Good news from Romans
Romans 1:1-4 gives us some good news. It is the best news. The news is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and lives to make intercession for those that know Him and love Him. It is nice to hear some good news because we live in a world where most of the news is bad.
Take a look at any newspaper or magazine, listen to any newscast and it will reveal to you the news that not only is our world bad, but seems to be getting worse. We live in a culture that is bitter, negative, hostile, depressed, and despairing.
There seems to be a darkness that hangs over our heads. We all hope for a better world but we seem to have exhausted most of our options. We thought to be supremely educated we would be able to solve our problems. We thought when we became industrialized we would invent enough creature comforts to make life pleasant and pleasing and even meaningful. We thought when we became adept at the physical sciences, such as psychology, sociology and even economics, that would be able to bring to bear upon our culture all the genius of the human mind and therefore usher in a better world. But men and women have been left in despair. The hope for a better world is gone and we seem to be self-destructing. So no matter what we know in terms of human enlightenment, no matter what we invent to increase our comfort, no matter how much we understand the human mind and what makes for seemingly meaningful relationships, we cannot overcome the pressing reality of our own sin. Allow me to offer you four areas where sin produces bad news for the human race.
(1) The first basic element of sin that produces bad news for man is selfishness. The dominant letter in sin is I. Man is self-centered. He wants to please himself. He wants to satisfy his own desires. He wants to do his own thing. Whenever anything ceases to be satisfactory, when anything ceases to feed what his ego wants, it is discarded like a worn out shoe. We throw away things and we throw away people. We live in a world of those who demand their rights, who use and abuse business, marriage and love in the pursuit of happiness. We have become so preoccupied with ourselves that we no longer have the ability to sustain happy, meaningful relationships, unable to genuinely love, to give sacrificially, to forgive completely, and to have a joyful life. So our world today is reaping the harvest of sinful desires.
(2) The second element of sin that produces bad news for man is guilt. Guilt by definition is a pained conscience and guilt produces a fear of retaliation, fear of vengeance, fear of judgment. It produces anxiety, sleeplessness, illness, drunkenness and suicide. We try to bury guilt. We bury it in a frivolous facade of things like experiences, trips, booze and drugs. Or we go to a psychoanalyst who wants to blame the parents or someone else who has impacted us negatively in the past. Guilt then leads to further isolation and alienation. An anxious person or a fearful person cannot trust those around them. A person who blames others for the problems of their life is pressed deeper and deeper into despair. So guilt leads to the inability to trust anybody, or to have any kind of meaningful relationships.
(3) A third element of sin that produces bad news for men is meaninglessness. Life becomes simply a pursuit of unfulfilling selfishness, and an attempt to cover up guilt. Life becomes what the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. If life becomes meaningless then it becomes nothing but an insignificant string of 24-hour periods that have no value. Nothing ever changes and it seems like nothing ever goes right.
(4) The fourth element of sin that produces bad news for man is hopelessness. My great fear become that not only is life hopeless so is eternity. I look into the future and it looks bleak. Since life has no meaning and the future has no hope, you become angry against the world that you didn’t ask to born into. Death is the only escape because endless nothingness is better than this interminable meaninglessness and hopelessness. One would assume that as clever as we are, as educated as we are, as enlightened as we are, as capable as we are in terms of what we can produce, as clever as we are in discerning people’s problems, we would have been able to solve these painful realities of sin. But the Bible says man does not have the capacity to alter the human heart. The Bible says the heart of man is deceitful above all things and disparately wicked. There is one more piece of bad news about sin. Jesus said you will die in your sins and will spend an eternity in hell. It would be bad enough if all there was is this life, but there is a life to come that is everlasting and knows no end. And God says he will send all unforgiven sinners into this eternal hell to be tormented forever and ever. So the question becomes, is there any long-term good news? Is there anything that can take away the selfishness, the guilt, give us meaningful relationships, deliver us from guilt, give us meaning, or give us hope. Anything that tells us how to escape eternal judgment? Is there really any long lasting good news? Yes there is. What is the message preached in Romans 1:1? “Paul, a bond servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, and set apart for the gospel of God.” Gospel means good news. Good news from God to man. Elsewhere he called it ‘blessed good news,’ the ‘good news of salvation,’ the ‘good news about Jesus Christ,’ the ‘good news of His Son,’ or the ‘good news of the grace of God.’ Sixty times in his letters in the N.T. refers to the good news. What is the good news? The good news is that you don’t have to live in selfish isolation, you don’t have to live with the diminishing returns of your lusts, you don’t have to live with guilt and its children, anxiety and fear.
You don’t have to live with meaninglessness or hopelessness. You don’t have to live with the fear of judgment. It is this good news that gives to men and women forgiveness for all their sin and selfishness, restoration to the favor of God, renovation of their nature, resurrection of their body, and eternal bliss in heaven. That is the good news. This good news is from God. But why would God give good news to such bad people? Because God loves you. That is why God gives good news to bad people. John 3:16 says God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but should have everlasting life. So Paul says I have come with a message and my message is good news from God. What is the message prophesized in v.2? Paul says God promised it through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures If you read the O.T. you will hear the prophets saying, there is coming a Savior. There is coming a Lamb who will be slain for the sins of the world. There is coming One who, being lifted up, will be the source of your forgiveness. The prophets said so. So Paul says it came in Christ and I am here to preach it. How was the message personified in v.3? The good news is all about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Socrates said, “Oh that someone would arise and show us God”. Jesus did. He said if you have seen me you have seen God. He said before Abraham was, I am. God came into the world. God, the second member of the Trinity came into the world to bring the good news. There is this emptiness in a man’s heart that can only be filled by God. So man creates a god of his own confusion to fill it until he comes to the knowledge of the true God. The true God is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said he is a man proven by the fact that he was born of a descendant of David. He’s a human, born into David’s family. He is also God and declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness, or the Holy Spirit. His name is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul says I have come to preach the good news from God about the most important person who ever lived. He was man, born of a descendant of David, a Jew. He was God proven by the fact that he came out of the other side of the grave with mighty power. v.3 says he was born a descendent of David. That descendant was Mary. Mary was in the line of David. She was born in succession of one of David’s sons. Even Joseph, her husband, though not the father of Jesus physically, because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and had no human father, but Joseph was also in the line of David. Joseph was in the kingly line and if there had been a king in Israel, it could have been Joseph because he was of royal line. Thus Joseph gave Jesus the royal blood while Mary gave Jesus the royal right. So God had a Son who was fully man, born of a virgin who was a royal man with a right to reign. Why? Because God promised that he would send a savior who would be king. He would be king over the hearts of men. He would be king over a spiritual kingdom. He would be king over an earthly kingdom. And he would be king over an eternal kingdom. But why did need to be man? He needed to be man to die on the cross for man. If he was to be a substitute for man’s sins he had to be a man. He became a man to die for men. He took our place on a cross. He paid our penalty for sin. He bore our guilt. He felt our punishment. But this was not just a man but the son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the spirit of holiness v.4. He is man. He is God. He is the son of man and the son of God. He is the Son of man by birth and the Son of God by eternal character. He came down to man as a human through the loins of Mary and came down to us as God through the Holy Spirit. And it was confirmed by his resurrection. v. 4 says he was declared or appointed. The word declared comes from a word from which we get horizon, a line of demarcation, a marking off. The horizon marks off the earth from the sky. What marked Jesus off as God was that he conquered death through the power of his Spirit. He burst the bands of death to live again. When God raised Jesus from the dead he irrefutably gave evidence that this was his divine son. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, wrote, “Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man. He was doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many Jews and many Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men among us had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him for he appeared to them alive at the third day as the divine prophets had foretold these and 10,000 other wonderful things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, is not extinct at this day.” There is no question about him being a man. We see him in his human life eating and sleeping. We see him walking, running, speaking, and shouting. We see him dying. But he had to be more than a man if he was going to bear our sins. If he was going to conquer death. For of was just a man he would have had to die for his own sins. So the resurrection becomes the signal mark, the horizon that marks off his deity. This is good news. The God man has come as a man. He died for men. As God, He conquered death. And he says because I live, you shall live also. Whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. A Poet wrote: “I know a soul that is steeped in sin that no man’s art can cure. But I know a name, a name that can make the soul all pure. I know a life that is lost to God, bound down by the things of earth. But I know a name, a name that can bring that soul new birth.” It is the name of Jesus. If you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, that he paid the price for your sin, that he is the God-man, and then confess Him as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved. Then selfishness, sin, guilt, meaninglessness, hopelessness and judgment will be conquered. That is the good news for a world that is filled with bad news. Thank God for this good news. In the Savior’s name. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. James Barnes is currently the pastor of White Memorial Church in Milroy.