• Caleb Rawls

Sermon: Unashamed Faith in God


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  always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.  I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

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.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” [1]

-Romans 1:8-17


Faith?

If there was one part of the Christian life that you and I were to be in our relationship with God we would find that faith is the main attribute that God wants his children to have. Have we ever stopped and asked why this is? Why does God want us to have faith in our lives when there are so many other characteristics that you and I could possess that seem much more powerful than faith?


What about courage? Who does not look at a warrior who would run into gunfire to rescue a fallen soldier as a courageous act? Movie after movie spotlights this characteristic.

What about boldness? We all love to see someone who is unashamed to proclaim a message, especially the ones that we agree with. Boldness seems to catch the eye of others.

What about wisdom? Wisdom might be an area that few truly wish to pursue due to the time and effort but wise men and women are noble and sought after by those who truly wish to know.


The list could go on and on with characteristics and attributes that are good and would seem to be important to possess in our relationship with God. Yet the overall message that we see in Romans is not going to spotlight any of these things. Romans is ultimately going to spotlight faith.


If you look in the front of your chair this morning you will find a card in every other pocket with a sheet with two words on it: “Define faith.” I ask that you take a few moments and write down your definition of faith. Just from your own life, not the Webster dictionary, write down what faith is in your relationship with God.


Outline of Romans

How many of you have seen those framed words that are made out of string? From a distance you see the word or the symbol and when you get closer to it you realize that it is a elaborate twisting and turning of a piece of string going back and forth between the nails at the outer rim. The book of Romans verse by verse is following the string going back and forth from point to point that ultimately gives us one of the most spectacular pictures of faith.


This very excessive elaboration on faith by Paul is born out of two reason that make this letter unique.


1. Paul did not plant the Roman Church.


Most of Paul’s letters are written to churches that he has planted. As he is writing the letter that we call today, “Romans,” Paul was writing to a group of people that made up a majority of people he had never met. This is unusual for Paul as most of his letters in the New Testament can be mapped out by the churches that he planted on his missionary journeys throughout the book of Acts.


Peter is given the credit for the establishment of the church network in Rome by tradition. Yet Acts gives no clear evidence of this and Paul would have to go against his conviction of church ministry to, “not build upon another person’s foundation.”(Rom. 15:20)


If Paul, Peter, or any other apostle did not plant the church in Rome, how did it originate?


2. Jewish Christians from Pentacost (Acts 2:10) brought their faith back to Rome and by the late 50s AD the Roman church would have become overwhelmingly Gentile.


Roman historian Suetonius wrote in his Life of Claudius that Claudius, “expelled the Jews from Rome because they were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” This term that bears a striking similarity to “Christ” has sent theologians into a curious frenzy. Much of the book of Acts deals with the Jewish and Christians disputes over Jesus being the Son of God. Acts 18 also mentions that Aquila and Priscilla were in Corinth due to Claudius’ declaration. From the time of this decree in AD 49 to Claudius’ death (that would have ended the decree in AD 54) the Roman church would have become a heavily vibrant Gentile church.


How do both of these points make the book of Romans unique? These two points show us that Paul or any of the other apostles did not know all of the churches in Rome yet there was still have a high concentration of Christians that were Gentiles. Here again we see another example of how God’s Spirit was moving outside of the ministries of the apostles. God’s power is evident in the life of Paul and Peter but it is most definitely not limited to their ministries.


You and I must also remember that no matter how important the work that God has for us God is not just working where you are. God is working all over this planet to bring those who would seek him into a relationship with Him.


For Paul this was good news for him. He was excited to see and experience the love and community that God had created in Rome. (Rom. 1) He did not see the ministry of other Christians as a force to be reckoned with but an opportunity to encourage and sustain what God had already done. Because of this unique situation Paul writes a letter ahead of his trip to Rome elaborating on the faith that is found in Jesus. Paul’s words have been used by God to build up the church and encourage Christians to understand the depth of their faith even in the twenty first century. Because Paul had never met these people and because they were a heavily Gentile church Paul sends a letter that will explain the historical roots of this faith and how it is now offered to the world through the faith that has come from the Jews. This extensive elaboration on faith to the Roman church is what makes this book so unique.


Still standing back at the entire book of Romans we get an outline that we have included in your bulletin like this:


Analysis of Romans[2][3]

I. The Letter Opening (1:1-17)

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18-4:25)

i. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18-3:20)

ii. Justification by Faith (3:21-4:25)

III. The Hope of Salvation Through Faith (5:1-8:39)

i. Reconciliation (5:1-11)

ii. Sanctification (6:1-23)

iii. Liberation (7:1-25)

iv. Sonship (8:1-27)

IV. The Defense of the Gospel: The Problem of Israel’s Faith (9:1-11:36)

i. Tension between God and Israel (9:1-5)

ii. God’s Sovereign Election (9:6-29)

iii. Christ as the Climax in History (9:30-10:21)

iv. Israel, the “Elect,” and the “Hardened” (11:1-10)

v. Future of Israel (11:25-36)

V. The Transforming Power of The Gospel: Christian Conduct (12:1-15:13)

i. Transformation (12:1-2)

ii. Humility and Mutual Service (12:3-8)

iii. Love (12:9-21)

iv. Christians and their Rulers (13:1-7)

v. Love and the Law (13:8-10)

vi. Living in the Light of Day (13:11-14)

vii. Unity (14:1-15:13)

VI. The Letter Closing (15:14-16:27)


This is an overview and does not get down to the nitty gritty details but it does give you and I a big picture of how this book is composed. The heart of it is that the gospel has come for sinners to be justified (made right with God) and live in view of this salvation in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.


Romans deals heavily with salvation and the subjects that surround our salvation.


There is a reason why so many have used the Roman road as a way to share the gospel… because it is all about the depth and the details of the gospel.


Almost three years ago we took on the topic of salvation. Big subject to elaborate on that will make you loose sleep at night. Pastors and those who are serious about understanding and sharing the depth of the good news should be restless over comprehending the plan of God to redeem sinners. At the end of the tunnel we made a triangle that help us comprehend salvation a little better. It looked something like this.


What we found was that being saved is not simply about belief in God. Salvation had a three part process that made up the entire life of a person that was being brought to God.


1. Justified (Made right by Jesus)

We learned that God in his grace can make any sinner right in front of God if there is a true Spirit lead hearing of the good news, a soul felt conviction for God, and a visible repentance and turning away of sin. God is the one who justifies or makes sinners right with God. He does all of the work. This is the foundation of our salvation.


2. Sanctified (Being made like Jesus)

Often times we make salvation totally about being made right with God, but when we dive into the scriptures we begin to see that we also have a part in the salvation process. It is not a one time event but a life time of transformation in response to Jesus making us right with God. Sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus, is the life of the Christian. Therefore it makes up a major part of the salvation process here in the triangle.


3. Glorified (Brought into eternity with Jesus)

The final step of salvation is our glorification that happens when we leave this earth and enter into the joys of a new heaven and a new earth that is completely renewed by the power of Jesus. Glorification shows us that salvation ends and our death but is the sustaining grace that brings us into eternity with our God. Glorification shows us that Jesus is not a mule to ride till we get to the end of our life to enter into a life that we would want. Glorification shows us that we are brought to eternity with the love or our very souls, Jesus.

The book of Romans takes on the shape of this triangle. It begins with straightforward justification and then wrestles with the process of sanctification and finishes with the hope of our future glorification. Romans is about salvation.


So what message is there in the first section that pushes us into this book? Paul gives us two different types of longings that he has for the Romans.


1. A longing to love and equip the church

2. A longing to proclaim the gospel to everyone


How many of you would sign up to play a sport where you could not in any way play in an actual game, only practice? How many of you would go shopping with no way of actually buying anything? Surprisingly there are some people who do that (my wife) but for the majority of people they want to “get in the game” so to speak.


Yet American Christianity has been overwhelmed with practice and barley ever played the game. Practice is our spiritual growth within the church with our fellow believers and the game is living out our faith in proclaiming the gospel to the world that needs to hear it. Practice and playing the game are essential, and the American church has proven that you can be a spiritual glutton.


I heard a speaker who went to a seminary in India where they had a graduation for the seminary students there. Graduating from this seminary was a big deal. To graduate you had to do so much evangelism and outreach that was documented. Baptize a certain amount of individuals and in the end plant the church that you would ultimately pastor. There was no way to simply go to a church and start equipping, you had to literally produce the church you would shepherd.


Everybody in this room should have a desire to see the church grow. That is biblical, we are commanded to reach people and when people are reached they are brought into the community of God’s people to become more and more Christ like. Few people object to growing the church (not with Christians from other places; those who are far from God) but few take action to bring the gospel to the world. Because of this imbalanced outflow of the Spirit in our lives we must ask our self at the end of the day: Why am I not sharing the gospel?


For Paul the gospel was the motivation for him to seek to equip and encourage the church that was in Rome. There is no doubt that this is the main reason behind why he is writing this letter. But Paul was not gospel motivated for the church by its self. He was motivated to come to Rome because he was unashamed of what the gospel stood for in front of “everyone.” Everyone encompasses people outside our faith and within.


Paul was unashamed of the good news.


When you step back and look at your week, where did you find that you were ashamed? Were you ashamed to speak of the gospel at your job? What about your home? What about your Sunday School Class? What about your social media? Are there only certain types of people that you will discuss the good news of the gospel with.


In the twenty first century we have a very different understanding of the term gospel compared to the way that Paul was talking about the gospel. The term gospel in this passage would have been very much a political term rather than a Christian term. We have heard that the gospel simply means “good news.” But the main type of good news in the gospel form was when a new Emperor would come to the throne. Cause they didn’t have an iPhone they couldn’t just Facebook Live that they have took the throne, they had to send out messengers that would go into the lands and proclaim a the “gospel” that a new Caesar was on the throne.


Paul has a new Caesar that is on the throne and it is not Nero or Claudius, it is Jesus Christ and he is unashamed to go and proclaim to everyone that he is on the throne.

Do we still carry that same understanding in our “Rome” of today? Are we still like Paul proclaiming the gospel of Jesus or the current gospel of whatever “Nero” that is on our throne here in America.


Paul wanted everyone to hear the gospel and had a desire to see faith arise in the people who heard when they came together as the church. This was Paul’s longing then and it should still be a longing that we as a church should have for our community.

As we close, I want you to really evaluate where you are right now.


Am I ashamed of the gospel? If so, where is my shame at? In sharing it with my family? In sharing with my church? In sharing with those outside the church?


If today you answer yes to any of those then we look a lot like someone in the bible. Peter. Ashamed of his Savior in the courtyard where Jesus was on trial to be crucified Peter denies Jesus over and over and over again. Peter ran away, realizing that he was ashamed in front of others. Yet in John 21 Jesus asks peter a question 3 times. “Simon… do you love me more than these?”(Jhn 21:15) Jesus gave Peter another shot and Jesus gives you that same opportunity today.


When we are completely in love with Jesus we will not be ashamed to mention him to others…


I want that to be true for you today. If it is then when we sing, rejoice in the love that you have. If it is not, what is stopping you from truly loving Jesus with an abandon so that you can shout Jesus unashamed of your love for him.


When we are completely in love with Jesus we will not be ashamed to mention him to others…




Notes

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 1:8–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. [2]Moo, Douglas. The Letter to the Romans 2ndEdition. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids Michigan. 2018. Pg 29-33 [3]Allen Clifton. The Broadman Bible Commentary Volume 10 Acts-1Corinthians.Broadman Press. Nashville, TN. 1970. Pg 160-162.

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