Preacher: Chibuzo Petty
Scripture: Romans 1:1-17
Date: August 7, 2022
Hello church. You might already know that Paul wrote lots of letters, none have been as influential in Western Christian thought, as the book Romans, his longest. In the letter, Paul aims to explain salvation to the Romans. His thesis is found in chapter one, verse 17. “The righteous will live by faith.” This is a quote from the book of Habakkuk. More on this later, and is repeated in multiple New Testament books. It’s clear this verse from the Hebrew Scriptures played an important role in shaping the early Jewish Christian understanding of the gospel of salvation.
It is no wonder that Habakkuk 2: 4 is one of the most widely recognizable verses from the Old Testament among Christians, even if you didn’t realize it was Habakkuk 2: 4. Today’s text largely introduces Paul his mission and his understanding of the gospel of salvation. It begins with a pre script. Paul usually refers to himself as an apostle. This term was used in the New Testament to refer to the earliest missionaries who saw the risen Lord. Paul is unique in this title as the others with claims to the office actually walked with Jesus during His earthly life. Here, though, Paul refers to as a slave of Christ.
Some modern translations, most notably, the New International Version, rendered this as servant because the modern connotation of the word slave is very different from the slavery that we saw in the first century. This is especially true we think of Western understandings of the term. Now, granted, slavery was not good, even in the first century. Having your freedom, liberty taken from you was not good.
Original Greek is clear. Paul writes, slave, Paul means slave. Just as his descendants, his ancestors, I should say, were once slaves in Egypt after being liberated his people became slaves of God. Since Paul understands Jesus to not only be Lord but God is understandable that he would use this term slaves in the first century, they were usually paid, sure, and were considered members of the patriarchs extended family. This was not the violent, racist enslavement experience in colonial America. Still, Paul understands his slavery to Jesus as a point of privilege. He is part of Christ’s family. Beyond this though, he understands being connected to Jesus as having complete allegiance unwavering like a slave to Him. Jesus might freely grant us righteousness, the righteous will. They must live by faith.
In verses two through four, Paul defines the gospel in three parts. First, the gospel was foretold in the Hebrew scriptures. In other words, the New Testament does not replace the old testament like the name might suggest. Rather, the second Testament fulfills the first one. Second, Jesus is the Messiah and King in the line of David. The understanding that God would raise somebody eternal The King is present throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul is pointing here to show his earthly existence. Biblical writers go to great lengths to show that Jesus is a devoted King. See Matthew, Luke’s genealogies, or the nativity story for more on this.
Third, Jesus was declared the powerful Son of God through the resurrection. Some translations use appointed others use demonstrated to be, which might be the most fitting. Regardless, the most critical aspect of Jesus’ identity and the early Christian’s identity in Him was his resurrection from the dead, trusting that all believers would eventually likewise be resurrected to be with him was a hallmark of Christian belief from the beginning.
Paul then defines his mission, in verses five and six, he’s sharing the gospel with the Gentiles through Christ and for Christ, for Christ. Without Jesus, the supernatural mission could not be accomplished. Remember, God is calling us to something we simply cannot do. Beyond this, though, the sharing of the Gospel is done not only Jesus but for Him. Jesus is glorified by the gospel and his body. The church is edified and saved by it as well. Jesus, Paul, rather is not just sharing the gospel, however, the text points out the integral role obedience plays in the life of the believer. Paul hasn’t been sent out to get converts through some sort of intellectual understanding of who Jesus is. Paul is bringing people to obedience. Obedience is the natural response to true belief in Jesus and true belief in Jesus necessarily leads to obedience.
We’re not saved by our works, but if your faith doesn’t produce works or fruit you don’t actually have faith. This is crucial to understand. We are indeed saved by faith. But because faith always means obedience, we can just as rightly and perhaps more helpfully say we are saved by that obedience. Usually found in earlier verses and his other writings for seven gives us Paul’s greeting. He was writing all those in Rome, signaling that there were too many believers to meet in one place. The church would have been made up of factions of house churches during this time, a form of worship. Many modern Christians believe we should get back to especially many connected to the Anabaptist movement like the brethren.
Paul writes, the believers in Rome are both loved by God and called to be saints.
Despite our wickedness, God still loves us, all of us, and this Divine Love is the basis for our love of others. Paul includes the phrase grace and peace here, as he does in all his letters. Grace was a common Greek form of salutation peace, rather Shalom, was common in Hebrew. This is a simple pleasantry. Paul believes we experience to true grace and shalom on an eschatological scale, the end of time scale, given the work of God, to Jesus.
Through the Atonement, we can now have genuine intimacy with the Father and must exhibit complete obedience to the Son Jesus our Lord. People often refer to Jesus as Lord and Savior. We love to think of Jesus as our Savior many of us do. I mean, it’s easy. It’s comforting. If we’re honest, though, we have much less time for Jesus as Lord. Jesus was really the Lord of our lives our homes look different. I’m not calling anybody out. I’m preaching to myself. Of course, our churches, though, would look different. The culture would look different.
Paul is inviting believers to examine every aspect of their lives of our lives, and make Jesus the head of every last bit of it. I hope somebody’s saying amen. I hope somebody is snapping their fingers. I want to be a part of a community like this where we are invited to examine every aspect of our very lives and make Jesus the head of every last bit of it. It is through and in this very sharing and bring to obedience that Paul rejoices in verse eight. Paul is overjoyed with the fact that God has established his church in Rome. We must understand that Rome was essentially the center of the known world for Paul and the early Christians. It is because of this that their faith was known everywhere.
Paul, along with other apostles and church members across the region, thanked God for the church In Rome. Let us be thankful for the faith of others, let us find joy in people coming to Jesus. Let us be a community on mission that seeks out this joy through sharing the gospel and bring the body including ourselves to further obedience to Christ.
Verses nine through 15 take the form of a prayer, Paul aches to visit Rome. Aches, he is eager to continue his teaching in person. His dedication to the Gospel is through his whole heart, his entire being is on fire. Don’t you want that zeal? Why can’t we have it? Have you ever wanted anything as badly as Paul once this? maybe was excitement for your honeymoon? Maybe it was a prayer that your favorite sports team are winning the championship. I don’t know what excites you necessarily but we feel put our focus on we almost surely get both status comfort.
What would it look like for us to make the gospel our primary focus? This isn’t me being mean or judgmental. We’ve already learned we are judged by our fruit that faith means obedience. If new people aren’t declaring faith in Jesus and summarily living out that faith through their interactions with us then we are proven, let me say it one more time for those in the back, proven not to be focused on the gospel. It’s that simple. Different leaders or factions or cliques can have all the opinions they want. We can have all the great ideas we want but the simple truth is that the Ad Council won’t judge this congregation or its members. Neither will I or any other member of the pastoral team judge this congregation or its members. Jesus is judge. His standards will prove us aligned with him. Or not.
So again, let me ask what would it look like to be a church where Jesus is the true head? To altar of a famous Wendy’s slogan, Where’s the fruit? Paul closes in verse 16 and 17, Y’all I’m fitting to close soon, by bringing home this very point by reiterating gospel of salvation. “The righteous will live by faith.”
We have been delivered by God and own him everything in return. Literally everything. He gave us the very breath in our lungs. Who are we to withhold our time talent and treasure? Paul harkens back to Habakkuk 2: 4 as previously mentioned this first comes up again and again in the New Testament. Because of this, it is important to understand the context. Habakkuk two is talking about economic exploitation. Righteousness in this context is about justice. Often when preachers preach about justice, people ask why we can’t just preach Jesus. Well, that’s because Jesus is justice. Discipleship is all encompassing and includes things modern American Christians might perceive as political. We’re not righteous because we don’t curse or not righteous because we don’t let our kids watch R rated movies. We’re righteous if we care about the things God in both Testaments has been revealed to care about. As uncomfortable as that might be for middle class and for some of you suburban selves.
God is the God of the poor, the oppressed, voiceless, the powerless, the prayers and liturgical readings that we use each week, they must reflect this. Think about it. Ponder and more crucially let our lives reflect this too. Let our words ring true. Let our faith, our trust and our obedience be fragrant. There are no more sheep. We are the burnt offering. Amen. Will you pray with me?
Oh gracious and loving God and thank you for this opportunity to pause to hear Your Word. To see your face on the face of our neighbor, whether in the pew next to us or on a screen. We thank you that you love us enough to speak to us to share your word and share your precepts your ethics. You call us to do great and mighty things. You condescend to relationship with us, Lord God we are so grateful. Help us to turn our lives around to literally turn to repent that we might just say or hear a benediction that it might bring true that we might go and truly go and Love God. Love neighbors, make disciples that we might go in peace in Shalom to love and serve you Lord. Knowing that we do that by loving and serving the world, our neighbor. Light Paul’s fire in us. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
I love you all. I look forward to being with you again soon.