Sunday, August 27, 2006

Who We Are - Romans 1:1-7

Who We Are – Romans 1:1-7
by Pastor Lee Hemen
August 27, 2006 AM

Who we are is important. Not only to others but to ourselves and to God as well. A lot of people spend much of their lives seeking out the answer to that very question of who they are. Some folks define who they are by their work, their social status, beauty, material possessions, or intellect. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans he not only defines himself for all of history to read, but he also defines for us exactly who the Christian is. And, for Paul, who we are in Jesus Christ is far more important than who we are as far as social or material status is concerned. In fact, as we read this letter we will discover that who we are not only carries eternal significance but also life significance for our lives right now. Who we are is vastly important.

As we were in San Francisco the Youth Team was fascinated by the row houses. At a distance they looked like shoe boxes standing side-by-side, all in a long line, marching off into the horizon. No individuality, no identity as to who owned them, and certainly no visual identity to any of them. However, as you got closer you discovered that the people who lived in them had found ways to express who they were by decorating them not only with various colors, but small plants, different windows, roof lines, iron gates, garage doors, flags, and such. It reminded me of Christianity in a way. Far off we all look similar, carrying our Bibles, dressed for church, singing the hymns and choruses, but as we draw closer and look deeper we discover who we really are. Paul gives us some real insight in these first few verses as to who we are. Let’s discover what he wrote, shall we?

READ: Romans 1:1-7

That Paul is the author of this letter is not desputed. Even the ancient heretics admitted Romans was written by Paul. Paul identified himself as the author by name, of course (1:1); but that is no guarantee of the acceptance of his authorship, since he did that in all his letters, including those for which his authorship is questioned or denied. In Romans Paul referred to himself by name only once, in contrast with several of his other letters; but a number of other internal details support Paul’s authorship. His reference to being a member of the tribe of Benjamin (11:1); his mention of Priscilla and Aquila (16:3); the mention of other missionaries journeys (15:25-27); and other pertinent facts regarding his life show us that this letter was indeed written by the Apostle Paul himself. However, we learn immediately who Paul considers himself to be. In fact, what Paul relates will help us to discover who we are as well. He states that…

I. He Is A Servant of Jesus Christ (v. 1)!

1. “Servant” (doulos) means slave, a person owned by another. Paul wore this title gladly. We find him often referring to himself in this way. In fact, for Paul it was not a matter of trying to impress someone else or any earthly person. In fact, he writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).” When he referred to himself as a servant he meant it as found in the Old Testament picture of a slave who in love binds himself to his master for life: “if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life. (Exodus 21:5-6). For Paul, his faith was no Sunday morning experience. It was a total life commitment that lovingly bound him to Jesus as his Master. Many in our day and age want Jesus as Savior, but few want Him as Lord and Master. This is impossible, because Jesus cannot save you unless He has all of you. That is what faith is all about: trusting Jesus completely with all of your life. Making Him complete Master of your life. When Paul defined himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” he was declaring his identity. Who he belonged to. Who had bought him. We often forget that as Christians we are not our own, we were “bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).” Who we are defines us in Jesus Christ. Paul knew who he was. He was a servant of Jesus Christ. Are you?

EXAMPLE: We live in a service oriented culture. A few decades ago we lived in a more of a manufacturing society, and before that a more agrarian society where farming was common place. We expect others to cater to our every whim and meet our needs when we want whatever we want. For most of us we have become so used to the convenience of a service oriented culture that we often expect our personal relationships to be the same way. To meet our needs when we desire it as we desire it. This is why more and more people live together or have short term relationships with little significance attached to them. In a relationship that is based always on meeting the needs of the individual first, who gets served first when the need is greatest? In fact we have now created churches that cater to these selfish self-centered demands. Many see their relationship with Jesus so much as a personal one-on-one affiliation that we forget that He is not so interested in giving us the happy holies as He desires our obedience, our lives, ourselves completely without any reservation. True Christian faith is found when you discover that you are the servant and Jesus is the Master.

We forget that Christians are to be about their Master’s business as long as they live. Paul never forgot. He took his servanthood seriously. With every breath, every moment of our lives we are to be about His will. Working to establish His kingdom until He returns. To do otherwise, is to be found like the lazy servant who buried his talent instead of investing it as his master would have desired. When the master returned he demanded an accounting, and all the servant could show for his effort was the same talent he was given. A little dirtier, but the same. (Luke 19:11-27) Paul understood that he was given a task as a believer. He was “called.” All of us who claim Jesus are. Paul states that…

II. He Is Called to be An Apostle (v. 1)!

1. Paul identified himself specifically. It literally meant one sent out with specified delegated authority, like we find Jesus doing with His disciples in Matthew 10:1-2: “[Jesus] called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles…” It was a position to which Paul knew he was called. This calling was from God. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias who was told by God that Paul “is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel (Acts 9:15).” Paul would write of his calling that he was indeed “an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1).” Paul was called of God to be an Apostle, but we often forget that each of us is called of God as well. Here’s what I mean: We are called to be His, and if we are called to be His, then what happens to us in this life is for His purpose, His will. Paul would write that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).” This means that God knew us, knows us, and knows our lives! He calls us out of the world to be His! We are called of God! Who we are is the called of God! Our job is to discover the purpose God has for each of us! Have you?

EXAMPLE: Just as God related to Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11),” as believers we are called of God. Not just for salvation, but for His purpose and plan. For some of us it might be for ministry or missions, but in reality God calls us to serve Him where we are with all of our heart. I went to a church years ago where an elderly gentleman was always found handing out the bulletins. He was asked once why he like to do so, and he replied, “Some are called to serve God as ministers of the gospel, as missionaries, or teachers, but then there are those real servant positions no one wants that God desires to be filled. Folks who hand out bulletins, clean toilets, serve food, help others, repair things, and such. My job is to hand out the bulletins on Sundays and make people feel good about coming to worship.” When he died, everyone missed him because he did his calling so well. This is why Paul would remind Christians that they were servants called to serve the Lord and that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).” Whether you are a student, a teacher, retired, an office worker—whatever you do you are to serve the Lord because that is where He has called you.

Paul knew it really boiled down to what the main thing in life was. Like some the other things we have looked at this morning, we can often forget that the main thing for the Lord is the Gospel message. This is not a daily happy thought, but the universal truth of eternal redemption that is found in no one else but Jesus Christ. He is the good news. In fact, if we have placed our faith and trust in Christ, we have believed in the gospel message and we are set apart for it as well. Paul states that…

III. He Is Set Apart for the Gospel (v. 1)!

1. Paul’s calling involved being set apart for the gospel of God. It was the message of good news from God that centered on “His Son” which Paul was “eager to preach” (v. 15) without shame (v. 16). This setting apart did not keep Paul from continuing his daily life of making tents to support himself and his companions (Acts 20:34; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:8) nor from mingling freely with all levels of society. It was a setting apart to something—a commitment and dedication, not from things in isolation like the ultra-religious Pharisees of his day. However, this setting apart was not only a life process, but a choice by the individual and a command to be followed from God. Paul would write that God “chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4).” We are to offer our “bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is [our] spiritual act of worship.” We are not to “conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind (Romans 12:1).” This being set apart is for a purpose, not just for a position. Jesus related, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35).” Paul knew that believers are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” Jesus commanded. Paul knew Christians are set apart for the Gospel not the other way around.

EXAMPLE: What messages do you choose to believe? The ones that you watch on the TV nightly news? How about the commercials that interrupt your favorite show? Then there are the messages of teachers, parents, doctors, friends, family and others. We choose who we will believe and what we believe. Children can be masters at tuning out what they do not want to hear. In church, minds can be a million miles away. They can tell you the number of cracks in the ceiling and how many seats were empty. Many times we may exasperatingly ask, "Are you listening to me?" Yet, we too are often guilty of tuning out what we don't want to hear, even the greatest message from God. In his book Christian Reflections, C. S. Lewis says that a person who is determined to ignore God's voice will follow this advice: "Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health, and (above all) your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd." We need to listen to God's voice. But often, in our stubbornness, we make sure we do not. Instead of closing your ears to God, listen to His good news message. After all, it is the only way to be set apart from the world around you.

From the Book of Romans we have learned who we are. Paul knew. He related that he was a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel message. Now, let me ask you: Who are you?