Monday, September 27, 2004

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Romans 101

Intro: I want you to take a trip with me today. 1. I want to go to the most influential city in the world. 2. The one place that will allow us to touch more lives than any other 3. The one place that will take what we have to say to far more places than we could possibly go ourselves 4. Would it be New York, Chicago, Los Angeles? 5. Or Maybe London or Paris? 6. There is no doubt about where that would be for Paul - it would be Rome 7. And yet he was not there 8. So he begins to make contact with the church in Rome by writing them a letter. Read Romans 1:1-7 Pray Tran. Romans is the book to read if you want to understand Christianity. 1. It is a theology work in 16 chapters. 2. It is a clearly worded argument about and for the Christian faith 3. In Romans, Paul lays a foundation that makes everything else he writes understandable. 4. Over the next year, it is my intention to study the book of Romans a. Romans 1-4 - now through Thanksgiving b. Romans 5-8 - Following New Years c. Romans 9-12 - Next spring d. Romans 13-16 - Next Fall T.S. Author - Recipients - Purpose of the letter. I. Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans A. Though the authorship of many books of the Bible is sometimes questions - There are few who doubt that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans B. Paul was the last person to see see Jesus alive - we don't know, and have no reason to believe, that Paul and Jesus crossed paths while Jesus was alive. (Ill.) I know of only one exception. He was the cab driver who drove Sandra and I to the airport after my mothers funeral. He claimed to have had Jesus in his cab the previous week. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was probably wrong. C. But Paul developed a hatred for this new cult known as Christians. He was there when the Jewish leaders stoned Steven for his faith. Acts tells us "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples." He received permission to travel to Damascus and arrest the Christians he found there for trial in Jerusalem. (Appl.) I expect we all know what it is like to get angry. We are asked to do one more thing at work. Somebody cuts us off in traffic. The kids have been more than there average handful. And our temper is about to go. Now I suppose we could use Paul as our model - and get somebody to give us permission to have these people arrested and killed. When you feel that kind of anger boiling up inside of you - take a time out. Go for a walk. Isolate yourself for a few minutes. Paul's anger just about got him in trouble - let's not let it get us into trouble. D. Paul, your will remember, doesn't get to Damascus before he has to deal with something bigger than himself. There is this light. It apparently blinds everybody - at least for a short while. And then that voice, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Paul was meeting Jesus for the first time. And that is all it took. (Appl.) Those who study such things say that the average person has to hear the gospel seven times before they are ready to make a commitment to Jesus. But that is an average - Paul did not. E. That day on the Damascus road, Paul began a journey that would take him to Rome and, tradition tells us, beyond. But that would happen later. II. The letter was written to Rome. A. Interestingly, Paul had never visited Rome - but he knew of its commitment to Jesus B. The Roman church had its start, not in Rome, but in Jerusalem. Ten days after Jesus ascension into heaven the Holy Spirit comes upon the church. We call that day Pentacost. You will find the story in Acts 2. Peter begins to preach - in the audience are men and women from all directions. There were visitors from Rome that day - and the evidence seems to suggest that they took the gospel back to Rome. C. There was a small church in Rome - and Paul wanted to visit. The year is 57 AD and he is in the midst of 3 year stay in Corinth. D. Paul had a missionary heart - though he had never been to Rome - he was concerned about the church there. E. Rome was the modern, metropolitan city of its day. It was the governmental center of western civilization. And Paul understood that the church's existence in Rome had the potential to influence the rest of the world. F. Paul had been praying for this small church. It would one day become the largest church in the west - but now it was just starting to grow. III. Paul had three reasons for writing his letter. A. Here we have Paul - and here we have Rome. Why did Paul take the time to write this tiny church which had yet to make an impact on our world. Let me suggest three reasons. B. The first, and simplest, reason was his desire to visit Rome. In Rom 1:9-10 Paul writes, "For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you." At this point, he did not know how or when or even if it would happen - but it was his prayer. C. But if the only reason for writing was to announce his desire to visit, a short note could be have sufficed. D. Paul not only had a missionary heart, he also had a pastor's heart. His desire was that this young church be have the necessary foundation to understand the work of Christ. Look at Romans 1:11 - "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;" (Appl.) Of course this was not just Paul's desire for Rome - it will be the desire of every pastor to see his or her church have a solid foundation. Ultimately those who follow Christ live only a brief part of their live as part of the church. The pastor is one of the tools that God uses to prepare His people to live in this broken world. E. There is a third purpose for Paul's writing to the Roman church. The Roman church, like most of that era, was composed of both Jewish and gentile. Paul's final reason for writing was to bring unity to the church. As we shall see, much of the book of Romans is intended to show that we each must respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Conclusion: The gospel covers many things -- 1. The gospel says that God loves each one of us 2. The gospel says that we are broken people - that collectively and individually we have chosen to go our own way - this is the great message of Romans 3 and Romans 6 3. The gospel says Christ's death on the cross is sufficient for each or us - Read Romans 5 to see the truth of this 4. But the gospel says that we each must respond to Christ's offer of forgiveness