The Reasons for Romans - Part 1

Romans 15:14-33

Tom Pennington  •  January 31, 2021
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Well, I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me this morning to a new section in Paul's letter to the Romans as we come to the end of his letter. It comes with the reminder of why he wrote. We're going to learn, in the paragraph we come to, the reasons that Romans was written to begin with; and ultimately, what we'll learn is that it has to do with a reminder, a crucial, important reminder to all of us who have believed in Jesus Christ.

Now, we understand reminders; we are frankly surrounded by them. There are some reminders that seem completely unnecessary. Forbes reported that these reminders were on some actual product labels. On Nytol sleep aid: "May cause drowsiness;" on a chainsaw: "Do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw;" (Note to self, if you need that label, you should not be operating a chainsaw.) on a gas cap for a jet ski: "Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level;" on a hand-held hairdryer: "Do not use while sleeping;" on a blowtorch canister: "Contents may catch fire;" on a reflective cardboard sunshade for your car dashboard: "Do not drive with sun shield in place." You know, I just keep hoping that someday I'm going. . . No, I don't hope that. My personal favorite, on a carton of eggs: "This product may contain eggs." Now, I don't know about you, but it seems to me those are completely unnecessary.

Now, we all know why they exist. In fact, Tom Beswick, one of our elders, was telling me, he's an attorney, he was telling me that in law school, they learned the reason those labels are there is because somebody sued those companies over those issues and won, hard to believe! They seem completely unnecessary.

On the other hand, there are many reminders that are truly important and yet we seem to forget them. I mean how many times have you approached the door at your office and tried to push it open when it says there in large letters, "Pull?" That happens to me all the time. Or on a much more serious and potentially dangerous front, there's that notice that pops up on your multimedia screen every time you start your car; you know the one that says, "Don't mess with this while you're driving." I won't ask for show hands for how many of us have disregarded that notice. Tragically, every day, people are injured or sadly even killed for ignoring that little reminder that's so crucial and so important. As we will learn today, Romans is one of those really important reminders for us who are followers of Jesus Christ, but it is a reminder that, sadly, we can be prone to forget and that's why this letter exists.

Now just to remind you the theme of the book of Romans is the gospel of God. At the center of God's gospel is justification by faith alone, that we can be declared right with God, not based on something that we are or have done, but rather on the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to our account. Our sin credited to Him; His righteousness credited it to us. As you've heard me say it many times; on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived our sinful lives so that forever He could treat us as if we had lived Jesus's perfect life; that's the gospel, that's justification by faith alone.

Now, that message unfolds in a particular way through the book of Romans. Let me just remind you of an outline as we come to a new section today. Here's how the book of Romans lays out. You have in chapter 1, verses 1 to 17, "The Introduction," where Paul introduces himself, those to whom he writes, the theme of his letter. Then he gets to the heart of this letter, and the first section begins in chapter 1, verse 18, and runs through the end of chapter 4; it is "The Gospel Explained; Justification by Faith Alone." There he unpacks the need for justification; we're all sinners and are not righteous in and of ourselves, and exactly how the righteousness of God becomes ours.

Secondly, we have, "The Gospel Experienced." Beginning in chapter 5 and running through chapter 8, we have, "The Effects of Justification." Chapter 5, verse 1, begins, "Having therefore been justified," and it goes on to say what the effects of that really are. That's chapters 5 through 8. The third section, major section in Romans is, "The Gospel Defended: Election, Israel, and God's Promises." This is chapters 9 through 11. Paul raises the issue of, if the gospel is so wonderful and God is so faithful to keep His promises to His people, as Romans 8 says, "What happened to the Jews? Why have so few of them believed in their Messiah?" And he deals with that issue in chapters 9 through 11.

And then finally, beginning in chapter 12, verse 1, and running to chapter 15, verse 13, you have, "The Gospel Applied: The Transforming Power of the Gospel of Grace." Here's what the gospel he's explained actually does in a life where that truth has been embraced.

Now today, we come to the last section of Romans, and that is, "The Conclusion." It begins in chapter 15, verse 14, runs through the end of chapter 16. There are three sections in this conclusion. First of all, you have, in the second half of chapter 15, "Paul's Reasons for Writing." Then in chapter 16, verses 1 to 24, you have, "Personal Greetings to His Friends," there in Rome. And then, in chapter 16, verse 25 to 27, you have, "A Closing Doxology," where he gives all glory to God. So, that's the road we have to travel before us.

Today, we come to that conclusion and the final part of this letter begins by revealing, "Paul's Reasons for Writing," Paul's reasons for writing. It begins in chapter 15, verse 14, and runs through the end of the chapter.

Why did Paul write Romans? For centuries, scholars and students of this book have proposed a number of different theories, a number of different explanations for why Paul may have written this lengthy letter to the Roman churches, churches he didn't start and churches he'd never even visited. One commentator lists twelve possible reasons. But we don't have to wonder, we don't really have to guess, because in these paragraphs we're going to study together, Paul explains that there were two overarching reasons that he wrote Romans. They are the two reasons that the church has had this magnificent treasure that we call the book of Romans for 2000 years. We need to look at these reasons together, and today I want us to consider just the first reason that Paul gives here. It's "The Timeless Spiritual Purpose." There is a purpose that Paul had in writing that transcends the first century and the immediate context. Instead, his timeless, spiritual purpose is to remind all believers of the gospel, the gospel that we have, in fact, believed. What is that truth that we have embraced?

Let's look at these verses together, Romans 15, verses 14 to 16.

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Now, in those three verses, we gain several important insights into Paul's timeless, spiritual purpose for writing this letter. First of all, we discover that it was written to Christians. Now, that seems obvious, but it makes a very important point; it was written to Christians. Notice verse 14, "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced," and then he goes on to list three spiritual virtues. Notice he says, "…concerning you, my brethren." 'Brethren,' in the New Testament, is usually used, occasionally it's used as Paul speaks of his Jewish brethren; but most of the time, that phrase is used of Christians. And, in the first century context, 'brethren' didn't just mean men, it meant men and women. So, we could translate it, "Brothers and sisters."

Paul often uses this expression as he does here to change topics. You'll see that when he's ready to move to a different subject, he will say, "Now, my brethren" or "my beloved brethren" or some variation of that.

So, beginning with verse 14 then, Paul is no longer dealing with Christian liberty. His language here is emphatic. Notice what he writes in verse 14, "Concerning you, my brethren, I myself…am (personally truly) convinced." Paul was convinced with absolutely no doubt in his mind that those to whom he wrote in Rome were real, genuine believers in Christ Jesus; they were his brethren, his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, that makes a very important point. That means Paul didn't write this extensive letter, explaining the gospel to those in Rome who had never heard it. It wasn't his purpose to write Romans to evangelize.

Now, you know, and I know that God has used this book down through the last 2000 years to save many. But that was not Paul's primary reason for writing it. This letter was written to those who were already Christians, those who had already been born again in that transformation described in chapter 7 and again in chapter 8, those who had already believed the gospel as it's recorded in chapters 4 and 5; it's to those who had already been justified, who had already been declared righteous. So, Paul was convinced that they were real believers; but notice when you read the rest of verse 14, it's also clear that Paul was convinced that they were spiritually mature believers.

Now, how did he know this? How did Paul know any of this about these people if he hadn't started the churches and he hadn't been there? Well, he knew it in two ways; in chapter 1, verse 8, we read this; "…I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." Word of what God was doing in the churches in Rome spread across the Empire and Paul had heard about it.

But in addition to that, Paul also had inside information on the Roman church through his trusted friends and coworkers, Priscilla and Aquila. He mentions them in chapter 16, verse 3, they were in Rome; and so Paul had a sort of first-hand channel about what was going on in the churches there. He knew the challenges in the churches; he knew the strengths of the churches, and through this information that Paul had received, both in a wide breadth of what was said about the Roman Christians and what he knew from Priscilla and Aquilla, Paul was completely convinced, not only that the Roman Christians were real believers, but that they were spiritually mature.

Now, that raises a question, how do you know if someone is spiritually mature, or let's make it more personal, how do you know if you're spiritually mature? Well, what we have here, as Paul describes those he addresses in this letter, we have the marks of maturity. Just take a little test as we walk through these to see if you are, in fact, spiritually mature. Notice what he says in verse 14, "…that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another." Let's take each of those in turn.

"Full of goodness," the Greek word that's translated 'goodness' here is is an unusual word. It describes a moral quality that is characterized essentially by an interest in the good of others. So, it's not just goodness that's inherent that never expresses itself; its goodness that is always looking out for the good of the people around you. And Paul says, "They were full of goodness." This wasn't some occasional act that they sort of twisted their selfishness to sometimes act outside of that. No, the goodness marked them; they were outstandingly good in their interactions with others.

Now, compare Romans to say Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. When you look at Romans, there are no sinful behaviors that are rebuked; there are no major deficiencies in understanding or practice that are addressed and confronted. No, they related well to each other; they were full of goodness in that they looked out for the good of others. Where did that goodness come from? Well, obviously it was the change produced by the Holy Spirit at conversion, but that goodness also flowed from their understanding of Scripture.

Look at the second quality there, "…you…are…filled with all knowledge." Paul was convinced that the Roman Christians had a comprehensive understanding and intellectual grasp of all knowledge. Now, don't misunderstand; that doesn't mean there was nothing else for them to learn, nor does it mean that when they got Paul's letter and it was read there in the churches in Rome, that all of them just sat there and sort of checked the boxes, "Yup, knew that, knew that, knew that, know that. . ." No, I mean if that were true, then the churches in Rome would have been the most spiritually mature churches that ever existed.

I mean how many of us have read Romans and been able to say, "I know everything that Paul described there." No, what he's saying "filled with knowledge" here means that there was a love for and there was a comprehensive knowledge of the truth of the Christian faith. It doesn't mean they knew everything, but it means they had a breadth of knowledge about the Christian faith. And by the way, that's pretty obvious when you think about it. I mean, we've been through Romans; you don't write a letter like Romans to a bunch of shallow believers.

A third evidence of the maturity they demonstrated there in the Roman churches, notice again verse 14, "…you…are…able also to admonish one another." 'Admonish' is the Greek word 'noutheteo,' from which we get the word nouthetic counseling. They were able; the word means 'to have the power' or here probably better 'to have the ability, the capacity, to admonish.' That word, it doesn't mean just to teach; it means 'to teach,' but it means 'to instruct, to warn, to counsel each other about how either to avoid or how to stop a dangerous course of conduct or thinking.'

In other words, it's to see danger in the life of someone else and to come alongside of them and to help. We could say it this way, they knew how to encourage other believers to do what was right and to stop doing what was wrong or to avoid what was wrong, and all of that was motivated solely by a genuine love and concern for them.

Now, what's the point there? Listen carefully! Spiritual maturity means that you stop just thinking about yourself. Spiritual maturity is when you stop contemplating your own spiritual navel and you begin to realize there are other of God's people, and I have a care and responsibility for them, and that's where the Roman Christians were.

Now, look again at the qualities Paul mentions in verse 14, "full of goodness toward others, filled with the love for and a comprehensive knowledge of the truth of the Christian faith, and able to encourage other Christians to do what's right, motivated by a real love for them."

Now, look at those qualities; and first of all, use those qualities as a test of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ. It's not that you have these things in your life in perfection, but if you're a Christian, they ought to be in your life. So, if you look at those qualities and you go, "You know, I'm pretty selfishly oriented, I don't act, I'm not full of goodness toward others, I don't really have a love and a comprehensive knowledge of the truth, in fact, I don't really care about the truth that much, I'm not that interested in the Bible, and I live pretty much for myself, and I'm not loving and caring about the needs of others, I'm not reaching out to them. Then you need to raise a serious question about your profession of faith. You may not know the Lord at all. But this is also, these three qualities are a measure of our Christian maturity. You want to know how mature you are? Then measure how much these qualities are present in your life.

Now, what Paul says, in verse 14, means that this letter is for all real Christians, and it's directed here for those who are spiritually mature like the Romans were. In other words, folks, it's written to us, all of us who are real believers and us who have some of those qualities or growing toward those qualities. But why? Why was it written to Christians?

Well, a second insight here is that it was written as a reminder, it was written as a reminder. Verse 15, makes this clear, "But I have written very boldly to you on some points." Now here's the question, if the Roman Christians had such an extensive knowledge of the Christian faith, then why wasn't this a one paragraph letter? Why is this such a long, detailed letter? Paul says, "I have written very boldly to you on some points." By the way, that's almost an apologetic tone in the original. He's not apologizing; but instead, he's displaying a kind of humility, the kind of sensitivity about writing this letter to churches he hadn't started, he hadn't visited, and yet he's writing so bluntly. He says, "(In spite of your spiritual maturity and your comprehensive knowledge of the Christian faith), I have written very boldly to you (Notice what he says.) on some points." Literally, "I've written to you in parts, boldly in parts;" could mean somewhat boldly, could mean that, could mean in certain parts of my letter I've written boldly, or it could mean, and I think more likely, how it's translated here in the NAS and in the ESV, "I've written boldly on certain points about certain issues." Why? Verse 15, "I have written very boldly to you on some points (Now, don't miss this, underline this, here's the reason Paul wrote to the Romans, his timeless spiritual purpose.) so as to remind you again." To remind you again or by way of reminder is another way to translate it.

This Greek word translated 'remind' is an interesting combination of words. It's a word that occurs only here in the New Testament. It means 'to suggest or call to your memory.' We could even say, "I want to bring this to your mind; I want to put this in your mind again." Paul's point is that although he hadn't brought the gospel to them originally, the foundational things that he's taught and exhorted in this letter trace back to the faith they believe, whomever they had heard it from, and they now held in common with Paul. So Paul says, "Listen, you know this."

Now, stop a minute and think about that. In spite of that, Paul wrote them this long letter about the gospel, and Paul still wanted to visit them, and guess what he wanted to do when he visited them? He wanted to rehearse these very same truths with them again.

Go back to chapter 1; chapter 1, verse 15, as he ends his introduction to the letter, he says, "So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." So, Paul says listen, "You heard this when you were converted, you believe what I believe, and I've now written you this really long letter to remind you of these things, and oh by the way, if I get to visit you, I'm going to cover the same ground again. Why? Why did Paul want to preach the gospel to Christians in Rome again? Listen carefully; it's because the gospel is simple enough to grasp in a few minutes, but it has such deep and massive truths and implications that it takes a lifetime to fully grasp and to learn to live in light of those depths.

In this letter, Paul rehearses the basics of the gospel that we already know, that we've already believed. But he goes way beyond that. You saw that as we went through Romans. But Paul also brings out and explains further depths within those truths, depths we didn't know about, and then he points out the practical implications of the gospel. You see, they needed, and we need to remember, to be reminded of the truth of the gospel.

Do you understand that in Scripture there is a theology of remembering? I wish I had time to take you back to the Old Testament and show you all of this. But there's a theology of remembering. God Himself remembers: He remembers His covenant; He remembers His people; He remembers His promises. But believers are constantly told to remember. We're told to remember God's person, Psalm 42, 5 and 6:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. (Listen to this.) O my God, my soul is in despair within me (Have you ever been there?); my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You.

It didn't mean the Psalmist forgot God. No, it means he intentionally called to his mind, he intentionally remembered the truths about God's person and who God is, and that's how he found help in his despair; we're called to remember God.

We're called to remember God's actions in the past as hope and encouragement for the present. For example, in Deuteronomy 5, verse 15, "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm." He said to the children of Israel, "Listen, you need to remember where you were and what you were like when I found you, and what I did when I delivered you." That's a message for us who are in Christ; we need to remember, like Ephesians 2, you need to remember what you were when God found you, and what He's done in your life.

Or, there's Deuteronomy 7, verses 17 and 18, "If you should say in your heart, 'These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?'" Listen, have you ever come up against something in your life that God is obviously put in front of you and said, "I don't think I can do this, I don't think I'm capable of this!"

God says here's what you do, "…you shall…remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt." In other words, you remind yourself of what God has done for His people in the past, and what He's done even in your life in the past, and that reminds you to hope in the present. It's the same God, He's more than able to deal with the troubles of this life!

We're to remember God's commands. Psalm 103, verses 17 and 18:

(The steadfast love) of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, To those who keep His covenant And remember His (commands) to do them.

You're to remember His commands. That doesn't mean you just don't forget them; it means you intentionally call them to mind in order to do them.

Again, this theology of remembering permeates the Testaments. In the Old Testament, the annual feasts were there to help God's people remember, to remember something about God, something He had accomplished on their behalf. In the same way, the weekly Sabbath was a reminder of God's creation of the universe, His resting from creation, and His redemption from Egypt.

You come to the New Testament. Baptism is a visual reminder of both our profession of Jesus as Lord and our regeneration. The fact that that old person who used to be died, was buried with Christ, and has been raised to new life. The Lord's Table is a visual reminder according to 1 Corinthians 11, of our Lord and His death.

Now listen carefully, in the same way, the New Testament epistles were written not only to instruct us in what we don't know, but to remind us of what we do. That's part of the purpose for the Scripture. You see this in many places, but look at Peter, 2 Peter; Peter expresses it so clearly and this isn't unique to him, he just says it very clearly here. Look at 2 Peter, chapter 1, he's just in the early part of the chapter rehearsed the virtues that we are to put on, the holiness we're to pursue, and then he says this in verse 12. 2 Peter 1:12, "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you." In other words, "I'm going to keep reminding you even though you know it, and even though you've already demonstrated that you're doing it." Verse 13:

I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling…is imminent, so also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.

Go over to chapter 3, verse 1:

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

Here, he's talking about the Second Coming. "Remember, you've been taught this, you know this, and I'm going to remind you, I'm going to stir you up by reminding you." That, brothers and sisters, is exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 15, verse 14. He's saying, "I wrote this letter because you already knew these things, and you're already living in light of some of them, but you need to be reminded, you need to grow in the depth of your understanding. Paul wrote the book of Romans to put the gospel truths into the minds of the Roman Christians again and again and again. It doesn't mean they had forgotten; rather they needed, and we need a constant reminder.

A reminder of what? Well, a reminder of the basic truths of the gospel. We find this in the book of Romans. The very basic foundational truths of the gospel. What are the truths that make up the gospel? Number one, that God is our righteous Creator; that's the message of Romans 1, right? He made all things, He sustains all things, He gives us all good things to enjoy. Chapter 2, He deserves to be worshipped, enjoyed, and obeyed; that's the nature of God.

Secondly, man is a rebellious sinner. This is the message starting in Romans, chapter 1, verse 18, "For the wrath of God is revealed…against (You know.) all…unrighteousness of men," all the way to chapter 3, verse 20. In that passage, we're told that there isn't "One righteous, not even one," that we are all sinners, that we've rebelled against God, we don't fear God, we live for ourselves, we ignore our consciences, we rebel against God's Laws, and that rebellion merits God's justice. And if we die without Jesus Christ, we will be eternally separated from God, suffering in hell forever. That's what Paul teaches us about the gospel.

Thirdly, that Jesus is the only Savior. Starting in chapter 3, verse 21, running to the end of chapter 4, he says, "Listen, your only hope is in this gospel, this good news that God sent His only Son into the world as a man, and that He lived a perfect, sinless life, and then He died as a substitute, fully satisfying God's just wrath against sin on behalf of every person who would ever believe in Him. And on the third day, God raised Him from the dead as the ultimate evidence that He had accepted Jesus's sacrifice for sins. Paul goes on in those chapters to explain that we are made right with God, we get a right standing before God, not because we are right or because we earn it or because we merit it or anything to do with our own righteousness, but by believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ and receiving as a gift, the gift of Jesus's righteousness, credited to our account; it becomes ours through faith.

The fourth basic point of the gospel is we must repent and believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We see this in chapters 3 and 4, where he talks again and again about believing in Jesus, believing in Jesus, having faith in Jesus. But then, you come to chapter 10, and he says, "If we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved!" All who call upon the name of the Lord in that way will be saved. So, Jesus calls us to repent of our sins and our rebellion and to place our faith in Him as our only hope of forgiveness and heaven. Brothers and sisters, that's the gospel! That's what we believe, and we need to be reminded of those basic truths. Why?

Turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, here's why we need to be reminded. 1 Corinthians 15, Paul recites these same truths in verse 3.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…that He was buried…that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and (then) that He appeared to (a bunch of people, verse 5 and following).

Now, why is that important? Go back to verse 1:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received (And watch this.), in which also you stand, by which also you were saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you've believed in vain.

In other words, Paul says "You need to rehearse the truths of the gospel." Why? So you keep holding on to those truths, so that you come to the last day of your life here either by death or Christ's return, still holding on to Jesus Christ and Him alone, to His death, burial, and resurrection, and His appearance as your only hope. Because that's the means Christ uses to hold you fast. So, it's crucial, it's important. So, we need to be reminded of the basic truths of the gospel.

But secondly, we need a reminder of the fullness of the gospel. It's not enough just to know those basic truths. And Paul develops this all the way through the heart of this epistle. I mean, think about it; hey, listen, if you're a Christian you knew you were sinner, but did you ever know you were a sinner like Paul describes it from Romans 1:18 to chapter 3, verse 20, where he says, "Listen, God's wrath is revealed and you've rebelled; you're not thankful, 'no one is righteous, not even one.' Nobody fears God, stuff streams out of our mouths that destroys other people and lives and the way of peace we haven't known and on and on and on;'" Paul lays it on. None of us understood human depravity like that until we study this. The same thing about justification by faith. You understood that basically, or you wouldn't be a Christian! But wow! Study chapter 3, verse 21, through the end of chapter 4, and see what he really has to say about the heart of the gospel, justification by faith.

You get to chapter 5, verses 1 to 11, you learn about the immediate benefits of justification, "Having been justified, we have peace with God," we stand in grace, the trials of this life work for our good, and on and on he goes.

You come to chapter 5, verse 12 and following, and Paul explains how the gospel works. I mean, how can a righteous God declare me, a sinner, righteous when God says never do that? It's because God did something special; He appointed Christ as my legal representative just like He appointed Adam as my legal representative. They stood in my place, they acted on my behalf; and therefore, I get the credit for everything good Jesus did, and he got the curse for everything evil I did. That's how God could do it. You need to understand that.

Chapter 6, you need to understand the believer's relationship to sin; chapter 7, you need to understand your relationship as a believer to the law. Chapter 8, you need to understand your security in Jesus Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," all the way to the end of that chapter, there's no separation from the love of God. You need to understand chapter 9, God's sovereignty and election. How is it that you came to trust in Christ? It's because God chose you in eternity past. Chapter 10, you need to understand the human responsibility to believe; that although election is true that doesn't obviate or do away with the requirement for man to believe the gospel message and God holds him responsible for not believing. You need to understand Chapter 11, God's faithfulness to His promises to Israel, that He's not done, "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance, all Israel will be saved in a day." You need to understand there's a lot more to the gospel than what you believed on the day you came to faith. You need to gain the richness that's contained there.

Thirdly, we need to be reminded of the practical application of the gospel. That's the message of chapters 12 to 15. You need to understand that if you believe the gospel, it affects how you live and how you think. And you know where it starts? It starts in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, with how you respond to God. Because you believe the gospel, "You are not your own." You belong, body and mind, to Jesus Christ. You don't have a right to say, "This is how I'm going to live, this is how I'm going to think about anything." You're supposed to, instead, remember that you belong to Him. Then it affects how you serve in the church, it affects your love for others, it affects your response to government, it affects your response to the issues of Christian liberty.

You see, like the Romans, we need to be reminded of the basic gospel, of its deeper and more profound truths, and of the practical implications for everyday life. Can I plead with you when we finish our study of Romans in just a few weeks, don't put this book away for the next five years and check it off your list? Instead, continue to remind yourself of these great truths; that's why Paul wrote it.

There's a third insight in these three verses about Paul's purpose for writing Romans, and that was it was written under God's authority, it was written under God's authority. Verse 15 goes on to say, "(Because I've written) because of the grace that was given me from God." Here's the reason Paul could write this letter with such boldness. God had assigned him this role; God had called him to be an apostle. And by the way, I love the fact that he says, it's because of grace. When you think of the Apostle Paul, do you think, "Well of course God chose him to be an apostle? I mean, God obviously looked down and went, 'Now, there is a really brilliant guy; I could really use him on my team; I'm going to make him an apostle.'" Paul says, "You got it all wrong! The only reason I'm an apostle is all grace!"

Look at chapter 1, verse 1, he says, "(I'm) called as an apostle." That's the same language he uses a few verses later to say that we've been called to believe. Look at verse 5, "…through (Jesus Christ) we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake." It's all grace.

Paul didn't found the church in Rome; he had never visited it, but he's saying to them, "Listen, I have legitimate authority to send you this letter; I have the right to remind you of these truths based on the grace of apostleship that's been given me by God." For what purpose did God call Paul to be an apostle? Look at verse 16, "…the grace…given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles." Paul's specific role as an apostle was to be a minister representing Christ to the Gentiles. We saw that just a moment ago in chapter 1, verse 5; in chapter 11, verse 13, "I am an apostle of Gentiles." In chapter 9 of Acts, verse 15, at his conversion, "(God says to Ananias, Paul) is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles." In Galatians 2:9, Paul says, "The other apostles recognized I was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles." And then in Ephesians 3:8, he says, "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches Christ."

The point is this book was written by the one God called to be a minister on behalf of His Son. So, stop there for a minute; that means that this is a reminder, not from Paul, but ultimately from whom? It's from Christ! Christ wanted you to be reminded of these gospel truths; it's to all Christians, but especially those of us who are Gentiles. It's from Christ to you, believer; it's from Christ to me.

Now, notice Paul describes his ministry here in priestly terms. In verse 16, "(I am) a minister." That word can refer to a government official like it does chapter 13, but it's often used of the ministry of Old Testament priests, and even of Christ as our High Priest in Hebrews 10:11. Then he goes on to describe that priestly ministry. Look at verse 16, "…ministering as a priest the gospel of God (That is the gospel that originates with God.), so that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."

Paul here pictures himself as a priest. The word for 'offering' occurs only here and Ephesians 5:2, in the New Testament. But, it's often in the Old Testament, referring to the sacrifices, real animal sacrifices. So, what's Paul saying? Paul is saying, "I'm using the gospel as the means by which I am offering Gentile believers as a living sacrifice to God."

Now, this priestly language is not literal, it's metaphorical. Paul, listen carefully, is not saying that New Testament ministers are priests; this is not Roman Catholicism. Charles Hodge writes:

Paul no more calls himself a priest in the strict sense of the term than he calls the Gentiles a sacrifice in the literal meaning of the word. (Hodge goes on to say,) In this beautiful passage, we see the nature of the only priesthood which belongs to the Christian ministry. It is not their office to make atonement for sin or to offer a propitiatory sacrifice to God but by the preaching of the gospel to bring men by the influence of the Holy Spirit to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God. (He goes on to say,) Listen, this is the only place in the New Testament where New Testament ministers are even compared to priests. They're never called that as a title.

Here, there's a comparison simply to say, I am offering, I'm playing the role of a priest when it comes to the gospel; I am offering the Gentiles to God who believed the gospel as an offering to God.

Paul's probably alluding to Isaiah 66:20 here which says, "…they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as (an)…offering to the LORD." That's a prophecy in context of Isaiah 66, that Jewish people, like Paul, would proclaim the true God to the people of all the nations and that many of those Gentiles would believe and those Gentiles would become an offering to the Lord. Paul says, "That's what I'm doing." Paul ends by saying that his offering of believing Gentiles to God, notice what he says, "is acceptable."

In the Old Testament, for God to accept a sacrifice, it had to be holy; it's still true. For God to accept believing Gentiles as an acceptable sacrifice from Paul, they had to be sanctified and God's Holy Spirit, notice, is the one who sets them apart. Don't miss that. You see, to unbelieving Jews in the first century, every Gentile was (What?) unclean. Paul says, "It's not true!" When a Gentile comes to believe in the gospel, the Holy Spirit sets him apart, he becomes clean, he becomes holy, he becomes an acceptable offering to God as a living sacrifice through the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, what do we do with this timeless, spiritual purpose? Paul says, "I wrote to remind you of these things again and again and again." How can we reflect that purpose in our own lives? Very quickly, let me just remind you of how you can follow the purpose of Romans and see it fleshed out in your life. Let's give you a couple of ideas.

Number one, read and reread Romans. Just come back to it again and again because we still haven't plumbed the depths of it; you haven't plumbed the depths of it.

Number two, go back and listen to this series again or go find other respected Bible teachers and listen to them teach the book of Romans. Find ways to get your heart and mind back in these truths.

Number three, read Milton Vincent's book, A Gospel Primer.

Number four, read Jerry Bridges book, The Gospel for Real Life. Read John Murray's book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. In other words, find books that bring you back to these truths that remind you again and again and again, not only of the basic truths, but that take you deeper into the incredible, profound truths that are part of the gospel. Brothers and sisters, Christ's purpose in giving us the book of Romans was so that we would have a constant reminder of these things. May you pursue that in your own life.

Let's pray together. Father, thank you for these rich truths. I do pray that you would help us to come back again and again, not only to the basic truths of the gospel, but to the fuller depths of these profound truths and to the practical implications for everyday life.

And Father, I pray for the person here this morning who doesn't know you, who's never really believed in this gospel. Lord, help them, they've heard it this morning, they've heard the gospel; I pray that you would help them to truly hear it and you would draw them to yourself through the gospel, that they would be willing to turn from their sin, to throw themselves on your mercy and what you've done in Jesus Christ, and find the forgiveness that's found in Christ and even the righteousness, the gift of righteousness, of a right-standing before you, based not on who they or what they've done, but based solely on the work of Jesus Christ our Lord. For His glory we pray, and in His name, Amen.