Can we still trust the Good News?

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21 Jan 2024

Can we still trust the Good News?

Passage Romans 1:1-17

Speaker Steve Nichols

Service Morning

Series Training for Mission

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Passage: Romans 1:1-17

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’

New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

You, Almighty God, our loving father, we thank you that you do speak to us through the Bible as we've been singing. Thank you that this letter to the Romans, written 2000 years ago, was your word to them. And thank you that it is also your word to us today. And we pray that we would receive it as that. And that as we receive it, we would grow in our confidence and trust in you and in the gospel.

We ask in Jesus name. Amen.

I'm sorry, I should have added my welcome to Steve's earlier on. It's lovely to be together, the start of a new week. So warm welcome to you. If you are here for the first time this morning or a little bit new. My name is Steve Nichols.

I'm the vicar here and it's a delight privilege to welcome you and to welcome those who are joining us online. I hope that you can hear and that you've got a Bible open on your lap as well and can follow through and take part in this Bible study together that we're embarking on.

There are hundreds and thousands of homes up and down the country where for two, three, four generations now, God has been an irrelevant.

If we're going to talk about the christian message for today, then we can't avoid the issue of relevance, of being relevant. And if by relevance we mean fitting in with the mood music of the culture of the moment, of catching the spirit of the age, then let's be honest, the gospel doesn't. But let's be honest, it never has. The good news message, the gospel that so excites the apostle Paul, in this letter that he writes to the Christians in Rome about 56, 57 AD, that he says in verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel. It has captured his heart.

And the reason that Paul says I am not ashamed of the gospel is presumably because, like us, he was tempted at times to feel the fear and the embarrassment. Like us, he knew the temptation to keep quiet, not to open his mouth and to look foolish. In one of his other letters to the Colossians, he asks prayer, that he would have courage to share the gospel, presumably because he was frightened sometimes. He knew the same battles that we have today. If we want to be on message, with the culture, with a popular message, the gospel isn't it.

But we're aware, I'm sure, that fashions change. They're soon out of date. If you're on Facebook, scroll back through the photos that you posted on Facebook not so many years ago, or maybe look at your wedding photographs or whatever and you'll soon see that the hairstyles change and the dress sense changes. It's always changing. And so are ideas, values, things that we today would say, well, everybody knows that.

Everybody believes this. It's always changing. They won't be believing it in a few years' time. You can be sure of it. When the Bible speaks of being ashamed, Paul says, I am not ashamed.

When the Bible talks of being not ashamed, it usually has an eye on the ultimate future.

None of us wants to find out on that day that the thing we lived for, the values we had, the beliefs and the worldview that we adopted, the purpose of our lives, was actually wrong, irrelevant. So if relevance means meeting a real need, standing the test of time so that it never reaches its sell by date, if on the day when all the isms of our world have become wasms, because they've all passed away, and no one talks about my truth and your truth, because we're all faced with the truth, if you want a message that's still relevant on that day, then the gospel qualifies. So Paul says with confidence in verse 16, and this is our verse, we're going to come back to it again and again this morning he says in verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel. Gospel good news. I'm not ashamed of the good news.

And we find out in verse two, sorry, in verse one that it is the gospel of God. It is God's good news. And in verse two, it is good news about his son. Jesus, promised for thousands of years in the Old Testament scriptures, descended from King David, a royal king according to the flesh, so a flesh and blood human being, a king forever in David's line, declared to be the son of God, in power by his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul is going to say, paul is going to unpack this good news of Jesus Christ, the eternal son of God, who became a human being, a card carrying member of the human race, put to death, but raised to life again, and now king and lord of all forever.

Jesus is front and centre of this good news. I am not ashamed of the good news of the gospel.

You meet some Christians, of course, who just seem to find it very easy to talk about this good news. I mean, you may be one of them. There are some christians who ask them what the weather is like and they'll get it into their answer somehow, won't they? I don't know if Paul would like that. I don't think he was.

I think he found it hard. But Paul doesn't say, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. Because I can weave Jesus into any conversation. Or because I have a magnetic personality. Or because I've been a Christian for so long.

I know all the answers to all the questions people are going to ask. I'm not as scared as much as I used to be. It's none of those things. He says I'm not ashamed of the gospel. And that he gives three reasons in Romans chapter one.

Why he's not ashamed. And the three reasons are all to do with the gospel itself. We're going to look at the first two today. And the last one next week. Here they are.

Verse 16. He says, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God. For the salvation of everyone who believes. First reason.

Second reason. Verse 17. I'm not ashamed of the gospel. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. Third reason.

Verse 18. Four. The ESV and the NRV have missed out that important word. But it's there in the original four. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven.

Or to put it another way. Paul says. I'm not ashamed of the good news of Jesus. Because it's relevant for everyone. Verse 16.

And it's available to everyone. Verse 17. And it's urgent for everyone. Verse 18. We'll save that last one for next time.

But here we are. Verse 16. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everybody.

Some here I'm sure will know the name Vijay Menon. I met him many years ago. Perhaps. Perhaps some of you have met him and heard him preach. He was a Hindu.

He was working in Lloyds in London. And he became a Christian. At a lunchtime service, he shuffled into the church before he realised what it was. And there were so many people behind him, he couldn't get out. And he heard the gospel and was converted.

And he spent still alive. Spending his life preaching and teaching and sharing the good news of Jesus. And he tells the story of arriving at an airport. Going through customs one day. And he was asked the inevitable question.

Do you have anything to declare? And if you know V. J. Menon well, he pulled out his Bible and said dynamite. To the startlement of the official.

The word of God is dynamite, he said. And I guess Paul is saying something similar in verse 16. I'm not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power. The Dunamis.

The power of God. For the salvation of everyone who believes first. For the Jew. And also for the Greek. And how does Paul know that.

That God's word, the gospel, can save anybody? How does he know that well, because it is God's good news. It's from God. But also perhaps he's reflecting on what he's seen himself. For the last 20 years, Paul has been travelling around the mediterranean world, leaving a trail of living churches behind him.

Jewish Christians and gentile Christians, people from all kinds of backgrounds who at one time wanted nothing to do with Jesus and are now followers of Jesus and love him and are serving him and pouring their lives out for him. And this has happened through the preaching of this good news. And many of us here today have been changed by this good news. We can look at our own lives or people in our family, those around us. We know their stories.

God's news has changed our life. Perhaps the first time you heard it, you didn't like it. One of my closest friends is in Iraqi and he was a communist, which sounds quite quaint these days, isn't it? But he was a communist. He was from Eastern Europe and he argued his way through a Christianity explored course, going through Mark's gospel, asking his questions, thinking about the answers he got, until eventually, humanly speaking, he caved in, he was persuaded and he gave his life to Christ.

He spent many years since as a missionary in Egypt and Lebanon and now working with muslim people in this country. Well, we all have different stories of how God's gospel has been the power for our salvation in different ways, gradually, suddenly, but in different ways. And the Jews and the Gentiles that Paul talks about here, well, that was a division that was ran straight through the ancient world, a stark division, incredibly different groups of people, religious and ethnic groups, with different beliefs and different values and different customs and different foods and diets, different understandings of the world. And yet this same gospel was God's power to save all people. And Paul is quite into the universal reach of the gospel.

If you have a look down at verse 14, verse 14, he says, I'm under obligation. I owe the gospel both to the Greeks and the barbarians. I like that translation. The barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish, to the cultured and the uncultured. That's a lot of different groups.

But Paul says they are all saved by the same message. It's not just a gospel for children, it's a gospel for you and me. It's not just a gospel for the elderly, it's a gospel for the millennials, it's a gospel for the person with no qualifications, and it's a gospel for the person who is educated and is the professional person. The gospel is God's message for everyone because it deals with universal human needs. 2000 years ago, it was relevant.

Today, in the 21st century, it is just as relevant. The good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ is relevant to every person on this planet. God's gospel. And we might need to hear that again. In all the discussions about how to share the gospel with people today, there's a lot of emphasis on being culturally sensitive, being careful how we're heard, and that's wide.

There's a lot of truth in that. We want to be careful how we're heard. We don't want to give unnecessary offence to people. When we talk about sin, for example. We want to make sure people don't get the wrong idea and think that we're preaching down at them as if we're saying that they're worse than us or something like that.

We have to be sensitive and we have to listen to people and take great care, especially when we're talking to people from different backgrounds, that what we're saying is understood properly. But the essential truths of the gospel are the same for every person, whatever their background. And we want to be sensitive, not because there's a different gospel for different people. We have to change bits and leave bits out. No, not at all.

But because we want the one true gospel to be truly heard and understood so that people can believe it, put their trust in Jesus. The gospel of Jesus, the son of God, crucified for our sins, raised to life alive today. Lord and master over all. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone. That's our first point.

Verse 16. Verse 17. Here's our second. The good news of Jesus is available to everyone. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone and it is available to everyone.

Verse 17 was a time bomb that was ticking away for many, many years. And it exploded 400 years ago at the reformation. Have a look down at it. Verse 17. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.

Or as we might say in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed by faith from first to last, from beginning to end. As it is written, the righteous will live by faith. There was a german monk called Martin Luther. You will know his name, many of you, I am sure. And as Martin Luther read verse 17, 400 years ago, he struggled with that phrase, the righteousness of God.

He thought that it meant God's holiness, God's righteous standard against him, opposed to him, condemning him, the fact that God is perfect and that he was not, and that he could never measure up so for years, Martin Luther the monk tried his hardest to do what he could to be right with God. He prayed seven times a day. He fasted, sometimes up to three days at a time. He tried to confess every single sin. He was terrified of dying with unconfessed sins.

Sometimes he got behind in his prayers and he started all over again. It was a huge burden for him. He could never do enough. He said later, if ever a monk could get to heaven by his monkery, it was I. But secretly, he added, I hated God.

He hated that he was never sure he had done enough, that perhaps God hadn't forgiven him. This verse terrified him. And then, as he studied it in its context, he realised that it meant something very different. It wasn't saying that the gospel reveals God's righteous standard and that he is against us. That wouldn't be good news at all now.

Rather, the good news reveals a righteousness from God, a righteousness given to us by God and received simply by faith with open hands. The good news is that God declares guilty people like you and me to be right with him because Jesus died and paid for our sins.

It isn't about what we have to do to please God. It's about having faith in what God has done for us, in Jesus. That's the good news. Oh, the burdens fell away for Martin Luther. He said it as if I walked into paradise through open gates.

But imagine if you had to be, I don't know, clever enough or good enough to get into God's books. Imagine if you had to have your life all sorted out before God were interested in you, if you had to be from the right background, if you had to be middle class, if you had to be very good and religious before he heard your prayers. No, God has made it easy for anyone to be saved. All we need to do, even a child, all we need to do is simply depend on what God has done for us at the cross. I'm not ashamed of the gospel.

Paul says the good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone and it is available to everyone, just as we end in the last three or four minutes. Let me ask you, have you understood this good news yourself? We talk about it in church, we read about it in the Bible, we sing about it. But do you know it as God's good news for you personally, at all saints? We want to help each other to understand this good news, really to understand it, to make it our own.

We want to help each other do that. So we have little groups from time to time, as many of you will know, like the Christianity explorer group that my iraqi friend joined years ago, where we can come and look at the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life and ask our questions and talk about our concerns in a non threatening, non judgmental atmosphere. If you would like to be part of a group like that, please let me know. I would love to invite you and we'll explore it together. Good news and maybe you are a Christian.

Perhaps many of us are here this morning and you might have been a Christian for many, many years. And you might be thinking, why do I need to hear the good news? Why are we going to study Romans? Over the next few weeks, we're going to take Romans chapter one to five up until Easter, and then perhaps after Easter, do six to eight and gradually work our way through. But why do I need to hear Romans?

I've been a Christian. I've believed it for years. Well, let me ask that question another way. Why does Paul spend so long in his letter to the Romans, explaining the gospel in such detail to people who are already Christians? The answer is in verses ten and eleven.

Have a look down verses ten and eleven. Paul is writing to them before he visits them, and he's been wanting to visit them because he has a gift he wants to give them. Now, what's this gift? It's a gift that is guaranteed to encourage every Christian in every age, us included. What's this gift?

Keep a thumb in Romans one and turn over, if you would, to Romans, chapter 15. Romans, chapter 15. It's on page 1144. Page 1144, Romans, chapter 15. Sometimes, to help us understand what a book of the Bible is about, it's helpful to look at the beginning and the end of the books, the bookends, and sometimes they give us a clue about what the theme of the book is.

Well, here's one. Romans, chapter 15, verse 23. At the end of his letter, Paul writes, but now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I've longed for many years to come to you in Rome, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey there by you. Paul wants to go to Spain. Not on a mini break on a mission trip.

He's wanted to take the good news to Spain. He's been everywhere, you see. He spent the last 20 years crisscrossing the Mediterranean, preaching the gospel, starting churches, and now he's run out of places to go as a pioneer missionary. They've all heard the gospel. They've had opportunities to respond.

So he looks west and he sees Spain and he oh the barbarians of Spain, they've never had the chance to hear of Jesus. I'm going to take them the gospel. I'll go there and I'll stop off in Rome on the way. And if you Romans really understand the gospel, then you'll want to share in this mission with me. Maybe you'll pray for me, perhaps you'll support financially, maybe some of you will come with me.

We'll do this together. And that's his gift, that's his gift to the Romans that he talks about in Romans chapter one, the gift that is guaranteed to encourage them. If you're a Christian here this morning and maybe you'll know this experience, it's my experience sometimes you feel a bit flat. Christian life might sort of plateau a little bit. I find that when I'm like that, nothing encourages me more, nothing fills me with the spirit more than when I have the opportunity to talk to somebody about the Lord Jesus.

Do you find that you talk to someone about the Lord even just a little? It lifts you doesn't it? You think, yes, that's what it is to be a Christian. It's so exciting. Well, Paul says that's the gift I want to share with you Romans, the gift of being involved in mission.

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome so they'll be mission ready when he arrives in Rome with the suitcases for his mission trip to Spain. He knows that nothing equips you to share the gospel like the gospel itself. So if you feel a bit daunted when it comes to talking to people about Jesus, if your palms go a bit sweaty and the words stick in your mouth, you're in good company. But nothing is going to encourage you and me more than the gospel itself. That's why we're calling this series Romans training for mission.

As we go deep into the gospel we'll find it will change our hearts and it will equip us and spur us on to share the good news of Jesus. Over the next few weeks it will equip us with answers to all kinds of questions that people might ask us, maybe that we've been asking ourselves. What about those you've never heard? Why does God rescue bad people but not religious people? How can Jesus death on the cross 2000 years ago save me today?

If God forgives our sins? Well surely we just keep on sinning. If God has really changed me, why do I go on sinning? Does God have a special plan for Israel? What should I think?

About politics. Why is church God's answer to all the problems of the world? We can list the questions and keep going. All these questions Paul is going to answer in this letter and we're going to find it a thrilling ride, I'm sure. I am not ashamed of the gospel.

He says he can take the same gospel message to the religious in Jerusalem, to the sophisticated urbanites in Rome, to the barbarians in Spain. The same gospel message is relevant to everyone and is available to everyone. Paul is going to share the national gospel so that we will share the gospel internationally. Shall we pray? And then we'll sing close.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This transcript has been automatically generated and therefore may not be 100% accurate

You, Almighty God, our loving father, we thank you that you do speak to us through the Bible as we’ve been singing. Thank you that this letter to the Romans, written 2000 years ago, was your word to them. And thank you that it is also your word to us today. And we pray that we would receive it as that. And that as we receive it, we would grow in our confidence and trust in you and in the gospel.

We ask in Jesus name. Amen.

I’m sorry, I should have added my welcome to Steve’s earlier on. It’s lovely to be together, the start of a new week. So warm welcome to you. If you are here for the first time this morning or a little bit new. My name is Steve Nichols.

I’m the vicar here and it’s a delight privilege to welcome you and to welcome those who are joining us online. I hope that you can hear and that you’ve got a Bible open on your lap as well and can follow through and take part in this Bible study together that we’re embarking on.

There are hundreds and thousands of homes up and down the country where for two, three, four generations now, God has been an irrelevant.

If we’re going to talk about the christian message for today, then we can’t avoid the issue of relevance, of being relevant. And if by relevance we mean fitting in with the mood music of the culture of the moment, of catching the spirit of the age, then let’s be honest, the gospel doesn’t. But let’s be honest, it never has. The good news message, the gospel that so excites the apostle Paul, in this letter that he writes to the Christians in Rome about 56, 57 AD, that he says in verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel. It has captured his heart.

And the reason that Paul says I am not ashamed of the gospel is presumably because, like us, he was tempted at times to feel the fear and the embarrassment. Like us, he knew the temptation to keep quiet, not to open his mouth and to look foolish. In one of his other letters to the Colossians, he asks prayer, that he would have courage to share the gospel, presumably because he was frightened sometimes. He knew the same battles that we have today. If we want to be on message, with the culture, with a popular message, the gospel isn’t it.

But we’re aware, I’m sure, that fashions change. They’re soon out of date. If you’re on Facebook, scroll back through the photos that you posted on Facebook not so many years ago, or maybe look at your wedding photographs or whatever and you’ll soon see that the hairstyles change and the dress sense changes. It’s always changing. And so are ideas, values, things that we today would say, well, everybody knows that.

Everybody believes this. It’s always changing. They won’t be believing it in a few years’ time. You can be sure of it. When the Bible speaks of being ashamed, Paul says, I am not ashamed.

When the Bible talks of being not ashamed, it usually has an eye on the ultimate future.

None of us wants to find out on that day that the thing we lived for, the values we had, the beliefs and the worldview that we adopted, the purpose of our lives, was actually wrong, irrelevant. So if relevance means meeting a real need, standing the test of time so that it never reaches its sell by date, if on the day when all the isms of our world have become wasms, because they’ve all passed away, and no one talks about my truth and your truth, because we’re all faced with the truth, if you want a message that’s still relevant on that day, then the gospel qualifies. So Paul says with confidence in verse 16, and this is our verse, we’re going to come back to it again and again this morning he says in verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel. Gospel good news. I’m not ashamed of the good news.

And we find out in verse two, sorry, in verse one that it is the gospel of God. It is God’s good news. And in verse two, it is good news about his son. Jesus, promised for thousands of years in the Old Testament scriptures, descended from King David, a royal king according to the flesh, so a flesh and blood human being, a king forever in David’s line, declared to be the son of God, in power by his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul is going to say, paul is going to unpack this good news of Jesus Christ, the eternal son of God, who became a human being, a card carrying member of the human race, put to death, but raised to life again, and now king and lord of all forever.

Jesus is front and centre of this good news. I am not ashamed of the good news of the gospel.

You meet some Christians, of course, who just seem to find it very easy to talk about this good news. I mean, you may be one of them. There are some christians who ask them what the weather is like and they’ll get it into their answer somehow, won’t they? I don’t know if Paul would like that. I don’t think he was.

I think he found it hard. But Paul doesn’t say, I’m not ashamed of the gospel. Because I can weave Jesus into any conversation. Or because I have a magnetic personality. Or because I’ve been a Christian for so long.

I know all the answers to all the questions people are going to ask. I’m not as scared as much as I used to be. It’s none of those things. He says I’m not ashamed of the gospel. And that he gives three reasons in Romans chapter one.

Why he’s not ashamed. And the three reasons are all to do with the gospel itself. We’re going to look at the first two today. And the last one next week. Here they are.

Verse 16. He says, I’m not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God. For the salvation of everyone who believes. First reason.

Second reason. Verse 17. I’m not ashamed of the gospel. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. Third reason.

Verse 18. Four. The ESV and the NRV have missed out that important word. But it’s there in the original four. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven.

Or to put it another way. Paul says. I’m not ashamed of the good news of Jesus. Because it’s relevant for everyone. Verse 16.

And it’s available to everyone. Verse 17. And it’s urgent for everyone. Verse 18. We’ll save that last one for next time.

But here we are. Verse 16. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everybody.

Some here I’m sure will know the name Vijay Menon. I met him many years ago. Perhaps. Perhaps some of you have met him and heard him preach. He was a Hindu.

He was working in Lloyds in London. And he became a Christian. At a lunchtime service, he shuffled into the church before he realised what it was. And there were so many people behind him, he couldn’t get out. And he heard the gospel and was converted.

And he spent still alive. Spending his life preaching and teaching and sharing the good news of Jesus. And he tells the story of arriving at an airport. Going through customs one day. And he was asked the inevitable question.

Do you have anything to declare? And if you know V. J. Menon well, he pulled out his Bible and said dynamite. To the startlement of the official.

The word of God is dynamite, he said. And I guess Paul is saying something similar in verse 16. I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power. The Dunamis.

The power of God. For the salvation of everyone who believes first. For the Jew. And also for the Greek. And how does Paul know that.

That God’s word, the gospel, can save anybody? How does he know that well, because it is God’s good news. It’s from God. But also perhaps he’s reflecting on what he’s seen himself. For the last 20 years, Paul has been travelling around the mediterranean world, leaving a trail of living churches behind him.

Jewish Christians and gentile Christians, people from all kinds of backgrounds who at one time wanted nothing to do with Jesus and are now followers of Jesus and love him and are serving him and pouring their lives out for him. And this has happened through the preaching of this good news. And many of us here today have been changed by this good news. We can look at our own lives or people in our family, those around us. We know their stories.

God’s news has changed our life. Perhaps the first time you heard it, you didn’t like it. One of my closest friends is in Iraqi and he was a communist, which sounds quite quaint these days, isn’t it? But he was a communist. He was from Eastern Europe and he argued his way through a Christianity explored course, going through Mark’s gospel, asking his questions, thinking about the answers he got, until eventually, humanly speaking, he caved in, he was persuaded and he gave his life to Christ.

He spent many years since as a missionary in Egypt and Lebanon and now working with muslim people in this country. Well, we all have different stories of how God’s gospel has been the power for our salvation in different ways, gradually, suddenly, but in different ways. And the Jews and the Gentiles that Paul talks about here, well, that was a division that was ran straight through the ancient world, a stark division, incredibly different groups of people, religious and ethnic groups, with different beliefs and different values and different customs and different foods and diets, different understandings of the world. And yet this same gospel was God’s power to save all people. And Paul is quite into the universal reach of the gospel.

If you have a look down at verse 14, verse 14, he says, I’m under obligation. I owe the gospel both to the Greeks and the barbarians. I like that translation. The barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish, to the cultured and the uncultured. That’s a lot of different groups.

But Paul says they are all saved by the same message. It’s not just a gospel for children, it’s a gospel for you and me. It’s not just a gospel for the elderly, it’s a gospel for the millennials, it’s a gospel for the person with no qualifications, and it’s a gospel for the person who is educated and is the professional person. The gospel is God’s message for everyone because it deals with universal human needs. 2000 years ago, it was relevant.

Today, in the 21st century, it is just as relevant. The good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ is relevant to every person on this planet. God’s gospel. And we might need to hear that again. In all the discussions about how to share the gospel with people today, there’s a lot of emphasis on being culturally sensitive, being careful how we’re heard, and that’s wide.

There’s a lot of truth in that. We want to be careful how we’re heard. We don’t want to give unnecessary offence to people. When we talk about sin, for example. We want to make sure people don’t get the wrong idea and think that we’re preaching down at them as if we’re saying that they’re worse than us or something like that.

We have to be sensitive and we have to listen to people and take great care, especially when we’re talking to people from different backgrounds, that what we’re saying is understood properly. But the essential truths of the gospel are the same for every person, whatever their background. And we want to be sensitive, not because there’s a different gospel for different people. We have to change bits and leave bits out. No, not at all.

But because we want the one true gospel to be truly heard and understood so that people can believe it, put their trust in Jesus. The gospel of Jesus, the son of God, crucified for our sins, raised to life alive today. Lord and master over all. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone. That’s our first point.

Verse 16. Verse 17. Here’s our second. The good news of Jesus is available to everyone. The good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone and it is available to everyone.

Verse 17 was a time bomb that was ticking away for many, many years. And it exploded 400 years ago at the reformation. Have a look down at it. Verse 17. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.

Or as we might say in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed by faith from first to last, from beginning to end. As it is written, the righteous will live by faith. There was a german monk called Martin Luther. You will know his name, many of you, I am sure. And as Martin Luther read verse 17, 400 years ago, he struggled with that phrase, the righteousness of God.

He thought that it meant God’s holiness, God’s righteous standard against him, opposed to him, condemning him, the fact that God is perfect and that he was not, and that he could never measure up so for years, Martin Luther the monk tried his hardest to do what he could to be right with God. He prayed seven times a day. He fasted, sometimes up to three days at a time. He tried to confess every single sin. He was terrified of dying with unconfessed sins.

Sometimes he got behind in his prayers and he started all over again. It was a huge burden for him. He could never do enough. He said later, if ever a monk could get to heaven by his monkery, it was I. But secretly, he added, I hated God.

He hated that he was never sure he had done enough, that perhaps God hadn’t forgiven him. This verse terrified him. And then, as he studied it in its context, he realised that it meant something very different. It wasn’t saying that the gospel reveals God’s righteous standard and that he is against us. That wouldn’t be good news at all now.

Rather, the good news reveals a righteousness from God, a righteousness given to us by God and received simply by faith with open hands. The good news is that God declares guilty people like you and me to be right with him because Jesus died and paid for our sins.

It isn’t about what we have to do to please God. It’s about having faith in what God has done for us, in Jesus. That’s the good news. Oh, the burdens fell away for Martin Luther. He said it as if I walked into paradise through open gates.

But imagine if you had to be, I don’t know, clever enough or good enough to get into God’s books. Imagine if you had to have your life all sorted out before God were interested in you, if you had to be from the right background, if you had to be middle class, if you had to be very good and religious before he heard your prayers. No, God has made it easy for anyone to be saved. All we need to do, even a child, all we need to do is simply depend on what God has done for us at the cross. I’m not ashamed of the gospel.

Paul says the good news of Jesus is relevant to everyone and it is available to everyone, just as we end in the last three or four minutes. Let me ask you, have you understood this good news yourself? We talk about it in church, we read about it in the Bible, we sing about it. But do you know it as God’s good news for you personally, at all saints? We want to help each other to understand this good news, really to understand it, to make it our own.

We want to help each other do that. So we have little groups from time to time, as many of you will know, like the Christianity explorer group that my iraqi friend joined years ago, where we can come and look at the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life and ask our questions and talk about our concerns in a non threatening, non judgmental atmosphere. If you would like to be part of a group like that, please let me know. I would love to invite you and we’ll explore it together. Good news and maybe you are a Christian.

Perhaps many of us are here this morning and you might have been a Christian for many, many years. And you might be thinking, why do I need to hear the good news? Why are we going to study Romans? Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take Romans chapter one to five up until Easter, and then perhaps after Easter, do six to eight and gradually work our way through. But why do I need to hear Romans?

I’ve been a Christian. I’ve believed it for years. Well, let me ask that question another way. Why does Paul spend so long in his letter to the Romans, explaining the gospel in such detail to people who are already Christians? The answer is in verses ten and eleven.

Have a look down verses ten and eleven. Paul is writing to them before he visits them, and he’s been wanting to visit them because he has a gift he wants to give them. Now, what’s this gift? It’s a gift that is guaranteed to encourage every Christian in every age, us included. What’s this gift?

Keep a thumb in Romans one and turn over, if you would, to Romans, chapter 15. Romans, chapter 15. It’s on page 1144. Page 1144, Romans, chapter 15. Sometimes, to help us understand what a book of the Bible is about, it’s helpful to look at the beginning and the end of the books, the bookends, and sometimes they give us a clue about what the theme of the book is.

Well, here’s one. Romans, chapter 15, verse 23. At the end of his letter, Paul writes, but now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I’ve longed for many years to come to you in Rome, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey there by you. Paul wants to go to Spain. Not on a mini break on a mission trip.

He’s wanted to take the good news to Spain. He’s been everywhere, you see. He spent the last 20 years crisscrossing the Mediterranean, preaching the gospel, starting churches, and now he’s run out of places to go as a pioneer missionary. They’ve all heard the gospel. They’ve had opportunities to respond.

So he looks west and he sees Spain and he oh the barbarians of Spain, they’ve never had the chance to hear of Jesus. I’m going to take them the gospel. I’ll go there and I’ll stop off in Rome on the way. And if you Romans really understand the gospel, then you’ll want to share in this mission with me. Maybe you’ll pray for me, perhaps you’ll support financially, maybe some of you will come with me.

We’ll do this together. And that’s his gift, that’s his gift to the Romans that he talks about in Romans chapter one, the gift that is guaranteed to encourage them. If you’re a Christian here this morning and maybe you’ll know this experience, it’s my experience sometimes you feel a bit flat. Christian life might sort of plateau a little bit. I find that when I’m like that, nothing encourages me more, nothing fills me with the spirit more than when I have the opportunity to talk to somebody about the Lord Jesus.

Do you find that you talk to someone about the Lord even just a little? It lifts you doesn’t it? You think, yes, that’s what it is to be a Christian. It’s so exciting. Well, Paul says that’s the gift I want to share with you Romans, the gift of being involved in mission.

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome so they’ll be mission ready when he arrives in Rome with the suitcases for his mission trip to Spain. He knows that nothing equips you to share the gospel like the gospel itself. So if you feel a bit daunted when it comes to talking to people about Jesus, if your palms go a bit sweaty and the words stick in your mouth, you’re in good company. But nothing is going to encourage you and me more than the gospel itself. That’s why we’re calling this series Romans training for mission.

As we go deep into the gospel we’ll find it will change our hearts and it will equip us and spur us on to share the good news of Jesus. Over the next few weeks it will equip us with answers to all kinds of questions that people might ask us, maybe that we’ve been asking ourselves. What about those you’ve never heard? Why does God rescue bad people but not religious people? How can Jesus death on the cross 2000 years ago save me today?

If God forgives our sins? Well surely we just keep on sinning. If God has really changed me, why do I go on sinning? Does God have a special plan for Israel? What should I think?

About politics. Why is church God’s answer to all the problems of the world? We can list the questions and keep going. All these questions Paul is going to answer in this letter and we’re going to find it a thrilling ride, I’m sure. I am not ashamed of the gospel.

He says he can take the same gospel message to the religious in Jerusalem, to the sophisticated urbanites in Rome, to the barbarians in Spain. The same gospel message is relevant to everyone and is available to everyone. Paul is going to share the national gospel so that we will share the gospel internationally. Shall we pray? And then we’ll sing close.

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