Jack Graham - It's All About Jesus
I can’t tell you when I’ve been more excited about preaching a series of messages than right today, now, in the book of Romans. So take your Bibles, turn with me to Romans chapter 1. We’re calling this series THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL. Jesus Christ is the essential gospel. He is the eternal gospel. He is the exclusive Gospel. The one and only Savior who gives us His Gospel. And recovering this Gospel is vital. It is not just needed; it is necessary. And what is the Gospel? If someone were to ask you, tell me what is this Gospel? You probably know that it means good news, or evangelism. The old Anglo-Saxon version of the word gospel is Godspell. Because we need to spell out God with this Gospel. That's the Godspell. And it is this Gospel, this good news that describes how we can have a relationship with God. So what is the Gospel? You need to be able to answer that question.
Now the Apostle Paul told us later in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 in essence what is the essential Gospel, and verses 3 and 4, we'll put that on the screen for you. I want you to stay in Romans 1 right now. But it says: "I deliver to you as of first importance (of primary importance, first and foremost) what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and on the third day He rose again according to the Scripture". So this simple, yet profound Gospel is in this death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Now that's the simple part. And every child can believe the gospel. Anyone can receive the Gospel in its purity, in its perfection, in the Person of Christ. And it is the Gospel that is the one and only message that saves. In fact, verse one tells us it is "the Gospel of God", THE Gospel of God. Not "a" gospel.
In this world of political correctness and go-your-own-way kind of gospel, everyone gets to God in your own way, this Gospel is not only essential, it is exclusive! It is the one and only Gospel that transforms lives. It is this good news that has changed my life. I pray it has changed your life. And God has called every one of us to go with this Gospel and take this message of hope to the world. And our world desperately needs this Gospel. Now the Gospel is not an add-on. You can't add-on anything to the Gospel. There are many applications and implication of the Gospel but in its purest form you don't add on anything to the Gospel. In fact, if you add something on to the Gospel, the Bible says that anyone who adds to the Gospel be accursed. You can't add to this simple Gospel. And nor do we grow beyond the Gospel. I don't want anyone here thinking, maybe you're a veteran Christian and you've been around.
You say, "Oh boy, the Gospel, the Gospel. I know the Gospel. We're going to hear the Gospel every week". The greatest good news you can ever hear is the Gospel of Christ. I'm not big enough, strong enough, better than the Gospel of Christ. We should preach the Gospel to ourselves every single day! It is this Gospel that not only transforms our lives with salvation but, as we're going to note in the book of Romans all the way through our growing in Christ's likeness, everything that we become in Christ is the Gospel of Christ. There's nothing above this Gospel message! Nothing! Not our preferences, not our politics, our political persuasion, our philosophy of life! There's nothing greater than the Gospel of Jesus Christ! That's the claim of the Scripture. Lest you think the Gospel is so simple that you already have it all, did you know that angels are amazed to this very day about the Gospel?
1 Peter tells us that the angels long to look at the Gospel. They long to see the Gospel. Now wouldn't you say angels have heard and seen about everything? Angels were present when God created the universe. Angels were there when God spoke and creation came into existence. The angels were there at the birth of Christ. The angels have been there throughout the Scripture. They've seen everything in history because these are the great servants of God, the angels, the messengers of God. And yet the angels are astounded, they are amazed, and desire to look deeper into the Gospel. So my prayer for all of us is, whether you're just getting started in the Christian life, or whether you are a growing believer somewhere along the way, or maybe you're a full-fledged, full-throttle Christian, that all of us would be strengthened in this Gospel and committed more than ever to take this message to the world. It's the Gospel of Christ.
I've been a follower of Jesus since I was a small child. But I still get blown away by the power of this Gospel! I never get over the truth! I still feel like a rookie coming to bat in the big leagues for the first time every time I stand here and preach the Gospel, teach the Gospel of Christ. I mean, to me standing here each week under the call of God is like, it's like the Super Bowl and the World Series seventh game and the Master's championship and the Olympics and everything rolled all in together. There's just nothing greater for me, more joyous. This is my call, to preach this Gospel. But it's not only my call, it's your call as well.
Now before we get into the text, one other word about Romans itself. Romans is really a masterpiece. It’s been called the magnum opus of the Christian faith. The Constitution of Christianity. It is placed first of the 21 epistles of the New Testament. After Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, book of Acts, comes the first epistle, though it was not written first. Galatians and Corinthians were written before Romans. It is placed first in the sequence of all the letters of Paul and the other epistles of the New Testament because all are inspired equally, but Romans towers above in its theology, in its message of the truth of the Gospel and in its explanation of the Gospel.
That is why Martin Luther who read the book of Romans, he was steeped in religion but yet restless and empty. He read the book of Romans, what happened to him when he discovered "The just shall live by faith" triggered the Reformation! Changed history! This book of Romans has changed the world from century to century. So Luther called it the purest Gospel. He called it the chief part of the New Testament. He also said this book of Romans is daily bread for the soul. Essential. This is bread. Food is essential; this is daily bread for the soul. It towers above all. It's the constitution of Christianity.
There was a young professor who was a powerful influence. His name was Augustine. And yet, though raised in a Christian home and family, he became a profligate. He lived his life in immorality and indecency in every single way. But he had a mother by the name of Monica, oh the power of the prayers of a mother, Monica, Augustine's mother prayed intensely for him. And God began to stir this man's heart, the way he was living his life, the way he was wasting his life, the wantonness and the wickedness of his life. So he went to Milan where he heard the preaching of Bishop Ambrose who was one of the early church fathers. That is, a second generation from the disciples of the early Christian fathers. He heard the preaching of Ambrose in the summer of 386. He was 32 years of age and he was seeking solace and peace, so he went to a garden just to get alone, to get away, and he heard a child singing or someone saying "Take up and read".
So he took the Bible and randomly he turned to Romans and he began to read Romans. And there young Augustine, this wicked young professor was dramatically converted to Christ, and became one of the greatest theologians and philosophers and apologists of the history of the Christian faith. Certainly, in the first one thousand years of Christianity after the apostles. Augustine. It was Augustine who later said, famous quote by Augustine, "Thou has made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless till we find our rest in Thee". Augustine, transformed by the message of the Gospel, was walking down the street one day and a former friend, she was a prostitute that he knew. Yelled at him across the street, "Augustine, Augustine! It is I, Augustine". To which Augustine replied, "Yes, but it is not I". The Gospel of Jesus Christ changed his life. I could go on and on.
John Calvin called Romans the most profound treasure of Scripture. You know, while I bring up these great people in history, this book of Romans is for everyone. Every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of the earth. It's essential; it's everyone's Gospel. It's the essential Gospel. It's good news in a bad news world. It's the heart of the Christian faith; it's the core of everything we believe. It's Christianity 101 if you're just getting started, but it's also the whole university and the entire seminary put together. It's all the classes put together. It's everything. It's essential. And so many of the contemporary issues of our culture, the things that we’re still talking about and thinking about today. Things like who is God and what is God like? And what is the nature of God? And what is the nature of man? There’s a discussion coming up in a couple of weeks on gender and identity. He talks here about politics and government and conflict resolution and the security of the believer and the future of Israel, and much, much, much more. That’s why it’s going to take us a while to make our way through this essential gospel.
We say essential; also exclusive. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So let’s start with verse 1, Romans chapter 1: "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be 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 descended from David according to the flesh 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". We have to start with the author of this book who in the first word introduces himself as Paul. The messenger is Paul. And he describes himself first as a servant, literally, a slave of Jesus Christ. The word is doulos D-O-U-L-O-S in the Greek language, and it means bond servant: one bound to a master.
The Apostle Paul was not always bound to Christ. He was raised in the strictest of religious tradition, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee, separated from others, keeping the law. But he was an avowed enemy of Christ and the Church. He was determined to stamp out this fire of Christianity that had ignited in Jerusalem and was moving across the region. So Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, to shut them down. But you can’t shut the Church of Jesus Christ down. The Gospel cannot be stopped! And so what happened that day is Paul was stopped in his tracks; he was arrested by the Lord Jesus Christ. The risen Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He saw the risen Christ. And when he saw Christ, he was blinded temporarily. He fell on his knees and he cried out. He asked two questions that every one of us need to ask, and that is, number one, he said, "Who are you, Lord"? Who are you? And Jesus said, "I am Jesus whom you persecute".
Who are you, Lord? You have to determine who is Jesus and begin to follow Him. And after he realized he was in the presence of Christ Himself, the Risen Savior, then he said, he tells us as a testimony in Acts chapter 22, he says, then "Lord, what will you have me to do"? Who are you, Lord? What will you have me do? That's the question that every one of us must answer. And from the moment that he was arrested, he became a bond-slave, a servant of Christ. What does a servant do? What does a slave do? Owned and operated by the Master. Obligated with full allegiance to the Master! We were once chained in our sin, but we were set free by the power of Jesus Christ, and now we are made alive. We who were dead are now alive in Christ. He bought us with His own blood. "What do you not know", 1 Corinthians 6, "Do you not know that you were bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus? Therefore, glorify God with your body".
You are owned! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you belong wholly and completely to Christ! You are not your own. You belong to Jesus. Are you His slave? Are you following Jesus under obligation and obedience? The Bible tells us that Christ is Lord. Is He Lord of your life? Is Christ your Lord and your Master? Is He sovereign over you? We are His slaves; we are His servants. That’s why I’m calling this message today "It’s All About Jesus". Hey, it’s not about you. It’s all about Jesus. But that God loves you so much that Jesus the Lord has given us this message of life and hope in this Good News. Secondly, Paul says in verse 1 he is "called to be an apostle". That means not only is he a slave, but he is a sent one. The word apostle, called to be an apostle, the word apostle means one sent with a message.
So in one sense, Paul was set apart as an apostle, as one of the disciples of Jesus. Called to Christ. A sent one. He described himself as one chosen by God. (I’ve got to hurry) The last thing he said about himself, and by the way, it's the call of God that keeps me in boundless joy and energy every day. It is this call that compels me to keep going with this Gospel, to never quit. The word sent here actually means horizon. The apostle, once Christ arrested him, he said, "I'll go where you want me to go, be what you want me to be, do what you want me to be". And he was always looking to the horizon, to get on the next ship, the next boat to go somewhere with the Gospel of Christ. That was Paul. Sent by God. Then he was separated. He said, "Separated unto this Gospel". Do you see it there? Set apart for the Gospel of God. So we’re slaves, we’re set apart, we are sent. That’s the messenger.
And wrapping up, (I'm landing the plane), he tells us what the message is. The first 17 verses, we're going to get to. It's really a compilation of the entire book of Romans. It's kind of an index of the rest of the book, as we're going to see, as we make our way through the prologue. We're obviously not getting very far today. But verse 2 tells us what is the message "which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures". So it tells us the message. The message is Jesus who is the promised one. The Gospel is not a new invention. It was not a new fad; it was not a sect of the Jewish faith. It was not something new. It was something old, born in the heart of God. It’s the Gospel of God. We did a series a number of years ago here, called "THE GOSPEL OF GOD", and we pointed out in the Old Testament all the portraits and pictures of Christ in the Bible and of the Gospel. He is predicted and prophesied by the Patriarchs and by the Prophets.
Just as Jesus told those disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, He began in Moses and the prophets and showed them in all the Scriptures those things concerning Himself. Jesus is in every book of the Bible, including the Old Testament. Did you know that? If you don't find Jesus in the Old Testament, you're missing the point of the Old Testament, because the Old Testament is pointing people to Christ. It's like I see the trees are budding right now, and I'm looking forward to Spring. I know, I know you are. But it's said that the Old Testament is the bud and the New Testament is the flower. But it's all about Jesus! Everything. And if I had time, I could walk with you with Jesus just through the Scriptures, how all of this, it was promised, it was prophesied.
Only God could give us the Gospel. Nobody can make this up. Man has manmade invented religions, but only the Gospel tells us of the God who loves us, who sent His Son, who predicted that His Son would come, things like that He would be born in Bethlehem, that He would be born of a virgin, that He would die on a cross, all in the Old Testament. Not just the New Testament. Things about the blood, that the blood of Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from sin, that without the shedding of blood there's no remission of sin. All of this book of blood. And you read the New Testament or Old Testament rather, and there’s so much blood, so much blood is flowing everywhere. That was all preconditioning the world for the blood, the final sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
So that’s what Paul is saying. He’s saying Jesus is the promised one. This Gospel is not new; it’s old; it’s God’s Gospel. And then he said, Jesus is the perfect one, verse 3, when it tells us that He is the descended of David. Humanly He's descended of David. And He is perfect humanity and perfect deity. And here's where we get to the depths of theology that we will explore in Romans because Jesus is perfect humanity. He's not a man who became God or professed to be God, but God who became a Man. That's called the Incarnation. It's what we celebrate when Christ came at Christmas, or we celebrate at Christmas the birth of Christ. 100 percent God - 100 percent Man. The descended of David. That's His humanity. You see that? Say, "Got it".
The descendant of David. He was a human being. And yet, He never sinned. And therefore, as the God/Man, the Man/God Jesus, totally God, totally Man. I've said it many times. Just as much God as if He were not Man at all, and just as much Man as if He were not God at all. Totally Man, totally God. One hundred percent. Not 50/50, but He's the descendant of David, that's His humanity. And then Jesus Christ is the powerful One, which verse 4 tells us. Look at it again, "was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord".
When Jesus came out of that grave, He defeated sin, death, hell and Satan. He is the powerful one. And this Gospel, therefore, is this powerful message of the death and the resurrection of Jesus. His life given for you. That we are saved by His death. You agree with that? We're saved by His death, but also saved by His life. Without the resurrection, the power of the resurrection, there is no life. So the core conviction of the believer of Christ and the Gospel is that Christ died, buried, and by the power of His resurrection, He is declared King of kings and Lord of lords. It's all about Jesus. Listen to me very carefully. We don't preach Christianity; we preach Christ; we preach the Gospel.
People say, "Well, there are many roads to God, many pathways to God. Have your own way, choose your own way. I have my own religion. One religion is just as good as another". You are exactly right; they're all bad! They're all bad. Ours is the Gospel, ours is Jesus! Not a philosophy, it's not a process where you get better; it's not a precept of keeping laws and religious duties. It is the Person! It's not a plan. You say, "I know Jesus. I believe in the plan of salvation". You’re not saved by the plan of salvation! You’re saved by the Man of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ! It’s all about Jesus. Putting your faith and trust in Him. Later on, in Romans, Paul said in Romans 10: "If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved".