Summary: Intro to Romans 1
Romans 1 - Intro - 1/11/09
Turn with me this morning to Romans 1. Romans comes in the NT after the four gospels, M,M,L,J, and after the book of the Acts of the Apostles. So, we have the history of the gospel, the record of how the gospel brought change to the world, and then in Romans, we have the explanation of the gospel. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” We are going to spent the next several weeks looking at the book of Romans, seeing what the gospel, the “good news” really is.
"On May 24, 1738, a discouraged missionary went ‘very unwillingly’ to a religious meeting in London. There a miracle took place. ‘About a quarter before nine,’ he wrote in his journal, ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for 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.’ That missionary was John Wesley. The message he heard that evening was the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans. Just a few months before, Wesley had written in his journal: ‘I went to America to convert the Indians; but Oh! who shall convert me?’ That evening in Alders gate Street, his question was answered. And the result was the great Wesley Revival that swept England and transformed the world."
The book of Romans is to Christianity what the Declaration of Independence is to America and the Magna Carta is to Great Britain! It can set you free if you study it and believe it.
Martin Luther in his book “Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans” argues that:
“This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. . . . it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.”
Having said that, let’s realize that this book, loved by many, but often overlooked because it seems deep or wordy, is really a treasure trove for us, full of practical help in understanding the “good news” that is ours.
A quick look at any newspaper or a news magazine, or a few minutes watching the news on TV reminds us that in our world most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What is happening on a national and worldwide scale is simply the magnification of what is happening on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large. People are in the grip of a terrifying power that holds them at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another. That power is sin, which is always bad news.
Sin has selfishness at its heart. The basic element of fallen human nature is the exaltation of self. When Satan fell, he was asserting his own will above God’s will, declaring “I will. . .” in Isaiah 14:13-14, a passage which speaks of Satan’s fall: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Man fell by the same self-will, when Adam and Eve asserted their own understanding about right and wrong above God’s clear instruction. By nature every person is self-centered and inclined to have his own way.
Sin produces guilt. This is another form of bad news. No matter how convincingly one tries to justify selfishness, its inevitable abuse of things and people cannot escape generating guilt. When guilt is ignored or suppressed, it continues to grow and intensify, and with it comes anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and countless other spiritual and physical afflictions. Many people try to overcome those afflictions by masking them with possessions, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, travel, and psychoanalysis. They try to ease their guilt by blaming society, parents, a deprived childhood, environment, and even God himself. But the irresponsible notion of blaming other persons and things only aggravates the guilt and escalates the accompanying afflictions.