I invite you to open your Bibles to Romans, chapter 1. This morning we begin our verse-by-verse exposition of Paul's letter to the Romans. Two weeks ago, I surveyed the book, placing particular emphasis upon Paul's main purpose in writing. Despite Paul's emphasis upon theology in this letter, he wasn't writing a theological treatise. Rather, Paul was writing a missionary appeal letter.
He was appealing to the Romans for help as he was planning to take the gospel to Spain, a place where the gospel had never been before. Remember, at the time of writing, Paul was in Corinth, heading to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost to deliver a gift for the Jews in Jerusalem who were suffering from the famine. After that, his plan was to travel to Rome and then on to Spain.
It was Paul's hope that those in Rome would help him in his missionary efforts. This is what Paul says in, ...
I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
Paul was hoping for any sort of help that they might give. This might come in the form of prayer or finances. When we think of missionaries, these are the first sorts of thing that comes into our mind. We think of praying for them that God would give them strength and help and support and encouragement and open doors for the gospel. And we think of giving financially to them.
When people travel to a far-off land, it takes money. It takes money to travel there. It takes money to live there. It takes money to serve there. It takes money to travel back to communicate with supporters.
And, I believe, Paul was looking for this sort of help. But the way that Paul phrased verse 24 seems to indicate that he was open to any sort of help that they might give.
I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
If someone came up and told Paul that they owned a shipping company and were delivering a load of cargo to Spain and that Paul could travel with the boat for free, Paul would gladly have taken such "help." If someone wanted to join up with Paul and travel with him and serve alongside of him in Rome, Paul would gladly consider the "help," especially if his friend knew the language. If someone had some contacts in Spain of people who might be open to the gospel, Paul would gladly take down their information. If someone had some physical resources that they wanted to send with Paul, like clothes or books or tent-making supplies, Paul would gladly consider taking them.
A great application came last week as Bob Clinton came to speak last Sunday morning along with some Indian nationals, Joel and Tara. They were seeking help from us in their ministry. Whether it came in the form of financial support of children in their Children's Homes; whether it came in the form of financial support of their future sewing center; whether it came in the form of gifts like books or toys for the children or crafts for the women; whether it came in prayer or being added to their mailing list; whether it came in the form of encouragement in the work, they were seeking help.
They were seeking all of those things (to use the language of Paul), "to be helped on my journey there by you" (Romans 15:24). And indeed, there were some of you from our congregation (and from another congregation they visited) ... who gave to their ministry. They were "helped along." And this morning, they will be in a few churches in California as they seek to spread the word about their ministry in India.
This is Paul's main purpose in writing. It was an appeal for help in his missionary efforts. As one commentator said, ...
"Paul writes this letter not primarily as a theologian but as a missionary, with ambitions plans to evangelize Spain (15:22-29) with the good news that is 'the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes' (1:16). His exposition of the gospel is not ivory-tower theory but is intended to deepen the level of his readers' existing commitment to the implications of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. If he is to gain the support of a divided Roman audience for his missionary venture to the western, barbarian region of the Roman Empire, he must bring them together around their common gospel" 
See, Paul had a passion. He had a passion to preach the gospel. In Romans 1:15, Paul says, "I am eager to preach the gospel." And so he does in this wonderful letter. This is the theme of the book of Romans. Paul was eager to preach the gospel. Are you?
With that as an introduction, let's begin by looking at our text this morning: Romans 1:1-7. In these verses, Paul introduces himself and his message. Indeed, that is the title of my message this morning: Paul and His Message. Let's begin reading in verse 1, ...
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and 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, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
By way of outline this morning, I simply want to pick up on the main subjects that Paul brings up in these verses. Perhaps surprising to you is that Paul begins by talking about himself. This is my first point, ...
We could easily preach an entire sermon on that first word, "Paul." In fact, I was talking with a preacher friend this week. I told him that I was planning to preach through the book of Romans, beginning in chapter 1 and verse 1 this morning. He said, "Are you going to preach, 'I Paul.'" I said, "No, I plan to go a bit faster than that. I plan to preach about a paragraph each week."
But the opportunity is there to tell Paul's story, which is the story of God changing a life. It's an opportunity to tell the story of how he was "a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent" of Christ and his church (1 Timothy 1:13). And yet, by God's grace, he "received mercy" (1 Timothy 1:16), and was forgiven his sins.
Paul knew the depths of sin from which God saved him. And said that "as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ [displayed] his perfect patience [to me] as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:16). In other words, the story of Paul is a story of one brought out of such deep depths of sin that none should ever despair that they are beyond saving. If God saved Paul, he can save anyone, including you. I don't care how deep your sin is, it is not beyond the reach of the saving arms of God.
If God saved Paul, he can save your family member, your neighbor, your co-worker. Paul's life preaches hope! Hope in the gospel. But alas, I save the full story of the apostle Paul for another day. For the sake of time, we will spend only a few moments talking about him. After all, he is the author of this letter.
In verse 1, we see Paul give his name and three descriptions of himself. He says, "Paul, (1) a servant of Christ Jesus, (2) called to be an apostle, (3) set apart for the gospel of God," (Romans 1:1).
The mere fact that Paul identifies himself as "Paul," speaks volumes. For, he was not born, "Paul." Rather, he was born, "Saul." He was named after the first king of Israel, a hero to many Jews, especially to those of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and named after this king.
But when Saul came to Christ, he changed his name to "Paul," accepting a new identity, putting off the old ways and putting on the new ways. And we see his identity right there in verse 1. He calls himself, "... a servant of Christ Jesus" (Romans 1:1).
There have been books written about how to translate this word. I like the way that the New American Standard translates it, "bond-servant." However, perhaps best, however, is the way the footnote of the ESV renders it. If you look at the footnote of the ESV, you see that this could also be rendered, "slave." Indeed, in the book of Romans, this is how the word is translated in every other instance. It's always translated, "slave." Paul considered himself to be "a slave of Christ Jesus."
Now, when we hear that name, "slave," we conjure up images of Europeans landing on the west coast of Africa, and herding up human beings like cattle, putting them in stocks, bringing them back to America and forcing them into hard labor in the southern plantations, and subjecting them to unbearable miseries. And we have every right to shudder at the history of this deplorable practice. But when we read our Bibles, we must ask ourselves what Paul meant, not what comes into our minds when we hear this word, "slave." Certainly, there were slaves in the ancient world who were treated just as badly as the slaves in the south in the 1800's in our country.
However, Paul didn't have such an image in his mind. He didn't view himself as shackled under the brutal authority of Christ Jesus. No, Paul had a different image in his mind.
My guess is that he was thinking of the slave of Exodus 21, where Moses was giving Israel instructions about Hebrew slaves. He writes, ...
Exodus 21:2, 5-6
When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.
But if the slave plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
This is what Paul was saying. He was saying, "I love Christ Jesus. He is a good master. I have laid my life at the doorpost. I am his slave forever." And what was true of Paul is true of every genuine believer in Jesus Christ.
... you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
Is that how you think of yourself? Do you think of yourself as a "slave of God"? Have you ever said, "I love Christ Jesus. He is a good master. I have laid my life at the doorpost. Pierce my ear! Make me his slave forever. For I know that his yoke is easy and his burden is light!" Do you consider yourself to be a slave of Christ Jesus, ready to do the master's will?
This was Paul--ready to do whatever the Lord would have him to do, ready to go wherever the Lord would have him to go. And that's exactly what Paul brings up in his next phrase in verse 1. He says that he was ...
... called to be an apostle.
An apostle is simply "one who is sent," one sent on a mission. Paul was sent by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus with a blinding light. And through Ananias, the message from Jesus Christ came to Paul with his mission in life, "He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15).
This is what it means to be an apostle. It means that he was sent to the nations with a message. And what was the message? It comes in Paul's next phrase:
... set apart for the gospel of God.
His message was "the gospel." This is the message that he was "eager to preach" (Romans 1:15). This is the message that the whole book of Romans is about. It's about our sin. It's about God's gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It's about God changing us to seek him and his ways in our sanctification. It's about our security in Jesus Christ. That for those who believe, "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 9:39). It's about God changing us to seek him in service to him.
The word, "gospel," is how we translate the Greek word, from which we get the word, "evangelical." Literally, it means, "good news!" The first part means good, as in "eulogy" - a good word, often shared at funerals. And we transliterate, "angel," as one with a message. Good news!
Paul was set apart by God to preach this good news. He wanted to bring this good news to Spain.
It reminds me of Florence Young, who was born in 1856 to English parents. She came to faith in Christ and rubbed shoulders with men like George Mueller and Hudson Taylor. She caught their missionary zeal, and went to the Solomon Islands and established a mission called, "The South Seas Evangelical Mission." In those days, you didn't fly between islands. You sailed. And so, in 1904, she purchased a yacht, and christened it, The Evangel ("The gospel").
She spent nearly forty years of her life (1904-1940), sailing that yacht around the Solomon Islands. Steve Nichols shares how, "She would pull into an island and have prayer meetings and Bible studies. She would identify some local leadership on the island. She would train them and then she would step aside and let them pastor a church. Then she would get back on the yacht and she'd head off to another island." 
Florence Young had a heart and a will to bring the gospel to the South Seas. The name of her ship captures well her heart, "The Evangel" - "the gospel" - the good news. And the Evangel is the message that Paul had. And the Evangel is the message that we have.
It is good news in a world filled with bad news. In a world of shootings and hatred and disunity and wars, we have good news. We have the good news of Jesus.
You say, where does this message come from? It comes from the Scriptures. This is our second point, ...
Look again at verse 2, ...
which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
The gospel of God is really a fulfillment of a promise. It's a promise that began back in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned. In that very day, the LORD said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).
Though the serpent would give a flesh-wound, the promised one would give a death-blow. And from that day in the garden, the promise has remained that someday, someone would come, and crush the power of Satan and the power of sin that came into the world.
As Scripture unfolded, we saw this promise come to the seed of Abraham. That through him, all that nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). God promised another prophet to arise like Moses. God promised another king to arise form the line of David. And God promised another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek.
All of the Old Testament Scriptures point relentlessly to the one who would come and crush the serpent. This promised one was often called, "The Messiah," or "The anointed one." And the saints of the Old Testament searched the Scriptures carefully, "inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ ... was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories" (1 Peter 1:11).
And, indeed, we know the story that Jesus Christ is this one. Jesus Christ is this Messiah who has conquered death and sin for us. Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4-5, ...
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
See, the message that Paul preached didn't come from his own thought. No, it was thoroughly rooted in the Scriptures. It was promised beforehand. It was fulfilled in Paul's day. "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And this is what Paul speaks about in verses 3 and 4 of Romans 1. He speaks about Jesus, which is my third point this morning, ...
Look at verses 3 and 4.
concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and 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,
Here's the story of Jesus. He is the Son. He is the Son of God. That is, he is fully divine. That's why he was called, "Immanuel," which means "God with us." That's why John said that the Word was God and that this Word became flesh and dwelt among us!
But Jesus wasn't simply some theophany, some ghost-like appearance of God. No, Jesus came into the flesh. Jesus was fully human. He was a human descendent of David. That's the point of the second half of verse 3, "descended from David according to the flesh."
You can read about his family tree in Matthew, chapter 1 or in Luke, chapter 3. Jesus didn't simply appear on the scene. No, he came the way that all of us came, through the womb of a woman. And he grew like all of us grow. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). In other words, he grew up like any other little boy did to be a man.
But he was no ordinary man. He was the God-man. And he did no ordinary thing. He lived a perfect life and died a perfect death for our sins. As a result, God raised him from the dead. And in so doing was making a declaration about Jesus, that indeed he was the Son of God. And that's what verse 4 is talking about.
and 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,
Do you remember the scene at the end of the gospel of Mark, when Jesus was delivered over to be crucified? The soldiers mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns, saluting him and kneeling down in homage to him saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" as they struck his head with a reed and spit on him. But Jesus was silent. Those who passed by derided him, saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" (Mark 15:29-30). The chief priests and the scribes mocked him saying, "He saved others; he cannot same himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe" (Mark 15:31-32). "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23). And while upon the cross, Jesus seemed to be more concerned with others than he was himself, entrusting his mother to John, his disciple, reaching out to the thief on the cross.
And taking it all in was the centurion, who had probably witnessed the entire crucifixion from beginning to end. When this man saw Jesus take his last breath, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39).
Now, that was simply a human proclamation. But three days later, when Jesus rose from the dead, God made the same proclamation. This time, rather than looking up from the cross, this declaration came down from heaven. "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
And verses 5-7 speak about our mission. Our mission is to the nations. This is my fourth point this morning.
Let's look at verses 5-7, ...
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 12 speaks of the obedience of faith -- the marks of a true Christian. The obedience of faith drives us to make His name known among all the nations.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
September 18, 2016 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.