ROMANS: GOD’S INVITATION TO GRACE
Romans: God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 1
Introduction ❧ May 22, 2022
Not long ago it was said that the rate of knowledge was doubling every twelve months and would soon be doubling every twelve hours! To put it into context, in 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every 100 years. By the end of 1945, the rate was every 25 years. That’s an enormous amount of information! We don’t lack for information as much as we lack for discernment. After all, the right information can be a great benefit, but too much information can, in the words of one person, leave a sour aftertaste. That sour aftertaste is leaving people struggling with what is called information stress. Overwork, burn-out, depression, reduced productivity to name just some of the telltale symptoms. We have more being fired at us than we can process!
How can we discern from what is important verses what is unimportant? When God created us, He gave us what is called the “reticular activating system” (RAS). Your senses are constantly being fed so much information you can’t possibly keep up with it all. Your skin, for instance, covers roughly twenty square feet and abounds with a million nerve cells detecting pressure, pain, temperature, location. Your eye is takes in more than 300 megapixels of visual information every second! And that’s just your skin and eyes! That’s not including other senses your RAs is constantly monitoring as well. The job of the RAS is to serve as a gatekeeper allowing into our conscious awareness only those things that are important and keeping out those things that can be safely ignored. In another words, the RAS never takes a break. Try to see how much information you can see, hear, feel, in ten seconds. You can’t take it all in. That’s why God gave us this filter; to protect us to protect us from information overload and to enable us to focus on what is important. Science instructor Sharon Linde says, For example, it distinguishes between the honk of a car right next to you and one far down the street, or it tells a husband, ‘Unless you want a fight, you better pay attention to what your wife just said!’(Study.com:Reticular Activating System: Definition & Function). God graciously gave us this filter to discern what is important and what is not. Our real challenge in the 21st century, says Lee Kranenbuhl, is to know how to identify real information and use it accurately.
God gave us another needed filter that helps us discern the important from the unimportant as well. It is His Word, the Bible. This morning we’re going to begin what I believe is a needed study in the book of Romans. There are a number of good reasons for this. One is the current state of Christianity in the US. We’re hearing of more and more of churches that were once admired for their solid faith and uncompromising in the teaching of God’s Word, now deviating from it. They no longer believe the Bible as God’s final standard for our faith and conduct. They no longer view the Bible as the inspired infallible, inherent, authoritative Word of God. I have often heard what we need is a revival. Romans, more than any other book in the NT, is the key to revival. Fredirck Godet, in his classic commentary on Romans said it best, “The probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.”
R.C. Sproul, If there is any one individual book, out of the sixty-six, which God has used to change lives more than any other, it is the book of Romans. As we begin this study, this is my prayer for us, that God uses it to strengthen and revive our lives.
This morning I want to give you an introduction to the book in which it is believed has changed more lives than any other in the Bible.
- Romans Whenever you study a book of the Bible you begin with some basic questions: Who
wrote it? When was it written? Why is it important? What is its main message? We can’t understand the book without these basic things.
- Who wrote it? Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the
gospel of God(Romans 1:1).Answer: The Apostle Paul. The ancient Greeks had an idea that I don’t know why we don’t take advantage of. In ancient Greek culture when you wrote a letter, you wrote who it was from first. When we write a letter today, we sign on the opposite end. Yet when you get a letter, what’s the first thing you look for? Who’s it from. You ought to find out who it’s from so then you know where they’re coming from. The ancient Greeks always started out up front telling you who it’s from and who it’s to. Like a memo. From Paul to you. We know it was written from Paul.
Actually it wasn’t written by Paul. It was authored by Paul, but the actual handwriting wasn’t written by Paul. Look at chapter 16:22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter greet you in the Lord.Tertius wrote the book of Romans. He was Paul’s secretary. Paul did not write the letter down personally but dictated it. This is helpful for you to understand, because sometimes Paul gets long, long sentences and they’re very complex and seem to go on and on . . . A run on sentence. Why? Paul was not setting there thinking about each word, taking his time to carefully think out each word, but I imagine, he walked back and forth dictating this letter. Tertius is probably writing it down as fast as his pen allowed him, trying to polish each sentence as he wrote.
The penmanship was Tertius’, but the words were Paul’s. Paul was probably the greatest man who lived since Jesus Christ, the most influential man. There are over a billion Christians today in the world because Paul was the one who single handedly took the gospel all across the Roman empire and started churches all around the Mediterranean. He was the most influential man in history since Jesus Christ.
Paul would tell you the reason God used his life so powerfully is because he accepted God’s invitation to grace. Before he became a committed follower of Christ, he was a ruthless persecutor of Christians. As a Hebrew of Hebrews, a strict Pharisee, he believed he was doing God’s will persecuting the church.
Yet in Acts 9, while he was on the road to Damascus, getting ready to go persecute more Christians, God spoke to him in a blinding light. The Lord said, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (v.9). Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, said, Who are You Lord? And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, (v.5). At that point Paul trusted Christ.
- When was it written? Paul made three missionary journeys around the Mediterranean
starting churches, each of them taking a number of years. He’d go into an area and spend anywhere between six months and two years starting a church, get it growing, and then move on to a new area. Paul, on his third journey, had made it all the way to Greece, or what was known as Macedonia named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months
(Acts 20:2-3). Where? In Corinth. In chapter 16 where we read about Gaius. Gaius was a wealthy businessman in Corinth. Paul spent three months staying in the home of the businessman Gaius in Corinth and while he was there, he wrote the book of Romans.
Paul wrote thirteen different letters to thirteen different people and churches. Romans comes first in our Bible, but it was actually the fifth or sixth letter he wrote. Paul was a very busy man building churches. Aren’t you glad he took time to write letters? If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have thirteen books of the New Testament.
I would encourage you to begin a letter writing ministry. Letters can have a great impact in people. What is great about a letter? A lot of times when you talk to people, one on one, they will argue with you. When you write a letter to them, they have to set there and read the whole thing. They put it down, pick it up, and it still says the same thing. There is a powerful effect in writing letters.
- Why did Paul write this letter? There are three purposes of why Paul wrote the book of
Romans. I think it’s important to understand that this letter is different than many of his other letters. In the first place, he didn’t start this church. Most of the letters Paul wrote, he wrote to churches he had started. In fact, he had never even been to Rome. Evidently, he did know a number of believers there. In chapter 16 he mentions them by name and there’s quite a long list of people he knew. As we read through the book of Romans, we discover there are very few internal practical problems mentioned. It’s the exact opposite of his letter to the Corinthians where in every chapter he mentions a personal practical problem that they were having because he was intimately acquainted with the Corinthian church. But this is closer to a doctrinal statement. It’s more systematic, more organized than a number of others of Paul’s letters. Paul had three reasons for writing the letter:
1) A personal reason. Rom. 1:11-13, 15. The purpose was to introduce himself to the Romans. He was announcing his visit. He intended to come. Simply as a curtesy statement he says, I want you to know that I’m coming. v. 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong. That is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith… That’s why I am so eager to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. Don’t you appreciate it when people write ahead and let you know they’re coming? This is a personal reason he gave for writing this book.
2) An educational reason — to review and clarify the meaning and basis of Christian living. He wants to clarify the meaning of salvation. 15:15 I have written to you quite boldly on some points as if to remind you of them again because of the grace of God that God gave me. Romans has been called the Christian’s constitution. How many of you have read the constitution of the United States? We believe it, we defend it, we’d die for it. Paul is writing the constitution of the Christian life and he’s reminding us of basic doctrinal truths to know and understand.
3) A cultural reason. The church in Rome was made up of a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Both had different cultural ways of expressing their faith in Jesus. Both thought the other was wrong which created a sense of false religious pride and tension that Paul wanted to expose and rid the church of.
- What is the main message? The message is the Gospel. The theme of Romans is 1:16-17 I
am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. For in the gospel, the righteousness from God is revealed, the righteousness that is by faith from first to last just as it is written `The righteous will live by faith. God gives His righteousness to the person who places their trust in Christ. We are made right with God by faith in Christ and faith in Christ alone.
- Key words in Romans: The key words in any book are often the key that unlocks the book.
There are some words in 1:17 that will be repeated over and over. “Righteousness” is used 34 times in the book of Romans. It is used 92 times in the New Testament and it’s key to the book of Romans. It means “a right relationship to God”. “God” is used 153 times. Paul explains the character of God.
“Law” is used 72 times. The Law exposes sin “Christ” is used 65 times. “Sin” is used 48 times. “Faith” is used 40 times.
- Overview A bird’s eye view of the book of Romans. There are five key divisions outside of the introduction (1:1-17) and then at the end of the book a conclusion (Romans 15:13-16:27). The main body of the book can be divided into five main divisions:
- Sin1:18-3:20 Paul begins with the bad news, why we need to be saved.
- Salvation3:21-5:21The Good News: How can you be saved? Paul tells us how to become a
child of God. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (3:28).
- Sanctification6:1-8:39 How do I live the Christian life? He talks about the new life of a
believer and what happens after I’m saved. We will battle with sin and guilt. But God assures us as His children, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
- Sovereignty9:1-11:36 This is a parenthesis where Paul answers the question: Since Israel
rejected her Messiah, is God finished with her? God’s answer is – NO! I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin(11:1). Pau says God is far from finished with Israel.
- Service 12:1-15:13 This is the practical part of Romans. It deals with what we’re saved to do.
He’s going to look at the practical side of our conduct and our character and how we are to serve God. Just as Paul’s other books are usually divided into a doctrinal section and a practical section, the same is true for the book of Romans. Part is very doctrinal and deals with basic Bible truths and teachings. Part of it is very practical, how we need to grow in the Christian life.
Let me close with a verse that came to mind the other evening: He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth(Isa. 42:4). We live in a time where many of us are feeling discouraged, maybe even crushed by what we’re seeing and hearing. We’re feeling information stress of a constant din of bad news from the economy, crime, violence, lawlessness, the border. Romans reminds us of God’s promise in Isaiah. Our faith and our hearts need to be revived by the certainty that God is in control, and He is not disheartened or crushed. The certainty of God’s Gospel and our hope in Christ is absolute.