In this sermon, Pastor Brian gives an overview of the whole book of Romans, so that we will all know where we are headed in the months to come as we slow way down and meditate on each paragraph. The Book of Romans is about the Gospel. It shows us:
1. The Desperate Need of the Gospel (1:18 – 3:20)
2. The Divine Solution of the Gospel (3:21 – 4:25)
3. The Transforming Power of the Gospel (5:1 – 8:17)
4. The Ultimate Glory of the Gospel (8:18-27)
5. The Sovereign Application of the Gospel (8:28 – 9:29)
6. The Gracious Invitation of the Gospel (9:30 – 10:21)
7. The Inclusive Plan of the Gospel (11:1-36)
8. The Practical Outworking of the Gospel (12:1 – 15:13)
A Bird’s Eye View of the Book of Romans
Starting next Sunday, we are going to put our backpacks on and begin a hike through the Book of Romans. However, today, we are going to fly over it. You’re thinking, “Brian, what in the world are you talking about?” Well, let’s say you decided that you were going to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. It’s 165 miles in total. The trip is likely going to take you a couple of weeks. However, if you were a bird, you could cover the same distance in about 6 hours.
Now, the advantage of hiking around the rim is that you would see so much more detail. You might see some local deer, or squirrels or beaver. You might even see some of the fish splashing in the water. You would see up close the kinds of trees and brush surrounding the lake. You would notice every hill and bend and curve and pond and lake as you made the trip. You would see so much, and it would be wonderful.
However, what if you just didn’t have 2 weeks? The advantage of flying around the rim of Lake Tahoe, is that you would be able to do it in 6 hours, and you would get a quick overview of the terrain and layout of the lake. What you lack in detail, you make up for in speed and overview.
Starting next Sunday, we are going to begin our in-depth hike through Romans. But today, I thought it would be very helpful if we grew wings, and flew over the entire book. Before we begin noticing and enjoying all of the incredible details and truths in this book, it is important that you have an understanding of the Big Picture of the book. So, believe it or not, I’m going to teach the Book of Romans in a single sermon. Granted, I won’t have the time to give you a lot of detail, but I will be able to map out where we are going in the months and perhaps years to come.
Well, strap your wings on, and let’s start flying.
Paul gives us his introduction in 1:1-17. In his introduction, he tells us something about himself, his Lord, and the believers in Rome. He tells us that he is a bond-servant of Christ, called as an apostle, and set apart for God’s gospel. Then he tells us that the gospel was promised in the Old Testament law and by the prophets, and is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus was a true human, because He was born as a descendant of David according to the flesh. However, He was also true God, because He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. When Paul turns his attention to his readers, he tells them that they are the called of Jesus Christ, and are beloved of God.
Paul gives thanks to God for these Roman Christians, and then tells them of how he never stops praying for them. Not only that, but Paul prays continually that God may make it possible for him to come and visit them. Why does Paul want to visit them? It’s because he wants to impart a spiritual gift to establish them in the faith and encourage them. He tells them that he has often wanted to come to them, but has been prevented so far. But he feels he is under obligation to preach the gospel to everyone – Greeks and barbarians, wise and foolish, and he is eager to preach the gospel to these believers in Rome as well.
Then, Paul finally comes to the thesis of this amazing letter in verses 16-17. He says that he is not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek. 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.” In these two verses you have the acorn which will grow into the mighty tree of the book of Romans. This letter is all about the gospel, which brings salvation to Jew and Gentile. But what, exactly is revealed in this gospel? Paul says it is God’s righteousness which comes to us through faith. So, the theme of this letter is the Gospel, and how believing that gospel brings God’s righteousness to you.
Well, having given us the main theme of this letter, Paul is now going to unpack that suitcase. He does this in 8 different ways, which we will look at briefly this morning, one by one.
1. The Desperate Need For The Gospel (1:18 – 3:20)
In 1:18 through 3:20, Paul shows his readers why the gospel is needed. In 1:18-32, he shows that the heathen need the gospel. All men know that there is a Creator, just by looking around at His creation. However, they do their best to suppress that truth about God, because if they acknowledge that truth, they know that it means that they are accountable to Him. So, even though they knew God existed, they wouldn’t honor Him or thank Him. The heathen turned away from the true and living God and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. So, God gave them over to impurity, and degrading passions, and a depraved mind. As a result, the heathen spiraled downward into every imaginable sin and corruption. The heathen need the gospel because they are totally depraved and have no righteousness of their own by which they can stand before God.
Then, Paul shows us why the Hebrews need the gospel in 2:1 – 3:8. In 2:1-16 Paul says that the Jews were self-righteous and judgmental toward others, but when you looked closely at their lives, you could see that they practiced the same things they judged in others. Their hearts were stubborn and unrepentant, and Paul says the result will be God’s judgment, wrath and indignation. There is coming a day in which God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
In 2:17-29 Paul tells us that the Jews relied on the Law, boasted in God, knew God’s will, approved the things that are essential, and were instructed out of the Law. They thought of themselves as guides to the blind and a light to those in darkness, correctors of the foolish, teachers of the immature. However, they did not practice what they preached. The same sins they condemned in others, they committed themselves, in one form or another. He goes on to tell them that their circumcision was only of value if they practiced the Law, and that Gentiles who were not circumcised but kept the Law would end up judging them! Why? Because a true Jew has nothing to do with outward circumcision. It has to do with what the Spirit has done in a person’s heart.
In 3:1-8, Paul pauses to refute an objection he anticipates his readers will have. He knows that they are going to say, “Well, if being a true Jew has nothing to do with outward circumcision, is there any benefit at all to being a Jew?” Paul’s reply is, “Absolutely!” The Jews had the great benefit of being entrusted with God’s very Word!
But then another objection surfaces. The Jews could reply, “But our unrighteousness just highlights how great God’s righteousness is by contrast. So, wouldn’t God be unjust to bring wrath upon us? Our sin is only making Him look great.” Paul’s reply is simply, “those who say that they can do evil so that good may come are under God’s just condemnation.
Then, in 3:9-20, Paul shows why the whole world needs the gospel. In verse 9 Paul writes, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” The heathen and the Hebrew are all under sin. And to prove it, Paul begins quoting the psalms. In verses 10-12 he says there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” Now that’s pretty conclusive, wouldn’t you say. Not only is no one righteous, but in verses 13-18 Paul then goes to show how every part of every person is depraved. He mentions their throat, their tongues, their lips, their mouth, their feet, their paths, and their eyes. In every part of every person, we find corruption.
Then in 3:19-20 Paul summarizes everything he has been teaching for the last two chapters. The Law closes every mouth so that no one can justify themselves. It also makes every single person accountable to God. Why is the whole world guilty before God? Because by the works of the Law no person will ever be justified in God’s sight. Why? Because the Law will never save anyone. It will only reveal our sin.
This is why there is a desperate need for the gospel. Without it, all men will perish. All people will come under the condemnation of the Law, and the righteous indignation and wrath of an all holy God! The very first thing Paul proves is how much we need this gospel. Our problem is that we are all guilty and hell-bound sinners.
2. The Divine Solution Of The Gospel (3:21 – 4:25)
Having laid out so clearly and devastatingly our problem, and how we are absolutely unable to remedy our situation, Paul now begins to unfold God’s solution to our problem in 3:21-24. Our problem is that we are unrighteous. None of us has a righteousness that will make us acceptable to God. So what does God do? He provides His own righteousness for us all by Himself. This righteousness was foreshadowed in the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. They spoke of God’s divine solution that would come to us through the Messiah. This solution is God’s righteousness that becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ. And this righteousness is for everyone, Jew and Gentile. All Jews and Gentiles have sinned, and so all can be justified through Christ. This justification (or being declared righteous) is not a result of our good works, but comes to us as a gift from God.
In 3:24-26 Paul brings up two theological words that help us understand how we are justified. Those words are “redemption” and “propitiation.” Redemption is the act of God where He sets us free by the payment of a ransom. Christ made the payment in His blood. God accepted the payment, and now sets believing sinners free from sin’s penalty and power. Propitiation is a sacrifice that averts the wrath of God. Christ accomplished both. Christ redeemed us from sin, and also averted God’s wrath by absorbing the punishment due to us when He suffered and died on the cross. And because He provided redemption and propitiation, now we can be justified (righteousized)! God puts His righteousness to our account, and treats us as if we were His Son, because we put our faith in Jesus Christ.
Then in 3:27-31 Paul says that this new arrangement eliminates all human boasting, because it eliminates all human works in the obtaining of salvation. Instead, salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone.
Then in Chapter 4:1-8 Paul illustrates the truth that our justification is through faith, and not by works by using Abraham as an example. To do this, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In other words, Paul is showing that salvation has never been on the basis of human works, but always on the basis of God’s grace in crediting His righteousness to them.
In 4:9-12 Paul shows that salvation is not a result of religious rituals. In order to do that, Paul tells us that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, not as a result of his circumcision. Then in 4:13-15, Paul shows that salvation is not through the Law. Then Paul tells us that God devised salvation to be by grace so that it would be guaranteed. If salvation were by our works, we would never know when we had done enough of them to be saved.
3. The Transforming Power Of The Gospel
Up to this point Paul has shown us our desperate need for the gospel and then provided the divine solution. Our problem is that we need righteousness, and God’s solution is that He credits His own righteousness to us through faith apart from works. But is that all? Does God just credit us as righteous, but leave us continuing to wallow in our sin? Absolutely not! The gospel not only credits God’s righteousness to us, but then begins to practically make us righteous! And it does this in many different ways.
The Gospel Brings A New Joy. In 5:1-11, Paul shows us this by using the word “exult” three times (5:2,3,11). Having been justified by faith, we now exult in hope of the glory of God. In other words, the gospel brings us this incredible hope that we will dwell together with God forever. Not only that, but even right now we exult in our tribulations. Why? Because we know that those tribulations produce perseverance, which leads to proven character, and makes our hope even stronger. Then Paul concludes by telling us about our greatest reason for rejoicing – God Himself! He says that it was while we were still helpless, sinners, and enemies, that Christ died for us. Christ’s death justified us and reconciled us to God. And now that we are reconciled to Him, we exult in Him through Jesus Christ!
The Gospel Brings A New Union. In 5:12-21, Paul tells us that there are two representatives that God has set forth – Adam and Christ. Adam represents all men physically descended from him, and Christ represents all men spiritually descended from him. Whatever these two representatives have done is put to the account of those they represent. Adam transgressed and brought sin, condemnation, and death to those he represents. Christ obeyed and brought justification, righteousness, and life to those He represents. All of us are united to one or the other. Who is your representative right now?
Then in 6:1-14, Paul shows how our union to Christ transforms us and gives us victory over sin. His point in this passage is that if we have been united to Christ, we have been united to Him in His death and resurrection. We died with Him to sin, and rose with Him in newness of life. Our old self was crucified with Him so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. So, how practically do we overcome sin? We do it by knowing, considering, and presenting (6,9,11,13). We know that we have died and risen with Christ. Then we consider that truth when tempted by sin. Then we make an actual presentation of the members of our body to God so that He would employ our members in righteousness, not in sin.
The Gospel Brings A New Master. In 6:14 Paul said, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” To be under sin or grace, means that you are under its dominion. Paul is saying that grace has become your new Master. Sin is no longer the Master over a believer. In verse 16 he says we are slaves of obedience. In verse 18 Paul tells us we are slaves of righteousness. In verse 22 he says we are enslaved to God. So, what is the result of being enslaved to grace, obedience, righteousness and God? Our sanctification. A new union and a new master leads to a transformed life!
The Gospel Brings A New Husband. In Romans 7:1-6, Paul uses the analogy of marriage to help us understand our relationship to the Law. Paul tells us in effect that before we came to Christ we were married to the Law. The Law was like an exacting and demanding husband, requiring us to live absolutely perfectly. Everything our husband required was good. There was no fault in him or his demands. It was just that we couldn’t do all he required. However, we died with Christ. And when we died, we died to our old relationship with the Law. As believers we are no longer married to the Law. We are married to Christ. What is the result of being married to Christ? Verse 4 says we can now bear fruit for God. Verse 6 says we now serve in newness of the Spirit. Everything has changed! Our new husband demands just as much from us, but he rolls up his sleeves and helps us get it done.
Then in verses 7-25, Paul deals with two objections that he anticipates his readers will have. You see, he had said in verse 5 he linked the Law with sin and death. He said, “For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.” Now, a Jew would be incensed at any insinuation that the Law could be associated with sin or death. So, Paul must deal with that here. In verses 7-12, he answers the question, “Is the Law sin?” In verses 13-25 he answers the question, “Did the Law become a cause of death for me?” Now, I will let you in on a little secret. There are a lot of good and godly men who believe that Romans 7 is talking about a regenerate Christian. When Paul speaks about not practicing what he would like to do, but doing the very thing he hates, that he is talking about his life as a Christian. I disagree. I believe Paul is talking about a person living under the Law, trying to obey the Law, but failing dismally because they are still a slave of sin. I don’t have time this morning to tell you my reasons why. You’ll have to wait for a year or two until we get to Romans 7 to find out!
The Gospel Brings A New Power. In Romans 8:1-14, Paul tells us that we have a new power that is actively working to transform us. It is the power of the Spirit. In 7:7-25, Paul never mentioned the Spirit at all. Here in Romans 8:1-14, he mentions the Spirit 12 times! What does the power of the Spirit do in our lives? It sets us free from the law of sin and death. It enables us to fulfill the requirement of the Law. It brings life and peace. It will raise our mortal bodies. It enables us to put to death the deeds of the body.
The Gospel Brings A New Sonship. In Romans 8:15-17 we discover that the Spirit of God leads us and brings us into adoption as sons, and testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
So, the gospel transforms us from sinners to saints by giving us a new joy, a new union, a new master, a new husband, a new power, and a new sonship!
4. The Ultimate Glory Of The Gospel (8:18-27)
Paul turns his attention to our glorious future. There is coming a day when all of creation will be redeemed and restored. Paul tells us that during this present season, the creation groans, the Christian groans, and the Comforter groans. What are they groaning for? The creation groans for the revealing of the sons of God. It groans to be set free from its slavery to corruption. It has been subjected to futility because of the sin of man. But a glorious day is coming when all of creation will be set free from this corruption! Creation will be free from disease and death.
The Christian groans as well. As soon as we receive the indwelling Spirit, we begin to groan because we are waiting eagerly for our bodies to be redeemed and glorified. We groan to be completely free from all sin, and with our Lord forever.
5. The Sovereign Application Of The Gospel (8:28 – 9:29)
Paul brings us in on a little secret in Romans 8 and 9. He tells us that everyone who believes the gospel and is saved, does so because God is sovereignly working in his life. In verse 28 he speaks of people being called according to God’s purpose. In verse 29 and 30 he gives us the golden chain of salvation which consists of Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, Justification and Glorification. Every person who was foreknown and predestined will be called and glorified. No one whom God calls can ever be lost. No one can ever bring a charge against God’s elect or condemn them. Nothing can ever separate them from the love of Christ. They are absolutely secure in God’s love.
Now, why is that true? Why is it that the person God calls and justifies will always be glorified? Well, it is because of His sovereign election and predestination. In other words, before time, God had already chose those whom He would save. That is what chapter 9 is all about.
Paul begins the chapter by describing how great his grief is that so many of his Jewish brethren did not believe in Christ. He says that if it were possible he would go to hell instead of them. However, just because so many Jews didn’t believe did not mean that God’s word had failed. Why not? Because God’s word only promises that the true people of God will never perish. But there is a great difference between a Jew according to the flesh, and a Jew according to the Spirit. They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel. You see, God has always had a true remnant among the Jewish people. God chose Isaac, and passed by Ishmael. God chose Jacob, and passed by Esau. Why? So that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
To anyone who would say that God is being unjust, Paul merely quotes what God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
To anyone who would say, “Why does God find fault with me. I am only the way I am because of His will”, who are you to answer back to God. He is the potter and you are the clay. He has a right to do whatever He wants with His creatures. All men are either vessels of wrath prepared for destruction or vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory.
So, how does God apply the gospel? According to His sovereign choice made before the foundation of the world. According to His invincible and effectual call.
6. The Gracious Invitation Of The Gospel (9:30 – 10:21)
It is true that God has chosen whom He will save, but it is also true that He offers a sincere offer of salvation to all people. That’s what we find in 9:30 – 10:21.
God offers righteousness to all who embrace His Son. The Jews did not attain that righteousness because they sought for it by works. The Gentiles attained it, because they believed God. According to 10:9-10, God offers salvation to those who confess with their mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. In verse 13 we discover that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Of course this invitation must be given through human messengers, and so God must sends people so that they will preach, so that others will hear, believe, and confess Jesus as Lord (10:14-15). At the end of chapter 10, God represents Himself as all the day long stretching out His hands, offering salvation, to a disobedient and obstinate people (10:21). The gracious invitation is given to all men. Sadly, most Jews rejected the invitation, while many Gentiles accepted, and entered the kingdom.
7. The Inclusive Plan Of The Gospel (11:1-36)
Paul begins chapter 11, asking if God has rejected the Jewish people. Paul’s answer is, “of course not!” I am a Jew myself. God has not rejected the Jews that he foreknew, just as God kept 7,000 men who did not bow their knees to Baal in the time of Elijah. In Paul’s day there was a remnant of Jews who believed in Christ, according to God’s gracious choice. The rest of the Jews were hardened.
Well, the next question is whether these Jews who were hardened stumbled so as to fall permanently. The answer is No. God’s plan is to save large numbers of Gentiles, so move the Jews to jealousy, so that they will desire what the Gentiles have. And in this way, many Jews will also be saved. God will grant them back into their own olive tree. A partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. Now, what does Paul mean? I believe he means that God will continue moving some Jews to jealousy as they see the salvation that comes to Gentiles until Christ returns. In this way, all “Israel” will be saved, meaning all the Jews that God has chosen to save. Remember, that they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.
So, what is God’s inclusive plan until Christ returns? He will save Gentiles, and that will move some Jews (elect Jews) to jealousy so that they will embrace Christ as well.
8. The Practical Outworking Of The Gospel (12:1 – 15:13)
So, how does the gospel work its way out practically in every day life? That’s what this next section deals with. It begins with the believer presenting his body as a living and holy sacrifice to God, and being transformed by the renewing of his mind. It also includes discovering what spiritual gifts God has given to you, and then faithfully employing them to serve others. It includes loving, serving, being devoted, to and blessing others. It includes being subject to government authorities and paying taxes. It includes loving your neighbor. It includes abstaining from the deeds of darkness like carousing and drunkenness and sexual promiscuity and sensuality and making no provision for the flesh or its lusts. It includes not judging other believers in the gray areas of the Christian life.
Paul concludes this incredible letter, by sharing about his past ministry and future ministry plans (15:14 – 33). In 16:1-20 he greets various saints in Rome. Then in 16:21-24, Paul sends greetings from Timothy and several other co-workers with Paul. Then Paul finishes this masterpiece with a great doxology, in which he sums up and pulls all the various strands of doctrine from this letter together. The gospel is the theme of this letter, and in the final paragraph Paul speaks about this glorious gospel, and gives worship to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.
- The Ultimate Glory of the Gospel: 8:18-27
- The Sovereign Application of the Gospel: 8:28 – 9:29
- The Gracious Invitation of the Gospel: 9:30 – 10:21
- The Inclusive Plan of the Gospel: 11:1-36
- The Practical Outworking of the Gospel: 12:1 – 15:13
Conclusion: 15:14 – 16:27
Paul’s Past Ministry and Future Plans: 15:14 – 15:33
Paul’s Greetings to Various Saints: 16:1-24
Paul’s Final Doxology: 16:25-27
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