Sermon 2017 01 22

22.01.17 AM Sermon                       

Romans # 3 "To: The Christians in Rome" Paul's Greeting and Prayer (Rom 1:7-15)

 

Last week we considered the writer of this letter, the apostle Paul, and his presentation of the gospel.

This week we consider the recipients of this letter and the relationship that Paul has with them.

We shall be focusing upon his greeting which describes the Christians in Rome, and aspects of his prayers for them which reveal Paul's heart and desires for his fellow believers.

 

1. Paul greets the Christians in Rome

(v7) "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul's greeting to his readers contains ideas that will become major themes in his letter.

Firstly, what kind of people does he remind them that they are? - loved, called, holy

a. A People loved by God

(v7) "loved by God" ("agapētois Theou") agapētois (ἀγαπητοῖ) = "divinely loved"

Paul later writes in this letter (Romans 5:8) "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

We need to be reminded constantly that God is a God of love, and that he loves us, and has demonstrated that love for us in Christ, in His death on the cross for our sins.

All that Paul will remind these Christians stems from love - God's love to them.

The gospel is a gospel that originates in the love of God. Let us not forget this.

When we find it difficult to love others or love ourselves, we need to remember that God loves both.

 

b. A people called by God

"called to be" - These are a people called to be something, but firstly they and we are called by and to God.

Klētois (κλητοῖς) - This word in the NT is all about God's general calling people away from Sin and to Him.

His invitation to turn from sin so that we are able to embrace Him and receive Him and follow Him.

Paul writes (1 Timothy 2:4-6) that God "wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."

In this sense all are called to believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord - no exceptions. You are not the exception to the rule. You are not too good or too bad to be saved.

One commentator on this notion of God's calling, laments : "Unfortunately, many choose not to – but all can; all don't but all can call out to God for His mercy (not just 'some')" (G. Archer).

 

c. A people called to be holy

And Paul states that God calls Christians to be "his holy people".

The word here that Paul uses is hagiois (ἁγίοις) meaning "different (unlike), other ("otherness")"

It has the notion of being holy, set apart by God for God - because such a people are made to be like God, and therefore different from the world.

Again Paul is reminding the Christians in Rome, that they are called to be different from the peoples around them in their morals, attitudes, behaviour, beliefs, allegiance, worship, and in many other ways.

We too are called to be "holy" - set apart by God, for God, to God, for his plans and purposes.

 

And because we are called by and to God out of his love for us, a holy people, Paul reminds his readers of two important words and concepts, that again he will unfold for them: Grace and Peace.

If they are loved, and called by God and to God to be Holy, then they can know and live out Grace & Peace. "Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

d. Grace

Grace is the basis of their identity as Christians.

He writes later (Rom 3:23-24) "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

We are saved by Grace through faith in Christ.

It is not about us reaching up to God, but God reaching down to us through His Son. Not about us working to earn God's favour, but God bestowing his favour through the perfect work of Christ.

e. Peace

And peace with God is now ours through Christ.

(Rom 5:1-2) "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."

Grace and peace are linked. We have peace through grace. And peace with God leads to ongoing grace.

And this Grace and Peace have not originated in us, but in God.

"…from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

It is as God sends his Son to be our Saviour that we can know grace and peace.

True and lasting grace and peace cannot be gained from anywhere or anyone else.

 

So Paul is reminding us of these truths about the Christians in Rome through in his initial greetings, but now we see Paul indicating his ongoing personal commitment to all gentiles, including those Christians in Rome.

And the first way that we shall see Paul doing this today is through prayer.

 

2. He prays for them (v8-10)

(v8-10) "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you."

 

So, the first thing that Paul does is he prays! "First" he writes.

Oh, that our first point of call would be prayer … instead of worry, or fret or fuss or frustration, or despair and despondency. May prayer be our priority rather than our last resort.

And who does Paul go to? Who does he pray to? "Who do you call?"

a. Who does he pray to?

i. "my God"

Paul acknowledges that God is his God.

He is in relationship with Him. He knows him, not just knows about him.

It is vital was we know God personally - receiving Him as our personal saviour, not just know about him. 

ii. "whom I serve"

And Paul serves this God - he is obedient to Him and his calling and commands.

There was a time when he served God's enemy, but his life has been transformed.

We are saved to serve.

And how does Paul describe his service to God?

"in my spirit"

This is a spiritually awakened Paul. Paul, who used to be Saul, who thought he knew God and thought he was serving God, but did not know God because he had not yet received Jesus as His Messiah.

He believed that he knew and served Almighty God, but far from it - in fact Jesus himself in a vision told him that he was fighting against him by fighting against his people, the people that really did know and serve him, and were being persecuted for their faith in him.

He is now throwing his all at serving his Lord - putting his heart into it.

"in preaching the gospel of his Son"

Now Paul served this God that he is in relationship with primarily through his preaching.

You could phrase this "I preach my heart out".

And this preaching is all about the gospel - the good news about Jesus - God's Son.

He reminds the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:23) "we preach Christ crucified …"

(1 Corinthians 2:2) "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

Paul is good news for Christianity as a preacher - no longer bad news as a persecutor.

iii God "my witness"

God is his witness - in other words, what he is telling the Romans is the truth.

There has been such a transformation of his life, that he is now proclaiming and preaching Jesus Christ, they can know for sure that this is true.

 

 

 

b. How does he pray?

i. with Thanksgiving

"I thank my God" - The word Paul uses is eucharistō (εὐχαριστῶ) from where we get the word "eucharist" - another title we give to the Lord's supper or communion.

The Greek word euxaristéō comes from eú = "good" and xaris = "grace".

In other words - Paul acknowledges that "God's grace works well". He is "thankful for God's good grace."

 

Paul prays ii through Jesus Christ whom Paul asserts is God's Son (v9) "his Son".

A reminder that the only way that we can come to God in full assurance of being heard is through Jesus.

Jesus was clear that it was only through him that we could come to the Father - there is no other way to be saved, no other Name by which we can be saved.

 

iii. remembering

(v9) "I remember you in my prayers …" mneian (μνείαν) = "Mention of you I make".

Paul is recollecting his fellow followers in Rome and as he does so, he lifts them in prayer before God.

The word in the Greek means to "actively bring to mind" - a personal recollection.

It seems that his bringing them to mind was a way in which he prayed.

Perhaps one of the ways in which can pray - is to bring people to mind before God.

 

Paul also prays

iii unceasingly - NIV "at all times" - or "constantly"

adialeiptōs (ἀδιαλείπτως) = an adverb derived from "a"= "not" + diá = "across" = leípō = "to leave").

In other words = nothing left between, i.e. without any interval (time-gap) between.

This sounds incredible, that Paul is unceasingly, constantly praying for the Romans.

Perhaps a hyperbole (an exaggeration), but not without validity - it seems that they were very much on his mind, and he was both mindful and thankful for them and wanted to lift them before the Lord regularly.

 

c. Who does he pray for?

For All - (v8) "for all of you" - so not only is his praying unceasing, without interval, but it is expansive - he prays for all of them.

Perhaps this is just a general regular prayer for them all as a church, a group.

Or perhaps literally, he is bringing to mind each and every person that he can recall, bringing to the forefront of his memory his interactions with and love for each person. Sometimes we can pray for a group of people with what may be a lazy prayer, when in fact we could take time to single out and remember individuals.

Lord, I pray for the Deacons! Or, Lord, I pray for each deacon, and name them.

Lord, I pray for my work colleagues, or friends, or family! Or we name the individuals, remembering what we know of them and bringing each situation before the Lord.

Perhaps such a presenting before God of each person will be more effective as we learn to listen to the Lord and perhaps gain insight as to how to pray for each person.

Perhaps do so in a regular, systematic, thorough way, so that no one is missed out.

 

d. Why does he pray?

He states two reasons -

i. Thanksgiving

He is thankful "because your faith is being reported all over the world."

No doubt he is thankful - if their faith is being reported in such a way.

The church in Rome stands at the heart of the Roman Empire - the known world.

What better place for a church to be - what a privilege and responsibility.

As I've said before, this may be a reason why Paul is writing and teaching again the gospel to those who are already sharing the gospel.

It was vital that the gospel they are sharing all over the world is the correct gospel and not a false one.

You know, it is essential that we ensure that the gospel we are proclaiming, in word and deed is the correct one and not a powerless imitation.

We as a fellowship have a responsibility to be and share the gospel to others.

We believe as a church that God has called us to be a hub and a resource to Wollaston, and beyond and even internationally - so it is vital our message is correct - if we are carrying it to others around us.

[Map]

What if instead of the true gospel of grace we are proclaiming a gospel of works, this is a gospel that cannot save.

Paul warned the Galatians that there was danger of some deserting the true gospel to a false one:

(Gal 1:6-8) "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"

Those who are promoting a message of supposed salvation that is not of God are under God's curse, and leading others into error.

We have a responsibility to share good news - in word and deed. Let's make sure that we read and know our scriptures, the gospel of grace, so that we are presenting the real God and real salvation, not a false one with its false hope.

 

The second reason why Paul prays is with a …

ii. Request

"and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you."

Paul is painfully aware that he can only see those in Rome if God opens up the way for Him to do so.

He states how he has been prevented from doing so before now.

(v13) "I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now)"

He does not want them to be unaware (a common Pauline expression; 11:25; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13) of his desire and predicament. It is not reluctance or any hesitancy on his part.

We are not told the nature of this hindrance, but it could have been due to the activity of Satan.

Such was the case in his experience with the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:18): "For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way."

Some have also suggested that his inability to get to Rome might have been due to the pressure of the all-consuming work already undertaken in the East (cf. 2 Cor 11:27-28): "I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."

Sometimes we are prevented from a course of action, and we need to be prepared to pray our way through, and see what transpires.

May we as a church pray our way through this year, seeking to listen to God and obey him as he commands.

May we bring before Him every hindrance and obstacle that comes our way.

May we be ready to move when and how he calls us to move, no hesitancy or reluctance, but eager to obey.

 

So, we learn in these verses of Paul's greeting, his prayer and something of his desires for himself and the Christians in Rome.

Next time we look at this letter, we shall come back to this passage and see the particular reasons why Paul is longing to see the Christians in Rome.


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