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Sermon #3370

The Kingdom of God

A Sermon on Romans 14:17


Romans 14:17 ESV KJV
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (ESV)

Sermon Description

The church at Rome was guilty of making the kingdom of God small. Walking into their church, one would have thought the kingdom was about eating and drinking. The apostle Paul forcefully corrects this misunderstanding. But if the kingdom is not of meat and drink, what is it about? In this sermon on Romans 14:17 titled “The Kingdom of God,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones enters into a great debate among commentators on this passage. While some preeminent theologians say righteousness refers to the righteousness written about earlier in Romans 1–3, others suggest Paul has changed the meaning to an ethical righteousness. Dr. Lloyd-Jones seeks to adjudicate the alternative positions and ultimately comes to a mediating position. He follows the immediate context, noting Paul’s deliberate challenge to the Romans preoccupation with minutiae and attitudes towards conduct. Paul’s argument, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, has been that the kingdom of God is much bigger than moral conduct. Righteousness is clearly much more than ethics in Romans. It refers to our standing before God. Dr. Lloyd-Jones argues that Paul is interested in holiness, not morality. Holiness affects the whole person as they are declared righteous by faith. The truly righteous person is no longer preoccupied with minutiae as the Romans were, but is far more concerned with a life pleasing to God. Follow Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as he wrestles through this passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. The apostle Paul reminds the Romans that what really matters is the kingdom of God. They were in danger of forgetting this.
  2. The kingdom of God is entirely different from everything else. It has its own laws, ways, and way of thinking. Christians must learn to think in this new way.
  3. The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking. This is too small and negative. The kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  4. There is disagreement over whether "righteousness" here means righteousness from God (as used elsewhere in Romans) or ethical righteousness in believers. The sermon argues it means both.
  5. Paul is concerned the Romans not think being Christian comes from what they do or don't do regarding indifferent matters. Their relationship to God and each other is what really matters.
  6. Verses 18-19 follow from verse 17. They show what those who live according to verse 17 will be like. They are not just restating verse 17.
  7. Paul's argument here parallels Galatians 5:1-6. There too he argues indifferent matters like circumcision don't determine one's relationship to God. What matters is faith working through love.
  8. The kingdom of God cannot consist of our ethical behavior. That would deny what Scripture says the kingdom of God is.
  9. The terms in verse 17 refer to personal relationships, not just ethical ones. Paul wants the Romans to see their whole position and relationship to each other, not just argue over details.
  10. Paul speaks with a measure of impatience and ridicule. He is astonished they could think the way they do. They are making indifferent matters central and missing what really matters.
  11. Righteousness here means more than just being right in some respects. Christians want to be right in every way, to be well-pleasing to God. They hunger and thirst for righteousness.
  12. Christians see themselves as God's people, citizens of His kingdom. They care about God's glory, the kingdom's extension, and fellow citizens. They aim for inward purity, not just outward correctness.
  13. The "righteous" of Matthew 25 were unaware of their own righteousness. The Romans, in contrast, were very aware of theirs in a self-satisfied way. True righteousness focuses on God and others, not self.
  14. Christians have been made righteous people. They do righteousness because of what they are, not to become righteous. They are like Christ, who is righteous.
  15. Paul ridicules the Romans' fussing over indifferent matters. The kingdom of God is about righteousness in being, not views on particular actions.

The Book of Romans

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.