Summary: Paul reveals that Jesus wants all His followers to be like Paul - sent, separated servants.
As is probably true for many of you, the book of Romans has long been one of my favorites. Yet in nearly 25 years of ministry, I have never undertaken the task of preaching through what is certainly the greatest exposition of what it means to live as a follower of Jesus in the entire Bible. I think due to both the length and the depth of the book, I have been a bit intimidated by the thought of trying to tackle it in my preaching. And besides, what can I possibly add to the exposition of this great text that has been done by great theologians like Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin or contemporary pastors like John Piper and John MacArthur?
Even up to about a month ago, as I was planning and praying about my next sermon series, Romans was not even on the radar. In fact, about two months ago I planned out a whole series that would cover the next 12 weeks or so. And then, sensing that was not where God wanted me to go I planned out a second series that would cover that same time frame. But it soon became apparent that God had something else in mind and I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit is now leading me to preach on the Book of Romans. And that decision has certainly been confirmed by the fact that a number of you have commented that you are looking forward to this series. That kind of enthusiasm for an upcoming sermon series is something I’ve never really experienced before.
I think that the reason so many of us are excited about taking a journey through Romans is that the story that unfolds in its pages is not only the story of Paul’s life, but it is the story of our lives as well. Paul writes as one who has personally experienced the transformation from a life of religious devotion which was characterized by sin and death to a life that is shaped by the gospel and which abounds in grace and results in true life.
So I’m praying that this sermon series is going to impact your life in one of two ways:
• If you have never personally experienced that transformation, then my prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit will use this study to lead you to make a decision to place your faith in Jesus Christ alone as the way to personally experience that same kind of transformation in your life.
• For the majority of you who have already made that commitment and for those of you who will do that during this series, I pray first of all that the book of Romans will reinforce your confidence in Jesus as the only way to that kind of life. But I also pray that Paul’s words will be your guide as you shape your day to day life so that it can be lived out in a way that is consistent with the gospel that Paul proclaims.
So before we get into the text itself, let’s pause for a moment to pray and ask God to accomplish those things through the preaching of His Word.
Before we begin our study, let me give you an idea of how I plan to approach this series, keeping in mind that this is all subject to how God may lead me to change this as we go forward.
As I’ve done some research on how other pastors have handled this book, I’ve found that they range all the way from a series of only 10-15 sermons that covers the book in a very broad way over just a few months to Pastor John Piper who preached 225 sermons over an 8-1/2 year period. My fellow friend and pastor here in town, Steve van Kley, has chosen somewhat of a middle ground – he has been in Romans for nearly 2 years now and has made it to chapter 12.
Although, Lord-willing and you don’t decide to get rid of me before then, I feel like I have another 8-1/2 years of pastoring left in me, I don’t feel like God wants me to spend that entire time focused almost completely on just one book of the Bible, so preaching over 200 sermons on Romans doesn’t seem like the appropriate approach for me personally or for us as a body.
But certainly at the other end of the spectrum, trying to cover a chapter or more at a time can’t possibly allow us to begin to mine the riches of Romans.
So here is my plan. I’m going to break the book down into “chunks” – probably about two chapters at a time. And we’ll take about 10-12 weeks to cover each of those sections of Romans. But rather than just preaching all the way through Romans from beginning to end, which would mean around 100 messages over 2-1/2 to 3 years, my plan right now is to spread that teaching out over several years by including a series that is 10-12 weeks long on Romans in the fall of each year until we complete the book.