on Romans 1-5 (sermon summaries)

Today we come to Romans. After the fight was settled between Paul and the Corinthians, Paul visited Corinth for three months. We know the fight was settled because we have 2 Corinthians. After the things Paul said to the Corinthians, would you have saved the letter if you had not repented? We also know the fight was settled because when Paul took the offering from the Gentile churches to Jerusalem, no representatives from Corinth accompanied Paul in Ac 20. I take it that they wanted to demonstrate their trust in Paul (and their brethren) and declined to send representatives with their offering.

While Paul was in Corinth on this visit, Paul wrote Romans. What a book! I plan to start a series verse by verse through Romans next summer. For now, we have to settle for two weeks of it.

First is “The Glorious Gospel“. The gospel dominated Paul’s life. I subtitled the message, ‘the theme of a life set free’. That was Paul. Here is the proposition from our text, Rm 1.1-17: “The gospel reveals the righteousness of God as a real possibility for man – the one thing necessary to prepare a mortal life for eternity.” I noted the references to the gospel through the text. Paul was set apart to the gospel (1), serving in the gospel (9), stirred up with the gospel (15), and saved by the gospel (16-17). The gospel takes a man like Paul, or like you or like me, and makes him righteous with the righteousness of Christ. The whole life is changed. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. How could he be? How can you be?

Next came “The Utter Depravity of Man” from Rm 1.17-3.20. These are the dark chapters of Romans, the first point of the book. The proposition: “No one can save himself — all men are condemned.” The arguments Paul makes for the true state of the human condition are devastating. First the long dark descent into all kinds of wickedness (1.18-32) describes the excess of depravity we see all around us. But Paul doesn’t stop with evident depravity, he goes on to the hidden darkness of the moral man (2.1-3.9) where he first reveals that the good citizen who looks down on the obviously depraved is just as wicked at heart, then Paul goes after the Israelite who thinks that because of his privileges, he is a cut above even the best Gentile – Paul shows that sin is the issue, not privilege. The advantages of the Israelites only increase their condemnation by their failure to live up to the living law of God given them by the prophets. Having concluded that both Jew and Gentile are condemned, Paul proceeds to list the Scripture proof of human depravity (3.10-20), where he cites passage after passage that condemns all men in their sins, none of them righteous, without any hope of pleasing God. The passage is devastating to human self-confidence.

We closed the day, thankfully, with “But Now“. The title of my last message of the day comes from the first words of my favorite verse in Romans, the first verse of our text, Rm 3.21-5.21. “But now…” We cannot be justified by the deeds of the law, Paul says in 3.20, “but now…” But now there is righteousness without law! Proposition: “The righteousness of God works the salvation of men by the justice and grace of God.” We examined Rm 3.21-31 in a good deal of detail, then surveyed chapter 4 and 5. But now… we see the righteousness of God applied by the just justifier (3.21-26), we see that the righteousness of God eliminates boasting through faith (3.27-31), that the righteousness of God is illustrated by patriarchal faith (4.1-25), and that the righteousness of God provides peace with God (5.1-21). I closed with two illustrations, one a story that is told of something Mayor Laguardia did in New York many years ago (I don’t know if it is a true story, but it does illustrate the point.) Here is the story:

One winter night the mayor decided to visit a Manhattan night court, and ended up presiding over the proceedings. It was bitter cold that night, and an under-clothed man was brought before La Guardia, accused of stealing a loaf of bread. His family was starving, the man claimed. “I have to punish you,” the mayor pronounced. “The law makes no exceptions. I hereby fine you ten dollars.”

But then La Guardia added as he reached into his own pocket, “Here’s the ten dollars to pay your fine,” tossing a ten-dollar bill into his hat.

“Furthermore,” he went on, “I’m fining everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to feed his family. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to this defendant!”

The hat was passed around, and the man left La Guardia’s courtroom, shaking his head and holding a stake of $47.50.

What did the man deserve? Judgement.

What did the man get? Grace.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

But now!

I used another story of grace I found in the latest Frontline magazine, the Nov/Dec 2006 issue. It is the story of a former pastor who had quit on God, quit on the church, quit on everything. He lived instead for himself and rebellion. Six years ago, he heard a message ont he love of God that broke his spirit. He repented and is accepted in the beloved today. His testimony is written up in the magazine under the title “One Lost Sheep”.

What did he deserve? Judgement.

What did he get? Grace.

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

But now!


Listen, it was a great day!

We had one lady visiting for the first time today. She stayed for all three services and came to my wife after the last one with tears streaming down her face, asking for a visit from us this week. The Lord is working in her life, so pray for her this week if you think of it.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3