Sunday, September 25, 2011

Romans 1:18-23 – Wrath Revealed

"God is Angry"
Romans 1:18-23

Last week we saw that the righteousness is revealed in the gospel, when those who are justified by faith live by faith. But you need to "hold that thought", because we will be spending several weeks looking at the dark underbelly of humanity, and learn how God really feels about sin.

People who never learned a solid theology, who never spent time studying the holiness of God and what that would mean for His relationship to man are sometimes surprised when they read about the wrath of God. But we should not be surprised; a holy God cannot ignore sin, and a just God must judge sin.

Just as the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel and those redeemed by Jesus; the wrath of God will be revealed in those who turn away from God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

This "wrath" is a settled, determined response of a righteous God against sin. The word Paul uses here for "wrath" is orge (pronounced orgay); which means up surging indignation. Think of the law of sowing and reaping; every person right now is growing a crop to harvest. Either you are sowing faith to harvest righteousness, or sowing disobedience to harvest judgment.

How does God really feel about sin? The wrath of God for man's sin was experienced by Jesus Himself on the cross. While praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus did not sweat drops of blood in anticipation of a Roman cross; rather He sweat drops of blood in anticipation of the stored up wrath of God on man's sin that He would soon bear. Jesus prayed to the Father, "'O My Father, if it is possible, LET THIS CUP pass from Me'" (Matthew 26:39 NKJV).
"This cup" that He was referring to was the cup of God's wrath and fury as described in Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 25:15, and Revelation 16:19. On the cross, the full wrath and fury of God was poured out on His only Son for our sin! The wrath that was meant for you, the wrath that was meant for me, was instead thrust onto Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "
For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (NKJV)! All of God's wrath, that had been stored up against you because of your sin, was absorbed by Jesus on the cross. Jesus, drank the cup of God's wrath on the cross for our sins, turned the cup over and declared, "IT IS FINISHED!"

The whole question of ungodliness and the fact that it is inexcusable is Paul's first major topic in this letter. Ungodliness is a sin against God. We were created in His image; so to not reflect his glory is the highest insult to our Creator.

The false assumption that flaws perception is that man is naturally good. "What about the innocent man in the jungles of Africa who has never heard the name of Jesus?" There is no "innocent" man in Africa or anywhere else. ALL have sinned, and suppressed the truth that God has revealed.

While ungodliness is mainly a sin against God, unrighteousness is not only a sin against God, but also a sin against man. It is the condition of not being right with God or man. Man's first sin in the Garden of Eden separated man from God; his second sin (Cain's murder of his brother Abel) separated man from man (Gen. 3 &4). God is just as angry at man's wrong treatment of his neighbor as He is at man's wrong treatment of his Creator.

God holds all men accountable for certain basic truths; and the deliberate rejection of these truths in unbelief will be judged.

Paul writes that God is angry with men "who SUPRESS the truth in unrighteousness". The word "suppress" here depicts a man struggling to keep a lid closed on a container so that whatever is inside cannot escape. Ungodly and unrighteous man does their best to "keep a lid on" the unmistakable and universal truth that there is a God who is worthy to be praised. Modern atheism celebrates man as an evolved animal, and worships our accomplishments as if we were self created. But god-awareness is built into every man, this is part of the image of God spoken of in Genesis 2, there has never in the history of man been an atheistic civilization, we naturally know in our hearts and conscience that there is a God. This trust is suppressed in unbelievers through dishonesty, deception and corruption.

19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

"because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them."

This is actually a huge and often contentious theological topic; "what can men know of God without the direct revelation of the Holy scriptures"? It is fascinating that every ancient civilization ever found has a religion fully expressed in its culture. Early anthropologist assumed it followed the pattern of Greek mythology where different gods explained different natural phenomena. But more contemporary science has found that many cultures were monotheistic. This natural understanding of God through creation is called duel revelation. So in addition to the direct revelation of scripture we have the general revelation of God in creation, including man's innate god-awareness, and moral conscience.

Psalm 19

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.

3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.


John Calvin wrote, "By saying that God has made it manifest, He means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author Himself."

In Christian Apologetics this is called the teleological argument or the argument from design, but notice Paul recognizes the limits of general revelation, what a man will see from creation are specific attributes of God: Eternal Power – God must be eternal and powerful to make such a vast and ancient creation. I love this because even Big Bang Cosmology observes that the creation event in addition to matter and energy, also created space and time. That means the first cause transcended or, must have existed outside of space and time. Of course this meshes perfectly with Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God".

Godhead (divinity or authority) – Who has the authority to fix the laws of nature? The laws of physics demonstrate that you don't get order out of chaos, in fact the opposite is true, without a constant force to keep it in place, all well ordered systems decay into disorder and chaos.

British atheist and philosopher Anthony flew followed the evidence to become a deist in 2003. Flew stated that "the most impressive arguments for God's existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries" and that "the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it". He also answered in the affirmative to the question, "So of the major theistic arguments, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological, the only really impressive ones that you take to be decisive are the scientific forms of teleology?". He supported the idea of an Aristotelian God with "the characteristics of power and also intelligence", stating that the evidence for it was stronger than ever before.

Needless to say the conversion of Anthony Flew caused quite a stir in the atheist community, but it also perfectly illustrates the limits to Flew's theology that Paul predicted. Although he believed there was a god, he never became a Christian, he never knew Jesus, so his conversion and theology were incomplete. Flew died in 2010 believing in a designed universe, but never knowing its designer. So we need more than just our observations of creation to know God.

Ecclesiastes 3

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Back to Romans 1)

21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Mankind's willful blindness leads to wicked beliefs. We willfully ignore (suppress) God's evident existence, and then craft clever imaginations of God, and eventually replace God with idols.

Mans' "foolish heart has been darkened". We profess wisdom, but are in reality fools.

Back when we were studying Acts 13 I told you about a book called "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking. He argued that you don't need god, you don't need religion, you don't even need philosophy, to understand the origins of everything because science has the answer.

At the time I gave you a brief rebuttal to Hawking's ideas, but I recently started reading a Book by John Lennox who was a colleague of Hawking's at Oxford, called "God and Steven Hawking - Who's design is it anyway"? You can get most of his arguments from various lectures he has given on the web if you want to Google videos just search for "John Lennox & Steven Hawking". He raises some of the same arguments to Hawking ideas, I gave you before, but certainly more complete than my 5 minutes. But what is fascinating is how this controversy illustrates what Paul was saying here in Romans 1.

David wrote in Psalm 53:1-3, "1 The FOOL says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" (NIV). Paul quotes this Psalm in chapter 3 of his letter to the Romans.

Steven Hawking's M-Theory, that supposedly made God obsolete, ran into another problem recently (in addition to the challenges raised by John Lennox). In Europe they have a particle accelerator similar to the one our government tried to build in Waxahachie, and this Large Hadron Collider or LHC was running an experiment to find the Higgs-Boson the so-called "god particle". This was supposed to verify super-symmetry, quantum gravity, and various other parts of M-theory. What the "god particle" was supposed to explain is why some particles have mass or weight, unfortunately the experiment worked, but No Higgs-Boson particle was found, which casts scientific doubt on super-symmetry, and quantum gravity, as working theories and could completely unravel Steven Hawking's M-theory.

What this demonstrates is that anything we glorify or worship in the place of God, becomes an idol in our hearts. In our ungodly and unrighteous attempt to suppress God's truth we have invented all kinds of "gods".

Human depravity is an idol factory.

From man's godless imagination has sprung countless graven images. Travel the world and witness men praying to statues of wood, stone, and precious metals. In other cultures, animals are venerated and worshiped as Gods. In India, a country which contains the highest number of starving people on the planet, 280 million cows roam free. Why? Because 900 million Hindus think they're holy! Whether it's burning incense to a gold Buddha in Burma, praying to one of 330 million deities in Deli, or kissing the feet of a patron saint in San Juan, the graven images of man's imagination plague the world.

Before you begin thinking that verse 23 is describing only the primitive cultures that still worship statues; let me remind you that we in America have our own pantheon of "gods".

We drive our idols. We live in our idols. We worship our bank accounts; and sometimes members of our family (I know people who seem to worship their kids). Some people worship stuff; some people worship status; some people worship society; but mostly we worship OURSELVES. Sometimes our idols are IDEALS that we pursue in place of God. Either way, these are cheap imitations; rusting replacements for a God who is holy and righteous.

God is angry; and rightly so.

Acts 12

21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

Isaiah 42

8 I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.

Questions for discussion:

1. You may have heard the phrase in church "righteous indignation" meaning righteous anger. How can anger be righteous? Why is God's anger (wrath) righteous?

2. We hear people all the time demanding their rights. Our country even calls the first 10 ten amendments of our Constitution the "Bill of Rights". According to the Bible, what does man deserve?

3. Has your view of God changed after studying this passage of Scripture? If so, how?

4. There is an old evangelist saying that "Before you can get people saved you must first get them lost"; how is this idea reflected in Romans 1?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Romans 1 - Unashamed

Romans 1:1-17

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

In verse one, Paul, introduces himself as:

"Bondservant of Jesus Christ"

Under the law bondservant bound himself to his master for the repayment of the debt this was common for Jews but always for 7 years or less. But the Law says that if the servant loves his master and does not wish to go free he could pledge himself and pierce his ear as a sign to be forever joined to his master. Like us, Paul owed Jesus a debt he could never repay.

"Called to be an apostle"

Each time you see the word called it is a sign of the sovereignty and will of God. As we discussed before "apostle" means "sent" reflecting their role as missionaries to the early church. As to the original office of Apostles this was reserved for people who were first hand witnesses to the risen savior.

"Separated to the gospel of God"

Paul was highly educated, religiously connected to the Sanhedrin council, and politically privileged by roman citizenship. He had the potential to do anything, but he chose to do just one thing, and that is preaching the gospel.

2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,

Promised by God "through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures"

The cross, the church, and the coming again of the Lord Jesus are all hidden away in types and shadows of the Old Testament. Jesus is not only revealed in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament. The gospel begins in Genesis and continues through the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.

"the seed of David according to the flesh" "the Son of God with power according to the Spirit"

The gospel is about Jesus revealed as the messiah. His birth was promised, His life was perfect, His death was payment, and His resurrection was proof; Jesus is the Son of God.

Each time we get a glimpse of Heaven we see the angels declaring that God is Holy, completely pure, free of ALL CORRUPTION. John's gospel reveals Jesus as the "perfect image of God", so He is also Holy.

"Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience"

Remember the theme, righteousness comes from God. Through Him we receive grace. Through Him Paul was called and sent. Yet his purpose in all this is to achieve our obedience not to the Law but to faith, to reveal His righteousness in us.

6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

They are the ecclesia - "an assembly of called out ones"; and so are we. God called out to sinful Adam in the garden; He called Noah out of the flood of judgment; He called Abram out of a land of idolatry; and He called Moses to lead Israel out of bondage into the land the promised. In Jesus we are called out of sin into righteousness.

7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because of His great love, God calls us to be saints, which means Holy, free from corruption, separated from sin, to God for His glory.

1. Grace – a Greek term meaning favor, producing pleasure or delight.

2. Peace – Shalom is the traditional Hebrew greeting wishing someone peace.

Grace always precedes peace. Without God's grace, there is no peace; for man is still at war with God in his sin (Rom. 5:1&2). This double blessing of "grace and peace" is a signature greeting of Paul (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; I Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 3).

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.

Of course, we realize that EVERY word contained in Scripture in intentional and serves God's purpose; but humanly speaking, Paul's explanation in vv. 8-15 is just what the Romans need to hear.

He encourages and affirms them in verse 8 by mentioning their glowing reputation not only in the capital city of Rome but also throughout the Roman Empire. It's nice, when you're trying to live for Jesus in a difficult environment, to hear someone say, "Well done! You're right on track! Keep up the good work!"

Paul also tells them that he's been faithfully praying for them in verse 9. Paul hasn't met them yet, but he wants the church in Rome to know that he has been lifting them up to the Lord on a moment by moment basis. The power of prayer surpasses all physical, social, racial, and political barriers. Wherever people are and whatever people are going through, we can touch them and impact them through prayer! We struggle to consistently pray for our family and friends; yet Paul prayed for a church that he had never met, in a place where he had never been "without ceasing"!

Now look at verse 13 and see the providence of God. Paul and planned to go to Rome many times, and every time he tried, God would not allow it. So Paul takes this divine desire for spiritual fruit among the Romans, and pours it into this written document. So instead of only having 1st century converts in Rome, Paul has 2000 years of converts all over the world who were saved when the gospel is preached using Paul's letter. God's ways are often different from ours, because God transcends time to see from the beginning to the end. God is the originator of strategic thinking; He is like a Chess Master who has planned every move before the first piece is even touched.

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

Paul explains in verses 14&15 that he is a "debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and unwise". "Greek" here refers to anyone who can speak the Greek language. The term "barbarian" means rough speech; referring to the many tribal and regional tongues spoken by those who were not well educated. So the "wise" or educated spoke Greek; and the "unwise" or uneducated did not.

If someone were to give me a treasure deliver to someone else, I am indebted to the one who gave me the treasure and, in a real sense, to the one who is supposed to receive it. As the middle man or trustee, I am indebted to both. Paul says, in effect, "I have been given the gospel, and I now have the responsibility – a debt to pay – to give this good news to someone else."

Too often we hold this gospel treasure, afraid that those, to whom we deliver it, will not see its value. But our responsibility is to deliver it. Each recipient will give an account to God of what we did with the gospel that was delivered to us.

In verse 15, the apostle speaks of his bold readiness to preach the gospel to those who are in Rome. When he preached it in Jerusalem, the religious center of the world, he was mobbed. When he preached it in Athens, the intellectual center of the world, he was mocked. When he would eventually preach it in Rome, the legislative center of the world, he would be martyred; but he was ready for that.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."


Paul knew the gospel of Jesus Christ to be far superior to any religion or philosophy ever known on earth. His confidence is in Christ, the gospel is powerful because the work was completed on the cross and confirmed in the resurrection. This is not a 12 step program but a radical rebirth with a guaranteed new life, for anyone who puts their trust in Jesus.


Paul writes in verse 17, "For in it [the gospel] the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (NKJV).

In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed; God didn't change the rules and dismiss sin. He satisfied the justice of the Law by punishing His own Son as a sinner. He showed mercy to man with a redemption that we did not deserve. He demonstrated His love by exchanging the son's life for our rebirth. So Paul witnessed in faith trusting the power of the gospel, and we repent in faith trusting in the completed work of Jesus Christ. Then our saving faith is proven when we live by faith.

The Rev. John Lightfoot so fittingly said, "The whole law was given to Moses in six hundred and thirteen precepts. David in Psalm 15 brings them all within the compass of eleven. Isaiah reduces them to six, Micah to three. But Habakkuk condenses them all into one: "the just shall live by faith'". This is not an option; all who are justified by faith will live by faith, according to the scripture.

Questions for discussion:

1. Given the fact that the apostle Paul was: a scholar who had been trained by a renown Jewish master, named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), a Roman citizen (Acts22:28), had encountered the risen Christ (Acts22:6-11), and had been given a personal vision of heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-5), why do you think he introduced himself as a "bondservant of Jesus Christ" in verse one? (see Phil. 3:4-8)

2. In verse 12 of chapter one, Paul expressed his desire to "be encouraged together with you [Roman brethren] by the mutual faith of both you and me". Why is fellowship with others that share "mutual faith" so important? (Think: spiritual gifts, physical goods, and the glory of God – Ephesians 4)

3. Can you boldly declare along with Paul, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ"? Or do you serve a secret Savior? Are you a clandestine Christian; a secret agent for salvation? Jesus said in Luke 9:26, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (NKJV). A faith that is ashamed in public was a sham in private. What are some ways that you can let people know that you're not ashamed of the gospel?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Romans - Introduction

ROMANS – Righteousness
Offered to Mankind As Necessary Salvation
Before beginning any long journey it's always good to get your bearings. Our study of Paul's letter to the Romans will take us the better part of a year. This isn't bad when you consider some pastors have been known to take between three (Donald Grey) and THIRTEEN YEARS (Martin Lloyd) to preach through this book! So, I want to lay out the landscape of lies ahead of us.

We begin by answering six important questions that will give help us in our journey through the book: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

I. Who? – Paul, to the church in Rome.

A. Paul

We know Paul from our study of the book of Acts. Saul was Paul's Hebrew name; Paul was his Greek name. He was born in Tarsus (in the Roman province of Cilicia – modern day Turkey) about the same time as Christ's birth (Acts 9:11). Paul was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5), but was also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Paul's father was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6); a member of the strictest Jewish sect. He grew up to follow in his father's footsteps and spend most of his young life in Jerusalem under the teaching of a famous rabbi named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3; Phil. 3:5). As a Pharisee, Paul developed a zealous hatred for a new sect that was rapidly growing who claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Jewish Messiah, the Christ of Israel. Paul opposed the church by savagely persecuting them wherever they met and worshiped; until the road to Damascus, where he encountered the risen Christ at sometime between A.D. 33-34 (Acts 9:20).

Paul was transformed by the grace of God and was called to carry the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 9:15). After barely escaping Damascus with his life (Acts 9:23-25; 2 Cor. 11:32-33), Paul spent three years in Nabatean Arabia (Gal. 1:17&18). During this time, Paul received much of his doctrinal training through direct revelation from God (Gal. 1:11&12). Paul returned and lived in his hometown of Tarsus until he was located by Barnabas and asked to come and serve the church in Antioch around A.D. 44 (Acts 11:22-26) While serving in Antioch, Paul, was called by the Holy Spirit to take his first of three missionary journeys (Acts 13:2&3). These three missionary journeys carried Paul through Greece and Asia Minor. It is near the beginning of Paul's third missionary journey that he writes his letter to the church in Rome, ROMANS. While Paul desperately wanted to visit the church in Rome, he was prevented from doing so until he eventually arrived in chains around A.D. 62.

B. The church in Rome

Unlike most of the churches we encounter in the New Testament, the church in Rome was not founded by an apostle. As we discussed while studying Acts, the church was founded by those who were converted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). At the time of Paul's writing, the population of Rome exceeded one million inhabitants, nearly half of whom were bond-servants and recently freed slaves. Like many metropolitan cities, Rome was a wonderful place to live for the rich elite, but challenging for everyone else. The great divide between the rich and poor kept the city officials on edge as the lower class was never far from rioting. The contrast between the picturesque villas, the impressive Ampitheater, the Roman forum, the Circus Maximus and the poverty that most Romans lived in was stark to say the least. There was rampant crime, racial warfare, and moral depravity throughout the city.

Even though Rome was the hub of the Roman Empire, and considered the most powerful city on earth at that time, it was: divided racially, and politically, and declining morally. Sound familiar? In fact, life in Rome at the time of Paul's writing would have been a lot like life in New York or any other major city today.

Life for Christians in Rome was difficult. For both Jewish and Gentile Christians, the price of following Christ meant the loss of family and friends, including the safety they provided. During the reign of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54), the Roman government - normally tolerant of other religions – began to prohibit proselytizing. Claudius likely expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2) because Jewish Christians had been evangelizing their neighbors. But within a few years, Claudius was poisoned and his adopted heir, Nero, took his place on the throne. Nero allowed the Jews and the Christians to return and all remained quiet for about three years. It was during this time that Paul wrote to his brothers and sisters in Rome. In A.D. 64 Nero went mad and began to brutally persecute Christians in Rome. He blamed them for burning part of the city and had them arrested, tortured, and used them for sport in his blood-stained Coliseum. The church in Rome was fortified by Paul's letter of God's grace just before Nero's terror was unleashed upon them.

II. What? – The gospel of God's grace.

The purpose of Paul's letter was to teach the great truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received apostolic instruction. It also served to introduce him to a church where he was not know personally, but hoped to soon visit for several reasons: to encourage the believers (1:11), to preach the gospel (1:15), and to get to know the Romans Christians, so they could encourage him (1:12; 15:32), better pray for him (15:30), and help him with his planned ministry in Spain (financial support 15:28).

First, the apostle Paul confirmed their understanding of the gospel and then clarified what might have been confusing to this isolated and often persecuted church. Persecution and isolation are the principle tools used in the task of mind control. Prisoners of war report that after several hours of torture, the human mind will accept any absurdity as absolute truth in order to end suffering.

Using Paul's formal training and extensive experience, the Holy Spirit delivers a complete, doctrinal essay of Christian Truth. Romans, besides the gospels this is the founding document of the church age. When I speak of the Apostles Doctrine this is the primary source of that teaching.

The overarching theme of Romans is that righteousness comes from God: the glorious truth that GOD JUSTIFIES GUILTY, CONDEMNED SINNERS BY GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE. Chapters 1-11 present the theological truths of that doctrine, while chapters 12-16 detail its practical outworking in the lives of individual believers and the life of the church as a whole.

Second, the letter affirmed the authenticity of the Roman Christian's faith and commended them for their obedience. Paul essentially says to them, "Keep on doing what you've been doing! You're right on target! Be encouraged!"

Third, Paul's letter cast a vision for the future and asked the church to partner with him in accomplishing it. Paul challenged the believers in Rome to join him in evangelizing the newly expanded empire to the west; a landmass greater than any the apostle had covered in all three of his missionary journeys (and not nearly as civilized).

III. When? – Most likely A.D. 56

ROMANS, was written approximately a year and a half into Paul's third missionary journey.

IV. Where? – Written from Corinth.

The apostle Paul was visiting the church at Corinth when his letter to the Romans was written. We deduce from Paul's mention of key individuals such as: Phoebe (16:1), Gaius (16:23), and Erastus (16:23) that he wrote Romans from Corinth. All of these people are associated with the church in Corinth and we also know that Cenchrea was Corinth's port (16:1). The church at Corinth was established by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1).

The city of Corinth was as immoral a city as you can imagine. The most prominent structure in Corinth at that time was a temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Some, 1,000 priestesses, who were "temple" prostitutes, lived and worked there and came down into the city to offer their services to male citizens and foreign visitors. Even by pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. For a modern-day comparison think Las Vegas, New Orleans and San Francisco all rolled into one. It's not hard to envision the apostle Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, looking out over "sin city" describing man's lost condition in Romans 1:24-32.

V. Why? –introduction, doctrine and evangelism.

We've already mentioned that the primary purpose of Paul's letter was to instruct Roman believers on the great truths of the gospel of grace (1:16). The secondary purpose was to introduce himself to them as an apostle of God (1:1). The third purpose was to ask that they support him on his mission to carry the gospel beyond them to the rest of the known world.

We must recognize, however, that ultimately it was God who inspired Paul's letter to the Romans not only for their immediate benefit but also for all churches in all ages. Every word is for our instruction and inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16&17).

VI. How? – Inspired by the Holy Spirit through Paul, written by Tertius, in the home of Gaius,
delivered by Phoebe.

We know from chapter 16 verse 23 that, Gaius, hosted the apostle Paul during his 3 or 4 month stay in Corinth. We also know that while Paul dictated the epistle (inspired by God), a man named Tertius actually wrote down Paul's words (16:22). We know nothing else about Tertius except that he served as Paul's secretary on this occasion. The letter was delivered from Corinth to Rome by a sister in Christ named, Phoebe (16:1&2).

Questions for discussion:

1. Why is Romans such an important book for the church?

2. What are some similarities between the city of Rome, in Paul's day, and modern day America?

3. What is doctrine (a principle or creed of principles presented for acceptance or belief; a system of beliefs) and how does it affect our lives as believers?

4. How did God's prevention of Paul going to Rome during his missionary journeys ultimately benefit the church?

5. How can God's providence in our own lives be seen in everyday developments (see Rom. 8:38)?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Does the Gospel Mean Right Now?

Many recall the change of heart they experienced when they trusted in Christ for salvation, and they believe in the eternal life God has promised; but they stumble in their present life unsure of how the gospel relates to the here and now.

What does grace tell us about our natural self, and our new identity?

(Earned or given)

Romans 3:10 As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one;

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

What does grace tell us about our deepest sins, and what it takes to correct them?

(Fig leaf or forgiveness)

1 John 1

5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

What does grace identify as our greatest strength and weakness?

(My way or the vines way)

John 15

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

If we are confident in our conversion and clear on our destination, how do we fill the hole in our gospel that leaves many Christians struggling in the present?

(The Battle of the Mind)

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 15:6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.