Doctrine on Display
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now, at last, succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
For 5 weeks we have journeyed through the prologue of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Paul introduced himself as one who is set apart for the Gospel of God in verse 1.
He describes this good news as news that which was promised in the Word of God beforehand in verse 2.
He describes this good news as news that concerns the Son of God - Jesus Christ descended in the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead in verses 3-4.
It is through this Jesus that Paul received Grace to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of God’s glorious name among all the nations in verse 5 and it is by this good news of Jesus that these Romans had become Christians, who Paul describes as called by God, loved by God, and made holy by God in verses 6-7.
Verse 7 concludes these introductory remarks, but we are not yet to the main body of the letter. Romans 1:8 begins a personal greeting with personal remarks. While verses 1-7 were a formal introduction, verses 8-15 are more of an informal introduction In these verses, Paul does not systematically cover core Christians beliefs as he will later, but rather we get to observe Paul interacting with these Roman Christians personally. While he is not systematically teaching doctrine, he is exemplifying doctrine. We can learn a lot about what Paul believes, by observing how he behaves - how he interacts and speaks to the church in Rome. And in observing Paul’s interaction with this 1st-century church there is so much for us to learn about our 21st-century church.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
Although we have already discussed this, I want you to notice how Paul continually portrays the relationship that he has with God - first I thank my God . The personal pronoun is added purposefully. In verse 6 Paul describes Christians as those who are called to “belong to Jesus Christ” and here Paul prays to “my God”. He has a personal, intimate, relationship with HIS heavenly Father and it is only made possible "through Jesus Christ". Again, just in a brief statement, we find core doctrines of Paul’s faith - that is - that without faith in Jesus, no fellowship with God is possible. Remember verse 5, it is through Jesus that Paul receives the grace of God. That grace is including this grace of prayer - this grace of open communication to God. Jesus had made this relationship with God possible.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world
He thanks God for these Roman Christians.
He is thankful that a thriving church is present in Rome.
Notice that he does not direct his thanksgiving to the Roman Christians.
He does not write, “I thank you Romans for your faith being proclaimed in all the world.”
Rather, He directs his thanksgiving to God. He recognizes something that is so key for us to understand.
Truth #1 The Church is a Gift of God’s Grace
God has done something miraculous in Rome. He has created a community of believers by his grace and for his glory. And that gift of a church is worthy of abundant thanksgiving! Paul is appropriately overwhelmed by thanksgiving at the news of a thriving church in Rome, but it's not just for the Roman church that he is thankful. Listen as Paul expresses gratitude in his letters to Christians around the world gathering in new churches.
To the church in Corinth he writes:
1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
To the church in Ephesus:
Ephesians 1:15-16 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
To the church in Philippi
Philippians 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
To the church in Colossae
Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
To the Church in Thessalonica
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
It is for these gatherings of people throughout the Roman empire that Paul has given his life to and it is for these gatherings of people that he is overwhelmed by thanksgiving to God. Each group of people gathering as church families in Corinth, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, Rome, St. Rose, LA are testimonies to the goodness and grace of God to save people from their sins. As God is bringing people into right relationship with himself - he is also bringing those people into right relationship with one another in communities of faith called churches. We are participating this morning in what is a divine gift - worthy of great thanksgiving.
But if Paul has not yet been to Rome as we will see in a moment, how does Paul know that there is a church in Rome?
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world
Paul was thankful for these Roman believers because their faith was proclaimed in all the world.
Rome was the city of the emperor and the capital of the empire.
Rome was home to the worship of idols and false gods.
Rome was home to the elite of the elite.
For a Roman, the goal was power, prestige, and pride.
Roman citizens were known for their arrogance.
The spiritual climate of Rome was in every way contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
The darkness of Rome, becomes clearer to us later in church history when organized persecution of Christianity would begin. Colosseums would soon be filled with people cheering, and jeering, as Christians are publically mauled by wild animals for sport. It was a place of unbearable darkness. But something remarkable happened to a small section of the Roman population. They came to the obedience of faith in Jesus Christ. They were called to belong to Jesus. They became the beloved people of God. They were called to be saints and everything changed for them. In a city that worshipped multiple gods, they now worshipped only one god. In a city that prioritized pride, power, and prestige, they now embraced humility, weakness, and dependence on Christ Jesus. Their faith was visible, noticeable, and uncontainable. Having found Jesus, they were busy at work introducing others to Jesus so much so that this little group of people in Rome made an impact that spread beyond Rome and into cities all over the Roman empire.
They were living examples of Jesus’ teaching
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The True People of God have a visible faith. The obedience of faith in Jesus Christ is a noticeable thing in a whole community of people
Truth #2 The Church is Doctrine on Display
We are by God’s design a group of people so very changed by the content of our faith, that our faith is obvious. It is contagious. It spreads through us and from us. This Roman Christian community became so unlike any other community in Rome, that what they believed about Jesus spread to surrounding cities.
This is what the church is.
This is what the church does.
So let me pause to ask this question. Is your faith proclaimed?
Is your doctrine on display?
If your co-worker, neighbor, or family member, observed your life would they see a faith that makes you exceedingly different from the rest of the world?
Or would they see you acting, living, and making decisions just like the rest of the world acts, lives, and makes decisions?
If I were to ask the people who spend the most time with you about what you believe would they understand the gospel that you claim to believe in?
Christian churches should be strange communities full of people whose faith is visibly manifested in their relationship with one another and their relationship to the outside world. This is why we have a membership class before you can join our church. We want to know you, and to know your story of coming to faith before you join with us to proclaim the faith. We believe that saving faith changes you. To have faith in Jesus is to be changed by Jesus so that that faith is made visible in your life. You cannot be a member of our church unless you are a born again, made new, death to life, regenerated, Christian who has trusted Jesus as the savior of your soul and the Lord of your life. It is our desire that every church member of St. Rose Community Church is someone who has come to the obedience of faith and whose faith is now proclaimed to the world with their words and their way of life.
May we at St. Rose Community Church be a people whose “faith is proclaimed in all the world." May we pray to that end, serve to that end, long for that end, and be thankful that this is what God is doing for us, in us, and through us just as he did it in Rome.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you…..
For whatever reason, Paul has not been able to visit the church in Rome yet.
He has only heard reports of them, but he does know personally many people who are now laboring in the church in Rome. We know that Paul has deep relationships with Church members in Rome from his greeting at the end of Romans which lists those whom he would like to greet and see again soon.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
In that list of names, you hear what is most likely a variety of younger men and older men, younger women, and older women. Mixed in the list you here Greek names, Hebrew names, and Latin names. You hear of one who is like a mother to Paul, and others who are more like brothers and sisters. Some are slaves while others are more wealthy homeowners. As I read that this week, I imagined what it would be like if 20 or 30 people were to leave from here to plant another church in an area that needs it and what it would be like for me to sit down and write a letter sending my greetings.
Now with these names in mind look again at verses 10-11 from chapter 1.
always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now, at last, succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you…..
Do you hear the affection in Paul’s voice for these fellow Christians?
None of them are blood relatives of Paul, yet he writes to them and longs for them as if they are his own family, longing to see them and to spend time with them. His love for them drives his desire to see them.
Truth #3 The Church is a Community of Supernatural Love
There is a unique connection that Christians should have to one another.
As we have gone on mission to southeast Asia it is remarkable how quickly and how deeply we grew to love the Christians we are working with there and how quickly they grew to love us. There is something about the love of God in the heart of his children that draws his children together with deep brotherly and sisterly affection despite many differences. Churches should be groups of people that feel a deep sense of connection, accountability, commitment, to one another in ways that differ from common relationships the rest of the world has that are based on hobbies and commonalities.
If all you ever experience in regard to church is sitting in a building to listen to a sermon, then you are not experiencing the fullness of God’s design for the church. The sweetness of church is in the deep relational love that we all have for God and that God has for us that we then overflow to one another. The sweetness of congregational music is not just listening to the people on stage, but it is in hearing the voices of those in the room whom you know God has saved, and whom you have grown to love. The sweetness is in the hearing of Mrs. Millie’s voice whom who know God saved at her kitchen sink thirty years ago, and in the voice of Mr. Bobby, whom God drew to himself just this year - two people so different from one another, yet two people whom I love so dearly, and whom come together to sing songs of joy to their common Heavenly Father, and Savior Jesus Christ.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the miracle of the church, that Paul is thankful for, and it is the experience with the Roman Christians that he longs for. Are you a part of that? Are you content to keep your distance, live your own life, in your own little family, without the breadth and the depth of relational joy that is to be found in the church? Do you long for, enjoy, appreciate, and give yourself to the divine community of supernatural love or have you settled for natural, normal, shallow relationships with no hint of Gospel power?
The church is God’s gift to you.
A communal display of doctrine
A communal display of supernatural love.
It seems that Paul was worried that the church in Rome would have doubted his longing for them because of a long delay that kept him from visiting so in verse 9-11 make a unique argument.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now, at last, succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you,
Paul calls God to witness that he truly does long for them because he is in continuous prayer for them.
Paul expresses his longing for them in constant prayers for them and more specifically that God would allow him to visit them soon.
But just as a side note, notice how he prays, he prays that “by God’s will” he will, at last, come to Rome.
God was preventing him for whatever reason… and Paul recognized that even in his praying, God is sovereign. He is in control and although Prays for God to act in one way, he trusts God if God should choose to act another way.
And I am glad God did. If Paul had not been prevented from going to Rome earlier, I wonder if we would have this blessed book written in its fullest form.
If he had gone to Rome earlier, he may have taught much of the content of Romans in person, but because of the delay we have a letter passed down 2,000 years of church history.
As I was thinking about this, God brought to mind Stephen and Blythe, who were praying for longing for and planning to be on the international mission field by now…. But God prevented them at this time… we don’t know why, but God does, and there is glory in the waiting. There is God’s sovereign working behind his causing you to wait - one of the reasons no doubt being that you would serve this church for a season.
Always pray, by God’s will, because no matter what your request is, God knows what’s best.
It would be silly, however, to limit Paul’s prayers to only this one request.
We see through Paul’s other letters that he is always praying numerous things for his fellow believers in his partner churches.
In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that they would have wisdom and knowledge of God.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that they would love more and more.
In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul prays that God would make them worthy of His calling on their lives.
Paul is exemplifying a core belief that he has that God both commands and hears our prayers.
#4 The Church is a Community of Prayer
The church is built upon prayer to God.
As we draw nearer to God in prayer, we also draw nearer to one another.
If you are convicted that you do not have a love for the people of God like you should, let me encourage you to start praying for them on a regular basis.
As we love each other more, we will pray for each other all the more, but at the same time, as we pray for each other more we will love each other all the more.
This is how the people of God operate. We all are in desperate need of God’s provision and his power in our lives, and so we all rely on God together. Prayer is a perfect and powerful way to grow closer together to this church family.
Every Sunday night, we gather at 6:00 PM here in this sanctuary and we pray together and we pray for one another and it is the sweetest expression of supernatural love in our church. If you feel unconnected to the people in this room, I just want to encourage you, begin to pray for them daily and commit to come and pray with them weekly.Prayer has a way of changing both the people prayed for and the person doing the praying.
May we learn from Paul’s example. May we pray for one another without ceasing.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
This might be one of my favorite personal remarks that Paul makes when writing to a church.
Notice what Paul says. Paul is eager to spend time with the Roman Christians because he truly believes he has a particular spiritual gift that will strengthen the Roman Christians.
He is an apostle.
He has special gifts of teaching and preaching the Gospel.
He has wisdom and insight and the list goes on that he might be able to edify the church in Rome.
But I want you to notice how quickly Paul offers a correction to his previous statement.
He states, "That I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine."
Paul, although he was called to be an Apostle, although he had seen in person the risen Lord Jesus and had planted churches across much of the known world, he believed that his own faith could be “mutually encouraged” by these fellow believers. Paul believed that God had designed his church and his people masterfully.
Truth #5 The Church is a Community of Interdependence
In other words, the church is a community of people who need each other.
God has created each of you uniquely, but specifically to fit in with those around you that your strengths might bring encouragements and support to their weaknesses. God has given each of you gifts that he has not given me.
He has given me gifts that he has not given you, and we need one another.
Look at how Paul fleshes this out later in the book.
Romans 12:4-8 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Do you realize what this means? Quite literally, “you complete me.”
If you are in this room right now and you are not actively involved in the communal life of the church and you do not have a family of believers around you that you are committed to and they are committed to you, you are incomplete.
There is something about the faith of another person, that strengthens the faith that you yourself have.
If your brother or sister in Christ is consistent in their devotion to the Lord, you are spurred on in your devotion to the Lord.
If they are faithful to endure through suffering, you are encouraged to be faithful through suffering.
If they are sacrificial with their time, and their money, and their resources, you are encouraged to do the same.
Biblical God-honoring Christianity is impossible without the mutual strengthening and encouraging that is offered only in deep relationships found in the Christian church.
Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
All of us go through times of weakness, doubt, fear, and discouragement. All of us are prone to drift into evil, unbelieving hearts that fall away from God and if we are to go through this alone we surely will fall away. Often times God in his wisdom utilizes the church in this way: when I am weak and discouraged my Christian brothers are not and they build me up and when one of them likewise is weak, I am strong enough to build him up
This is our obligation. We, in all of our differences, our personalities, our desires, our gifts, and our shortcomings, build each other up and we “live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
#1 The Church is a Gift of God’s Grace
#2 The Church is Doctrine on Display
#3 The Church is a Community of Supernatural Love
#4 The Church is a Community of Prayer
#5 The Church is a Community of Interdependence
So what do we do with this example of Paul’s interaction with the church in Rome?How should you respond?
- Join the Church:
Even in the first century, it was clear who was a part of the local house church and who was not. To be a member, was a meaningful commitment made between Christians to proclaim the faith, live in supernatural love, pray for one another, and share in each other's giftings.
If you are just an attendee of St. Rose Community Church, but you have not joined our membership and committed yourself to us. Please join with us in proclaiming our faith in all the world.
- Proclaim Your Faith
Actively and intentionally put your doctrine on display. Evangelize the lost, be different from the world, shine your light in the darkness.
- Commit to Pray
Make a payer list. Come to Sunday night prayer.
- Use Your Gifts for the Mutual Encouragement of the Church.
God has gifted you. He has given you talents, and personalities, and spiritual gifts for the mutual building up of the church. Don’t waste them.