Book of Romans, Sermon Starters—Week 2
See the Offering Christ Today article "The Road to the Future Runs Through the Past."
Scripture Notes for Romans 4:13-25
- Romans 3:21 marks the beginning of a key passage in which Paul paints a broad-stroked picture of:
- God's righteousness revealed through Jesus Christ.
- The covenant family from Abraham to believing Gentiles.
- Belief in God's promise as the key to inheriting God's promise.
- Romans 4:13-25 lies in the middle of Paul's explication of God's faithfulness to the covenant, Romans 3:21-4:25. God's righteousness (the grand theme of Romans) is demonstrated by God's faithfulness to the promises God made to Israel.
- Romans 4:13 (NRSV) begins with the words, "For the promise…" This "promise" refers to God's covenant first established with Abraham. Be sure to provide sufficient background information on the biblical concept of covenant for your audience.
- A quick review of covenant should include Genesis 15:5-18, 17:1-14 — God establishes the covenant with Abraham.
- An online article by Daniel Elazar provides helpful insights about the theological and political aspects of covenant. See "Covenant & Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations & Jewish Expressions."
Key Preaching /Teaching Points:
Remember the concerns that Paul addressed in the passage:
- The creation of Abraham's promised family — one covenant family of faith from the disparate Jewish and Gentile communities.
- The fulfillment of God's covenant promises to Abraham. This fulfillment demonstrates God's faithfulness and proves God's righteousness. God is trustworthy.
- Keeping "the law" is not sufficient for membership in God's covenant family.
- The law only diagnoses our sinful nature. It cannot offer a remedy.
- The law highlights our transgressions and offers judgment.
- God's promise is available to those who exercise faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ. In short, God's generous grace responds to Abraham's unwavering faith. Abraham stands as the first definitive example of faithfulness toward God.
Does your audience know the following terms found or alluded to in Romans 4?
- Covenant (between God and humans) — Refers to binding two parties together in agreement. A covenant between God and humans is unilateral. People are not equal partners, nor do we have anything meritorious to contribute. Our responsibility is to accept by faith God's covenant as offered, keep its terms, and receive the results.
- The law — The prescription for righteous living contained in the Torah. Keeping the law did not make one righteous. Righteousness requires faith in Jesus Christ.
- The promise — God's promise to Abraham that through his (Abraham's) descendants the world would be blessed. This promise is also known as the Abrahamic Covenant.
- Abraham's descendants (in the context of Romans) — Refers not to Abraham's blood kin, but to people who demonstrate the same unwavering faith in God that Abraham did.
- Faith— Believing with certainty that God will keep God's unconditional promises.
- Righteousness— Paul views righteousness as God's act of saving creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For more definitions of righteousness, see the Offering Christ Today article "When in Rome…Preach Like Paul."
- Jews commonly believed that righteousness could be acquired through merit; that is, through doing works prescribed by the law. What do people believe makes them righteous today?
- How does merit-based belief undermine the role of faith and God's activity of grace?
- Which disparate communities need to come together under the banner of Christian faith in your ministry context?
- What does it mean for us to be descendants of Abraham?
Evangelistic Preaching Notes
Works righteousness, or merit-based righteousness continues to be a fallacy to be addressed. This week's passage provides an opportunity to dismantle false beliefs in "good works" as the basis of being right with God.
Romans Preaching Sermon Series Notes
Reading: Romans 4:13-25 [An Evangelistic Approach — to lead people to Christ]
Romans 4:23-25: "Now the words, 'it was reckoned to him,' were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification."
"This One's for You" — Thousands of years ago, God made a promise to Abraham that Abraham accepted by faith. Although he was a century old and his wife Sarah was over 90, Abraham believed that God could and would give them children and descendants. Abraham believed that God would not let him down. What are we willing to believe that God can and will do in our lifetime? God's promise to Abraham applies to us today if we trust God as Abraham did. Agreeing to live by faith in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead remains in vogue.
Aim: Encourage pre-Christians to embrace a life of trust in Jesus Christ. Also emphasize God's unwavering faithfulness toward us.
Reading: Romans 4:13-25 [A Renewal Approach — to strengthen the faith of Christians]
Romans 4:20-21: "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."
"Steady…Steady" — What does it mean for Christians to live in unwavering faith? Some have described Christian discipleship as being faithful to God — for a long time. You may want to retrace Abraham's journey of faith from God's announcement of the covenant promise through the birth of Isaac. Paint a picture of what "unwavering faith" looks like in real life and practice. Consider highlighting examples of faithfulness demonstrated by individuals in your ministry context.
Aim: Encourage Christians to continue in faithfulness.
Reading: Romans 4:13-25 [A Reclamation Approach — to restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
Romans 4:13: "For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith."
"Who's Calling the Shots?" A life devoid of active faith in God gropes endlessly for meaning. Relativism appears to have a foothold in contemporary thought and life. Do situations skew clear definitions of Christian ethics and behavior? Who determines what's "right" in this world? Paul addresses the notion of righteousness in Romans 4. Paul points to Abraham as the prime example of a person who was "right" with God because of unwavering trust in God. Graciously God offered Abraham a promise that extends to faithful followers of Christ today.
Aim: Help people get reconnected to vital faith and fellowship with other "faithful followers" of Christ.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response
- Devote prayer time to intercede for people whose faith has wavered. This could occur as a pastoral prayer or during a prayer time led by a gifted layperson.
- Consider inviting a person to share a testimony of how God's faithfulness rekindled or strengthened his or her faith. Alert the invitee well before the worship service to allow for prayerful preparation.
- Invite the congregation to consider entering into a "covenant" to accomplish some ministry in the church or community.
Provide Opportunities for Follow-Up
- Encourage people to consider keeping a prayer journal. For this week, invite people to note when their faith was encouraged and strengthened. What kinds of things do people do during the week to strengthen their faith? Have several people report the following Sunday.
- Announce any covenant that results in response to the plea for doing ministry in the church or community. Share the launch of the ministry effort the following Sunday.
- Encourage people to keep a spiritual journal.
- Encourage people to begin a daily devotional and/or Bible reading habit. Consider using The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide.
- To explore the theological and political aspects of covenant see: "Covenant & Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations & Jewish Expressions"
- Free download in pdf format: The Faith-Sharing Initiative Participant's Manual
- The Foundation for Evangelism
- World Methodist Evangelism
Helpful Print Resources
Resources for Romans
- The New Interpreter's Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes: Volume IX — Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. Abingdon Press.
- The Message of Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott
- Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by F. F. Bruce
- Romans: A Shorter Commentary [ABRIDGED] by C. E. B. Cranfield
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
- The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith by Ron Crandall