Summary: This sermon, which is the first in a series on "Romans: The Good News of God," introduces the greatest letter ever written, Paul’s letter to the Romans.
He was pacing back and forth, thoughtful and expectant. Physically, he was not an impressive man (see for example 2 Corinthians 10:10; Galatians 4:14). He had scars and blemishes all over his body from his various beatings and stonings. His body was weathered and leathered by many years of hardship and suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). But whatever his physical blemishes may have been, he exuded joy and confidence and purpose.
“Where is he?” he asked himself out loud.
As if on cue, there was a sharp knock at the door.
“Ah! Tertius!” he greeted the visitor, “Come in. It’s good to see you! Thank you for coming today.”
After a few pleasantries were exchanged, the two men walked to the study in the large home of Gaius of Corinth. Tertius sat down at the little writing desk and prepared himself for the dictation that he was about to receive.
“I’m ready whenever you are,” he said.
The older man, pacing the floor once again, although more slowly and deliberately now, began to speak while Tertius wrote down what he said:
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7)
And so began the greatest letter ever written.
Today, I am starting a new sermon series on Romans.
It is my intention to preach through Paul’s entire letter to the Romans week by week, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and even word by word, as the situation warrants.
It seems to me that this approach is the most useful in helping us understand the thrust and focus and purpose of God’s inspired and authoritative word. In this respect I am following the example of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, the long-time pastor during the middle of the 20th century of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, who made the following observation of his method of study of the letter to the Romans:
"I believe that the only way to understand any given passage in the word of God is to take the whole Bible and place the point of it, like an inverted pyramid on that passage, so that the weight of the entire word rests upon a single verse, or, indeed, a single word. Thus I have not called this volume and the ones to follow a commentary, but rather expositions of the word of God; expositions which take as their point of departure the book of Romans and range through the whole of the Bible in order to bring all of the correlated truth of the word to bear on each line and word of the epistle."
Because of this approach, which I plan to adopt for my study in this series, I do not know how fast we will make our way through this letter to the Romans. However, I expect to preach approximately 100 sermons on “Romans: The Good News of God.”
I also want to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. I am reminded of what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher in London who preached at about the same time as Dr. Barnhouse, said when he began preaching through the letter to the Romans. He said:
"Furthermore, I do not announce a programme, and for this reason, that when you are studying the word of God you never know exactly when you are going to end. At least, I have a very profound feeling that such should be the case, believing, as we do, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We know from experience that he suddenly comes upon us—he illumines the mind and moves the heart—and I believe that any man who expounds the Scripture should always be open to the influences of the Holy Ghost. That is why some of us do not broadcast sermons [i.e. announce programs], because we find it difficult to reconcile ourselves to a time-limit in these matters."
With that in mind, let us begin our lesson for today. Today, I simply want to introduce you to Paul’s letter to the Romans. And I want to do so by asking the following questions: