Why Romans Matters (Part 3)

Romans 1:1-7

Tom Pennington  •  April 13, 2014
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I was thinking over the last couple of weeks as I was preparing for today that during my lifetime there has been a massive shift in who speaks with authority. Before this last generation there have always been gatekeepers of the information. There were newspaper editors, television news anchors, book publishers, who sort of managed what got out to the American people. They were the ones who decided who was sufficiently qualified to speak on any given topic with authority. Slowly, as technology became more available, and those of you who've lived long enough understand this, you saw this. The news became more and more about what the average man thought. There were constant surveys, there were man-on-the-street interviews as though their opinion really mattered.

And then came the internet. What had begun as a small drip quickly became a flood. The gatekeepers, as they're called, completely lost control. And every person with a computer and an opinion became an expert, at least to those who would read his blog, visit his site, or read her comments on social media. Let me just give you one example, just a pedestrian everyday sort of example.

If you Google the word "acne," (why you would do that I don't know, but let's say you did) you will find there are 152 million pages that are available to you about how to deal with this issue. You will find information from the traditional lifestyle changes that have been talked about for more than a generation, you will find medications old and new that can be used, and you will even find things as "alternative," and I use that word in quotes, as the way to deal with acne is a colon-cleanse. And all of this is presented on your computer screen as though every source is equal in knowledge and in authority. Now gradually, fortunately, people are beginning to learn that you have to sort through the results to determine who really is an authority, who really is qualified to speak on that issue.

Now the reason this is important for us is that it has also, this sort of mega-shift in the culture, has also signaled a change in how people respond to spiritual authority. It has become true within the church. Let me take you back for a moment to the first century and remind you that there was a voice of authority in the church; it started with Christ Himself, you remember the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew ends in Matthew 7:29 by saying this. The people were astonished at Jesus' teaching, "for He … [taught] as one having authority, and not as … [the] scribes [and Pharisees]."

His apostles spoke with authority. First Thessalonians 2:6, Paul writes, "… as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority." [And when they write they do assert that authority. They command us as to what we're to do and how we're to think.] In addition, Paul told Titus, his young son in the faith, who was an elder in a church on the island of Crete, he told him and all elders, when they teach the Scripture they are to teach with authority.

When I teach the Bible, I don't teach with my own authority, I don't have any authority, I don't have anything to say, but if I'm accurate in reflecting the Scripture to you I can speak with authority because it's not my word, it's God's word under which we all sit. So, in Titus 2:15, Titus is told by Paul, "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority." This was the attitude and the atmosphere that was present in the first century church.

And so, it's not surprising that within the early church there were many who claimed to speak with authority even though they had none. It's like the internet is in our day. In the early church it was important to have authority, and so people simply claimed that authority for themselves and began to speak as though they had it. You had false teachers, you had false prophets, in the church in Corinth you had the false apostles. That's why Paul begins most of his letters by citing the source of his authority, his authentic credentials, so that his readers can know that he truly has a God-given, Christ-given authority. God has uniquely called him and qualified him to speak as an authority into all of our lives. His credentials allow us to separate him from the religious noise. His voice can be filtered out from all the others. This is how he begins the book of Romans, as well.

Just to remind you in the first 17 verses of the book of Romans we had the opening to the letter. There are three paragraphs, verses 1-7. There are the greetings from Paul in which he introduces himself. He introduces the basic introduction to the letter as a whole. He introduces his recipients who's receiving this letter. In verses 8-15 we have the thanksgiving and prayer for the Romans, and then in verses 16 and 17 there's the formal statement of the letter's theme. It's about the gospel.

Now, this morning we continue our study of Paul's greeting in the first seven verses. Just to remind you, the first seven verses are in the Greek text one long sentence. Let me read it for you.

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now in these seven verses, in this greeting, Paul establishes why it's important for us to study and to read this letter. He gives us three reasons why Romans matters. We're examining the first reason, and that reason is because of who wrote it; because Paul wrote it. Now last time we looked at length at his identity, simply "Paul." Those churches in Rome opening up that scroll and coming to just the first word, the name Paul, that would have immediately made this letter important to them because of his identity, and we looked at who this man really was at length last time.

Today, we come to his credentials, his credentials. Paul lays out his credentials in three parallel expressions in verse one. Notice credential number one, "a bond-servant of Christ Jesus." Credential number two, "called as an apostle." Credential number three, "set apart for the gospel of God."

Today I just want to look at the first of those credentials because there is so much here. Notice what he says, "You ought to read this letter, it ought to be important to you, the book of Romans should matter, because I am a bond-servant of Christ Jesus."

Now, to begin with it's important to note that "bond-servant" is not an acceptable translation of the Greek word Paul uses here. The New American Standard is a great translation. I really prefer it for its literalness above all others. Occasionally, very occasionally, it makes a blunder like this and this would be one of them. Because the word "bond-servant" lacks the force of what Paul intended to say. If you've been a Christian any time at all you know this Greek word. The Greek word is "doulos." The leading Greek lexicon of first century Greek defines this word this way: "being under someone's total control, a slave." He goes on to say, "The word servant is substituted for slave, or excuse me, the word servant for slave, is largely confined to biblical translations and early American times." In other words, we inherited this from the early English translations, but it's not really an effective translation of the Greek word. The word is "doulos;" it is slave, and there's a key difference between servants and slaves. Servants are hired, and servants can walk away from their job; slaves are owned. To those in the churches in Rome who open this letter and begin to read, when Paul said, "I am a "doulos" of Christ Jesus" it only meant one thing to them, "I am a slave of Jesus Christ." "Doulos" was so common in that day that anyone hearing it would have immediately thought of a person who was owned by someone else. Paul says, "I am nothing but a slave of Christ Jesus."

Now before we look at what that means I want to make a larger observation here. When Paul begins to think about himself, the very first thing he thinks about is his relationship to Jesus Christ. That was the most important thing to Paul; his whole life revolved around Christ, it was centered in Christ. Just in the introduction to this letter he mentions Jesus Christ five times. James Boice writes, "This gets very close to what is chiefly wrong with our contemporary Christianity. Our religion is one of personalities, plans, programs, buildings, books, but it is not the faith of those who love Jesus."

Let me ask you this morning, when you think about your life, when you define your life, how do you define it? Is the first thing that comes to your mind your relationship to Jesus Christ? Now notice that the primary way, one of the primary ways that Paul defined his relationship with Jesus here in verse one is as His slave. Notice specifically how Paul identifies, since he's a slave, he has a master, and how he identifies his Master, his kurios. He says, "Christ Jesus" Christ as you know is not a name. Christ is a title. It comes from the Greek word Christos, and the Greek word Christos is a translation of the Hebrew word "hamasiah."

"Ha" the, masiah Messiah. And Messiah means, "the anointed one." He's simply referring to Christ here, he's referring to Jesus as the Messiah that the Old Testament promised would come, and he refers to Him as Jesus; that's His human name, which of course means Yahweh saves, it means God saves. Paul was a slave of Israel's Messiah, the One who was known as Jesus of Nazareth. This was Paul's common way to refer to himself. In Philippians 1:1, he says, "Paul and Timothy, 'douloi' ('douloi' is the plural of 'doulos') 'douloi' of Christ Jesus." Slaves of Christ Jesus. Titus 1:1, "Paul, a slave, a 'doulos,' of God …"

Now, this word doulos was informed in Paul's mind, certainly by the Roman institution of slavery, we're told by historians that as many as a third of the people living in Rome at this time were slaves. But I think because Paul grew up in a Jewish home, studying the Old Testament Scriptures, his understanding of this word was informed far more by the Scripture itself, the Old Testament Scripture as we call it.

You see the Roman Christians to whom Paul wrote had a common Bible. It was the Septuagint. You've heard me use that expression before. This is the Bible they used. Most of them didn't read Hebrew, and so the Old Testament Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, was written in Hebrew about 200 years before Christ. It had been translated from Hebrew into Greek, and it was translated by 70 scholars, as tradition has it, so it was called the Septuagint, coming from the word meaning 70.

And so, the Septuagint was the Bible they had, and they were familiar with how this word "doulos" was used in their Bible, in the Septuagint. And in the Septuagint this word "doulos" is used two ways. It's used of slaves, and it's also used in that familiar Old Testament expression, "the servant of the Lord." Many times you come across, you're reading the Old Testament, "the servant of the Lord." It's used in that expression. The slave of Yahweh, literally, it says.

Now Paul probably used the word slave here with both of those Old Testament meanings in mind. So, let's unpack that a little bit, both of those meanings. A slave of the Lord, then, speaks of two distinct realities. First of all, generally, it refers to every genuine believer, every genuine believer. In the Old Testament there are times when Israel as a whole is referred to as the "doulos of Yahweh," for example in Deuteronomy 32:36. But there are many times throughout the Old Testament when individual genuine believers in the true God are referred to as God's slaves.

Let me give you one of hundreds of examples, Psalm 34:22. "Yahweh redeems the soul of His 'douloi' (His slaves), and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned." Did you hear the parallelism there? All of those who take refuge in Yahweh, in the true God, are His douloi, His slaves. So, it's not a surprise then, when you come to the New Testament, to say that a person is a slave of Jesus Christ is simply another way to say that he's a Christian. Let me put it to you this way; do you profess to be a Christian this morning? If I came and asked you, had you come up here, would you say, "yes, I'm a Christian."

If you're a Christian, you are a slave of Jesus Christ. It describes believers as those whose lives are wholly devoted to the service of their Master. It describes complete submission, exclusive ownership, total dependance. Now this absolutely grates on our American ideals, but listen to me. If you are a Christian, you are not free. Let me say that again. If you are a Christian, you are not free. You belong to Jesus Christ. He is your Master and Lord. Galatians 5:24 calls Christians, "those who belong to Jesus Christ"

This by the way is why the Lordship controversy, as it's called, is not so much a controversy to us. Because if you're a Christian, Jesus is your Lord, and you are His slave. That's why Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote this, "This idea," and unfortunately this idea is very common here in the Dallas area, Lloyd Jones says, "This idea that you can believe in Christ first as your Savior only, and then perhaps years later go on to take Him as your Lord, is a denial of Scripture. From the moment He sets you free, He is your Lord, and you are His slave."

Look at 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 7. Paul's talking here about the state into which you've come into Christ, the social state, and he says what happens, 1 Corinthians 7:21, what happens if you were called, that is you were effectively called by the gospel into saving faith, while a slave? "Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that." Free, being free in terms of as being in slavery in this world is a good thing. But don't worry about it; don't make that your life ambition.

Verse 22, "For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman …" In other words, if you're a slave in terms of first century Rome, and you're, or Corinth in this case, and you are a slave, it's okay, because in the Lord you're free. But "likewise he who was called while free (that's all of us), is Christ's 'doulos.'" Christ's slave.

Turn over to Ephesians 6, Ephesians 6. Paul is dealing here with actual slaves who were in the church in Ephesus, and in Ephesians 6:5, he says,

"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ," [Now watch in verse 6 how he says something about all Christians, and not just those who are actual slaves.] "Not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as 'douloi' of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."

Folks, that is every one of us. That's a description of you; if you're in Christ you are a slave of Jesus Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Colossians 4:1, Paul says essentially the same thing. Colossians 4:1, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." You're a slave, and your "Kurios" is in heaven.

Peter, in 1 Peter 1, says the same basic thing but in a different way, 1 Peter 1:18,

"knowing that you were not redeemed (you were not ransomed, you were not bought out of the slave market) with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."

Peter says, "Listen, you were redeemed, you were ransomed, you were bought out of the slavery in which you were, and you're now owned by someone else, and the price that was paid is beyond imagination. It was the death of your current owner."

So, you get the idea. Turn over to Revelation 1:1. John the apostle writes, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His 'douloi' (that's us), the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His 'slave' John."

This is how the Bible ends. Turn over to Revelation 22. We're now in the last days, we're in the eternal state with a new heaven and a new earth, and the same thing is true. Revelation 22:3, "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and His 'douloi,' [His slaves,] will serve Him; [and] they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." That's a mark of ownership. Verse 6, "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true;' and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His slaves (us) the things which must soon take place."

Now, maybe you don't like the idea of yourself as a slave. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but every person in this room is a slave. This is what Jesus said. Turn over to John 8. John 8, there are no exceptions, you are a slave of something or someone. John 8:31,

"… Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him," [we find out later in the chapter they hadn't savingly believed, all of them, but they had begun to accept what He was saying,] "… 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' [And] They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, "You will become free"?"

Now, either this was the most head-in-the-sand approach to reality that's ever been, because of course at the time they were under Rome, or they're not talking politically here, they knew Jesus was talking spiritually, and they respond spiritually. They're saying, "We're Jews, we've always been spiritually free." To which Jesus replies, verse 34,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain…. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."

Free from what? Free from the slavery of sin. You see every single one of us without exception was born into this world in slavery to sin.

Look at Romans 6, Romans 6:16,

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either [you are a slave] of sin resulting in death, or [you're a slave] of [God and you obey Him] … resulting in righteousness? [Verse 17,] But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, [… before Christ, that's everybody …] you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Verse 22, "… having been freed from sin … [you became] enslaved to God …" Here's the bottom line. You are a slave. You are either a slave to sin, or you're a slave to God through His Son Jesus Christ.

Those are the only two options, and you're one of those. Now think about these two masters for a moment. Sin, the master under which we're born, under which undoubtedly there are people in this room who still find themselves, sin is a cruel and abusive master. If you've lived any time at all you know this. Because sin, it's so deceptive. It promises you, if you will do this, it will bring you joy and happiness and satisfaction, and as soon as you bite, as soon as you get into that, it captures you, and pretty soon you find you can't stop committing that sin, you become a slave to that sin.

But the problem is, it gives you less and less joy, less and less satisfaction, and in place it gives you greater and greater guilt. There is an increasing consequence, and a decreasing satisfaction, and day by day the abusive master, sin, tightens its grip on your life, and it will not let you go, and eventually it slowly steals the joy even from life's good gifts. It leaves you helpless and hopeless and utterly alone. You don't want anyone else to know. That's one master.

Jesus, on the other hand, describes Himself this way. Listen to Matthew 11:28,

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND [IN ME] REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Here are the two masters, here's what they're like. Our new Master, unlike our old master is kind and gentle and gracious and loving. In fact, He treats His slaves not like slaves, but like His friends, and His family. Listen to John 15:15. Jesus says, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father [I've] … made known to you." But you know, a master didn't tell his slave what he was doing and thinking. Jesus said, "You're not just My slave you're My friends, and so I'm going to tell you what I'm thinking and what the Father told Me and what I'm doing."

That's the Scripture we have here in front of us. But He not only thinks of us as friends, calls us friends, but we're family. Galatians 4:7, "Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." What amazing grace! When we were the slaves of sin, when we were captured by the monster that is sin that enslaved us, our new Master laid down His life, a horrible death on the cross, in order to buy us from the slavery of sin and from the justice of God. He laid down His life, and now He owns us, but He doesn't keep us abject slaves, He makes us friends, and the Father adopts us, and we become His children.

So, this word "slave" shouldn't conjure up images of American slavery. By the way, both the Old Testament and the New Testament roundly condemn the kind of slavery that was American slavery, in which a free man is snatched by force from his home and family, it's called in Exodus 21:16, kidnapping, and the penalty for it was death in the Old Testament Law. In the New Testament in 1 Timothy 1:10 kidnapping is roundly condemned as a violation of God's law; that's what it was. Often, sadly in slavery, a man has his humanity taken away from him, he is degraded, brutalized, treated as an animal; that is not what Paul means by a slave of Christ.

Instead, Paul's language was intended to bring together, bring into our minds something all together different. It was to bring to mind the image of the Old Testament slave who was so well treated, and so well loved who had practically become a member of the family so that when his freedom was offered he refused to go, choosing instead to stay voluntarily with his master for the rest of his life. As Christians, we are willing and devoted slaves of Jesus Christ; and it isn't something negative, it grows out of our joy and our gratitude for the kindness of our new Master who died to purchase us, to redeem us from the slavery in which we were born. So, Paul uses this expression of being a slave of Christ as a way to describe those who are Christians.

So, what are the implications of being a slave of Jesus Christ? Let me just point out a couple for you. First of all, your life is not yours. Your life is not yours. How many times do you hear people say, "Hey, it's my life." If you're a Christian, it's not your life. It doesn't belong to you. Look at 2 Corinthians 5. Second Corinthians 5:15. He says, "[Christ] … died for all," that is later in the chapter all of those who will believe in Him, "so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."

Your life is not your life to live however you want, to make all the decisions, to make all the calls, to do what you want because you like it. Murray Harris in his book, "Slave of Christ" writes that a slave's life was quote, "one of total dependance, the forfeiture of autonomy, and the sense of belonging wholly to another." Your life is not your own.

Secondly, your body is not your own. Look at 1 Corinthians 6. 1 Corinthians, 6:18; "Flee immorality." Run from sexual sin. Why? Well he gives a couple of reasons, verse 18; because, "… Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body." Secondly, "[… don't you] know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God.…"

And here's the third reason, "… and you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." Listen, your body doesn't belong to you, you can't engage your body however you want, you can't sin sexually and say, "Hey, it's not hurting anybody else." Your body isn't yours. It's God's. He bought it. And you don't have the right to decide how you'll use it.

There are a number of ways we could talk about this; your time is not yours to decide how to spend, "Well, you know church is okay but boy I really enjoy using my weekends for my hobbies. I really like sports. Yeah, Bible reading and prayer, I should be doing that every day but, huh I've got a full life, lotta things going on."

Listen, you are not your own, your time is not your own. Your resources are not your own. You don't get to decide whether or not you're going to support the work of Christ. Your daily decisions are not yours to make. Matthew 8:9 reminds us that a slave is told to do this, and he does it. That's what we're about. Your life's priorities are not yours to determine.

Listen to Paul in Galatians 1:10, "… am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?" [What is it I'm really striving for? What am I living for? What's the priority of my life?] "If I were still [living] … to please men, I would not be a 'doulos' of Christ." You see a slave only has one priority in life. It's, What does my Master want? I want to please Him. I live for His priorities and not mine. You live entirely for someone else.

He bought you, He owns you, and He has authority over you to tell you everything that you ought to do and ought not to do. He has the right to tell you how to behave in your marriage. He has the right to tell you how to govern your finances. He has the right to tell you how to live your life. He has the right to decide how you use your body, how you use your time, everything.

Every day, and in a real sense every moment, we must stop and ask ourselves, "What does my Lord, my Kurios, want me to do, with my life, my time, my schooling, my career choice, my retirement, my resources, my opportunities, my body, my priorities, my family, everything? It's not yours; you've been bought. You are owned. And the only thing that matters, is what the Person who bought you wants.

When Paul refers to himself as a slave of Christ, he means he's like us generally in that he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. But there's another point Paul is making in this expression a slave of Christ, and in this way, he's not like us. Specifically, he uses this expression as a title for one who is called as a minister of God. This usage, too, is common in the Old Testament. Just as there are times in the Old Testament when all genuine believers in the true God were referred to as His slaves, at the same time there is this frequent occurrence of the expression, "a servant of Yahweh," or in the Septuagint, "a doulos of Yahweh, of the Lord." A slave of the Lord. It was a specific title for those in a unique position of service to God.

Let me just give you a little list of people who are referred to in this way in the Old Testament. I have the references in my notes here, but I won't take the time to give them to you. You have to trust me on this one; you can look it up yourself. Abraham is called a "doulos of God." Moses, a "doulos of God." Joshua, the "doulos of the Lord." Samuel, the "doulos of God." Elijah, David, and often, the prophets as an entire group are referred to as the "slaves of Yahweh." Second Kings 9:7, "… My 'douloi' the prophets …" You see the Septuagint uses the word "doulos" in all of those cases; it describes someone who is in the direct service of God in the sense of a prophet or a spokesman or a minister. The same thing happens in the New Testament.

In the New Testament, while doulos can be used of all believers, it's used very specifically of key leaders whom God has appointed. It's used for example of Moses in Revelation 15:3. It's used of the Christian prophets in Revelation 10:7 and 11:18. It's used of the apostles in Acts 4:29 and 16:17. And Paul uses this expression often of himself; in Romans 1:1, in Philippians 1:1, in Titus 1:1, as well as in 2 Corinthians 4:5 and Galatians 1:10.

It's a title, it's a title. Listen carefully. Paul's primary point in Romans 1, in using this expression, "a slave of Christ Jesus," is not that he's a slave of Christ like all of us are slaves of Christ. In context that's not his main point. His main point is just that as Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets were servants or slaves of Yahweh, Paul is a slave of Christ Jesus. Did you notice the change from slave of Yahweh to slave of Christ Jesus? It's really amazing how simply the New Testament authors just slide from one to the other. It shows you their high view of Jesus Christ. He's on the same level as Yahweh, because He is God.

But Paul was claiming in Romans 1:1, he was claiming to be God's special representative. He was claiming to be God's spokesman in the same way the Old Testament prophets and Moses were. He was, in essence, claiming that he stood in the succession of the prophets. "I am the slave of Yahweh, I am the slave of Jesus Christ."

Now what did this mean to the Romans who received this letter, and why's it important to us? In the Old Testament, when the slave of Yahweh spoke, God spoke. That meant that to accept the slave of Yahweh and His message was to accept God Himself. On the other hand, to reject the slave of Yahweh and His message was to reject God Himself.

Let me show you this in one passage; I could take you to a lot of different ones, but turn to Daniel9. Daniel 9, this is that beautiful prayer of confession of Daniel, if you haven't read it recently I encourage you to read it. But I want to show you one thing here. Look at Daniel 9:6. "Moreover" [as he prays to God,] "we have not listened to Your 'douloi' the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land." Look down in verse 8;

"Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;" [How have we rebelled? Notice verse 10, this is key.] "nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings" [Now how did we hear the voice of God?] "which He set before us through His 'douloi' the prophets. Indeed, all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice.…"

Do you see the connection he's making here? He's saying when the slaves of Yahweh the prophets spoke, it was the voice of God, and when we rejected that, the prophets said, we were rebelling against God Himself.

Now if you're familiar with the book of Romans I mean obviously, this is what Paul is saying in Romans 1:1, he's saying, "I am a 'doulos' of God in this sense. I am speaking on behalf of God." And if you're familiar with the book of Romans you know we're going to come on some difficult issues. Romans 1, we are going to get to the total depravity of man – nobody likes to hear they're totally depraved. We're going to talk about homosexuality. We're going to deal with how a man's made right with God, and boy the world is filled with opinions about how a man's made right with God. We're going to hear Paul talk about the way in which we can become increasingly holy in sanctification.

Get to chapter 10, Paul's going to talk about divine election. Now there's a controversial topic. We're going to get to chapters 12 through 16 where he gets to the practical things of the Christian life, including telling us that we must submit to our government even when we don't like the man in charge. There're going to be a lot of things that you and I are going to be tempted to read and listen to and say, "Well I just don't agree with that. I don't like that. I don't know what I think about that election stuff."

Paul's point in the way he begins is this. You have no right to question what you read on the pages of his letter to the Romans, because he is a slave of Yahweh. He is a slave of Christ Jesus. He wants us to understand that God Himself, in the Person of His Son, is speaking to us in this letter. Paul has real God-given authority to speak on God's behalf, and if you ignore, or if you reject what he has written in this letter, understand this, you are not rejecting me, you are not rejecting Paul, you are rejecting God Himself. You are rejecting Jesus Christ your Lord. Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for this amazing letter that You've given to us. Thank you for Your providence in the circumstances You created that moved Paul to write it. Thank you that Your Spirit moved him along, and that the words he dictated to Tertius as this letter spilled out of his mouth, were the very words that You wanted communicated. Thank you that he was Your slave, Your official authority speaking into our lives.

Father, help us to slough off the spirit of our age in which everyone is an authority, in which our opinion matters as much as everyone else's. And remind us, O God, there is authority in this letter, that it has Your own authority behind it, that every word is Your word to us, it is the word of Your Son, and we ignore it, or reject it at great peril.

Father, give us submissive hearts to sit under the one who was and is Your servant, to give us Your word, the apostle Paul himself.

Father, I pray for those here this morning, and I'm sure there are some, who are still the slaves of their sin. Father, may You make that clear to them. Help them to see that there's freedom in Christ, that we exchange the slavery of the cruel master of sin for slavery that's willing and joyful and gracious and kind in the slavery to our Master Jesus Christ. And may this be the day when they put their faith in Him, in His provision at the cross, and He becomes their Savior and Lord, and they become His willing slave.

We pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.