Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS”

Romans 1.1-7

 

Genesis 5.21-24 is a portion of scripture, which tells us of a godly man named Enoch, who walked with God after he turned sixty-five years of age. Do you know what that means? It means that this great man of God did not walk with God for sixty-four years.

Noah was a great man of God, was he not? He built the ark for God and saved himself and his family from the flood. However, what did Noah do shortly after the flood waters had subsided, according to Genesis 9.21? He got drunk. There is no indication that it happened more than once, but it did happen.

What did the fearless prophet Elijah do after he faced down the false prophets of Baal and wrought a great victory on Mount Carmel when the wicked Jezebel threatened him? He ran the full length of Palestine to get away from her, he was so scared. What trust in God.

Please do not forget the two godly kings, Uriah and Hezekiah. Uriah became lifted up with pride and usurped the priest’s office, which resulted in God giving him leprosy for the rest of his days, while Hezekiah bragged about the riches of his kingdom to the Babylonian emissaries, which motivated their later conquest of the land, destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and the enslavement of the Jewish people for seventy years.

Then there was Peter, who denied the Lord three times the night He was betrayed, James and John wanting to sit at the Lord’s right hand and left hand, with Paul and Barnabas later fussing so much about giving the cowardly John Mark a second chance that they never served God together again.

Folks, the point that I want to make before I go any farther this evening is that the people written about in the Bible are real people. They are people who lived and loved, who walked and talked, who struggled and strove, and whose lives are accurately recorded in God’s Word.

First Corinthians 10.13 puts it this way: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” James writes, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.”[1]

My friends, as we take the evening to examine the whole of Paul’s introduction to his letter to the Romans, verses 1-7 of chapter 1, let us remember that Paul is writing to people who are just exactly like we are. Oh, they are from a different culture, and they probably did not fret about whether or not the car would start in the morning. However, other than the obvious differences caused by our modern technology and things such as that, the people Paul wrote to are exactly like you and I are.

With that in mind, look at the introduction to Paul’s letter and take note of something with me. Take note that this really is a letter, written by a man named Paul, to a group of people. Oh, it truly is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it is still a letter to ordinary people. After we read the first seven verses, we will draw some conclusions about those people that have application to our own lives:

 

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

2      (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3      Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made 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      By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6      Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

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

 

First, THERE IS REFERENCE TO THE AUTHOR (1.1)

 

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God”

 

Actually, verses 1 through 6 comprise an expansion and an explanation of who is writing this letter. The man’s name is Paul. But what do we know about Paul?

First, Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ. Remembering that Paul was basically known only by reputation by most of the Christians in Rome, it is encouraging to see that his first comment about himself is that he is a servant. That would be a real shocker to people living in the city of Rome, with one-half of their population being slaves. Proving? There is no hierarchy among the Lord’s people. There exists no position in God’s plan and economy for anyone to think he can lord it over God’s heritage. Paul calls himself a servant, using the Greek word for slave, because that is exactly what he was. He was a humble man who knew that being a lowly servant of Christ was more exalted than being a high and mighty anything else.[2]

Second, Paul was a called apostle of Jesus Christ. Remembering that an apostle was a special envoy, someone who was sent with a message, I want to draw your special attention to the fact that Paul was an apostle called.[3] Folks, pay particular attention to this word “called.” It is a very important word in Paul’s writings. It is a word that pertains to being invited.[4] However, keep in mind that the invitation is from God or from the Lord Jesus Christ. The question that many Bible scholars ask is this: “When Paul uses this word to describe the call of God or the invitation of God, is there ever an instance when the invitation is not accepted?” Many think not. Many think that when God “calls” in this manner, sinners invariably respond.

Third, Paul was separated to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel was nothing new. In fact it was promised afore, Paul tells us. So, how was the gospel promised afore? By His prophets. Such men as Isaiah and Jeremiah, as Amos and Daniel, as Enoch and Moses, as David and Micah. These men that God raised up during times of spiritual darkness and apostasy cried out to the nation of Israel that a Savior was coming, and that when He came He would bring salvation and deliverance. However, it was not the prophets only that foretold the gospel. God did not inspire those men of old to preach only. He also inspired them to write. What they wrote was the very Word of God. That is why Paul uses the phrase “in the holy scriptures.” Because God’s promised gospel was contained in the holy writings that we now call the Bible, Romans 1.2: “Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.” Concerning His Son. This tells us the subject of the gospel that was promised afore, Romans 1.3-4:

 

3      Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made 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:

 

Here Paul digresses a bit and tells us a bit about His “History.” The eternal Son of God was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, thus becoming Jesus Christ. Then Jesus Christ, after giving Himself a ransom for all, was raised from the dead in a great demonstration of power by the Spirit of holiness, making Him our Lord. Now we know just exactly how the eternal Son of God, pure eternal Spirit and second Person of the Triune Godhead, became our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Having said that, Paul gives us some of Paul’s history, in verse 5: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” This verse reveals Paul’s calling. Paul received “grace and apostleship” at the same time. Literally, his salvation and his calling to apostolic office occurred simultaneously. It may have been Paul’s intention when pointing this out to inform his readers that his apostolic office was graciously bestowed, and was not given to him because he was a good Christian. Next, Paul’s purpose is revealed. Why was Saul of Tarsus saved and made an apostle? What was the man who came to be known as Paul’s reason for being? Specifically? To bring folks to obedience to the faith. To win folks to Jesus, get them baptized in Jesus’ name, and to see them taught to observe all things Christ has commanded. Trite as it may sound, that was, in a nutshell, Paul’s entire reason for being. Everything he did was an offshoot of this immediate purpose. Generally speaking, however, there was an overarching purpose back of this specific purpose. Suggested by the phrase “for his name,” Paul’s grand plan was to glorify His name, to exalt Him, to lift Him up. This general purpose for being is the unifying purpose for mankind and for creation throughout scripture. The Great Commission given to us is simply understood to be the most expedient plan for fulfilling that general purpose during the age in which we live. The Lord’s history, Paul’s history, now his reader’s history, verse 6: “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” Notice if you will, that Paul has brought his readers through five verses of introductory material in this letter and only now, in this sixth verse, does he make any mention of his readers. To say that Paul is departing from the accepted manner of writing letters is a gross understatement. However, notice what he is doing at this point. He is making a point. Folks, what kind of problems did you bring into your Christian life? Bad debts? A criminal record? A history of bad marriages and sexual sins? Confusion about how marriages are supposed to work and how children are supposed to be reared? A history of drug abuse? A gossip’s habit of nosing into other people’s business? No matter what you might think your problem is, whether it be a low self esteem, or a pride problem, or a weight problem, or a spouse problem, or a child problem, or a money problem . . . those Romans had exactly the same problems that you and I have. Remember the verse? “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” Common! Common! Are you settled on the fact that the Romans were no better off than you or me? That we are no worse off than they were? Then hang your hat on this: They were called of Jesus Christ, just like Paul was. Christian, you have been called just like the apostle Paul was. You have been invited by God to live and serve in a ministry just as surely as the great apostle was: “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.”

 

Second, THERE IS REFERENCE TO THE READERS

 

Verse seven begins, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.”

 

This is the second part of a normal letter’s introduction. If this letter were a normal and uninspired letter it would read something like this: “Paul, to all that be in Rome, Greetings.” However, just as Paul expands on information related to himself as the author, he also expands on information related to the Christians in Rome, the addressees. Three words:

First, Rome. Notice what we do not find at this point in Paul’s letter. We do not find reference to a church. Why do you think that is? My own opinion is because there was not a church in Rome, the largest city in the world at that time, there were churches in Rome. Romans 16.5 reads, “Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” Remember, since the Jews had been chased out of Rome some years earlier, worship had shifted from synagogues to individual houses. Now that Paul is writing, though Jewish Christians have moved back into Rome, the churches are meeting in various locations in the city and Christians are far too numerous to congregate in one location.

Next, beloved, beloved of God. To be “beloved of God” is the description of someone who is the recipient of God’s active love. Implied in the description of someone being “beloved” is their passive reception of love. Think about that concept for a moment. Now ask yourself a few questions. Why does God love these Roman Christians? Is there anything about them that was lovely, that provoked God’s love? The answer to both questions, of course, is “No.” From what we know of God’s Word, God has chosen to love that which was unlovely, to love that which is sinful, to love us. We do not deserve His love, but He loves us just the same.

Then, there is called. As I said before, this seems to be a special word as Paul uses it. Found only eleven times in the entire New Testament, Paul uses the word seven times himself in all of his writings, and four of those times in this letter to the Romans. Want to know something interesting? Here in verse 7, Paul has already used the word for the third time. And, just like in verse 6, he uses the word to describe the Christians in Rome. They are called of God. Consider this word “called.” Just like the word “beloved,” this word describes someone who is the recipient of another’s actions. You see, you are “called” only when someone other than you calls. So, who is the one who does the calling here? God. And why does God call the called? Because that one who is called is also beloved. Take note of the fact that it is God’s love for you that moved Him to invite you. It is God’s love for you that motivated Him to “summon” you, which is what many scholars think this word “called” means in the context Paul uses it. Take these words “beloved” and “called” together with Romans 8.28 and that verse suddenly means so much more than it ever did before: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Finally, saints. When you are beloved of God, that is when you are the beneficiary of God’s love, then you are also the beneficiary of God’s call. However, when you are the beneficiary of God’s call, what you are called to be is a saint. Notice, Paul is not saying, here, that if you accept God’s invitation you have then decided to try and become a saint. Not at all. Paul is saying that if you respond to God’s summons, if you accept God’s call, if you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ to the saving of your eternal soul . . . you are then a saint. You do not decide to become a saint. You are a saint . . . instantaneously! The word saint means “holy one.” It is a word that describes something which is set aside for God’s use.[5] It does not mean that you are spotless. It does not mean that you are without error or folly. It does not mean that you are superior. What it does mean is this: Because you are a saint you realize that you have no business sinning when you sin. Because you are a saint your lifestyle needs to begin to change so that you become a credit and a testimony for Him Who you are set aside for. But think about this: Ordinary people. People who have problems just like everyone else. We face moral issues. We wrestle with marital and family problems. We face ethical problems and sometimes fall short regarding matters of integrity. You name it. Those people were loved by God, called by God, and as a result of responding to God’s call by trusting Christ, they were transformed into saints of God. My friends, those people in Rome who are described as saints were people just exactly like you and me. What Paul wanted from them and expected of them is also what he wants of us and expects of us.

 

Finally, THERE IS THE GREETING

 

In this final portion of the letter’s introduction, Paul is extending a greeting. However, notice that it is unlike the greeting of any other letter written in Paul’s day. The last half of verse seven reads, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

There is the blessing. Grace and peace. Paul is going to say a great deal about grace and peace in the course of this letter. Grace having to do with God’s favor and peace having to do with the absence of hostility between man and God, and with the tremendous harmony that can be experienced by a person who is at one with God. Grace must come first, then peace. Cannot have real peace without God’s grace. However, I suspect the Romans already know that. They are Christian people. What Paul is going to teach them in this letter has a great deal to do with grace and peace.

Then, the Bestowers of blessing. Two things to notice here: First, notice that it is “God our Father.” Not theirs. Ours. Paul and his readers have a relationship with God the unsaved simply do not have. You see, God is the Father of anyone who has trusted Christ. That is one of the most wonderful benefits of becoming a Christian. God is my Father. Is He yours? Second, notice that the Bestowers of blessings are “God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here, by indicating that grace and peace come from the Father and the Lord Jesus, Paul is placing the Lord Jesus Christ on equal footing with God the Father. To those people who would say, “Well, I believe in God,” Paul would say that blessing must come from the Father and the Son. If you do not know the Son, you have not met the Father, either. Jesus Himself said, “Ye believe in God. Believe also in me.”

 

I began this message by pointing out that some very notable figures in the Bible were, after all, mere men. Great men of God? More like our great God using mere men. The reason I mentioned those mortals used by God in marvelous way is because we somehow misjudge or fail to appreciate some things about people in the past.

These Roman Christians, for instance. We know that they were beloved of God. We know that they were called of God. We even grant that they were saints of God. However, what about you and me? If Elijah and Moses and Noah and Abraham were normal, mortal, men . . . then were not the Romans normal and mortal beings as well? And if they were, in fact, just like you and me . . . then what does that say about you and me, Christian, so far as being beloved, so far as being called, so far as being a saint is concerned? Just as much? Just as much.

My lost friend, do you see a bit of what God has in store for those of you who respond to His call to trust Christ as your Savior? Those who come to Christ are transformed into saints of God.

Christian, you have been loved by God and called by God. That means you are a saint of God. Now God would have you become what he has already declared you to be. Conform to your calling. Strive to become what God has declared you to be.



[1] James 5.17

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 347.

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 122.

[4] Ibid., page 549.

[5] Bauer, pages 10-11.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org