The Gospel Concerns Christ
Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 1:1-7
During my sophomore year of college, I had a freshman roommate named Dan. He made a name for himself that year because Dan liked the ladies. The trouble was that they didn’t like Dan in return.
For example, a couple months into the school year, we had a formal event, and Dan wanted a date. That’s great, but Dan set his sights high, and he started asking the cream of the crop to be his date. Dan wasn’t the cream of the crop, so a couple girls said no. But Dan just kept asking until he had asked 14 girls and been rejected 14 times. Wow!
But Dan was persistent, and a unique opportunity arose 2nd semester. The student body officers decided to host a date auction as a fundraiser for a missions’ project. Dan thought, “This is great. I can buy a date, and she can’t say no.”
He began bidding on one of the girls who rejected him in the fall, but her older brother outbid Dan just to save his sister. But Dan was persistent, and he started bidding on another attractive girl. The bidding got higher and higher. It was higher than anyone else all night. But Dan was persistent. He won the bid, and he finally got a date!
That’s a goofy story about a goofy guy. We all understand that buying a date with a girl who doesn’t like you is not how romance should work. There needs to be interest, desire, and especially relationship, not just a transaction.
Yet that’s exactly how many people approach evangelism. They sell the gospel by telling people how it can solve their problems and what it can offer them. And then they invite people to say some magic words that will secure these blessings. We market gospel the same as we do a car. It’s little more than a man-centered transaction.
But our text for today teaches that receiving the gospel is much more than receiving a product; it is about coming to a person with humility, submission, and gratitude to enjoy a loving relationship that forever changes everything about me (read).
This text introduces Romans with a bang. It packs a ton of rich, heartwarming, and essential theology into a few verses. It’s organized around 4 important themes that set the direction for the remainder of Romans. First, v. 1 introduces Paul as…
I. The Author (v. 1)
I’m not going to repeat the background information I gave last Sunday about Paul’s situation when he wrote Romans. Instead, I want to focus on Paul’s 3 descriptions of himself and give two practical challenges. First…
We are servants of Christ. Remember that he had never visited Rome; so, it is striking that Paul first introduces himself to the Romans not as, “the Great Apostle Paul” but as “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.”
He does mention his apostleship next, but Paul wants the Romans to think of him first as a humble “bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” He sets an important tone of, “I belong to the Lord, and I am his to use however he desires.
As a result, an important implication of “bond-servant” and “apostle” is that what follows is God’s message, not my own. But “bond-servant” also sets a spiritual tone that is vital to what follows. Specifically, Paul’s life was not about himself. Paul was profoundly God-centered.
And this should be true of every Christian. The moment I got saved, my life stopped being about me. Christ bought me on the cross, and I am his servant. As such, I am not here to pursue my agenda or passions. I am here to serve Christ however he desires. Christian, don’t ever forget that you are not your own; you are “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” The 2nd challenge is…
We are ambassadors of the gospel. Verse 1 also describes Paul as “set apart for the gospel of God.” Paul is primarily describing his unique mission as apostle to the Gentiles. God didn’t want Christianity to remain a local phenomenon. He wanted the gospel to go to the ends of the earth, and he uniquely set Paul apart to lay the foundation of the Gentile church. Paul zealously embraced this mission, and he gave his life to it.
Of course, God continues to set apart certain people for the spread of the gospel. It’s worth emphasizing that there is no greater calling God could give to you or your children than to set them apart as “fishers of men.”
But 2 Corinthians 5:18 also says God has called every Christian to engage in evangelistic work, “Now all thesethings are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
If you have been reconciled to God in Christ, you have received the most precious gift imaginable. But it comes with a catch. God expects you to be busy sharing the hope of reconciliation with those around you.
How faithfully are you fulfilling your ministry? How long has it been since you shared the gospel with someone? What are you doing to partner with the church in taking the gospel to our community and around the world?
God didn’t give you this precious gift merely for your good, and he certainly didn’t give it to you to hide. No, he set you apart like Paul to join in the most important task man has ever received—the Great Commission. Then notice that vv. 2–4 proceed to tell us more about the great gospel we preach.
II. The Message (vv. 2–4)
There’s a ton packed into these verses regarding what v. 1 calls “the gospel of God.” Again, it’s not just a great offer; the gospel is God’s personal message of salvation for sinners. Notice first that…
The gospel is rooted in prophecy. To Gentile Christians like us living some 2,000 years after the incarnation, v. 2 probably doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it was massively important in the 1st century world because Christianity didn’t have the long theological tradition of Judaism or even of Greek mythology.
Many Gentiles probably doubted that a new message based on a person who just appeared the scene of world history could possibly represent the exclusive way of salvation. Therefore, Paul declares that the gospel is not a new invention. It is rooted in God’s promise “beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
The NT repeatedly emphasizes this fact. Jesus and the Apostles did not invent something from scratch. Instead, God said in the beginning that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. The OT sacrifices pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. The Davidic covenant puts all of Israel’s hope in a coming Davidic king. The prophets spoke constantly about the coming Messiah. Then Jesus came, and he fulfilled these prophecies to a t.
Therefore, the gospel is deeply rooted in biblical theology and prophecy. Jesus is the long-expected Messiah; therefore, his gospel is true, authoritative, and powerful to save.
Praise the Lord that we don’t worship a myth. We worship the true Son of God who really was born to save. The 2nd truth about the gospel is…
The gospel is the message of Christ. Going back to my introduction, this fact is important. So often, we market the gospel primarily for the benefits it provides to me. We say it can fix your problems, or give you relationship, purpose, and a home in heaven. Who’s going to say no to that?
Now, the Bible does use these sorts of things in gospel appeals, so I’m not saying we should never do the same. We just have to make sure that we emphasize the truth of vv. 3. Specifically, the gospel is not fundamentally me-centered transaction; instead, it is “concerning His Son.”
The gospel is about a person and about relationship to this person that changes everything about me. Jesus is the gospel, and he is the greatest blessing of the gospel. And vv. 3–4 explain why Jesus is such a big deal.
Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Verse 3 clearly implies that Jesus’ life did not begin in Bethlehem. He is the eternal Son of God.
Now, I recognize that the eternal Sonship of Jesus is old news for most of us. But it wasn’t old news in the Gentile world of Paul’s day. And increasingly you can’t take it for granted in our culture.
Even many people who believe in God have no concept of Christ’s deity. They talk about Jesus, but their Jesus is not the true Jesus. We must start where Paul does, with who God is and who Christ is because the gospel falls apart without the deity of Christ. So, emphasize that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. 2nd Paul says that…
Jesus is the promised Son of David. This statement once again grounds the gospel in centuries of OT prophecy and especially in God’s promise to send a Savior from the line of David. Jesus is the Messiah who is the key to all of God’s promises for salvation and for kingdom.
But this statement also emphasizes his humanity. The eternal Son “was born…according to the flesh.” Jesus was truly man. There is no gospel without this fact. Jesus had to become one of us to fulfill the law and to become our atoning sacrifice. Of course, Jesus did all these things. He lived a perfect life. Then he endured our judgment on the cross, and he took our sin debt out of the way. We must emphasize his substitutionary death in how we share the gospel.
However, Paul skips over it here because his main concern is the person of Christ. He has declared that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Then v. 4 adds a 3rd truth about Jesus that we don’t give nearly as much attention as we should.
Jesus is the rightful Lord of creation (v. 4). This week I listened to a sermon on this text by Mark Minnick, and he said that very few gospel tracts emphasize the resurrection. I think he is right, and I think it’s because most Christians don’t appreciate how crucial the resurrection is to the gospel.
There are several reasons the resurrection is important, but v. 4 says that it is especially important for Jesus’ relationship with humanity. Paul says that by Jesus’ resurrection, he was “declared (i.e., appointed) the Son of God.”
Now, you may be wondering what exactly that means. Didn’t we just say that Jesus is the eternal Son of God? Yes, we must be clear that Paul is not saying the resurrection made Jesus the Son. That would mean that the resurrection changed his relationship to the Father and the structure of the Trinity. That’s heresy because God cannot change.
And the Gospels teach Jesus’ eternal sonship. At Jesus’ baptism, God the Father said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:11). And Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of God long before his resurrection. So, Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
But the Bible also teaches that the resurrection affirmed and declared Jesus’ sonship thereby qualifying him to rule over his creation.
This reality is rooted in a prophecy about Jesus in Psalm 2:7–8, “He (the Father) said to Me (Jesus), ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” God said that someday he would declare Messiah’s sonship, and he would give him authority to rule the world.
And the apostles taught that God made this declaration in the resurrection. “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You’” (Acts 13:32–33). Peter connects the resurrection to Christ’s declaration as Son. Our text says the same thing. Jesus was “declared…”
Now, you may wonder why that matters for me or why it matters for evangelism? In response notice how Peter appealed to the resurrection in the climactic moment of the first Christian evangelistic sermon. Peter declares the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus, and then he ends with this.
“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, andhaving received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.For it was not David who ascended intoheaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:33–36).
Why must people respond to the gospel? What if they are already happy, and they don’t want Jesus? Peter answers that the resurrection declared Jesus to be Lord of all creation. And some day, he will return and crush his enemies. More specifically, he is your Lord, and if you do not repent, he will crush you also. Similarly our text says the Spirit raised Jesus “with power” declaring that he is “Jesus Christ our Lord.”
That’s a side of the gospel that we don’t emphasize much. Sinners like to be lord, so we share the gospel in a way that caters to our natural pride and selfishness. It results in many false conversions and immature believers.
We must emphasize that Christ is the heart of the gospel. Getting saved is much more than saying some magic words that secure a list of blessings. No, we must see Jesus as fully God and fully man and as my Lord before whom I must repent and to whom I must submit.
Of course, we must also emphasize that a relationship to Christ is gloriously wonderful. He is a loving Savior who is full of generous mercy. Knowing Christ in the gospel is better than all that other stuff we try to sell people on.
Rejoice in who Jesus is, worship him for all that he has done, draw near to him as your Advocate, obey him as your Lord, and anticipate the day when he will embarrass his enemies by making them his footstool.
If you are not saved, respond to Peter’s invitation, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). That’s the glorious message. Now let’s discussion…
III. The Mission (vv. 5–6)
These verses describe the Gentile mission that God gave to Paul. Like v. 1, there are aspects of this mission that were unique to Paul. There aren’t any more apostles laying the church’s foundation. But through the Great Commission God has called all of us to the same basic mission. Paul makes 3 points about this mission that are very important for us. First…
The gospel demands faith and obedience. Paul describes how people are to respond to the gospel as “the obedience of faith.” It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking description. I doubt we have any problem with the faith side. Romans 4 is going to talk a lot about the fact that we are justified by faith not by works. We receive salvation as a free gift; we don’t earn it.
But we may wonder where obedience fits in the call of the gospel. The answer is in what we just discussed about the centrality of Christ to the gospel and his lordship over creation.
Again, getting saved is not merely saying some words and getting a ticket to heaven. It is about coming into a right relationship with “Jesus Christ our Lord.” And there’s no way you can be right with the Lord without submission.
So, yes, we should plead with sinners to receive the free gift of salvation, but we must also call them to bow the knee to Christ’s Lordship over all of life. If they don’t get this side of the gospel, and they just see it as a way to avoid hell, they don’t really understand who Jesus is, what their sin is, or how the gospel changes everything. So, let’s not forget that we aren’t merely in the business of getting people to pray a prayer; we are in the business of calling people to “the obedience of faith.” The 2nd point about the mission is…
Our field is the world. Paul says, “among all the Gentiles.” To appecriate this we must remember that Paul was a Jew and that for 1500 years, God had called the Jews to separate from the nations. We just saw that so clearly in Ezra. So, this phrase may not seem like a big deal to us, it was radical for a Jew in the 1st
Yet it was true then, and it is still true today. Our mission is not merely to reach people; it is to reach every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, from every corner of the world. As such, world missions is not just a neat sideshow to our mission; it is essential to who we are as a church and our faithfulness to Christ. The 3rd point about the mission is…
The goal is Christ’s glory. Paul says that he does all of this “for His (Jesus in context) name’s sake.” I can’t say it any better than John Piper has. “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. So worship is the fuel and goal of missions.”
Certainly, we care about the good of people. We love them, and we don’t want them to go to hell. But if people are the ultimate goal of missions, it won’t be long before our priorities get off base, or they so irritate us that we quit. But if we go for God’s glory, we have endless motivation, endless confidence, and firm foundation. And we will deliver the very best gift we can give, which is God himself in all his glory and beauty.
Paul says he had given his life to this mission, and so should we. You can invest your life in a lot of things that are awesome for a moment or even that matter for a moment but then they are gone. Or you can invest your life in the most important mission of this age, the one that is certain to be fulfilled, and the one that bears eternal fruit—the Great Commission.
How about you? Are you zealous for the glory of God and for worldwide worship of the Lamb? What role does the Great Commission play in your budget, your time, your passions, your prayers, and your plans for the future. If God’s glory through the spread of the gospel is not central to all these things, your life is out of whack. “The gospel of God…concerning his Son” must drive our lives. Notice the final part of Paul’s introduction…
IV. The Church (vv. 6–7).
Let’s take a quick look at 3 descriptions of the Roman Church and of us. 1st…
We are loved by God. Paul calls the Romans and by extension all Christians “beloved of God.” That’s a good counterbalance of much of what I have said today. We aren’t merely pawns in God’s pursuit of glory and power; rather, infinite God has chosen to love wretched sinners like us. It is truly incredible to think that I am “beloved of God.”
We are called by God. Verse 6 describes us as the “called of Jesus Christ,” and v. 7 as “called as saints.” Both verses are speaking of God’s initiative. God sought us and loved us when we did not seek him. He brought us to Christ, and he has set us apart as saints or as his special holy people. It’s a wonderful gift to belong to Jesus. We should be so thankful that God called us out of the world and to himself.
We are blessed by God. Paul opens all 13 of his letters with a prayer for grace and peace because the blessing of God is foundational to the Christian life. We swim in a sea of grace and peace. Of course, this peace is not tranquility; it is shalom or well-being. It is the blessing of God.
So, this passage reminds us that we have received an incredible blessing in the God’s gospel of Christ. If you have never received this gospel, please bow the knee to Jesus and receive him as your Lord and Savior. You couldn’t possibly have a better master.
And if you are saved, remember that the gospel is all about God, and Christianity is fundamentally a relationship to God in Christ. Give thanks and draw near. Then go to the world with this gospel for the sake of his name.