Governed by Righteousness of God
A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
TITLE: The Perfect Plan of Providence
TEXT: Romans 1:16-17
1. George Whitfield said, “The righteousness of Jesus Christ is one of those great mysteries, which the angels desire to look into, and seems to be one of the first lessons that God taught men after the fall.”
2. Johnathan Edwards once said, “If there be ground for you to trust in your own righteousness, then, all that Christ did to purchase salvation, and all that God did to prepare the way for it is in vain.”
3. The Definition of Righteousness
Righteousness is the moral state of perfection that God because of His own righteous character and nature demands of any who would exist within His immediate presence.
4. The Problem facing man
The Bible clearly states that human beings cannot achieve righteousness through their own efforts:
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin." (Romans 3:20, NIV).
The law, or the Ten Commandments, shows us how far we fall short of God's standards. The only solution to that dilemma is God's plan of salvation, the gospel!
Our theme today is…
Theme: The Gospel of righteousness
Proposition: I propose to you this morning that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God that is necessary for salvation.
Interrogative Sentence: How does the gospel reveal the righteousness of God?
Transitional Sentence: The gospel reveals the saving power of God in which the righteousness of the Father is revealed, and the sanctifying process of God in which the righteousness of the Faithful is realized.
Before we begin let’s make a few observations:
First – Paul’s primary objective is preach the gospel to the believers in the Roman congregation.
Why? He is eager to preach the gospel. Bcause of the content of the gospel. In the gospel is the saving power of God revealed. Paul explains the gospel in great detail so that the Roman congregation will understand why he is so anxious to preach the gospel in Spain, and in the West, and why he wants to enlist their help.
It is the content of the gospel that gives Paul the extraordinary confidence and boldness to preach the gospel in places where it has not been known.
The righteousness of God and the righteous requirements of God pertaining to salvation are found in the gospel.
How is one justified and enabled to live in the presence of God? The answer is clearly revealed in the gospel.
Second observation – Verse 16 marks the beginning of a new section in chapter one. Paul has come to an end of his personal references to himself and his calling in verse 15.
Remember in verses 1-7 Paul utilizes the typical greeting of his day as he begin his letter. In this short section he makes a general statement about himself.
Paul finishes his thoughts about his desire to visit this congregation and his relationship to them. Now he moves to a new unit of thought.
This new unit of thought is actually the theme or the subject of the entire letter. This verse is an extremely important transition.
Third observation we make is that there is no fan-fare. Someone once said, “Paul glides from one theme to another theme.” There is no, “Now hear this.” This theme is simply stated. No flourish – no drumroll if you please – just a natural movement in his thought.
So, let’s look at…
1A The saving power of God in which the righteousness of the Father is revealed
[So, what does Paul say?]
“For, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
Why did Paul use the word “for?”
First, he wants us to see that this section is a continuation of what he has been saying. He is going to build on what he has begun to unfold.
Second, he also wants us to see that he is going to say something new.
Remember Paul said he was a debtor [vs. 14] and that he was ready to preach the gospel to the Romans in the same way he had been ready to preach it to other Greeks and barbarians.
So, in verses 16-17 he gives to his readers and to us in the most succinct form conceivable the greatest them ever. This serves as the theme for the entire letter to the Roman congregation.
So in verse 16 Paul states his theme and in verse 17 Paul supports his theme.
Stop here for just a second and think about Paul’s method:
First – Paul is logical. When you study this letter, you will find that at the beginning of each section, Paul will state his proposition. He then proves his proposition. Then he summarizes his proposition. He is very logical.
We as Christians must be logical in our thinking and dealing with Christians themes.
Second – Paul is rational. He reasons with his readers step by step so that they can clearly get what he is saying.
Acts 17:2 (ESV) says, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’”
Acts 18:4 (ESV) says, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.”
[One more example:]
Acts 24:25a (ESV) says, “And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment…”
The word reason means, “To think different things, to mingle thoughts with thoughts, to converse, to discourse, to discuss, or to argue.”
Paul talked in a controversial manner using different ideas with those he was talking to while discussing things until he was able to make his point clear.
Having said these things, let me say that there are probably no two verses in the Bible that are more important than these. These two verses are of crucial importance in evangelism or discipleship.
So, let’s examine these two verses in detail! Look at…
1B Paul’s Extraordinary Statement (Vs. 16)
Look at the extraordinary way that Paul used to introduce his theme.
“…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…”
Why did Paul say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel?
First of all, the word “not” is an adverb. It modifies the verb ashamed.
Second, the word not is a primary word which when used causes the meaning of “absolutely negative.”
In other words, Paul is absolutely, positively, and completely unashamed of the gospel of Christ. As a matter of fact this is actually a negative of a contrary assertion.
To say that Paul is not ashamed means that he is really saying that he glories or boasts in the gospel. He brags about it.
Let me illustrate:
In Acts 21:39 (ESV) we read, “Paul replied, I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city.” What did he mean “no mean city?”
He meant he was from a very important city. The statement actually asserts the opposite. Paul boasts in the gospel rather than is ashamed by it.
[Take a minute and let this set in]– “…I am ready to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Don’t you just want to grab Paul and holler at him?
Remember when he preached at Jerusalem – he was mobbed
Remember when he preached at Athens – he was mocked
Remember when he preached at Rome – he was martyred
The Jews rejected him as an apostate
The Gentiles persecuted, ridiculed, and despised him.
What was his attitude? We see his attitude in 1 Corinthians 4:12-13. (ESV)
“When reviled we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
Paul wrote, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…”
Before we look @ this verse in detail, we need to ask the question,
Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel?
1C The world ridicules the gospel
The unsaved sees the gospel as absolutely foolish.
The gospel is contemptible.
Paul is preparing the Romans to bear the reproach of the gospel
· The Jews rejected the gospel
· The Greeks thought it was foolish
· The Pharisees & religious crowd hated it
2C The world rejects the gospel
[Why does the world hate the gospel?]
[Why would believers be ashamed of the gospel?]
1D Because of its message
The gospel proclaims that men are under the condemnation of God.
The gospel proclaims that men are sinners in need of salvation
The gospel proclaims Jesus was crucified on a cross as a criminal and claimed to be king and a savior
The very essence of the gospel produces hatred, ridicule and shame
2D Because of its meaning
The heart of the gospel is that it is a statement of fact.
The gospel is not theory, philosophy. The gospel is not merely an idea among ideas. It is a statement of fact about a real savior who came to save real sinners.
3D Because of its misalignment
The gospel is opposite of all that the world holds to be true
World – look out for #1/take care of #1
Christ – deny self/die to self
World – find yourself, find your life
Christ – lose yourself, lose your life
World – accumulate everything/grab all you can
Christ – give it away, hang on to nothing
You know, the way up is down, the way to be first is to be last, the way to live is to die. And so on and so on it goes. Do you get it? Christianity and the gospel is the exact opposite of the world and al that it holds near and dear.
Let’s stop and make an observation:
When you think about it, the ridicule, rejection, and ranting against the gospel can serve as a test. They can be a test to see what you really understand the gospel to be.
Here is the test!
The gospel is always offensive to the unsaved or the natural man. The gospel is always ridiculed and held in contempt.
The test is what do you believe the gospel to be –is the gospel offensive to the world? Does the wicked and the unsaved hate the gospel?
Do they hate your gospel?
If properly preached they do! If the world does not hate the gospel, your gospel, your message, and your faith, there is something wrong.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, “If you find the world, the unsaved man praising the preaching or the message then I say you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully.”
Geoffrey Wilson wrote: “The unpopularity of a crucified Crist has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensive gospel is also an inoperative gospel. Thus Christianity is wounded most in the house of its friends.”
What did Paul mean?
The gospel by the working of the HS places great conviction on a man. The awareness of one’s sin and enmity with God causes great distress.
Paul’s great passion was to see men saved. He did not care for personal comfort, popularity or reputation. He did not compromise the gospel which he knew was the only means by which men can be saved. He wanted them to feel the weight of their sin in order to repent. Men must be convicted of sin before they can be saved.
John Bunyan’s “Christian” was weighed down by a great burden, the knowledge of his sin, which he believed came from his reading "the book in his hand," (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Tophet (hell). It is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance.
This deep, unbearable conviction can last from hours to days to weeks before the HS sovereignly regenerates the sinner.
Spurgeon describes his conversion as follows:
"Through the Lord's restraining grace, and the holy influence of my early home life, both at my father's and my grandfather's, I was kept from certain outward forms of sin in which others indulged; and, sometimes, when I began to take stock of myself, I really thought I was quite a respectable lad, and might have been half inclined to boast that I was not like other boys, untruthful, dishonest, disobedient, swearing. Sabbath breaking, and so on. But, all of a sudden, I met Moses, carrying in his hand the law of God; and as he looked at me, he seemed to search me through and through with his eyes of fire. He bade me read 'God's Ten Words',—the ten commandments—and as I read them, and remembered what I had been taught about their spiritual meaning as interpreted by the Lord Jesus Christ, they all seemed to join in accusing and condemning me in the sight of the thrice-holy Jehovah. Then, like Daniel, "my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength;" and I understood what Paul meant when he wrote, "Now we know that what things so ever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."
For years he remained under deep conviction of sin until one Sunday morning in January 1850 a snow storm forced him to cut short his intended journey and turn in to a Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. "The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . .
He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth."
When he had managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, "Young man, you look very miserable." Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, "And you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death—if you don't obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved." Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing' to do but to look and live." I saw at once the way of salvation . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until l could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to HIM . . .
The gospel is opposite of everything the world believes, loves, and clings to.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we become “Jerks for Jesus” to ensure that the world does hate our gospel. Just living will agitate the world.
4D Because of its mission
The gospel condemns a man.
If you present Christ as a hero men will love him! No one is offended by that. Tell them he is a great example and they will applaud him.
Tell him Christ condemns them and they will hate you. Tell them God demands perfection, righteousness for salvation and they will turn on you.
The world hates the gospel because it condemns them.
Present Jesus as someone who wants to help them, make them happy, healthy, and wealthy and they will love you.
Tell them God hates the wicked and is at enmity with them and they will hate you.
They will not sing Charles Wesley’s song that says Vile and full of sin I am.
The world hates the gospel and is ashamed of it because it condemns the world.
But Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. He was made to know that he was vile and full of sin.
Paul did not, nor can we preach the gospel to the lost simply as “a beautiful teaching.” If we do, the gospel will never cut and offend them.
How is the gospel preached to day?
· Jesus can solve all your problems
· Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life
· Have trouble? Let Jesus take them all away
Well, people are ashamed of the gospel because the world sees the gospel as a ridiculous thing, because the gospel is a statement of fact and not a philosophy or a choice among many, because it is opposite of all that world loves, because it heavily convicts, and because it condemns the sinner.
Finally, the world hates the gospel and men are ashamed of it…
5D The gospel emanates from God and not the world
Therefore the gospel is…
· Supreme – it trumps any “plan” of man
· Sufficient – nothing else is needed
· Simplistic –
The world, the lost, the unsaved are God-haters and hate anything that comes from God.
John 3:19 says, “And this is the condemnation that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
Romans 1 gives a pretty ugly description of unsaved men, and includes in verse 30 that the unsaved are, “…haters of God…”
Well, we didn’t get very far today. If the Lord presents another opportunity, we might be able to finish the second half of verse 16 and move into verse 17.
For now let’s wrap this up, shall we?
Paul transitioned from his greeting to his theme seamlessly.
As he began to reveal his theme, Paul made it quite clear that he was not ashamed of the gospel of God. Why?
The gospel of God is the saving power of God in which the righteousness of the Father is revealed
That is the first reason Paul is not ashamed!
I exhort you this morning to:
· Examine your understanding of the gospel – do you really know that the gospel is and why it is so crucial?
· Examine the message, meaning, and the mission of the gospel – meditate on the gospel, absorb the gospel, let it soak into you in order for you to fully appreciate the gospel of Christ.
· Examine whether you are ashamed of the gospel or not – If you are ashamed, ask God to reveal to you why you are ashamed. Are there aspects of the gospel that embarrass you? If there is fix it. Stop it!
· Examine how not being ashamed of the gospel affects your life personally and your walk with God - make a list!