Romans Road - Week One
Today we are beginning a new three-part sermon series drawn from Paul's letter to the Romans, entitled "The Romans Road"
This series is a brief exploration into the themes of Paul's letter to the church in Rome and is designed to help us understand more fully that the road to redemption is paved with the grace that comes to us through the gifts of faith and the radical love of Jesus.
The title of this series is drawn from memories I have from my days in the Baptist church when I was young. When we would go out witnessing door to door, we would use "the Romans Road" to explain to people the dire nature of their situation as a sinner and then what they could do to fix that by praying a simple prayer.
The Romans Road was a series of verses from Paul's Epistle to the Romans that outlined the "Plan of Salvation."
You should have seen me out witnessing. I looked fantastic, like a twelve-year-old evangelist with my too-big, short-sleeved dress shirt, clip-on tie, and Bryl-creamed hair.
So to redeem the name "Romans Road," we'll study grace and redemption, which is all throughout the book of Romans. This book has been misused by Christians many times over the years, but it's still all about grace and redemption.
Today we will explore what it means to "Hope against Hope," as the Apostle Paul put it. A term that probably resonates with all of us. In the Oxford English Dictionary, that phrase means "to cling to a mere possibility."
Let me ask you a question...
If you could wake up tomorrow and, by some miracle, everything in your life would be perfect--what would that look like?
That's known in psychological circles as part of Solution-Based therapy as the Miracle Question.
So, think about it for a moment. What would your life be like if you experienced that kind of miracle?
If you need to close your eyes to imagine it, do that.
The funny thing is that most of us know exactly what we want to see. We can imagine it. We can almost taste it. But we think that it's impossible.
That kind of hope for a miracle to make everything as it ought to be seems impossible, doesn't it?
But what if it wasn't? What if the God who calls us does so for us to experience that kind of defiant hope?
Here's what I want us to hold on to today:
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION LEADS US TO DEFIANT HOPE IN GOD'S PROMISES.
Let me give you a brief history of this letter that Paul wrote to the church at Rome:
- Probably composed in Corinth around 57 AD
- Paul had never met these people but was planning to. This was a letter of introduction, so to speak.
- There were sharp divisions in the church--Gentile vs. Jews
- Paul's main focus in most of his letters was unity in Christ.
Let's read Romans 4:13-25
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Paul decides that the best way to find common ground between these two groups is to go farther back to a common "ancestor."
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Abraham becomes the exemplar here---a figure who is claimed by the Jews as a patriarch, but who believed and had faith before the Torah.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[b] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
You can't get hung up on the ages of the people in the Old Testament. Most likely, this was done by the writers to match the ages with their own history. Suffice it to say Abraham and Sarah passed the child-bearing years.
But Abraham had the defiant hope that comes from trusting that the road he was on---even though he had no idea where it was leading--was the road to redemption.
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
And here is where Paul brings this home. "Reckoned" or "Credited" as righteousness. This is for everyone who longs for more.
Paul expanded the notion of grace to an impossible width—an uncomfortable depth. God’s promises are for all. The defiant hope we can have in Christ is the kind of hope that knows no boundaries.
The kind of hope that made Abraham leave everything and go to an unknown place, to trust that God's promises of a great nation through him when he had no children, that kind of impossible was made possible because of defiant hope.
And this grace, this hope, this love is for everyone with the faith to trust it, and begin living their eternal life, right here, right now.
What Do We Do With Impossible Hope?
- Dare to dream of a better life, a better world. (We serve the God of the impossible)
- Become the answer to our own prayers. (The answer to the miracle question is us)
- Learn to trust that God’s purposes are never meant to harm us. (The moral arc of the universe is bent toward love and justice)