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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1284

December 18, 2016 – Advent 4 Romans 1:1-7

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


"Concerning God’s Son"



  • Paul’s Call Received / Our Call Received


Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,

This is our last Sunday of Advent. We have been reading and hearing about the coming of God into the world and the promise of Jesus to come again. We have been focused on looking to Jesus, last Sunday growing in confidence that we need to look no further than Jesus Christ for he is the One. Two weeks ago we looked to Jesus as our hope. The first Sunday of Advent we looked to Jesus through the vision given to Isaiah that reminded us also to put on Jesus and prepare ourselves in ever readiness for his return. Today we look to Jesus through who we are in him and what we have been called to do through what we have received through Jesus.

We are also looking toward next Sunday which is Christmas day. We will celebrate the first Advent of Christ in his birth.


Today our focus is on Romans 1:1-7, a passage packed with lots of terms and claims in a short amount of space. Paul is like that, he gets a lot of theology in a short space. When we get these seven verses translated into English it is one long sentence. There was no punctuation in the original Greek, so when the translators work these things out, Paul has some of the longest sentences in scripture! But that is how Paul writes building phrase upon phrase upon phrase to show the deep meaning behind all the blessings of God in Jesus Christ.


Look with me at the first two verses and the words Paul chose to describe himself and ultimately every believer in Christ.


Servant - bond servant, slave, under the direction of another, but what distinguishes this designation in the Roman mind is that Paul is a slave of Jesus Christ and therefore not a slave of Caesar. He is not a slave of the state, not a slave even of himself, but a slave of his Lord.


Called – apostle. One who has been sent to proclaim the message of salvation, the message of God's kingdom, the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Set apart – gospel. Sometimes people will set themselves apart, thinking they are above others, more important, or just special. But God sets his people apart and for good reason. God sets us apart, in this particular instance, for the gospel.


Promised – Paul probably included this modifier for the Jews to show that what he preaches is not his own message but was foretold in the Old Testament. This message is for the Gentiles in Rome but also for the Jews in Rome and everywhere. The prophets foretold this in the scriptures given by God.



  • Concerning God’s Son


3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

What was told by the prophets in scripture concerns God's Son, the Messiah. On the one hand he was born according to the human lineage of David. The genealogy of Matthew's gospel shows that line. This was to show his connection to the people of Israel. He is the one promised from David. On the other hand he is divine, of God, John's gospel proclaims he is God. Paul declares him of God by the power of the Holy Spirit by his resurrection from the dead.


Jesus Christ our Lord. He is Lord. Very often people will talk about Jesus as their savior because of the good things that come from that, namely going to heaven. But some have criticized that we don’t talk as much about Jesus as Lord because that carries with it the obedient life here and now. Yes, Jesus is Savior and Jesus is Lord. We are to live in gratitude for what is promised by salvation and that life is one of obedient gratitude to God’s word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.


  • What We Have Received


5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship

Grace has been poured out in abundance through Jesus Christ. He is the embodiment of grace, taking our sin upon himself and going to the cross in obedience to God’s will or our sake. He takes our sins away. By his blood we are washed clean. It is nothing that you or I have done, it is all Jesus. In Him we receive great favor and love that we do not deserve.


Now, one commentator thought that we should read this line as “we” meaning “Paul and other like Paul” who have received apostleship, but I don’t think that is a fair reading of the text since grace and apostleship are linked together. If we is just about apostles or leaders, does that exclude grace from all Christians? Why put grace and apostleship together if one does not accompany the other? Surely one cannot be an effective apostle without God’s grace. Perhaps some believers could receive grace without becoming an apostle. But I don’t think that is possible either. If we truly believe that when Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and make disciples he was also commissioning the church, that is, all believers, then we have also all received the commission to become apostles. An apostle is simply one who has been sent to proclaim the message. God says, “I send you...” That is what makes you and I apostles. And in his grace we are able to act in obedience to that commission.



  • Why We Have Received


to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why have we received grace and apostleship? Why has Jesus come in the lineage of David and the Spirit of holiness? It is particularly to bring about the obedience of faith. Obedience, we might argue, is a sign of grace and faith. Paul’s terms throughout this opening greeting is soaked in illusions to obedience. Paul calls himself a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and a good bond-servant is good by definition if he or she is obedient. Paul calls himself and us apostles and an apostle is obedient to the one by whom they are sent. Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as Lord and the Lord requires obedience of those who follow.


The obedience of faith is for the sake of God’s name, Jesus’ name. This means that our obedience or lack thereof reflects on the name of Jesus Christ. It’s like your children and the actions they take reflect on your name and what it means to be a parent. But to disgrace the name of God’s Son has far greater consequences in the big picture. How many people have you heard or heard about who say, “well, I don’t attend church anymore because of the hypocrites!” Hypocrites disgrace the name of Christ. Now there are other arguments as to why that is a lame excuse for not attending a church, but that is not for this message today!


This call to obedient faith reflects on God and it is a call that reaches out to believer and non-believer alike. Our obedience of faith is seen by the nations and among all who belong to Christ. Sometimes we say that your life might be the only witness or Bible that some people read. The obedience of faith is a witness to the world without our ever having to speak a word of the gospel.


What does all this mean for Advent and Christmas?


This is what we have received because the Christ has come. We have a call to serve God and to share his good news and we have been given the authority to do so by being set apart for this purpose. It is a word that was promised long ago and one that will continue as long as Christians exist on the earth. The message is all about Jesus, concerning his Son. We are not given all of this without help for we have received grace and apostleship, favor and authority, God's goodness and command. Go therefore and make disciples… What it all builds in us is the obedience of faith. What a beautiful phrase when you think about it. The obedience of faith is the love of doing what God says, the joy of fulfilling his call in our lives, the peace of knowing God with us, and so many more things spelled out plainly for us throughout scripture. The obedience of faith finds its way in our hearts until the duty to believe becomes, not a hardship of having to give up things or take on more things, but the love of God expressed in sending his only Son so that we might live. And in living that we might thankfully serve this God who loves us by responding with obedient faith in joy and excitement. This is what Advent has given us. It is going to get even better with the Second Advent when Christ returns in glory. Let us rejoice in what has been given and is yet to come! Amen.