What kind of life do you live? Turning to Romans 1 today we discover that all Christians are to live a Gospel life. Paul wrote to the Romans perhaps the greatest of all NT books. Romans is the grand treatise on the grandest doctrines of our faith. The theme is how sinful people can be righteous before God. The answer to that is the Gospel – and only the Gospel. In this opening chapter we can find aspects of how the Gospel transforms us and then re-routes our lives towards God and His purposes so that we live Gospel-lives: that is, lives that promote, propagate, and perpetuate the Gospel in our world. Let’s look at 4 points today.
#1: God set us apart for the Gospel (v1)
Perhaps most important is our first point: God set us apart by the Gospel and He has set us apart for the Gospel. Notice verse 1, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God”. He said it again in Galatians 1:15, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace…”
Being set apart basically means to take something out from the whole group and designate it for some other special purpose. It may be a negative purpose: like in weeding flowerbeds. You identify the weeds, pluck them out, and set them apart from the flowers and bushes for the purpose of throwing them out. But being set apart may be a positive thing too: like fine china. These prized dishes are more valuable and are set apart in a special place from the other normal, everyday dishes. Fine china is used for special purposes, not common purposes.
This is the way Paul knew he was set apart by God: for the special purpose of spreading the Gospel. In Acts 9:15 God said this after Paul’s conversion: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” From that point on, Paul lived knowing full well that he was set apart by God in this way.
Perhaps this is why this theme that God’s people are a separate people runs like a strong current through all Scripture. Israel was separated from all other nations by God for Himself. Sometimes passages describe the Judgement as a setting apart of people, as in Matthew 25:32, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Or, in Matthew 13:49 where it says angels will come at the end of the age to separate out the wicked and carry them off to eternal fire. Other times we see set apart as something Christians do in keeping ourselves from participating in sin with unbelievers, like in 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate” says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you.” Like the recent Brexit vote in the UK, where they have decided to withdraw from the EU, it’s like that for us as Christians in our relationship with this world system. We voluntarily withdraw, or if you like, divorce ourselves, from participating in the corrupt system of this world.
But here in Romans we see the concept of being set apart specifically in this way: God has set us apart to His purposes in spreading the Gospel. Like the Tribe of Levi was taken from among the whole group of Israelites and set apart by God and specially designated as priests in Israel, so, too, we Christians are set apart by the Gospel and specially designated by God for promoting that same Gospel. This is part of the reason why we are called “saints”, it comes from the Greek word that means “holy ones”, or “separate ones”.
Who are you? Why do you exist? What is your purpose? These are powerful questions that if you never set your phone down long enough to meditate on them you will never allow God’s Word to operate below the surface of your life. When you know you have been set apart by God for His purposes it powerfully affects your self-paradigm. You see yourself in a different way. You see the purpose of your life differently. Your values change, your priorities are different, your sense of purpose and belonging and identity are all established by the fact that you are someone whom God has set apart for Himself and His plans. It used to be all about you. Now it’s all about how you orient everything about you towards the purpose of the Gospel.
Inherent in being a person set apart for God is that we don’t let our life become a hindrance to the furtherance of the Gospel. Our lives rather become set apart for the advancement of it. “I become all things to all men that I may reach some”, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and run the race marked out for us..” What that means is that we devote our day-to-day living and choices and way of talking to be of such high character that it credits our message. We die to ourselves to live to God through Jesus Christ, meaning everything in our lives gets oriented towards His purpose.
Each of us needs to do self-examination and ask: How does my life show that I am one of those whom God has set apart?
#2: We put our whole heart into spreading the Gospel (v9, 14-15)
Secondly, I want us to see in this chapter how we are to put our whole heart into spreading the Gospel. Several verses bring this out in different ways. It says in verse 9, “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the Gospel…” Then verses 14-15 say, “I am obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the Gospel also to you who are at Rome.” Notice Paul’s language: whole heart, obligated, eager.
You can tell when someone isn’t putting their heart into something they’re doing, or when they’re giving a half-hearted attempt. In baseball when an outfielder wouldn’t run fast to and dive to catch a ball we would yell at him and say, “Sacrifice your body!” In other words, if you really were playing your position with your heart and you really wanted that out you would have hustled to get there and even dove if you had to.
When someone gives a less than best attempt it’s because they don’t care about what they’re doing. They don’t care to do it well. They don’t care what the results will be if they do it well or not.
That wasn’t Paul. Paul played his position with all his heart. He cared about the work he was doing and put his whole heart and soul into it. He was eager and his eagerness made him feel obligated to preach to all men. Not obligated in a begrudging way, but, obligated in the way that a doctor feels obligated to help people who are sick and he has the medicine they need. He knew, as we should too, that with the Gospel we have the medicine for the dying souls of all men
You know why Paul felt that way? Because Paul knew he was set apart by God for that very reason. He was set apart to the Gospel. I want to suggest a connection here: Paul served whole-heartedly because Paul knew that’s what God set him apart to do. When someone confidently knows what their God-given purpose is the inhibitions are gone and a full-throttle devotion kicks in. When you know this is what God made you for then there is nothing else you’d rather do, and, there is nothing less you’d rather give to it than everything you’ve got.
People sometimes talk like this when they love their job. They say they can’t believe they get paid to do what they do. They love to get up in the morning and go to work. They love what they do so much they would do it for free. You are set apart to spread the Gospel.
You don’t have to be a preacher or a travelling evangelist. Evangelism is a lifestyle where you allow your heart to be burdened for the souls of people you know, where you pray for their salvation and ask God to give you open doors to share with them, where you build relationships with people where they can see into your set apart life and where you take chances to tell them about Jesus Christ and the cross. Evangelism is what we’re doing at church in various ways – MSC, downtown tracting every Saturday night starting next Saturday, Don Lubbers, and any other way we come up with.
Each of us who are set apart for the Gospel should feel the earnest obligation and eagerness to tell the Gospel to our world, and serve that purpose with all our hearts.
#3: We are never ashamed of the Gospel in front of others (v16)
Thirdly, we are never ashamed of the Gospel in front of anyone. Verse 16 says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew then for the Gentile.”
Are you ashamed of the Gospel? Are you ashamed of what you believe? Atheist champion Christopher Hitchens, now deceased, called the central tenet of our faith – the vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ – wicked, immoral, vile, preposterous, evil, and undeserving of the attention of civilized or thoughtful people. The historical event of God’s Son dying on the cross and taking the penalty for our sins is something we ought to be ashamed of for inventing and then proselytizing the world with. We are reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…”
Are you ashamed of the Gospel? At work? At school? With friends? As the culture gets more and more godless its animus is going to become more and more intense towards those who stand with the Bible. It is happening right now [Read Dickerson p45-46] We hear often that we are a post-Christian nation, but it is further than that and worse. We are rapidly becoming an Anti-Christian nation. When people go further from God their hatred of Him increases with each step they take further. The culture is conforming to the description of godlessness in the last half of this chapter. Read 18-32 (stress the last verse that they approve evil, and inversely, they hate righteousness.
Christians will be villainized, mocked, slandered and lied about with greater evil energy. Like Nero blamed the fires that destroyed Rome on the Christians so he could have public opinion on his side to persecute them, these are times where it is harder to stand for Christ and easier to abandon Him. Prepare yourselves: no matter how loving & non-judgmental you may come across on your FB profile the world is going to shape your public image as the enemy of the world’s progress:
“You think the Bible is true and not fables? You’re so naïve – its people like you who hold up scientific progress and are a threat to children’s learning.
You think Jesus is the only way? You arrogant bigot, who do you think you are to say other people’s religions are wrong?
You believe homosexuality is sin? You hateful homophobe, God is love, don’t you know that?”
“You don’t think men should use women’s restrooms? Who are you to judge?
Everyone will be telling you that you should be ashamed of your faith in Christ.
But, don’t shrink for a moment. Don’t ever be ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable about your firm stance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have the Light of Jesus Christ and you should never hide it because the crowd is unwelcoming – even hostile – towards your beliefs. And you will be tempted. Jesus knows this. He promised in Luke 21:17, “All men will hate you because of me.” But Christians should never be ashamed of Jesus Christ, for several reasons.
First, because He will be ashamed of us if we are ashamed of Him. He said in Luke 9:26, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words , the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” I don’t want to be embarrassed of myself when I stand before Him because I was embarrassed of Him my whole life. I don’t want to see Him on that day in all His visible glory and have Him look at me and immediately remember how I was embarrassed of Him in front of others. And then, in presenting me to the Father, be embarrassed that I belong to Him.
Second, the glory coming to you will be far more than the cost of suffering for it now. Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” The spiteful curses of the world are momentary, and worth the cost now in light of the fact that Jesus is going to return and reward us with immeasurable glory.
Third, because He will reverse the cultural ethos so that those who shamed believers will now become the ones who are shamed. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.
But, another reason why we should not be ashamed is explained in verse 16 and is our final point:
#4: God’s Power to Save is in the Gospel (v16-17)
God’s power to save is in the Gospel. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”
Here is the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only way of salvation for sinful people. Here we turn to see the goodness of God towards evil humanity. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus died for our sins to take them away from us. But He not only removes our sins from us, He also gives us the righteousness that we could never get apart from Him. That’s why verse 17 says, “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Philippians 3:9 says, “I want to gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
The only way anyone can be saved is through believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith and faith in Christ alone saves.