Here’s the outline for my sermon on Romans 1:1, which I preached at our church in Naperville, Cross of Christ Fellowship. You can find the audio here.
Romans 1:1 “Shaped by the Gospel”
INTRO: We learn from the book of Acts, that the first Christian martyr was a man named Stephen. The Jews hated what they heard and stoned him to death. And at his presence of his death was a man Saul. Saul was a committed Pharisee, very zealous for his religion. After Stephen’s death, Saul ravaged the Early Church by going house to house and dragging Christians to jail. He was so zealous that he acquired letters to travel to another town and arrest all the Christians he could find there. But on the way his life was transformed by Christ. A beam of light shone from heaven and knocked Saul to his face. A voice spoke to Saul and asked him ‘Why are you persecuting me?’ Saul said, ‘Who are you my Lord? To which the voice replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter and the city and you will be told what to do.” Saul was blinded and led by hand into the city. For three days neither ate nor drank but he did pray. God appeared to another man in a vision, Ananias and sent him to lay hands on Saul and pray over him. He told Ananias that Saul was his chosen instrument to carry his name before Gentiles, kings and the people Israel. Ananias arrives and prays for Saul and something like scales fell from his. Saul could see again! And he could see the truth that Jesus really is the Messiah, God the Son. He was baptized and began a ministry of preaching. Jesus was calling him to be an apostle, and as an apostle he sought to proclaim Christ to all, to plant churches, instruct Christians, and train up leaders.
At some point, Saul began going by the name of Paul. He was sent out by the apostles to go 3 missionary journeys, where the gospel was proclaimed and churches were planted. It was an exciting time, but there were many trials and suffering on the way. But Christ had a purpose for Paul, and that was to teach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
One way that Paul taught and ministered to the Early Church was through His letters. He sent letters to instruct and teach Christians. These letters carried his authority as an apostle. Some letters went to churches he had planted or visited, and others to churches he had not been to. This letter to the church at Rome is church Paul had not yet visited. Paul had never been to the church at Rome, but he knew a bit about their situation; he also knew some of the Christians there. Paul hoped to visit them on his way to another missionary endeavor to the region of Spain. This letter was sent in advance, to teach the Roman Christians more clearly the GOSPEL. The GOSPEL is the theme of Romans, and we’ll see that Paul spends most of the letter explaining it.
TODAY, we are only looking at the first verse of this wonderful letter. Here we see Paul inform us that he is the author of the letter and we learn a bit about him: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God”
OBJECTION: Is it worth spending a whole sermon on the first verse?
ANSWER: YES, because this is much more than Paul writing his name, here we learn about Paul’s new identity in Christ, and this has much to tell us about IDENTITY.
RELEVANCE: There is much confusion today about identity. What does it mean to be mean? What is a boy? What is a girl? How should I think of myself? Who or what ultimately defines us? Our feelings? Our experiences? Our accomplishments? Our struggles? What difference does knowing Christ make? These are questions we all face.
TODAY: I hope you will see that in Christ, we receive a new identity shaped by God and His gospel.
1. In Christ we receive a New Identity: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”
-Paul wrote this letter. Remember: he was once a fierce opponent of Christianity (1 Tim 1:12-16)
-The fact Paul wrote this is evidence that God is able to transform even the hardest sinner’s heart.
-First way Paul speaks of his himself (and thus his new identity as a Christian) is as a “servant of Christ Jesus”
-CHRIST=the Messiah that Israel was waiting for.
-“All the promises of God find their yes in him” (1 Cor 1:20)
-Paul is a SERVANT of Jesus.
-Paul submits to Jesus. Paul serves Jesus. Jesus is his master and Lord.
MOO: “The phrase connotes total devotion, suggesting that the servant is completely at the disposal of his or her Lord.”
LORDSHIP OF JESUS: Jesus is the true Lord of all reality. This world is His and we owe our very existence to Him. We owe him our allegiance and love. To not live with Jesus as the king of your life is to be in REBELLION against him. This is the acceptable sin of our day. But it is but is treasonous idolatry and evil in God’s eyes.
APP: A true Christian has Jesus as the Lord of his or her life: COMPLETELY AT THE DISPOSAL OF JESUS
QUESTION: If we looked at your life, could we conclude that you are a servant of Jesus? Are you completely at his disposal? Is Jesus the Lord of your finances? Time? Relationships? Heart? Future? Goals?
SURPRISE: To be a servant of Jesus is actually to find TRUE freedom and joy. Here we have an identity that does not enslave, but frees. It is actually the high honor and privilege to be a servant of the king of kings and do his work. He is the king, and His kingdom is real and glorious; He is kind to His servants and with them as they do his work.
2. In Christ we receive a New Identity Shaped by God: “Paul…called to be an apostle”
The second way Paul describes himself is “called to be an apostle”
–APOSTLE: Unique group of individuals that Jesus authorized to lead the church.
-Church is built on their teaching (Eph 2:19-20)
-The writings of the apostles are the inspired NT documents, same authority as OT (2 Peter 3:16)
-Paul was an apostle called later (1 Cor 15:3-10)
-There are no living apostles today.
–CALLED: God sovereignly called Paul to this task. It was God’s idea and initiative.
-God graciously gave the apostles and other offices to build up the church (Eph 4:11-13)
APP: As Christians our new identity is shaped by God, who has spoken to us through his called apostles. This is where we hear God’s voice, learn who God is, and how to follow Him. God tells us who we really are in Jesus Christ!
-“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND”: There is so much shaky ground if we base our identity on our feelings, or situation, or performance, or career, or other people’s opinions But in Christ we are given a solid foundation, truth from GOD about who we are!
EXHORTATION: Let God’s Word be the first thing you allow enter into your heart each day.
-Let God’s Word shape your identity, not other people’s opinions.
-Jesus’ Words matter more, and they are kind and true and loving.
3. In Christ we receive a New Identity Shaped by God and His Gospel: “set apart for the gospel of God”
In the final phrase we see for what God has set Paul apart: the GOSPEL OF GOD.
-SET APART FOR: This speaks of God actively designating Paul, and all the apostles, for a particular task and purpose. Their task was to preach and teach the gospel. See 1 Cor 1:17
-Sometimes you hear that church should be all about social justice. God does desire His people to do works of justice in the world, but not at neglect of gospel proclamation. DANGER of NEGLECTING GOSPEL MINISTRY: Acts 6:4.
-GOSPEL OF GOD:
Gospel= Good News. NEWS= Information about something taken place. GOOD=It is good, for us and others.
OF GOD: -Good news from God. God is the SOURCE of the news, He wants us to hear it.
-Good news about God. God is the CONTENT of the news, it is about what He has done.
What is the gospel? Paul will explain this gospel here in Romans, especially 1:18-end of ch 11.
In short: The gospel is the good news that God LOVES US and has sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for sinners, in order that we might be saved from our sins and hell and have eternal life. We enter into this salvation by faith in Christ. We are saved from the hell we deserve and given eternal life that we don’t deserve.
PAUL IS CENTERED ON THE GOSPEL. Read his letters and you will see him come back to it again and again. It is the good news of God’s love and grace for sinners!
APP: As Christians we have a new identity shaped by God and especially his gospel. The gospel has the definitive word on us, not our performance or works.
WHY THIS MATTERS:
The GOSPEL is the DEFINING WORD OVER OUR LIVES. Not our performance, not our accomplishments, not our reputation. The gospel goes deeper and last longer than all these and it speaks of a hope, a real hope given from God.