Paul had many reasons for writing the Church at Rome.
1) Peter didn't start the Church at Rome,
2) Paul didn't start it. [In the book of Acts, chapter two, verses 1-11 it gives us a clue.
3) It seems that devout Jewish worshippers and proselytes from Rome were in Jerusalem on that fateful day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit miraculously came on the disciples of Jesus 50 days after his resurrection (Acts 2:1-11). These just converted Jewish Christians from Rome probably went back to Rome and started the Church of God at Rome.]
4) Paul was writing the Romans from the city of Corinth. Why did he send the letter? For one thing, Paul sent the letter because he had a whole lot of friends in Rome, a whole lot of Christian buddies that were there. He wanted to say "Hi!" to all of them, and he really wanted to visit this Church. He said so, many friends were there. If you go to Romans 16 and you look at about verse 3 and you read on to verse 16 Paul names nearly 30 people by name that he knows. Another reason that he wrote was because there were problems that the Church at Rome was encountering. They had people going from door-to-door teaching different doctrines, different gospels, some were saying that the only way God was going to accept you is if you do this and you do that and you can't eat this and you can't eat fat and you got to worship God on this day. [This whole letter is addressed to two groups of people in the Church of God at Rome. The Jewish Christians had grown up in strict Orthodox Jewish homes. They were so Orthodox that they thought it necessary to be in Jerusalem for the Holy Day seasons, and thus were in Jerusalem that fateful Passover/Pentecost season when Jesus Christ died, was resurrected and then the Holy Spirit came on the disciples 50 days later on the Holy Day of Pentecost. The other group was made up of Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians, as a result of their religious background and upbringing were practicing what amounted to a form of old covenant Christianity. It was a Christianity tied to the works of the law, the old covenant law of Moses. But the counsel of Jerusalem that took place in Acts 15 stated that the old covenant had passed away and the new covenant was in full force for Christians--making the old covenant obsolete--and at best optional as to whether a Christian had to observe the 7th day Sabbath, Holy Days, dietary laws, etc. Hebrews 8:8-15 states the intent of the new covenant. The Gentiles knew this, but the old covenant practicing Jewish Christians were confusing the poor Gentiles in this matter of which covenant to fellow. These Jewish Christians were a bit confused themselves.] They were confused, 'What do we do?' They were asking, so he's writing to set them straight. Also they were wondering about Israel, the nation of Israel, is God finished with the Jews? Is it curtains for Israel? What's going to happen, Lord?' They were wondering 'What was the gospel?'. Paul wrote to them to declare the gospel that he had preached throughout the world. Paul hadn't been able to get there in person yet, and so, thank God he wrote this letter.
The book of Romans is a masterpiece in that it is the most complete explanation of what the gospel is that we have in the whole Bible. Thank God that he wasn't able to go to Rome yet and had to write this letter. It has been a blessing to millions of people. The book of Romans is a revolutionary book. Beware--you may become a part of the "Romans Revolution." This book will change your life. You may have been a Christian 50 years, 5 years, 5 minutes--the book of Romans will change your life. Quite possibly it is the most important document that ever has been written. For almost the past 2,000 years God has used this book to change the lives of millions and millions of people.
Some of the brightest leaders of the Church [speaking of the collective Church, the body of Christ] have traced their new birth to this book--to the book of Romans message. The list of those touched by Romans reads like sort of a spiritual 'Who's who.' Think of Augustine who lived about 383, 386 was when he was saved. He was one of the greatest leaders and theologians that the church has ever had. He traces his conversion to a few verses right back in Romans 13. It was in September of 386 that Augustine sank into a great dispare. His godly mother, Monica, had been praying for him for decades--praying that he would come to Christ. His Dad wasn't a Christian, his Mom was. Augustine was going the way of the world, he was running from God fast as his feet would take him. He got into a real immoral lifestyle. Started living with a gal--Oops, they had a baby. He got into all sorts of philosophies. He got involved in some of the cults of his day. He drank himself into oblivion at times. His life was a mess. And one day sitting in his friend's garden, in September he sat there and just began to cry and cry. He'd come to the end. He looked at his life, he saw what he was, and thought 'How on earth could anyone accept me?' But while he was sitting there in his friend's garden crying, he heard a little child sing a song, a little Latin song. He sang "Take up and read, take up and read, take up and read." And he thought, 'Where's that coming from?' And he looked around, and Augustine looked there right next to him in the garden was an open scroll of Romans. In his own words, he said, "I seized it and opened it! And in silence I read the first passage in which my eyes fell." And this is what he read, "not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealously. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its' lusts." He goes on to say, "I had no wish to read on and no need to do so. For in an instant I came to the end of the sentence and it was as if the light of faith flooded into my heart, and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled." The moment his eyes fell upon Romans 13, he looked at those verses, and the Spirit caused him to be born again, and Augustine was saved--just by reading a couple verses in Romans.
And another person who was transformed by the book was Martin Luther. Luther had struggled for years to have peace with God, and he knew that God was Holy, and he was not. He tried all sorts of religious practices, denying himself, hurting himself--studying, praying. He went into the monastery to try to find God, and he could not find God. He knew he wasn't good enough and so he tried every form of good works possible. As a last resort he decided he would go to the Holy City, Rome! And there, there are so many hundreds of shrines. There perhaps by visiting the shrines he could avoid many thousands of years in Purgatory. And so he went, seeking indulgences. And when he got to Rome, boy was he shocked! Rome was far from being the Holy City. In fact the people said, 'If ever there was a Hell Hole open to earth, Rome was built over it.' Luther, though, was shocked by the way the priests and nuns were living, practicing all sorts of perverted lifestyles. He went ahead and visited all the shrines and tried to grab all the indulgences he could. Finally, the last great pilgrimage was when he came to the Lateran Church, which is famous for its' sacred stairway. And in this great church, supposedly, supernaturally, from Jerusalem, the very staircase that Jesus stood on when Pilate condemned him to die, was transported to Rome. So now all the pilgrims would come to Rome [and say] "These were the very steps that Jesus stood upon when he was condemned!" And so they would get on their knees, (they still do it today) and they would climb those steps, one step at a time on their knees. And so Luther got on his knees, and he began at the bottom, there, and he would kiss the step and then he would pray the rosary. Then he would move to the nest step, he would kiss it, and then he would say his rosary, going up the steps this way. He was interrupted as he was praying. This is his own account. He said, "I heard a very small voice, saying, 'Martin, Oh Martin, the just shall live by faith.' 'Who said that?'" That was the verse he had read in the book of Romans that had bugged him for years! He could not understand, how to be right with God. He knew God was Holy, and it said, 'The just shall live by faith.' But he said, 'How do I get unholy me and a Holy God together?' He didn't understand, and so he went to the next step, and he began to pray the rosary. He was interrupted this time with a louder voice, saying, 'Oh Martine, the just shall live by faith.' He said, "This is very strange." He went to the next step, the voice again this time louder said, 'The just shall live by faith!' He said, well I'll try it one more time. He went to the next step, he kissed it and as he did he thought the whole world heard the words as they were shouted, "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH!!!" He said, "I stood up. I felt like a man who had come to his senses. I thought, 'What am I doing this stupidity for? Trying to get right by God?--'the just shall live by faith!'" It made sense to him. He ran down those stairs, quickly went back to Germany, and there he began to study the book of Romans. And the [Christian] world has never been the same since. There he began to see how the Church of Rome did not jibe with what the book of Romans said to that Church. And he found himself coming at odds with the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, so much so that he had to say, "I Protest! This false doctrine has gone too far!" And the Protestant movement began. It spread like wildfire throughout Europe. The cry of the Reformation was "The just shall live by faith!" You may not realize it, but the book of Romans is responsible for your not being at Mass today. If it were not for the book of Romans you'd all be at Mass today.
This history and the destiny of the world has been changed by this book, and it will change your life too. Luther said, "The Epistle of Romans is the chief part of the New Testament, the purest gospel. It deserves not only to be known word for word by every Christian, but to be the subject of his meditation day by day--the daily bread of his soul." Luther said, "The more time one spends in this book the more precious it becomes, and the better it appears." He said, " It was a light and a way into the whole of Scriptures." You understand the book of Romans, you'll understand the whole Bible.
Then I think of Calvin--no not Calvin Klein--John Calvin, another Protestant reformer whose life was profoundly changed, and touched by the book of Romans. This is what Calvin said about the book of Romans, "If a man understands the book of Romans, he has a sure road open for him to the understanding of the whole Scripture." That's because the book of Romans is a little Bible in miniature. The book of Romans talks about every doctrine that you ever can find in the Bible. Well you say, "I'm not into doctrine." Oh baloney! "I don't like doctrine!" I don't believe it, because, doctrine means teaching. What are you doing here today [reading this] if you don't like doctrine? "Well okay, teaching, but not theology." What do you mean? Theology is knowing about God. Don't you want to know about God? Sure you do. And whether or not you're a Christian here this morning, you have a theology. You have some thoughts about God, you have some ideas about God. Now they may or may not jive with what the Word of God says is true about God. But you all have a theology. And what you believe, what your doctrine is, will always cause you to live a certain way. You'll live like your doctrine. Whatever your doctrine is will affect the way you live. Doctrine is very important. Right doctrine will lead towards right living. Wrong doctrine will lead towards wrong living.
Even the English Bible traces its' origin back to the book of Romans. William Tyndale, the first publisher of the Bible in English was profoundly affected by the book of Romans. It gave him his love for the Word of God. Tyndale, when he finally translated Romans into English, wrote this little blurb in the front, in the preface to the book of Romans. "For as much as this Epistle is the principle and most excellent part of the New Testament, and most pure Evangelia, and that is to say, glad tidings and that we call gospel. And also it's a light and a way into the whole Scripture. I think it meat that every Christian man not only know it by rote, and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well, for the more it is studied the easier it is. The more it's chewed the pleasanter it is. The more groundly it is searched the preciouser things are found in it--so great a treasure of spiritual truth lieth therein." It's amazing how all these great men of God said, 'You know, everybody should memorize the book of Romans.'
Think about John Wesley. He was a spiritually dead pastor and missionary of the Church of England. He spent years desperately trying to minister to people what he himself did not have, --a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He had ritual and religion, but not a relationship with God. In his heart he knew he wasn't saved. But he didn't know how to be saved because he wasn't sure what the gospel was. But one strategic evening on May 24th, 1738 he reluctantly went to a little church gathering where his life was to be forever changed. Later he wrote in his journal what happened that night. Let me read you what he wrote. "I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ--Christ alone for my salvation. And an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins and death." God did it again, didn't he! He used the book of Romans to save a man, and this man now is to go on and to touch the world. John Wesley, after he was saved, he went on to be used by God to start a revival in the New England colonies of America that began to be such an infernal of revival--the blaze was so great that it's still known today as the "Great Awakening." And hundreds of thousands of people were saved. The awakening went over to Europe. It was a marvelous move of God's Spirit. One of the most amazing things I've seen as I've studied the history of the Church--the past 2,000 years of Church history--is that most if not all of the great revivals and reformations and spiritual awakenings of the Church of Jesus Christ can be traced back to the book of Romans. That's significant. All through history when the Church has fallen into spiritual error and deadness, the Lord Jesus has brought the book of Romans to somebody's attention, and the result is that the Church bursts into life. Great spiritual awakenings have occurred whenever this book has been dusted off, opened, read, and understood. Don't misunderstand me. The power of the book of Romans is not just something that worked 2,000 years ago. The power of the book of Romans is something that can effect our lives today. If you're spiritually dry or dead, this book of Romans can quicken you, can cause you to come alive. If you're not a Christian, the book of Romans--if you read it and listen to it--you can't stand not being a Christian. You will become a Christian, if you listen to the book of Romans, and you begin to understand it.
You can't sit on the book of Romans without the power of God affecting your life and motivating you to move for God. My experience was that God in his great grace, when I was dead in my sins--I was far away from the Lord, I had no idea what the gospel was--he used the book of Romans to cause me to be born again. I read the book of Romans in the most simple, easy to understand translation that you can find, the Living Bible. And as I was reading through the Living Bible I came to a verse that said, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." I read that verse and I couldn't understand it. That was even more simply stated in the Living Bible. It says, "Hey! You're not saved by what you do, you're saved by what Jesus has done for you." I could not understand that. I went to my youth pastor and said, "Would you explain this verse to me?" He said, "Well, you're saved by what God does for you, and not for what you do." And I said, "I don't understand that." And look , [he] looked at me and said "Well he's got a mental problem, you know, the kid is a slow learner." Really I didn't. I always got great grades, and everything. But I could not understand this book! It was driving me bananas. Finally, some precious friends sat me down, and one day, one afternoon, they told me to shut up and listen, and they took out the book of Romans, and they began to go through it, chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, chapter five, and by the time I got to chapter five I understood the gospel, and I was born-again. Hallelujah for the book of Romans! I was [so] turned on that everywhere I went I Romans! Romans! Romans! That's all I could talk about, that's all I could teach anybody was the book of Romans! Because it had changed my life. I went to the college that I went to, I started an evening class that met once a week. The classroom was a big classroom packed with people as we were studying and teaching the gospel out of the book of Romans. And they were just lapping it up, like water of life for their thirsty souls. And then I met a sweet gal on campus named Leslie. And I realized after a little bit that she wasn't saved. Now she wasn't a bad person, she was a very religious lost person. She was a very spiritual lost person. There's a lot of them in the world. And I realized she didn't know what I knew! And I said, "Look at this Leslie." And we began to study the book of Romans, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. And sure enough, K-bang! The Lord reached down and he saved her! Don't misunderstand, the power of this book to change lives is something that's working today. This week, I'm amazed. It doesn't matter how dark the pit you're in, the book of Romans can reach you. God will use the book to reach you.
When I think of spiritual bondage, now don't get offended, I often think of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Now I'm not trying to offend you if you're a Jehovah's Witness today. (What are you doing here if you're a Jehovah's Witness anyway!? Don't tell anybody.) But anyway, I think of spiritual darkness and I think, 'Man, there they go.' You know, Bless their hearts, so sincere. I'm not putting them down, but what they believe is not what the Bible teaches…anyway, when I think of Jehovah's Witnesses I think, 'Wow--If God can save them he can save anybody.' And then when I think about the leadership of the Watchtower Society, I think 'If God could save one of those guys, you know, part of the governing body of the J.W.'s', I said, 'Man, that would really be something.' And you know what God did? I found out about a year or so ago one of the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a guy by the name of Raymond Franz, was saved. Tremendous--he left the governing body of the J.W.'s, left Brooklyn. His life, everything had been invested, his life, every penny he made had been invested in the Watchtower Tract Society. He walked away from it all. I think it's his brother, cousin, uncle is actually the president of Jehovah's Witnesses right now. He walked away from it all. That meant he walked away from anyone, I mean any friends he had would never speak to him again. They would treat him like he was dead. He walked away. I read his book, called "Crisis of Conscience." He's got a more recent book out now. And I thought, I want to talk to this guy because I got a hunch that I know what book it was that called him out of that darkness. I just wonder. So I called him last week, got his number somehow, called him up and said, "Hi, may I speak to Raymond Franz." He says, "This is he." (Real nice guy.) I said, "Well Hi, I'm Mark." And I told him a little about myself, and said, "It's the book of Romans that touched my life and saved me and brought me out of legalism, brought me out of the cult I was in." "Did God by any chance use the book of Romans in your life?" And then the phone lit up, he says, "Yes it was the book of Romans that God used." He says, "He used it to really impress upon me the reality and the essence of Christianity." He said, "I, like Paul, was a Pharisee. I thought by what I was doing I could be saved. I thought I was good because I was a good guy!" He says, "But the book of Romans has shown me that I need Christ and his sacrifice, which was enough for all time to save us." He says, "It really struck home with me, and it was the crucial point with me, coming to the decision to leave the organization. It's message showed me the problems of the governing body." And then I was so excited, when I hung up I was running through the house, saying, "Praise God! The book of Romans can reach a Jehovah's Witness!" It's great. It can reach you. The book of Romans can touch you, and can save you.
Well, enough talking about the book. Let's get into it. Let me take you through a quick jet tour of the book of Romans. This is going to be fast, just a jet tour.
A simple outline of the book. Some people look at the book of Romans and they're going, "Oooh man, it's too much for me. Hey, it's only sixteen chapters. And yes, it is the heaviest book probably in the whole New Testament. But it's the greatest book in the whole New Testament. Stick with us, you're going to know this book inside and out. I mean, after five years of being in Romans you'll know it, right? So here's a simple outline of the book of Romans. First of all, chapters one, two and three, look at them. Just flip through and look at them. They talk about the problem--the problem that we have and our need of the gospel. Chapters one, two and three--the problem of the world, the problem of the religious, the problem of the irreligious--we got a need. Then chapters four and five talk about the provision of the gospel. So we got the problem, one, two and three, chapters four and five give us the provision for our problem, the provision of the gospel. Oh wait till we get to chapter six, look through chapter six, seven and eight. I can hardly wait, because they talk about the power of the gospel--the power of the gospel to change your life. And then chapters nine, ten and eleven. Hmm, what about Israel? Why are some people saved and some people aren't? [And that's a good question that deserves a good answer. One particular Christian fellowship has a pretty interesting answer to that question, and it's a Biblical answer to that perplexing question.] Is God finished with the Jews? Are Jews saved just because they're Jews? Are they still God's people? Where do they fit in? Is God forever done with them? Chapters nine, ten and eleven talk about the perplexities of the gospel--some perplexing questions that are answered. And then chapters twelve and thirteen and fourteen and fifteen and a little bit of sixteen talk about the practice of the gospel--how to practice what you live. [i.e. How to practice what you believe, making your spiritual belief part of your lifestyle.] I mean, what you know--how to live it out.
So the problem, and our need--the provision of the gospel--the power of the gospel--the perplexities of the gospel--and the practice of the gospel, that's what we're going to get into. We got a lot of good stuff ahead of us. This book shows us how important right doctrine is, because right doctrine will lead to right living.
So let's move right into the book. Romans 1, verse 1. Paul begins it by introducing himself. He says 'Hello again, I'm Paul, a bondservant. He uses three terms to describe himself. He says, "I'm a bondservant of Christ Jesus, secondly, I've been called as an apostle, thirdly, I've been set apart for the gospel of God." Paul describes himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ--very interesting because in Paul's day and age there were a lot of different kinds of servants. There were servants who were captured in war. Your country lost, they came in, they captured you, they sent you by boat to another city, and sold you on an auction block to the highest bidder and now for the rest of your life you had to serve your master. It's like a prison term, a life sentence. Then there were some slaves who sort of mortgaged themselves. They needed "X" amount of money, and so they would sell themselves, maybe for ten years for ten thousand dollars. For ten years they would serve. And at the end of that period they could go free. And legally they had to serve. If slaves ran away from their masters they could be executed. It was up to the master to decide what to do with them. But they could be executed.
And then there was the third kind of slavery, and this is the term that Paul uses to describe his relationship with Christ. If a servant had loved his master and served him and now his time was up and he could go free, but at that time he decided, as he looked out in that big world, and he looked at his master, he thought, 'You know, I don't want to go out there. I want to stay with my master. I love him, his family, I love his household, I love everything about him. My heart is changed, I don't want to go.' The slave who stayed a slave out of love for his master was called a bond-slave or a bondservant. Just seeing how Paul describes his relationship with Christ, he says, 'I'm not serving because I have to. My serving Christ is not some kind of a prison sentence that I'm serving. And I'm not serving because I owe a debt to God, you know, and I'm trying to pay it off. I'm serving God because I love him. Yeah, I could leave. No way! You couldn't pull me away from Jesus.' Do you serve the Lord because you have to? Do you serve the Lord because you feel, well, you know, I was almost in that car accident, you know, and he allowed me to live. And I promised him then that I would always serve him. So you're paying God back? Or are you serving God because you love him? No other service really--no other service really matters than the service of love. Somebody said about foreign missions, they said, many people go because they love the Chinese, and they're going to serve in China, because they love the Chinese,' until things get really tough. What's going to keep them in China is love for God, not love for the Chinese. And you can serve God because you're such a loving person, but pretty soon your love is going to wear out and the only thing that's going to keep you serving is your real love for God.
"Bondservant, Christ Jesus, called as an apostle…" He describes himself as an apostle, the office he had in the Church was the office of an apostle. In other words he's saying, 'Now listen, what I'm telling you is not off the top of my head, this is an authoritative message from Jesus Christ.' Because I was called, commissioned and given a message supernaturally by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. I am his apostle.' And so they say, 'What authority do you have to teach the gospel?' He says, 'I'm an apostle of Jesus Christ, of this role and function in the Church.'
And then he describes himself in verse three, thirdly as "Being set apart for the gospel of God." The term "set apart" is really sort of interesting, (just for those of you who like that sort of stuff). The term "set apart", that word is the same root word, has the same root as Pharisee has. A Pharisee was somebody who was "set apart" for the law. Their whole life was wrapped around the law, the law, the law. Do, do, do, do. Do this, do that, the Pharisee was set apart for the law. He says, 'I've been set apart--for what?--the gospel of God.' How neat, what a transformation in this guy's life. He went from being set apart for the law, a "have to" service, to being set apart for love for the Lord, a "want to" service. It's pretty neat. He said, "set apart for the gospel of God." What does the word "gospel" mean, gang? "Good News" is what the word means. It means "a really great message." Don't ever be deceived, the gospel is always good news. And if anybody ever comes to you with a gospel that isn't good news, don't believe them. I mean, that's one way you can discern, what is the gospel and what isn't. Is it Good News? The little guys who come to your door, knock, knock, knock, knock, they've got their white shirts on. Their black ties on and their bicycles parked on your sidewalk, their little badges--you look at them, they look younger than your teenager, and it's 'Elder somebody,' you know. You think, 'Wow! Elders are getting younger and younger, aren't they?' And they say, "We want to share with you the gospel of Jesus Christ." And you get in and listen to the spiel and you realize, 'Wait a minute, this isn't good news.' This a big message about "Doing." It's "Good Do's, what I've got to do. And Dues, they also want your money, of course. The gospel is not "Good Dues", doing or giving. The Gospel is Good News about what Jesus Christ has done for you. And that alone and nothing else can be the gospel. The world is looking today for an answer. The world is looking for power, they're looking for a message. [He says the following "tongue in cheek."] While we were up in Sedona the other day, gang, Did you know this? You can [go to] Bashes in Sedona, the new ninth Big Bashes there, you can go in and you can buy candied peanuts that have been energized at Bell Rock! You read the bag, and it says, man, 'These peanuts have been taken to Bell Rock and they've sat there for what, an hour, two, three hours.' It must take three hours to get your batteries charged at, you know, Bell Rock. And these little peanuts have been charged there, you know, and now if you buy these peanuts, I don't know what happens to you if you eat one of these Bell Rock charged peanuts. Supposedly you go to Bell Rock and underneath, the New Ager's tell you, underneath Bell Rock is solid crystal. And they're climbing all over Bell Rock, you know, thinking, "Oh the energy!" "I was driving by Bell Rock, man, I just felt the energy!" I mean, what will people believe!?! If you believe those peanuts are supercharged at Bell Rock, I mean, they have no fingers to point at televangelists because maybe they took one peanut out of a thousand and charged it at Bell Rock, but I haven't seen any peanut trucks sitting at Bell Rock. "Sure they were." I don't believe it. It's a bunch of baloney. You know what people? You wear a little rock around your neck! And I tell you, those people, they're looking, and they are out of it. I mean, we were in the health-food store and people bumping you, "Oh, excuse me, Oh." They're just out of it. I'm glad they're in the healthfood store, because they need something, you know. But they are so 'other conscioused'. They're looking for the "Christ consciousness." And they found some kind of consciousness. I couldn't believe it! People, they were just--Bump--like they weren't even there, looking, 'Where the mung beans?' I mean, these people. It's like they're in the Ozone. Where are they? Just weird. Don't be offended, it's just, they're looking for a Christ consciousness, and they're getting something. I mean, it's not all in [their mind], there is a spiritual force, but not [every] spiritual power is God's power. There's a devil, and there's a God, and there's good and evil, and some of these people, they're getting charged with the wrong thing. They're all looking for the Christ. [In] the world of Paul's day, the Romans were looking for "something." The Christ-consicousness today people talk about, but the Bible doesn't offer you a "Christ-consciousness", the Bible offers you a real man, the Lord Jesus Christ, the real person that you can know in a personal way, and who will know you in a personal way.
The Validity of the Gospel Message and Jesus Christ
And this is the gospel that we declare. He says,"this gospel," verse 2, "which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son, who was born of a descendant of David, according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead according to His Spirit of Holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord." So he says, "Hey, I'm preaching a message, you want to know how you can validate the message of Christitianity?" [And here pastor Mark goes on to validate Christianity, just as Paul would, for both Jew and Gentile alike. Verse 2 of Romans 1 is important, for you can validate all these details in the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment in the New Testament.] You'd only have your head buried in the sand if you just believe me because I said, "Believe this." Why should you believe what I'm telling you is the truth? Maybe you're here like for the first time today, and you're not used to being around a bunch of Christians. Maybe some of the lingo for sure [you're] understanding. But you're sitting there, saying, "Well, this sounds good, but how do I know this is true?" Let me tell ya, you see Paul started out this way. He said, 'Look, the gospel that I'm bringing you, this message that I'm declaring, this Good News has been verified by what the ancient prophets said in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. You want to know if this is authentic gospel? Look! Look at what the Old Testament prophets promised. And look at how this man Jesus Christ fulfills it.' That's all you gotta do today, to know whether Christianity is the truth or not. You see, Christianity wasn't something that some guy came up with one day. Jesus didn't appear on the scene and say, "Mmm, I'm going to start a new movement, and they can call it--I'll take the name Jesus, and my last name will be Christ. And people will call themselves Christians, and I'm going to die, and you know,'--that's not the way it happened. A whole bunch of guys didn't get together one day and decide to write this 'book.' This is 66 different books, written over a period of thousands of years--by dozens of authors! And those prophets predicted this must be true of the Messiah. He will do this, he'll do this, he'll do this, he'll do this, he'll do this, he'll do this! Over 300 predictions they made, and the true Messiah must fulfill all 300 of them. If he misses one, he couldn't be the true Messiah. And see, the awesome thing is, gang, how many of you know how to show or why you are a Christian from the Old Testament? We don't. But, you know, the early Church, the first place they went, to preach the gospel in a new town, was to the synagogue, and they went to the Jewish synagogue. Why? Because they had the Old Testament, and they're saying, 'Fantastic, If we've got the Old Testament, we can prove Jesus is the Messiah!' But how many of us can do that, Huh? 'Oooh, the Old Testament, I've….' Hey, Paul says, 'This is the gospel, that the Old Testament prophets predicted--Jesus Christ--and we proclaim him!' Well, what did the Old Testament prophets say about the Messiah? Well, first of all they said that he'd be a real man, not a 'Christ-consciousness' from Bell Rock, but he'd be a real man. You don't need peanuts to find him. You can just know him through his Word--a real man. They predicted that he would be a Son of David. It says right here, "concerning his son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh." Why is that important? Because the Old Testament prophets said he had to be able to trace his genealogy back to David. The Bible said he would come as a baby, Isaiah 9:6, that he'd be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2, that he would somehow get to Egypt, Hosea 11:1, and that he would spend his time ministering in Galilee by the Jordan, Isaiah 9:1.
I think about Jesus Christ, I think, 'Well, could he have controlled where he was born? No. You can't control where you are born. But where was he born? In Bethlehem. Can you control who your relatives are? No. (Someone telling me they were doing genealogical work on their family, and they were looking for some famous relative, and they found one. A real crook! They stopped doing any genealogical work after that!) But I mean, you can't control who your relatives are. Jesus couldn't have controlled who his relatives were unless he was the true Messiah. And yes, you can trace his lineage through Mom or Dad [his step-father] back to David, and back to Abraham, which was important. And yes, he was in Egypt for awhile, and they had to flee to Egypt when Herod was going to kill all the baby boys. And then he came back, and lived in the area of Galilee, and that's where Jesus' major ministry was found. The Old Testament also promised that the Messiah would die. Isaiah 53 declares that the Messiah would suffer for our sins, he would be bruised, he would be crushed, he'd be pierced through for our iniquities. The chastisement of our well being would fall upon him, that he would be scourged, whipped. The Bible predicted the Messiah would die. Look at Psalm 22, verses 1-18. Psalm 22:1-18 is a fantastic prophecy. It's sort of neglected. It is awesome, because it is the experience of the Messiah on the cross! It is awesome. Let me tell ya, crucifixion wasn't even invented at the time David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote Psalm 22--crucifixion had not yet even been invented. But here is a graphic description of crucifixion. What did Jesus cry on the cross? "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Why does he say that? Well, for one thing, because your sins were put on him. But secondly, so that you would stop and think, "Oh, wait a minute, he's claiming to be the Messiah, the Messiah who dies." Psalm 22:1 says, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Verse 6 says, "But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised of the people. All who see me sneer at me, they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, 'Commit yourself to the Lord, let him deliver him, let him rescue him because he delights in him.'" Very sarcastic things would be said when this Messiah dies. People would stand around him wagging their heads, sneering at him, saying, 'If God delights in you, if you're the Messiah, let God deliver you!' What was said at the cross?--those very words. What did the mob around him do? They sneered at him, they mocked him, they made fun of him. Read on in verses 14 and onward. "I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint. My heart is melted like wax, it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd." You water a plant in real pottery and it [the clay pottery] sucks up the water and your plant can still die…He says, 'I'm so thirsty it's like a clay pot that's sucking all the water out of me.' He says, "and my tongue cleaves to my jaws, and now they slay me in the dust of the earth, for dogs have surrounded me. A band of evildoers has encompassed me. They pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones, they look at me, they stare at me. They divide my garments among them. And for my clothing [cloak, a fine garment he had] they cast lots." Interesting isn't it? The Old Testament prophets predicted the Messiah would die. How? He would die with a mob around him sneering at him, making fun of him. Somehow his hands and feet would be pierced. Interesting thing, that when you crucify someone, and after somebody's been whipped and beaten like Jesus was, fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, you go into shock. He'd lost so much bodily fluid, so much blood that he was totally dehydrated. His mouth and tongue were dry. He cried out, "I thirst." When you're crucified your shoulders go out of the sockets, they go out of joint. When you're crucified you're hanging there, everybody can wag their tongue at you. There's nothing you can do. It's interesting that you count all your bones, you know, when you're hanging like that. It says they would gamble for his clothing. What happened to Jesus' seamless garment [cloak]? The soldiers gambled for it, didn't they? All this is coincidence??? Not on your life!!! Jesus is the Messiah!!! He is the Christ [Greek: "anointed one"]! It said that his heart would be poured out like water. To make sure he was dead, what did they do? They pierced him with a spear through his heart and his heart poured out water and blood. [Medically, it is known that crucifixion will cause the chest cavity to fill with water-like fluid from the body.] I mean, can you get more of a fulfillment of this prophecy than that? No! But that's not all. The Old Testament prophets also predicted that the Messiah would rise from the dead. Look at Isaiah 53, he wouldn't just come as a baby, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, live in Galilee. But he also would die. He would not just die being pierced through, being crucified, having his clothing gambled for, but he also would rise from the dead. It's right in the Old Testament Scriptures. All you have to do is see it. Verse 8 of Isaiah 53, "By oppression and judgment he the Messiah was taken away, and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off, out of the living…" That means he died, right? "…For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due." In other words, he died, [and] when he died, he died in the place of somebody who deserved that death. He wasn't dying for anything he deserved, he died for you and me.
Then he would be buried, verse 9. "His grave was assinged to be with wicked men, yet with a rich man in his death." Where was Jesus buried? In a rich man's tomb. "Although he had done no violence, nor was any deceit found in his mouth." But, O.K., he died, was buried, "But the Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief, if he would render himself as a guilt offering," which he did, "if he would do that, he, the Messiah, will see his offspring, he will prolong his days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper his hand." Wait a minute! In verse 8 he died, in verse 9 he was buried, but in verse 10 he's living again!?! Yes!!! The Bible teaches in the Old Testament the Messiah would die, he would be buried, but he would rise from the dead! David said it in Psalm 16:10, "For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol," the grave, "neither wilt thou allow thy Holy One to undergo decay." In other words, when the Messiah, the Holy One died, he wouldn't be dead long enough to even begin to decay!
What is the gospel? That Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, that he was buried--that he rose the third day according to the Scriptures. According to what Scriptures?--the Old Testament prophets. So the promise was that the Messiah would come. He'd be a real living Messiah, not a Christ-consciousness, not some weird thing of people bumping into everybody--a real person, the Messiah, a real man. He'd come, he'd be a baby you could hold. He'd grow up to be a man you could touch! He would be put to death, not for his own sins, but for the sins of those who believed in him. He would rise from the dead, and then very significantly the Bible teaches in the Old Testament prophecies, that this Messiah was none other than God himself! He wasn't just a godly man, he was the God-man. They promised that the Messiah was the Son of God. The Son of God!?! God has a Son? Yeah! Look at Proverbs 30, verse 4. God has a Son. The Old Testament says he does. Proverbs 30:4. "Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has wrapped the waters in his garment? Who has established the ends of the earth?" Well, who has, guys? God! Right? "What is his name, or his Son's name? Surely you know?" Ooh! I love it, don't you?! Well what's his name? It's God! What's his Son's name? It must be the Son of God!
Alright, let's move on. Isaiah 9:6. A lot of you have got this memorized. A lot of you who aren't even Christians, you know what this is because you hear it around Christmas time. It says, "For unto us a Child will be born, unto us a Son will be given. The government will be upon his shoulders..." And it goes on to say, "His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Jesus' name everybody agrees that this baby who comes is Jesus the Messiah. His title is Mighty God. I got this bone to pick with those [who] go door to door, you know, they got to tell you that Jesus isn't God! The Old Testament in Isaiah 9:6 says he is Mighty God! Aww, they say that means he's 'a mighty god, you know, he's not really God! He's mighty.' Have you ever seen these people? They could get out of anything--Houdini's scripturally. Look at Isaiah 10. Isaiah 10 verses 20 and 21--)Ooh! Thank you, Lord for giving us Isaiah 10! O.K., we know the Mighty God is Jesus, right, Isaiah 9:6? We know that's Jesus, everybody agrees there. Now verse 20 [of Isaiah 10]. Let's see who the Mighty God is. "Now it will come about that in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the House of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord,…" That's YHVH! That's Jehovah! That's what that word is in Hebrew. YHVH, Jehovah, "The Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God." Who's the Mighty God? Jehovah, the Mighty One of Israel. Who's Jesus? Jehovah, Jesus is Jehovah. You cannot get around it. Jesus thought it was important enough to just tell you in John chapter 8, that "unless you believe that I AM", and he meant 'that I am God, "you shall die in your sins." [Also the Lord, YHVH, gave one of his names to Moses as "I AM."]
I'm not going to cut you any slack on this point, because I care about you. Like the doctor said, 'Unless you stop doing this, you're going to die.' You say, "I don't believe you." O.K., go get a second opinion, that's fine. Unless you stop doing what you're doing you're going to die. The Bible says that unless you believe that Jesus is God, you will die in your sins. You cannot be saved unless you believe that he is God. You've got great evidence in the Old Testament Scriptures. It's not just something the New Testament Church came up with. It's not something Paul came up with. It's something that has its' roots in the Old Testament. It is there because God predicted the Messiah would come, he would die, he would be buried, he would rise again, and he would be God the Son. Hallelujah! What a neat gospel we've got gang! Paul tells us that gospel is all about who? It's concerning his Son. Back to Romans 1, verse 3. This gospel which Jesus fulfills, this gospel which the Old Testament Scriptures says has to be this, this and this--he says this gospel Jesus meets the requirements of--the Old Testament Scriptures--this gospel is concerning his Son. The message we preach as Christians, listen, is "Jesus Christ," not ourselves--but Jesus Christ. The world is looking, longing for Jesus Christ. They could care less about us. They want to hear about him. When Christ is presented they will be drawn to him. We need to get back to being a Jesus people as Christians. We need to be a Jesus Church, where who we know, who we love, what we're all about is Jesus Christ. Amen. People ask you, "Well, what are you?" "I'm a Jesus person." "No, I mean are you a Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Church of Nazarene, Church of Christ, Church of God, no what are you!?" "I'm a Jesus person." "No, you don't understand what I mean. I mean, what are you, you know?" You say, "I'm a Jesus person." "What kind of Church do you go to?" "A Jesus Church." "Must be some kind of cult, must be a cult."
The gospel we proclaim, the gospel that you're going to find in the book of Romans, meets the Old Testament requirements for the truth. It is the truth. Jesus said, 'You'll know the truth, the truth will set you free.'
…This morning [or day] maybe you've heard the truth [or read it here] for the first time. You feel the Spirit of God drawing you to Jesus Christ…That's just another evidence that what I'm saying is true--because he is alive. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he's alive. Because he's God he can be everywhere at one time, and yet with you right now like you're the only person in this room…This is the truth. You need Christ, he can change your life. I already recounted to you all the people who've been changed by the gospel proclaimed in this book. You can be added to the list today. Today you can have your sins forgiven, today you can have peace with God. Today you can cease trying to climb up those stairs on your knees. And you can believe the Word of God that says, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." If you cry out to Jesus Christ right now, if you're ready to admit a couple of things, #1, that you're a sinner, you've missed the mark, you're not perfect, you're not holy and you know God is. #2, If you're ready now to admit that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, you've seen the evidence, you see it fulfilled from the Old Testament predictions, then thirdly (#3), you need to give your life to Christ, you need to say, "Hey look, I need that Saviour, I need him. I need the way of God's salvation. 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever, that's you, whoever would believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' [John 3:16] The Bible says that 'whoever has the Son has the life, and whoever does not have the Son does not have the life.' "These things I write unto you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you might know that you have eternal life." You can know today, that you have eternal life in Jesus Christ. How? Very simply by opening up your life and asking Jesus to come in. Jesus said at the end of the Bible, 'Behold I stand at the door and I knock. And if anyone hear my voice and will open door, I'll come in.' I'll come into your life and I'll be your friend for life."