A Final Summary of the Book of Romans (Romans Sermon 120 of 120)
November 19, 2006 | Andrew Davis
Book Overviews, The Gospel as the Power of God
Romans in Church History
Some time ago, I received a tape, which I really enjoyed, from John MacArthur’s ministry called "Jet Tour Through the Book of Revelation." And he took the hearers through 22 chapters of Revelation in one hour. You're going to get a jet tour of the Book of Romans today. And I don't know how in the world I'm going to do it, but I've asked God for help and grace. The thing that's amazing is the Book of Romans is itself a synopsis of Paul's doctrine; that synopsis has unfolded now into this, the 120th sermon that I've preached on Romans. Far more could have been preached, have been preached in church history on Romans.
It's rich, and now we're taking a synopsis and folding it back down into one sermon. But there's incredible value for all of us that our hearts would be kindled a fresh in the cross of Jesus Christ, that we would see the lavish promises that are ours in Christ, that we would be filled with joy and thankfulness at what God has done, that we would look again into the mirror of God's word and find out what we really were apart from Christ, just how bad it was. And having been reminded, we're not left to languish in there in despair, but rather are lifted up to the very heights, into the very presence of God by His promises and by His provision in Christ. That's what's in front of us today.
Augustine and Romans
John McArthur said that Romans has the ability to strip you bare and then clothe you in the finest robe. And so it's a very powerful book. Throughout Church history, this book, this letter, has transformed more lives than any other piece of writing in history. You think about Augustine who 16 centuries ago came to Carthage and to North Africa, burning with lust, struggling with sin, sexual sin, a conscience raging against him, afraid to die and go to hell, unable to free himself from it, threw himself down under a fig tree desperately crying out to God for something, hearing a children's rhyme, a bunch of children playing, and they're singing, "Tolle lege, Tolle lege." Take up and read, take up and read. And there was a copy of the book of Romans right near him, and it was open to Romans 13 where it says, "Let us behave decently as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy, rather clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."
And at that moment, he understood that the very thing that God was commanding him, he was willing to give Him freely, namely righteousness, and at that moment, he was saved simply from reading a couple of verses in Romans 13.
Luther and Romans
Twelve centuries later, another desperate man a German monk named Martin Luther was trying to calm his terror of hell, a terror that had been kindled in him very powerfully by a lightning storm, and he threw himself down in the mud and bargained with God saying, "I'll become a monk if you just won't kill me." And that whole bargaining system of medieval Catholicism brought him no peace. He tried through monkery, through being the greatest monk in history, to calm his raging conscience, but he couldn't do it.
A pilgrimage to Rome only made it worse. Going up the Holy Staircase on his knees and praying a paternoster on every stair, it did not calm his fears. What freed Martin Luther? A single verse from the Book of Romans, Romans 1-17: "For in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed that is from faith to faith, just as it is written, the righteous or the just will live by faith." And he said, "When I read that, then the doors of paradise were flung open and at last I realized this righteousness of God is not that righteousness by which God sends us to hell, but he's talking here in context about a power of God for salvation, about living, about life itself. And it was just a gift." And he realized at last, God was willing to justify him by faith alone apart from works of the law.
Wesley and Romans
A couple of centuries later, a man named John Wesley, again a raging conscience, no piece before God, no sense of His salvation, been in a near shipwreck with a bunch of Moravians. They were at peace, ready to die, could take it either way, like Paul in Philippians 1. Wesley wasn't ready to die. And He went unwillingly, he said, to a meeting at Aldersgate Street, and May 24th, 1738, and he says at about a quarter to nine he heard someone reading from Luther's preface to the Book of Romans; hearing about the changes that God works in the heart through simple faith in Christ. And he said, "I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." He marked his salvation from that point forward.
An anonymous poem captures the spirit and the message of the Book of Romans. This is what the poem says, "Along in dark the stairs I trod with trembling feet to find my God, gaining a foothold bit-by-bit, then slipping back and losing it. Never progressing, striving still with weakening grasp and faltering will, bleeding to climb to God while He serenely smiled not noting me. Then came a certain time when I loosened my hold and fell there by down to the lowest step my fall as if I had not climbed it all. Now when I lay despairing there, listen, a footfall on the stair. On that same stair where I, afraid, faltered and fell and lay dismayed, and low when hope had ceased to be, My God came down the stair to me."
That's the Book of Romans. It's God bringing us a righteousness and giving it to us as a gift, which we could never have earned through our own labors of climbing the staircase to Heaven.
I. The Message of Romans: God’s Gift of Righteousness by the Gospel
The message of Romans is summed up in verses 16-17 of Chapter 1, and by the way, I urge you to follow along in Romans as we go through, see these words on the page. This will not be the last time you look at Romans. Maybe the last time I preach it from this pulpit, but it will not be the last time you read it, so let your eyes look at the words. Verses 16-17: "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, the righteousness that is by faith from first to last. Just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith."
The Primary Problem of the Human Race
The primary problem of the human race is summed up in one statement, in Job 25 Verse 4: "How then can a man be righteous before God?" How can a man be righteous before God? Linked with that is an earlier verse in Job, "If a man dies will he live again?" That's what's facing us: Our unrighteousness and the death penalty that comes as a result; that's the problem for us.
The Primary Problem of Almighty God
As I read Romans, the primary problem for God was this: How could he be both just and the one who justifies wicked sinners and lets people like us into Heaven; that was the problem for God. If God allows sinful man into Heaven, what will that say about His perfect righteousness? What will it say about the laws that he gave and we flouted? Will he then be a just judge, or would he not rather be an unjust and weak judge? How is He going to let David into Heaven, that murder and adultery whose hands are stained with Uriah's blood? How is He going to let him into Heaven?
What about the thief on the cross? How is Jesus going to pay for the statement, "Today you'll be with me in paradise"? What has that man done? He was an insurrectionist, a murder and a robber. What has He done? "Today you'll be with me in paradise." How can God be both just and the justifier of sinners like us?
The Theme of Romans: Sinners Made Righteous by God
That is the theme of Romans; it is sinners like you and me made righteous before the holy eyes of God. The Gospel is power, real power from God. Power to change a person's eternal destiny from hell to Heaven, power to change a person's heart from sin-loving and God-hating to sin-hating and God-loving. Power to change a person's body from a corrupted mass of decaying flesh to a resurrected body of eternal perfection. Power to even change our universe, which groans under the effect of our sin until it's liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into an eternal perfection that we can't even describe. That's the power of these words. The words of Romans, the words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just words. But they're not just words; they're God's words. He's speaking to us today. He's speaking to you today. He's spoken for 20 centuries through this book. He's speaking to you today. He's already spoken to me today, and He's telling us that we are righteous simply by faith in Christ. That's the message of Romans.
But that's not all Roman says. Actually, Romans gets quite specific. It starts to talk to us about righteousness, and I want to follow that idea of righteousness right through the book. I want to start by talking about our own righteousness. It's rejected entirely. We have none. And that's the message of Romans 1-3. Then I want to talk about God's righteousness imputed or credited to our account simply by faith. That's Romans 3, 4 and 5. And then I want to talk about a righteousness that's actually imparted to us through sanctification by the power of the Spirit, worked out day-by-day, Romans 6, 7, and 8. Then I want to talk about how God's righteousness is vindicated in the case of the Jews who are almost universally rejecting the Gospel, how that does not impugn his righteousness. It does not make him a promise breaker. But rather His word is still upheld, so we have to see God's righteousness vindicated concerning the Jews; Romans 9-11. And then we're going to see God's righteousness applied to various aspects of daily life, Romans 12-16. That's the theme of Romans. It has to do with how the righteousness from God comes to us as sinners.
II. The Universality of Sin: Man’s Righteousness Rejected (Romans 1-3)
The Universal Sinfulness of Humanity (Romans 1:18-32)
Let's start by talking painfully about our own righteousness. In one sense, you could call it a very short topic. We have none, naturally, but Paul is specific. He says in verse 18 of Chapter 1, "The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth in righteousness." That's true of all of us, the whole human race. Romans 1, some commentator say, speaks to the Gentile and Pagan world, but I really think it speaks to all of us. We suppress the truth of God and unrighteousness, hold it down, don't want to hear it. We "exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship created things more than the Creator who's forever praised. Amen." We exchange natural sexual relations with unnatural homosexual relations. We show the perversion of our minds and hearts by doing that. We are wicked as a race. Not righteous.
And so the end of Chapter 1 culminates in the worst sin list in the entire Bible. Look at it, verse 28 and following: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil. They disobey their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree, that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them." That's us; that's the race we belong to. That's our kith and kin. That's me and you.
The Universal Sinfulness of Jews (Romans 2:1-29)
And then in Chapter 2, he talks about the righteous self-righteous person, the religious person, the one who thinks that by following the law of God or by some moral standard or system, they can pull up out of that muck and be better than other people. And so these are the righteous ones, these are the virtuous ones, the religious ones who look around and compare themselves to others, and he deals with them right away in verse 1 of Chapter 2: "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else. For at the very point you judge others, you're condemning yourself because you who pass judgement, you do the very same things." He addresses the Jews very plainly in the second part of the Chapter in which he says, 2:23, "You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?"
He's very plain in Chapter 2 and 3 that no one keeps the law. No one keeps it. It just stands over us and condemns us completely. And so, you can't earn your way to Heaven by obeying God's laws. What they do is they show you your sin. And so, there's a summary statement of all of this in Romans 3, 9-18, "What then shall we conclude? Are we any better?" That's a good question to ask yourself. I'm I any better? Am I any better than the homosexual? Am I any better than the abortionist? Am I any better than the terrorist? Am I any better than any of the wicked people that we think are so... Am I any better? No. "We've already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one." Find yourself there, or don't find yourself. You're not there. You're not righteous; neither am I. "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, all have turned away. They have together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves. Their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Ruin and misery. Mark their ways, and the way of peace, they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes." That is our race, brothers and sisters; that is us.
It could just stop there. It could have. This could be God reading our sentence, "And therefore I hereby send you to hell." And that would be it, and what could we say? What could we say? God is not unjust in condemning us for these things. We've done them, but there's a second part.
III. Justification by Faith: God’s Righteousness Imputed (Romans 3-5)
"But now," it says, "a righteousness from God has been revealed." Oh, praise God for that "but now." We could have been sent to hell at that moment, but instead, God wants to save us. And so He says, "But now a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance, He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished." Like David's: Unpunished. "He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time. So as to be just. And the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
The Glowing Heart of the Gospel: Romans 3:21-26)
Here's where God solves His problem. He solves it at the cross. This is how he can be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. This, my friends, is the glowing heart of Christianity. Romans 3, 21-26, this is the heart of it all; this is my only hope on Judgment Day. All the rest of the book is an out-working of the truths that are here.
First of all, a righteousness from God, this is a simple gift of righteousness imputed or credited to our account. Christ's perfect righteousness draped about us like an asbestos robe, pure and white, that will survive the fire of Judgment Day, and nothing else will. Your threadbare robes of self-righteousness will not survive the scrutiny of God's judgment. But Christ's righteousness will. It's perfect. And he was born of a virgin, protected from original sin; he walked moment by moment perfectly through this world, never stepped on a landmine of sin, never yielded to a single temptation, walked perfectly through this world, did the most difficult ministry in history perfectly, did everything his father wanted him to do right to dying on a cross.
That righteousness, God is willing to drape about you from this point and forever, simply by faith. Oh, how sweet is that? Oh, how sweet is that perfect righteousness that he's offering to give you as a gift? And it's apart from law; you're not going to earn it, you can't weave it together with threads through your own fingers, you'll never be able to make a garment so fine.
Apart from law. Now, the law and the prophets, they testify to it, it's not a whole new thing, like a new religion out of nowhere. God had set the table for it by making promises and having shadows and prophecies in the Old Testament, but Christ is the reality. He's the fulfillment. The law and the prophets, they testify to it, but Jesus fulfilled it. It is a righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Not by works; by faith.
But not just any faith. Oh, some Muslims have faith; they'll strap bombs to their bodies and blow themselves up for Allah. They have faith. Some Hindus have faith; they're willing to bow down before idols. I've seen them do it. And make long pilgrimages into all kinds of little acts of Pooja, of worship, to earn their way up through to their view of Heaven. Oh, they have faith. The Buddhist, they'll be willing to sit there trying to gain enlightenment, meditating conundrums that can't be figured out, trying to come on the seven-fold path of enlightenment; oh, they have faith. None of those faiths saves anybody, and a thousand other pseudo-faiths. It is faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross that justifies. That's what justifies.
And it says we're justified freely by His grace. It's a free gift. Charles Spurgeon put it this way,
"I tell you, Sir, if you bring in any of your deservings, you shall never have it. God gives away his justification freely; if you bring anything to pay for it, he will throw it in your face, and will not give his justification to you. He gives it away freely. Old Rowland Hill once went preaching at a fair; he noticed the merchants selling their wares by auction; so Rowland said, “I am going to hold an auction too, to sell wine and milk, without money and without price. My friends over there,” said he “find a great difficulty to get you up to their price, my difficulty is to bring you down to mine.” So it is with men. If I could preach justification to be bought by you one gold piece each, who would go out of the place without being justified? If I could preach justification to you by walking a hundred miles, would we not be pilgrims to-morrow morning, every one of us? If I were to preach justification which would consist in whippings and torture, there are very few here who would not whip themselves, and that severely too. But when it is freely, freely, freely, men turn away. What! Am I to have it for nothing at all, without doing anything?” Yes, Sir, you are to have it for nothing, or else not at all; it is “freely.”
It is freely given through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Oh, don't imagine, though, that it was absolutely free; it wasn't. It was extremely expensive, you just didn't pay the price. Somebody else paid it for you. The immensely valuable, immeasurably valuable, price of the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He paid the price, that's what redemption means. We were bought out of slavery at the payment of a price, whom God presented as a propitiation. Some translations say, "sacrifice of atonement," that's fine, but I like to keep propitiation in there so you stub your toe on it.
So you stop and say, "What's that?" And so that somebody who knows can tell you that it's the turning away of the wrath of God by the payment of a blood sacrifice; that's what the whole animal sacrificial system was there to teach us what it was. Propitiation. Jesus is our propitiation, he turned away the wrath of God, and don't imagine for a moment that God has no wrath against sin. He is energetically, passionately wrath-filled about every sin, and there are two great expressions of that wrath. One of them is eternal hell, eternal burnings and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. That is the display of God's wrath against those who do not believe; those who will not repent. The second great display of His wrath is at the cross of Jesus Christ, where He tortured his only begotten son instead of us. And so we are free forever from condemnation.
Free forever from the wrath of God. Free. Romans 8, 1: "There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." How sweet is that? Jesus is our lightning rod. He attracts the lightning strike and takes it safely away from us down to the very ground.
Oh, praise God for that. God did it as a demonstration of His justice so that we couldn't stand or Satan couldn't accuse him of injustice in getting people like David and the thief on the cross, and you and me, into Heaven. He is just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus; that's the center of the Gospel. Now let me tell you something: If I went through every passage with that level of detail, we'd be here for the next two weeks. Amen, alright. Some of you say that; others are like, "I have a lunch date to make," or something like that. We're not going to do it, but I had to slow down because this was the heart of it all. If you don't understand this, you don't understand Christianity. This is it; this is the Gospel.
Justification by Faith: The Law and the Prophets Testify (Romans 4)
Now, he said, to which the law and the prophets testify, Romans 4 shows us that. What did we discover that Abraham found in this matter? What does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham was justified by faith apart from works of the law. God took him out on a starry night, had him look up at the stars, made him a promise, words; it's just words, just words. He made him a promise. "So shall your offspring be."
But they weren't just words to Abraham. He considered the source; he said, "This is God speaking it. It's going to happen." And that's the way we are with the Gospel, isn't it? If we're believers. Like God said it, then it's true. It's going to happen. I believe it, and God credits it to us, to our accounts, as righteousness. What did David discover? Well, we know all about David's nasty sin and how wretched it was. Psalm 32 talks about it, and David celebrates something. He celebrates that he's not going to hell, which he deserves. And he says, "Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." Oh, how significant is that word 'covered'?
David tried to cover up his own sin, just like Adam and Eve tried to cover it up. That's what we always try to do. God said, "Don't cover it up. Bring it to me, I'll cover it. I'll cover it with the blood of Christ. I'll cover it with an ocean of grace. Bring it to me and let me do it." And so David discovered the same thing. Romans 5 talks about assurance. How can I know? I don't get anything, do I, like a certificate? Like in Pilgrim's Progress, something I can hold in my hand. It's just words, isn't it? Is it true or not? I don't know, I've never seen Jesus. I don't know, am I justified? Do I get something? I mean, how do I know?
Steps to Assurance: Romans 5:1-11
And so Romans 5, 1-11 are steps to assurance: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Already we're starting to rejoice in some things. And not only so but we rejoice in our sufferings because we see the transformed character that the suffering brings. We're reacting differently than we would have before. Things have changed for us.
It's different now because God has come to us. And we can reason it out. If when we were wretched and awful, evil sinners, God gave his highest and greatest gift, his only begotten son, how much more now that we're adopted sons and daughters of the living God and Jesus isn't dead on the cross, he's alive at the right hand of God and interceding for us, how much more will this salvation journey definitely be finished? It's a done deal, friends. It just hasn't happened yet. It's going to happen, though. Absolute assurance; it's an unbreakable chain of assurance. Romans 5, 1-11. It's right there on the page.
If you're struggling with am I a Christian, am I assured, whatever, look right there. It's assurance that's reasoned out in the mind by faith; it's assurance that's worked out in the life as you see changes happening in your life. It's an assurance that's poured out directly into the heart by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. That's assurance.
He also reasons with us based on deep theology. Second half of chapter five, it's the doctrine of original sin. We learn just as the whole human race died in Adam, so also all of God's people, the righteous, all of us, the many will be saved through one man. It's the many and the one, the many and the one, God's done it twice now. He did it with Adam, and now he's doing it in Christ. The doctrine of original sin.
IV. Sanctification by the Spirit: God’s Righteousness Imparted (Romans 6-8)
The second major section in Romans is sanctification by the Spirit, God's righteousness imparted. So you mean I can sin as much as I want it, like I'm totally forgiven, right? Totally forgiven. I can sin, I can just do whatever I want? Romans 5 ends "where sins abounds, grace abounds all the more." Grace is an ocean, it'll extinguish any sin we put in it, right? Well, let's throw a bonfire in there.
May it never be. We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that you have been united with Christ? When he died, you died. When he rose, now you have risen with Him into a whole new life. And it's that new life that Paul talks about in Romans 6-8. Righteousness actually imparted to you so you become, practically speaking, righteous day-by-day. How does it happen? Well, step-by-step, moment by moment, growing into Christ's likeness. Yearning to be righteous, wanting to follow Christ, moment by moment, becoming more and more like Jesus. But the foundation of it is a fact, a spiritual fact that's true of you. It's based on our justification, that we have been moved from one country, in effect, to another. We have been moved from sin and law and death into the blessed kingdom of the son that He loves. We've been transferred.
And that old regime has no power over us whatsoever. Oh, praise God for that, that means every temptation that will ever come to you the rest of your life has no authority whatsoever. You can tell it all, no, all of them, you never need to sin again, ever, the rest of your life.
The Insanity of a Christian Who Persists in Sin
Imagine... Here's an analogy. Imagine languishing in a communist country in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine being arrested for agitating against the government; you're interrogated daily by the brutal secret police. Imagine being beaten everyday; you have open wounds that are untreated, rats in the cell that'll come after your wounds if you go to sleep, rancid food to eat, that makes you sick, screams of other prisoners being tortured. Imagine the smell of raw sewage, and the dark, wet dungeon feel of your cell. This represents life in slavery to sin; though you don't see it, that's what it is. Sin is a brutal master beating up its prisoners daily.
Now, imagine a commando raid being sent by the government of a free country. They break in in the middle of the night and they rescue you. They run you through a hail of bullets to a waiting helicopter and fly you away to safety. Imagine you seek political asylum from the rescuing country, and it is granted. That free country has now become your new home and you are a citizen of that country. The old communist regime no longer has any power over you whatsoever. This represents the rescue of Christ and the transfer into his kingdom; the old domain of sin no longer has any power to command you. Now, imagine getting a summons from the old communist government; you're being drafted into their army. Why in the world would I want to go back there and serve that regime? I hated that regime. Why serve in their army? You look at it, laugh, and you rip it up. A week later, you get an invitation, like from a travel agency, to an all-expenses tour of your old prison, and you can tour the prison and meet the old guards, they'll even beat you up a little for old times' sake, and you get to eat that old food again. Two weeks, all expenses paid. Imagine going to your wife or husband and saying, "You know, I think I'm going to go just to feel what it feels like to be back in that prison again." That is what the sin of a Christian is like right there. Though you don't see it, that's what it is. Why in the world would you want to go back and do that when God is offering you immeasurable joy in obedience? And yet we do. It's insanity, but we do, and why do we?
The Vicious Battle with the Flesh: Romans 7
Well, Romans 7 tells us why; it tells us that we have sin living in us, and as it is, a separation has been made between us and the sin. It's no longer I who do it, but it's sin living in me that does it. Some day it will be gone forever. Oh, I look forward to that, when this body of sin and death has been done away with. This body is trained and expert in sin. The mind, the body, this thing, it knows how to sin. Been doing it for years. And when new temptations and stuff come to me, it just knee-jerk reaction. That's what it does. The body of sin. And we want to be free from it, don't you? Who wants to be free from the body of sin and death?
I want to be free. Oh, how I want to be free, but I'm not. And so, day after day, Romans 7, I have to face this indwelling monster, which actually responds to filth around me. It's unbelievable. I'm shocked by it. The very thing I hate, I do. And the very thing that I love and want to do, I somehow can't do. Romans 7; but even there, it ends in triumph. "What a wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." And then in Romans 8, the Spirit filled life, the power of the indwelling Spirit. We don't just have sin living in us, we have the Holy Spirit of God. How strange is that? The Holy Spirit of God and indwelling sin in us. Oh, how strange. How strange is the sin of a Christian, how bizarre is it. But what does the Holy Spirit do?
The Holy Spirit basically dresses you for battle every day. It says, "Come on my child, get up, back at it again. Put on your armor, put on your helmet, put on your breast plate, pick up your sword, pick up your shield, and go fight." Romans 8, 13 and 14, it says it very plainly, "It says If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are," look at that, 8, 14, "led by the spirit of God, those are the sons of God." You want to be a child of God, then follow the Holy Spirit. Where is he leading? Into battle every day.
So no, I'm not a perfectionist. I know you never need to sin again, but I think because of the power of sin, we are going to face temptations and struggles everyday. And God has come to give us the Holy Spirit, to give us power, and He leads us every day into battle, every single day, and we won't be free of it until we are done with this world. But you know it's not going to go on forever. Thank God, thank God. It's not going to go on forever. We are going to be glorified, and frankly our present sufferings of which the worst is this battle against sin, the present sufferings are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. And not just in us, but in the physical creation, which is groaning to be released, yearning to be made more beautiful. It wants to; it yearns for it, to be the new earth and the new Heaven where we will dwell forever, and so we hope for it and wait for it patiently. And so what can we do but celebrate God's sovereignty and his great promise? What shall we say in response to this?
"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called, and those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified." No one gets lost; everyone that's foreknown is predestined. They're justified and they will, all of them, be glorified. He doesn't lose anybody. And so all of the stuff that happens to us, it's all part of His divine plan to get us there. A we have final confidence in the sovereign plan of God, at the end of Romans 8, in the total victory of God. "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us in the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord." Oh, what a triumph for the sovereignty of God over our wretched sinful selves.
V. Israel and the Gospel: God’s Righteousness Vindicated (Romans 9-11)
But Romans 9-11 brings up a problem. What about the Jews? They are almost universally rejecting the Gospel. Doesn't that prove that God's word fails? It's a great tragedy. Paul says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish." So they're going to hell apart from Christ, the ones that are not believing in Christ like the rest, children of wrath. So it's a great sorrow, but even worse, does it mean that God is a promise breaker? If God's a promise breaker than we have wasted the whole first part of all that I've said. We wasted it. You understand that? Because God's made us all these promises, and He's not going to keep them.
And so Paul has to vindicate the righteousness of God concerning the Jews. He says, "It is not as though God's word has failed." And he gives three answers concerning the problem:
Answer #1: God’s Sovereign Election (Romans 9)
First is that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. There's an elect group within the larger group of the nation of Israel. And those people are the ones Paul was referring to in Romans 8, that none of them will be lost; they'll all be glorified. Basically, if you get saved, you get saved by God's mercy, and He gives it freely as he wills, as He chooses. It's His sovereign choice. He has that power, and so it says right there in Romans 9, 15 and 16, He says to Moses. "I'll have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy. Verse 18, "God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden." That's the first answer; God's word hasn't failed because God didn't promise that to every single, solitary, physical descendant of Abraham.
Answer #2: The Need for Repentance and Faith (Romans 10)
The second answer is in Romans 10. It's not like God's asking us to go to the moon, okay? It's not like he's asking us to go to the other side of the ocean or up to the heights or down to the depths. He's done it all. All you have to do is believe the word that is very near you. The very word that they have heard preached; all they have to do is repent and believe the Gospel. That's it. And they are not. "That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." That's it. "For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it's with the mouth that you confess and are saved." As it is written, 'anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.' There is no difference between Jew and Gentile; the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses anyone who calls on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Stop just a moment. Just a moment. I can't believe that everyone who's sitting and listening to me here today has been regenerated. I have to believe there at least some people that are brought by the sovereign hand of God here today who have not yet trusted in Christ. Come to Christ now. All you have to do is trust in Him, give your life to Him, look to the cross of Jesus and not to your own righteousness, trust in Him, repent, and turn from sin. I'm calling to you. I'm asking. It's a simple way of salvation, all you have to do is repent and believe the Gospel. And like Augustine, like Luther, like Wesley, you will find your soul satisfied with the richest of fair. You'll find forgiveness in Christ as a free gift. Oh, please do it. Don't walk out of this place unjustified. Call on the name of the Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Be saved.
Answer #3: God’s Future Mystery: Israel Will be Saved (Romans 11)
The third answer that Paul gives concerning this terrible, difficult problem with the Jews is that the story isn't over yet; there's still more to come. In the future, he says, "I tell you a mystery. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved as it is written. The deliverer will come from Zion. He will turn Godless-ness away from Jacob." Do you see the sovereignty of God there? He turns it away. "And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins." God has absolute power, and in the future there'll be a mass revival in one generation of physical descendants of Abraham who will turn to their Messiah, and they will cry and mourn for Him as for an only son, and they will believe in him. They will look on the one that they have pierced, and they will love him and trust in him.
And Paul finishes this doctrinal section of Romans with this incredible praise, "Oh the depth of the riches, the wisdom, and knowledge of God, how unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay Him? For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Thus ends the theology.
VI. Living Daily as a Sacrifice: God’s Righteousness Applied (Romans 12-16)
How then shall we live? How are you going to live your life? Sunday's going to be over pretty soon. Even this sermon will be over pretty soon, I promise. But then you're going to go into your everyday life; how are you going to live? How are you going to live your life? Well, you understand how closely we're connected, Chapter 12-16, to all we've just said. Justified by faith, totally forgiven, indwelt by the Spirit, a battle against sin, but you got to present your body, the parts of your body as said in Romans 6, "present your hands, your face, your eyes, your feet, every part of you. Present your body to God as one who has been brought from death to life. The instruments of your body as instruments of righteousness." He just says that same thing again here in Romans 12, 1 and 2. This is the most important practical application of any Christian sermon. Romans 12, 1 and 2 answers the question, how then shall we live? "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you'll be able to test and to prove what God's will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will."
Get up in the morning and get down on your knees and say, "God, I'm yours. I'm yours. You bought me with the price, my body is yours, I want to serve you today. I want to put sin to death, I want to serve your people, I just want to serve you." That's the most important thing you can do; that's worship, that's true worship. Do that. But then immediately after that, he talks about spiritual gifts. And each one of you, if you're Christian, have been given spiritual gifts. You heard me earlier in the new member thing. Those folks are counting on us to give them our spiritual gifts that they might grow up in their salvation. Keep growing. We're counting on them to give their spiritual gifts; that we're banding together, and some teach, some pray, some give, some lead, some serve. There's all kinds of gifts. We need to do that; that's what we're going to do. Spiritual gift ministry.
And then he talks about loving people inside the body of Christ. We're not always easy to love. I know you're always easy to love, but I'm not always easy to love. So we have to find a way to love each other deeply from the heart; be zealous for Christ, that's inside the body. Outside of the body, there's a bunch of enemies out there. Government, for example; submit to government, Romans 13. Do what it says. Even if your neighbor is a persecutor, don't seek revenge against him or her. Pray for them. Do good to them. Leave revenge to God. Some of them might end up being converted. And we live in a filthy, nasty, sick world filled with temptation. Just like Augustine found, don't get involved in that river of debauchery, but rather clothe yourself with Jesus Christ. Don't think about how to ratify the desires of the flesh, but be clothed with Jesus.
Dealing with Disputable Matters in the Church (Romans 14-15)
Romans 14 and 15, he talks about unity in the body, talking about debatable issues, well, we could spend the rest of the day on them. Let's debate about things. I'll roll out the top six most controversial topics. Let's debate them. Oh my goodness, Paul has three concerns in Romans 14 and 15: Gospel purity, Gospel love, unity and Gospel freedom. Those three. Freedom from legalism, but that shouldn't lead to sin, so Gospel purity, nor should it lead to judgmentalism. We should stay together and help each other. Don't judge each other, don't condemn each other. Let's stay together. Romans 14 and 15.
Paul’s Example as a Missionary (Romans 15)
Second half of Romans 15, Paul talks about his own life as a church planting, trail blazing apostle to the Gentiles. He's saying, "I wish I could stay with you, I love you guys, but I've got to go on through to Spain. Wouldn't mind, though, if you'd help me in my mission there because there's some unreached people there." "It's always been my ambition," Romans 15, 20 and 21, "to preach the Gospel where Christ was not named so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as is written, those who were not told will see, and those who have not heard, they will understand." So he's going as a frontier, trail blazing missionary, and so we as a local church, we should hold the rope for those that are going, or we should go ourselves to see the advance of the Gospel.
Final Greetings and Encouragements (Romans 16)
Romans 16 ends with a bunch of greetings to people you have never heard of in your life. That's alright. They hadn't heard of you either, but you know what? In the end, we're all going to be brought together. People from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation. Don't think Romans 16 is insignificant. God knows your name, and some day we'll know each other's names. Now you know what you'll be doing for eternity, okay? Learning names, from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, a multitude greater than anyone could count, from all over the world. You've got a lot of learning to do. Lots of brothers and sisters. And we are together, and God has made us so.
And he finishes the entire book with this doxology: "Now to him who is able to establish you by my Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God so that all nations might believe and obey Him, to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen."
VII. Final Applications
Most important application, I gave you about five minutes ago: If you're not a Christian, come to Christ; that's it, come to Christ.
Second most important, I got from CJ Mahaney's book "The Cross-Centered Life." Just ripped it right off. I spent with a group of young men studying that book, CJ Mahaney's "The Cross-Centered Life." He said the Cross-Centered Life is made up of a series of cross-centered days. Quoting John Stott he said, "The cross of Christ is like a bonfire that kindles our love for God, but you got to stand near enough so that the sparks fall on you." So how are you going to stand close to these truths? He gave five applications that I'll go through very quickly; get his book. It's very short, you can read it easily in an afternoon.
First, memorize the Gospel. Choose some key passages from Romans and memorize them. William Tyndale said you should memorize all 432 verses. You think it's impossible, but it can be done. But start with this, just go through and choose some of the key passages and memorize them.
Secondly, pray the Gospel. I would urge you in your Thanksgiving celebration, just take the truths of Romans and pray them up to God. Just go through, "Thank you, God, that though I was wicked and unrighteous, now you have accepted me with Christ's righteousness. Thank you, God, that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. Thank you, God, that having been justified by faith, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you that there's no condemnation waiting for me on Judgment Day. Thank you that I have a spiritual gift ministry. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you." And then you can thank Him for the food. It'll be cold by then, but then you can thank him for the food. But rich thanks in prayer.
Sing the Gospel. We're going to sing "How Deep The Father's Love For Us" in a moment. It's one of my favorite songs. Think about the words; sing them. Now, the young men that were there weren't thrilled about that idea. And I understand; when I was a young man, I wasn't much for singing. You don't have to sing, though, in front of other people. Some of you may be ought not to accept in large groups like this. That's me, okay? But sing because you're happy. Worship God. Make music in your hearts to God.
Fourth, review your own history. I gave you Augustine's history. I gave you Luther's history. I gave you Wesley's history. What's your history with Romans or with the Gospel itself? What has God done in your life? Thank Him for it, but review it. Write your testimony. And then finally, study it. Don't stumble on words like propitiation or redemption or reconciliation, learn what they mean. Learn what they mean and enrich your heart and your soul. Close with me in prayer.