(from a transcript of a sermon preached at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to the first chapter of the book of Romans. Last week, I gave some introductory comments on the book and then read through the entire book. In the months to come, the Lord willing, I will be going sentence-by-sentence through the book of Romans. The reason I say "sentence-by-sentence" rather than "verse-by-verse" is that the verse divisions are artificial, and we shouldn't use these divisions to dictate how we approach these passages. Chapters and verses are very helpful in finding a place within the epistle, but we need to always keep in mind that they are man-made divisions.
Okay, now to the book of Romans. Let's read the first sentence, which is verses one through seven:
Romans 1: (1) Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God, (2) which He promised before through His prophets in [the] holy Scriptures, (3) concerning His Son who came of the seed of David according to flesh, (4) who was marked out [the] Son of God in power, according to [the] Spirit of holiness, by [the] resurrection of [the] dead, Jesus Christ our Lord; (5) by whom we received grace and apostleship to obedience of faith among all the nations, for His name's sake, (6) among whom are you also, called-out [ones] of Jesus Christ; (7) to all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called-out saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
The first word is "Paul," and I already gave some information on Paul the man last week. We then see that he calls himself "a slave of Jesus Christ." The Greek word for "slave" is DOO-los. This isn't just any kind of slave. It is a BONDslave. Now what is the difference between a bondslave and another kind of slave? A BONDslave is one whose debt has already been paid. He's not working as a slave to pay off a debt. Let's turn back to the Old Testament to see an example of this. Look at Deuteronomy 15:12-17:
Deuteronomy 15: (12) If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. (13) And when you send him out free from you, you shall not let him go away empty. (14) You shall richly adorn him from your flock, and from your threshing floor, and from your winepress, with that which Jehovah your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. (15) And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah your God redeemed you. On account of this I command you this thing today. (16) And it shall be, if he says to you, I will not go out from you, because he loves you and your house, because [it was] good for him with you; (17) then you shall take an awl, and shall put [it] through his ear, and through the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And you shall do so to your slave-girl also.
What an awesome picture of redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ! In the first part of this chapter, we see that God commanded that every seven years, there was to be a release, meaning that all debts were to be relieved. If a neighbor still owed you money, then the debt was totally forgiven in the seventh year, and your neighbor owed you no more money. And if someone has been your slave, you are to let that slave go free in the seventh year. His debt has been forgiven. Was his debt forgiven based on anything he did? Was his debt forgiven based on his hard work for his master? No! His debt was forgiven because of the seventh year, which typifies Christ. We had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with paying the debt that we owed to God's law and justice. We were slaves to sin and could do nothing to pay the penalty that our sins deserved. But God, who is rich in mercy, gave us the seventh year, the sabbath year, in Christ, whereby all our debts were paid at the cross. They were TOTALLY FORGIVEN at the cross. NOTHING was left for us to pay. Praise God! Do you see the utter blasphemy of those who would say that Christ paid the debt for everyone without exception yet some for whom Christ paid the debt go to hell and again pay the debt? They're saying that Christ's work on the cross was not TOTAL FORGIVENESS. They're saying that Christ did not TOTALLY PAY THE DEBT. They say that there's still some debt left to pay. These people are as lost as the ones who scorn even the idea of sin and death. But we who are God's people, who are God's bondslaves, know with absolute certainty that Christ paid the debt in full on the cross. He is our sabbath rest.
Now look at what happens with some of the slaves who have had their debt paid in verses 16 and 17. Some of these slaves want to continue serving their master, even after their debt has been paid! These people are bondslaves. They serve their master not out of any obligation to repay a debt, but out of love for their master who has forgiven all their debt. And not only do they serve their master out of love, but they bear an outward mark of that devotion. Each one has a hole in his ear that shows everyone that he is a bondslave. The hole in their ear comes from an awl, which is a pointed metal tool. The slave's ear was put up against a wooden door, and the awl was hammered through the ear into the door. I believe that this is a symbol of being crucified with Christ and bearing in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus, as Paul says in Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 4:10.
The bondslave is a servant who serves out of a love for the one who forgave his debt. This is how Paul describes himself in Romans 1:1. He is a bondslave of Christ. Christ has forgiven his debt, and he is a devoted slave of Christ for the rest of his life. This is a description of each one of God's people. We are all bondslaves of Christ. We are not working to be forgiven; we are working because we have already been forgiven.
The next phrase Paul uses to describe himself is "a called apostle." Now what is an apostle? The word means "messenger." And when we see how the word is used in the New Testament, we see that it was a special calling to a certain number of people in the early New Testament church. Let's look at some of the passages. The first time the word "apostle" is used in the Bible is in Matthew 10:2. Let's turn over there and read verses 1 and 2:
Matthew 10: (1) And having called His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, so as to cast out, and to heal every disease and every weakness of body. (2) And the names of the twelve apostles are these: First, Simon who is called Peter and his brother Andrew, James the [son] of Zebedee and his brother John,
Here, the words "disciples" and "apostles" are used interchangeably. So we know that the 12 disciples of Christ were apostles. They were the ones who were called of Christ to preach the gospel. Now turn over to Acts 1. Let's first read verses 1 and 2:
Acts 1: (1) Indeed, O Theophilus, I made the first report concerning all things which Jesus began both to do and to teach, (2) until the day He was taken up, having given directions to the apostles whom He elected, through [the] Holy Spirit,
Again, this is speaking of the disciples. Now over to verses 21 through 26:
Acts 1: (21) Therefore, [it is] right [that] men being together with us all [the] time in which the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, (22) beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken from us, one of these to become a witness of His resurrection with us. (23) And they set out two: Joseph, he being called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. (24) And having prayed, they said, You, Lord, knower of all hearts, show which one You chose from these two, (25) to take the share of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas fell, to go to [his] own place. (26) And they gave their lots. And the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
We can see clearly that the apostles were the disciples, since it actually gives us a number of them, which was eleven, since Judas was gone. The eleven apostles then cast lots, and Matthias became the twelfth apostle. Paul then joined the apostles in Acts 9, and here in Romans, as well as in other epistles, he leaves no doubt that he is an apostle. The apostles were specially chosen of Christ to be the instruments of the rapid spread of the gospel after Christ's death. The apostles were given specific miraculous works to show their apostleship, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:12. And in Ephesians 4:11, apostles are distinguished from prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
Paul calls himself "a CALLED apostle," meaning that God specifically chose and called him to be one of the special messengers of the gospel. This gets into the third phrase Paul uses to describe himself, which is "separated to the gospel of God." This actually goes with the previous phrase. Paul was separated and called specifically to be an apostle. The separation aspect was one that happened before he was ever born. Turn over to Galatians 1:15-16:
Galatians 1: (15) But when God was pleased, He having separated me from my mother's belly, and having called [me] through His grace, (16) to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations, immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood,
Notice the order: separation, calling, and preaching. This reminds us of Jeremiah, doesn't it? Turn to Jeremiah 1:4-5:
Jeremiah 1: (4) Then the Word of Jehovah was to me, saying, (5) I knew you before I formed you in the belly; and before you came out of the womb, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah was consecrated and appointed for a specific task. He, too, was "separated to the gospel of God." Now even though none of us in today's age are called to be apostles, we who are God's people have been separated and called, consecrated and appointed. God has prepared what we would do from the foundation of the world. For some, it is to preach the gospel to a congregation. For some, it is to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For some, it is to serve the needy. For some, it is to labor with one's hands to the glory of God. We have all been called and separated to be servants of the Most High God.
On to verse 2 of Romans 1:
Romans 1: (2) which He promised before through His prophets in [the] holy Scriptures,
Paul continues his sentence by expanding on "the gospel of God." He says that God's gospel promise existed even in the Old Testament, and this gospel was preached by the prophets. The gospel was not something that just appeared in the New Testament. It was the same gospel that had been believed and preached throughout history. And what was this gospel about? Verse 3 says:
Romans 1: (3) concerning His Son who came of the seed of David according to flesh,
The Old Testament prophets preached Christ. Look at John 8:56:
John 8: (56) Your father Abraham leaped for joy that he should see My day, and he saw, and rejoiced.
Abraham knew about Christ, who wasn't even going to be born for thousands of years? He sure did. And not only did Abraham KNOW about Christ, he REJOICED when he looked toward the day of Christ. What was he rejoicing about? The only thing he could have been rejoicing about was that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come to establish a righteousness that ensured the salvation of all whom He represented. Abraham believed God's promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Galatians 3:8 says that God preached the gospel to Abraham. We'll get more into what Abraham believed when we get into Romans 4, the Lord willing. And we could spend all kinds of time going through all the Messianic passages in Psalms and Isaiah and Jeremiah. The prophets knew and believed and preached the gospel. Don't let anyone tell you that the Old Testament saints were ignorant of the gospel. The gospel is preached throughout the Old Testament. And at the end of Romans 1:2, we see that the Old Testament is the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. They are just as inspired and perfect and holy as the New Testament.
Notice something else in verse 3. Paul says that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is affirming the deity and humanity of Christ. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is the seed of David and the Son of God. He is the only person who has ever existed who has two natures - a divine nature and a human nature. Anyone who denies the humanity of Christ is lost. Anyone who denies the deity of Christ is lost. The PERSON of Christ is an essential gospel doctrine, as we saw in the series on the gospel. If Christ is not the God-man mediator, then the gospel means nothing.
And this goes right into verse 4. Paul again affirms the deity of Christ and says that Christ was "marked out" as such "with power." Jesus Christ was distinguished from all others, as evidenced by His works and His gospel. And this marking out with power was according to the Holy Spirit. So in verses 3 and 4, we have the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let's turn to some verses that show the Holy Spirit's role in the life of Christ. Matthew 1:18-20:
Matthew 1: (18) And the birth of Jesus Christ was this way (for His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph) before the coming together of them, she was found having [babe] in womb by [the] Holy Spirit. (19) But her husband [to be], Joseph, being just, and not willing to make her a public example, he purposed to put her away secretly. (20) And [as] he [was] thinking about these things, behold, an angel of [the] Lord was seen by him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife. For that in her is generated by [the] Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3:11, 16-17:
Matthew 3: (11) I indeed baptize you in water to repentance; but He who is coming after me is stronger than me, of whom I am not able to lift the sandals. He will baptize you in [the] Holy Spirit and fire, ... (16) And having been baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water. And, behold! The heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God coming down as a dove, and coming upon Him. (17) And behold! A voice out of the heaven saying, This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I have been delighting.
Matthew 4: (1) Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit, to be tempted by the Devil.
Matthew 12: (28) But if I cast out the demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come on you.
Romans 8: (11) But if the Spirit of the [One] having raised Jesus from [the] dead dwells in you, the [One] having raised the Christ from [the] dead will also make your mortal bodies live through the indwelling of His Spirit in you.
Hebrews 9: (14) by how much more the blood of Christ (who through [the] eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God), will purify your conscience from dead works, to serve [the] living God!
1 Peter 3:18:
1 Peter 3:18 Because even Christ once suffered concerning sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; indeed being put to death in [the] flesh, but made alive in the Spirit;
And we saw in some of these verses what Paul mentions in the latter half of Romans 1:4, which is that the Spirit was instrumental in the resurrection. From how the sentence is constructed, we see that the "marking out" was by the resurrection. But if you just stop at the fact that he rose from the dead, you're missing the point. The resurrection showed that God was satisfied with the work of Christ. Christ was marked out with power as the satisfier of law and justice. Paul said in Romans 4:25 that Christ was raised because of our justification. Justice had been satisfied, and God raised Christ by the Holy Spirit because of this satisfaction. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that if Christ is not risen, then the preaching of the gospel is useless and faith in Christ is useless. That's how important the resurrection is. There's not a single regenerate person who believes that Christ did not rise from the dead.
The last part of verse Romans 1:4 actually belongs with verse 5, so it should read, "Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we received grace ..." Paul states that Jesus Christ is the Lord. The Greek word for "Lord" is KOO-ree-oss, which means "sovereign controller." Later in Romans, chapter 10 verse 9, to be exact, Paul says that whoever confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised Him from the dead shall be saved. Paul included both of these things in verse 4 of our text - both the resurrection and the Lordship of Christ. We just went over the resurrection piece and why it is so essential. Let's briefly go over confessing the Lordship of Christ. Now we know that this doesn't mean just mouthing the words. There are many who say Jesus is Lord who don't know the true Jesus and really do not believe that the true Jesus is Lord. One who confesses that Jesus is LORD means that he believes that Jesus is the sovereign controller of all. So that eliminates everyone who says that Jesus did all he could do on the cross by dying for everyone and wants everyone to be saved, and now it's up to the sinner to make Jesus happy. So there go the Arminians, every single one of them. Paul, and ALL Christians, separate themselves from the Arminians by confessing that Jesus is Lord. The Lord willing, we'll go into this in more detail when we get to Romans 10.
Now on to verse 5 of Romans 1:
Romans 1: (5 ) by whom we received grace and apostleship to obedience of faith among all the nations, for His name's sake,
"By whom" means "by Jesus Christ the Lord". So by Jesus Christ the Lord, we received grace and apostleship. Here, Paul speaks of one thing that is common to all believers and one thing that was particular to just a few. First, GRACE. This is common to all believers. All believers have received grace by Jesus Christ the Lord. "Grace" is showing favor to someone who does not deserve it. Jesus Christ, when He died for us, was loving the unlovable. All we deserved was wrath and condemnation, and yet Jesus Christ took that wrath and condemnation that we deserved and took it all upon himself and bore the just punishment that we deserved. This was an act of pure, perfect grace. And we receive that grace when God saves us. It is a totally passive thing as it regards the humans who are the objects of that grace. Grace isn't something that is offered for people to take. It is something that is UNILATERALLY and UNCONDITIONALLY BESTOWED on the recipient. God's elect have to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to obtain grace. In fact, the moment before grace is bestowed, God's elect are enemies of God and children of wrath. But God, through Jesus Christ, gives that grace to the rotten sinner and drags that sinner to Himself. This is grace. Any other system in which God needs man's cooperation is not grace but works. If God needs man's cooperation, then when God saves that person, He would be doing it out of debt, not out of grace. He would OWE salvation to that man, since that man did his part. And this is utter, damnable blasphemy.
Second, APOSTLESHIP. This was common to only a few in the early New Testament church. This apostleship was through Jesus Christ the Lord. The thing we need to get out of this is that it is not just regeneration that is bestowed through Jesus Christ the Lord. ALL the gifts that are given to believers are manifestations of the grace of God. I mentioned some of the callings earlier. Each one of these is a manifestation of the grace of God.
The next phrase is "to obedience of faith." This isn't talking about obeying God's commandments out of faith, although that's true. It's talking about faith being an obedient act. In Romans 10:16, Paul talks about obeying the gospel; that is, believing the gospel by faith. This makes sense when we see this phrase in its context. Look what's before and after this phrase: "APOSTLESHIP to obedience of faith AMONG ALL THE NATIONS." This shows that Paul is not talking about HIS OWN obedience of faith; he's talking about those who BELIEVE the gospel by faith among the nations. Paul, one of the special messengers of the gospel, was sent to preach the gospel to all the nations, and those elect in all the nations would COME TO OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. They would obey the gospel. "Among all the nations" means that the gospel was not to be preached exclusively to the Jews, but it should be preached to both Jews and Gentiles, and people among all nations would believe. This is the mystery about which Paul speaks in Ephesians 3. Let's turn over there and read verses 3 through 8.
Ephesians 3: (3) that by revelation He made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief, (4) by the reading of which you are able to realize my understanding in the mystery of Christ, (5) which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations, as now it was revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in [the] Spirit, (6) [for] the nations to be joint-heirs, and a joint-body and joint-sharers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, (7) of which I was made a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me, according to the working of His power. (8) This grace was given to me, [I being] less than the least of all the saints, to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations,
Paul proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles who believed were joint-heirs in the gospel with the believing Jews.
Back to Romans 1:5. The last phrase is "for His name's sake." Why was the gospel being preached to the nations and the elect among the nations were believing that gospel? Was it so Paul could be praised for his persuasive words? Was it so the ones who believed could brag that they came to Christ? No. It was FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE. God saves His people for HIS OWN GLORY. And anyone who DOES NOT give God all the glory for his salvation has not truly been saved. God glorifies Himself in the hearts of sinners when He saves them. His Name is exalted when His people believe the gospel of salvation conditioned solely on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of His Son. As we have seen before, God is jealous for His name. God said in Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 that he will not give his glory to another. In Ezekiel 36, right after God says that He will sprinkle clean waters on the house of Israel and give them a new heart and a new spirit, He says in verse 32, "Let it be known to you that I am not doing this for your sake." In verse 21, He gives the reason why He will do this. God says, "But I had pity for My holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations." In Psalm 115:1, the Psalmist says:
Psalm 115: (1) Not to us, O Jehovah, not to us, but to YOUR name give glory; on account of Your mercy, on account of Your truth.
We do not get any glory in salvation. God saved us for His name's sake alone. Our faith does not make the difference between heaven and hell; it is the work of Christ ALONE that makes the only difference.
Verses 6 and 7 speak of those to whom this book was originally written.
Romans 1: (6) among whom are you also, called-out [ones] of Jesus Christ; (7) to all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called-out saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
He first says that they are among the nations who obeyed the gospel. He then says that they are the called-out ones of Jesus Christ. The word for "called-out" is the same word that's used in verse 1 where Paul described himself as a "CALLED apostle." The Greek word does denote a "calling out" from one thing into another thing. These believing Romans were CALLED OUT of darkness into light. They were CALLED OUT of false religion into worship of the true and living God. They were CALLED OUT of the world and the false church to be SEPARATE from them. We see an example of a calling out in 2 Corinthians 6:17, when God says "Come out from among them and be separate." We also see an example of a calling out in Revelation 18:4 when God says, "My people, come out of her, that you may not share in her sins." And you know what? Everyone who is called out comes out. There's no one who resists God's will and stays behind. They ALL come out. And they don't come out because they didn't like the color of the meeting house. They came out because of JESUS CHRIST. They are the called-out ones OF JESUS CHRIST. The reason they came out of false religion is because God caused them to recognize the false doctrine that their old religion was teaching. And they recognized it because they believed that the work of Christ ALONE demands and ensures the salvation of everyone whom Christ represented.
In verse 7, Paul shows where his initial readership was located, which is in Rome. Romans 16:5 would indicate that there was not just one church but several in Rome. Then he describes them with two more phrases. The first is "beloved of God." He is saying that these believers in Rome were people whom God loved. Now a lot could be said about the particular love of God, and I need to finish up here, so I will just give you something to think about. If God loved everyone, then what kind of sense is Paul making when he calls the believers at Rome "beloved of God"? Wouldn't EVERYBODY IN THE WHOLE WORLD be "beloved of God?" Do you think Paul ever called the unregenerate "beloved of God?" Of course not. God's love is PARTICULAR. He loves His own, and He hates the rest. He blesses His own, and He curses the rest. Paul says that these Romans are loved by God. This means that he is judging them to be regenerate. He is speaking peace to them.
The second phrase is "called-out saints." We've already gone over "called-out." The word "saints" ties right into "called-out." SAINTS are SANCTIFIED ONES. And SANCTIFIED ONES are HOLY ONES. And HOLY ONES are SEPARATED ONES. Do you see the connection? Now - did we make ourselves saints? No. We were legally constituted holy by the imputed righteousness of Christ. We are PERFECT in the eyes of God's law and justice. Now - can we make ourselves more saints than we already are? Of course not. If we are holy and without blame, then one cannot improve on perfection. Now some would like you to believe that there are grades of saints, like a Grade A saint, a Grade B saint, and so on. But this is just a bunch of nonsense. Every Christian is as holy, as sanctified, as righteous, as perfect, as every other Christian. And notice one more thing about this: Remember when I talked about Rome being the birthplace of Roman Catholicism? Well, this smashes the Roman Catholic notion of sainthood, doesn't it? The Roman Catholics believe that only people who have personally reached a level of holiness higher than all the other so-called "regular" Christians are to be called saints. But what does Paul say? He says, "to all those who are in Rome ... called-out saints." ALL CHRISTIANS are saints.
In the last part of verse 7, we see Paul speaking peace to the Roman believers. We've gone over grace, and I'll briefly go over peace. Peace is harmony. It is the opposite of war or enmity. Christians have peace with God through the righteousness of Christ, and they speak peace to their brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a union between God and His people, and there is a union between God's people themselves. Once we were at war with God and His people, and now we are at peace. In Galatians 6:14-16, Paul specifies the only standard of peace, which is that God's people do not boast in ANYTHING except Christ. This means that they do not think that ANYTHING they did or do makes the difference between heaven and hell; instead, they believe that it is the work of Christ ALONE that makes the difference. Paul says that "as many as shall walk by THIS RULE, peace and mercy be on them." If they do not walk by THIS RULE, there is no peace and mercy. So when Paul speaks peace to the Romans, he is saying that they are ones who walk by THIS RULE.
And finally, this grace and peace comes from God. Paul mentions God the Father and God the Son as the sources of this grace and peace. There is grace and peace nowhere else but in God through Christ. There are many false graces and peaces, but the only true grace and peace comes from God, who causes us to believe the good news of grace and peace - that peace between God and His elect has been established by the gracious work of Jesus Christ on behalf of His people. Amen.