Summary: The Book of Romans is a passionate defense of the gospel. This sermon is an introduction to a 12-part series on the first 8 chapters of the book of Romans.

The Book of Romans Series – Sermon # 1 – Romans 1:1-17 – “Not Ashamed of the Gospel”

A while back a bunch of us got together for a CATM Academy course called Movie Making 101. When the class was gathered I simply introduced the course by saying that we had an opportunity to tell a story. What story do we want to tell? And the people in the class talked back and forth for some time. After a few meetings it became clear that the class wanted to tell a story about Someone who had radically impacted each person’s life for the good. We wanted to tell a story about Jesus. We wanted people to somehow experience, by watching our story, something of what happens when a life is touched by God. We wanted to tell a story to show the kind of difference Jesus actually makes in a person’s life. We wanted it to ring true, and we were ok if was kinda gritty.

To make a long story short, here is the result of Movie Making 101.

Play God’s iPod

Jesus touches lives. Jesus heals. Jesus reclaims us when we have gone astray. Jesus gives us courage and power to make essential changes in our lives. Jesus restores self-respect. Jesus remakes us…when He gets a hold of us.

Those in this room today who follow Jesus each have a story, a personal testimony, about how life is truly different because we have been touched, we have been changed by Jesus. I’m not talking about religion changing anyone. I’m not sure religion itself does much. But Jesus. It is powerfully hard to deny the experience of so many people whose existence has been altered for the good because of Him.

Over the summer we looked at the book of Galatians and I hope we got a sense of its author Paul…how he had been transformed from someone who was diligently religious into someone whose whole life was characterized by passion for Jesus.

Today we begin a look at a book, a letter actually, that the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians living in Rome. He wrote the book around 57 AD, or some 20 years after the Easter event…the crucifixion and…surprise!...resurrection of Jesus. We’ll be taking our time going through the Book of Romans – 12 weeks in fact. For those interested, this series on Romans is also a CATM Academy course, as we’ve already seen. If you choose to take the course, it means submitting weekly one-page reflections on the passage we study together each week. You’ll get feedback on your reflections from yours truly.

Even if you don’t want to or can’t take the course, I do want to challenge each and every person here to read through the book of Romans at least twice over the next number of weeks. (Show “Romans Challenge PPT”). Read it slowly and read it prayerfully. Let it simmer and sit with you. You’ll find it worthwhile.

Right now can we stand and read together the first 17 verses of Romans chapter 1. It is on page _____ in the red pew Bibles. Paul writes with passion, so let’s not read in a monotone. Let’s read with gusto.

First, a little background info about the book of Romans. Unlike other books by Paul where he is writing to people who he knows, Paul here is writing to the church in Rome that was planted by another. Paul was an apostle. That’s not a title of authority as much as it is a descriptive word. [ἀðüóôïëïò apostolos]

The word means: “One sent forth as a messenger”. So Paul, as one who was sent by Jesus, had indeed gone out and shared the message of the gospel with many communities, many cities. He had boldly gone where no one had gone before to tell people about Jesus, about the life-change that results when we receive Jesus into our lives. He endured all kinds of hardships for this (you can read about this in the Book of Acts, from chapter 8 onward). He endured hardships, but he successfully planted a whole bunch of churches. Most of his letters are him writing to people that he knew who needed encouragement and further teaching.

But the book of Romans is different. Paul didn’t know them. He hadn’t planted that church. In fact, no one knows who planted the church at Rome. As was the case with the church at Antioch and others, it wasn’t some big name that planted the church at Rome. Just ordinary believers, some of whom may have been present at Pentecost.

But Paul caught wind through people who travelled from town to town of what was happening at the church in Rome, and so he wrote to them to address concerns that had perhaps been brought up, but also he wrote because the Holy Spirit of God directed him. The big picture of course is that this letter to the Romans would become part of the Biblical canon, or the books that the early church agreed should be included as Scripture because it affirmed the common experience and understanding the early church had.

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