Calvary Road Baptist Church

“NOTHING NEW”

Romans 1.2

 

The man who is known in the scientific community as the father of scientific experimentation was an Italian named Galileo Galilei.[1] Galileo was born in the city of Pisa, the town of leaning tower fame, to rather well to do parents who saw to it that their son received a fine education, steering him into a career as a physician. Not really having an interest in medicine, Galileo discovered that he had both an interest and an exceptional aptitude for mathematics, which led him into further studies, and an analysis of the beliefs of one of the great scientists of antiquity, Aristotle. Aristotle, you will remember, was a Greek philosopher-scientist who so happened to be the personal tutor of Alexander the Great, of world conquest fame. Though Galileo was also noted for his advances in the construction of telescopes, he was himself the man who discovered that Jupiter had moons and that our own moon did not have a perfectly smooth surface, but had craters and mountain ranges. He also pursued research on motion, especially the motion of free falling bodies. The problem, as Galileo saw it, was that Aristotle’s theory was geared to a world in which the earth was a stationary body with everything else in the universe orbiting the earth. And one of the particulars of Aristotle’s theory was that a falling object’s rate of descent was proportional to its weight. The bigger it is the faster it falls. Galileo reasoned that if he could prove that Aristotle’s particular belief regarding the rate at which bodies fell to the ground was incorrect he could convince scientists that Aristotle’s whole theory of planets and orbiting bodies was wrong, and then prove that the universe did not orbit around the earth. History tells us that Galileo took two different size balls to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa and simultaneously dropped them. When they both struck the ground below at exactly the same time Galileo was ecstatic at having proved Aristotle wrong and having demonstrated in scientific fashion that his own view was correct.

Whether Galileo actually conducted his experiment in the precise fashion I have described or not is still a question. What is true is that he did conduct his experiment, which of course proved his point. But you know something? For centuries after Galileo’s experiment demonstrating that bodies of different sizes all fall at the same rate of acceleration, university professors continued to teach the old theory of Aristotle. And you know why the university professors all over Europe did that? Because it is a given of human nature that people do not like change. Oh, people will change within certain prescribed boundaries, but beyond that they will strongly resist change of any kind.

With that in mind place yourself in Paul’s situation as he writes to the Christians in Rome. He wants to journey to Rome and then to use that city and those churches as a jumping off point to reach West to Spain. First, however, he must take the offering he has spent years preparing for to Jerusalem. But as he writes to the Christians in Rome, most of whom have never met him personally and have heard who knows what about him; he recognizes that they will have a normal and relatively healthy wariness of change. And they have already gone through enough change recently to last a lifetime. So Paul knows they don’t really want anymore change for a while.

I begin reading about events that occurred maybe fifteen or twenty years before Paul’s letter to the Romans was written, from Acts 2.5:

 

5      And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6      Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7      And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8      And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9      Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10    Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11    Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

 

There is valid reason to believe that a considerable number of Jewish men heard Peter’s presentation of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost and trusted Christ. It is also reasonable to suggest that Christianity was successfully planted in a number of cities just a few years later by these same Christians upon returning from Jerusalem, including Rome.

These were Jewish Christians who established the first Roman congregations. And though Gentiles were being reached with the truth it was in Jewish synagogues where these early Roman believers met and it was mostly Jewish Christians who were the early leaders of the congregations. The same edict that forced Aquila and Priscilla out of Rome to Corinth, you remember, where Paul met and teamed up with them to plant the church in Corinth, also forced every other Jewish person out of Rome, which included all of the Jewish Christians.[2] The emperor effectively did that by denying all Jewish people the right to assemble. So, to worship, you had to leave town. And leave town the Jewish people did, including the Jewish Christians. When they returned after the emperor who had banished them from the city died, guess what happened? Two things: First, Gentile Christians had filled the leadership vacuum and moved into positions of spiritual leadership, functioning well in those positions for several years. Next, the congregations had begun to meet in the homes of Gentiles instead of meeting in the Jewish synagogues. Imagine being a pastor who has come back after five years of exile to discover that there is a new man in your old position. Imagine, as well, being a Jewish Christian who was happy to have Gentile believers in the synagogue, but to actually worship in the home of a Gentile took some getting used to!

So you can imagine what these people have been through recently. As if the changes wrought in them by God at their conversions weren’t traumatic enough, the changes that they had to face as a result of governmental decrees were almost too much to bear. On top of that, they now receive the letter delivered by this woman they don’t even know, supposedly written by this man most of them know only by reputation. And his reviews are mixed, to say the least. To this group of Christians who are just trying to learn how to live with each other and love each other again, with this undercurrent of Jewish-Gentile intercultural stress promises to come the apostle known for unsettling every situation he had ever been involved in.

Paul knows what his reputation is, and he knows what these Christians in Rome have gone through generally. So he wants to assure them of the fact that there are certain things about him and his ministry which are totally non-threatening to them. And the most important thing about him that is non-threatening and familiar to them is the gospel which he preaches. Reading Romans 1.1-2, my text for today is Romans 1.2:

 

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,)

 

What Paul wanted his Roman readers to know, and what every preacher of the Gospel should want his audience to know, is that the gospel which he preaches is not new truth. Just as Paul did, I preach a message which was promised long ago by the God of all creation and communicated by two distinct means:

 

First, GOD PROMISED THE GOSPEL BY MEANS OF REVELATION

 

When I speak of revelation in the theological sense I am referring to that which can be known but which cannot be discovered except as God chooses to reveal it to mankind. The Gospel message, which God uses to save men’s souls, is just such revelation. It cannot be discovered by the searchings of man. But it is a message which was promised by God aforetime “by His prophets.”

That phrase “His prophets” is a very unusual phrase in God’s Word. I’m not sure that it is used anywhere else in Scripture. Usually when we think of “prophets” we find the word in phrases like “the Law and the prophets” in which men holding the Mosaic economy office of a prophet and who authored prophetic portions of God’s Word are being referred to. In this phrase I don’t think that’s the case. Here I believe Paul is referring to any of those men who were used by God to give notice in advance, to give pronouncement ahead of time that the Gospel was on its way, the “good news” was coming.

Let’s examine just a few of the men used by God to bring, by revelation, the promise of the Gospel:

First, there is Enoch. You remember Enoch from your reading of Genesis chapter 5. He was the father of Methuselah, the man who lived longer than anyone else in history. Another feature of Enoch’s life was that he began to walk with God from the time his son was born, and then he was not, for God took him. Everyone who has been a Christian any length of time at all remembers Enoch, the man God translated into heaven. But what did Enoch do before he was taken by God? Hebrews 11.5 tells us that he had this testimony, “that he pleased God.” But what do you do to please God? Do you stroll around and act pious and holy? I don’t think so. I am of the opinion that Jude 14 and following is where we are given a clue as to what activities of Enoch pleased God. Reading through verse 24, do you think the context of Jude doesn’t give us some kind of reasonable idea of Enoch’s activities?

 

14    And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

15    To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

16    These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

17    But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

18    How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.

19    These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

20    But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,

21    Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

22    And of some have compassion, making a difference:

23    And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

24    Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

 

Enoch was a prophet of God. What is explicitly stated by Jude is that Enoch predicted, promised afore if you will God’s judgment upon those who are ungodly. But has it ever been that God wanted His men to preach of coming wrath without presenting a way out for those willing to turn from their sins? No. Just as Enoch preached of a coming time of wrath, it fits within the very character of God that his man would also be commissioned to preach about the coming deliverance. Through Enoch was revealed the promise of the Gospel.

Second, there is Noah. Noah was the great-grandson of that great preacher of righteousness Enoch. And though great-granddad was already with the Lord by the time young Noah was born, don’t you think he didn’t hear tales of great-granddad’s preaching throughout the years that he was growing up? We all remember from God’s Word that Noah was the man commissioned by God to build the ark to save himself and his family and all those animals from the destruction of the Flood, but how many of us remember him for what he did while he was building the ark?[3] Second Peter 2.5 specifically refers to Noah as a preacher of righteousness. But I ask you this question: What kind of righteousness did Noah preach about? Did he preach about the kind of righteousness men strive for when they try to do good works in the sight of God and so merit salvation? No. I submit to you that Noah, the preacher of righteousness, must have had for his sermon’s subject matter the righteousness which is by faith. Of course, that is at the very heart of the Gospel. There is no righteousness before God but the righteousness which is by faith. And faith must have an object. But the object of our faith who have the righteousness which is by faith is none other than Jesus Christ, Who had not yet come when Noah preached. So what did Noah do? He did what Enoch did. Since he could not preach a Savior Who had come, he promised a Savior who would come. This is how the Gospel was promised afore. And notice, if you will, that both Enoch and Noah are men described as walking with God. Do you suppose that preaching the Gospel, whether it is a Gospel promised or a Gospel already available, is what walking with God refers to? Something to think about. What we do see is this: We have had the time to examine the lives and ministries of only two men found in the Old Testament. But these two men were prophets of God who did give promise of deliverance to come, who were preachers of a good news not yet on the scene, who in my opinion pointed men to a Savior who had not yet, but Who was promised to, come. No, Paul did not preach a Gospel which was new and unknown to the believers in Rome. As a matter of fact, Paul’s Gospel was a message that would have been understood and greatly appreciated by both Enoch and Noah. For you see, God’s plan of salvation, all the way from the Savior to His sacrifice, is nothing new. It has been God’s plan from the foundation of the world.

 

BUT THERE WAS ANOTHER WAY BY WHICH GOD PROMISED THE GOSPEL WHICH PAUL PREACHED AND WHICH THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS BELIEVED. THE GOSPEL WAS ALSO PROMISED BY MEANS OF INSPIRATION

 

Again there is need of some explanation. By inspiration I do not refer to what men normally mean when they speak of an artist or a musician or even an athlete producing an “inspired” performance or producing an “inspired” work. My reference to inspiration has to do with a verse that is known to many, Second Timothy 3.16. Let’s quote that famous verse on the inspiration of God’s Word, shall we?

 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

 

So we know that when referring to inspiration we are referring to God’s written Word. And that is exactly what Paul is talking about when he writes “in the holy scriptures,” a phrase found nowhere else in the Bible and possibly first coined by Paul for use in this very letter to the Romans.

There are two ways in which the gospel is promised in holy writ, in the Bible:

First, the Gospel was promised by illustration. Specifically, I am referring to what Bible teachers and commentary writers call types. A type is an Old Testament event or sequence of events, or possibly even an object or a person that has such a striking parallel to truths clearly revealed in the New Testament that it could only be that God intended to use the “type” to illustrate the Biblical truth in advance. Such advance hints of truths clearly explained in the New Testament show us that the Gospel was, indeed, promised afore. Remember when Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden and then covered themselves with poison ivy leaves? Or was it fig leaves? Well, anyway, God replaced those fig leaves with animal skins. That is to say, an innocent died so that they could be properly covered. Those animal skins are a type of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that clothes the believer. And do you remember that time when God commanded Abraham to take Isaac, thy son, “thine only son” and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah? Folks, that illustrates one of the most powerful types of God the Father willingly sacrificing His Own Son, obedient unto death. And do you remember Isaac asking his father, “Here is wood and fire, but where is the lamb?” And what did Abraham say to his son? He said, “God will provide Himself a lamb.” And then, what a coincidence (not really), there was caught in a thicket a ram that Abraham sacrificed instead of Isaac. What a type of the Father’s gift of His Son and the Son of God’s willingness to die for His Father. That was the Gospel promised, that is a wonderful type. And then there is the example of Moses. There are so many types of Christ and types of salvation connected with Moses. I will speak of only one. Moses delivered the nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Moses was a type of Christ and Egypt was a type of sin and slavery. And just as Moses delivered Israel from slavery to harsh taskmasters in Egypt, so Jesus Christ delivers the believer from slavery to sin. I could go on about Joseph being rejected by his brothers and spending three days and nights in a pit, going to a Gentile nation to secure for himself a bride and then delivering his brothers. What a type of Christ he is. And there are other examples. But the point made is this: These are not coincidences or freak accidents of history. Since history is His story, God brought about such events to be recorded in Scripture for the purpose of showing us that the Gospel is no new thing. It has always been God’s plan, as recorded in His Word, to bring to pass the Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ saves.

But the Gospel was not promised by illustration only in God’s Word. It was also promised by outright declaration. Genesis chapter 12 contains scriptural record of what is called the Abrahamic Covenant. That’s the contract that God established with Abraham to bring about great blessings. But do you realize that in Galatians chapter 3, where Paul explains that part of the Gospel dealing with having a righteous standing before God, Paul shows that the covenant that God made with Abraham was actually a covenant whose provisions would be fulfilled through Jesus Christ? And how about the Davidic Covenant? God promised that the nation of Israel was going to have a descendant of King David to someday sit on the throne in perpetuity. Well, Who in the world do you think that descendant of David is? It is none other than Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself, Romans 1.3 would somewhat strongly suggest to us. And then there is Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant and Daniel’s prediction of the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem precisely 483 years after permission was given to rebuild the walls around a defeated and conquered Jerusalem. I could go on and on and on about this, but for lack of time. The point to make here is that God openly and clearly declared through Old Testament Scripture that He was going to send a Deliverer to provide deliverance, not only for His Own chosen and elect nation of Israel, but also for the Gentile hordes, as well.

 

I realize that I have moved so rapidly through such a great deal of the Bible that only those of you who have been saved long enough to read your Bible through are somewhat familiar with the passages that I referred to, and quoted, and alluded to. Remember, however, that those who read Paul’s Roman letter had, for the most part, been saved long enough and been exposed to enough Bible preaching to quickly grasp these and other truths suggested by the two phrases in Romans 1.2 that I’ve been dealing with. Just the mention of these two phrases would bring to the Roman Christian’s minds the kind of revelation God brought to mankind through His prophets. And how quickly their minds must have grasped the concept of inspiration that the phrase “in the holy scriptures” would have suggested, even though they had probably never heard the Bible described in that way before.

So Paul’s point was made. He was seeking to bring to Spain, with their help, obviously, a message that was not new. Those of you who know Christ as your personal Savior should realize that you are partaker of nothing new. New to you, perhaps, but not new to God’s plan and stated purpose. God’s intentions to bring a Deliverer and deliverance to sinners were planned from the foundation of the world, and He began to promise such a Deliverer and deliverance from the time the first man sinned. Throughout human history God communicated, through every conceivable means of transmission, what He had planned on accomplishing. And then, in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son to fulfill His promise, to do what He had promised afore by His prophets and in the holy scriptures.

You who are Christians need to realize that when you trusted Jesus Christ you hopped on a bandwagon that started rolling thousands of years ago and will not stop until King Jesus comes to reign on this His earth. You who are not Christians need to realize that what Enoch said some six thousand years ago still holds true. King Jesus is coming and He will execute judgment on those who are ungodly. That’s the reality from which God’s Gospel message and God’s Gospel plan of salvation rescues sinful men and women. The “good news” is that you need not go to Hell. The “good news” is that you can be saved from your sins.

Paul’s intention was to let the Romans know that he wanted to continue in Spain something that God started in some of their lives on the day of Pentecost. Nothing new by any means. Just the old fashioned Gospel that has forever been in the mind of God.

__________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei 4/30/16

[2] Acts 18.2

[3] I highly recommend John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961)

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org