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The Greatest Book in the Bible

Romans 1:1

 

 

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It's all great...but if I had to choose the greatest, well...we'll get to that.

 

If in your life the bottom is falling out, you'd better examine the foundation. You need a foundation. We need a sure word, a solid word for unsure times. And today we're going to begin to talk about a foundational book that changed the world. I've got many books in my library, I love books. Books are important, and books have great influence.

 

Adolf Hitler, with his twisted and warped brain wrote a book, Mein Kampf, and in that book he espoused his Nazi philosophies. The results of the thoughts in that book was a horrendous world war, the gas ovens, the Holocaust, six million Jews exterminated. A book, Mein Kampf.

 

Hitler got his ideas from reading another book by Nietzsche, a perverted atheist--he hated God, he declared blatantly, God is dead! Hitler drank from that book, and his mind was warped.  By the way, Nietzsche is dead, and God is alive!

 

Another man wrote a book, Karl Marx, and Karl Marx wrote a book on communism, dialectical materialism, Das Capitale. People read that book, the Russian Revolution was born, the Communist Revolution. Millions of people paid with their life's blood, others were enslaved, the world rocked and ruined by communism. A book, a powerful book.

 

Charles Darwin wrote a book, The Origin of the Species, and there he talked about blind evolutionary force and that man is not made, created in the image of God, but rather he is an accident of nature, he has descended from the apes. People read that book and made a monkey of themselves, believing that they are an orphan of the apes.

 

Books have power, but no book has the power that the book that you have open in your hand right now has, the power for good, for God, and power that has changed the world radically, dramatically, and eternally, and the book that will go on through the ages and it is the book of Romans. It has been called the constitution of Christianity.

 

Let me tell you the power of this book. There was a Roman Catholic monk, his name was Martin Luther. Martin Luther had tried to get right with God by ritual, by penance, by good deeds, by all of the accouterments of the church, but his heart was empty. He took a pilgrimage to Rome. In Rome there were some stairs, purported to have been the stairs that Jesus ascended in Pilate's judgment hall. They felt that the blood of Jesus had surely dropped on those stairs. Martin Luther went to Rome, got on his knees on the holy stairs, and on his knees he began to pray on every step, kissing each step as he went up, asking God to bless him, trying to get closer to God. But he himself said, I was no closer to God when I got to the top than I was at the bottom. His heart was hungry, but Martin Luther had been studying the book of Romans. And Romans 1:17 burst alive in his heart and his mind--"the just shall live by faith." And he saw justification by faith, which is the theme of the book of Romans, and he was saved, converted, born again. The Protestant Reformation began, there was a Great Awakening, it swept Europe, it swept the world.

 

We've entered into it today, the power of the book of Romans.

 

St. Augustine, FL gets its name from a man, Augustine. Augustine was a young college professor who lived a wicked, wild, lascivious life, consorted with prostitutes, but he had a burden of sin and he tried to alleviate himself of that burden of sin. And one time he was out in the garden seeking God and he heard a little girl singing a song over a garden wall, a little song, "Take up the Book and Read, take up and read." He thought, What is this about? He opened the Bible right to the book of Romans and began to read and there he found a verse that stabbed him in his heart and he found the Lord Jesus Christ and became the man the people today call St. Augustine, one of the great theologians of the early church.

 

There was a man named John Wesley. He was very religious, very well motivated, so motivated that he left England and went to America to be a missionary, to convert the American Indians. He went to the state that we call Georgia. He stayed there, he had a fruitless ministry there. He got on a ship to come back home, discouraged, dispirited, feeling a failure, and he met some Moravian missionaries and these Moravian missionaries had the life, the beauty, the joy of Jesus! He knew they had something he didn't have. He went back to London. There he was at a place called Alders gate. He went to a little meeting, and there they were studying the book that you have open in your lap, the book of Romans. This man said, I went to America to convert the Indians, but who will convert me? He said, I felt my heart strangely warmed and I had the assurance of my salvation. Out of that experience the great Wesleyan Revival began that swept across England.

 

If I were shipwrecked on an island and could only choose one book of the Bible to take with me, I believe I'd take the book of Romans. Oh, but thank God we don't have to take just one. Hallelujah, thank God we've got all sixty-six. Praise God for that. But what a wonderful book, what a wonderful book is the book of Romans.

 

Now, we're going to look at the book of Romans and we're going to think about it as the book that changed the world, for indeed it did. And we're going to look at it like we might look at some other books. For example, we're going to look at the table of contents--what is in the book of Romans? Well let me just give you a little outline here.

 

The first three chapters of the book deal with sin. They tell us what's wrong with the world. And then, chapters four, five and six deal with salvation; thank God He doesn't just show us our sin, He shows us a way out. And then chapters seven and eight deal with sanctification. You found out as I found out--it's one thing to get saved, isn't it, but it's another thing to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And sanctification means becoming more like Jesus, that's all it means. And so, you go from sin to salvation to sanctification. And then, as you continue through the book, when you get into Romans nine, ten, and eleven, it deals with sovereignty--it shows how God is sovereign over the universe, how God from eternity past to eternity future is in charge. What comfort we're going to find when we get in this passage that deals with the sovereignty of Almighty God. And beginning in chapter twelve where we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, right on through the end of the book, it deals with service--it shows us how to serve this sovereign God, how to be in a very practical and a very real way the Christian we ought to be. So, that's the preface to the book, that's the table of contents that tells us what this constitution of Christianity is all about.

 

Now we've talked about the table of contents and the preface, let's talk about the author. Who is the author of this book?

 

Well, we know ultimately the Holy Spirit is the author, but who is the human author? Well, let's begin in chapter 1 verse 1: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God." He was a privileged Jew, he was a very brilliant young man, he was an honors graduate of the University of Tarsus, he was fluent in many languages, he was a world traveler, he was very strict in his religion, very much a student, and very much aware of world affairs.  He also was a Roman citizen. That meant that he had the privileges that Rome had in this day, so he was a free man, he was not subjugated like other Jews, he could come and go and he could travel as he wished.

 

Beside all of that, he had the privilege of doing graduate work under a professor named Gamaliel. Gamaliel was one of the best teachers, if not the best known teacher, in all of that part of the world. Paul was his prize student. On top of that, Paul was a part of the most strict religious sect in Judaism, the Pharisees, and not only was he a Pharisee, but he said later on he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, he was the highest of the high, he was at the very top. This man was prized and had a pedigree a mile long. But now I want you to learn some things about him, what happened to him.

 

He met the Lord Jesus, you remember, on the road to Damascus, was gloriously, wonderfully saved, and now what do we learn about him. Well let's just start with the very first word in the first verse, "Paul," Paul. Do you know what the name Paul means? It means little. You see, his name wasn't always Paul. At first his name was Saul. Named after a king.  Who was the original Saul? King Saul of Israel. King Saul of Israel was a big guy. He was head and shoulders above everybody else. He was tall and handsome and arrogant. The very name Saul reeks with pride, it means big one, successful one, that was his name. That's the name of the guy who wrote this book. But he doesn't call himself Saul, he changed his name from big guy to small. Why? Because God cut him down to size. I mean, if there's anybody who'd had a reason to boast, if there was anybody who had a reason to strut, it would've been this man Paul, but he did not do that. He introduces himself as Paul.

 

Let me give you a couple of verses that give an indication of why he changed his name. Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 8. He says, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given." And then he says in First Corinthians 15 verse 9: "For I am the least of the apostles." You know he saw himself in the sight of God as a nobody; it doesn't mean he has an inferiority complex, he just knew that he was what he was by the grace of God.

 

Do you know who Reggie White was? Reggie White is in heaven today.  He used to play defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers. He was a minister at heart, and was called 'the minister of defense!'

 

It'd be just as simple to stand in front of a moving locomotive as to stand in front of this guy when he lines up and to try and block him out; it took a couple of men to hold this dude down. But I heard this man, who was a passionate Christian, "I am a nobody, telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody."  It was a powerful testimony.  And I just wanted to share a little love w/ the Packers prior to their Super Bowl loss tonite!

 

Now, you may be at sometimes too big for God to use, but you'll never be too small for God to use you.

 

V. 1 continues, "A servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle." Now look at the word servant. That word means slave. It means a particular kind of slave, it's a word that means bond slave. If a man got himself in debt and he could not pay the debt, he became the property of the man that he owed money to in Bible times. He was what they called a bond slave and he had to work for that individual because he'd indebted himself to that individual. But the Bible, in mercy, set a law [the law of jubilee,] that said after seven years all of the bond slaves had to be set free. Sometimes a bond slave, at the moment of his freedom, would say, Hey, wait a minute, I don't want to be set free, I'm better off under this man than I was by myself, he feeds me, he clothes me, he cares for me, he loves me, I'm like one of the family, I don't want to be free, I love my master, I want to stay under him, I want to be his bond slave. Well, if he made that decision that he wanted to do that, they called the judges of Israel, and they would say, All right, let's put a mark on him. And they brought him to the doorpost, would take his earlobe and would take an awl, and put it through his earlobe, the Bible says, "Thou hast opened mine ear," that's what it's talking about, right here. And there'd be a hole there, it would be the mark that he was a bond slave. The apostle Paul said, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."  He became a bond slave and that means he is a willing slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Well, you say, count me out Pastor, I don't want to be anybody's slave. You already are. Either you're a slave of Christ or you're a slave of sin. Everybody is in bondage somewhere.

 

You see, here's the thing. The unsaved man said I want to be free, I am my own man. He proceeds to go down into the worst degradation and bondage there is, the bondage of sin, Satan and sin and self are cruel taskmasters. But when a man says I will become the bond slave of the Lord Jesus, I love my master, then the Bible says, "If the Son shall make you free you are free indeed." He discovers the most glorious freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ. If I had ten thousand lives I'd give every one of my lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, because it is Christ, through that perfect bondage, that sets us free.

 

Now listen very carefully or you're going to miss this. A bond slave is not somebody who says, All right since I'm his slave, it's no longer my will, I'll do his will. No, no. That's good, but that's not good enough. A bond slave doesn't say his will instead of my will, it says his will is my will. It is not laying down arms, it is taking up arms for the one that you love.

 

Have you ever thought of the scripture that says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart," that's over in Psalm 37. That sounds like too good a promise for God to make, doesn't it? You say, Okay, Lord, I love you, I want a million bucks. No, because if you say, Lord I love you, now give me a million dollars, what was the desire of your heart? Money. Or you say, Lord, I love you, give me the desire of my heart-fame and popularity. No, the desire of your heart is popularity.

 

But when, when you say, I delight myself in the Lord, you can have the desire of your heart because your desires are his desires and his desires are your desires and therefore you can be a Christian and do whatever you want.

 

Let me tell you something. I get drunk every time I want to. And boy I hope nobody pulls that little sound byte out of this message. I get drunk every time I want to. I don't want to, never been drunk, never intend to get drunk, I'd just as soon eat dirt.

 

People say, Oh, if I believed in eternal security, man I'd get saved and I'd sin all I want to. Well, I don't sin all I want to, I sin MORE than I want to. If you still want to, you need to get your wanter fixed, you need a brand new wanter, you need to be born again. Paul says, I am no longer a big shot, my name is now Paul, not Saul, I am saved, I am surrendered.

 

-----

 

But let's continue to read. Look at it again here. We're going to find something else out about the author. He says called to be an apostle.  He didn't say, "I'm looking for a profession, I just believe I'll be an apostle." No, I believe in the called ministry, and he says, thanks be to God who counted me worthy of putting me in the ministry. I believe God put me in the ministry. I've sometimes thought about what I might do if I weren't in the ministry but I can't think of anything.  And this same chapter says we're all called. Verse 6, "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ."  

 

You say, Why are you telling me all this about Paul? Because Paul said, You follow me as I follow Christ. He's an example for you. So he was saved, yes he was. And, and he was surrendered, yes he was. And he was sent, yes he was, he was called of God; he had a purpose, a mission for his life. And I'll tell you something else, now, watch it very carefully--he was separated. Now don't miss this. He says here, "Separated unto the gospel of God."

 

Now it's very important, the key word there is not separated, the key word in my estimation is unto the gospel of God. Now Paul had already been separated, he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, you talk about people who lived a quote separated life, that is, all of the outward sins of the flesh he abhorred, he walked the straight and narrow.  They were so careful that they paid tithe of mint, anis, and, cumin, that is when they were paying tithes, they had a little  mint plant, they'd count all ten leaves, take one of them, the tithe, and give it to God, one tenth of every sprig of mint, for example. Ye pay tithe of mint, anise, and cumin.

 

Paul was already separated from sin. You see, if that's all the separation you have, you know what it's going to make you? A proud, bitter, haughty Pharisee like the apostle Paul was when he was persecuting the church before he met the Lord Jesus and before he found the grace of God. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so if you get these things out of your life but you don't get Jesus Christ into your life, if you are separated from but not separated unto, you're going to become nothing but an old Pharisee, that's what you're going to become. And you need to ask yourself, Is there a little Pharisee in me? Ask yourself that question, because you see, we're to be separated unto the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now what some people believe is separation is, I don't smoke and I don't chew and I don't go with girls who do. Okay, neither does a fence post. If you've got no more religion than a fence post giving up things will not make you one iota more like Jesus Christ. It'll make you a Pharisee, but it won't make you like Jesus Christ. You've got to be separated unto the gospel of Jesus Christ and of course when you're separated unto something you're separated from something.

 

The word separated here is the word we get our word horizon from. If you go off up to a tall building somewhere, and look around three hundred sixty degrees as far as you can see. That's the horizon. That's where the earth just tails off and that's your world. Now, do you know how to change your horizon? Change your location, just change your location. Every time you change your location you change your horizon. So what determines your horizon is your center. So, when Jesus Christ is your center, then that horizon is your world, you see. You are separated unto him. When you find the Lord Jesus Christ, you will find a new center. And then you're not going to be talking about what you gave up  for Jesus, that's foolish. You're gonna understand what you have in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We talked about the table of contents, we've talked about the author of the book that changed the world. Now let's talk about the hero of the book. Every good book has a hero, and the hero of this book is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

vv. 1-4     Right up at the beginning of the book he moves it to the front burner. He says, Folks, I'm the guy who's writing the book, but let me tell you who I'm writing about, it is concerning God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you don't know and love the Lord Jesus Christ you're not going to understand the book of Romans until God puts the light on in your soul. It is a book about the Lord Jesus Christ and, that's what Christianity is. Christianity is Christ.

 

The author of the book, Paul, the hero of the book, Jesus. The theme of the book, the Gospel.

 

Notice how it begins again. Verse 1: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto," what? "the gospel of God." And right there he tells us the source of the gospel. Paul didn't think it up. He said I didn't receive it from man, neither was I taught it by man. It is the gospel of God, so don't tamper with it, don't pervert it. Paul said to the Galatians, "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which I've preached unto you, let him be accursed." Why? Because a false gospel will lead to a synthetic salvation that will lead to a very real hell.

 

Paul is not trying to be politically correct. He said if an angel comes and preaches any other gospel let him be accursed. Paul said if I preach any other gospel unto you than that which I've preached, I need to be accursed. It is the gospel of God.

 

Why do we have churches that are filled with moral worldlings who've never been born again? You know, church is supposed to be a sheepfold, but it's more like a zoo. Why? Because people have met religion, they've not met Jesus; they've met denominations, they've not met Jesus; they've met programs, they've not met Jesus; they've met causes, but they've not met Jesus. Christianity is not a creed, not a code, not a cause, it is Christ. Meanwhile, many come to church just for social reasons.  Some must get good cell signal here because they come to text or surf the web!

 

But here at GBC it's all about Jesus!

 

You can take Confucius out of Confucianism and still have Confucianism. You could take Buddha out of Buddhism and still have Buddhism. You could take Mohammed out of Islam and still have Islam. But you cannot take Jesus out of Christianity and still have Christianity. To take Jesus Christ out of Christianity is like taking the water out of a well, the blue out of the sky, notes out of music and numbers out of mathematics.

 

The source of the gospel is God. The subject of the gospel, Jesus Christ. And the supply of the gospel is in verse 5: "By whom we have received grace and apostleship." Do you know what grace is? Grace is what makes God save people like us apart from works of any kind. It is the sheer, absolute gift of God. The just shall live by faith, by faith I receive the gift of God. By faith I receive the grace of God. We're going to learn about that in the book of Romans, what a wonderful book this is.

 

A little boy came forward in a church service and wanted to be baptized and they said, Well, son, tell us how you got saved? He said, Well I did my part and God did his. Well they didn't like that; they said, Well tell us about your part. He said, I did the sinning and he did the saving.

 

That's it! Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

 

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