We began to study the book of Romans the last time. And in the opening verses, Paul introduced himself to the members of the church in Rome. And we saw that Paul regarded himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. As the Lord’s servant, he was totally devoted to serving him. Of course, and I mentioned this the last time, we’re all called to serve the Lord Jesus, but Paul was called to serve him as an Apostle. And as as Apostle, he was set apart to make known the gospel. And the gospel, he wrote in verse 2, was promised beforehand in the Old Testament Scriptures. And it concerns God’s Son, who entered this present evil age as one of us and experienced the humiliation and weakness and dishonour and death that characterises life according to the flesh. However, by his resurrection, he has now left behind that weak earthly existence to live a new life in the Spirit as the Son of god in power. And through Jesus Christ, Paul had received grace and apostleship to call people from among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith in the Saviour. And, in verse 6, Paul mentioned that the believers in Rome are among all those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Having introduced himself in verses 1 to 6, Paul then moves on in verse 7 to address the recipients of his letter and to give them a greeting. And this is really the way most letters began in ancient times. You began a letter by introducing yourself. And then you mentioned who you were writing to. And then you gave the recipients a greeting. And so, Paul was addressing all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.
The members of the church in Rome — and, of course, this is true of the members of any church — the members of the church in Rome are loved by God. How do we know we’re loved by God? Well, Paul will go on in his letter to write about God’s love. Just think of verse 8 of chapter 5:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
How do we know God loves us? Well, he sent his Son to die for us. There’s the clearest expression of his love. And if ever we doubt God’s love for us, we only need to remember the cross which demonstrates for us the greatness and the depth and the costliness of God’s love for sinners. Or what about verses 38 and 39 of chapter 8?
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing at all will ever be able to separate us from God’s love, because his love for his people is from everlasting to everlasting and nothing and no one will ever be able to come between us.
God’s people are loved by God. We may be hated by the world and there may be many people who will hate us and persecute us because we’re Christians. Nevertheless, we can take comfort from the knowledge that we are loved by God. And if God is for us, who can be against us and possibly hope to do us any lasting harm?
So, Christians are loved by God. And we’re also called to be saints. Whereas we sometimes talk about St Paul and St Peter and St Patrick, the fact is that every believer is a saint, because the word ‘saint’ in the Bible is not used to refer to special Christians, but it’s used to refer to every Christian. And that’s because the word ‘saint’ is related to the word for ‘holiness’. And ‘holiness’ in the Bible means set apart from this sinful world to belong to God. Once we were like everyone else in this sinful world, but now we’re been set apart from this sinful world to belong to God and to live for our lives for him.
Saints, of course, still sin. We sin every day. And we must pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and to overcome sin. But when saints sin, we hate it, because we no longer want to do what sin says. And instead we want to do what our Saviour says.
So, Christians are loved by God. And we’re saints. We’re set apart from this sinful world to belong to Jesus Christ our Saviour.
And having addressed the recipients of his letter, Paul goes on to give them a greeting at the end of verse 7. And in his greeting to them, he mentions grace and peace. Grace refers to God’s kindness towards sinners. And God’s grace always leads to peace: peace with God and his blessing on us. Notice that Paul says the grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is no longer our Judge who is going to condemn us, but he becomes our loving, heavenly Father. And our loving heavenly Father is always gracious and kind towards us and willing to bless us.
Verses 8 to 15
In verses 8 to 15 Paul mentions how he often prayed and gave thanks to God for the Romans. And he also mentions his desire to see them. And so, first of all, in verse 8, he gave thanks to God for all of them, because their faith was being reported all over the world. All over the world, it had become known that there were believers in the Roman capital.
And, of course, the interesting thing to note here is that since Paul gave thanks to God for their faith, then that means God is the one who enabled them to believe. There’s no point thanking God for something he was not responsible for. But since God is the one who produces faith in the hearts of his people, since he’s the one who enables sinners to repent and believe, then he’s the one who deserves the thanks and praise. And so, in Acts 16, we read how the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things Paul was teaching her about the Saviour. And in Acts 18:27 Luke wrote about how Apollos was a great help to those who, by grace, had believed. God had graciously enabled them to believe. And in Ephesians 2 Paul wrote that we are saved by grace through faith — and this (our faith) was not from ourselves, it is the gift of God.
So, this is why we’re to pray to God for the salvation of those who don’t yet believe. We’re to pray to him because he’s the only one who can enable people to believe. And this is why we ought to give thanks to God for our faith and for the faith of our fellow believers, because he’s the one who created faith in our hearts; and if it were not for his grace, his kindness towards us, we would still not believe and we would still be without hope in the world. And so, Paul gave thanks to God for all of the believers in Rome, because God was the one who enabled them to believe.
In verses 9 and 10, Paul mentioned how he constantly remembered them in his prayers. And he often prayed that he would be permitted to visit them. The words ‘by God’s will’ remind us that our times are in his hands and he’s the one who directs our path. While we plan to do this or that, ultimately though, it is the Lord who determines what will happen. And therefore we ought to seek his help to be able to accept cheerfully the will of God for our lives.
In verses 11 to 13 Paul states the reason why he wanted to visit them. Look at verse 11:
I long to see you so that I am impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.
It’s not entirely clear what Paul means by ‘spiritual gift’, but perhaps he simply means that whenever he gets there, and meets them, and has a chance to preach to them, then he’s certain that his ministry among them will be fruitful and will do them good. Through the preaching of the gospel, they’ll receive from him something which will strengthen their faith in the Saviour. And, of course, that’s why we listen to the preaching of God’s word whether it’s in church on Sundays or whether it’s through the internet. Through the reading and preaching of God’s word, we hope to receive some spiritual gift so that our faith in the Saviour will be strengthened and we’ll be able to grow as believers. We believe that the Lord will work through the preaching of his word to help us.
But then Paul goes on in verse 12 to say that he expects they will be able to encourage one other whenever they meet. Not only will he be able to give them some spiritual gift to help them, but they will be able to encourage and strengthen him as well.
However, though there will be a mutual encouragement of one another, the emphasis really is on what the Apostle will be able to accomplish among them, because he goes on in verse 13 to refer to the harvest he hopes to have among them. In other words, he expects that the Lord will bless his work among them and that his preaching ministry will bear fruit.
And then, in verses 14 and 15, he refers to his sense of obligation to preach to all sorts of people. So, he wrote that he was bound to Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and the foolish. And by Greeks and non-Greeks, and by the wise and the foolish, he means everyone. So, he wanted to preach the gospel to all kinds of people. And because he felt bound to preach the gospel to all kinds of people, he therefore wanted to preach the gospel to the people in Rome as well. And, of course, this goes back to the calling he received from the Lord which he mentioned in verse 1. He regarded himself as a servant of the Lord. And his Master had called him to serve him as an Apostle and as a preacher. He was set apart by the Lord to preach the gospel. And he therefore felt obligated by this calling from the Lord to preach to all, including those who were in Rome.
So, in verses 8 to 15, Paul gave thanks to God for their faith. And he wrote about his desire to visit them in order to preach the gospel to them.
I’ll leave the next two verses to the next time, because they’re so important. But the reason Paul was so eager to preach the gospel, and the reason he was not ashamed of the gospel message, is because the gospel message is the power of God for salvation. Paul the Apostle had discovered that through the reading and preaching of God’s word, God works powerfully in our lives to convince us and to convert us to faith in Christ, and then to build up our faith in him.
The gospel message and the preaching of the gospel seems foolish to so many. What did Paul say to the Corinthians? That Jews demand miraculous signs. They wanted to see signs and wonders, something that dazzles. And Greeks demand wisdom. They wanted to hear the latest ideas. And it’s the same today. Some people want to be dazzled when they come to church. They want to see a big show. And others want to hear the latest ideas. They want to hear about whatever’s topical and in the news. But what was Paul set apart to do? To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a stumbling block to some. And it seems foolish to others. But to those whom God has called, it’s the power of God and the wisdom of God. And so, we should pray for God to work powerfully through the preaching of the gospel in our own church and around the world. And whenever we have the opportunity to hear the reading and preaching of God’s word — whether it’s in church or whether it’s over the internet — we should listen with a sense of expectation, expecting God to work powerfully in all our lives through the preaching of his word.