2 May 2021: “But God…” – an introduction to Romans

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
2 May 2021

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.


As we mentioned last week we will be meeting back at Bethel on Sunday morning, 10.30am, 2nd May 2021. As part of the safety measures we are required to put in place we ask that anyone who is showing any hint of Covid 19 symptoms not to come. People who show symptoms of Covid during the meeting must leave immediately, and those they have been in close contact with must wash thoroughly or use sanitiser gel. We have filled out a Risk-Assessment and made the building as safe as we possibly can.


Stella shares how she was looking at the beautiful boxes of flowers on their stands along the pavements in Macclesfield and saw the beauty and glory of Creation. She felt that we, the Lord’s children, are like these flowers; some very beautiful, others with a special fragrance. The Lord, by His mighty hand, has designed each one perfectly: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Another time she was emptying the vase of some dead flowers and then placed it under a running tap to clean it. The constant overflowing left the vase completely clean. This is likened to the regular daily reading of His word in the Bible which as we apply it to our lives cleanses us of our impurities: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).



Reading: Romans 5:1-11;

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:8


“[Romans] is the profoundest piece of writing in existence”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – one of the most acute minds that English literature has ever known

“There is a sense in which we can say quite truthfully that the Epistle to the Romans has, possibly played a more important and a more crucial part in the history of the church than any other single book in the whole of the Bible. That is a matter of very great significance.”

D.M. Lloyd-Jones

Significant conversions throughout Church History have come about through the reading of, or preaching from Romans e.g. Augustine of Hippo; Martin Luther; John Bunyan; John Wesley.
Romans is a long letter with so many issues that are basic to Christian theology and practice. Not like 1 Corinthians for example in which the same apostle answers questions asked of him, rather, in Romans Paul doesn’t allude to any circumstances that are peculiar to the churches he is writing to and

“even the direct addresses of his audience are so general as to be applicable to almost any church: [e.g.] ‘fellow believers’ (Rom 7:4; 8:12;10:1; 11:25) …”

Douglas Moo

What is the central theme of Romans?

Scholars still debate the answer to this question and a variety of answers are given but to get straight to the point,

“Paul’s focus is on the gospel and its meaning”

Douglas Moo

“[It] is the fullest and most carefully constructed statement of the Christian gospel and of the faith it called for”

James Dunn

This can be seen by looking carefully at the Introduction for in the first 17 verses, the word ‘gospel’ (‘well-good-news’) appears 6 times and note its appearance at the end of this letter (Rom 15:16, 19; 16:25). His opening words are focussed on the gospel:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.

Rom 1:1

the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son …

Rom 1:2

God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of His Son

Rom 1:9

… I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome

Rom 1:15

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …

Rom 1:16

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’.

Rom 1:17

Romans 1:16-17 are the central verses to the whole epistle and again the focus is on the gospel. Paul affirming that he is not ashamed of the gospel, with Jesus’ teaching in mind when He predicted His death and the way of the cross,

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.

Mark 8:38

Can we like the apostle say that we are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Why is he not ashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Why is it the power of God for salvation? Because in it God’s righteousness (the saving action of God whereby He acts to bring people into a right relationship with Himself) is revealed; a righteousness that is the antithesis of the righteousness of this world, the self-righteousness of sinful fallen humanity. God’s righteousness is His gift to those who believe.

In the next few chapters the apostle teaches about the universal reign of sin concluding,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Rom. 3:23

which includes both Jews and Gentiles alike. Then the revelation of the righteousness of God, that by faith we are made righteous in God’s sight, justified (Rom 3:24-4:25), and the assurance this provides, the hope of salvation and of glory (Rom 5:1-8:39). This saving activity of God is neatly put in our text, Romans 5:8.

(1) “But God …”

Paul has referred to the reality of life:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.

Rom 5:7

It is a very rare thing to die for someone else, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. It’s a bleak situation regarding the need for someone to die in our place, for our sins, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that that someone has to be a perfect sacrifice, unblemished (cf. Leviticus 22:17-25; Deuteronomy 17:1), without sin – it’s very bleak, it’s humanly impossible, “But God …”

“What God has done is without analogy”

James Dunn

Don’t you just love the “But God’s …” in the Scriptures! e.g. Joseph:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20

and my all-time favourite,

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

Acts 2:23-24

Regarding your life, list all the negatives, the sins, the weaknesses, the shortcomings, the mistakes, the evil, the wickedness, go on pile it on and when you have completed your list write after it in BIG, BOLD, CAPITAL LETTERS: “BUT GOD”. God can/has sorted it all out, Amen.

(2) “demonstrates His own love for us in this”

The word for demonstrates means God proved His great love for us. Words are cheap unless they are backed up by actions. God didn’t shout from heaven, “I love you, now get on with it”. He proved His great love for us by the giving of His only dearly beloved Son. It’s His love for us not our love for Him – such is the very ground and foundation of our assurance of eternal life. Diane was sharing with me of a little girl who desperately needed a bone marrow/blood transfusion, her life depended upon it. Her little brother was found to be a prefect match and agreed to donate so his sister could live. Half-way through the transfusion he asked his mum how much longer he would have left to live – he thought he had to give all his blood so his sister could live – he had been prepared to give his own life for his sister. This is a lovely story. God’s is like it but different also in that He gave His life for those who intensely hated Him, His enemies, all sinners – “There is no love like the love of Jesus”, as we sang in our worship song!

(3) “while we were still sinners Christ died for us”

Many people think that we have to reach some level of righteousness before we are accepted by God – No, we will never attain the righteousness of a pure, righteous, holy God. But while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

“You shall call Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins”

Matt. 1:21

Romans 5:6 states a similar truth:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”

Rom 5:6

There we are, “powerless, ungodly, sinners” but in God’s perfect time Christ died and rose again. It wasn’t just the physical suffering He endured, great and savage as it was, but it was that spiritual separation that no-one will ever be able to fully comprehend in this life and throughout eternity. That separation which wrought the agonising cry out of Him,

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).

Matthew 27:45-46

Truly the sin of the world has been borne by Him!


What should our response be to this great love of God? That of deep gratitude and unwavering devotion. Of Spirit-filled worship and praise and a resolve to live a life that brings glory to our Father in heaven, to Jesus His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. A determination to not only say “I am not ashamed of the gospel” but to demonstrate it in the lives we live and the words we speak, Amen!

Questions for Discussion

  1. Can you remember a time when you were reluctant to stand out as a Christian, even ashamed to admit it? What happened to bring about the change?
  2. What’s so good about the ‘Good-News’?
  3. Why do we need the ‘power of God’ in our lives?
  4. Do you think that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”? Aren’t there some good people in the world who have never sinned?
  5. “The closer we get to Jesus the more we become aware of our sin” Discuss!
  6. Is (5) the reason why many people keep their distance from Him?
  7. Have you got any “But God’s” you can share to encourage the group?

Quote for the Week

“The believing community [the Church] is the soil in which personal faith sprouts and is nourished”

Bruce Milne – “Know the Truth”

Verse of the week

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your word.

Psalm 119:9

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we worship, praise and thank you for Your great love shown to us in this, while we were still sinners, Your Son Jesus Christ died for us, that we could be forgiven and make a new start in life with Jesus in the driving seat. Thank you for the gift of Your Spirit who enables us, and empowers us, to live this new life in Christ Jesus. Lord help us not to be ashamed of the gospel but share it with those You bring to us, in and through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen.