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TEXT: Romans 1:16-17
SUBJECT: Romans #3: Why Preach the Gospel?
Today, with God's blessing, we will move on in our study of Paul's Epistle to the church of Rome. If you know Church History at all, you know this was Martin Luther's favorite book, because-he said-
It is pure Gospel.
It was in Romans that Luther found God's favor, the forgiveness of his sins, and the hope of Glory. What the Lord did for him back in the day, He can do for all of us, and I pray, He will, as we make our way through this wonderful Letter.
Was Martin Luther right about Romans? I think he was. Whatever else is in it, what the book is about is the Gospel. We know it is because Paul says so in the first few verses.
After giving his name, he calls himself an Apostle, and this means 'one who is sent'. Sent by whom? Jesus Christ. Sent to do what? To preach the Gospel of God.
Some preachers are slow to follow their callings-think of Jonah for example. Paul was not one of them! On the first Sabbath after his conversion, he-
Preached Christ in the synagogue, that He is the Son of God.
What he did that day in Damascus, he kept doing for the rest of his life. Paul was an enthusiast for the Gospel! He preached it everywhere he went and he wanted to go everywhere! Including Rome.
For some reason, he couldn't get there to preach in person, so he did the next best thing: he preached on paper! He put in this Letter what he wanted to tell them face-to-face. The Romans' loss is our gain! For the Letter was kept and copied and sent to other churches-including this one. What kept Paul from going to Rome? We don't know, but we can never too thankful for it!
There's a lesson here for us: Disappointments are not always bad things. When God shuts one door, he opens another, and chances are the door He opens is better than the one he shuts. Let us be content with God's Providence, therefore, and more than content, let's be grateful. What the men of Decapolis said about the great works of Christ is equally true of the smaller ones-
He has done all things well!
Even the nuisances of life serve the purposes of heaven.
Paul wants to preach the Gospel to the church at Rome, and he wants to do it, in part, because they need it-just as we do-everyone needs the Gospel, the saved as much as than the lost! Human need is a very good reason to preach the Gospel, but it is not the only reason. In vv. 11-14, he gives other reasons:
Four very good reasons to preach the Gospel, but they're not the only reasons or the ones that mean the most to him. He tells us what they are in today's text, vv.16-17.
HE IS PROUD OF THE GOSPEL
The main reason Paul wants to preach the Gospel in Rome is he's proud of it, v.16a-
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
The key word is 'I'. Many people were ashamed of the Gospel. The Greeks thought it was stupid and not worthy of an educated man. The Jews were offended by a Messiah who didn't meet their expectations. Even Christians, facing a mocking or persecuting world were none to quick to speak up for Christ.
Think of Peter denying the Lord three times. Or Timothy, Paul's best friend in the world, shying away from the testimony of Christ and Paul His prisoner. When we look away from others to ourselves, we feel the same embarrassment. There's a hymn I can't stand to sing because it makes me feel so guilty-
Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee
Ashamed of Thee whom angels praise?
Whose glories shine through endless days!
Not everyone who believes the Gospel is also proud of it. We should be, but we're not. Why aren't we? It is because the Gospel hasn't sunk in on us! We haven't felt the weight of its glory! Preachers sometimes shame their people into witnessing; it would be better if we preached the Gospel with such reverence and joy that we-
Cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.
Paul was brought up to be proud of himself, proud of his family, proud of the Pharisees, proud of Israel, proud of the Law. But now, in the Light of Christ, he's proud of nothing but the Gospel-
God forbid that I should boast, save in the cross of Christ, by which I have been crucified to the world and the world has been crucified to me.
Why did Paul preach the Gospel? Because he was proud of it.
HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS
This is not the only reason. Paul preaches the Gospel because, he knows what it is, v.16b-
It is the power of God for salvation.
The 'power of God' was an idea familiar to every Jew. In a world of limited gods, he was taught that his God is unlimited! The gods of Rome or Greece or Persia had to fight each other for supremacy, but the God of the Hebrews had no competition-
He spoke and it was done;
He commanded and it stood fast.
To Paul, God's power was not an abstract thing; it was God Himself acting on behalf of His people. Parting the Red Sea to get Israel across and then bringing the waters down on their enemies. It was God making the sun and moon stand still till Joshua had destroyed the Amorites. It was God sending thunder to rout the Philistines.
This 'power of God' that had saved His people so many times from so many enemies, was now on full display in the Gospel! At the Cross, God defeated all of His enemies and ours, and this is what the Gospel announces! This is what makes it what it is: 'Good News'!
Suppose a beloved king was beaten in war and had to give up his kingdom. He might send a trusted servant to spread the news, to tell his people to lay down their arms and make the best of a bad situation. If the herald was loyal to his lord, he would do his duty, but he would do it grimly and no more than he had to.
Is this our situation? Has our King lost the war and sent us into the world with the bad news? Or is it the other way around? Has He conquered the world? He has, and he sends us to our families and friends and neighbors to tell them of His victory and to invite them to share in the riches of His Kingdom, a Kingdom open to all, on terms of repentance and faith.
If we knew what the Gospel is-God's power, the announcement of His victory over sin, self, Satan, death, and damnation, we too would be-
Ready to preach the Gospel.
HE KNOWS WHO IT IS FOR
The third reason Paul wants to preach the Gospel is because he knows who it is for-
To everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
The Gospel is for everyone. Back in the First Century, the most significant barrier was between Jews and Gentiles with a lot of mutual pride and disrespect. The Empire was rife with anti-semitism, and nowhere more than Rome where the Jews had just gotten back from their five-year banishment. But the Jews were no better, always looking down on and hating the Gentiles. The walls they built were high and hard and of long-standing.
But the Gospel Trumpet brought them down like the walls of Jericho! Historically, the Gospel came to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles. But when they believed, Jews and Gentiles worshiped One God through One Mediator in One Church, where all the old divisions were wiped out and replaced with the new man in Christ.
The Gospel is for everyone, for conservatives, liberals, radicals, people who live in Berkeley-everyone! It is for Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Atheists! It is for every age, every race, and every step on the economic ladder.
When someone tells you, 'Christianity is the White Man's Religion', tell him the first Christians were Asian-not white-the first convert was Ethiopian, not Swedish, and today the great majority of Christians are from Africa and East Asia!
Though the prophets were all Jewish, they did not think God belonged to the Jews, but rather, the whole world belonged to God by virtue of Creation,
The earth is the Lord's,
And the fullness thereof;
The world, and they who
Dwell in it.
And, some day, it will belong to Him by virtue of Redemption-
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
HE KNOWS WHAT IT REVEALS
In the fourth place, Paul wants to preach the Gospel because of what it reveals, v.17a-
For in it is [being] revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith.
The Gospel reveals something. For many years, it was a mystery, something God wanted us to believe without explaining it to us. The best example of this I know of is Exodus 34:6-7-
The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon their children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation.
I don't know how the Rabbis read these verses. First God promises to forgive all kinds of bad behavior, and then He swears to not clear the guilty, and to make them pay for generations! This is a great mystery, and you notice God does not explain it-not even to Moses!
What Moses did not know, Paul did know; not because he was smarter or a worthier man than Moses, but because of where he lived on God's timeline. What was latent in the Old Testament is patent in the New Testament.
The Gospel squares the circle. It explains how God is both just Himself and the justifier of everyone who believes in Christ. God forgives us without clearing the guilty because Jesus took our guilt upon Himself and died the death we and our offspring deserve to the third and fourth generation.
In this way, the Gospel reveals God's righteousness, which refers to three things blended together-first, God's righteous character in judging the wicked, then God's righteous act in keeping His covenant promises to be our God and make us His People, and then, our new Righteous standing before God because-
Jesus paid it all.
HE KNOWS WHAT IT DOES
No wonder Paul is so eager to preach the Gospel! It simultaneously justifies God and the sinner! And, as a man zealous for the honor of God and the good of his fellow man, Paul preaches the Gospel with great joy!
There is one last reason he preaches the Gospel: because he knows what it does, v.17b-
From faith to faith, as it is written,
'The just shall live by faith'.
The Gospel comes from God's faithfulness and creates faith in us. Faith is a duty, but it is not a work; it is not self-generated: it is the gift of God. What gives faith is the Gospel-
Faith comes by hearing,
And hearing by the Word of God.
Back in the 1920, J. Gresham Machen was locked in mortal combat with the Theological Liberals in the Presbyterian Church. The Liberals wanted people to be good, and the best way to help them be good is to downplay doctrine and emphasize morality and public service. 'Be good to your wife; spend time with your kids; vote for honest candidates; support good causes'.
Machen was as much for good morals and public-mindedness as the Liberals were. Where he differed with them is How to produce good people. Is it through gently telling them what to do or setting a good example? Or does it take something else? Machen knew. Speaking of the good life, he wrote-
But how was the life produced? It might conceivably have been produced by exhortation. That method had been tried in the ancient world; in the Hellenistic world, there were many preachers who told men how they ought to live. But such exhortation proved to be powerless. Although their ideals were high, these preachers never transformed society. The strange thing about Christianity is that it adopted an entirely different method. It transformed the lives of men, not by appealing to the human will, but by telling a story, not by exhortation but by the narration of an event. It is no wonder that such a method seemed strange. Can anything be more impractical than the attempt to influence conduct by rehearsing events concerning the death of a religious teacher? It seemed foolish to the ancient world and it seems foolish to liberal preachers today. But the strange thing is that it works.
The Gospel creates faith in Christ and faith in Christ gives men eternal life. That's why Paul preached the Gospel and left self-help and social work to others.
The Gospel is the theme of Romans, and ought to be the theme of our lives. Let us, therefore, remember what the Gospel is, meditate on it, and live by it. The Love of God be with you all. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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