Sunday, March 1, 2015

Meet the Rome Baptist Chapel

SERMON:             GM15-048

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

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (March 1, 2015)

SECTION:          The Prologue to Righteousness (Romans 1:1-17)

SUBTITLE:        The Introduction & Overview of Romans (Part 8)

SCRIPTURE:     Romans1:7

SUBJECT:          the recipients of Paul’s letter

SUMMARY:       The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the HS addressed his letter to Christians at Rome communicating with a firmly established collection of believers in that city.

SCHEME:           that Christian grasp the identity of the recipients of this letter written by the apostle Paul

Our theme is: Paul writes to the Church @ Rome

This is a good reminder for us all to examine the identity of the people to whom he wrote this letter in order to gain a deeper appreciation for this remarkable piece of Christian literature.

 Proposition:  The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the HS addressed his letter to Christians at Rome communicating with a firmly established collection of believers in that city.           

Interrogatory Sentence:  What do we know about the people of the church at Rome?

Transitional Sentence: Our topic this morning supplies at least five (5) elements that identify the people to whom Paul wrote this epic letter - The fiver (5) elements are:

1.  The Condition of the City
2.  The Conversion of the Congregants
3.  The Construction of the Church
4.  The Calling of the Christ
5. The Chemistry of the Church

The Introduction & Overview
 Romans 1:7
(Part 8)


When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians at Rome towards the end of his third missionary journey, he was communicating with what appears to be a firmly established collection of believers in that city.

God had prepared a way for a body of believers to be established in the capital city of the Roman Empire. Although we know very little of this church it’s establishment and ministry was of great importance to Christianity. This church had a major impact on the growth and development of the Christian faith.

Using verse seven and some historical data we are going to take a close look at the church at Rome. We will examine this church through five (5) different aspects:

1.  The Condition of the City
2.  The Conversion of the Congregants
3.  The Character of the Congregation
4.  The Calling of the Christ
5.  The Chemistry of the Church

Our theme this morning is: Paul writes to the Church @ Rome

This is a good reminder for us all to examine the identity of the people to whom he wrote this letter in order to gain a deeper appreciation for this remarkable piece of Christian literature.

 Proposition:  The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the HS addressed his letter to Christians at Rome communicating with a firmly established collection of believers in that city.  
Interrogatory Sentence:  What do we know about the church at Rome?

Transitional Sentence: Our verse before us reveals at least four (4) aspects about this church at Rome.

[So, let’s move to the first aspect that is revealed, and that is…]

5A     The Audience

1B The Condition of the City         

Paul begins verse seven with, “To all who are in Rome…”

Rome. Rome was the capital of the 4th World Empire depicted by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel chapter 2.


Babylonian Empire – Head of Gold
Medo-Persian Empire – Chest & arms of silver
Grecian Empire – belly & thighs of bronze
Roman Empire – legs of clay & iron

Rome was the capital and most important city of the Roman Empire. It was founded in 753 B.C., but is not mentioned in Scripture until NT times. Rome is located along the banks of the Tiber River, about 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea until an artificial harbor was built at nearby Ostia. Rome’s main harbor was Puteoli, some 150 miles away.

In Paul’s day, the city had a population of over one million people, many of whom were slaves. Rome boasted magnificent buildings, such as the Emperor’s palace, the Circus Maximus, and the Forum, but its beauty was marred by the slums in which so many lived.

The city at that time must be imagined as a large and irregular mass of buildings unprotected by an outer wall. It had long outgrown the old Servian wall; but the limits of the suburbs cannot be exactly defined.

Neither the nature of the buildings nor the configuration of the ground was such as to give a striking appearance to the city viewed from without. "Ancient Rome had neither cupola nor camyanile," and the hills, never lofty or imposing, would present, when covered with the buildings and streets of a huge city, a confused appearance like the hills of modern London, to which they have sometimes been compared.

The boast of Augustus is well known, "that he found the city of brick, and left it of marble." Some parts of the city, especially the Forum and Campus Martius, must have presented a magnificent appearance. Many of the principal buildings which attract the attention of modern travelers in ancient Rome were not yet built.
The streets were generally narrow and winding, flanked by densely crowded lodging-houses (insulae) of enormous height. Augustus found it necessary to limit their height to 70 feet.

 St, Paul's first visit to Rome took place before the Neronian burning of the city but even after the restoration of the city which followed upon that event, many of the old evils continued. The population of the city has been variously estimated. Probably Gibbon's estimate of 1,200,000 is nearest to the truth.

One half of the population consisted, in all probability, of slaves. The larger part of the remainder consisted of pauper citizens supported in idleness by the miserable system of public gratuities.

There appears to have been no middle class, and no free industrial population. Side by side with the wretched classes just mentioned was the comparatively small body of the wealthy nobility, of whose luxury and profligacy we learn so much from the heathen writers of the time.

Paul was very aware of the strategic importance of Rome in regards to the spread of the gospel. God used Rome for at least four major reasons to spread the gospel:

·        Rome built most of the roads that the missionaries traveled on
·        Rome allowed religious freedom

o   When Rome conquered other countries they added those deities to their own collection
o   One could worship any god or goddess as long as you also worshipped Roman gods

·        Rome permited free travel of its citizens, and free residents – allowed missionaries to travel
·        Rome was a trade center for hordes of people who would come, engage in trade or recreation and then take the gospel back to their own countries

Paul knew when he wrote this letter that the HS could utiize the advantages of this metropolitan community which would aid him in furthering the gospel around the world.           

And so it was to a church in this city that Paul wrote this magnificent letter.

[Now let’s move to the second aspect revealed about this church at Rome and that is…]

2B  The Conversion of the Church

How did the members of the Roman church become believers?

How did this church ever come into being? How was there ever a church there?

First – we have to take note of the fact that this church was not founded by the Apostle Paul.

We have already established the fact that Paul had never been to the city of Rome or to this church prior to writing this letter to them. He on more than one occasion had hoped to visit this church but up until this time he had never been there.

He makes this truth clear in the opening paragraph when he wrote:

“For God is my witness… I make mention of you in my prayers…if by some means I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among other gentiles.” (Romans 1:13, NKJV)

This church had been functioning and flourishing long before Paul wrote to them. Paul probably wrote this letter around late winter, very early spring of 57 or 58AD.

So from all that we know about Paul, it is clear that he did not plant this church.

So, the natural question, is who did? How did this great church come to be?
First of all, and somewhat quickly, Peter did not plant this church either. There is no indication that Peter was in Rome until the end of his life when he was crucified with his wife.

There is no historical record of Peter being in Rome or planting this church. There is no biblical record including this letter making reference to Peter planting this church. Peter was not its first pastor nor was a pastor at this church ever.

Remember, Paul made it clear that he never interfered with someone else’s work. If this had been Peter’s church, Paul would not sent this letter to them. He did not build on the work of others. He was a pioneer, planting works everywhere he went.

Secondly, there is no record historically or biblically that any other apostle planted this church. So, how had these people become converted? How did they become Christians?

[These questions lead us to our third aspect revealed in this passage and that is…

3B  The Character of the Church

The character of the church is quite interesting. When you look at the greetings in the last chapter you get the idea that this is a mixed church. The church in Rome had both Jews and Gentiles as members. There were a number of converted Jews who became Christians. Of course there was a large if not majority of believers who were Gentiles.

Another interesting thing to note about this church, is that a good number of its members were slaves that had become believers.

Let’s stop here for a moment and without trying to ride a hobby horse, let me make a distinction or clarification of something that is really important.

There are a number of believers and ministries who extrapolate an idea and justification for certain ministries. Often you read in scripture about a term called “household.”

For example in Acts 16:25-34 we read of the account of the salvation of the Philippian jailer:

“So they said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”

Ac 10:7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;

Ac 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Ro 16:10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.

Ro 16:11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

1Co 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

Ga 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Php 4:22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.

2Ti 4:19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Household includes the primary head of the household, family members and slaves. It is not limited to immediate family including children. We have no examples of child baptism in the Scriptures.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote: “Whenever you see a reference to those who are of a man’s ‘household’, you can take it as meaning his slaves; that is how they were described.” [1]

Also, a final thought here – when you read the NT you see more talk about “churches” that about “the church.” More than likely there were several house churches in Rome that comprised the church in Rome. Remember when Paul greeted Aquila and Priscilla, he said that he wanted to send greetings to the church that is ‘in their house.’
The church in Rome did not have a central building where they all came together on Sunday morning. The met together in several houses.

My point is simply this; we talk much about the ‘church’ instead of thinking instead of terms of ‘churches’ fellowships, gatherings of saints where Christ is in the midst. 

4B  The Calling of the Church

“…beloved of God, called to be saints…”

There seems to be no doubt that the church came into existence because of Pentecost. We are told in the second chapter of Acts in the list that is given of the various priests and proselytes who had gone up to the feast at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that some of them had come from Rome.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that some of these people who came from Rome to Jerusalem were converted when they heard Peter preach. Some of that crowd of over 3,000 people were saved and then traveled back to Rome. There on their home turf they shared the gospel and fellow Romans were converted.

Also don’t forget, Rome was the seat of the Imperial Government. Rome was the metropolis of the Roman Empire. People were constantly coming and going to Rome from all parts of the known world. Soldiers, merchants, prisoners, ambassadors, officials, pilgrims, vagabonds, and untold others traveled to Rome regularly.

For example: Aquila and Priscilla weren’t born in Rome. They traveled there. Probably for business. Don’t forget they were tent-makers similar to the apostle Paul.

So some Christians traveled there as well. These Christians would share the gospel also. So a number of people were converted by the simple sharing of the gospel and a church was formed.

Let’s look at these two phrases; first

“…beloved of God…” (7a)

Or loved by God. God loves these Roman believers and has loved them from eternity past.

Paul is implying here that these believers in this church are God’s chosen people. These two phrases actually are OT designations of Israel. Paul transfers these designations to these Christians reminds his readers that they are dependent and exist because of the love of God for them. 

Second, “…called to be saints…” (7b)

Paul is telling these Roman believers what, by God’s grace, they are. He is stating that something has happened to them. They have been effectively called.

William Hendriksen writes, “By this inner or effective call is meant that the operation of the HS whereby he so applies the gospel to the minds and hearts of sinners that they become aware of their guilt, begin to understand their need of Jesus Christ, and embrace him as their Lord and Savior.” [2]

Hendriksen is saying that this how these believers, or these people had become saints. God summoned them, He named them, and He effectually called them. God took these men and women who were dead in trespasses and sin, formerly God-haters, men and women who hated the light and loved darkness, and through the work of the HS rendered them willing and able to turn from their sin and to turn to God in repentance and faith.

There are some tremendous truths here that should just squeeze your gizzard until you are ready to shout and dance before the Lord!

God displays his love toward the sinners whom he calls. The first outward effect of our unconditional election, and his love for us is his calling them. Mind you the bible tells us that this effectual calling is for a few, not the many. It is limited to a few.
Matthew 22:14 – For many are called, but few are chosen.” This call is a general announcement for all men to repent. It is like someone standing on the corner of a street with a megaphone and shouting to all who pass by, “repent.” (Matthew 22:14, NKJV)

Only those whom God has chosen and effectually called respond and are saved. Look at Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

This verse is written to Israel, but God makes it clear in John 6 that God calls the saint unto himself and no one can come to God unless God calls him.

The unconditional election of believers is traced through their calling. Take careful heed to 2 Peter 1:10:

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:10, NKJV)
The word “saint” means those who are holy, those who are devoted or consecrated to God. The radical idea of the work is, “that which is separated from a common to a sacred use.

This word is applied to anything that is set apart to the service of God, to the temple, to sacrifices, to the utensils in the temple and even to the clothing of the priests. It was applied to the Jews as a people separated from other nations and devoted to God alone.

It is also applied to Christians as people devoted to or set part to God.

According to Albert Barnes, “The radical idea, then, as applied to Christians, is that they are separated from other men, and other objects and pursuits, and consecrated to the service of God.” [3]

This devotion to God, this consecration as holy people is a result of our union with Jesus Christ, who is the source of our sanctification. This is the result of a real change of heart, whereby we are made new creatures.

So Christians are not saints by their natural birth, nor are they made saints by any work or effort. They are made saints by the grace that results from the sovereign love of God which he bestows only upon his elect.
All believers are saints. In a final sense all believers are sanctified the same and are equal. Believers are fully saints, there are no partial saints in God’s family. However, it is no secret that all believers are not equal in maturity or spiritual growth.

As you know there are babes in Christ, growing believers, and there are those battle worn, time tested, mature saints.

And so Paul writes to a church in the city of Rome. Rome is a corrupt city of great importance as a cultural, financial, and religious center. These believers probably were evangelized by those who attended the feast of Pentecost and heard Peter preach.
They were effectually called by God to salvation and were made saints by God’s specific act of salvation.

Now, we will examine the fifth aspect of this church, and that is… 

5B  The Chemistry of the Church (7c)

Paul now returns to the standard practice of his day in writing letters, he gives in his greeting ‘well-wishes’ for his readers. He writes…

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This form of his greeting is found in most of his letters.

But have you ever stopped to think how wonderful and unique these two nouns really are? Grace and peace. They are an interesting combination, one from the Greek mindset, grace, and one from the Hebrew mindset, peace.

The Greek word caris - is really ‘Joy to you!’ It was expressed as ‘Rejoice. “The Hebrew shalom – is peace! Paul joins these greetings and transforms them into a Christian greeting for believers.

When believers met they often exclaimed to one another, ‘Rejoice and peace to you or be on you.’ Rejoice and peace. What are they? What do they mean? What do they mean to us?

Grace is God’s spontaneous, unmerited favor in action. It his freely bestowed loving-kindness in action. It is God’s favor that leads to the joy in our heart. This word is used in the NT to express the happiness or joy that Christians have in the experience of the highest level of God’s goodness to us.

Grace brings peace. Peace with God, which by the way leads to peace of God. This peace is the reconciliation with God and a condition, the inner conviction that all is well with us and God. Peace with God is the great blessing that Christ grants to his believers by his atoning sacrifice on the cross at Cavalry. There is no more war or enmity between God and the sinner.

Contrary to poor theology, God does not love everybody nor does he have warm fuzzy thoughts about sinners. God does not love the sinner and hate the sin.

The bible tells us that God is angry every day at the unrighteous. The bible tells us that God hates the sinner. God hated Esau. The bible tells us that before Christ we were at war, at odds, at enmity with God.

It is wrong to tell the sinner that God loves them, first of since we don’t know who the elect are we don’t know if he does or doesn’t, second, it gives them a wrong idea about their immediate condition.

We need to tell them that they have been judged by God, they are under his condemnation, he is angry with them, and they are facing eternal punishment. But the good news is that Gods has provided a means by which you can be reconciled to God.

Fortunately God love those whom He elected to salvation and that love prompted him to provide Jesus Christ for them and them alone. Because of this love for his elect he called them and saved them, bestowing on them unmerited favor and granting peace, ending the hostility, warfare, and anger that God has toward unrighteous people, which we were prior to being made a believer by God.

This grace (joy) and this peace have their origins in Jesus Christ and in God. God is at peace with us as much as Jesus Christ is at peace with believers. Jesus is not in heaven trying to get God to love us or be good to us. God through Christ grants to us both joy and peace. By the way, Mary is not in heaven pleading with Jesus to go before God in order to get God to be nice to us either.

There are four important lessons that we learn from this portion of Paul’s greeting to these believers:

First – Paul regarded God as the source of grace and peace – we don’t have to worry if God loves us, accepts us, or wants us

Second – these things are both items that belong to the believer at the same time, we don’t have one or the other nor do we need to worry about obtain one or the other

Third – Paul believed that Jesus was Divine, or of the same essence of God and he without apology or explanation made this point to the believers he was writing to.

Fourth –the only people who receive the marvelous blessings of grace and peace are those who are the beloved, the called, and the holy one of God.  Only they can truly call God their Father, because only they have been adopted into the family of God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And so, we rejoice in the words written by R. Kent Hughes:

We are loved of God,
We are saints,
We are objects of his grace and unending favor,
His peace is ours
Forever. [4]

Our theme this morning has been: Paul writes to the Church @ Rome

This is a good reminder for us all to examine the identity of the people to whom he wrote this letter in order to gain a deeper appreciation for this remarkable piece of Christian literature.

 Proposition:  The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the HS addressed his letter to Christians at Rome communicating with a firmly established collection of believers in that city.

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

Well, these first seven verses are just one sentence in the Greek text. These seven verses, or this one sentence is an important portrait of the Apostle Paul. His subject is simply a greeting to the church in Rome. The information that he supplies is of the utmost importance and blessing to the believer.

Let’s end this first division of this first section of this letter with a quote from Dr. J. Agar Beet:

“Paul’s opening sentence is a crystal arch spanning the gulf between the Jew of Tarsus and the Christians at Rome. Paul begins by giving his name; he rises to the dignity of his office, and then to the Gospel he proclaims. From the gospel he ascends to its great subject Matter, to him Who is the Son of David and Son of God. From this summit of his arch he passes on to this apostleship again, and to the nations for who good he received it. Among these nations he finds the Christians at Rome. He began to build by laying down his own claims; he finishes by acknowledging theirs. The gulf is spanned. Across the waters of national separation Paul has flung an arch whose firmly knit segments are living truths, and who Keystone is the Incarnate Son of God. Over this arch he hastens with words of greeting from his father and their Father, from his Lord and their Lord. [5]


  And So, I exhort you as genuine believers grasp, digest, and cherish the importance of this letter.

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)

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Exposition of Chapter 1 The Gospel of God, (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012), p. 19
[2] William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary Romans, (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1993), p.47
[3] Albert Barnes, Barnes on the NT, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), p. 27
[4] R. Kent Hughes, Romans: Righteousness from Heaven, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), p.21
[5] J. Agar Beet, A Commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 10th ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1902), p. 38

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