Gospel Community: Praying, Planning and Power

Here is a blog version of the sermon from this past Sunday evening (8/28/16).

We await a new heavens and new earth.  In the cross of Jesus Christ, the goal is to “ through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).  God’s recreation begins in us- as we become new creations in Christ.  We are the first fruits of a new humanity.  We as the church are a foretaste of the new creation to come.  Thus, this new community, this gospel community, should carry specific marks.

Romans 1:8-17 provides us with three of these marks.

The first mark of a gospel community is Gospel Praying (8-10)

In verses 8-10, Paul was intentional about praying for the people of God.
Even though Paul had never met the Romans, he longed to be with him.  He emphasized how consistently he prayed for them.  Paul writes,

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. – Romans 1:8-10

Paul thanked God for their faith which was being proclaimed in all the world.  First, this means faith is a gift we must thank God for.  God gets all the glory. Ephesians 2:8 echoes this, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

Second, this means that the Romans had lived in such a way that people from the Gentiles (the “world”) were hearing about the gospel and its work in them.  Our community should proclaim the gospel, via both word and deed.  All of us are called to proclaim.  Notice what Peter writes, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Paul continues and calls God as his witness: he prays for them and prays that he can come to them.  A true servant of the gospel desires to not only see the gospel save people, but for people to be brought together in community with that gospel.  True gospel community should be beautiful and sought after by believers.  Paul needed community.  To this he turns next…

A second mark of Christian community is Gospel Planning.  Paul was intentional about meeting with the people of God.  Look what Paul writes,

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Paul longed to see them and impart to them “spiritual gifts” to strengthen them.  Many have tried to make much of these “spiritual gifts.”  These spiritual gifts are far more ordinary than we realize.  Notice in verse 12 the words “that is.”  He defines that these gifts are:  each other’s faith and encouragement.  Even an apostle needed to gather with other believers.  The apostle Paul needed to go to church, how much more do we need community?

Paul’s desire was to come to them to “reap a harvest”- fruit is used in Scripture to refer to many things, often good works.  But, in this case it is refer to disciples.  Looking at Romans 16:1-16, we see that the gospel had bore fruit among the Romans and their community.  Paul’s gospel has reaped a harvest- we should rejoice in God’s work throughout the world.

Paul then says something shocking, I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:14-15).

Paul, as a believer and messenger of the gospel, was under obligation to speak it to others!  No matter who they are, everyone with the gospel has an obligation to make it known to others.  Martin Luther gives the illustration of believers as beggars showing other believers where to find bread.  We were once lost and hungry, but by the grace of God, we have found the bread of life.  We have a duty to show other hungry beggars where to find the bread.  This is core of what it means to love our neighbor

But, in Paul’s mind, the gospel is more than just how we get saved.  Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the believers in Rome.  The gospel is not the point A of the Christian life, it is the A-Z!  It is how we enter the kingdom, but also how we grow in grace and sanctify ourselves (that is what Romans 6-8 is all about).  The gospel is powerful and it is the power of gospel community.

Lastly, Gospel community is marked by Gospel Power (16-17).  In verses 16-17 we see the core verses of the whole book of Romans- and the power of Christian community.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

Paul was unashamed of the gospel because of its power to save, and its purpose to make people righteous by faith.  Let’s look at both of these realities.

  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation(16)

The gospel is the “dü’-nä-mēs” of God.  While some have argued that this is where we get the word “dynamite” from.  While this is disputed, regardless, it does provide a helpful word picture.  The gospel carries with it the explosion power of an almighty God.  The Gospel’s power is clearly shown in the fact that it brings salvation.  The gospel brings rescue from sin, both its penalty and its power.  It’s wrath absorbing, joy inducing, worldview shifting power is power that only comes from God!  In the gospel, Christ is the propitiation of God’s wrath, so that we might pursue eternal life and joy in God.  The gospel rattles and changes our whole world, it is the gospel that changes our mind and transforms our worldview (Romans 12:1-2).

And this faith was found first in the Jews (such as Abraham, we see in chapter 4) and then to the Greeks (Gentiles).  Romans 9-11 will explore this plan of redemption deeper.

  • Its purpose was to make men righteous by faith (17)

In the gospel…”the righteousness of God” is “revealed.”  What does this mean?  It means the righteousness of God is make clear (made bare).  Like a bright light in a dark room, the gospel makes the righteousness of God clear to the naked eye.

Two ways this happens:

In the gospel, believers are made righteous (set right) with God.  Notice what Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”  We are counted right with God on the basis of faith.  This is what theologians call our “justification.”

Second, in the gospel, God is shown to be righteous, by punishing sin.  Notice Romans 3:25-26, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed overformer sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  Jesus was put forth as a propitiation (a satisfaction of debt).  God satisfied His justice in the death of Jesus, while also extending His mercy.  He is both just (so that sin was actually punished, and not passed over) and He is the justifier (because sinners can be forgiven and welcomed into His righteousness.  The gospel is about His exaltation!

Salvation justifies sinners and exalts God!  Finally, we must recognize that this righteousness is revealed from “faith to faith” or NIV “from first to last.”  Who is this salvation for?  Everyone?  No.  Everyone who believes  Everyone who puts their full weight and confidence in its power to save, and its purpose (to make righteous) are “credited” righteousness. Justification is only by faith, not by works!   Abraham did not have the law, all He had was faith.  This is why he goes on in Romans 1:17 to quote Habakkuk 2:4- even in the Old Testament true saving faith (which endures and lives) is what saves!

By this gospel men and women are rescued from sin and placed in community where we exalt God together and make His righteousness known.

Image from here

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