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The Power of God for Salvation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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November 29, 2023 12:01 am

The Power of God for Salvation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 29, 2023 12:01 am

The Lord brings redemption through the message of Christ, for the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). Today, W. Robert Godfrey examines Paul's great summary of the gospel in Romans 1.

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For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. There are those, of course, who have always thought the preaching of the gospel is foolishness, is powerless, is vain, and Paul is utterly rejecting that as he'll also do powerfully in 1 Corinthians. It is the power of God. It's the way God works, and it's when the gospel is faithfully preached that people are brought to believe and the proper response to the gospel is faith. Have you memorized that verse, Romans 1 16? It's an incredible truth and an encouragement for each of us to be bold in our gospel proclamation.

The power of God is not seen in clever techniques and changing our message to accommodate a changing society. It's found in the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word, the gospel. Welcome to Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday.

I'm your host, Nathan W Bingham. We invited Dr. Godfrey to record this series through Romans because we know that if we are to know God better, we must know His Word better. And today, Dr. Godfrey comes to this famous verse in Romans that really puts steel in our spine and also reminds us of the wonder of the gospel, that God saves sinners, everyone who believes.

Here's Dr. Godfrey. We're looking together at Paul's introduction to his letter to the Romans. We're looking at the way he has identified himself. And now, having gotten all the way to Romans 1, verse 7, we see the way he identifies the Romans to whom he is writing, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. Now, to refer to Christians as those called to be saints is not unique to Paul here. But once again, I wonder if he is subtly making the point that he is well aware that these Romans who are so concerned about holiness are called to be holy. And, you know, it's a little confusing in English because saints and holy are the same idea but aren't always so obviously linguistically connected.

But in Greek, it's very obvious. They're called to be holy ones. And these people so concerned about holiness are called to holiness. And Paul is calling them to holiness. Paul knows they're called to be holy as Christians. And so, he wants to underscore that reality as he addresses them. And then he pronounces his apostolic blessing, again, a blessing repeated over and over again in his letters but of great importance to us. I think we are inclined often to think that elements repeated cease to be so very important.

But they are very important. This is a wonderful summary of what the gospel is all about. The gospel is all about the blessings of grace and peace brought to the people of God by apostolic teaching. And Paul will elaborate each of these things in wonderful ways as his letter goes along. For example, in chapter 3 of Romans at verse 23, we read, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift.

So, grace is at the very heart of how Paul understands justification, how he understands our being made right with God, and it's at the heart of how he understands what he's doing as an apostolic preacher who comes with the truth and blesses the people of God. And in Romans 5 verse 1, you remember he talks about peace. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And what a blessed promise that is, that we have peace with God.

And I think there Paul means it both objectively and subjectively. Objectively, we have peace with God. He's no longer angry with us because of the offering of Christ on the cross in our place. But subjectively, we experience that peace.

We are at peace with God knowing that he is no longer angry with us. So, when Paul blesses these people with these familiar words, we mustn't move too quickly through them because they really are such a blessing to us, such an encouragement to us when we pause and reflect on them. So, that's the beginning.

That's the introduction to the introduction. That's Paul identifying himself and those to whom he is writing. And then he goes on to express appreciation for the Roman church and for the Roman Christians.

And I think that appreciation is very sincere. It shows that the criticism that has been leveled at Paul is either not so very severe that he has to take great offense at it or that it's only a part of the congregation, not the whole. But in any case, Paul is able to commend them for things he has heard about them. And you notice what he particularly commends them for.

Verse 8, first, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. Again, I wonder if Paul smiles just a little when he writes that. These people who maybe are concerned he's pushing faith too hard, he wants them to know that they are known for their faith. And again, I worry sometimes I'm reading too much into this, but it's so nice.

It seems to fit so well. It seems appropriate that Paul is always teaching. None of his letters are chatty, are they?

None of them have a lot of just, you know, down-home humor or anything. He always is very intentional in what he's saying, and I think we see that here as well. And he talks about how he prays for them, how he's concerned for them, how he's longing to visit them, so that any suggestion that somehow he's too ashamed of what he's doing to come to Rome and to talk face-to-face with the people there, he rejects that entirely. He wants to come and help them.

He wants to come, and he believes he'll be helped by them as well. And so, he reiterates that he wants to have a harvest there in Rome as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. You Romans, remember you're Gentiles for all your concern about the Jews. Do bear in mind that I'm the apostle to the Gentiles who want the Gentiles to share in all that God prepared through the Jews. And so, verse 14, I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians.

Again, I'm not sure enough about linguistic usage there. I think when he says Greeks, the Romans would include themselves amongst the Greeks because the Romans saw themselves as a civilized people, whereas the barbarians, by contrast, are an uncivilized people. But I wonder, again, this is just kind of speculation, I wonder if Paul kind of secretly to himself thinks, you Romans who think you amount to so much, you really belong from a Greek point of view with the barbarians, not with the civilized.

But anyway, maybe that's, again, reading too much in, but it's kind of fun to think of. Both to the wise and to the foolish, so I'm eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. And now the great summary. People who know anything about the letter to the Romans certainly know this summary that Paul makes in verses 16 and 17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. What is the gospel? Well, first of all, it's the power of God. God exercises his power through the preaching of the gospel.

He'll say that a number of times in this letter. There are those, of course, who have always thought the preaching of the gospel is foolishness, is powerless, is vain, and Paul is utterly rejecting that as he'll also do powerfully in 1 Corinthians. It is the power of God. It's the way God works, and it's when the gospel is faithfully preached that people are brought to believe, and the proper response to the gospel is faith. And that's true for Jews and for Greeks.

It's not just for the Gentiles. It's not that there are two ways of salvation, one way for the Jew, one way for the Greek. It's that everyone, and Paul would add, it's not what he stresses here, but he would add always, it's always been true that the way to salvation is by faith for the Jew and for the Gentile, and he'll develop that as he goes along. But to substantiate that great point that he's making, we have the first of those over 70 Old Testament quotations that we will have in the book of Romans, and this a particularly critical one, a particularly programmatic quotation from Habakkuk 2 verse 4. Aren't you impressed with Paul's knowledge of the Old Testament? To be able to just quote from Habakkuk at will is impressive, and Paul has a wonderful verse there that substantiates very much what he's saying, the righteous shall live by faith.

And you see what he's really saying implicitly. This isn't some crazy Pauline notion. This is not something I just came up with, Paul says. This is what the Old Testament says. This is what the prophet says. This is written in Scripture in Habakkuk chapter 2 at verse 4. Now, what's intriguing is, to me, to look at some of the modern commentators and what they've done with this quotation, because it has become, I suppose one could say, fashionable with some commentators to suggest the apostles are not reliable in their quotations from the Old Testament, that the apostles take verses out of context, that the apostles misinterpret them and misuse them, and therefore these quotations may have a formal appearance of supporting the argument, but if you look at them in context in the Old Testament, it's not really what they're saying. As I say, that's become fashionable in certain scholarly circles. I think that is profoundly untrue, and I think when you really look at the context of the quotations that Paul and the other apostles use from the Old Testament, they are always using them exactly correctly, and if there's a problem, it's our problem in seeing what they've done and seeing the real context of the Old Testament.

We can see that with particular clarity here. The suggestion is that when Habakkuk wrote those words, what he really meant was that the righteous would live by their faithfulness, that in the days of suffering and distress that God had visited on his old covenant people, that what the righteous and Israel needed was faithfulness and that that's what the prophet was calling them to. Now, there's a kind of irony to that suggestion, and the irony is the modern critics are reading Habakkuk almost exactly the way Paul's critics in the first century read Habakkuk.

It's the way the new perspective on Paul wants to read Habakkuk. Paul doesn't really say we're saved by faith alone the way Luther understood it. What Paul really says is we're saved by faithfulness. Well, faithfulness is important to Paul. We'll see that as we go along, but faithfulness is faith plus obedience, and so is Paul really saying we're saved by faith plus obedience? Is Habakkuk saying that we're saved by faith plus obedience?

If that is what's being said, it kind of overturns the whole traditional way of reading the book of Romans, and you'll be glad to hear that is a complete mistake, not only to read Paul that way, but it's a mistake to read Habakkuk that way. Now, Habakkuk came not only to speak of judgment on Israel for its sin, but also to promise that the Lord would bring better days. There are beautiful expressions of better days to come for Israel in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk 2.14 says, For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Amongst Puritans, that was a favorite verse to quote to support post-millennialism. There's a great day coming, a glorious day coming when the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth. Habakkuk 2, verse 20, The Lord is in His holy temple.

Let all the earth keep silence before Him. There's a vision of a day when it's not just Jews in a little land that are going to be the worshippers of the Lord, but the whole earth will worship the Lord. Or Habakkuk 3.13, You went out for the salvation of Your people, for the salvation of Your anointed. God comes not only in judgment, but God comes in salvation. And then the great verse of encouragement, Habakkuk 3, verses 17 and 18, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit beyond the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food. The flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God the Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the deers.

He makes me tread on my high places. So, there's this confidence that even in suffering, God is with His people, God will bless His people, He will be present. And in this context of both judgment and of promise, Habakkuk prays, O Lord, I have heard the report of You, and Your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years, revive it. In the midst of the years, make it known. In wrath, remember mercy.

Remember mercy. So, he's praying for the future. He's praying that the Lord will manifest His mercy and His salvation in the future, and this is His hope in the face of present suffering. And it's in this context then, Habakkuk 2, verses 3 and 4, For still the vision awaits its appointed time. It hastens to the end. It will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it. It will surely come.

It will not delay. The righteous shall live by his faith. Now, what's the immediate context there? The righteous are living by faith in the promise yet to be fulfilled. There's no faithfulness involved there.

There's no obedience involved there. There's a promise that the righteous rest in by faith. It's exactly what Paul is using this verse to substantiate in Romans. So, as we go along, we'll be encouraged to see that the apostolic reading of the Old Testament is the right reading of the Old Testament. Whether that reading is challenged by rabbis in the first century or it's challenged by liberal critics in the 21st century, the apostolic reading of the Scripture is the true and reliable one, and it should be a great encouragement to us as we go along.

Well, here we are. We've gotten through this introductory section, and one question that might have occurred to you, at least it occurred to me as we're looking at this, is the question, where's Peter? Now, because I'm a church historian, it's very hard for me, not whenever possible, to raise questions for our Roman Catholic friends, because our Roman Catholic friends make a great deal of their claim that their church is founded on Peter, the prince of the apostles, that their church is a continuation of the apostolic ministry because of the succession of bishops in the church of Rome. And the great historic claim of the Roman church is that Peter was the first bishop of the Roman church, and therefore the continuity of truth, the preservation of the truth is guaranteed to Peter and to his successors when Jesus said, I will build my church on this rock. So, is that true?

Is that true? And one of the issues relative to that claim must surely be the question, where is Peter when Paul writes this letter? Paul is writing, most scholars think, at about 57 AD, and there is no mention of Peter in this letter, even though Paul clearly knows some of the people in the Roman church and mentions them by name in Romans 16.

Even though the church is clearly a sizable church, he can talk about their fame having gone out to all the world. Where is Peter? Doesn't it seem likely that if Peter were in Rome in 57, Paul would have mentioned him? Paul would have said, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints, especially to Peter. But there's no mention of Peter in Romans. How can there be a large church in Rome if all churches are organized around bishops if Peter's not there? Now, this doesn't prove, I'm not out to prove that Peter was never in Rome. The tradition that Peter was martyred in Rome is a very ancient tradition, a strongly attested tradition. But when did Peter get to Rome? How long was he in Rome?

What was he there for? The New Testament doesn't answer that at all. When Paul goes to Rome, as recorded for us in the book of Acts, there is no word of Peter being there either, even though Acts is written later, probably sometime around 62 to 64 AD. So, there's no mention of Peter in Rome in 57. There's no mention of Peter in Rome somewhere around 63 AD. Then we have Peter's own first letter, which is written somewhere around 65 AD. And in that first letter, he does say near the end of it, she who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark my son.

Now, most scholars believe that reference to Babylon there is a reference to Rome, that Christians had come to think of Rome, the capital of the pagan empire, persecuting Christians as Babylon. But assuming that's true, Peter doesn't say he's in Rome with she who is in Babel. So, you can't for sure say this is evidence that Peter was in Rome when he wrote his own letter. And certainly, when we come to his second letter, which is probably written about 67 or 68 AD, he makes no mention of Rome or no mention of being there.

And yet, he's probably martyred in 68 or 69. So, we're running out of space to get Peter to Rome. And again, I'm not suggesting suggesting he was never there, but I am suggesting that the available evidence we have from the first century itself does not really give us any window by which Peter could be the first bishop in Rome. And so, the Roman claim, as is so often the case, seems to stumble and run into significant problems when faced with New Testament evidence. And I think our Roman Catholic friends ought to be a little more cautious with their historical claims because the history is not very supportive of what they claim. And of course, even if we had hard evidence that Peter was in Rome and was bishop in Rome, and even if we had hard evidence that he was the first bishop in Rome, we still would not have evidence that Jesus promised to preserve the bishops of Rome through all of history from error. And in point of fact, the error seems to become ever more dominant, especially in our day when Rome increasingly seems to have adopted so many liberal readings of the scriptures and to be not the kind of careful teacher that the New Testament scripture is. The pope was recently quoted in the papers. I hope the papers are wrong.

The papers are not necessarily more reliable than Google. But the papers said that the chief rabbi in Jerusalem complained that the pope said something that implied that Judaism was not a legitimate way to God. And the Vatican responded by saying, oh no, that's not at all what we meant. We certainly believe that Judaism is a legitimate way to God. Well, that's clearly not what Paul is teaching in Romans chapter 1, that for the Jew and the Greek, the only way to God is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ because that's the gospel.

Amen. And here at Renewing Her Mind, we are committed to proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ. And by God's grace, we will never compromise. That was W. Robert Godfrey, the chairman of Ligonier Ministries, from his brand new overview of Romans titled Not Ashamed. Dr. Godfrey can walk you through the entire letter of Romans over the course of 23 messages when you request your copy of the series on DVD with a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Romans has been used so significantly by the Lord in the life of the church.

It was this book that God used to open Martin Luther's eyes to the true gospel. So I encourage you to invest the time in this new pastoral overview of Romans from Dr. Godfrey. We'll send it to you and give you lifetime digital access to the series and study guide as our way of saying thanks for your donation at renewingyourmind.org. Of course, you can also call us at 800-435-4343. Thank you for your generosity. The gospel is good news, but only because there's also bad news. And that's what Paul will tell us next as Dr. Godfrey continues his journey through Romans. So be sure to join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-29 02:58:23 / 2023-11-29 03:07:15 / 9

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