospel precedes humankind. It came from the heart of God the Father – so, it is the surest and most reliable truth and fact!
Having said, v. 3 continues explaining what ‘the gospel of God’ means. This gospel the Father promised beforehand is ‘concerning Jesus,’ God’s Son, the second Person in the Godhead. The Father’s promise is about the coming of His Son, Jesus, in flesh. The promise realised and fulfilled in this world through coming of the Son, not in a ghostly form, but in real and true flesh. This gospel is concerning the Son who came in flesh for those recipients of the Father’s promise; this Jesus lived a perfect life on their behalf, and died on the cross in their stead. People who had believed the Father’s promise and waited for its fulfilment received that promise in the Son; people who heard the news of Jesus and believe in Him also receive the same promise and are saved. It’s all about the Son, Jesus Christ. So, He is THE promise; He is the salvation; He is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him! And all who believe in Him will surely receive His eternal life.
This Jesus the Son is Lord of life who willingly gave His life for the sinners. To whomever repents from his/her sins and believes in the Son, He gives His eternal life. He received from the Father authority and power over all things.
So, this gospel we heard and received is of the Father and of the Son. This good news of salvation which is weightier and surer than the natural law and all things of this world is attested to you and me by God the Son with His blood shed on the cross! Is there any better attestation to the power and effect and blessing of this good news of God? So, blessed are all who come to the Son Jesus Christ and bow before Him in worship! The Father promised and the Son attested, fulfilled and made possible for you and me!
Also, this gospel is of God the Holy Spirit. This is what v. 4 teaches us, saying, “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Holy Spirit carried out the Father’s promise in the OT and was actively involved in the Son’s coming. At the commencement of Jesus’ ministry, the Holy Spirit came upon the Son in the form of a dove and drove Him to the desert for temptation and filled Him with power and authority while He was on earth and toward the death on the cross. Then, He enabled Jesus’ resurrection.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit ministers to the hearts of the Father’s elect, bringing them back through repentance and opening their spiritual eyes through faith and graciously engrafting God’s word onto their hearts. By this, the Holy Spirit realises the gospel in the life of individuals and church, deepening everyone’s faith daily.
This is why the Apostle Paul mentions the gospel as ‘of God’; he means, the gospel ‘of the Triune God’! The gospel we received is intrinsically of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As the Triune God is greater than the creation, this good news we believe is greater than any law, greater than any standard or rule or ideology of mankind! This is what Paul who is a brother to us in the Lord Jesus was so excited about. Do you remember that he spoke total 93 Greek words (or in ESV, 132 English words) in one breath in these seven verses? No wonder why he defines this gospel in another place as “the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed … to all nations … to bring about the obedience of faith.” No wonder why our Lord Jesus teaches us that this is treasure hidden but found and, by selling one’s all possession, to be possessed.
II. THE BELOVED OF GOD
Having explained this, Paul directs our eyes to the effect and blessing of the gospel. The first thing to mention is ‘grace.’ The gospel is ‘grace’ and we have received it from the Lord Jesus. Grace means that we didn’t deserve it, we were not worthy for the gospel of salvation. This mystery of God and Christ and Holy Spirit is given to us as a gift, not as a reward or wage for any work we’ve done – no, not at all! Eph. 2:5 is so clear about this, saying, “by grace you have been saved.”
Then, Paul talks about his apostleship received also as a gift from the Lord. By the way, you need to understand what Paul has in mind whenever he talks about his apostleship. In the first place, he never boasts of his apostleship. Rather, he humbles himself, remembering his former shameful status in sin of persecuting Christ and His church. Yet, he is called to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus. So, he humbly thanks to the Lord and serves His church. In a sense, saying this in v. 5, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship,” Paul means something like this: ‘Look at me and see how amazing God’s grace is! He called me, a wretched sinner, and made me His apostle! What a unfathomable and great gift this is!’
So, it is right to talk about ‘the obedience of faith’ in the hearts of people from all nations. And that includes, says Paul in v. 6, “you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” You used to belong to the world; you and I were doing things that would surely lead us to hell! We lived for our belly alone. But, having received this gift of Christ, the gospel of God, we now belong to Him! This is truly a blessed thought as a hymn in our Rejoice hymnbook, #415, ‘I belong to Jesus,’ sings. Its third verse begins with these words, ‘I belong to Jesus; blessed, blessed thought!’ Then, in v. 4, this blessed thought is exclaimed in these words, ‘I belong to Jesus; He has died for me; I am His and He is mine, through eternity’! What a gift, what a grace this is, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
Then, by this gift, the gospel of God, we are entitled as “loved by God and called to be saints” as found in v. 6. We don’t simply ‘belong’ to Jesus, but ‘loved’ by God, that is, the Triune God. Moreover, we’re ‘saints.’ Literally, it means that we’re called and ‘separated to God and to His praise.’ We not only ‘belong’ to Jesus, not only are ‘loved’ by God, but also set aside for God alone!
I’d like to remind you of Paul’s excitement with his apostleship as the Lord’s gift because his apostleship and our ‘sainthood’ are exactly the same in effect. What I mean is that we receive the gospel of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; we carry the gospel as God’s chosen vessels, and that’s why we’re called to be God’s ‘saints.’ We’re ‘saints’ not because we’ve done any good works, but because God loved us, thus, called us to be His own people! All who believe in the Lord Jesus are saints, the beloved of God.
As the conclusion of this message, let me point out to you the words of v. 7 that reads, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the only conclusion suitable for the saints like you and me. It’s not a wish or hope; it is a declaration of blessing, grace and peace bestowed upon the Lord’s saints from the Triune God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean? We are the holders of the blessed gospel of God; therefore, we must be proud of who we are in Christ. This is what Paul means in v. 16 of Rom. 1 which we’ll read and meditate on in a few Sunday’s time, saying this: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This gospel of the Triune God is not something we would be ashamed of. This is the ‘mystery’ of our great God. As we’re not ashamed before our enemy, Satan, because of this gospel we received from the Lord, it is our sole and great pride and delight at home, at work, at school and marketplaces and everywhere, because this gospel is the truth, the only way for life! So, show the world that you have Christ and uphold His gospel. Show the unbelievers that you love the Lord by praying to Him always, and by reading and studying His word always, and by living His name out in your life always.
In this sense, we’re the bearers of His grace to the others. Through us, the Lord’s grace flows out to the unbelievers. We’re God’s hands and feet and mouths working in this world. So, be joyful because God is at work with and through you and that’s His gospel! To God be glory and praise now and always! Amen. ***