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Jan 1 2023 Romans 1 - What is the Obedience of Faith?

I hope you got a chance to watch the Bible Project video –

https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/romans-1-4/

It gives a great foundation for the background.

First – what is the book of Romans? It is a personal pastoral letter from Paul to the Church in Rome.

Paul addresses numerous theological issues and topics in his letter to the Romans, but it is not a theological treatise. It is not a systematic theology! That is what we tend to turn it into – it is a PERSONAL LETTER.

The theme of the letter is the gospel that runs throughout the entire book.

Paul is not, however, giving us a plan of salvation presentation. He is NOT doing that.

It is not a gospel tract.

Sometimes we can view it that way.

Romans 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who is it written to? The beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.

It is not written ‘to the world’.

It is not written to the situation in which we live.

It was written around 57 AD –

These are real people with real concerns. Paul is going to address as many of those concerns and questions that they have in this letter. That is the point! To address the real concerns of those in Rome.

To prove it was written to real people – because we tend to think of it as a theological treatise – Scot McKnight writes that we need to read Romans backwards – Romans 16 mentions 27 specific names of people in that church. There are 8 names of people who in Corinth with Paul as he writes this letter – who know those in Rome.

Rome had a large Jewish population. In 60 BC – a general brought 40,000 Jews to Rome as slaves. They lived in horrid conditions. Many became citizens and won their freedom.

In 49 AD – Claudius expelled the Jews. Julius and Augustus Caesar favored the Jews – Claudius did not. In 54 AD – many Jews came to Rome.

Not counting Mary and Joseph, the most famous couple were Priscilla and Aquila.

Romans 1:4 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

This had to be after 54 AD.

There was a church that was a mix of Jew and Gentile. That does not mean a church of 1000 people – most were 40-50 people – some as large as 200. There was one Church in Rome – but many congregations met in homes – they were 1 church.

They have these Jew and Gentile Christians together – and most of the Jewish Christians had to leave. Slowly, all these Jewish Christians came back and it caused problems in the ways of doing things – this is described in detail in Chapters 12-14, but we see the theme throughout the letter.

Paul refers to two groups – the weak and the strong – and one group – the weak, were to keep all elements of the Law. Then the other group believed they were free from the Law – and there were judgings and shamings going on.

I am going to read from the New American Standard because it is the most literal translation that people read. That does not make it better – it just makes it easier, because terminology and words are important – and the NASB makes it easier to study specific words.

If we are going to understand the book – what Paul means when he uses a word is not always what we mean when we use a word. We must be careful that Paul’s ancient context gives us the definition of the word.

Romans 1: Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

The gospel of God. This is a curious phrase, because we always think of the gospel of Jesus. Paul is writing in contrast to the gospel of ROME. Romans, of all people, - this word would be totally familiar – the gospel – had nothing to do with Jesus – it had to do with the Roman Empire – Gospel – Good news.

When the angel said to Mary – Good news of great joy!

2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Genesis 1:1 – that is the beginning of the gospel of God.

The entire Old Testament is the story of the gospel of God.

3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

This gospel of God has its climax in Jesus. So, we could describe the gospel in this way – the son is a descendant of David. This day – is born to you in the city of David – a savior –

There was a promise to David that a descendant would reign on the throne for all eternity.

The gospel of God is this – it is the story of God’s loving and faithful response to a fallen and faithless humanity which finds its climax in Jesus.

Matthew Bates – Salvation by Allegiance alone – the gospel is the story of …Jesus – but it only makes sense in the larger framework of Israel and creation.

It is the whole Bible – we can’t limit it – it fills our Bibles.

Paul gives an explanation of the gospel – the main themes, think like bullet points – Romans 1: 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

We have the incarnation – God became human in the birth of Jesus Christ – so that He might be with us.

Then the descendant of David – He is the Messiah king.

We talked a bit two weeks ago how we don’t think of Jesus as King because we don’t have kings. It is a royal announcement of a new king…

4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead,

We have His death and resurrection – important themes in the gospel – then it says:

according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

It is not an afterthought – it refers to the ascension that Jesus is enthroned, because of the resurrection – and reigns as king of all things.

In Hebrews – He was made lower – than the angels – there is a change – God the Son has always reigned -but Jesus, God became Man – is enthroned and that is Jesus.

5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,

This is the first term – obedience of faith

What does that mean? We have the reformation – by faith alone – and we think of this – Faith not works – what is he talking about – obedience of faith? It comes up one more time in the letter – the very last sentence – and he is basically saying everything from this sentence to the last will explain what the obedience of faith means.

What does Paul mean by faith in his context? It is a much fuller word – and there are four aspects to it.

and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; (Rom 16:26 NAU)

First – Believe – agree with specific historic facts or realities. With the gospel, it is Jesus’ death and resurrection and obedience of faith means agreeing that that is a historic reality.

Faith – second – means TRUST – to rely on something. We use these terms in our illustrations of the gospel – we talk about the two aspects in our gospel presentations – you trust in the chair…

Third – should come up more – the word FAITH in the Greek language is the exact same word as faithfulness – for us those are two different words – not for them – it is the exact same word.

Now, faithfulness, though, that Paul is talking about – is kind of like fidelity in marriage – a covenant faithfulness.

When we think of biblical faith – Marriage is a perfect illustration of faith.

When I do weddings – ‘forsaking all others’

When a person exercises biblical faith – they are turning to One and turning away from all others.

So, obedience to the faith is turning to Jesus and away from all others.

Fourth – Allegiance, or loyalty.

To believe in Jesus requires a change of allegiance or loyalty.

In the Roman world, there were no atheists – in fact – because Christians did not have a temple, they were persecuted – that was illegal to be atheists.

For a person in the first century to come to Christ, they had to turn away from their god and turn to Jesus only – and give Him their loyalty and allegiance completely.

In military language, when a person was captured, they would have to offer allegiance – actually ‘faith’ to their Roman commander.

Every person has something that must be forsaken.

Even though this world has a lot of atheists – Next week, we will see that there is no such thing.

We don’t have statues, but we have our gods…

Obedience of faith includes those four aspects – that is what it means to put faith in Christ.

A couple other words we take one way and Paul might look at differently – Righteousness and Salvation

13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far)

Paul had not been to Rome…

so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

So, we know – there is a problem with Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians – and Paul brings in a third type of group – Greeks and barbarians – also Gentiles…

Let’s say the government declared that there could be only one church in the city – do you think there would be a conflict? Theologically? Musically?

There are some groups of churches that have been ethnically and politically diverse… But most people leave churches as they become more diverse and want to find one that is like them.

They had to work through all of these issues.

Sadly, we don’t have to work through these issues, so we don’t.

Instead, we find those we don’t have issues with.

Greeks would have been the superior people – the elite –

The Barbarians were the common, blue-collar folk. There is conflict there. Red states/blue states. There is conflict there.

Wise/foolish

We think smart/stupid

No

Wise would be elites with power.

Foolish would be the common middle classers.

Then it says this:

15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Who is he preaching the gospel to? The beloved of God called as saints. Paul understood that Christians needed to hear the gospel.

If we think of the gospel as just something that causes people to make a decision, that doesn’t make sense.

16 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

Here is how I have always felt this – I should not be afraid to share the gospel no matter what the situation is even if I feel it is inappropriate in the circumstance

When I was in college, we shared all the time. I loved it. But I would find myself in situations where I would think – this is not the right situation – and I would feel shame in doing it! That is how I felt.

Paul is not trying to shame you in this! That is not what he is doing.

What does it really say?

16 For I am not ashamed

What is the next word? OF

He is not ashamed of the gospel.

They lived in a world of honor and shame – and shame would be being crucified on a cross. SO, the world looked at the Christian faith as a faith of shame or weakness. They thought no king would die on a cross! They are the ones who have power.

Paul is writing from Corinth – so if you go back and tie Romans to Corinthians – chapters 1 and 2 of 1 Corinthians are all about power, weakness, shame…

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

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."

When it comes to the gospel – there is a lot there in the faith to faith thing – and we can either talk about this more – righteousness and justice are interchangeable – righteousness of God – so it is God’s righteous character – His faithful, saving, restorative justice (one writer called it)…

It is the faithfulness of Jesus which causes us to respond in faith.

So, we need to be careful not to weaken the power of the gospel – to just turn it into a presentation to generate a response. Yes, it generates a response –

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."

It generates a response – hopefully a response of faith – but it can also generate a response of rejection – But the gospel is so much bigger. We need to present the gospel of shame and weakness. That is an odd way of thinking about it – the shame of the cross, the weakness of the cross is where power lies. That is where true transformation lies.

We need to live a life that is centered around this story.

Cindy’s sister and brother-in-law are in town from Sanibel – their place was practically destroyed there.

What do we do when we get together? What movies have you watched? What books have you read?

Stories play an enormous role in our lives. That is what the gospel is.


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