Summary: This message is from my expository series through the book of Romans.
“The Gospel vs. Religion”
September 14, 2008
Religion is a dud; the gospel is dynamite. I did a little fact-checking on dynamite this week:
• It is not the same as “TNT”; in fact, the only similarity between them is that they both explode!
• Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel, whom we know better for instituting the Nobel Peace Prize, given annually to people who promote peace, and occasionally to people who spin outlandish tales involving pseudo-science.
• For many decades, the leading exporter of dynamite in the world was South Africa.
• Dynamite is actually largely made of nitroglycerin, so if you have a heart condition and stick it under your tongue, you should either get relief or explode. At any rate…
Last week we took a look at the theme of the book of Romans, and today we continue. We said last week that the point of Romans was the gospel, and that the point of the gospel is Jesus Christ, that without Him, we have nothing.
I. Paul’s Deep Regard for the Romans
Before Paul gets into the body of the letter itself, he wants to make certain to say some very personal things to the Roman believers themselves.
A. “I am thankful” - :8
If “all roads lead to Rome”, then what was happening in Rome was being found out in the rest of the world, and the gospel had taken root there. Roses were springing up; Christians were being made in the cultural center of the ancient world, and word was getting out!
B. “I am praying” - :9
Two prayer requests: one, for them generally; two, for his ability to visit them for the purpose of strengthening them in the faith. I think that both types of prayer requests are valid. It is great to pray for God’s general blessings on others; it is also important to pray specifically at times for particular things. And Paul says, “I pray without ceasing”. I fear that for too many of us, “out of sight is out of mind”, and yet for Paul, unceasing prayer, even for people he’d never met, was altogether appropriate.
C. “I want to minister to you” - :10b-11
What does Paul mean by “some spiritual gift” that he longs to impart to them? Usually, when we think of “spiritual gifts”, we first think of individualized gifts that the Holy Spirit grants that will differ from believer to believer. Some of us have one gift, and some have another, but the point is that in Scripture, notably Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12, it is clear that it is the Holy Spirit who gives spiritual gifts, and not a given apostle of God. More likely, because he doesn’t know their particular situation and their particular needs in detail, his desire is to find out in what way(s) he can best benefit them, and share in that way with them.
D. “I want to be ministered to by you” – :12
If you ever are tempted to think that our relationship as pastor/parishioners is some one-way thing whereby I do the giving and you do the receiving, please, please think again! Paul’s attitude is that there are some things that he lacks which can be supplied by the Romans!