Sermon on Passages from Romans
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 3/11/2023
©2023 by Maylan Schurch

(To watch the entire worship service, click the link just below.)

Please open your Bibles to Romans chapter 1.

This is still another sermon in a brief series I’ve been preaching since the beginning of the year, called “The Gospel According To . . . .” We’ve looked at the gospel according to Jesus, the gospel according to Acts, and the gospel according to Peter, and this morning we’re going to look at the gospel according to Paul.

Now, this is of course a rather intimidating thing to try. That’s because Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament, and he had a lot to say about the gospel. And quite a few of his best “gospel” quotes aren’t even found in Romans. But Romans was the book where he went into the greatest detail about the gospel.

As I was studying Romans over the last couple of weeks, I suddenly remembered a story which my brother-in-law Ron told me. One day Ron and his son, my nephew Michael, decided that they would go on a father-son adventure. They decided that they were going to take a little canoe trip and paddle down the James River.

Now, the James River is 710 miles long, so they weren’t going to go the whole way. Instead, they were planning to paddle seven or eight miles from Fisher Grove State park westward to the vicinity of our hometown, Redfield, South Dakota.

Both Ron and Michael are outdoorsy guys, so they enjoyed heading out in their canoes. They paddled happily along, enjoying the scenery. But then they started to notice something. They would see a tree, and then they would paddle along for a bit. Then suddenly one of them would say, “Wait a minute. Didn’t we see that tree before?” Sure enough. It would be that same tree, this time from a different angle!

This happened several times on that trip, and they quickly discovered that the James River was not going in a straight line. Instead, it was winding, twisting back on itself. So you might spot a landmark, and see that same landmark an hour or two later.

The guys eventually made it to their destination, but their shoulders told them that they had traveled a whole lot more than seven or 8 miles!

That’s kind of the feeling I got when I studied Romans in the past few days. Romans has 18,000 words in it, which is about the length of five or six Sabbath morning sermons. So it’s long – like the James River is long. And Paul definitely does not go in a straight line. The letter to the Romans is the most detailed discussion of the gospel in the New Testament, and Paul circles back a lot, to make the points he knows need making.

So I’d like you to join me on a brief “canoe-paddle” through Romans this morning. There is a lot to see, but I would like us to watch for five specific landmarks. Actually, on that river trip you can see signposts. Nailed to fenceposts you’ll sometimes see “NO TRESPASSING” signs. We could call them signposts. As we travel through Romans, we’ll see some signposts more than once, because Paul thinks they are worth reemphasizing. And each of these five signposts is important to your and my salvation. They will bring us encouragement as we watch them approach.

So, dip those paddles into the water. We don’t know how long our journey will be on this earth, so we need to study these signposts and understand what they’re saying.

Paul spends the first few verses of Romans 1 greeting his readers. He knows that when that letter gets to Rome – just like all his letters to other churches – it will be read out loud, probably on a Sabbath morning. (Except this letter will take a whole lot longer than a 30-minute sermon time!)

Paul talks about how he would like to get to Rome eventually. And then comes verse 15.

Romans 1:15 – 17 [NKJV]: So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Here comes the first important Romans signpost. If you’re taking notes, you could call this Sermon Point One.

Paul’s first Romans signpost is that the gospel has power to save me.

If you make it a habit of reading the Bible from time to time, you’ve probably noticed what I’ve noticed: you’re reading through a verse you’ve read before, and suddenly you see something in it you hadn’t noticed.

That’s what happened to me with this verse. I guess I’ve always subconsciously thought of the gospel as an idea, or a truth that we need to accept. And of course it is that. But right here, Paul says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation. The gospel isn’t just a sensible idea – it is power. That’s the Greek word dunamis, which is where we get the word “dynamite.”

Why is it so important for me to understand that the gospel has power to save me? Well, Paul was writing to people who had become Christians after being Jews their whole lives. And the Jews tended to believe that keeping the law was how you got saved, and stayed savable. And they definitely had a hard time believing that the gospel could be for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The Jews were the chosen people, so how could the Gentiles dare to think they could shoulder their way in and get the Gospel’s benefits?

But if the gospel has “dynamite” power, power that can make a supernatural change in people, that takes it out of my legalistic control and allows God to do what He wants. Later on, one of Paul’s signposts will talk about the Holy Spirit. He’ll spend a lot of time telling just how the Holy Spirit is involved in this.

But for now, what do I do as I paddle past this first signpost?

I need to say to the Lord, “Lord, I want this salvation power. I need it. I cannot accomplish my own salvation. I discovered that a long time ago. So please unleash this gospel power within my heart.”

And as we paddle around the bend to the next several verses, we’ll discover another reason we need to gospel power.

Verses 18 – 23: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Isn’t that a dreadfully dark passage? What’s the signpost here? Here comes Sermon Point Two.

If Paul’s first Romans signpost is that the gospel has power to save me, his second signpost is that sin is universally murderous.

AS I say, I think this is one of Romans’ darkest passages. It talks about people who have had every opportunity to understand God, and know who He is and what He has done, but who deliberately choose to turn their backs on Him and create their own objects of worship.

Why do I think the signpost says that sin is universally murderous? Because Adam and Eve’s firstborn son Cain, whom they had such high hopes for, even though he was not descended from generation after generation of people with wicked propensities, Cain still developed a temper, and still developed the idea that it was unthinkable that God could approve his younger brother’s sacrifice more than his. Something horribly snapped in Cain’s mind, and he could not allow Abel to continue to live.

10 years ago, the Renton neighborhood just a few blocks from where we live in was jolted by a horrifying crime. A 26-year-old young man had just been released from prison, and his loving grandparents prepared a room for him in their house, and held a “welcome home” party for him. Later that evening, after everyone else had gone home, the young man murdered both his grandparents, and stole one of their credit cards and their car, and drove away. He had planned the whole thing in advance. He is now serving two life sentences. At his court trial, he shouted profanity at his relatives.

Sin is universally murderous. We get another glimpse of this signpost in Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death.” But right beside that signpost is one we’ve also already seen: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sin is universally murderous. James 1:14 and 15 puts it this way: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

This is why there won’t be sin – or sinners – in heaven. Remember, it was the angel Lucifer who allowed selfishness and sin to grow in his own heart in heaven, right next to the throne of God. After he and his fellow angels became too toxic, they were banished from heaven. And rather than learning their lesson, and humbling themselves, and asking for forgiveness, they let their sin develop into murderous urges which would eventually destroy the Son of God.

That’s why in Revelation 21, there are reminders of who will not be in heaven.
Revelation 21:7 and 8 say, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

And verse 27 says, “But there shall by no means enter it [the Holy City] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

So what why do, now that I’ve been reminded of how terrible sin is? First, I need to not toy around with it, not play with it as though it weren’t all that bad. Second, I need to ask the Lord to cleanse me of my sinful attitudes. Again, the Holy Spirit will help with this, as we’ll see in just a bit.

But now let’s paddle around the bend and come to the next signpost. It’s found in the first few verses of Romans five.

Romans 5:1 – 2: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

“Justified” means “made righteous.” How do we go from being a potentially murderous sinner to a “justified” or “righteous-i-fied” citizen of God’s kingdom? Here we need to get out our binoculars and look at a signpost from over in First John 1:9. Here’s what it says: “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And that’s why Paul can confidently what he says in Romans 5, verses 1 and 2: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Let’s lay down our third signpost, Sermon Point Three.

Paul’s first signpost is that the gospel has power to save me, and his second signpost is that sin is universally murderous. And Paul’s third signpost is that faith makes me right with God.

Faith in what? Actually, it’s faith in Whom. Faith that God really has provided an incredibly generous path from sin to salvation to sainthood. And we travel this path not because we are theologically expert enough or strong-willed enough to travel that path. Salvation comes only through faith.

I know I’ve told the following story, but it hasn’t been for several years. When I was five and my sister was three (and our two other siblings had not been born yet), my parents lived next door to a woman who we later learned was mentally off-kilter. This woman believed that she was a prophet of God, and that pretty much every idea that came into her head was inspired by Him.

One day she was looking out her window in our direction, and saw my mother wearing a red sweater while she fed our chickens. As it turns out, this neighbor lady also owned a red sweater, but she had misplaced it. So when she saw Mom wearing a red sweater, she immediately assumed that Mom had crept into her house and stolen her sweater. And since this lady believed she was a prophet, she assumed this idea had come from divine inspiration, and was therefore true.

So that evening, our neighbor lady marched over to our house knocked on our kitchen door. Mom let her in. My sister and I were standing there in the kitchen too. The lady began to accuse Mom of breaking into her house and stealing her sweater.

Mom was of course horrified. She said, “I did not take your sweater. This is my sweater! I’ve had it for several years!”

Well, she probably didn’t convince our neighbor lady, but finally the lady left. And Mom told us later, when we were able to understand, that the most distressing thing about that visit was not the lady’s accusation. It was what happened after the lady was gone.
Mom remembers my sister and me looking sorrowfully up at her and saying, “Mom, did you steal her sweater?”

I wonder if God himself felt a heart-pang as He watched that little scene. You can hear Him thinking, “June Schurch, I know exactly how you feel. All their lives, your children have sensed nothing but love from you. You have fed them, changed their diapers, kept the house clean, read stories to them, cuddled them up as much as they would let you cuddle them. You’ve tucked them in at night, you’ve cheerfully awakened them in the morning. But now, all it takes to shake their faith in you is one neighbor’s loud accusations. June, I know how you feel.”

Faith makes us right with God. That’s why it’s so important for us to remember just how faith-full God has been to us. Faith comes by hearing, Romans 10:17 says, and specifically by hearing the Word of God. So reading the Bible is a faith-builder. The more truth we learn about God, the fewer lies we will be seduced into believing about Him.

And now that we’ve passed the “faith makes me right with God” signpost, we see that we’ve circled right back to the first signpost, the one that says that the gospel has power to save me. Watch this:

Romans 5:6 – 11: For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

And if faith is little hard for you right now, remember that God understands. The disciple Thomas doubted, and when he finally met Jesus personally, Jesus told him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

We put our faith in so many things throughout the day, because we have tested them and our confidence in them has grown. And the more we read our Bibles, the more we understand how God thinks, and how He works, and our faith increases.

And there’s another wonderful faith builder, another signpost that can encourage us. To see this, we have to move over to Romans eight.

Romans 8:1 – 17: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

As you can see, there is a lot of detail there, a lot of careful reasoning, a lot we can’t fully understand on a quick read-through. But I think we could boil down what we’ve just read into another incredibly encouraging signpost. See what you think of this.

Paul’s signposts say that the gospel has power to save me, that sin is universally murderous, that faith makes me right with God. And Paul’s fourth signpost says that the Holy Spirit brings me totally alive.

Have you ever taken an antibiotic? Every once in a while we might get some kind of infection, one which only a powerful antibiotic can deal with. And the reason that antibiotic is so effective is that it goes inside you and gets to work. It goes in and takes over.

That’s kind of what the Holy Spirit does. The Spirit, of course, is far more than a medicine to heal us. He is a Counselor and friend who asks permission to enter our minds and hearts and change us. A little further down in this chapter, Paul says that the Holy Spirit even helps us pray.

In fact here’s another little surprise I got as I was reading through Romans. Let’s start with verse 26 and read along, and you’ll see the surprise too.

Romans 8:26 – 28: Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Do you see the surprise? I think that too often we treat the Bible as a salad bar, swooping down with our salad bar tongs and choosing a verse we like, and forgetting about the context. What struck me in this passage is how it’s when the Holy Spirit is helping us pray, that’s when all things are working together for those who love God.

I don’t think it’s wise to leave Romans until we paddle our way toward one more signpost. This gets us right down to where the Goodyear meets the gravel, where the rubber meets the road. Now Paul is going to give us advice on how to put to work all the other signposts:

Romans 12:1 – 2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Here’s that final signpost:

Paul’s signposts say that the gospel has power to save me, that sin is universally murderous, that faith makes me right with God, and that the Holy Spirit brings me totally alive. And the final signpost says, “My response is selfless devotion.”

We need to present not only our bodies but our minds as living sacrifices. And again, it’s tempting to use these two verses as “salad bar” verses, but Paul doesn’t stop here. He immediately gets to work and gives us examples of how dedicated minds and bodies behave. We won’t read through all these verses, but I’ll just summarize what’s happening.

First, Paul tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but to use the spiritual gifts God has given us. And then he tells us to treat people well. And as chapter 13 begins, he even tells us to cooperate with the government officials, because they are most often working for the public good. He even insists that we pay taxes, for the same reason.

And on and on Paul’s advice goes, into chapter 14 and 15. When we present our bodies and minds as a living sacrifice, the world becomes a better place for us having walked through it.

And that’s because we are simply responding to the mercy God has shown us, by sharing His free goslep mercy with everyone we meet.

Our closing song puts this response into music. Let’s stand and sing it together: “God’s Free Mercy Streameth.”