2020 - Romans
I think we have been going backwards… in Romans, long enough. This morning, we begin to move forward! I accomplished what I set out to do by starting at the end of Romans 16 and moving backwards through Romans 12. I wanted to study the “Rubber Meets the Road” part of Romans before doing the theology part. That is what we have accomplished!
By doing the back half of Romans first, we discovered the main thing Paul wanted to accomplish writing his letter in 57 AD. Here is what I believe are the key verses in understanding Paul’s primary goal in the letter to the Romans…
Romans 15:5-7 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
We get two glories in one paragraph! When we have one voice, we glorify God! When we welcome one another, we glory God! That is why Paul wrote Romans! The Roman Christians were to welcome; embrace the Jewish Christians in harmony. When we welcome “the others” we bring glory to God!
That’s the back half. Now, we get to go the front half of the letter. Hopefully, we will have time to do the middle half before we stop. The front half provides the motivation to do the back half. The front half lets us know why. We know what we are supposed to do… welcome the others! Now, we are going to discover why we welcome the other! Let’s begin in the beginning!
Let’s begin reading Romans 1:1-15 from the TIM Expanded Version… TIME.
TIME Romans 1:1-15 Paul, a slave who belongs to Jesus Christ, but is called to speak with the authority of an apostle to spread the Gospel of God, to all the ethnos! This Gospel was predicted in the Old Testament. This Gospel is all about Jesus; born a human descendant of David. But this Jesus was revealed to be the Son of God by the miracles he performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. He was proven to be the Messiah by being raised from the dead! Jesus is LORD YHWH!
This Jesus gave me grace. This Jesus appointed me to be an apostle. I am an apostle sent to the nations, to the ethnos, to be His ambassador. I am sent to you, in Rome, as well because you are also called be slaves of Jesus Christ, too. You are loved by God. You are special to God. God bless you. Live in the peace with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God, through Jesus, for all of you! Your faith is well known through the whole world. God knows I always bring you before Him in prayer. I have wanted to visit you to give you a gift; a spiritual gift that will bless you. I, also, need you to bless me. I need to know our faith is one. I have wanted many times to visit you, but I could not. I want to help you grow as I have helped the other ethnos.
I must preach the Gospel to all the peoples of the world; the sophisticated and the common; the educated and the poor; all the others! I want very desperately to come to you in Rome to proclaim the good news of Jesus!
Bam! That is quite an opening!
Paul’s letter to the Romans begins personally. It is not a business letter. It is not an official correspondence between parties of the first part and parties of the second part. Paul is on the verge of tears as he writes this opening. Note how personal it is…
--Jesus gave me grace.
--I am sent to you.
--I pray for you, constantly.
--I tried to come to you.
--I plan to visit.
--I want to give you a gift.
--I want to help you.
--I must preach the Gospel.
The arguments will soon become complicated; no doubt. The sentences in Romans are often difficult to translate. The concepts are as deep as anywhere in Scripture. But don’t forget as we go through the theology of this letter… Paul cares deeply for each of the Christians in Rome. Paul is writing from his heart… as well as the head! Paul is personally invested in the Roman Christians!
Let me change from the TIME to the CTIM. That is the Condensed TIM version of these 15 verses…all 15 verses…
CTIM Romans 1:1-15 Paul, the apostle to the ethnos, to the Christians in Roman, God bless you. I plan to visit so that I can preach the Gospel to you.
That’s the first 15 verses.
That’s the introduction to our letter. Now, we are ready for… why welcome the others.
Back to the English Standard Version…
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
Most scholars agree that these two verses are the premise of the letter. Most scholars agree that these two verses contain the distilled essence of the whole letter. That is about all most scholars agree on. Here we find the essential concepts… Gospel; power; salvation; faith, righteousness; revelation, life… Paul takes the rest of the letter to unpack these amazing concepts. So, I am going with Paul. I am not going to unpack all of these concepts… in this sermon. I will attempt to explode these concepts throughout the next several weeks as we move forwards through Romans.
What I do want to do this morning is dig down into one phrase; one idea… “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel.”
--Why would Paul be ashamed of the Gospel?
--Why is he not ashamed of the Gospel?
Let’s explore being ashamed of the Gospel…
I am not ashamed of the Gospel!
The word Gospel is euaggelion. Eu means eu=good. Eulogy is good words. Euphoria is good feeling. Eucharist is good grace. Eu+angel is good message. Some translations go with “Good News”. For Paul, in Romans, the word Gospel is shorthand for the Christ-Event.
When Paul says… Gospel he means…
--Jesus becoming human; the incarnation.
--Jesus impact on the world in his ministry.
--Jesus death on the cross – His blood shed to cut the covenant; pay our firstborn redemption.
--The Resurrection defeating death! Game changer… death no longer wins!
--The ascension to the Right Hand of God to rule the world… also part of the Good News. The word, Gospel is a quick way to summarize the Christ-event on earth with all its significance.
Why did Paul say he was not ashamed of the Gospel?
To the Romans the gospel is silly… Listen to a Roman respond to the Gospel…
--"A god becoming human is ok. Gods do that… occasionally. But a god choosing to become a dirt-poor peasant from backwater Galilee… that’s embarrassing.”
--"Then your god does almost nothing… Your god never writes a book, never holds an office, never makes any money (he depends on women for support). He never raises an army or conquers anyone. A few healings is about it.”
--"Most embarrassing… your god died on a cross. God’s don’t die… on crosses. Let me get this straight. The founder of your movement was executed between two thieves. He lost. He did nothing. He was nothing. He died nothing. And you follow him. That has to be the most ridiculous religion I have ever heard. I am embarrassed for you… your god isn’t much.”
--“And surely, you don’t he really believe he came back to life? When we kill, we kill for keeps. I really am embarrassed for you. There is no good news in your good news.”
There were plenty of reasons for Paul to say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” To the Romans, whom Paul is writing, it was an embarrassing religion.”
But Paul declares I am not ashamed of the Gospel! Paul lists five reasons why he is not ashamed of the Gospel… which is the beginning of why we welcome the others.
1) The Gospel… is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
Salvation has many meanings in Greek, just as it does in English. You could say… I was saved from drowning. I was saved from cancer. I was saved from the bankruptcy. I was saved from doing my laundry. When you see the word save you should ask… saved from what? To what?
Here in Romans salvation means something like… You are saved from the power of sin to live in the power of the Spirit. You are saved from being wrong to being right. You are saved from death to eternal life. The Christ-event is the power God uses to restore His glory in me. I lost my glory… I was saved to be His glory!
Paul is proud of the Gospel because it saves! Real power to save! There is nothing more powerful!
2) The Gospel…is for to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul is proud of the Gospel because it is universal. There is no racism in the Gospel. Paul is the apostle to the ethnos; all the others. The Gospel is not prejudiced. This was a remarkable statement coming from a Jew living in the Roman empire. The hatred between the Jews and Romans was a given. The Jews, of this period, were constantly rebelling against the Romans. They were the enemy. The Romans were the bad-guys. The Romans were brutal to the Jews. Jews were categorically hated by all. Everyone but the Romans hated the Romans. There was prejudice all over the place.
Yet Paul is the apostle to the Romans, as well as the rest of the ethnos!
Paul is proud of the Jew first AND ALSO to the others!
3) The Gospel… reveals the righteousness of God.
Paul is proud of the Gospel because the Christ-Event reveals God is going to make everything right. The Gospel message to the whole world is that God is going to fix all the brokenness; heal all the hurts, bring justice to all the wrongs, bring His glory back to the world!
What Christ did on the cross through the resurrection reveals the hope of the world!
Paul is proud of Gospel… it is the revelation of God’s intent to redeem the world! God’s righteousness is his trustworthy promise to save the world! Paul is proud because he has faith in the promises of God!
4) The Gospel… is from faith for faith.
Out of faith into faith
These four words may be as hard to translate as any four words in Scripture… Translations are all over the place…
--from faith to faith
--from faith from first to last
--based on faith and addressed to faith
--This is accomplished from start to finish by faith
--I like BW3’s interpretation… From the faithful one unto those who have faith. This captures the flow of why Paul is not ashamed and lines up with similar passage in chapter 3.
If BW3 is correct, Because God’s promise is revealed in the Christ-Event; the faith of Christ, then His faith flows into our faith. Paul is proud of the sacrificial life of Jesus; his fulfilling all righteousness. Paul is proud of the faithfulness of Jesus which is alive in Paul!
I have the faith of Jesus!
5) The Gospel… empowers the righteous to live by faith.
The Gospel makes those who have faith… alive. Those who have been made right by the power of the Gospel are living in the Spirit! Believing Christians are alive. Their minds are renewed. They have access to the power of the cross to preach the Gospel. There is purpose in life. We advance the Gospel to the world!
Paul is be proud of the very thing that has made him real!
(picture the scene) Phoebe is reading these words to a house church in Rome. These words jump off the page with pride…
Romans 1:15-16 I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel!
Let’s change gears. Let’s put Paul’s words in our mouths. Can we say these words… honestly?
I, your name, am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Los Alamos. For I am not ashamed of the gospel!
I am proud of the Gospel because it saves.
I am proud of the Gospel because it is for all… without prejudice.
I am proud of the Gospel because I know God is keeping his promises.
I am proud of the Gospel because I live the faith of Jesus.
I am proud of the Gospel because it is the Gospel that makes me alive!
Do these words ring true for me? Do those words ring for you? I am not ashamed of the Gospel!
July 19, 2020
Los Alamos Church of Christ
2020 - Romans
Live Peaceably with All
It was the night before… Jesus was crucified. Jesus had shared a last supper with the disciples. Jesus had taken his followers to his favorite quiet place; the Olive Garden. But it wasn’t to be quiet for long. Jesus was upset. Jesus needed his closest friends to support him. But they had dozed off… quietly… oblivious to the violence that was about to erupt. Jesus had prayed… three times… let this cup pass. But it wasn’t going to “pass”. As it was getting late… a troop of temple soldiers broke up the quiet scene. The silence was broken with a kiss… of betrayal.
John 18:4-12 "Whom do you seek?" They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he." When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. So, he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he.”
When Peter woke up realizing what was going on, he picked up his sword ready to defend his Lord. Peter remembered his words to the Lord just hours earlier…
Mark 14:29-31 Peter said to Jesus, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." But he said emphatically, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you."
“Now was the time for violence; no denial from me!” Peter thought. “Now was the time to start a rebellion. Now was the time to begin the advance of the kingdom. A sword for the Lord and Jes-u-ah! ‘Off with his head…’” Peter missed and only got an ear.
Luke 22:49-51 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him.
Matthew 26:51 Then Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
That would have been the moment for fighting. If Jesus ever intended his followers to use force to advance his kingdom, that was the moment. Peter knew it… “I will die for you!” If Jesus wanted us to use force, or hatred, or violence or brutality; or any earthly power to advance his kingdom… that would have been when it started. “If I wanted force, I would use angels, not ear-slicers. All who draw the sword will die by the sword. No more of this!” No more violence. No more hatred. No more power of the sword.
The kingdom of heaven advances by the sacrificial power of the cross, never violence; never hatred, never manipulation. The only way to win the hearts of humanity is with peace!
Peace is the seventh box on our list of what it means to be a Christian from Romans 12.
Box 7) Live Peaceably with All
Romans 12:14-21 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let’s break it down…
Box 7) Live Peaceably with All
--Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Paul knows the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount…
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Blessing those who are opposed to you is an act of boundary-removing. Just as cursing an enemy reinforces the boundary; deepens the divide. Screaming curses at the “other” escalates the walls between. While calling upon the blessings of the LORD upon the “other” breaks the walls.
For us to conqueror the world we must remove the boundaries that divide. To call upon God to bless an enemy… changes everything. It is counter-intuitive. It is the paradox of the Gospel power. Capturing the hearts of the others requires… we bless and do not curse.
-- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Paul must have known the words of Jesus on the Mount…
Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We must enter into the joy and sorrow of others. Connections with the “others”, as if they are us, is at the heart of being able to bless those who are opposed to us. Attempting to understand what the “others” fears; their hurts; their hopes; their joys… making that empathetic connection is essential. The paradox of Christian victory is to sympathize with the “others.”
The “others” are people too. The “others” love their children as much as you do. The “others” want the same things you do for their lives. The “others” are real people. We connect. We rejoice with. We weep with. We never devalue.
In order for our mission to reach the hearts of the nations, we must rejoice with their victories and weep with their hurts.
Which leads to…
-- Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.
Paul must have known the words of Jesus on the Mount…
Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Yoda version is more radical.
YLT Romans 12:16 of the same mind one toward another, not minding the high things, but with the lowly going along; become not wise in your own conceit.
That thought was radical in Paul’s world. Everyone is of the “same mind.” You go along with the low. You are not superior… to anyone. Racial equality in Paul’s world. What? That’s radical. That’s ridiculous! Something like a third of the population were straight up slaves. The Jews were certainly not equal. Obviously, the gods loved the Romans more than everyone else. Women were property. Children, the old, the “others” were inferior! Any self-respecting Roman citizen would have scoffed at the notion of being the same as the “others”.
But for us to conqueror the hearts of the nations, there must be equality for all. For Paul, the apostle to the ethnos, this was at the heart of the power of the Gospel.
--God called Paul to be light to the “others”.
--Paul called the Roman Christians to be the light to the “others”.
--We are called to be the light to the others.
Being of the same mind, going along with the lowly, equality, across the board… is at the heart of the Gospel; is the power of the Gospel!
This leads to the next phrase.
-- Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Jesus said it!
Matthew 5:38-41 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
The problem with racial in-equality with its accompanying revenge is that one of “our” lives is equal to two of “your” lives. If you hurt “us” x amount, “we” must retaliate with 2x because we are worth twice as much as you. Of course, when you respond to “our” 2x, it will be 4x because we are worth twice of you. Then… that leads to 8x… 16x… 32x… to infinity and beyond. Escalation of hatred is the problem with racial in-equality.
Interestingly, the eye for an eye commandment it the OT was… only an eye for an eye. 1x for 1x…only. But Jesus and Paul advocate 1x = 0x.
To do the honorable… be the sacrificial… give the love… that is the power of the Gospel. Jesus turned the injustice of the cross into the power to conqueror the world. That is our model!
Which leads to peace…
--If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Sons of God; daughters of God; children of God promote peace. In peace, hearts can be changed. Power of any kind cannot change a heart. The peace of the Gospel captures hearts.
You cannot control others… but as far as it depends upon you do peace!
Here is how that works…
--Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head."
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The power of forgiveness changes hearts. Wrath is God’s job. Revenge can be turned over to God. Now and then God will make all things right. Our job is to respond in love.
--Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Matthew 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Being merciful. Allowing others insults to pass through you. Cutting other’s slack. Not allowing the escalation of evil is how the Gospel overcomes!
Overcome is the Greek word…(guess) nike…
Romans 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheepto be slaughtered." But in (through) all these things we overwhelmingly conquer (hyper-nike) through Him who loved us.
We conqueror the world by hyper-nike-ing evil with good. Our response to evil is good. That is the power of the Gospel!
Check Box 7 is you can do this!
Let’s put it all together… as each box builds on the previous…
What it means to be a Christian Checklist…
Box 1) Be a Living Sacrifice.
Because of the overwhelming mercies of God, we join Jesus on the altar of living sacrifices. We don’t live for ourselves. A sacrifice has given up. A sacrifice lives to serve another. Christians commit to a live for God.
Which leads to being…
Box 2) Be Transformed.
What is that perfect and pleasing will of God for my life. In each situation, we look to do the will of God in small acts of perfection. We ask how we give away Twinkies.
Which is prevented by…
Box 3) Do not be SuperMinded.
Arrogance cannot stay on the altar. Humility is the power of the Gospel!
But humility does not prevent you from knowing your role.
Box 4) Know your Praxis.
God has grace-gifted you in the body of Christ. The Christian functions within the body to advance the Gospel.
But it must be genuine…
Box 5) Be Unwaxed
We be the real. We see the real. We remove our own wax to be able to see below the wax of others.
Which leads to our ability to keep going…
Box 6) Don’t get your dauber down.
--We have a mission that is too important to get discouraged. We are called to nike the world!
--The hope of that mission… the reality of what is going to happen one day… brings joy.
--The tribulations, the setback, the heartaches… are there, but they too shall pass. Be Patient.
--Talk to God about the hurts…
--Doing good keeps us pumped up…
In order to…
Box 7) Live peaceably with all
Overcoming evil by doing good requires us to…
--understand all are equal…
--connect to their reality in empathy…
--never be haughty…
--overcome evil by the power of the Gospel!
That is what it means to be a Christian.
July 5, 2020
Los Alamos Church of Christ
Copyright © 2021 Los Alamos Church of Christ - All Rights Reserved.