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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Romans: The Greatest Sermon Ever Written
Text:Romans 1:1-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2023-01-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Text: Romans 1:1-7

 

ROMANS: THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN

  1. The Writer

  2. The Content

  3. The Promise

 

  1. Psalm 44: 1, 3

  2. Psalm 73: 8, 9

  3. Psalm 138: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Hymn 61:1-2

  6. Psalm 138: 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: similar, spat, stump, twist, stars

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How is Romans for deep thinkers?  Deep lovers?

  2. How is the Apostle Paul like the Apostle John?  Are you the same?

  3. How is Christianity both old and new?

  4. What question must we ask before “what will you do with Jesus?”

  5. What 5 promises and blessings do we have from the gospel?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved children of God,

The book of Romans is a masterpiece.  There's no denying it.  This is a book like no other, unique, even among other books in the Bible.

As one commentator writes: “Every part of Scripture is profitable, but the writings of Paul have a particular use in this respect: that they lay open the whole system of Scripture, and give us, in one comprehensive view, the whole mind of God.”

The book of Romans is a theological masterpiece.  What we learn about the gospel we learn most clearly here.

We learn the problem: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (chapter 3:23)

We learn how serious the problem is: the wages of sin is death (6:23)

We learn the hopelessness of the problem: there is another law waging was against he law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin (7:23)

We learn the glorious solution, our salvation: God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (5:8)

And we learn the way that this solution can be ours: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (10:9).

 

Because of this, we can live in freedom: there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1)

And we can live in blessed assurance: In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (8:37-39).

The Book of Romans is a theological masterpiece, and those who hunger and thirst for knowledge of the salvation that is ours can feast deeply at this banquet table.

And for those who are more deep lovers than deep thinkers…Romans is for you too.  Because Romans is the most complete description of God’s grace ever put to paper.  It is all grace from beginning to end.  It is grace in the life of the human writer.  It is grace that is the thread throughout the gospel, like a necklace, grace is the thread holding together each bead of theological treasure.  It is grace in what has been done for us, grace in what is being done in us, and grace in what is promised to us, our glorious future with God.

Truly the book of

ROMANS(:) is THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN.  This afternoon, as we begin our series, we will examine

  1. The Writer

  2. The Content, and finally

  3. The Promise

 

ROMANS, THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN: The Writer

It was typical, the days when Romans was written, for the author of the letter to begin with his or her name.  We sign our letters at the end, they would sign them at the beginning.

And we see this with many letters in the New Testament:

James - James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ

1 Peter - Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ

2 John - The Elder, to the elect lady

Jude - Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ

But when Paul introduces himself…there’s something different.  Something truly wonderful.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter, is so similar to the Apostle John in his account of the gospel.

A theme that comes through John is the theme of love.  The love that Jesus Christ has for His people, and also, interestingly, the title that the Apostle John gives himself - the disciple whom Jesus loved.  

While it is possible that this is John saying that he was the “favorite disciple,” this is unlikely, as it carries with it an arrogance that is inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ.  What many other preachers and commentators have concluded is that this isn’t ARROGANCE, but instead, INTENSE HUMILITY and AWE and WONDER.

This was John saying - “SOMEHOW, despite all my sins and my weaknesses, despite my stubbornness and hard-heartedness, despite EVERYTHING THAT I AM…Jesus loves me.”  I am someone who Jesus loved.  John recognized that and never got over it.

And this is what we see in the Apostle Paul as well, in Romans as well as in his other letters:  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

In our reading, we saw this truth expounded, 1 Corinthians 15, starting at verse 8 - Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul NEVER FORGOT who he was before Jesus got a hold of him.

The Apostle Paul answered the most important question: what will you do with Jesus?

And by the grace of God, Paul got a second chance to answer that question.

Because, when he was first asked the question, when he first encountered Jesus Christ, Paul responded in hatred and in persecution.  But then, a second chance - and that’s what grace is, a second chance, a third chance, a 490th chance, given to us by God.  The Apostle Paul experienced grace on the road to Damascus when he experienced Jesus on the road to Damascus.

I am Jesus - whom you are persecuting.

What are you going to do with me Paul?

You may hate me, and attack and kill those who confess my name, but I love you Paul.  I love you, and my love is eternal.  Do you believe this?

AND HE DID.  Paul DID believe it.  God’s grace found fertile soil in Paul’s heart and all the fervour and mania and obsession that Paul had once put into persecuting the church, he then put into building up the church.  He put all of that into spreading the gospel.

You see, Paul had a passion without knowledge when he was a persecutor.

After his eyes were enlightened, after his heart was made aware of Jesus Christ and His eternal love, Paul’s passion was redirected.

 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Can you sense, behind each one of these words, this kind of immense joy.

Paul, as he writes this most glorious sermon, begins by saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”

But he asks this question in the opposite way that we have heard it asked.

About 10 years ago now, I was working at a fruit and vegetable market and a woman came into the store.  I greeted her like all the other customers, I told her what our special produce was for that week.  She turned and stared at me, walking slowly over to the counter, and looking me dead in the eyes, with unrestrained contempt, spat these words at me: Don’t you know who I am?

I...did not.

She was the wife of the owner, and thought that she deserved more respect and a special greeting than that of the lowly customers.

But that’s not how Paul addresses the church at Rome.  Instead, it is, quite the opposite.

Paul is saying, “don’t you know who I am?  I’m Paul - your former enemy.  I’m the one who persecuted you violently, trying to destroy you…I’m a former blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent…BUT GOD”

The gospel in two words.  The grace of God.  The overwhelming, never-ending endlessly pursuing grace of God.

“Don’t you know who I am?  I’m the one who is uniquely qualified to tell you about grace.  To tell you about the gospel.  I wasn’t born into it, I know how hard it is to accept grace.  But I saw firsthand the power and the love and the waves of grace that crashed against me, again and again, softening my heart of stone, opening my eyes, opening my ears, opening my heart.”

There is both humility and dignity in Paul’s address.  And what Paul is, we are too.

We were former enemies of God…born with the stain of original sin.  Born with a nature that hates God and our neighbour.

We were nobodies.  Worse than nobodies!  Insolent opponents.  But now…we are, as we heard this morning, dearly beloved children of God.  Though not apostles, we are servants of Christ Jesus, called to believe, set apart for the gospel of God.  We are born as hateful nobodies, but now we have the status of princes and princesses in the greatest royal family in the universe.

And how?  What is the reason for this amazing change?  It’s the gospel.  That message of hope and love and grace that is simple enough for a child to understand, and deep enough for the oldest saint to still wonder at.  The gospel of Jesus Christ, and nothing else, forms the content of this greatest sermon.  Our second point.

What is the content of this greatest sermon?  Purely and simply, it is the gospel.

This is what Paul gives here at the beginning.  Like a thesis statement at the beginning of a research paper, this is the gospel in a nutshell, that over the next 7000 words, Paul expands into a glorious shining beacon of hope.

Let’s read the nutshell:

The gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations.

There is so much here, and I am very glad that we have several weeks ahead of us to unpack all of this, but let me, like Paul, give an overview here of what is to come.

The gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures

The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Messiah, the bloodstained cross, the tomb with the stone rolled away…the gospel is something old and yet something new.

It is old in that Christianity is not a new religion, but rather the fulfillment of the first religion, the fulfillment of the one true religion that began in the beginning.  The religion that begins with: In the beginning God.

And yet it IS new - I am going to do something in your day that you would not believe if told and behold I am doing a new thing and again, behold the former things have come to pass and new things I now declare.

The gospel of God was something planned since before the beginning promised already to a newly sinful Adam and Eve in the Garden.

  • Jesus Christ was the promised descendant of Adam and Eve who would crush the head of the serpent.

  • Jesus Christ was the prophet greater than Moses

  • Jesus Christ was the ruler who would come out of the tribe of Judah

  • Jesus Christ was the king who would ride on a donkey

  • Jesus Christ was the child born of a virgin

  • Jesus Christ was the shoot from the stump of Jesse

The entire Old Testament was preparing God’s people for the arrival of the Messiah.  The path in the wilderness was clear for Him to march forth in history.

And then He did.  Then He came, breaking the timeline of history in half.  Into BC - before Christ, and AD - Anno Domini, the year of our Lord.

No matter how the culture tries to erase this, by changing up the letters - BCE: before common era and CE: common era…history literally revolves around the new thing that God did.  The history of the world revolves around the gospel.

The gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son

It’s all about Jesus.  History revolves around Him, the gospel is about Him.  It’s not about you.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the gospel of you.

The gospel is FOR YOU, make no mistake, but it’s not ABOUT YOU.  It’s about HIM.  The most important question FOR YOU is the question ABOUT HIM.

What will you do with Jesus?

It’s all about Him, and is has been since the very beginning.

 

And let us be clear about Jesus Christ our Lord.

The subject of the gospel, just like the gospel itself, is someone old and new.

He took on human flesh, descended from David, born of the Virgin Mary.  He was new life, conceived in the womb of Mary, but this is not when He BEGAN TO EXIST.

The Son of David, the Son of God is also GOD THE SON who has existed eternally.  There was never a time when He was not.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have always existed.  From before there was time.  And though we refer to God the Son as BEGOTTEN in our creed, this does not mean that God the Father chose, at some point before time, to beget God the Son.  Jesus Christ never CAME INTO EXISTENCE, He is the the One by which existence itself holds together.

He was descended from David according to the flesh - King Jesus was the promised descendant of King David who would reign in power and holiness forever, causing all nations to bow before Him, riding out to conquer His enemies and rule in justice.

 

This Jesus Christ, our Lord, is completely human.  A human baby, born in the usual way for the most unique and unusual purpose.

But this Jesus Christ, our Lord, is also completely God.

He was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead.

This does not mean, as those who foolishly twist Scripture, that Jesus was simply a man who was PROMOTED TO DIVINITY.  But rather, the key words here are “IN POWER.”

Jesus Christ, who was and remains true God, remained true God all throughout His incarnation.  All throughout His earthly ministry.  But He was God CONCEALED.  His glory was concealed from those around Him.  He came in humility and meekness.  He came as the faithful servant of Yahweh, obedient to the point of death.  He was the perfect man, living in His human nature, bearing the wrath of God against sin by the power of His divine nature.  Living the perfect life, dying the perfect atoning death.

But then, bursting forth, on that day that the LORD has made, resurrection Sunday, bursting forth in power and glory, Jesus Christ revealed His glory and His divinity to all those on earth, He revealed His power, His resurrection proving His victory over death and the grave, His victory over Satan and his demons.

He was God the Son in humility and obedience, and now He is God the Son in glory and power and victory, shining brighter than the sun.  He was both sacrifice and priest and is now the reigning glorious king.

THIS IS THE GOSPEL.

In AD 1, God came into our darkness, through His Son.  Into a world where there was nothing but sin and hopelessness.  The Son of God, the light of the world, shone into our darkness and death.

He entered our life, becoming everything we are, except for sin.  Becoming a man among men, weak and suffering.  Suffering every day of His life, but especially in His death. He bore our sins and with our sins He sank into death.  But by the power of the Holy Spirit, He rose again from the dead.  THIS IS THE GOSPEL and it is glorious.

But what now, you may ask?  This was AD 1 to AD 33.  It is now AD 2022.  2000 years after the gospel.  This may be the greatest STORY ever told, but unless it affects us here today, it is not and cannot be the greatest SERMON ever written.  But here’s the truth - on the foundation of the greatest story ever told comes the sweetest promises ever spoken.  Our final point.

Here at the end, we return to the beginning.  The question that the Apostle Paul had to answer: what will you do with Jesus?

Here He is - true Son of Man, true Son of God…the One who lived and died for your salvation…what will you do with Him?

But before we answer this question, lest we seem too Arminian - it’s up to YOU, make your choice, heaven or hell, Satan has voted, God has voted, you must vote now to break the tie - that’s HERESY - before we see what we will do with Jesus, we must examine what Jesus has done with us!

It’s all grace, and it’s all GOD.  Sovereign grace at work in our lives.

What is the purpose of the gospel, according to Romans 1?

Why did Jesus do all of this?

Verse 5 - through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

He did all of this, all the living and all the dying for these 5 reasons:

  1. That we might receive grace

  2. That we might live in the obedience of faith

  3. That His name might be magnified

  4. That we would belong

  5. That we would be made holy

Let’s go through them together now before we close this afternoon.

 

The gospel exists, Jesus Christ came into this world that we might receive grace.  Grace, as we heard earlier, is the thread throughout this greatest of sermons by Paul.

Grace, receiving what we do not deserve.  Receiving what Jesus Christ Himself deserves.  We are beloved in The Beloved.  In God’s beloved Son, because of His beloved Son, we are beloved sons and daughters.  Born as nothing, adopted into the greatest royal family in the universe.  This is grace.

And in grace are wrapped up the wonderful concepts and blessings of strength and identity, of peace and joy, of belonging and family.  More on grace throughout this series, and in every single sermon I ever preach.

 

Secondly, the gospel exists, Jesus Christ came into this world that we might live in the obedience of faith.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith.  It is grace that is given to us, and faith is one of the firstfruits of God’s grace.  Faith too is a gift, and when we believe in God…not just believing that He exists, but believing everything He is, believing everything that He has promised us, believing that He really and truly loves us until the stars burn out…when we believe in everything that He is and everything that He has done for us…that faith will work itself out in faithful, thankful living.  Obedience.  If God loves us and wants what is best for us, if He is all loving and all wise…then we should trust that His commandments are loving and wise.  That they are what is best for us.

Thirdly, the gospel exists for the sake of the glory of God’s name.  To magnify Him.  Now, how does that help us?  Isn’t that rather prideful and selfish of God to magnify His own name?  Would that not be ego-mania if we did it?

Well, to answer that last question first, yes, of course it would be ego-mania if we did it.  But you know the difference?  It’s ego-mania because we don’t deserve that kind of glory.  But God does!

When YOU have created everything out of nothing, when you have sacrificed your life for your enemies so that you can spend an eternity showering them with riches and pleasures beyond their wildest dreams, then we can talk.  Then, maybe, you deserve some glory for your name too.

It is fair that God, someone who is so far beyond us, so different than us, so unique in His perfections gets the glory that is due His name.

But it’s more than just that.  It’s more than FAIR that the gospel is for the sake of the glory of God’s name.

Please turn with me ahead in Romans to chapter 10.  Romans 10:13 - For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It is THE MOST LOVING THING for God to exalt and spread His name throughout the earth, because it is BY THAT VERY NAME that the nations are saved.  For Him NOT to spread and exalt His name, OUR ONLY HOPE OF SALVATION, would be the action of a very unloving God indeed.

 

Fourthly, Jesus Christ came that we might BELONG.

There is this anxiety that we all feel at times, this insecurity that we don’t BELONG.  Everyone else is supposed to be here, everyone else is welcomed in, in to the congregation, in to their families, but I’m the odd one out.  One day, people are going to smarten up, realize I don’t belong, and I’ll be left out.  We all have some level of this.

And we have this because we see our sins, we see how flawed we are, and we don’t see this in others.  If you see clearly, with the eyes of faith, then you are the worst sinner you know.  And this is good in the sense that it makes you aware of your need for a Saviour, but it can go too far as well.  If your awareness of your sin makes you HIDE from your Saviour instead of running to Him, if your awareness of your sin makes you think the cross isn’t for you, and that heaven isn’t for you…then you need to re-examine grace.  The grace of the gospel tells you that you belong.  You belong in God’s family, not because of who you are, but because who He is.  He has become your Father through Jesus Christ, and His arms are open wide.  He sees your sin, and raises you His Son.  YOU BELONG.  He sees your sin, and raises you His Son.  YOU BELONG.

 

And finally, the gospel exists, Jesus Christ came, that we may be made holy.  We are called to be saints.

We ALREADY BELONG, we do not have to be a certain level of holy for God to love us, and we should be thankful for this.  We are already saints in that we have been given the holiness of Jesus Christ…but it’s more than that.  We are HOLY ALREADY, but we are also still sinful.  But the promise of the gospel tells us that this will not be the case forever.  That there will not be two competing natures inside of us, doing battle against each other, filling us with guilt and shame when we sin, tainting all our good works.  But one day, the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will be finished His work in you.  Your spiritual holy, godly nature will be completely alive, and your fleshly, sinful, human nature will be completely dead.  The holiness of Christ on the outside will match your own holiness on the inside and there will finally be peace in your heart.

No more struggle, no more sadness, no more brokenness or pain, but all will be well.  Within yourself, between you and your neighbour, and, most importantly, between you and your God.

This is the gospel, that which isn’t about you, but is for you, that which was given to us by the chief of sinners, that we might find life in the One who died for us.   This is the greatest story ever told, the greatest letter ever written, the greatest sermon ever preached.  And we’ve only just begun.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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