God’s Gospel, For All Times and All People (part 1)
Paul’s Three Passions
Truth Taught- Paul expounds God’s Gospel and he begins to explain that it is relevant for all people of all times.
The ancient readers of the Book of Romans were astonished at the rich and individualistic way Paul introduces himself in the introduction. The introduction is by far the longest of all of Paul’s introductions.
He spends the very beginning introducing himself and his calling so that he would then have the authority to introduce the Gospel to those who lived in Rome. The Apostle uses the word Gospel twelve times in Romans. This shows us how important the Gospel is to Paul and how vital it is for those in Rome to hear and embrace.
Purpose of the Book is to heal the differences those members of the church were experiencing.
Passionate approach to ministry. Paul shows us his three passions as he introduces himself to the Church in Rome and to us. This passage challenges us to also have a passion for Christ and whatever service He’s called us to.
Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen
Romans 1:1–7 (ESV)
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 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, 5 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, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 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.
Paul’s Three Passions
Here, our English Bibles use the word servant. That title is accurate but it doesn’t stress the magnitude of Paul’s devotion and service to his Lord Jesus Christ. A more literal rendering would be Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus. Now, Paul uses slave not in a negative light but
in very much a positive light. Of course when we think of slavery, we automatically have thoughts of slavery in America. This is not the slavery Paul is speaking about. His is much more positive but no less binding.
What does it mean that Paul is a servant or a slave of Christ Jesus? It means total devotion and that Paul is at Jesus’ disposal. In other words, Paul is no longer in charge of anything including his life.
If we are to gain the meaning here we must understand how this phrase was used in the Old Testament and how it is change by Paul to make a very dramatic point.
Often in the Old Testament a devoted servant of God would write, _________, a servant of God.
Joshua 14:7 (ESV)
7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart.
Joshua 24:29 (ESV)
29 After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old.
Ezekiel 34:23 (ESV)
23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
All these were servants of Yahweh, the word translated as God or LORD.
Paul changes that pattern to show the deity of Jesus and His Messianic glory. Rather than declaring that he serves God or the LORD Yahweh, Paul writes that he serves, literally, King Jesus. He serves God’s anointed King. What privilege it is to be a servant of Jesus Christ.
He was for the most part a captured enemy. Jesus strong-armed Paul, He overcame Paul’s stubbornness and rebellion with force. There was no wooing of Saul of Tarsus to become a Christian. For Paul, Jesus had to show dominance and aggression to capture his heart.
I’ve had people who own aggressive dogs tell me that every once in a while you have to literally pin the animal down to show them that they are not in charge after all. They are not the alpha male of the pack, you are. I think this is exactly what Jesus did to Saul at his conversion.
Paul was converted by the Lord Jesus is a dynamic miraculous way. His story is a story that emphasizes that God’s Gospel is a Gospel for all people, even those who are haters of God and murderers. Paul used to serve the devil. He used to work against God. He used to hate Jesus and all of Jesus’ followers.
Acts 9:1–19 (ESV)
9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
Here Paul tells us that Jesus had called him to be an apostle. This calling Paul refers to is first, the Gospel call itself. Before he can be Christ’s messenger of the Gospel he must be a partaker of the Gospel. He could not preach and teach effectively if he did not believe what he had been called to preach. It’s evident in the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 how this took place. We see clearly how the effectual call works in a vivid display of Jesus’ sovereign power over people.
Jesus did not wait for Paul to come to Him. In fact, the account is Paul running away from Christ and persecuting Jesus’ people everywhere they lived. He had devastated Jerusalem and now was headed to Damascus to kill and imprison as many Christians as he could. He was in the process of wiping out any and all traces of Christianity. He had the approval of all the religious elite in Jerusalem to go and do what he believed God wanted him to do. That is, until Jesus showed him who is in charge.
So we see that Paul was called of God.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
What was God’s calling and purpose for Paul? He would be God’s messenger. The title apostle is used here with a special emphasis on the one called to spread the Word of God. Here, in Paul’s case, the Gospel of God. With God’s endorsement as an Apostle Paul would speak and write what God wanted him to speak and write. It’s so important for us to understand that an Apostle spoke exactly what God wanted. He carried the authority of God in everything he wrote or preached. What Paul says, God says in an absolute sense.
Finally, we see that the Apostle Paul was set apart as a messenger of God’s Gospel. So, what we must come to grips with is that there is only one real Gospel, it’s God’s Gospel given by God to His Apostles and then given to us through their writings.
13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
The Gospel of God is explained to us through the Book of Romans. When our ideas of the Gospel are in conflict with what Paul gives us in Romans, we must change our thinking.
So strong is Paul’s passion for the one and only Gospel that he tells us…
Galatians 1:6–17 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
So we see from Galatians he did not receive the Gospel from men nor did he receive his calling or apostleship from men. His calling came from God and so sovereign is the God who called Paul that the Apostle tells us he was even called by God before his birth.
Now we must ask ourselves what is this one and only Gospel Paul is set apart to deliver to us today?
The great English preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones began his sermon on this section of verse one by explaining that Christians are, for the most part, too used to hearing the word Gospel. He goes on to write, we can look it up in a dictionary and discover that it means Good News and that is exactly right. However, we must never stop there. That would mean we stopped at the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. The Gospel is not something that is merely defined and understood, it is also something that comes to us by God’s grace and something we must embrace with amazement and excitement. When the Apostle Paul speaks of the Gospel he cannot contain himself…he begins to write run-on sentences because he’s so excited and passionate that he forgets himself. Lloyd-Jones, throughout his sermon presses this upon his listeners by saying, has the Gospel come to you like that?
We’ve just spend a few weeks singing Christmas hymns and celebrating the birth of Jesus. In Luke 2 we read the parts about what the angel told the shepherds.
Luke 2:9–11 (ESV)
9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Angels were singing and praising God for the Gospel, Shepherds were praising God for the Gospel, Mary was so moved that she treasured up these things in her heart.
Paul went from being a teacher of the Law of God, a Pharisee to a preacher of the Gospel. He realized that there is no salvation in the Law. One could never live according to the Law. Paul understood that the Law of God is the means by which God makes our sin known to us.
The Jews had turned the Law into something they thought they could use to save themselves. They misunderstood the Laws use.
Galatians 3:23–26 (ESV)
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
The Apostle in writing to the Church of Rome realizes that he’s writing to many who are Christians. But He wonders, have they really grasped the height and depth of the Gospel. Often, I believe, we see the Gospel as simply the means to our forgiveness but through this Book we will learn that is just the tip of the Gospel iceberg.
Romans 1:16–17 (ESV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So, we must receive this one and only Gospel from God with every fiber of our being because this is the only way in which sinful people can come into a right relationship with God.
As we think through and apply the first verse we should ask ourselves are we passionate about the same things Paul is?
Are you serving Jesus? His goal was to serve the Church of Jesus Christ. How are you serving Christ today here in this church? What ministry are you called to?
Are you passionate about your ministry?
Paul was passionate about his calling as an apostle. We’re not called to be an apostle but God still gives each and every one of us a calling to ministry. He calls us to use our gifts and abilities in the local church. Where has He called you to serve?
One overarching truth is that all Christians are called to use their gifts and abilities for the spread of the Gospel. How are you working to spread the Gospel in the realm in which God has placed you?
If you believe you’re lacking in any of these areas, please see me or one of the elders so we can help you find the area where God has called you to serve.
For Further Reading:
In verse 5 God gives Jeremiah his call.
When was he called?
What was his calling?
God calls all Christians to a specific task. We can read in the Bible to discover many different types of calls.
What was Samson’s calling? (Judges 13:3-5)
David’s (1 Samuel 16:12-13)
John the Baptist’s (Luke 1:13-17)
Paul’s (Gal. 1:15-16)
Whatever your calling is do it with all your heart because you are bring glory to God as you live out His will for your life. (1 Cor. 10:31)
What calling do you think God has for you?