Sunday, January 4, 2015

Setting the Stage

SERMON               GM15-042

SERIES:              Renewal Through Romans: The Gospel Defined, Explained &                                        Applied

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (Jan 4, 2015)

SUBTITLE:        Setting the Stage

SCRIPTURE:     Romans; Selected Scriptures

SUBJECT:          setting the stage

SUMMARY:       The book of Romans is a carefully constructed master piece of                                         Christian theology for the spiritual wellbeing of genuine believers.

SCHEME:           that the Christian grasps the theological truth for which this book is known
Our theme is: setting the stage

This is a good reminder for us all that we need to understand the argument of Romans in order to be able think through the epistle and to see the absolute importance of this letter for the complete spiritual wellbeing of the genuine believer.

 Proposition:  The book of Romans is a carefully constructed master piece of Christian theology for the spiritual wellbeing of genuine believers.       

Interrogatory Sentence:  What will this introduction and overview reveal?

Transitional Sentence: The introduction and overview reveals three features that help us set the stage:

1.     The Arrangement          
2.     The Accolades              
3.     The Advantages

Romans 1:1-17

Setting the Stage
 Selected Scriptures


The bible is not an ordinary book. It is God’s book. The bible is a book about God and about man’s relationship to God. As we enter this study of Romans always keep in mind that this not just some intellectual study. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to a church body with very specific and practical objectives.

Paul wanted to help the believers in the Roman church:

·        Paul wanted to build up these Roman believers in their faith
·        Paul wanted to establish them, to confirm them in their faith
·        Paul wanted to help them grow in the grace & knowledge of Jesus Christ

Our theme is: setting the stage

This is a good reminder for us all that we need to understand the argument of Romans in order to be able think through the epistle and to see the absolute importance of this letter for the complete spiritual wellbeing as a genuine believer.

 Proposition:  The book of Romans is a carefully constructed master piece of Christian theology for the spiritual wellbeing of genuine believers.       

Interrogatory Sentence:  What will this introduction and overview reveal?

Transitional Sentence: The introduction and overview reveals seven features that help

So, how are we going to study this magnificent letter by Paul to the Roman believers?

Well, we have to start with an introduction and an overview of this great letter. We need to take our time and “set the stage” for our in depth study of this letter. The first thing I want us to take in is…


The first thing that we notice is that Romans is the very first book after the four (4) gospels and the book of Acts. It is the first letter in front of all the other letters that had been written,

Why was Romans placed first?

First of all, it wasn’t placed first because it was the first letter written. It wasn’t. There is a debate on what letter was the first one written. There are some who say the first letter to the Thessalonians was the first NT letter written. There are some who say the letter to the Galatians was the first NT letter written. I personally think Galatians was the first letter written and 1st Thessalonians came after it.

Secondly, it wasn’t placed first because of the fact that it is the longest letter written.

It seems that it was placed first because of its utmost importance to the church and to believers. This letter has been recognized as the NT document that brings us face to face with seminal and foundational truths of the bible.

So, with the book of Acts we are able to see how the NT church was formed, how it was established, and how it developed. Now we have the document that gives us the basic foundational truths upon which we stand.

The book or letter to Romans deals with the fundamentals of our faith. This book has played a greater and more important role in the history of the church than any other letter.

Yes, we are to read all of Scripture and Paul said;

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)

But it seems from a close look at church history this particular book or letter seems to have been used in an exceptional manner in a number of lives and ways more so than other books in the bible.

[For example, let’s look at…] 


I want to share with you several examples of how this particular letter impacted both men and church history. I trust that you won’t find this section irrelevant or uninteresting. I truly want you to see just how influential the book of Romans. Think, if you can where Christianity, or the Church, or even yourselves would be if it weren’t for the great impact of this letter.

[So, let’s been with one of the most important early church fathers there was…]

AUGUSTINE - was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the Pastor of the church at Hippo Regius, which was located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in the Western Development of Christianity for his writings in the early church formation. Among his most important works are the City of God and Confessions.

God used the book of Romans in his conversion. Prior to being converted Augustine was a very immoral man living a very sinful lifestyle.

One day he was sitting in a garden of his friend Alypius in Milan, Italy and he was crying and in great agony over his life and lifestyle. At some point he heard the voice of a small child saying, “Tolle, lege, Tolle, lege.” This is Latin for “Take up and Read, take up and read.” So Augustine got up, went to his room, opened his bible, opened it to Romans 13 and this is what he read:

“Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:13-14, NKJV)

After reading that the HS regenerated him, giving him the ability to understand that passage and to repent of his sins which were crushing him and he was converted.

Later he wrote of that experience, “No further would I read nor did I read; for instantly as the sentence ended, by a light, as it were or security infused my heart – all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

He became a vital part of church history. Especially when a man named Pelagius came along. The early church went through a period of fighting and major strife due to a major heresy taught by a man Pelagius.

What did Pelagius teach that was so dangerous to the church?

Pelagius taught:
·        …that people had the ability to fulfill the commands of God by exercising the freedom of human will apart from, or without the grace of God. 
In other words, Pelagius taught that a person's free will is totally capable of choosing God and is able to choose to do good or bad without the aid of Divine intervention. He taught that man can be good and do works of righteousness that please God without any help from God. 
·        …that that man's nature is basically good. 
He denied original sin, or the doctrine that we have inherited a sinful nature from Adam. Pelagius said that Adam only hurt himself when he fell in the Garden of Eden, and he also taught that all of Adam’s descendants were not affected by Adam's sin. In other words, they were not born with a sin nature. 
·        …that a person is born with the same purity and moral abilities as Adam was when he was first made by God. He meant that we are born perfect and without sin or sin nature.
·        …that a person could if he so desired chose not to sin at all
He taught that people can choose God by the exercise of their free will and rational thought. God's grace, then, is merely an aid to help individuals come to Him. He taught God’s grace was not necessarily necessary. 
Pelagius was condemned by many, many councils and many doctrinal confessions throughout church history including the following:

Councils of Carthage (412, 416 and 418)
Council of Ephesus (431)
The Council of Orange (529)
Council of Trent (1546) Roman Catholic
2nd Helvetic Council (1561/66) 8-9. (Swiss-German Reformed)

Several doctrinal confessions condemned Pelagius and his teachings, such as:
Augsburg Confession (1530) Art. 9, 18 (Lutheran)
Gallican Confession (1559) Art. 10 (French Reformed)
Belgic Confession (1561) Art. 15 (Lowlands, French/Dutch/German Reformed)
The Anglican Articles (1571), 9. (English)
Canons of Dort (1618-9), 3/4.2 (Dutch/German/French Reformed).
These all condemned Pelagius and his teachings as a heretic. He faded off the scene, actually disappeared and we don’t have any information about the specific time or details of his death. God just sort of erased him from the scene.

The reason he developed his teaching was because he got angry at a prayer that Augustine had prayed:

… - "Command what thy will; and give what thy command."  In other words, God command us to do whatever you want and give us the ability to do what you command us to do. Pelagius hated the thought that God would command us as Christians to do something we couldn’t do without God’s help.
Pelagius hated that idea and was why he developed his heresies. It was to refute this prayer by Augustine.
Augustine's Doctrines of Grace
 Augustine taught, this is in a nutshell, if you will:
…that Salvation comes by God's grace, which is wholly undeserved, and is wholly free as a gift of a sovereign God. God gave salvation as a gift
…that Adam's sin and subsequent fall affected all of Adam's posterity (Doctrine of Original Sin). In other words, everyone from until has been born with a sin nature.

…that grace comes to those to whom God chooses to send grace to (we see this clearly in Romans 9 and Ephesians 1-2, in  1Peter, and quite frankly throughout the bible). God predestinates whom He will "to punishment and salvation." 
…that Grace is irresistible and man cannot reject God's call. Grace after conversion frees the enslaved will to choose that which is pleasing to God, "not only in order that they may know, by the manifestation of that grace, what should be done, but moreover in order that, by its enabling, they may do with love what they know."
In other words, God’s grace now allows us to do more than just know what God wants, God’s grace has freed our will to do what is pleasing to God and not only do it, but to love doing the things that please God. And so a genuine Christian loves pleasing God.
…that through us, God does good works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10), which He rewards as if they were men's own works and to which He ascribes merit.
…that The Sacraments, or ordinances (baptism & the communion) are signs of spiritual realities, rather than the realities themselves.
The ordinances are essential; but the truths to which they witness are, whenever received, the work of divine grace.
If the church had accepted Pelagius’s heresy it would have ruined the church. The church was saved from certain destruction by Augustine who refuted it by simply teaching the book of Romans. The Divine Truth in the book of Romans is the bedrock and foundation on which the faith of the church is established and is able to continue

For the record, even though Pelagianism was declared a heresy, unfortunately the church is still plagued by it to this day with a revived heresy called semi-Pelagianism.

·        Semi-Pelagianism says that the sinner has the ability to initiate belief in God. By that it means that God can’t won’t save you until you make the first move.
·        Semi-Pelagianism says God's grace is a response to man's initial effort.
·        Semi-Pelagianism denies predestination or the doctrine of election
·        Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529.
I really hope you don’t mind that I spent quite a bit of time here. Augustine’s conversion due to the book of Romans is huge. God used him to preserve the doctrine and plan of salvation by teaching the truths and principles of the book of Romans.
[Another example…]


God used Martin Luther to begin the Protestant Reformation.

In 1515 Martin Luther was giving a lecture to his students from Romans. While he was studying the book in preparation for his lectures he wrote these words,

“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in my way but that one expression, ‘the righteousness of God,’ because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous…

Night and day I pondered until…I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning and whereas before ‘the righteous of God’ had filled me with hate, now it, became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven.”

What happened was that the truth of justification by faith and faith alone opened his heart and mind to the truth of the gospel. This awakening was his conversion and it led him to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church showing how they were in error.

Martin Luther called Romans “The Chief book, the masterpiece of the New Testament and is truly the purest gospel.” He said, “It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it for word, by heart but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, and the daily bread of the soul.”

Martin Luther was huge in the Reformation. The unfortunate truth is that he didn’t go far enough and tried to rehabilitate or reform Roman Catholicism until he was kicked out. Even then in Lutheranism he maintained much of Rome’s teachings and practices.

[Another example of the influence of Romans…] 

CHRYSOSTOM – The Golden Mouth

Pastor of Constantinople, and he was an important Early Church Father. He was known for his preaching and public speaking. H was also known for his denunciation of the abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders.

He had this letter read to him twice every week.

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]


Bunyan was an English writer and a preacher who is best remembered as the author of the religious allegory The Pilgrim's Progress.

He testified that God used Romans and Galatians in his conversion. It was the truth of Romans that brought him to Christ.

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]

JOHN CALVIN –Pastor at Geneva, Switzerland, Theologian, Author, Reformer

Calvin wrote: “If we had gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.”

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]

FREDERICK GODET – Swiss pastor, theologian, and bible commentary writer

Godet wrote: “Romans…the cathedral of Christian Faith.”

[Another example of the influence of Romans…] 

WILLIAM TYNDALE – 16TH century bible translator)

He of course is known for the Tyndale Bible, which is the first English bible translated directly from the Greek and Hebrew Texts into English. He wrote:

“Forasmuch as this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament and most pure evangelion, that is to say glad tidings, and that we call gospel, and also is a light and a way unto the whole scripture; I think it meet that every Christian may not only know it, by rote (memory) and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.”

Tyndale would memorize it word for word and study it every day of your life.

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]

DONALD GREY BARNHOUSE – was a pastor and bible expositor now w/the Lord

“A scientist may say that mother’s milk is the most perfect food known to man, and may give you an analysis showing all its chemical components, a list of the vitamins it contains and an estimate of the calories in a given quantity. A baby will take that milk without the remotest knowledge of its contents, and will grow day by day, smiling and thriving in its ignorance. So it is with the profound truths of the word of God.”

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]

JOHN KNOX - was a Scottish pastor and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland.

“Whoever is interested in Christianity must necessarily be interested in the Epistle of Romans. History leaves him no alternative.”

[Another example of the influence of Romans…] 

PHILLIP MELANCHTHON – was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism. Along with Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism.

He copied the book of Romans twice by his own hand so that he could know every word of the letter. He taught from Romans more than any other book of the bible.

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]

SAMUEL T. COLERIDGE - was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets.

He called Romans, “The profoundest book in existence.”

[Another example of the influence of Romans…]


Let me give you just one example of how God through His HS used the book of Romans.

There was an Evangelistic movement in Europe at the beginning of the 1800’s. It started in Switzerland then it spread to France and Holland. Protestant life had become somewhat dead and formal but at that time a new light shone in these countries.

Two Scotsmen, Robert Haldane and James Haldane were laymen in a church in Scotland. Robert went to Switzerland. He was sitting outside somewhere when he heard a conversation of a group of young guys. He determined that these guys were theological students. He also determined as he listened that they were ignorant of the bible’s truth and ignorant of the power of the gospel. After introducing himself and talking with them a few times he decided he had to help them.

So he invited them to his room for a bible study in the book Romans, He taught Romans verse by verse to them. The HS chose to convert some of those guys. One guy who was converted was named Merle d’Aubigne, he went on to wright the standard history of the Reformation. Another man was Gausen who authored a very valuable book on the inspiration of the Scriptures.

Another man was Malan another Monod and another named Vinet. These men all went on to become great teachers of the bible. They are long dead and gone. But God used them in a great way in Switzerland, France, and Holland.

Why? Because of the influence of the book of Romans on them. Its truths was used by the HS to convert them.

These are just a few ways and illustrations of the way in which God has used this fantastic Epistle for the spread of His kingdom.

Hopefully, these men and the example of their lives and ministry will serve as some additional justification for our study of this great letter. Hopefully these examples will serve as a catalyst for you to ask yourself, ‘have I come to know all that is in this letter? And, as I read my bible have I taken time to read, meditate, and pray through this great book? Have I learned all of its profundities?”

You have to ask yourself after listening to all these examples, how has the book of Romans effected you? Secondly, how can God use this book in your life for your good and His glory?

[Well, let’s move next to …]


Let me give you some advantages as reasons to truly dig deep and study this letter.

[We need to study the book of Romans, first of all…]

For the intellectual value

This letter is filled with a number of the deepest problems and challenges of the Christian life. First, and foremost, as Christians, we need to be thinking and reasoning people.

Theology needs to be and actually is a part of your daily thought process. All of you are theologians, there is no question about that. The real question is whether you are good theologians or bad theologians.

Unfortunately, we have left ‘theology’ to a select group of men. We have done that by compartmentalizing what we call ‘sacred’ and ‘secular.’ We leave ‘theology’ to Sunday’s.

And we are taught that as we engage in thinking and reasoning on philosophical, political, material, medical, financial, dramatically, and etc. we are to forget theology and follow so called experts.

But the truth of the matter is that we need to be thinking people. Your spiritual life and your ‘theological’ understanding must permeate your everyday life. Why? Because right thinking leads to right behavior. The opposite is true, wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior. This is why Paul told the Romans in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2:

“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV)

So, we find great advantage in the intellectual value of this letter!

[Secondly, we need to study the book of Romans for it’s …]

Historical Value

This letter is filled with the great thoughts of Christianity and the world of Paul’s day. Any true study of this letter must include the historicity of the time in which it was written in order to gain a proper understanding. We can see the development of Christian thought throughout this letter.

Paul takes us on “journey” from the time of the fall, to the days of Abraham, through Israel’s experiences with God and the law, and then to the time of the Christian Church. We can see various truths developed through these historic periods of time.

[Thirdly, we need to study the book of Romans for it’s…]

Doctrinal Value

First of all, we do need to take note that Romans is not a complete statement of Christian doctrine or teaching. 

For example:

·        There is no mention of the doctrine of Christology like we have in Colossians and in Ephesians.

·        There is no mention of Eschatology like we have in Corinthians, or Thessalonians, and especially in Revelation.

But Romans deals extensively with the doctrine of things such as sin, righteousness, grace, law, justification, love, and service. Paul made a remarkable presentation of doctrinal truth in this letter.

Listen, don’t be repelled by the word ‘doctrine.’ Don’t think of ‘theology’ as something that is abstract, aloof, or remote – or even valueless in your everyday practical life.

The theology, doctrine, or teaching of Romans is based on the sound teaching of Paul under the inspiration of the HS. Theology is a compilation or collection of the greatest truths of our Christian faith.

So, we find great advantage in the intellectual, historical, and doctrinal value. But another great advantage to us is found in the…

[Fourth, and final reason to study the book of Romans, and that is it’s…]

Spiritual Value

Paul begins his letter by contemplating all men in their natural state are ruined by sin and are utterly unable to restore themselves to God’s favor by any act or design.

The unregenerate and humanistic mind has decided that mankind is not utterly lost, doomed, or sinful and so it determined that man can so something to regain divine favor. They also determine that if a sacrifice or sacrifices are necessary for the removal of sin then everybody ought to have an equal chance at it.

Paul divulges and develops in Romans the “sin que non,” which is Latin and “refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient”, of the spiritual life.

First, he develops it by the presentation of the awfulness and universality of sin. He drills home for all to see the reality, the extent, and the utter destruction of and by sin.

Secondly, he develops this truth to lead mankind to the full development of redemption by reconciliation with God by the deliverance from sin and the renovation of the HS in our inner life.

And I can summarize this thought with a quote from W. H. Griffith-Thomas:

“Holiness is the very center of the epistle, and may be described as God dwelling in the heart. But this indwelling presence of God for holiness, on the one hand, comes from the reception of the atonement of Christ through faith, and on the other hand, expresses itself in loyalty, love and obedience, and the more the spiritual life is allowed to ponder the Apostle’s words, the stronger will be its fiber and force.”

He says the more we meditate on this letter the stronger we will become spiritually because as we will understand the holiness that comes from Christ’s death and we will also understand how it is worked out in our lives on a daily basis.

Well, there are great advantages to each of us as we study this letter verse by verse. These were just four of them. Who knows how many and what kind of advantages there are for us as a result of the study of the book of Romans.

We can and will profit by taking advantage of the intellectual, historical, doctrinal, and spiritual truths and principles contained in this letter.

Our theme has been: setting the stage

This is a good reminder for us all that we need to understand the argument of Romans in order to be able think through the epistle and to see the absolute importance of this letter for the complete spiritual wellbeing of the genuine believer.

 Proposition:  The book of Romans is a carefully constructed master piece of Christian theology for the spiritual wellbeing of genuine believers.       

[Well, let’s wrap this up, shall we?] 

We have set the stage if you will on this study of the book of Romans. I think it is necessary to lay a solid and strong foundation to build upon. So as we conclude this part of the introduction this morning, allow me to recap:

First, of all Romans is the first in a long line of letters because it is probably the most valuable of all the letters.

Paul Russell once introduced a sermon on Romans with this statement;

“If I were going to a desert island for a year and could only take one book, it would be the Bible.  If I could only take one part of the Bible, it would be the New Testament.  If I could only take one book of the Bible, it would be the Book of Romans.”

It is the most comprehensive theology book ever written.


John MacArthur said, “Most, if not all of the greatest revivals and reformations in the history of the church have been directly related to the book of Romans.”

We went through the long list of people who had been deeply influenced by the effect that the book of Romans had on their life.


It is of great value from an intellectual, historical, doctrinal, and spiritual standpoint. It can teach us much!


  And So, I exhort you as genuine believers to grasp onto and allow this carefully constructed masterpiece of Christian teaching develop your spiritual wellbeing. 

Remember the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:2…

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2, NKJV)

Let’s pray! J

Benediction Blessing:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Philippians 4:23, NKJV)

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