There are many spiritual disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am expounding on 9 of them, one each week.
For many how one is to live as a Christian in this world is a huge question mark. The result is often a compartmentalization, where your Christian self fits into Sunday mornings and the rest of the week is a different story. I want to help us all have a picture of what the regular Christian life is to look like.
3. Walking in Prayer
Phillippians 4:6 "â€¦in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Prayer is a big subject. For those who do not know God, it seems a crutch for those who are weak. For those who know God, it is currency of the relationship. We speak to God in prayer and he speaks to us in His Word, the Bible. How do you pray? Do you ever feel like you want pray but when you go to pray you are not quite sure what to say? It is easy to pray in crisis when you have a direct immediate need, but how about regular every day prayer life?
I don't think there are any set ways you are supposed to pray every time. In fact I think God provides a myriad of ways so that we will not get stuck in religious duty in our prayer life. So here is a smattering of things that can help stimulate your prayer life on any given day.
You can try and start theologically from the top down, acknowledging and thanking God of who he is and what he has done in history and in your life. You can pray through certain doctrines of the Bible, like God's sovereignty or justification. You can pray the prayers of the Bible, there a ton in the Psalms and New Testament letters. Or you can begin with yourself and how you are feeling and communicate to God what is on your heart and mind.
I find that it is a totally different experience to pray outloud. This often enables you to be much more focused and engaged while you pray. In addition, sometimes the posture of your body can greatly enhance or effect your prayer. So try kneeling sometimes while you pray or laying prostrate, face down on the ground. In this way you communicate a humility and acknowledgement of who you are talking to.
Often times some patterns or tools can be helpful. The Lord's prayer is an excellent prayer to pray either word for word or as a pattern. As a pattern, you begin with acknowledging God as Father and speak of his perfections, then you pray for his work to be done in your heart and in the heart of others here on earth, then you pray for help for the particular day and recognize your great spiritual need which is greater than the need for food, then you think of sins you may have recently committed and confess them and ask for forgiveness, then you pray for spiritual protection against evil particularly praying for areas of sin you have fallen in some time before.
Another pattern people have used is the five finger prayer. For you thumb you pray for your friends and family (because your thumb is your tallest finger), for your forefinger you pray for your pastor and teachers (because they point you in the right direction), for your middle finger you pray for the political government (because they are the tallest), for your ring finger you pray for the weak and needy and those who don't know Jesus (because it is the weakest finger), and lastly for the pinky you pray for yourself (because you and your pinky are the smallest). Some people use acronymns like A.C.T.S. and follow that pattern of (A)doration (C)onfession (T)hanksgiving (S)upplication. Others use prayer lists. Personally, I have a list of names on a piece of paper that I pray through every day.
Prayer is important, it aligns our heart with God. We need it because we are very prone to go astray. In prayer we can make requests but we need beware not to treat God as some cosmic vending machine and get upset if he doesn't answer the way we want. It has been said, God always answers, sometimes his answer is yes, yes and here is more, sometimes no, or sometimes no, not yet.
I've read a lot of books on prayer. Some are written with the intent to ignite a passion. Some are written with the intent of communicating the practical need. The best book I have found is "Prayer" by Richard Foster. In it Foster surveys all the different types and ways of Christian praying. If you are interested in becoming a better prayerer I'd encourage you to check that out and to just spend more and more time praying. Jesus said his house is to be a house of prayer. Let us be that house.
Psa 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psa 77:12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
In our day and age, most of us, when we hear the word "meditation," automatically think of eastern meditation, where the goal is to empty your mind in attempt to gain relaxation and tranquility.
Here is an excerpt from the Upanishad, "OM! This syllable is the whole world...
the past, the present, the future - everything is just the word OM...For truly everything here is Brahman, this self, Atman, is Brahman...Meditate as OM. The wise man should surrender his words to his mind and this he should surrender to the knowing self and the knowing self he should surrender to the great self and that he should surrender to the peaceful self."
Many taking this to heart use the practice of chanting in a low voice the word "om" and try to empty their mind of everything bothering them, everything that is anything and to just be at one with everything.
The Bible encourages and even commands us to meditate (Josh 1:8) but this is not what is meant by biblical meditation. The word for meditate, here in both of these passages is the Hebrew word, hagut. The word can be connected with things like whispers and moans...especially when it is used of animals like a cow who make noises as they chew the cud, swallow it, regurgitate it and chew it some more. When connected with the word of God, to meditate is to ponder, to take in, to think about, and make plans in accordance with.
Such meditation is far different than the eastern concept. Christian meditation is not an attempt to empty one's mind and recognize one's connection with the world, but rather to fill one's mind with the things of God and his word. It is to take theology deep into the heart, to think about God and think about the cross and think about the gospel...over and over and over again. It is to have your thoughts transformed and shaped outlook of Scripture.
Our minds our already empty enough, we don't need to empty them any more, we need to fill them and teach them to think right. Don't get me wrong, not everything eastern is bad, just misplaced. Making moans or whispering words can be a great tool.
For hundreds of years many Godly Christians have used "breath prayers" to meditate, where in short whispers, you repeat the same prayer over and over again. You can make up your own, use one that is in the Bible, or use one developed by the saints. Often I use the Jesus Prayer. It goes like this, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." My dad used to use it when I was growing up, he just didn't know it had a name and he shortened it a little bit to "Jesus help!" Or some just mutter the word, "cross" over and over again. The practice is good it's just that there is much better stuff to meditate with than the word, OM.
Another practice, which is a gift God gives to some is the ability to speak in tongues. Not other languages, but a language unknown to yourself, and known only by God and possibly angels. By using the gift of tongues you can communicate the emotions of your heart which you are unable to put into words, and God hears and understands. If you don't know if you have this gift you can try in the privacy of your prayer and meditation and see if it feels comfortable, if it doesn't you probably don't have the gift. If it does feel comfortable and profitable than use it and enjoy it.
Meditation is meant to be a part of the Christian life. If you don't meditate it is easy for the state of your heart to just go unchecked. So I encourage you, meditate on the Lord regularly and you will be blessed.
disciplines God makes available to us as means for growing, stabilizing, and delighting us in a pursuit of his glory. I am going to expound on 7 of them, one each week. We begin with the role of the Bible in our lives.
1. Walking in the Word
Joshua 1:8 "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
Psalm 1:1-2 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night."
Matthew 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."
God intends that every person who is a follower of Jesus would be reading the Bible at least twice a day, in the morning and at night. Jesus says reading the Bible is more important than even eating and most eat at least three times a day. By having a devotional reading time in the evening you prepare your mindset for the morning and by having a devotional reading time in the morning you prepare yourself for the day and it's challenges. This does not take long and can be the most valuable 5-10 minutes that you spend in your entire day. Here are some helpful things I do.
Try reading through a book of the Bible. In the morning I am currently reading through the Psalms. The Psalms are great because you read words from a real person, honest about his struggles and hardship, and yet you always read of his persistent resolve to pursue and glorify God. In the evening, Amy and I read together and we just finished 1st & 2nd Corinthians not long ago. If you are married or have children, you should spend some time each day reading the Bible together.
Try reading a chapter in the morning and then re-read that chapter again at night and see how much you remembered throughout the day. When you read something in the morning try and jot down on a piece of paper something that really stuck out to you, or if you don't have paper, just make a mental note of it and try think about it several times during the day. For example, yesterday I read Psalm 56 in the morning, the last verse of Psalm 56 says, "You have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life." So all through the day I kept praying, God help me to walk in the light of life. When I was watering our lawn, I stood there with the water hose and thought, God help me to walk in the light of life. When in the evening Amy and I sat down to watch some TV, I thought, God help me to walk in the light of life.
Try reading the text from the previous week's Sunday sermon and contemplating what the words mean and how they might apply to your life. I practice this often, not just because I am the one preaching but it is good to always be learning and growing in your knowledge of God's Word. So if you have time to get some study aids and look a few words up or read something theology book related to a subject in the text, this can be a great aid in your attempt to become one who walks in God's Word.
Walking in the Word means always having the words of the Bible on our mind. In order to do that you need to read the Bible. If you are not a good reader, don't be discouraged, like everything, just practice and you will get better and better. In ancient Mesopotamia people were into worshipping idols made of metal or gold, gods they could see. One of the biggest things which made the people of God distinct was that their God was not a God you could see but one who revealed himself through words in a book. This is the reason why the ancient people of God were often known as "the people of the book." That is our identity as Christians, we are to be a people of the book, not just because it is the source for our beliefs but because it is our way of life.
May God enrich you all as you spend time reading the Bible this week.
I've been thinking about Saint Augustine because there is this rock and roll group named Band of Horses and they have a song called "Saint Augustine." It's a stellar song. But are familiar with who Saint Augustine is?
There are times in one's life when you must dig your heels in. Like a football linebacker you must put your helmet on, put your head down, and dig in and push forward. Saint Augustine did that and left a legacy on the face of Christianity that will never be erased. It began with his conversion into the gospel of Jesus Christ and he was continually fuelled by that resolve.
Here is what he wrote, "During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which is was...How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose!...You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outline all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves...O Lord my God, my light, my wealth, and my salvation...The soul of men shall hope under the shadow of Thy wings; they shall be made drunk with the fullness of Thy house; and of the torrents of Thy pleasures Thou wilt give them to drink; for in Thee is the fountain of life and in Thy light shall we see the light. Give me a man in love, he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of eternal country. Give me that sort of man, he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just does not know what I am talking about..."
May God grant salvations like that in our hearts and in the hearts of the people we are befriending in this city. Any may God grant us the tenacity to follow through with commitments to the gospel which are becoming to the name by which Jesus calls us, saints. For the glory of Christ...
- Pastor Duane
Audio & Manuscripts
Listen Read A Man, A Mission and a Calling - selected texts
Listen Read The Resolved Church Must Die - Mark 8:34-38
Listen Read The Resolved Church Must Live - Mark 8:35
The Resolved Church | www.theresolved.com
(619) 393-1990 |
All Rights Reserved Â© The Resolved Church
Permissions: you are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material provided you not alter the wording in any way and you do not charge a fee. For web posting a link to this document is preferred.
The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
May 22nd, 2005
"Justification by Faith"
Tonight we come to what is considered by many to be the most important verse in the whole Bible. Romans 3:26 competes a being one of the most important but it very well may be this verse.
If any of you have heard the story of Martin Luther of the 16th century or maybe you've seen the movie, "Luther" then this is the text which ignited his sole and set the Reformation in motion.
Martin Luther later said the doctrine here in this verse is the one by which the church stands or falls. I'll take it one step further and say it's the doctrine by which you will stand or fall.
Let's read the text and pray over it.
Okay, to start off our approach to the third week on this two verses let's rehearse in our minds what we've learned so far about the book of Romans leading up to this point.
Romans a book about God, how God is made to look great. How God is glorious and humans are not. How God is glorious in saving humans through Jesus Christ. We've been spending few weeks in verses 16-17 of the first chapter. This is the last verse of the introduction where Paul is making his thesis for the entire book. So, the subject of vs.17 is what Paul, the human author, will be arguing for the entire book.
Verse 16 is all about the word "gospel." So far we have learned this about the gospel...
The Gospel is Jesus. Jesus' person, Jesus' work, and Jesus' message concerning himself. We have learned the Gospel is sufficiently powerful for future salvation. We have learned the gospel is powerful because it can keep believers believing until that salvation. And we have learned the result of the gospel is that we will not be shamed.
Last week we focused on both the universal and particular aspects of the gospel. As the universal gospel is it for all or any who believe. As the particular gospel, it saves particular peoples, like Jews and Gentiles and those within their ethnicities.
We learned that Jews are significant because they point to the fact that ultimately it's God who does some choosing. God chooses a Jewish messiah and God chooses to save all kinds of people through that messiah. God chooses to bring glory to himself by doing things this way. So we ended last week by saying that ultimately salvation, through and through has to do with God's sovereign choice or pleasure.
The Question Being Answered
That brings us to verse 17, which begins with "for" (one of those important connective words). Theology is built on the word "for." So "for" here says to us that what Paul is about to tells us is how believing in the gospel is powerful to salvation.
Paul's answer here in verse 17 is "justification by faith." If you wanted to pose this sermon as a question you could say it's meant to answer the question, "How can believing in the gospel actually save a believer?"
So let us re-read verse 17 (read twice). "For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed by faith for faith as it is writtenâ€¦"
Okay. We're going to be rigorous. That's what it means to be exegetical. To rigorously read out the meaning word by word. First we looked at the word "For" now "the righteousness of God." And right away we have a problem.
This is a puzzling phrase, "the righteousness of God." It's puzzling because for the most part we are in large detached from a concern for the righteousness of God. We don't really care a whole lot of whether or not God looks righteous or not. For most that's not even on their radar unless they are attacking God or saying he doesn't exist because bad things happen. But most are not even concerned with how right God is in his being...how deep the fountain of his justice flows from.
This verse was the gateway for Luther into paradise because he understood the hell of the phrase the righteousness of God requires. God's righteousness is perfection, utter holiness and any departure is an extreme offense and malignment.
Today I believe we as Christians in the last couple decades at least, have so emphasized the love of God (which doesn't even show up until the 5th chapter of Romans) that we have ended up sacrificing the righteousness of God. At the expense of the righteousness of God we have made up a loving God who no longer cares about his honor and his glory and his holy just and right character.
Now I want us to enter into paradiseâ€¦that this verse would be a freedom and a joy to us. But I don't think that can happen unless we have a fear for the righteousness of God.
"Righteousness of God"
So my plan tonight, to be straight with you, is to scare you. Before we can even begin to understand this verse and the astounding claim it makes we MUST understand the righteousness of God. We must know that our souls hang over the pit of hell and we live our lives in the face of a God who is angry. Yesâ€¦God is angry with us. We are as Jonathan Edwards saidâ€¦"sinners in the hands of an angry God" if God is truly a righteous and true God.
Our concern at The Resolved Church is to be God-centered in everything. His glory is our #1 concern. We refuse to shy away from the hell-fire and brimstone truths of Scripture which uphold and honor the glory of God. We believe the more we make of God and the less we make of ourselves the more we will truly be satisfied.
All week I thought about how I might communicate the righteousness of God to you. I thought about explaining how all peoples of the earth have a sense of right and wrongâ€¦and that it flows out of God.
But that just seemed so detached. Felt just philosophical. I thought about talking about sin. About defining it and how it is an infraction upon God's glory offending an infinite being and thus deserving an infinite response. I thought about talking on how sin is a stench in God's nostrils that he detests and that is gross and heinous. But Paul is going to spend the next two chapters talking about that.
So what have decided to do is turn to a very descriptive passage in Scripture which demonstrates how holy and upright God is and what he requires. So turn to Isaiah chapter 6. The picture of God in Isaiah 6 is one of a perfect and holy, righteous being.
Before we read this I want to say some things about the word "righteousness" then hopefully we will be able to read this passage and see the connection between it and the righteousness of God in Romans.
The word "righteousness" in Romans in reference to God is a term of perfection. The word in the Greek original that we translate as "righteousness" in English is, "dikaiosune." Dikaiosune is the same thing justice. We just don't have a word for it English. We don't have a justiceness. That's not a word, so instead we say righteousness. It is a term describing the state or character of a person. It is a legal term. The picture is one of a courtroom. One of a judge and a guilty party.
The title of today's sermon is justification by faith and its concern is justice. What is just or right. How can one be right before God? What we are talking about is a concern of one's standing. When we say justification what we are saying is righteousification. But that isn't a word either.
So just get this. Whenever we see the word righteousness of God we should think of standing. Right standing before a right God.
Okay so Isaiah 6. The picture of God. His rightness or holiness or perfectionâ€¦ Let's read Isaiah 6:1-7. God is righteous. Friends, family.... know God is righteous. And be scared for your soul like Isaiah.
God is righteous and that brings us to Romans 1:17 and why Luther hated it and why if we have a view of God's righteousness this verse will seem very problematic and very puzzling.
So let me read Romans 1:17 again paraphrased in a wrong way but in the way that Luther first saw it and in the way that we should first see it if we are at all concerned about the righteousness of God. "For in it the righteousness of God is made known to humans so that by doing works of faith and works of faith and works of faith we will live eternally."
Do you see it? Why martin Luther hated this verse? Because when he read it he understood that God was righteous and requires righteousness and when he read the word faith he read acts of faith. Thus no matter how much faith he acted out there was no peace in his soul because he understood the righteousness of God.
Now I pray that in this moment God would allow us to enter paradise. I want to show you that gate that Luther discovered and the one I pray that my soul would know. Luther beat and beat and beat upon this text. Listen to his own account.
"I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], "In it the righteousness of God is revealed," that had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they call it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, â€˜He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. (Martin Luther: Selections, pp. 11-12)."
Look at our verse with me, Romans 1:17. If we understand that the righteousness of God here in Romans as saying that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, that's the righteousness of God shown in Isaiah 6...then this verse cannot make any sense because when the righteousness of God is unveiled everybody dies, because like Isaiah and his people, we too are all unclean sinners...so woe (that's a death curse) woe unto us. But the gospel is about how God saves. So then we ask what righteousness of God is being referred to?
Let's look at two words in hopes that we might discover it.
By Faith Revealed
Luther says he gave heed to the context. What comes before and what comes after the word "righteousness." What do you see? He noticed two words, "by faith." The question is in which way the righteousness of God is revealed? Is it revealed in a way that we see the righteousness of God or is it something else?
Lets look at these two words. When we look at the word "by," what we are looking at is means. That was last week's sermon. Salvation is the goal and there is a certain way or means by which God saves. This verse, this week is the "how." How God actually does it. The answer is by faith.
The English here is frustrating. Luther studied this in the Greek text, the language the New Testament was originally written in, and in fact he translated the whole Greek New Testament into English.
What Luther saw in the Greek is that the word faith and the word believe here are the same Greek word. Believe is the verb. Faith is the noun. "Pistos" and "pisteou." We just don't have an English word like faithing.
So faithing or believing becomes the means (remember last week we talked about means and ends). The word "by" indicates means. Or as Jonathan Edwards say the thing "fit" for the communication of God's righteousness to the believer. The thing which is fitting or fits.
Justification or righteousness by faith is the fitting thing. This is the gospel. That God gives us righteousness! HIS! And he gives it to us. Freely! No work!
This is where this text hits us. Where the words "by faith" hit us (the context Luther referred to).
Because we as a people, as human beings are programmed to do works. But we cannot do any one thing or do enough things to get God's righteousness. Which is why Isaiah 64:6 says, "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." The gospel as that righteousness is alien to us and God gives it to people despite their hatred of Him and His glory.
Ahh. It is paradise. All that God is. His holiness and perfection becomes our through the gospel. Through Jesus we are made right with God. And it does not just end thereâ€¦
It would be very easy for us to form a theology at this point that pictures Christianity as this thing in which one believes and they get righteousness and you put it in your back pocket for a rainy day.
But the Bible will not allow us to do that. It won't let us because of two things more that Paul says here in verse 17.
One, "from faith to faith" and two, "the just/righteous will live by faith."
Look at the phrase from faith to faith. Now remember verse 16 with me, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvationâ€¦now put that next to faith to faith. What this tells us is that what happens is that the gospel (Jesus) is powerful to save me because the righteousness of God is not only given by faith but itself gives faith.
The gospel keeps believers believing! From faith to faith to faith. This is the "will live" of the quote from Habakkuk, "the just will live by faith." It's the second reason I spoke of. Will live is future. That future salvation of verse 16, unto salvation.
The gospel is the righteousness of God given and lived out by faith today, tomorrow and into glory. The quote from Habakkuk is sort of an extra umph of support.
In Habakkuk, righteousness belongs to the person. The righteous man will live. Thus we understand the righteousness of God in view here is one given to man.
So those are the two reasons why Scripture will not allow considering faith as something that solely occurred in the past. One, faith is for faith. And two, true faith is the one that keep giving one faith so that one may live...and will live and live forever.
I want to conclude tonight in a couple ways. First I want to summarize and then I want to leave you with some charges.
So first a summary. The title of this sermon is "Justification By Faith." It is the answer to the question: how can believing in the gospel can save a believer?"
Here is the answer of Romans 1:17. Believing in the gospel, in Jesus and his work, saves believers because through that believing God gives his perfect righteousness to unrighteous human beings freely. It is freely, not on the basis of anything humans do. And the righteousness God gives is a righteousness that keeps giving faith. And that continued faith will enable a person to live unto salvation from the justice or righteousness of God whose anger will be unleashed against all unrighteousness.
Now there may be lingering questionsâ€¦perhaps about the righteousness of God unleashed against those who do not receive his gift of righteousness through faith. Or maybe how Jesus and his work is sufficient grounds for God to give us righteousness.
But that is where we are going. We'll deal with them in up and coming weeks. Chapters 2-3 are about our unrighteousness and God's wrath and chapters 4-5 are about Christ righteousness being given to us.
So I will just let Paul explain those things when we get there.
Since faith is the only way we get the righteousness God requires I want to tell you to have it. Simply put faith is a trust or reliance or a confidence or a sufficiency. It's a charge to believe in the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:16 says God's word is sufficient for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. So I want to pray that it does it's work and grants us that which it calls us to.
The gospel is our only hope. To simply believe is sufficient. So accept the truth of God's word. Feel the weight and the fear and the importance of God's righteousness. Then apply it to your life. At every turn, every problem, every day live in light of God's righteousness and that righteousness that given to you.
Believers are justified by faith. So give up on trying to earn righteousness. Our righteous works are as Isaiah saysâ€¦filthy rags. Put no confidence in your works and quit trying to impress God, you only reap wrath for yourself.
Give up thinking you can be a good Christian. There is no such thing. We stand over the pit of hell and with only the righteousness of God we will be delivered. Let us put all our hope all our faith in the righteousness of God as it is revealed in the gospel of Christ.
Let us rejoice in justification. Love that term with a holy fear. Love Christ and the gospel. May your justification be your food and your delight for everyday. Trust in the righteousness of God alone for everything.
Preach to your sinful soul the gospel the gospel the gospel. Look forward to a salvation. Have faith to live live and live unto a day when we will see God seated on the throne and will not respond with a plead of death but will plead the righteousness of God and live.
Oh let us enter into paradise daily through the righteousness of God. Let's pray.
The Resolved Church | www.theresolved.com
(619) 393-1990 |
All Rights Reserved Â© The Resolved Church
Permissions: you are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material provided you not alter the wording in any way and you do not charge a fee. For web posting a link to this document is preferred.
The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
May 1st, 2005
"Romans is for Us"
Introduction: Read text and pray. God, Abba Father. You who at times seem so very far away and at other times seem so close. I pray that you would do something in the next minutes here tonight to help us. We are small and insignificant in comparison to all the rest of your creation, but we come to you with a hope because of Christ that you might answer our prayer and grant us grace to help us to know these words and how you intend for them to be important to us. Amen.
Last week's sermon was titled "Romans is for God." This week's sermon is titled "Romans is for Us." The connection between the two is found in seeing that because Romans is written for God, for His name's sake, for His glory...then we get to see how great and wonderful and marvelous He is. When we see Him as such we are enormously blessed. So in that way, Romans is for us.
The Book of Romans. It was written to a people in Rome around 57 AD, about 1948 years ago. Rome was a large city at the time. Lots of different type of people lived there. Especially Jews and Gentiles. One group who thinks they are special because of the things they do, the Jews. One group who sees Rome as the the center of eternal order and its expression. There are many gods to serve there and depending on your god, you either live for pleasure or by depriving yourself of pleasuere, the stoic's gain.
So there is this sense that we are reading someone else's letter, since it was written to these two groups of people. And the question that should arise in our minds is, what does this have to do with me? I don't live in Rome. I am not a Jew. And not Roman. I live in a completely different time period. These are the questions I want to answer today concerning Romans. What does this letter written by some dead guy have to do with me?
It is my desire tonight that our study might give us here a confidence that this letter has everything to do with us and that we will have a sense that it is extremely important for us to strive with all our might to know this book so that we might know the God it speaks of.
The way I want to go about this is to: First, show the connection between Romans and a class of writing we call "Scripture." "Scripture" what that means and why it means that. Second, I want to talk about 4 different viewpoints of Scripture and argue for one. Then third, I want to give examples how seeing the Bible in the last way is a special means of grace for us to grow in our knowledge and love of God.
The Class of Writing Called "Scripture"
Romans is Scripture. Last week we studied passages which demonstrate that the author of Romans is Paul. Paul saw himself in a significant and special way. He saw himself as a revealer of God's very Word. What Paul writes is "revelation."
We looked at passages like Rom.16:25 where Paul praises God and saysâ€¦"to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mysteryâ€¦know disclosed through prophetic writings according the command of God."
We looked at Eph 3:1 where Paul clearly states, "I, Paulâ€¦according to God's grace was given to me how the mystery of Christ was made known to me by revelation, as I have written."
Now in Scripture there are two types of revelation. There is a general revelation, which is the way that God reveals himself to allâ€¦like Ps 19 "the heavens are telling are telling of the glory of God the skies proclaim the work of His handsâ€¦" We will deal more with general revelation and the philosophies of history when we come to Romans 1:19-20 in a few weeks. But in Scripture there is a second type of revelation, which is a special kind wherein God communicates his Words concerning salvation through certain men.
When Paul claims he was given revelation, it is of this second type. The type of revelation where God communicates specific words of importance for men to know if they are to know him in an intimate way and not just in a general way.
But maybe Paul is just a crazy nut? Some lunatic from ancient history who has written a bunch of stuff that a few super religious people have come to think is something special?
So let's think about this. Set aside that Romans is the most systematically reasoned, far from lunacy, book in the whole Bible. What did others during his own time period and more importantly other apostles think about his writings?
Here's what Peter, one of the first disciples of Jesus, who became an apostle and wrote two books of the Bible himself...here's what Peter thought. 2 Peter 3:15-16 "Count the patience of our Lord as salvation, (so the subject is salvation) our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them these matters. There are some things that are hard to understand which the ignorant and the unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do in other Scriptures."
Did you hear those important words, "other Scriptures." So the question is what is "Scripture"? When you read the word "Scripture" in the Bible it is like a red flag, a special word. It literally means, "the writings." The holy writings. For a Jew, like Paul and like Peter, the "writings" were sacred scripts. Words of God penned by special men. This was the Torah. The Old Testament. And Peter puts Paul's words on the same level...with the Torah! For a Jew, this is blasphemy. Sackcloth and ash ceremony for saying this type stuff.
Two side-notes here.
Peter knew about Paul's letters because there was circulation. We read in the New Testament passages where circulation was specifically commanded. Like in Colossians 4:16, "See that this letter is read in the church of Laodicea." So the canon, the rule or the standard in which the Bible came together and was recognized as such, was not a power play by the church as the popular book "The DaVinchi Code" might lead you to believe. No, the canon was recognized rather than formed.
What books should not be in the canon were clear. Like the Gospel of Thomas that the Da Vinci code so admires. Listen to a passage from itâ€¦ Gospel of Thomas 114 Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Does this sound inspired to you? No. It presents a radically different view of Jesus than the unanimous one of the gospel which are in the Bible.
For another example consider the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas" where you have Jesus making birds out of sand and then blowing on them and they come to life. Or where you have Jesus getting mad a friend when he is a kid and he curses at him and the boy dies. These other documents, are written at least 100 years after the New Testament Gospels and they present a different Jesus.
2. The Gospels are Scripture
Like Peter Paul defines the New Testament as Scripture. Paul in 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes a passage of Deuteronomy and of Luke together and calls them both "Scripture." So there is a viewpoint of the writers of the Bible that the Gospels were Scripture.
But what does "Scripture" mean? As I said earlier, it literally it is "holy writings", or words of God. How? Were the writers zombies then, where God just overtook their motor functions and used their hands to write? No. Listen to this description of how it happened.
2 Peter 1:16-21 "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic glory, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, we ourselves heard this very voice from heaven for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture came about by one's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
We will return to this passage in a few minutes when we consider other viewpoints of the Bible. But listen to the last phrase again, "Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." The picture here is one of a conversation between a human being the divine God of the universe telling them truth and what to write. So we have humans, in their human contexts, in their places and with their feelings...writing divine words. That's phenomenal.
Perhaps the best place for us to turn to define Scripture is to look at how Paul defines it himself. Listen to 2 Timothy 3:15-16 speaking to timothy "You have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness."
The ESV translation has it here is the most correct. In verse 16, when it says, "God-breathed" that comes from the Greek word, "theopeneustos." B.B. Warfield in his great book on the Inspiration and Authority of Scripture, notes that this word is a combination of two words: God [theos] and breathed [peneustos]. He notes that what is being said, is that God breathed out the Scriptures. Not breathing into them as if He somehow declared some human writings to be divine. That's huge.
So thus far what we have is Romans. A letter written to a people in Rome that the Bible sees as being the very communication of God, which is able to make people wise for salvation. Though Romans immediate audience was the people of the first century there is also a wider intended audience.
Look at Romans 16:26 again, "The prophetic writings have been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith."
Peter says it like this when he preached on the day of Pentecost. "The promise (of the message of salvation) is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
John, one of the gospel writers says towards the end of his book in chapter 20:31, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
And most of all, Jesus himself prayed for us about our reception of the message contained in these writingsâ€¦listen to His words in John 17:17-21, "Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in truth (the word). I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (us), that they mall all be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in youâ€¦"
So what we have is a letter. A letter about God to people in the first century in Rome and also to people in our century. Romans is a revelation, a writing of God breathed out by the Holy Spirit into Paul, so that we might know the message of salvation.
4 Views of Scripture and the Right One
Now that we have established a definition of Scripture and shown the relationship of Romans as being Scripture, let's look at four approaches to this thing called Scripture and talk about the approach we believe in.
1. Divine Bible Codes
In this view, the Bible is seen as a book with secret messages that must be decoded.
In this view the Bible is seen as a combination of historical facts and mythical stories and we must separate distinguish between the things of the Bible that are fact and myth...we must demythologize it to find value. The idea is that Bible is infallible in faith and practice but not in history and science.
This third view is closely related to the first one in many ways but historically it is a response to the second view. After demythologization came on the scene certain theologians, like Karl Barth, had difficulty with this because he so believed the Bible to be something truly divine. So what he and others argued is that we know the Bible is true and divine because when we read it we have this experience where we feel it is true and from God and it effects us. So our experience is the key factor. It doesn't matter if someone says something is factually off in the Bible because they can't tell me my experience is off. This is actually the same claim Mormons make, that when you read the book of Mormon you have an experience called the "burning in the bosom" that testifies to its truth and divine authenticity.
4. Divine-human Book
The fourth view is the christological model. In this view the Bible is seen akin to the way we see Jesus. It is both 100% man and 100% God. The Bible is the product of real human hand but is superintended and overseen by God to ensure that what they wrote were his words.
Let's evaluate each of these views.
What about the first view? Consider an e-mail. Say I take your email and convert every 5th letter into a numerical ASCII code and then come up with date. Then say I take that date and look up on the Internet what happened on that date in history. Did your email predict that event? NO! What we have here is a hoax, a trick to make people think the Bible is magic and somehow supernatural. It is not. At least not in that way.
What about the second view? Demythologization. This is not a new idea. Remember Peter's words, "we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the Lord (1 Pet 1:16)." The Bible warns in many places against this type of idea. Check out Titus 1:14 "Pay no attention to myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth." Or Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
The problem with saying that the Bible is true in matters of faith and practice but not in the matters of history and science is that these two are inseparably connected. For example, Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ did not rise from the dead (historical fact) then our preaching is useless and our faith in vain (spiritual value).
Listen to this quote from Talbot Professor, Dr. Henry Holloman, "Did the Holy Spirit vary His operation when the biblical writer moved from matters of faith and practice to other areas of knowledge? It would be as if the Lord said to the biblical writers when they wrote on non-religious material, "Now you are on your own. What you write in this area is from your knowledge not Mine!"
Simply put, this view is self-contradictory and absurd.
What about the third view, existentialism?
Its first problem is that it accepts the demythologization critique as true. Its second problem is that neither we ourselves or us and another person(s) can ever read the same Bible because our experiences may be different from each other's and from our previous experience. The heart of the problem of this approach is that "I" sinful, a fallen being, with fallen reason become the standard for what is truth based upon my internal feelings instead of the seeking out of what is true outside my self.
What we see in each of the first three views is a denial of what the writers of Scripture clearly intends their writing to be understood. The human writers of Scripture go out of their way to say that their writing are not their own but are from God and should be taken as such. We have to meet the Bible on its own terms just as we would any other book.
What about the last view? The idea that the Bible is a book written by men, completely inspired by God in a way that he preserved exactly what he wanted us to hear and know about him.
This is the way the biblical writers intended their writing to be read: listen to the words of 1 Thessalonians 2:13 "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God."
Consider Jesus' view of Scripture. He consistently treats the Old Testament historical narratives as straightforward records of facts both historically and scientifically. Listen to what he says in Matthew 5:17-18 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Jesus says even the very marks are inspired. For Jesus, when Scripture is speaking God is speaking (Mat 19:5). Is Jesus a liar? Was he wrong?
Like Jesus, his Apostles had the same view of Scripture as being wholly true and having supreme authority. They never attempt to correct it nor seek to but one book or verse against another. They acknowledge that it speaks with one unified voice because it is from God. D. Hay counts 1600 citations of OT and everyone treats it as wholly true and factual. Just like Jesus the apostles consider God to be speaking when Scripture is speaking (Acts 13:34; Rom 9:13,15,17).
Remember 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:16? How much more explicit can you get? What more could the Biblical writers say to explain inerrant inspiration? What more could they have said to convey that they believed that their writing were really the divine writings of God?
Some of you might ask then, well if Scripture really is the Word of God then what about errors and contradictions?
This is a good question. Often times when people suggest there are errors and contradictions in the Bible I like to ask them which ones they have in mind because nearly every single apparent contradiction, set aside number errors and the like, gets dispelled and turns out not to be a contradiction at all the closer you look at things. This demonstrates the principle that legitimate and good hermeneutics dispels alleged errors and contradictions.
So what are some principles of good hermeneutics?
Here's two for you. One, authorial intent. We do not have the right with any text of any kind, any book, to make up whatever meaning we want, we must interpret words, sentences, paragraphs, according to what the author intended to say. If anyone says different, then I could say that what they are writing is that the bank is to give me all their money, even if the actual words are speaking about going to the store to buy milk. Often there is an attitude about the Bible where some are like, "yeah God is involved somehow but we know humans wrote it so we must interpret the Scriptures in light of the authors and read between the lines." But again, you can't do that because the human authors of Scripture go out of their way to say that their writings are not their own but God's! You have to either wholly accept it or wholly reject it.
Here's the another good hermeneutical principle. Recognizing phenomenological and figurative language. That's when the Bible is describing something versus trying to give a scientific account. Many of the suggested "contradictions" have to do with scientific theories. But let me ask you a question. Did anyone watch the news last night? Did you happen to see the weather? What did they say about when it would get light out tomorrow morning? That the sun would rise at 6:00am right? Now does the sun rise? No, the earth revolves around the sun. The weather forecasters on the news are using phenomenological or figurative language.
Let's continue with reasons for believing the fourth view is the correct one. Let's talk philosophy. If there is a God and if he intended to impart words to men then it is philosophical necessity because according to Scripture (and the cosmological argument) God is a God of truth (1 Jn 5:20), thus God cannot lie (Heb 6:18). According to Jesus' reasoning in John 17:17 God's Word must be wholly true.
In addition Scripture outright says that it is wholly true and without error. (5) Outright stated. Listen to Psalm 19:7 "The law of the Lord is perfect." Perfection does not have room for any error.
Lastly, viewing the Bible as the divine-human book from God without any error is the historical view of the church, which ought to count for something. Here's a couple quotes from Godly men, theologians and pastors of the church through the years...
Saint Augustine, "Only to those books which are called canonical have I learned to give honor so that I believe most firmly that no author in these books made any error in writing."
Martin Luther, "The Holy Spirit has been blamed for not speaking correctly; He speaks like a drunkard or a fool, He so mixes up things, and uses wild, queer words and statements. But is our fault, who have not understood the language nor known the matter of the prophets. For it cannot be otherwise; the Holy Ghost is wise and makes the prophets also wise. A wise man must be able to speak correctly; that holds true without fail."
It is my firm conviction that the Bible is in fact the word of God. That the book of Romans really has two authors. Paul and God. We have spent a good deal of time looking at internal evidence...looking at what the Bible says about itself. But there is also a lot of good external evidences, reasons outside the Bible to think it is actually true. We're not going to spend time on that stuff today, but consider this.
How can you just presuppose Scripture is true and quote it to say that it proves itself true? Isn't that circular reasoning. Yes it is. But here's the thing. Everyone presupposes something. Are you not presupposing that reason is true and a good guide and works every time. In my experience, sometimes my reasoning is false or leads me astray. Since we can't get away from presupposing anything it makes a lot more sense to presuppose something that starts with God rather than myself. We can either presuppose the Bible is true or we can presuppose our reason is perfect and supreme and subject the Bible to it.
The Bible is a Gift for us to Grow in our Knowledge and Love of God
I want to wrap things up today by asking the question, how is any of this significant? Does it have any relevance to me and my life? Yes! The Bible is a special means of grace for us to grow in our knowledge and love of God.
Paul, the author of Romans regularly prays for our growth through the Scriptures. In Ephesians 2:17-18 he prays that "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened that we may know the hope to which he has calls usâ€¦"
Apart from the Bible we will not grow in wisdom or knowledge of God. Apart from the Bible the eyes of our hearts will not be enlightened but rather darkened. Apart from the Bible we will have no hope because there is nothing I can count on and trust like it. Apart from the Bible we are lost.
We began today by recognizing that Romans is first and foremost a book about God written for God, for His name's sake, for His glory...and that because of that, we get to see how great and wonderful and marvelous He is. When we see Him as such we are enormously blessed. So Romans and all of the Bible is about God showing us how good he is, the blessing is we get to see it and experience it.
My biggest prayer and for you today...the thing I hope you take home from this morning, is a love for the Bible. May you know it is the Word of God given for your good and because you know that, love it and devote yourself to it.
I love the Bible. Cherish it. It is the Divine Word of God. To conclude I am going to read a number of King David's statements in the Bible about Scripture so that hopefully some of his heart and attitude rub off on us in our approach to the Bible.
"In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts."
"My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word."
"This is my comfort in affliction that your promise gives me life."
"It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver."
"Give me understanding that I may learn your commandment. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice because I have hoped in your word."
"Oh how I love your law!"
"Sweet is your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth."
"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path"
"Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart."
"Your testimonies are wonderful"
"I open my mouth and pant because I long for your commandments"
"Great is your mercy oh lording? Give me life according to your rules."
"Great peace have those who love your law"
"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant for I do not forget your commandments."
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The Resolved Church
Pastor Duane Smets
April 24th, 2005
"Romans is for God"
When we approach the Bible we are met with three kinds distances: first, a distance between our historical time period and the one in which it was written. Second, a distance which exists in the reading of all books and that is between what the author intended to mean and our understanding of it. Third, a distance of spiritual battle. There is something wrong in us that resists acknowledging and feeling what can be shown to be true in this book.
We are in an introduction or salutation. Paul is introducing himself and who he is writing to and telling his reason for writing and he drops these theological bombs. There are words and phrases in this passage that reflect a worldview in which Paul will spend three chapters addressing later in the book. So, we have this dilemna that there is a lot wrapped up in these few vereses...we could spend weeks on them if we wanted. So how much time do we spend on the salutation?
The plan today is to approach this passage through three lenses.
1. Expository exegesis & transfer of confidence. Exposing the meaning of the words in a way which results in us having personal confidence of their intended meaning.
2. Theological implications from exegesis. What these words mean and tell us about God and the world we live in.
3. Being spiritually affected by the message of these words.
The first lens requires we understand something about the historical situation and setting. In this part of Paul's intoduction he tells us who he is writing to, the reason he is writing, and why he personally is qualified to write.
Look at the first verse, "to all those who are in Rome loved of God, called to be holy ones, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The simplest, clearest, and most obvious thing to see is that there must be a group of people who are believers in Rome. I get this because the text says there are "those who loved by God" "called to be saints" (v6 "called of Jesus Christ") who are in Rome.
In order to get a better picture of who these people are I want you to think with me a little bit about some of the things Justin mentioned the first week about Rome, and Jews, and Gentiles.
Rome is the center of world. Rome is the major world power for 1500 years. Rome built great temples, huge amphitheatres, and held stadium filled games...with thousands in attendance. Rome was a big deal. One popular saying was that, "all roads lead to Rome." And many other cities tried to mimic its style and culture, making "little Romes."
The ruler of rome was the Ceasar who was an emperor and consider a god with divine right. Roman law was seen as eternal order of right. In fact, Rome's legal formulation or definition was Rome's great pride and strength. "Rome" was almost synoymous with rule. Roman empire and Rome is the center. We don't have anything quite like this today. The closest similarity would be like Washington DC with all of New York, Tokyo and LA wrapped up in it as one great city.
So we have a big city, which in many ways is the center of the world and the centerpoint of the cutting edge. But what about the people who lived in Rome?
You've got all kinds of people: Greeks, nomads, people from every place the Roman empire took over. The strength and success of Rome was that one could become a Roman citizen but keep some of the distinctives of their heritage...even Jews.
Okay, bear with me the next few minutes. What may seem somewhat dry but paints the letter to the Romans in color.
In Acts 18:2 we read about how Rome had taken over Greece. In the ancient book, "The Life of Claudius" we read how Claudius "expelled all the Jews from Rome because they were constantly rioting at the instigation of Christus." Orosius says this took place at 49 AD, which concides datewise with Acts 18:2. The result is that Jews had to leave in order to keep the peace of Rome, the "pax romana."
But in 54 AD Claudius dies and the Jews return...some for family, some for business, some just for the better life of Rome. But in 54 AD Nero begins to rule when he is 16 years old. Sometime within the first five years of his rule, he starts to hate christians. In 64 AD he starts a fire and blames it on the Christians. And Romans was written shortly after Nero begins to reign, probably sometime between 56 or 57 AD.
So who is in Rome? Romans with the Romans law and peace and then you also have Jews. Bloodline Jews were the ones with the holy Jewish law called the Torah. Because of their Torah they were circumcised, had long beards, female head coverings, and wore little boxes on their head with Scriptures in 'em (phylactries). They're whole goal was showing distinction. And they were very proud of their distinction.
This creates a mess. Romans can't stand Jews because Jews are weird and treat Romans as outcasts. Jews despise Romans and Roman rule. And they are both together in this church. It's tensious. We don't know exactly how they came to faith or what exactly was the state of the church when Romans was written, but it is most likely that this church is not very old. The use of "established" in verse 11 tells us that at minimum they are young, new believers.
So we have a have a big culturally robust city. We have Romans, and we have Jews. And in seeing that you can almost feel some of Paul's reason for writing building. Which is where he turns in the very next few verses.
Let's read verses 8-14. It appears to me that Paul lists four reasons for writing.
Reason one for writing: "your faith is proclaimed."
Roman roads and military presence had a lot to do with keeping and creating the "pax romana" (peace of Rome). But this made for the ease and safety of travel and thus the circulation and communication between of churches. Chapters 15-16 of Romans reveal there was much interchange going on. So Paul has obviously heard about the church there in Rome.
Reason two for writing: because he has heard about them Paul feels a burden for them.
Listen to verse 9-13, "without ceasing I make mention of you in my prayers...I long to impart to you some spiritual gift...I want you to knowâ€¦I have often intended to come to you." Do you feel it? "Without ceasing" "I long" "I want" ...these are not just duties but feelings. Paul undoubtedly feels a responsibility for the church in Rome as an apostle. But it is not just duty here. He feels a deep concern for them.
Reason three for writing: the Romans have a need.
They are in need of Paul imparting a spiritual gift. Look at verses 11-13 (read). Here is where we run into a point where we must make an interpretive decision. It is not for us to decide according to what we like most, our opinions don't matter. Our goal is what the author intended!
So here we go. Let's do some interpreting according to what the author intended. What is this spiritual gift?
1. Is it charismatic? Some special or supernatural thing Paul wants to impart?
2. Is it just general spiritual encouragement? Nothing in particular or especially significant...but just encouragement
3. Is it a specific revelation Paul has been given directly by God, which the Romans need in order to be established?
The emphasis or mood in the text is that Paul feels something about his communication to them is very significant or important. In verse 11, he prays desperately that he might go there. In verse 12, he longs to impart. In verse 13 he says he has inteded to come. In verse 14 he even says, he is under obligation.
If you just follow Paul's use of "I" you see that Paul sees something significant about himself (in verse 8 God is his witness, whom he serves with his spirit in the gospel). I believe Paul sees himself as a special revelator of written words given to him by God. I think hearing Ephesians 3:1-11 will help us here.
Ephesians 3:1-11 "3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentilesâ€” 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord."
So revelation is a technical term for being a writer of Scripture. That means we shouldn't pray and ask God to reveal stuff to us unless you're wanting to write a book of the Bible. Paul is an apostle "by the grace of God." As such, God has given Paul is given a specific insight into the gospel which is foundational to understanding what it means to be a Christian.
Perhaps most revealing Paul's open declaration that God told him to write Romans. In verse 14 he says he was "obilgated" to write. What's that mean? Romans 16:25-26 at the end of the book give us a strong clue. Romans 16:25-26 "Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God."
So those are the three main positions: charismatic gift, encouragement, revelation. My goal here is to share the fruit of our study and then replace ourselves so that your confidence might be in the text and not in us. With that said, I will tell you I believe that the third position best accounts for the text.
Charismatic gifts are totally outside the scope of what Paul is saying here. There is no reference to them here whatsoever and in other passages where he does name them his emphasis is always on the Holy Spirit not himself.
Simple encouragement ignores Paul's emphasis on himself. So we must either conclude that he had an unhealthy pre-occupation with how great he was and thus was a lunatic or in fact there was something that had to be communicated throuugh him.
As we study Romans more and more we will see more and more the nature of the letter as specifically structured argument clearly intended to give a foundation for Christian faith, which could not be known simply through the natural ways God has revealed himself in creation since the garden of eden.
Reason four for writing: the "fruit" of verses 13-14.
Fruit or harvest is a metaphor for the gathering of people. Some have said fruit is money becaue there are other passage in Scripture where finacial offering given were called fruit. Yet this does not fit with his contextual designation here of fruit as a harvest of people, Greeks and non-Greeks. Plus, that would make out Paul's letter to seem cheap. A reference to money here would just seem very out of place. When Paul does petition for money, like in Philippians, he does so at the end of his letters.
Paul's desire for fruit demonstrates that Paul has unbelievers in view here in his letter as well as believers. His hope is that he might preach and people be converted. If you're brain is starting to hurt, I get that. There is a danger in rigourously dealing with the text of scripture. It can start to seem like it's just academics but there is an intellectual element to real faith. Christianity is not a religion based on feeling or experience but on some objective, something that is true outside of ourselves and i want to give that to you so that when the winds of uncertainity and suffering come there might be something of substance under your feet.
With that said I want to summarize what has been covered so far and then turn to some the theology here in these verses.
So summary. We have a letter to Rome. A big city. Lots of stuff going on. Lots of different people. Particularly a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. We have four reasons this letter was written: it is a big thing that there is a church in Rome and all the rest of the church has heard about it, this new church needs some foundation, in particular the gift of the revelation of God given through Paul, who is has a deep concern and obligation to the church to impart this revelation for the strengthening of the believers faith and for the communication of the faith to non-believers. But none of these are the real reason Romans was written.
There is a bigger reason Romans was written and it has to do with us. So let's talk about ourselves for a minute. If we are honest I think there is something in us that should feel a little weird about all this...like we are reading a letter to these people who are so different. Most of them wore sandles and robes...lived in adobe houses, lived in a lot of dirt, got their water from wells. It should feel weird because it is like in some ways we are reading a letter that was for someone different than us a long long time ago.
Next week I will discuss this issue more about what why and how this book may be connected to us. But there are some immediate things we can learn here by the way that Paul refers to God and the way that he sees the situation with Rome in light of God. Whether or not they were intended for us (which I believe they are) these things challenge our worldviews and our ways of thinking and will hopefully stirr our emotional relation to God.
The Real Reason Romans was Written
The real reason Romans was written has to do with God's glory shown in his sovereign intention of the message of the gospel. What does the word sovereign or sovereignty mean?
The word sovereignty isn't here. I use it simply because it is a word that encapsulates the picture of God that is shown. Sovereign means free (sov) reign (rule). Where I see this in this text is in two places, in verse 8 and verse 10 (read).
Look at verse 8. It seems obvious that the faith is proclaimed through the actions of men. So why give thanks to God? They are the ones who did it. Why does God get any credit? It is men who have been shedding their blood. Going to jail. Getting beaten up. Have been preaching, traveling, performing miracles, ministering to the poor, gathering together for meals and sharing about Christ. So why should God get credit for that?
Thanks is something we give for honoring someone for what they deserve for what they do. It is a response to action. That Paul thanks God is not a flippant thing. There is a huge God-centerness to the book of Romans. Leon Morris, a commentator says that Romans is first and foremost a book about God.
God is mentioned 153 times in it, every 46 words. Romans is pre-occupied with God. There are more references to God in Romans than any other New Testament book. In verse 5 Paul says Romans is for "the sake of his name." I believe that what Paul is getting at is something that everything in our culture and much in popular Christianity, and much in the depth of the rebellion of our souls wants to deny. And that is that everything about this world is about God and His glory. It is his world and we are his and he can do what he wants with it because he rules it with an unchanging and righteous fist and conforms everything for his glory. It is what it is for him to be God.
Paul thanks God because he recognizes that Rome would not exist and the gospel would not be being proclaimed there if God had not been making that happen. He gives God the credit and rejoices because God has chosen to glorify himself by bringing the gospel to Rome and making converts. Every step of the way God has been working.
Throughout all of Scripture God is pictured as having a unique ability to govern the decisions and actions of men. Yes, man makes decisions but his will is one that is compatable with the sovereign will of God so that it only wills things that God wills. It seems to me that God does this two ways. He does this externally through the ordering of certain circumstances and he does this internally through he moving of our hearts.
Now perhaps you are thinking that I am reading way too much into the word "thanks." That may be so. But look at verse 10. Paul recognizes that he will not make it too Rome unless GOD WILLS it. Paul recognizes that God controls the physical elements of nature. In Acts and in 1 Corinthians we read of all the natural catastrophes Paul faces in trying to get to Rome...but it is God's will which enables or disenables him to get there. Look at verse 10. Paul says his jouney will only occur if God wills it. God must set up the circumstances to allow it. And on top of it, Paul recognizes it isn't just physical elements of nature God orders but that it is also God who orders the hearts of men or why else would Paul pray for people as he does here!
This is the root of Romans. God. Romans is a book that will show us an infinitely holy God. It's not about us, it's about God. God is everything. And there is only hope in Christ and in God's will to reveal his glorious nature to us. Romans is for God. It is for the sake of his name. To make him look great! If any one of us thinks we are something the intent of Romans is to crush us and cause us to fall on our knees in mercy and see the righteousness and wonder of God.
Yes, Romans was written because the Roman church's faith was being proclaimed, because Paul heard of them and was burdened, because they had a real need, and because there were more people to be reached there who needed this book to be reached. Yes. Those things are all true, but none of them are the real reason Romans was written. The real reason Romans was written was for God...for his glory, chiefly shown through the work of his Son Jesus.
My hope and prayer is that you may see this. That we would become undone as a people, with no confidence in ourselves but only a desire to see and know God through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ.
I believe that if we open up ourselves we will see a dirtiness and emptiness that continually forgets God...that doesn't easily give him honor and thanks...that is more concerned about our will than His.
That is who I am. I am a needy soul. Romans was written to a group of people in Rome. A big city with lots of different. it was written because the people there needed the gospel.
Like them we despertely need the gospel. The gospel is our only hope. And it is a great hope and a great message...That God is greater and more glorious than anything or anyone and that he has done something in Jesus to rescue us and thereby enabling us to see and delight in God's great name.