Summary: This sermon explores the first 17 verses of Romans 1 as Paul introduces himself and his mission to the Romans and reminds them of their calling. There are many powerful lessons we can learn in these opening verses.
A. Many years ago a minister was walking to church one Sunday morning when he passed by the home of one of his church members who was working in his flower garden.
1. The minister said to him: “Can’t you hear those bells calling you to church?”
2. “Eh, what’s that?” asked the church member.
3. The minister repeated himself: “Can’t you hear those bells calling you to church?”
4. “I’m afraid you’ll have to speak a little louder!” said the member.
5. So the minister shouted: “CAN’T YOU HEAR THOSE BELLS CALLING YOU TO CHURCH?!”
6. “I’m sorry,” said the member, “I can’t hear you because of those loud BELLS!”
B. You and I are here this morning because we all have heard God calling us to church.
1. Most, if not all of us, have felt God’s pull on our lives drawing us into a saving relationship with God.
2. And then, once that relationship with God began, many of us feel God calling us into service.
3. But, unfortunately, there are many people in the world and in the church who can’t hear God’s call because of the loud noise of the world and of self that drown out God’s voice.
C. In today’s sermon, we continue our new sermon series “Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Pursuing Righteousness from God.”
1. Last week, we talked about the powerful message of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
a. We talked about the great influence Paul’s letter has had over the years in the lives of famous Christians like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Bunyan and John Wesley.
b. We also spent time last Sunday being introduced to the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and the conflict in the church at Rome that necessitated Paul’s letter to them.
c. I mentioned last week that Paul’s letter to the Romans is like the Mount Everest of Paul’s letters, and that I’m both nervous and excited about the climb and the views of God and His righteousness that we will get from our assent of Romans.
2. In today’s sermon, we want to take a look at the calling of Paul and the Romans.
a. Let’s investigate the opening verses of Romans and see how Paul employs his own calling and the calling of the Romans for his purposes.
D. Paul opens the book of Romans with a very long sentence.
1. In the Greek language that Paul wrote in, the first seven verses are all one long sentence.
2. Some English versions have broken that long sentence into several shorter ones, but the ESV translation kept it as one long sentence.
E. Ancient letters typically began with a simple identification of the sender, the recipients, and a greeting.
1. Most New Testament letters follow this cultural pattern, but the New Testament authors often elaborate by adding distinctly Christian nuances and purposes.
2. None of Paul’s letters show more elaboration in the introduction as does Romans.
3. Perhaps this is the case because Paul was writing to a church he had never visited before and felt he needed to introduce himself and his mission more extensively.
F. Let’s look at the text, beginning with verse 1: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…
1. In this verse, we see that Paul introduced himself to the Roman Christians by identifying his master, his office, and his purpose.
2. His master – Paul is a “servant of Christ Jesus” – the word servant is doulos which can also be translated as slave – this title also suggests his status – we all should view ourselves this way.
3. His office – he is “called to be an apostle” – this also speaks of his authority – Jesus personally appointed Paul to represent Him and to provide the foundation for His church – few people have this calling (that group includes the original 12 and Judas’ replacement – Matthias).
4. His purpose – Paul is “set apart for the gospel of God” – This setting apart began at his birth (Gal. 1:15) and was clarified on the Damascus Road and by Ananias in Damascus who told Paul than he was a “chosen instrument to carry Jesus’ name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9) – Paul was the only one with this special mission.
5. And so as Paul introduced himself saying that he was a servant, an apostle, and a preacher of the gospel, he was revealing his humility, this authority and his mission.
6. Paul’s mention of the gospel in the opening verse points to it being the central and unifying motif of his mission and of this letter – he will mention the gospel 3 more times in his opening.