Redeemed To Serve

A Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached by JJ Lim in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 1a of 83


“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:  5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:  6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-7)

 

The Book of Romans is a book about the sovereignty of God. Even the origin of the book speaks of the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is often displayed when a less than desirable situation turns out for the glory of God. The early church grew because of persecution. The diaconate was established because of unhappiness amongst the Grecians. Likewise, the book of Romans came into existence because the apostle Paul was unable to visit them in person as he greatly desired. He tells us in 1:13 that he had often times purposed to go visit them, but he was ‘let’ i.e. prevented from doing so. Rather than allowing Paul to make the greatly desired visit, God inspired him to write a great letter. This letter was destined not only to benefit the Roman Christians, but all Christians throughout the ages.

Every book in the bible is like a bright star shining down from heaven. But the book of Romans is a star that in many ways shines brighter than all the other stars.

“Romans is Paul’s fullest, grandest, most comprehensive statement of the gospel. Its compressed declarations of vast truths are like coiled springs—once loosed, they leap through mind and heart to fill one’s horizon and shape one’s life” (New Geneva Study Bible).

This book is filled with many lofty themes that commend themselves without a need for a thorough background study. In it, the great Paul deals with the doctrine of sin, law, judgement, faith, works, grace, justification, sanctification, glorification, election, reprobation, plan of salvation, the work of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian hope, the nature and life of the church, the place of the Jews and non-Jews in the purposes of God, the reasonable service of Christians towards God and fellow believers, the duties of Christian citizens, the principles of personal godliness and morality, etc.

Romans is a vast and important book. It is like a mountain peak rising up in the midst of all the Scriptures. Standing on this peak, the whole landscape of the Bible and even of natural theology is open to view. From here you can see the progress of the drama of redemption, and you can see the relationship between each part of the Scriptures. And furthermore, you can have a glimpse of where you stand in the huge tapestry that makes up God’s glorious plan for this present world.

The study of Romans is vitally essential for the spiritual health and understanding of every Christian.

This book deserves an in-depth study. But we will not attempt to do so in this series of sermons. This is why we call this a survey of Romans. The reason why we would not attempt to do an in-depth study is: firstly because I do not think this book is intended to be studied over ten or fifteen years; and secondly because I do not think I have the gifts necessary to sustain such an in-depth study. Those who wish to have thorough exposition of the book may consult Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones exposition, which is published by the Banner of Truth Trust. Dr Lloyd-Jones expounded Romans over a 13 year period from 1955-1968. Few of us today have the talents necessary to follow in his foot-steps.

Therefore, without further ado, let us plunge into the introduction of this letter, verses 1-7.

This introduction will have four parts.

First, Paul introduces himself, verse 1…

1. Paul’s Self-Introduction

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God

a. This letter is written under the inspiration of God, therefore, every word in it is instructive. Paul calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ. Now, there are two words translated ‘servant’ in our English Bible. One is diavkono", from which we get the English word ‘deacon.’ A deacon is a servant. He is one who serves. But the other word is dou`lo". A dou`lo" is not just a servant. He is a bond-servant,—a slave. The word that Paul uses to describe himself is this second word. He speaks of himself as a slave, a willing bond-slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, there was a provision for slaves to declare the love for their master, and to bind themselves to their master for life. Paul must have thought of himself as such a slave to the Lord. For elsewhere he says, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant [dou`lo"] of Christ” (Gal 1:10).

Paul, the slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, lived not to please himself, nor to please man, but to please the Lord Jesus Christ, His master who purchased him with His own blood.

What about us who are the students of this great servant of the Lord? Are we not also purchased by the blood of Christ? Ought we not to live for Christ as willing slaves of Christ rather than continuing to serve as slaves of sin?

b. Paul was not only a slave of the Lord. He was called to be an apostle or literally, “a called apostle.” An apostle is one who is sent out with authority from the Lord. Paul did not make himself an apostle. He was called “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father” (Gal 1:1). He was an apostle with a capital A. He was, I believe, the twelfth apostle who was added after the resurrection of the Lord. He was called after a dramatic conversion while on the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians.

As an apostle, Paul was “separated unto the gospel of God.” To be separated is to be set apart, not to be isolated. Paul was not called to be a monk to live in isolation from the world. He was set apart unto God to preach the gospel of God (see v. 15).

The Lord met Paul or Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, He told him He was sending him to the Gentiles:

“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in [Christ]” (Acts 26:18)

Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel of salvation.

c.  None of us are apostles. Not all of us are set apart to preach the gospel. But are we not all called to be saints (v. 7)? To be a saint is to be a holy one. To be a holy one is to be a set apart one. Like the apostle Paul we are set apart. We may not be set apart to preach the Gospel like the apostle, but we are set apart to be witnesses for Christ. We are set apart to testify of the Gospel of God.

And we ought really to be excited about the Gospel like the apostle Paul.

The apostle Paul is so excited about the Gospel of God that he finds himself unable to mention it without talking about it. He says he is “separated unto the gospel of God,” but the ‘gospel of God’ is so rich and so precious to him, that the very mention of it causes all sorts of thoughts and emotions to overflow from his heart. He will be talking about the gospel in the letter, but he cannot wait to talk about it and to extol its glory.

So this is what he does in 5 verses from verses 2-6. These 5 verses, and not just verse 2, ought to be read as a parenthetical remark.

This is the second part of Paul’s introduction.

2.  Paul’s Parenthetical Description 
of the Gospel of God

Here we see a glorious description of the Gospel. This description can be summarised into three points.

a. First, Paul tells us that Gospel is not something new (v. 2).

It was not invented by the apostles, nor does it have a recent beginning. No, it was promised before. It was promised and prophesied by God through the prophets, and the prophecies are recorded in the Holy Scriptures. All the prophecies and promises in the Old Testament pointed to the Gospel.

Indeed all of the Old Testament pointed to the Gospel. The history in the Old Testament was a description of the development of the Gospel Church before the unveiling of the Gospel. The sacrifices and ceremonies were shadows pointing to the ministry of the Gospel. The land inheritance was a picture of Gospel inheritance. The wanderings and redemption in the Old Testament were pictures of our wandering and redemption from sin under the Gospel. The battles of the Old Testament were lessons about spiritual battles under the Gospel. The priests, prophets and kings were also types pointing to the mediator of the Gospel.

The gospel was promised by God, afore in the Scriptures.

b. But secondly, Paul tells us the subject matter of the Gospel is Christ (v. 3-4). The prophets and the apostles were all bearing witness to Him. Who is Christ? Like as Paul could not mention the Gospel without pausing to describe it, so he cannot mention Christ without staying to say a little more about Him.

He was “made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (v. 3). He was a man of the kingly line. He was born of the virgin Mary, who was of the house of David. Even his adoptive father, Joseph was of the house of David. He was the greater Son of David, whom the prophets pointed to as the Messiah who would come.

But He was not only man. He was also God. He was the God-Man. According to the flesh He was made of the seed of David; but according to the spirit of holiness, He was “declared to be the Son of God with power,… by the resurrection from the dead” (v. 4). He did not only have a human nature, He had a divine nature. No, He was not made the Son of God; He was declared to be the Son of God. He was the eternal Son of God (Col 1:15). He had the Spirit of Holiness. He had a divine nature from all eternity. But His divinity is confirmed in His powerful miracles that culminated with His resurrection from the dead.

Here then is the subject matter of the Gospel: Christ Jesus the God-Man, who is fully God, fully Man, having two natures in one person—perfectly appointed to be the Mediator between God and Man. Who but God can fully represent God; who but man can fully represent man? Who but a God-Man can stand between the infinite, eternal and unchangeable God and finite, temporal and changeable man? Thanks be to God for His only begotten Son! Without Him we have no relationship with God.

c.  Paul has spoken about the antiquity of the Gospel and the subject matter of the Gospel, now thirdly, he tells us the benefits of the Gospel:

5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:  6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ

By whom,” i.e. by Christ (manifested and made known in the gospel), Paul and the other apostles have received the unmerited privilege of being appointed apostles.

And they are made apostles for the “obedience to the faith among all nations, for [the] name [of Christ Jesus]”, i.e. for conversion and obedience unto Christ of people all over the world. And among those who were converted were the Christians in Rome.

The benefit of the Gospel,—for the apostle Paul,—therefore, is twofold: First, it is the privilege of being an apostle; Secondly, it is conversion of sinners through his ministry.

It is amazing, is it not, how Paul thinks about the benefits of the Gospel? Most of us when we think about the Gospel will think about our own salvation. Paul thinks, rather, of the salvation of others, and of himself and the other apostles being instruments of salvation.

And let none of us think that it is great and glorious to be an apostle or to be a minister of the Gospel. Anyone who wishes to seek glory and greatness by being a minister of the Gospel will be disillusioned very quickly. The fact is that true ministers of the gospel as with all the apostles, are made a spectacle to the world (1 Cor 4:9), regarded as fools (1 Cor 9:10), made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things (1 Cor 9:13). And they lead lives of toil, sorrow, trouble, dangers and criticisms.

No, no, Paul did not think of apostleship as a favour because of the glory and greatness that comes with it. Far from it, Paul regarded it as grace and favour to be made an apostle because he knew the debt that he owed to Christ, and because he knew that God does not really need to use him. It was by God’s grace that he is given the privilege of being an instrument of salvation.

Let us therefore learn something from the apostle’s attitude towards serving the Lord. Let us not grudge when we serve. And let us not count our labours for the Lord as being favours unto God, but as being great favours of God to us. It is a great favour of God towards us to be employed in any of His work, no matter how difficult, and how discouraging.

It is a great privilege to serve the King of kings as a servant in this ancient Gospel kingdom!

 […to be continued, next issue]