The People of God
Bible Text: Romans 1:6-7 | Speaker: Brandon Langley | Series: Romans | After 5 verses and 4 weeks of study in the book of Romans, we are finally introduced to the intended recipients of this letter – those who are in Rome.
Paul was writing to Christians who were in the capital city of the Roman Empire. Now that alone might not seem significant, but this is an amazing thought. Paul has never been to Rome, nor had any other apostles that we know of, yet there was a Christian community of believers in Rome. There is a church in Rome and not just any church, but an established and a thriving church. In Romans 1:8, it says this is a church whose “faith was proclaimed in all the world.” So how did a healthy, thriving, strong, missional church begin in Rome if none of the apostles had made it to Rome with the gospel yet? If you remember back to Acts 2, Peter preached the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in the power of the Holy Spirit to a crowd of visitors in Jerusalem among which were “visitors from Rome.” (Acts 2:10)
It appears that these average, unnamed people who heard the good news of Jesus in Jerusalem then took that gospel to their home city and they began a church in Rome. Rome was the center of ancient civilization! Rome was the city of influence over art, culture, politics, and religion. Rome was the place where the emperor resided and was worshipped. In the most unlikely of places, God was using normal unnamed people to begin a church.
The Existence of the Letter to the Romans is a testimony to God’s Mission in the World
It is a testimony that God is at work in this world to make his name known, to create for himself a people, and to establish his church in all places among all peoples.
There is deep significance in the last phrase of verse 5 that we really did not touch on last week.
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
That word “nations” comes from the greek word “ethnos” which is where we get our word ethnicities.
Paul is emphasizing not just the Glory of God expanding across geopolitical lines, but across all ethnicities.
Paul is communicating God’s mission to expand his kingdom to all types of peoples beyond just Jews.
Implicit in the phrase, “among all the nations” is the fulfillment of the command of Jesus – Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.
We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith “for his namesake among all the nations”
This is God’s mission – to get the gospel message to the unreached, the unengaged, to the people who have not heard and have little access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Implicit in this phrase is what God is accomplishing in the world.
Truth #1 God is Creating a People for Himself Among All Nations
And upon stating that mission, Paul turns to the Roman Christians and speaks directly to them as being included in this mission of God.
for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
“Including you” – You Roman Christians are the result of grace given to bring about the obedience of your faith for the glory of God among the nations!
You are a part of this story.
You are the result of God’s active accomplishing of his will in the world.
There is a sense in which I can turn to you St. Rose Community Church and say similarly.
This is including you.
This Gospel of God we have been meditating upon for 4 weeks is good news for you.
It concerns you.
You are among the nations in which God is creating a people for himself.
And upon addressing these Roman Christians, Paul begins to describe what it is that makes these Romans different from all other Romans.
He goes on to describe what makes them the people of God.
Now, remember, all of this is an introduction.
These are short phrases that will be unpacked in detail later in the letter so Paul is intentional in his word choices when he describes whom he is writing to.
He is intentionally summarizing Christian identity.
including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ
Truth #2 God’s People are Called to belong to Jesus
Paul specifies that he is not writing to all Romans everywhere, rather he is addressing the Romans who have experienced the unique, life-changing, soul-saving “call” by God to belong to Jesus.
Firstly, what does it mean to belong to Jesus?
This is something we will explore throughout the book of Romans.
We belong to Jesus because we are united to Jesus in his death and resurrection
Romans 6:5-6 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
We belong to Jesus because the spirit of Christ lives in us
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
We belong to Jesus because we follow him in all circumstances
Romans 14:7-8 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
To belong to Jesusis to be:
In fellowship with Jesus
A Follower of Jesus
A servant of Jesus
Forgiven by the atoning work of Jesus.
United to Jesus
Fellow heirs with Jesus
Conformed into the image of Jesus
Forever glorified with Jesus
If you are a Christian this morning you have been called to belong to Jesus your Lord and Savior.
Anne Marie is called relationally and covenantally to belong to me as a wife and I as her husband. At the moment of our marriage, all of what I had became hers and all of what she had became mine. Likewise, we are joined with Jesus. All that he has is ours. All we have is his. He is ours, and we are his.
If you are a Christian you have been called to belong to Jesus.
But what does Paul mean by the use of this word “called”?
In a general way, all are called upon to respond to the Gospel of Salvation with faith and repentance.
Jesus offered these sort of general invitations for all to come, believe, and be saved.
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
This type of general call, it was what all of us are commanded to do.
We are commanded to preach the Gospel to everyone, to invite everyone to believe.
But, it in this instance Paul does not seem to be using the word “called” in a general way.
Look again at verse 6 Including you, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ
The emphasis of the sentence indicates that Paul is talking to a people who have received a different kind of call then just the general call for everyone to come.
He seems to refer to the kind of call that only the Christian person in Rome has truly experienced.
It is the sort of call that someone receives at the moment of their salvation.
It is God’s active and effective drawing you to himself.
It is his active opening your eyes to see him as beautiful.
It is his active raising you to spiritual life though you were spiritually dead.
It is his accomplishing in you the spiritual rebirth that you must have to enter the kingdom of God.
We see examples of this calling appear throughout the Scriptures.
Listen to how Peter describes the promise of this salvation
Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Listen to how God works in the heart of Lydia when Paul shares the good news of Jesus with her.
Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the possible responses to the message of the cross.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
It is only through God’s powerful calling you and drawing you that you come to see jesus Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God rather than the foolishness of men.
If you are a Christian here today…, it is a supernatural miracle of God’s Calling you to belong to Jesus.
God Almighty initiated a relationship with you by way of supernatural power in the Spirits drawing you to Himself.
Christian, what compelled you to belong to Jesus?
Kaleigh, why did Jesus, out of all the other religious teachings you were studying when you visited this church, why did Jesus so suddenly and so clearly appear to you as the greatest treasure worthy giving your life to?
Mark, what drew you to the church that Wednesday night, and opened your eyes to your need for a relationship with God.
God was actively, powerfully, effectively calling you to himself.
And this is true for every person who has faith in Jesus here this morning.
You are CALLED by God Almighty to belong to Jesus
If you are a Christian this morning whether you came to faith in Jesus at 8 years old or 80 years old you can sing the words to this song.
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
It is a sobering thought.
It’s a humbling thought.
It’s an assuring thought…. “For he who began a good work in me will bring it to completion”
Truth #2 God’s People Are Called to Belong to Jesus.
But the description of Christian identity does not stop there
To all those in Rome who are loved by God
Truth #3 God’s People are Loved by God
And again we know that God has a love for the whole world in a general way.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world….
1 John 4:8 God is love
But again, Paul is not speaking of the sort of general love that God has for everyone.
Paul is identifying a special kind of love that God has for the Roman Christians and by extension for every Christian in this room.
I love all of you in a general way because I am a Christian and I am commanded to love you… but it would be silly to say that I love each and every one of you in the same way that I love my wife and my son.
The love I have for my wife and my child is a covenantal love that is deeper and different from the love I have with even my closest friends.
Let me just be straight up honest with you…I love you each and every one of you here this morning deeply… but if it meant protecting my wife and child I would without hesitation be physically violent against any of you…
Because that is my wife. I am hers and she is mine. And that is my son. I am his and he is mine.
And this is the love that God has for you Christian.
God loves you with the personal love of a Father.
Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
It is an experiential love that we receive from God
Romans 5:5 “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
It is a sacrificial love we can see through what Jesus has done.
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is an unstoppable unchangeable inseparable kind of love
Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christian you are not loved by God in a general sort of way that the rest of the world is loved by God….
You are loved by God with an unchanging covenantal love that will never ever end no matter what may come.
Like a perfect Husband making unbreakable vows to love you…. God has made a promise of love to you who have faith in Jesus.
And this is the type of love your soul longs for….
We long to be loved by someone so we search for it.
We will become anything, spend anything, sacrifice anything, be anyone just to be loved by others.
We look for love from our parents and our family
We look for love in relationships, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends.
Many finally find what they think is love and they even get married in their idolatry of affection and affirmation and then they feel that the love grows cold.
It becomes dull and so they begin searching for it again.
They can’t even really define what it is they are looking for but they know that they must have it.
May I suggest that the longing for love that inflames the human heart is a longing that was placed there by God, because it was God’s desire to satisfy that longing, by loving you as you long to be loved for the rest of eternity.
If you look to satisfy your craving for love in any person other than the person of Jesus you will be disappointed and ultimately destroyed by your failed pursuit.
Cast yourself on the love of God this morning.
Pray that he would help you to see it, and savor it and be changed by it.
Christian you are called by God, and loved by God, but that’s not all you are.
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Verse 7 says that we are called not only to belong to someone, we are called to become someone.
God calls us, loves us, AND he changes us.
He calls us to become “saints”
Notice that Paul is not talking about a particular sect or small group of Christians within Rome… he is talking to all the Christians of the Church in Rome.
He refers to all Christians who are called by God, and loved by God, as made to be saints of God.
The word saint literally means “holy ones”.
Paul will go on to use this word 7 more times all referring to the Christians in Rome as saints. He uses this word 30 other times in his writings to refer to all Christians in general.
This is what you are, Christian.
This is what your faith in Jesus has made you. He has made you a saint.
Truth #4 God’s People are Made Holy by God
Or put another way, God’s People are Sanctified by God…
How can this be?
How can I be called a saint?
How can I be made Holy?
Holy means to be set apart, pure, righteous, as God is set apart, pure and righteous.
How could you or I ever be made a holy one of God?
And here in this word “saint”, we have summarized what God accomplishes for us and in us through our faith in Jesus.
We are made holy positionally by our faith in Jesus.
Even though, we are not actually holy and without sin…. God declares us holy in his sight just as Jesus was truly holy in his sight.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
This means that for the person who has faith in Jesus, there is no punishment for sin left for him. He is treated as if he was truly holy in this life, though he wasn’t.
Paul says this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 6
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
If you are a Christian here this morning, you have been sanctified You have been made positionally a saint before God.
You stand before God sanctified as if you had lived an entirely holy life, not because of your holiness, but because of Jesus’ holiness, and his sacrifice made for you.
But this is not all that the phrase, “ called to be saints” means.
We are made holy positionally before God.
But we are also, made holy progressively.
At the moment of conversion God makes us a saint in his eyes, but at that same moment, we begin a transformation process through which we actually begin to look like what we have been made to be.
We begin to exemplify practically the change God has made for us positionally.
In addition to being declared holy in the sight of God, we begin to actually become holier in the image of God.
Christian, God started a work in progress with you when you put faith in Jesus for the first time.
He started the process of sanctification – the making holy that which was not holy.
Romans 6:17-19 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life
Because we Christians now belong to Jesus – the Holy One – we serve him rather than our sin and we become increasingly like him.
It is with this foundational belief, that Paul transitions in Romans chapter 12 from teaching the theology of the Gospel, to teaching the implications of the Gospel on your life.
He assumes we will be increasingly conforming to God’s standard of holiness in our worship and devotion to him.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is the process of the Christian life, we are ever presenting ourselves as a sacrifice to God.
We are ever being transformed by the renewal of our minds.
We are becoming what God has already made us to be – we are called to be “saints”
But there is another sense in which we will never fully arrive to God’s standard of holiness in this life.
We will improve. We will increase in holiness. But it will always be an imperfect holiness.
We live in a fallen world. We have a fallen sinful nature. We will always fall short.
But there is coming a day when what we are positionally before God will become who we are fully and finally.
We will be made holy finally.
In Romans chapter 8, Paul will talk about God’s full and final work to one day restore all of creation.
He will enact a divine resurrection of a fallen world. He will bring Heaven on earth.
There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more separation from God, AND there will be no more sin.
God will change us entirely and thoroughly to be the saints he has called us to be.
The Bible describes this final transformation into holiness with a technical phrase –
We will have what the Bible calls a glorified body.
A glorified existence where no longer will we have to wage spiritual warfare.
No longer will we feel the sinful passions welling up inside of us that we must put to death.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
One day we will see Jesus face to face and God will fully and finally make us the Saints he has called us to be – fully and finally glorified.
We have been made holy positionally.
We are being made holy progressively.
We will be made holy finally.
This is our identity as Christians..
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.
Paul concludes his introduction with what is a standard greeting for Paul.
He wishes these Christians what only Christians can experience – Grace and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
While the whole world works themselves to death to find favor, affirmation, love, satisfaction, and peace within themselves and peace with God…. the Christian has been granted and will increasingly be granted the undeserved favor of God and the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Peace with ourselves
Peace with the world
Peace with God now in part, but one day in full.
If you are not a Christian and you have never professed your saving faith in Jesus through believers baptism, if you have never come to the obedience of faith that we spoke about last week, then let me beg you repent of your sin and trust Jesus alone for your salvation.
What if God is calling you right now?
What if the sovereign God of the universe aligned a million trillion details to get you to sit in this room on this day so that you might hear that there is a Holy God in heaven who has made a way for you to be saved through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and even right now in this moment he is opening your eyes to your own sin and to God’s plan to save you from that sin?!
Answer the call of God.
Ask for forgiveness, trust him who calls, loves, and sanctifies.
Receive the grace and the peace of God that is only received through faith in Jesus.
If you are a Christian, rest in the grace and peace of your Christian identity.
#1 God is Creating a People for himself among all the nations.
#2 Including You are called to belong to Jesus.
#3 You are Loved by God
#4 You have been made, are being made, will one day finally be made holy.
He who has started a good work in you will bring it to completion.
Because of what Christ Jesus has done – together, we can sing these words with confidence
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in His holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.