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1-1 Good News From God 5-23-04

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MBC - 5/23/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson

“From Saul to Paul”

Romans 1:1

ROM 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

ROM 1:2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

ROM 1:3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

ROM 1:4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

ROM 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,

ROM 1:6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

ROM 1:7 ¶ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The life-transforming gospel is the theme that permeates Romans. And the reason this book impacts people so powerfully is that Paul’s own life was changed, dramatically, radically, through the gospel.

Paul’s new identity: “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.”

Imagine that you are writing an important letter to a group of people whom you had never met. You want to introduce yourself at the beginning of the letter, but how would you identify yourself?

Ø      “I hold a B.A. from such-and-such college, where I graduated with highest honors, I sit on several boards, my name is listed in the “Who’s Who of Hoosiers,” and my income is just unbelievable . . .” How did Paul identify himself to the Christians at Rome?

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” I.e., “My name is Paul, but actually. . . I’m just a slave, I belong to someone else--it’s my Master who is important--and that is Christ Jesus.”

That’s the way Paul identified himself because that is the way he saw himself: just a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most important thing about Paul was not who he is, but whose he was.

Ø      Paul used the word doulos, the most abject, lowly term used to denote a slave. This would have struck the ears of those Christians because it was a derogatory term. Slaves were the lowest level in the social order of that day when slaves made up more than half of the population in the Roman empire.

Ø      1CO 3:5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.

Servants = diakonos = table-waiters--busboys! When Janice and I got married I was working my way through school with odd jobs and one of them was serving as a busboy, waiting on people in a little black bowtie. It doesn’t exactly build self-esteem! But Paul wasn’t concerned about his own significance or honor. He had surrendered any self-esteem he might have had to the service of His Master. Look at--

Ø      1CO 4:1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

The term used here is hupēretēs (“servants”) which literally means “underrowers,” referring to the lowest level of rowers in the large galley of a Roman ship. This was perhaps the hardest, most dangerous, and most demeaning work a slave could do. These slaves were the lowest of the low.

And the term “steward” means caretaker and it comes from the OE word “stywarden,” or pigkeeper. Paul was adamant that he was nothing, Jesus Christ and the Gospel entrusted to him were everything.

And what is striking is that Paul could have identified himself to these Romans as a Roman citizen and had immediate status in their sight! Paul did appeal to his Roman citizenship, in Acts 22, when he was about to be scourged--

Ø      ACT 22:25 . . . Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?"

Ø      ACT 22:26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, "What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman."

Ø      ACT 22:27 The commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes."

Ø      ACT 22:28 The commander answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money." And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen."

Ø      ACT 22:29 Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.

Paul doesn’t say a word about that here, just “I’m a slave of my Master, Jesus.”

Now think about this statement: Jesus had been crucified as a criminal by the Romans in Jerusalem about 25 years earlier. Paul became one of the most vicious, bloodthirsty crusaders against His followers, and now, he is preaching to Jew and Gentile alike that God raised Him from the dead, that He is the Son of God, and that He is Paul’s master.

He says that the living Christ rules his life! The only way to explain Paul and what happened to him is that he was right: Jesus Christ is alive and conquering human hearts.

For Paul, that meant that he was under new ownership. He had literally been bought and paid for by Christ and he belonged to Him, body and soul-- 

Ø      1CO 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

And it freed him from the opinions and judgments of others--

Ø      GAL 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

To Paul, to live meant what? Christ? Everything was Christ to Paul--what about you? Is the way you would identify yourself, as a slave of Jesus Christ?

I want you to understand as we study this epistle that it is not about the man, Paul, and his genius, it is about a man and his Owner, his Ruler. Second--

Paul’s new authority: “called as an apostle.”

Even though Paul saw himself as nothing but a slave of Jesus Christ, he also recognized that God had called him to be an apostle. And there has never been any higher calling for a human being than that of being called as an apostle--

Ø      1CO 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers . . .

Ø      REV 21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [You say, “what about Paul--#13? I’m sure God has something special for him in that holy city--maybe a bridge will be named after him or something. . .]

Paul identifies himself here as one of these called apostles. He didn’t boast about it but he never belittled that position or the authority that came with it. Paul wouldn’t defend himself against personal attacks or criticism, but he would stand up to anyone who challenged his apostleship because it came from God. Look at the end of v. 4--

Ø      Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.

Ø      ROM 11:13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, [But he didn’t take this on himself:]

Ø      GAL 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),

Ø      1TI 2:7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Ø      1CO 1:1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

What we see when we read Paul’s letters is a man who was humble and self-deprecating about himself, but absolutely clear about his call to be an apostle--

Ø      1CO 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Ø      2CO 12:11 I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.

Ø      2CO 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. [Paul was a miracle-worker]

What was an apostle?

The word Apostolos means “sent one,” a messenger, a representative, an ambassador. This is the word that that describes 13 men (the Twelve, minus Judas who was replaced by Matthias in Acts 1, and Paul) whom Jesus personally chose and commissioned.

These thirteen apostles were all eyewitnesses of His resurrection--Paul got his own special encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road. And what we need to understand is that Jesus personally chose and commissioned these men and passed on to them His own Word and His own authority to proclaim His gospel and lead His church. They represented Him. Let’s look at--

Ø      JOH 14:26  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

Ø      JOH 16:13  "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

Ø      JOH 16:14  "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

This is not a promise to all believers! Jesus wasn’t speaking about you and I here, He was speaking to His disciples. After His death and res., He would send forth His HS, and the HS would give these men direct revelation from Him to speak, and to record in the Scriptures. That’s what Paul is talking about in--

Ø      1CO 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

Ø      1CO 2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Again, this isn’t a promise for every believer, this is Paul explaining that he and the other apostles had received direct revelation from God. And it is absolutely necessary that all Christians recognize the unique position of the apostles as Jesus’ own ambassadors of the NC truth. The Thessalonians recognized it:

Ø      1TH 2:13 And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

And when these men wrote down the revelation they received, it was the very Word of God--

Ø      2TI 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

There are no more apostles today because there is no one living today who has been personally commissioned by Jesus Christ and was an eyewitness to His res. (And that includes the pastor of the Lakeport Bible Church, who calls himself an apostle!) These men, including Paul, were unique and foundational to the church--and they still lead the church through the Scriptures they wrote. That’s what Paul meant in--

Ø      EPH 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,

Ø      EPH 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

The apostles and prophets (the NT prophets, no the old) laid the foundation for the church--which is the NT Scriptures! “How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

So when Paul introduces himself as “Paul, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle,” there’s emotion in that. Paul remembers who he was, and where he came from. He used to be, quite literally, the apostle of persecution. He was there when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death, and it says he gave hearty approval. Let’s look at Paul’s own testimony of how God turned Saul of Tarsus into the Apostle Paul: [his own testimony to King Agrippa]--

Ø      ACT 26:9 "I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Ø      ACT 26:10  "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.

Ø      ACT 26:11  "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

Ø      ACT 26:12 "While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests,

Ø      ACT 26:13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.

Ø      ACT 26:14  "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

Ø      ACT 26:15  "And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Ø      ACT 26:16 'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

Ø      ACT 26:17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you,

Ø      ACT 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'

Paul obeyed this calling until the day he laid his head on the chopping block at the Mamertine Prison in Rome. The gospel had given him a new identity, a new authority, and--

Paul’s new purpose: “set apart for the gospel of God.”

The word he used here for “set apart” is the Gk. word aphorizo_. It means to be consecrated--separated--and it is the word that Pharisee comes from. The Pharisees viewed themselves as the separated ones--better than the other Jews, more law-abiding, therefore, more pleasing to God. Paul had been a Pharisee--set apart for the Torah--but now he was set apart for the gospel of God.

I wonder if Paul stopped here and began to think back over how his life had changed as a result of what happened that day on the way to Damascus. . . .

Paul used to be Saul or Sha’ul of Tarsus. In Acts 21:39, he said that he was “a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city.” Tarsus is straight North of Israel on the Mediterranean. It was a city renowned for its love of philosophy and the arts. It was like a modern-day university city, and it was also a wealthy city where many people were addicted to luxury.

In Tarsus, there was a small community of Jews, and somehow, Saul’s father had Roman citizenship conferred upon him--maybe because the Roman army needed tent makers and they rewarded the family with citizenship. Only a few of the citizens in Tarsus were Roman citizens, so Saul, as a natural born Roman citizen, was born into a very elite family.

The most valuable thing in Saul’s life wasn’t his Roman citizenship, though, it was his Judaism. He says in Phil.3:5,6:

Ø      PHI 3:4 . . . If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:

Ø      PHI 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

Saul was not just a Jew, he was of the beloved tribe of Benjamin, and he was named after the most Benjaminite in Israel’s history--King Saul. And he says that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” What does that mean? Weren’t all Jews, Hebrews?

Well, you see in Saul’s day, the Jews were scattered all over the Roman empire, and many of the Jews were called Hellenistic Jews, meaning that they had picked up the culture and language of the Greeks--they had been Hellenized (which is not to be confused with Hannitized.) Saul lived in a Greek-speaking city--he didn’t live in Palestine, and obviously, Paul spoke and wrote in Greek, but Hebrew was his language and his culture, and he worshiped in a synagogue that read and prayed in Hebrew. He used to be very proud of that--he was a Hebrew of Hebrews!

Ø      GAL 1:14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

And as a teenager, he was sent off to be educated in Jerusalem--

Ø      ACT 22:3  "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem], educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.

There was no greater honor that any Jewish boy living then could have than to be discipled by Gamaliel himself. Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin, and the grandson of Rabbi Hillel, the most famous Rabbi of all time. When Gamaliel died, it was said, “the glory of the Torah ceased, and purity and separateness died.”

Did you catch that word, “separateness?” Gamaliel was a Pharisee--one of the separated ones. Some even called him the last of the true Pharisees.

Now let me say a few things about the Pharisees: Not every Jew was a Pharisee! There were only about 6,000 Pharisees at the time of Saul. There were 3 major schools of thought among the Jews at this time. The Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes who lived down by the Dead Sea in a commune. The Sadducees were wealthy, they were very open to Hellenistic thinking and culture, and they were cozy with Rome and with Herod. They were the most liberal of the three groups; they denied a future resurrection, they didn’t believe in angels or spirits, and they rejected what the Pharisees absolutely revered, the Talmud, which was the oral commentaries on the Scriptures.

The Essenes were the most radical and strict of the three groups. It took 2 years of strict scrutiny before a person could be admitted to the Essene community, and then you had to sell all you owned and give the money to the community. The Essenes were fanatical about keeping the Torah, especially the Sabbath and the dietary laws.

The Pharisees were looked down upon by the Essenes, but they were very strict about their Judaism. They hated the inroads of Hellenism into Judaism--so they didn’t get along with the Sadducees at all. Some of the Pharisees were godly men, but all-in-all, they were legalists: They were proud of how they kept the law, and they looked down on those who didn’t. They put their confidence in their own flesh. They were working for their righteousness! So when Jesus came along, how did they react to Him?

He didn’t fit their idea of spirituality. He wasn’t one of them. And He wasn’t concerned about keeping their man-made rules from their beloved Talmud. But what did Jesus say about them?

Ø      MAT 23:5  "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

Ø      MAT 23:6  "They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,

Ø      MAT 23:7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

Ø      MAT 23:23 ¶ "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Ø      MAT 23:24  "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Ø      MAT 23:25 ¶ "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

Ø      MAT 23:26  "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Ø      MAT 23:27 ¶ "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

Ø      MAT 23:28  "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Now go back to Paul’s introduction: he used to be “set apart as a Pharisee,” sold out to legalistic self-righteousness, but when Christ appeared to him that day on the way to Damascus, he turned Paul around and gave him a whole new purpose in life--now he was set apart for the gospel of God.”

What is the Gospel? The word means “good news.” It’s good news because of what we saw last week: salvation is not difficult for us human beings--it is impossible. None of us can ever be good enough to be saved. But God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves: He has made a way for us to be saved apart from measuring up to any standard of holiness. We can be accounted as righteous in His sight, forgiven of all our sins, and given eternal life, by simply trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ!

That is going to be the theme of Romans. But I want to leave you with this thought this morning: the gospel set the boundaries for Paul’s life.

put much confidence in their own 

Something else interesting There were

This was Saul’s discipler and mentor.

More than that, he was a Pharisee, and he said in Acts 23:6, he was a son of Pharisees!

Conclude with asking how we identify ourselves; what is the authority in our lives; what is our purpose. .  .

Do you notice that Paul’s significance doesn’t lie in who he is, but in what has been done to him--by God.

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