Derek Prince - I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel
It’s with a sense of real excitement that I come to this first session of our study on Romans 1–8. Also, with a sense of great responsibility. I can assure you, I find the responsibility of interpreting this marvelous book of Romans to God’s people a very serious one. It’s my sincere desire and prayer that I will be both faithful to God’s Word and sensitive to His Spirit. I have provided this outline, this study guide, which is called: The Roman Pilgrimage, and in due course I’ll explain why I’ve given it that title. I’d like to begin by reading the introduction that you’ll find on the first inside page of the booklet. Welcome to The Roman Pilgrimage. You are setting out on a journey in the realm of the Spirit which will both inspire and challenge you. At times the going will be rough. It will take you through the darkest depths of human depravity and then onto the glistening heights of God’s grace and glory.
Romans is a unique combination of the spiritual and intellectual without parallel in human literature. It unfolds the most sublime spiritual truths in terms of the most flawless logic. It will not merely illuminate your spirit, it will also challenge your intellect. For this reason, Romans will not yield its riches to careless or superficial reading. If you are to complete this pilgrimage successfully, there are two items of spiritual equipment which are essential: prayer and perseverance. Let me encourage you therefore, with the words of the Lord to Joshua as he prepared to enter the Promised Land. Only be strong, and very courageous. Now we’ll turn to the next page of the outline.
First of all, I want to emphasize that the central theme of Romans can be summed up in one word, which is righteousness. It’s a very, very important word. The Bible has a great deal to say about righteousness. God is always presented as a God of total righteousness. Speaking to the children of Israel, Moses said: His way is perfect and all his works are just [or righteous]. Psalm 92, it pictures the one who’s grown old in the knowledge and service of the Lord. It says that: his life proclaims that the LORD is righteous and there is no unrighteousness in him. Before we go further I need to explain something about the words that we have to use. In English we have two words, righteous and just, which are somewhat different in their meaning. But in the original languages of the Bible, both the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, there is only one word. In Hebrew it’s tsaddiq and in Greek it’s dikaios. That one word is translated either just or righteous, but there’s no difference.
So, in a sense, we have to adjust our thinking. We could make a difference between justice and righteousness. Righteousness, we might say, is moral character. Justice is the outworking of God’s laws and their application to our lives. But there’s no difference in the original languages. When we talk about righteousness, we’re talking about justice. When we’re talking about justice, we’re talking about righteousness. Some years ago I read in the book of Job, in Job 9:2, this prophetic question. How can a mortal man be righteous before God? Job was in deep agony of soul and, I believe, he asked that question not believing that there could be an answer to it. But in actual fact, God gives an answer to that question. How can a mortal man be righteous before God? The answer is the epistle to the Romans. That tells us how it is possible for any person who meets God’s conditions, which are unfolded in Romans, to be totally righteous before God.
One of the key phrases in Romans that we’ll keep returning to is no condemnation. That's really the practical outworking of Romans that you come to see that you’re accepted before God as totally righteous and that there’s no condemnation anywhere in your life. Romans also, I think, relates to the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5:6 He says, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. They shall be abundantly satisfied. So those of you here tonight who came thirsting for righteousness, I want to tell you that God has promised to satisfy you. But I suspect that some of you really didn’t have righteousness at the top of your list when you came.
See, I travel very widely amongst the people of God and meet God’s people from many backgrounds and many nations. I would not say in the contemporary church that righteousness is very high in the list of the priorities of God’s people. I meet people who are seeking blessing, power, healing, prosperity, spiritual gifts, but I don’t really meet many people today who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness. People who say: Unless I find righteousness, I cannot be satisfied. They’re not only hungry, they’re thirsty. In fact, their whole being is a total longing for righteousness. I hope that before these studies come to an end some of you would have experienced a change in your priorities. You’ll have a much higher value for righteousness.
You see, the other things follow righteousness. In a part of Romans that we will not have time to study in detail, chapter 14:17, Paul says: The kingdom of God is... How many of you know what’s first? righteousness, peace and joy But you cannot change the order and get God’s results. If you put either peace or joy first, God doesn’t meet you on that basis. God says if you’ll seek first righteousness then peace and joy will follow. Now, I want to give you a brief outline of Romans. First of all, let me just say that scholars believe it was written in A.D. 57 in the city of Corinth. There is a reference in Romans to a man named Erastus who was the chamberlain or the public works manager of the city of Corinth.
Quite recently, archaeologists have discovered at Corinth an inscription with the name of Erastus on it, crediting him with doing some public work at his own expense. So that’s a wonderful confirmation of the accuracy and up-to-date reliability of the Scripture. I’d like to suggest to you that we’ll view this epistle as divided up into four main sections. Although I’ve outlined all four, we’ll only deal with the first. The first section is chapters 1 through 8 and it presents the logical and scriptural basis of the gospel. Then, chapters 9 through 11 deal primarily with God’s dealings with Israel. Some Bible commentators have considered this a kind of irrelevant addition. I don’t see it that way. I believe God’s dealings with Israel are an essential part of the whole truth of the gospel.
I think it’s somewhat, I would say almost out of order to call Romans 9, 10, and 11 an addition or an excursis as though Paul had a temporary mental lapse and forgot where he was going. There’s nothing of that in the epistle to the Romans. But the essential question of 9 through 11 is God’s election because what comes out of it is the ultimate deciding factor in human experience is what God has chosen. That’s a very unpopular truth to the humanistic mind today. That’s partly why Israel is not popular in every section. The third, chapters 12 through 15, is an application of the preceding truths to daily living. This is characteristic of the whole New Testament. The New Testament never presents us with abstract theology. Never. Wherever it comes out with general spiritual truth and revelation, it always includes some very down-to-earth teaching on how this applies to the way we live.
It’s characteristic of Paul that he begins Romans 12, this part of the section, I beseech you therefore, brethren, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice to God. That’s the practical outworking of all the glorious theologies of God in the previous eleven chapters. Give God your body. Down to earth. And the final section, chapter 16, And consists of personal greetings and a benediction. some people again consider that irrelevant. There are many different individuals whose names are included. But I believe the Holy Spirit does it to show us that personal relationships are very important. We’re not just dealing with humanity and the masse, or even the church. But there are intimate, valuable, personal relationships which are built in the body of Christ which are of great value in the sight of God. None of us is just a number with God.
When I was called up to the British Army in 1940, they gave me a number; they took away my clothes and gave me a number. From then on, I was 7385778 for five and a half years. But God doesn’t do that with you. You’re not just a number with God. He knows you personally. And He wants us to know one another personally. He attaches great importance to personal relationships. Now we’re going to go back to the first section and that’s all we’re going to attempt to deal with in this series of studies. If we succeed in doing that, we’ll have done something tremendous! I want to view chapters 1 through 8 as a spiritual pilgrimage. There could be many different ways of looking at this but I feel this will help us to break it up into material that we’ll be able to assimilate.
The destination is Romans 8, which is the Spirit-controlled life: liberty, joy, peace, righteousness. And the previous chapters, chapters 1 through 7, are stages on the way to that destination. In previous times, when I’ve been teaching on these chapters, I’ve compared it to the difference between percolated coffee and instant coffee. Nowadays not many people percolate coffee so the comparison is a little out of date but most of you are old enough to remember when coffee was percolated. What I say is, Romans 8 is percolated coffee. To get it, you have to go through the previous 7 chapters. A lot of Christians want instant Romans 8, but God doesn’t provide that. You can’t have just little powder, pour some water on it and get the same results. You have to go through the percolator. And really, in a way, this study will be something like going through a percolator.
Let’s turn now to the first half of this chapter and I’m going to read these verses to you because unless we all have them before us we really won’t fully understand where we’re headed. I’m going to read the first 17 verses. You’ll find there are certain minor differences in the text of the New American Standard according to what year it was published. Don’t let that confuse you. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, [through] Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, Now you’ll notice, those of you that have this text, those words in the ''preaching of the'' are in italics. Do you know why that is? Because they’re supplied by the translators. I’ve met countless Christians who don’t know why some words are in italics. The answer is the translator is showing you that he’s put them in to make good English. But I personally prefer that without the interpolated words. Verse 9: For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the... gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you, and have been prevented thus far in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, as even among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. I think we’ll pause there for this particular period. Ancient letters, as they’re found in the New Testament, had a kind of layout which is not unlike what we have in business letters today.
If you can picture the page of a business letter in front of you, on the right-hand side at the top will be the name and address of the person writing the letter, usually also the date. Then, a little lower down on the left-hand side will be the name and address of the person to whom the letter is written. And then the salutation: Dear So-and-So. Then, often across the top before the body of the letter begins there is the subject of the letter: Re: Your Application for Membership, or whatever it may be. That’s often underlined. So you have these three elements. The name and address of the sender, the name and address of the person to whom it’s addressed, and an outline or a statement of the main theme of the letter. You’ll find very much the same in this letter to the Romans and in basically all New Testament epistles, though there’s some differences.
So Paul, in this passage that we’ve been reading, introduces three things: himself, the gospel, and the Christians in Rome. If you want to view it in terms of a modern letter, the top right-hand corner is Paul the apostle, etc. On the next side, on the left-hand side, a little lower down is: The Christians in Rome. Then the heading is Re: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s how it works. I think we have just time to look at Paul’s introduction of himself. Then in our next session, God helping us, we will look at Paul’s statement about the Christians at Rome and what he says about the gospel, which is of tremendous importance.
Let’s pause now and look at Paul’s introduction of himself which is in verse 1, 5 and 9–15. I think I must read those words again so that we have them clearly in mind. Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. Then in verse 5, speaking about Jesus, he says: Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, Paul then describes himself, first of all, as a bondservant, but the Greek word is the normal word for slave of Jesus Christ; and secondly, he states he was called as an apostle. You’ll notice all the apostles in their letters always call themselves, first of all, a servant or a slave and then define their particular field of service which in this case was apostleship.
Then, he also goes on with a further definition. He says: Set apart to the gospel of God. Paul had a very special, in fact, unique function in the whole history of the church. His function was to present, in its entirety, the gospel. So much was it his revelation that a little later on in chapter 2:16 we find he actually calls it: my gospel. That’s very significant. You remember that Paul had such an abundance of revelations that to keep him humble God had to permit an angel of Satan to buffet him. Well, I think there’s no question the revelation contained here in Romans was part of that. There are two epistles of which Paul is the only author. All the other epistles it’s Paul and somebody else like Paul and Silas and Titus. Or Paul and Silas and Timothy. But the two epistles of which he is the sole author are Romans and Ephesians. That’s not an accident because each of them contains a revelation which is uniquely the revelation of Paul.
Romans is the revelation of the gospel and Ephesians is the revelation of the church. In these two areas Paul made an absolutely unique contribution to the whole Christian church. I think it’s good that he started by calling himself a slave. I think some people in the church today might describe themselves as bishops or presbyters or who-knows-what. But Paul says first and foremost, I’m a slave committed totally to the service of Jesus Christ. My particular function is an apostle. My particular area of apostleship is the revelation of the gospel. Then in verse 5 he says of Jesus: Through whom we have received grace and apostleship.
Notice before the apostleship comes the grace. Paul is very careful not at any time to aggrandize himself. He says our particular area of service is obedience [or faith] among all the Gentiles. And elsewhere he’s called the apostle of the Gentiles. In Romans 15:18–19 Paul speaks further about this apostleship to the Gentiles. It’s worth turning there quickly for a glance at it. He says: Verse 18 of Romans 15: For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders. So he had a special ministry to bring the Gentiles to believe in Jesus and it was by attestation of the supernatural.
I want you to notice the phrase: obedience of [the] faith. A lot of people say obedience is what matters. That’s perfectly true, but unless it’s proceeds from faith, it won’t work. You try obeying God in your own strength, in your own ability. See, I’ve dealt with this on the mission field in Africa. We had lots of Africans that were really trying to obey the gospel but they weren’t doing it out of faith. The result was frustration. So bear in mind, emphasize obedience but always explain that it must proceed out of faith. Then we just have time to look at this one interesting fact that Paul had been praying for a long while for a good journey to Rome. The old King James says: that I may have a prosperous journey by the will of God.
Interestingly enough, in John 3:2, John uses the same word when he says, Beloved, I pray that above all things thou mayest prosper and be in health as thy soul prospers. The same word. I want you to consider for a moment what kind of a journey Paul had because it’s very vividly described in Acts 27 and 28. He did not travel first class, he was a prisoner in chains. The ship on which he was traveling was in an amazing storm that lasted 14 days and 14 nights when they were without food. After that it was shipwrecked on an island and just to climax it, when he was gathering fuel for a fire, a viper bit him on the hand.
I want to ask you, did God answer Paul’s prayer? A prosperous journey. That’s a very important thing because a lot of people are telling you today, and I can tell you too, God’s will is prosperity. But don’t define prosperity in terms of modern American culture because that’s out of line. What is the real meaning of prosperity? I’ll offer you my understanding. It’s being totally equipped to do the will of God and when you have successfully done the will of God, you have prospered. It may be you’ll get bitten by an adder, who knows. Maybe you’ll be in a shipwreck. Don’t let that disturb you. What matters is are you doing the will of God?