Romans 1-16 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight ROM01
The Bible from 30,000 feet, soaring through the scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
Would you turn in your Bibles please to the book of Romans as we cover this book tonight in one fell swoop. The book of Romans in the Bible from 30,000 feet. Let's have a word of prayer.
Father, we've had a time of worship. We've had a time of laughter. We now have a time of study of your word. We want to comprehend a little bit more about how this book fits together. We study it as the Book of Romans. Paul wrote it as a letter to a group of believers struggling with issues living in the city of Rome. Father, I pray that we would not only understand how it fits together, but understand what are the great principles that you want us to practically use for our growth. We ask these things in Jesus' name, amen.
We come in the book of Romans to the third section of the New Testament. The first being the gospel accounts, which is roughly a 33 year period of the life of Jesus Christ, a biography, a biographical sketch seen through four lenses. That's the gospels, followed by the historical writings of Luke in the book of Acts covering another 30 years of church history. The first 30 years once the church was born on the day of Pentecost until almost the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, but not quite.
Now we have the letters, the epistles. These are letters from church leaders to church congregations and the first one is Paul's book to the Romans. Now you remember last time we were together the Lord Jesus told the church in Jerusalem, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.
Geographically, Rome would be considered the ends of the earth from the perspective of Jerusalem but from the perspective of the rest of the world, Rome was the very heart of the world itself. It was where all the action took place. It was where the power was seated in the Roman Empire.
Rome as a city had a gravitational pull for Paul. That is Paul always wanted to go to Rome. It was in his heart to do so. Toward the end of the book of Romans, he said, I have longed to come to you for many years now. And if by the will of God, I plan to come.
However, things didn't quite go exactly how Paul wanted them to go. He had taken a few different missionary journeys. He was on his way back to Jerusalem. He was warned not to go to Jerusalem. One of the prophets put a belt around his waist saying, whoever owns this belt will be so bound in Jerusalem. And they said, Paul, that's your belt. You probably shouldn't go to Jerusalem. And he said, why do you mean to break my heart? I'm willing to die in Jerusalem.
So he goes there, is in the temple, the Jews spot him, falsify a charge against him. He gets placed in Roman guard. And in Acts chapter 23 it says, "The following night the Lord stood by him and said--" now this is after he's been beaten, after he's been arrested, after the plans that he has made did not happen like he wanted them to happen. So everything is going wrong. The Lord appeared to him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul. Do cheer up, man. It's all good, for as you have testified for me in Jerusalem. So you must also bear witness."
At Rome there that night the Lord promised Paul, you're going to get what you've always wanted. You're going to Rome. You've been faithful to testify of me in Jerusalem. People thought you shouldn't come. You thought you should. Here you are. You've testified for me in this city. Now you're going to give the same kind of powerful testimony in Rome.
That's why last week I said Paul toward the end of our study was getting what he always wanted, sort of. He's reached his goal, kind of. He wanted to go to Rome. He just didn't think he would go as a prisoner. He thought he would go as a preacher, a free agent being able to walk back and forth on the streets and share the gospel.
He didn't. He was arrested, taken to Caesarea, spent two years in Caesarea by the sea, went through a few different trials before two governors and one king. First governor was Antonius Felix, second governor Porcius Festus, and then finally before King Herod Agrippa II.
After two years of these trials and getting the run around, finally when the governor said, are you willing to stand trial in Jerusalem, Paul just put his hand up and used what was the right of every Roman citizen called appellatio, the right of appeal. And that is every Roman citizen if he felt he wasn't getting a good, fair shake down in a trial that he could appeal his case directly to the Supreme Court, which in those days was Caesar himself. He said, I appeal to Caesar. At which point Herod Agrippa said to Porcius Festus, you know this guy didn't do anything of a notable nature. He didn't really commit a crime. He could have gone free, but he appealed to Caesar because he used that card, I have to let him go to Rome.
That began Paul's journey to Rome, which ended in a shipwreck, which ended in another boat. Finally he gets to Rome. That's where we closed the book of Acts. By the time he writes Romans however he has not gone there yet. He's just wanting to go. He writes Romans from the city of Corinth. A little more of that as we go on.
But let me just kind of begin where I began on our Sunday morning messages. We're going to Romans on the weekend. I think it's wonderful that we're able to take one night and kind of look at the whole book, God willing, in one fell swoop.
This was the book that rocked the world of Martin Luther. It was reading the Book of Romans that changed this guy who was trying so hard as a monk to work his way to heaven. In fact, Martin Luther said, "If ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it is I." He tried so hard to keep all of the laws of the Catholic Church and no matter what he did and no matter how many times he confessed his sins and he confessed every bad thought even if another thought followed that bad thought while he was in confessional he said, oh, wait a minute, I have another thought that's bad, and he would confess it till finally the priest in charge said Martin, get out of here. Go commit some real sin and then come back and confess it.
So he was trying really hard but feeling miserable all the while and he came up to a phrase. The phrase that haunted him was the righteousness of God. We're going to get to it in chapter 1 verse 16 and 17 in a moment. The righteousness of God. He pondered that phrase. What does that mean, the righteousness of God? And he thought it meant the righteousness that I produce to earn my standing before God. I'm going to produce through my sincerity and my hard works enough righteousness to be right with God. That's how he interpreted the righteousness of God from a Catholic vantage point to me.
Here's his own words. "I had greatly longed to understand Paul's letter to the Romans and nothing stood in the way except that one expression, the righteousness of God, because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God acts righteously in punishing the unrighteous. Day and night I pondered it 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 the doors open to paradise. The whole of scripture then took on a whole new meaning."
Go down to chapter 1 verse 16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is the power of God to salvation for every one who believes for the Jew first and also for the Greek for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written that just shall live by faith." In the book of Romans every major doctrine appears. Every New Testament doctrine appears. It is the Christian manifesto. It is Paul's Magna Carta.
I've divided the book of Romans into four sections. Chapters 1 to chapter 3 verse 20 is the first section. That's the wrath of God. The second section, chapter 3 verse 21 all the way to chapter 8 is the grace of God. Chapter 9, 10, and 11 is the plan of God, and finally chapters 12 to the end of the book is the will of God. That's how the book lays out. Paul is covering our predicament in sin, wrath of God, followed by the hope through the gospel that God gives a righteousness to us the grace of God, et cetera.
Now there are important words in this book that are repeated. The word "law" is repeated in Romans 78 times. The word "righteousness" shows up 66 times and the word "faith" appears 62 times. Those are the most repeated words in the book. Righteousness, law, faith. So here's the message of the book. If you want to be right with God, righteous before God, you can't do it through the law or keeping a set of laws but by faith in Jesus Christ. That's the theme of the book. How to be right with God, the righteousness of God, the righteousness He gives to us. But it doesn't come from the law. It comes by faith.
Now go back to verse 1. I know we're still in Romans chapter 1. That's why I said God willing we'll get through it. "Paul, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle separated to the gospel of God, which he promised before through His prophets in the holy scriptures concerning His son Jesus Christ our Lord who is born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the Resurrection from the dead. Through Him, we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all the nations for his name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are in Rome beloved of God called to be Saints."
I mentioned that Paul took three trips, three missionary journeys, and then finally, this last trip to Rome as a prisoner. On his third missionary journey when he was in the town of Corinth there he stayed for approximately 18 months. While he was in Corinth on his third missionary journey, we believe it is from that city that he wrote this letter to believers in Rome.
Now, Paul had never been to Rome. Always wanted to go. Heart's desire to go. Looking forward to going. He had never been when he wrote this letter. He's writing to Christians in Rome. The question comes if Paul hasn't been to Rome yet, he hasn't been there to start a church, yet a church has already started in Rome apart from Paul who was like the major church planter, who started it? How did a Christian movement come to be in Rome that deserved a letter like this from Paul to this place where Christians were now gathering and growing, yet Paul had never been? I'm so glad you asked.
Back in Acts Chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost, when the church is born and the people gather in the temple area because they hear the speaking in tongues, et cetera, that are going on, it gives a list of who is there. It says, "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes." That's how it started. Those visitors, natural born Jews, those who converted to the Jewish faith, are on pilgrimage to Jerusalem the day of Pentecost happens.
They want to know what's happening. Peter explains the gospel to them. 3,000 souls that day get saved. Huge altar call. Not five, not 10, not 20, not wow, one person came forward. 3,000 people get saved. No doubt among those 3,000 were a sizable group of Romans who then went back to the Jewish community in Rome, and that's how the church started.
So by the time Paul gets to Corinth on his third journey, he hears about it and he writes this incredible letter to the church of Rome. Here's what you should keep in mind as you go through this book. When he writes this he has three major groups in mind that he is writing to, pagans, moralists, and religious folks, religionists let's call them.
First of all, pagans, there were Greeks. There were Romans. They were polytheistic. They believed in their own worship system. They had their own style, et cetera. Then there were the moralists who believed that they keep a moral code and work hard in their own religious persuasion. Then there were Jewish legalists as well as Gentiles, but mostly Jewish self righteous religious folks.
Paul has the pagan, the moralist, and the religious person in mind when he writes this book and he tells all of them if you're a pagan and you have a false religious system, if you're Jewish and you have the true God that you're worshipping from the Old Testament, if you're a moralist, no matter who you are, every one of you has fallen short of God's glory, God's standard. You can't on your own make a righteousness that is worthy of God. And so he brings that home, especially in the first three chapters.
If you go down to verse 18 he launches into the first section that we talked about, the wrath of God. Look at verse 18. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all and godliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." And we have been studying this on Sunday mornings. I'm not going to be laborate or go much into depth except to say that's the first section, the wrath of God.
Now this is interesting. I have heard for years from people who don't really know their Bibles, but swear they do, and say, well, the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, but the God of the New Testament is a very different god. And that's why those two systems are incompatible because the Old Testament God is a god of wrath. The New Testament God is a god of grace.
Whenever I hear that, I think a, you don't know your Old Testament, b, you don't know your New Testament, because if you knew your Old Testament, there are so many beautiful gracious promises that are given. The new covenant is promised in the Old Testament. "I will make a new covenant Jeremiah," 31:33, "with the house of Israel" not based upon what they can do, but I'm going to write my law in their hearts, or scriptures like Psalm 32. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity." That's grace. That's favor.
And they don't know their New Testament. There's plenty of wrath in the New Testament. It's the same God in the Old and the New Testament. It's a balance of both. The wrath of God as revealed from heaven, Romans 1:18. Ephesians chapter 2, you has he made alive Paul said who were dead and trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air, the one who now works in the children of disobedience, and you were by nature the children of wrath even as others. That is you are under the wrath of almighty God, by nature.
We'll get to the Book of Revelation. The tribulation period breaks out. Revelation chapter 6, those who are on the earth are afraid of the judgments that come out of heaven. And they say to the mountains, fall on us and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb. Have you ever seen a wrathful Lamb? It sounds like an oxymoron. Look out, an angry lamb. Nobody hangs a sign up, beware of lamb. But that is Jesus coming back with the authority to judge the world. And that's highlighted in the New Testament. So both testaments showed that mankind is under the wrath of God, but as we get in the second section of Romans the grace of God is available.
Now I'll take you over to chapter 3 verse 19 where we close out this section on the wrath of God. After speaking to the pagan, to the moralist, to the religionist, he says in verse 19 of Romans 3, "We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law that every mouth may be" stopped and the whole world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
So the gavel goes down in the courtroom. The final verdict from the heavenly judge is all are guilty, all have sinned, all have fallen short, or it says here that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.
So the first three chapters, Paul paints the picture that we are in a pretty awful predicament and there's no hope. There's no ray of light. The judgment of God is coming. The wrath of God is coming. And that closes out verse 20.
Between verse 20 and verse 21 is a Grand Canyon. There's a gulf. There's a division. He goes from the previous subject, the wrath of God. He rounds the corner to speak about as if to say, but wait a minute, story's not done yet, and he pivots to the grace of God. Look at the first two words, but now. After painting such a dismal, dark, black picture, after leaving us in verse 20 in the dark cave of the wrath of God for our sin, the light starts to dawn. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed.
I love this pivot and this Grand Canyon between these two versus. To put it into words of Chronicles of Narnia, the long dark winter is over and Aslan is on the move. That's what we get in verse 20, but now, the righteousness of God, that is the righteousness God provides for us unrighteous folk. Apart from the law, apart from anything you could do is revealed, is showcased being witness by the law and the prophets.
Now right here at this section, this is what change everything for Martin Luther. This is really what brought on the great reformation. This is the verse that years later Donald Gray Barnhouse, that great Bible expositor from the 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia-- he was reading this and he drew a heart in the margin of verse 21, and he said, this is the most important verse in all the Bible, but now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed.
So chapter 3 verse 21 all the way to the end of chapter 8 is the second section that is the grace of God. Look at verse 22. Let's just finish this out.
"Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness because, in His forbearance, God had passed over the sins that were previously committed to demonstrate, at the present time, His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Now, there's three key words that are important to our theological understanding, that are in this section that I just read. First is the word justified, verse 24. Justification. Second is the word redemption, also found in verse 24. And, third, the word propitiation, which is a word I doubt you used in the last month, unless you read your Bible and quoted this verse. Justification, redemption, propitiation.
Let's take the first word, justification, or justify. Paul likes that word. He uses that word, in his letters, 30 times. Think he likes the word? 30 times he uses it in his epistles. 15 of those 30 are used in the book of Romans alone. It is a legal word. It's a forensic word. To justify somebody is to bring them into a law court, and to declare a person righteous. And then to treat that person, who has been declared righteous, as though they are righteous.
So it's a declaration, then an action based upon the declaration. It's a legal term. It's a forensic term. It comes from the law courts. Evidence is presented, but I say, not guilty. Now, I'm going to treat you as if you're not guilty. That's justification. God justifies us by faith. One way that I've seen it, and I've told you how I've seen it, to look at justified is by breaking the word apart. You're justified. I'm justified. God treats me just if I'd never sinned, as perfectly righteous. That's justification.
Second important word in this section is redemption. Now, we're not in the law court. We're in the slave market with this word. This word means to buy back. The word redeem means to pay a price and set a prisoner free. You would go, in those days, to a slave market, when slavery bounded in the Roman Empire, and you could pay a price and bring a slave home, or give a slave its freedom. It means to set free by paying a ransom, a price. So the price has been paid by what Jesus did on Calvary, and he set those of us who were slaves free.
Third is the word propitiation. It's been translated a whole bunch of different ways by different modern translations-- atonement, sacrifice. It's a hard word to translate. And so, propitiation, even though it's hard, it's a pretty good word. Let me give an explanation from an Old Testament text, and then I think you'll understand it.
Do you remember how I told you before about this version of the Old Testament translated into the Greek language, called the Septuagint version? Remember when we did Between the Testaments, I gave you all that history, talked about the Septuagint version. It's because Greek became the lingua franca of the world, and so, down in Alexandria, Egypt, these scholars spent a lot of time taking the Hebrew Old Testament, that people didn't speak anymore in the Greek world, translated it into Greek. That's the Septuagint.
In the Septuagint version, the Greek version of the Old Testament, this word-- same exact word-- the Greek word is hilasterion, translated propitiation, shows up 20 times in the Septuagint for the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, called the mercy seat. So one way to translate this, and would be very proper, God sent forth Jesus as our mercy seat. You know what happened on the mercy seat. God showed mercy. So blood was sprinkled on the lid, the hilasterion, blood of an animal was sprinkled. Underneath that, in that box, was a copy of the 10 Commandments, the law of God that the children of visual had broken. They had disobeyed. And so there was blood covering their broken law. Jesus is the propitiation, the covering, the mercy seat.
Chapter 4 gives an example of how God justifies, through Abraham, the great patriarch of Judaism. He justifies people by faith. And so he says, let me explain about Abraham. Abraham lived before there was the law of Moses. And Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. So that's the example in chapter 4.
Chapter 5 talks about the benefits of being justified by faith. A couple of them right up front. "Therefore-- chapter 5, verse 1-- "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance."
So here's the benefits of simply believing in a righteous God, who freely justifies you by that faith. And then he compares, as the chapter goes on, Adam and Christ, and shows you the contrast, shows you the similarities, but especially the differences.
Chapter 6 of Romans are a series of questions, as if to anticipate blowback, as if to anticipate somebody going, now, wait a minute, Paul, what about this or what about that? So there's this series of questions to show how the implication of this personally-- being justified by faith-- what does it mean.
So, for example, verse 1-- "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not." He answers himself. "How shall we who died to send live any longer in it." So he follows this Q and A format. We've explained to you, on the weekend services, that this is an ancient both rabbinical and Greek Socratic method of teaching, called the dia-tribo, the diatribe. You pretend that there is a dissenter in your midst, asking you questions. You bring up the questions. You give an answer to the question. And that leads the student from a preconceived error into truth. That's how he formats this section.
In chapter 7, he shows us the relationship between the law of Moses and the believer. If you look at verse 7 of chapter 7. Again, here's his questioning style. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not. On the contrary, I would not have known sin, except through the law, for I would not have known covetousness unless the law said, you shall not covet." So he's saying the law served a purpose. The law showed you that you're a lawbreaker. You read the law an go, oops, I already blew it. You read the 10 Commandments. Broke that one, broke that one, broke that one, broke that one. You broke them all. So the law served a purpose. It showed you you're a creep.
It amplified your problem. It put a magnifying glass on your creepiness. And so, when you look at the law, it's like, uh-oh. That's what you walk away with. Uh-oh, now what? Now, Paul will take that uh-oh, now what, in Galatians and say, the law was a schoolmaster to point us, to lead us to Christ. So he goes through that in chapter 7.
And then, in chapter 8, it's a beautiful chapter we've been covering on the weekends. The liberating, indwelling Holy Spirit of God in the life of the believer. You should know-- if you don't, I'll tell you, but most of you know, so you'll just hear this again, and it'll serve to remind you-- that Paul mentions the Holy Spirit only twice in the entire book of Romans, chapters 1 through 7, but, in chapter 8, he mentions the Holy Spirit 20 times in that chapter alone. It's the Holy Spirit's chapter. It's where it gets good. Your life filled with the Holy Spirit, that's where life gets good. That's where you get the power. He's the source.
So look at chapter 8, verse 11, as an example. "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through His Spirit, who dwells in you." The chapter just gets brighter and brighter, and bigger, and culminates in that beautiful section that we covered this last weekend.
Verse 35-- "Who shall separate us"-- or a better translation-- "What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword? Yet, in all these things"-- verse 7-- "we're more than conquerors-- that great single Greek word, hupernikao, we are super conquerors, hyper conquerors-- "through Him who loved us. I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
I'm glad you're still excited about that. If there's any experience in your life not covered by what Paul just wrote, tell me what it is, and I'll give you an all expense, free, paid vacation to anywhere in the world want. Five star hotel, stay as long as you want, if there's anything that can separate you from the love of God that isn't mentioned in this list. He covers it all. I can say that pretty confidently, because I know none of you will be able to.
So, beginning in chapter 9, we come to section three of this letter. Now, before we launch into this, let me just remind you who Paul was. Paul was, at one time, a Jewish rabbi. Paul was very zealous for the law. He said, I'm a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Concerning the law, a Pharisee. Concerning righteousness, which comes from the law, he said this-- I was blameless. I was as near perfect in keeping the law as possible.
Now, once he came to know Christ-- he was apprehended on that Damascus road. He went to Damascus, left Damascus, went to Arabia-- we mentioned that last week-- for three years. In Arabia, I'm guessing, at the foot of Mount Sinai, he had the parchments, the scrolls of the Old Testament. He poured over what he knew from the text of Scripture for three years. He had to get retaught everything, understanding the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus.
And he came out-- and I'm kind of giving you this background, because, I mean, Paul's letter to the Romans is the most doctrinal, most theological, most expansive, deepest of all of his letters. Again, he had never met these people in Rome. He's writing a letter to them. He'd never gone to Rome. But he writes so expansively.
Now, one of the problems, and this takes us to section number three, which is the plan of God, the plan of God for Jew and Gentile. One of the problems that they were certainly wondering about, or would at least wonder about, is what about the Jew? If the Jew has rejected Jesus as Messiah, if Israel has nationally rejected Jesus as Messiah, what does God do with that rejection? Did that take Him by surprise? Does He have a plan to do anything with that, or are they just kind of written off, because God made some promises to them in the past? Are all those promises negated now, because of their national rejection of Jesus as the Messiah?
And because there was a mix in Rome, ethnically, of both Jew and Gentile, this question would come up. And, indeed, the Jewish people did reject Jesus as the Messiah. So chapter 9, Paul writes about the sovereignty of God in election. The sovereignty of God in election. Chapter 10, the sovereignty of God in rejection. Yes, they rejected Jesus, but God is sovereign. God has a plan for that rejection. And, finally, in chapter 11, the sovereignty of God in reception, in bringing them back, and restoration, receiving them, and restoring them. So Paul is showing, in 9, 10, and 11, God's sovereignty with Jew and non-Jew-- and Gentile-- but especially the Jewish nation, in calling people, in choosing people, people who reject Him, and what He's going to do with that, and the plan He has for bringing the Jewish people back.
Now, this section is both doctrinal-- theological-- but also very personal and very emotional. And that emotion comes in chapter 9, verse 1. "I tell the truth in Christ. I am not lying. My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit that I have a great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I wish that I, myself, were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my countrymen, according to the flesh, who are Israelites."
Boy, what a change emotionally. Chapter 8, Paul left us on such a high. What can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing can separate us. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Now, I'm really bummed out. I have such a weight, a sorrow in my heart. And what a statement, that I could wish myself accursed, or cut off, from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen, according to the flesh. Now, I'm not going to get into this, because this is going to be my sermon for Sunday and Saturday.
But I just want-- I want you to see the shift, and I want you to know that the reason he brings this up is because, well, there was quite a bit of nationalistic pride among the Jewish people. Paul would know that. Paul gives his pedigree of his background in Philippians, chapter 3. It was the Jewish representatives at the Jordan River when John the Baptist was baptizing, who were there with their pomp and ceremony, in their robes, and their denunciation of Jesus and John. And John the Baptist tells everybody there to repent. You know, he just sort of cut to the chase. You know, no fancy stories, no wonderful illustration or statistics. Just you guys are sinners. God's going to get you. Repent.
And so these legalistic Pharisees were there, and John looks at them, and he raises up his eyes to them, and he says, and don't you begin to think, in your heart, we have Abraham as our father. Because I tell you the truth, God is able to raise up from these very stones children to Abraham. So don't think, because you are born Jewish, that you have some special connection with God. Yes, you are God's chosen people, but you have to ratify that choice by your choice in faith to be a child of God, a son or a daughter of God.
So that takes us from chapter 9 to chapter 10. Verse 1, same theme. "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved, for I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness to every everyone who believes."
In a few months, some of you will join me in a trip of a lifetime. You'll stand within the city gates of Jerusalem. It'll be exciting. And you're going to go up to the Western Wall, that enclosure of stones that remain from the Second Temple Period, from the time of Jesus. And you'll see very pious, devout men and women, up at that Western Wall, moving and shaking very sincerely, and saying their prayers to God. And it's beautiful to see that kind of devotion. Sometimes I see that devotion and say, I'd like to see that more among Christian people. Their heart's into it. Their body's into it. They're not just mouthing the words, ya-ya-ya-ya, yawning while they do it. They're into it. They're worshipping the God of heaven.
But I think of this verse. I think of the sorrow that Paul must have had as he went to Jerusalem, and I see all of their piety and all of their devotion. And Paul says, "I bear them witness, they have a zeal for God, but it's not according to knowledge." In other words, they misunderstand. They don't understand. They don't have the full knowledge of the meaning of the text of their Torah. They don't understand that their Torah can't justify them. Their law, their Bible, all the words that they say they follow and practice, they think they're justified by that law. It doesn't justify them. They have a misunderstanding. They have zeal, but it's not according to knowledge.
So many people are zealous for God, but they-- you know, it's like-- it's like the woman at Samaria. She was very zealous, but it was a pagan worship system in Samaria. You Jews say Jerusalem is the place to worship. Well, we have our own temple. Jesus said, hey, lady-- this is my-- Skip's NSV, New Skip Version--
--we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. That's what Jesus said. We know what we worship. And they did have a knowledge, but Paul says the knowledge that you have, for some of you, is a mis-knowledge, a misunderstanding. You don't really grasp the meaning of that revelation from the Old Testament. So it's a zeal without knowledge. "They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."
Do you realize that mankind, humankind in general, is addicted-- incurably addicted-- to working for their own salvation? It's part of who we are. Oh, God, I'll do better. I'll earn it. You'll see. You'll love me more. God can't love you more, because God can't love you any less. He loves you the way you are, and He knows every thing about you. So he can't love you any more. But we're incurably addicted to working for our own salvation. Paul-- "Concerning the righteousness which comes from the law, I was blameless."
I remember struggling when I would go to these classes in the church I was raised in. They were called CCD classes. It was Catholic Catechism doctrine classes. And it was taught by nuns and priests, and they're telling me, you know, how to get to heaven. And I had questions. Well, how do you know, when you die, you'll get to heaven? Well, you'll know when you get there, you know, basically.
I said, that's a little too late. And I-- I was always the kid who said, excuse me, I have a question. And, finally, I remember that he got-- one of these priests got so upset with me. He said, you always have these questions. It was just too hard for him. And I said, there is a Protestant Church down the street from my house, and I know a lot of the people who go there, and they seem to worship God very sincerely. Why is it necessary that I go further to this one, and why couldn't I go to that one? You're saying I'll go to hell if I go to that one, and I'll go to heaven if I go to this one. And, finally, he just threw up his hands and said, go wherever you want.
So I did.
"Christ"-- verse 4-- "is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Go down to verse 9. "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." So if somebody tells me, I believe in Jesus. I believe He rose from the dead. I confess Him as Lord. I turn to him and say, I believe you're saved. If somebody, in the third row, of our church, or 10th row, comes forward in an altar call and says, I believe Jesus is Lord, I believe He rose from the dead, we receive them by faith.
So why not, if somebody famous, like a Kanye West, says, I believe in Jesus, I believe He is Lord of all, I believe He died for my sins and rose from the dead, why would we ever be hesitant and say, well, I don't know about that? You-- you can't be. Why not? Can't God save anybody? Why not rejoice in that, and why not pray for him, and support any overture a person makes toward Christ? I applaud it. I remember when it happened with Bob Dylan, and we went to his concert, and I thought, you know, he preached more at that concert than most preachers preach at church.
OK, I'm off the soapbox.
I'm continuing on in verse 11. "For the Scripture says, whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." He's quoting Isaiah 28. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Now, he quotes Joel 2. Now, remember I told you, Paul spent three years in Arabia. He's going through all those texts and Scriptures. He's reorienting himself to the Old Testament as a rabbi.
Having said that, I always marvel at his grasp of Scripture. You know, without a smartphone, without a computer program, just to be able to go, Joel 2, voom, Isaiah 28, voom. Psalm here, Psalm there, just stick it right in there. I do think it's important that we have enough grasp of Scripture so that, whatever we say we believe in and we practice, we can-- if somebody said, why do you do that? You don't say, I don't know, we've always done that. That's not a good answer. Or, I don't know, they do that at church. Not a good answer. You need to be able to say, like what Peter said on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the church and the Gentiles said, what is this?
And Peter said, this is that, which was spoken of by the prophet. And he quotes Joel. We need to be able to say this-- what I do, what I believe-- is that, which the Bible says. We need a biblical backing for what we believe. That's the real magic here of Paul doing this. He just doesn't say, this is what I think. He says, this is what the Scripture says, and he lays it out very carefully.
So I want to challenge all of you, all of us, to be Bereans. Acts 17:11 says those in Berea were more noble and fair minded than those in Thessalonica, and that they received the Word of God with all readiness of mind, but then searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so. I'm teaching you the Bible. I'm doing what I think is the clearest, cleanest, best way I know how. But don't walk away saying, it's got to be true, because Skip said it.
Never get that lazy. Say, OK, I received that, but I'm going to go check it out to make sure. I'm going to search the Scriptures to see if these things be so.
OK chapter 11, verse 1, "I say, has God cast away His people? Certainly not. I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew." Now, that question he asks, has God cast away His people, some today, who are Christians, believe the answer is, yes, God has cast away His people. And what they say is, because Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God has rejected them from being His people. So there is no special place for Israel in the Kingdom Age, or in the future. All of those blessings that God gave to Israel are now assumed in the Church. We are the New Israel and all of the blessings God gave to Israel are our blessings. They're for the Church, not for Israel nationally.
It's very interesting that they would say that, because it reveals an inconsistent hermeneutic. That is, they're willing to say all the blessings that God had for Israel are now ours, but they won't say, all the cursings that God gave to Israel are now ours. So it's inconsistent in their interpretation. The truth is the cursings are theirs and the blessings are theirs, and God has a plan, in the future, to restore Israel nationally and geographically in the Kingdom Age.
Go down to verse 24. Key Scripture. "For if you were cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches"-- that is, the Jews-- "be grafted into their own olive tree?" Olive trees can last hundreds of years. But branches get brittle and broken, and they cease producing fruit. At which time, they cut those branches off. But the root is still good. So they take young, tender shoots off younger olive trees. They put a little hole in them, and stick them in, and they produce fruit again.
The picture is God has taken wild olives, Gentiles, stuck us into the root of Judaism, all the promises God made in the Old Testament about the Messiah. The natural branches have been laid aside temporarily, because, though it started as a Jewish movement, by and large today, people who believe in Jesus, by and large, are not Jewish. They're Gentiles. It's become a Gentile movement. The early church was Jewish, but then the gospel went to the Gentiles. The Jews, though there are some-- it's a blessed exception-- are believers in Messiah, for the most part, they don't believe. Yet. But Gentiles do. God has grafted us in. His point is, if God can graft in wild olive branches and produce great fruit, wait until you see the restoration of the natural ones, which he talks about throughout this chapter.
Go down to verse-- oh, oh, wait, wait, wait, verse 25. "I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion that blindness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." If you have an NIV, it says the full number of Gentiles. Is that right? The full number of Gentiles has come in. If you have a New Living Translation, it says, till the full number is completed. Am I right? Here, it says the fullness of the Gentiles, the idea is there's a number that represents the last number, the full number.
So, real quickly, this is awesome. The early church was Jewish. That door closed quickly. Non-Jewish people around the world embraced Jesus, by and large. God has done a work among the Gentile, non-Jewish, people of the world. That's called the Church Age. We're in the Church Age. But, at some point-- God knows the point, God knows the last number-- there's going to be a non-Jewish person, a Gentile, who raises their hand, or prays the prayer, believes in Jesus, and that will be the last one.
When that is the last one, I believe that's when the Lord will catch away His Church. When the Lord catches away His Church, He turns a page and opens up the door to fulfill the last part of the prophecy of Daniel 9, the 70th week of Daniel, the seven year period, where he deals with the Jewish nation, to restore them and have them believe in the Messiah, which they will by the end of that tribulation period. That's why he says in this chapter, "And all Israel will be saved."
So that's called the time of Jacob's trouble, Israel's trouble. Which means, if you, tonight, have not received Jesus, you could be the very person holding us up.
So would you get the show on the road and say, yes, to Jesus?
Verse 28-- "Concerning the gospel, they are enemies, for your sake. But concerning election, they are beloved, for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable." That is, God made a covenant with Abraham, and, even though they broke the next covenant that God made with Moses, God still made a covenant with Abraham, and He is going to keep good on the promises He made to Abraham. "The gifts and callings of God to the Jewish people"-- that's the context of this-- "are irrevocable."
Chapter 12 to the end is the last section of the book, which I'm just going to skim over. It is the will of God. It is the graduation section of the book. He's been very doctrinal in this book. Chapter 12, he's very practical. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service." The most logical thing you can do is give your body back to God for Him to use. "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."
Paul says, for 11 chapters, I've given you this doctrinal foundation. All of the things that I've talked about in 11 chapters, he's calling the mercies of God. I beseech you by the mercies of God. Now, you present your body to Him. Now, he does it-- he speaks about that generally. You go, hear am I, Lord. Take my body, use me, et cetera. And then, second, you do it specifically. You submit to the government. I hear guitar behind stage, so I know they're getting ready to come out. It's sort of like the music, like, hurry up.
OK, so specifically he shows our relationship, in chapter 13, to human government. This is how a redeemed child of God acts in a world of secular government. We submit to the laws of the land. We pray for those who are in authority. Then we should also do it to the Church, body of Christ, present ourselves to serve one another. I want to show you two groups, chapter 14 and 15, very quickly, just a couple verses.
Look at the first verse of chapter 14 and the first verse of chapter 15, and you'll see the two groups. "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." Look at chapter 15, verse 1. "We, then, who are strong, ought to bear with the scruples of the weak and not to please ourselves." Who are the two groups he's speaking about? The weak and the strong. What does he mean?
The weak are the legalistic believers in the Church, who are very narrow in their interpretation about diet, about what you can eat and not eat, kosher and non-kosher. God wouldn't like you eating that, or God didn't want you to have that. Or days of the week to worship-- you have to worship God on Sunday, or you've got to worship God on the Sabbath. And they got-- Paul says, I worship God every day. But those who are weak, you've got to understand they're among you. And when he says weak, they're weak in their faith. They're not strong in the faith. They don't have a strong, biblical foundation.
And, to Paul, he says, those who are strong have a little more freedom and liberality over things. They're not antinomian. They don't break God's law. They're not rebellious. But there's a freedom in the Spirit. But those who are free in the Spirit have to recognize you hang out sometimes with people who aren't, and yet you have to bear with them.
So that takes us to chapter 16. Look at that, we're going to make it. Even though it's overtime, we're going to make it.
Chapter 16, let me just say this. It's a list of names. It's one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. You go, a list of names? I would like a list of names. They're hard to pronounce. But what if your name were in that list? And here's why I like it, the whole last chapter Paul is-- he mentions 26 people. Probably people he's never met, he's just heard about. But he says, greet them. They're fellow workers. They're awesome.
Of the names he mentions, nine of them are women, who are helpers, workers, servants in the Church. So that puts aside the idea that Paul was misogynistic and a male chauvinist. He mentions the value of strong, capable women in the Church, even those who have helped him tremendously. He talks about-- this will throw you for a curve, verse 22-- "I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord."
You're going, uh-oh, gotta change my whole theology of Romans. I always thought Paul wrote the book. He did, and he didn't. Paul dictated the book, but he had somebody taking down the notes. His name was Tertius. So he's saying, I was Paul's amanuensis. I was Paul's personal secretary. He dictated it, I wrote it down. That's all that is. Now, when you get to the book of Galatians, the last chapter, Paul will say this, "See what large letters I have written with my own hand." Remember that? What this means is probably Paul had an eye affliction.
I'll describe why when we get to Galatians. Don't have enough time. I'm over time. So he probably couldn't see very well, so he had to write large letters for him to be able to see. So he dictated the letter of Galatians, but, at the very end, he wrote his own greeting. Right? It's like signing the letter. See what large letters I have written unto you, and he signs his name. But it was also written by an amanuensis. The same with this. Tertius wrote it.
Now, we close the book. Last benediction of the book, longest benediction in the New Testament. "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith-- to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen."
Listen, I did this in one night. No, no, wait. I don't say that to get a clap. Don't clap. We're doing it on the weekend. We've been in it for like 18 weeks. Martyn Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel-- we visited that not long ago-- last century, went through the book of Romans with his congregation for 14 years. Donald Grey Barnhouse went through Romans with this congregation. Took him 10 years. He said, every week the church grew in numbers and grew in faith during that journey. So we've only done it in one night.
But here's something else to close with. One of the early church fathers, who I've always greatly admired, John Chrysostom, asked that the book of Romans be read to him aloud once a week for 18 years. Do you think he knew the book? Yeah. It was so foundational to him, it anchored him.
Now, your name is written in this last book, or this last chapter of the book of Romans, unless your name happens to be one of these names. But it's still not your name. Your name isn't written here. But your name can be written in the Lamb's Book of Life. And it doesn't matter if your name's written in Romans 16, but it does matter if your name's written in the Lamb's Book of Life, or not. So, if not-- and maybe you're that last Gentile-- say yes to Him.
Father, thank you for this time together that we've had. So enriching to be able to go through the whole book of Romans and see all of these sections from the wrath of God, the grace of God, the plan of God, the will of God, personally, and for us, your people together, the Church. We ask it in Jesus' name, for His sake and your glory. Amen.
Let's all stand.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible from 30,000 Feet.