7 Reflections After Preaching Through Romans

Last week I finished preaching through Paul’s letter to the Romans.  This verse-by-verse journey took me through 77 messages in order to thoroughly deal with each chapter. 

Here are 7 reflections after preaching through the letter:
(1) I am more astounded by the comprehensive sovereignty of God than I was before preaching Romans
(2) I am even more convinced of God’s predestination of sinners unto salvation than I was before preaching Romans
(3) I am more burdened for the hardened nation of Israel than I was before preaching Romans
(4) I am more grateful for Jesus’ role as our “propitiation” than I was before preaching Romans
(5) I am more burdened for evangelism and missions than I was before preaching Romans
(6) I am even more convinced of man’s total spiritual and moral inability than I was before preaching Romans
(7) I am more convinced of the necessity for every Christian to thoroughly understand Romans than I was before preaching Romans

Any Romans-lovers out there?  If any reader has devoted time to study, preach, or teach through part/all of Romans, what resolutions and convictions has the letter left you with?  If Romans is a favorite book of yours, why?  If not, why not? 

I want to recommend several “must-have” resources for studying and preaching through Romans, which sometimes come from varying perspectives, but are nonetheless insightful:
-Thomas Schreiner’s commentary
-Douglas Moo’s commentary
-Paul Jewett’s commentary
-Leon Morris’ commentary
-Ben Witherington’s commentary

May the Lord prosper the proclamation of His holy word, especially Paul’s masterful letter to the Romans!

Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung

Yes, yes, yes!  Due to the many terrible and misleading books published along the topic of “finding God’s will,” it is my joy to recommend Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.

For too long believers have been told that they need to discover God’s secret will for their lives through a variety of mystical measurements: open doors, whispers of God in times of devotion, subjective feelings of “peace” about this or that scenario, Bible roulette that leads to spontaneous passages to provide God’s “word” at the moment, etc.

DeYoung puts the supernatural guidance of God in biblical perspective.  Tragically, many believers rely on downright pagan means to divine the will of the Lord.  Every believer should buy DeYoung’s book and devour it ten times over.

Some great statements include these:
-“I’d like us to consider that maybe we have difficulty discovering God’s wonderful plan for our lives because, if the truth be told, He doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is.  And maybe we’re wrong to expect Him to” (p. 18).

-“Waiting for God’s will of direction is a mess.  It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkerers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they actually do” (p. 26).

-“His way is not a crystal ball.  His way is wisdom” (p. 41).

-“Christians often use ‘open door’ theology to bless whatever bad idea they’ve already decided to do” (p. 78).

-“Open doors, fleeces, random Bible verses, and impressions, if construed in the right way, have their place in the Christian’s life.  But in my experience, these tools have been wielded for more harm than good.  They are easily abused, manipulated, and lend themselves to superstition” (p. 85).

At only 122 pages, DeYoung’s book is both quickly readable and invaluably helpful!  It is a needed corrective to the many superstitious approaches to “finding God’s will,” and DeYoung anchors the reader in the wisdom of the Scriptures and the guidance of the Spirit according to God’s secret will of decree.  DeYoung, like the Bible, calls his readers to walk by faith, not sight; by wisdom, not superstition.  Buy this book right now, and buy one for someone else that you know needs DeYoung’s treatment of  “God’s will.”

The Sovereign Shepherd and the Chosen Sheep

There are 5 statements in John 10 that deserve careful attention:

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3b)

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them…” (John 10:4a)

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also” (John 10:16a-b)

“…but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (10:26)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (10:27)

John 10 is the famous “Good Shepherd” discourse that constantly speaks of people who are God’s “sheep.”  While most readers may assume that “sheep” in John 10 refers to “Christians”/”believers,” there are several statements that should give us pause here.  Above, in John 10:3b, the sheep are called “his own” before he ever leads them out, and he calls to those who are “his own” before they ever follow him.  Jesus brings out “his own” in 10:4a.  This means that before these “sheep” become believers in the Lord and followers of the Shepherd, they are already in some sense “his.”  And while there may be many other sheep in that particular sheep pen, Jesus came only to call “his own” sheep.

Jesus said earlier, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37), and, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (6:44a).

Who are the sheep in John 10?  The sheep are the chosen people, the elect of God, those whom the Father gave to the Son before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).  Before he even calls to them, Jesus describes the sheep whom he will call as “his own” because they were chosen.

Understanding the “sheep” of John 10 as those who are mercifully chosen by God for salvation makes the best sense of other verses, like John 10:26: “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”  Jesus was talking to the Jewish opposition, who were clearly unbelievers.  Notice Jesus does not say, “You are not yet my sheep because you do not believe,” as if it was believing in Jesus that resulted in becoming a sheep of Jesus.  Rather, the reverse is true!  According to Jesus, it is being a sheep of the Lord that leads to believing in the Lord!

Think also about John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice…and they follow me.”  One does not listen to Jesus’ voice and then (upon proper response) become a sheep of the Lord.  Instead, the only ones who will listen to Jesus’ voice are Jesus’ sheep, the chosen ones.  Jesus’ sheep listen to his sovereign call.  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (10:3b).  There are others who are not Jesus’ sheep, and Jesus does not sovereignly call them and lead them out.

Finally, consider “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen” (10:16a).  Since Jesus’ primary audience in John 10 is composed of Pharisees and other Jews, “this sheep pen” is probably the sheep pen of Judaism.  This means that the “other sheep” who are “not of this sheep pen” are the Gentiles who will believe.  What is Jesus teaching us in John 10?

(1) God has chosen a people for himself, and they are the “sheep”
(2) Jesus is the Good Shepherd who calls to his sheep and leads them to salvation
(3) Jesus’ sheep come from the sheep pens of the Jews and the Gentiles, and he forms one people of God (10:16c)
(4) Being a sheep of Jesus will result in believing in Jesus, not vice versa (10:26)
(5) Jesus will bring all of his sheep to salvation; they will follow (10:16b-c)