Thursday, May 15, 2008

Romans - Chapter 1:1-17

The first half of Romans Chapter 1 is the apostle Paul’s introduction of himself to the Christians in Rome.

Paul really knew how to write! Or he really knew how to be Spirit-led in his writing. He so clearly represents Jesus and presents the gospel in this epistle (letter) that many scholars have called Romans the greatest epistle of them all.

Right away in verse 1, we see that Paul pulls no punches and gets right to the point in just a few words. Paraphrased: “Hi, I’m Paul. I’m a bond-servant of Christ and God set me apart as an apostle to preach the gospel.” Boom!

His humble reference to himself as a “bond-servant” was in clear contrast to the Jewish religious leaders’ title of Rabbi, which means, “my master.” Both Jewish and Gentile Christians of that day would understand that Paul’s position was to serve them on Christ’s behalf rather than lord over them.

Citing his apostleship meant that Paul claimed he was not called by any man to preach the Gospel, but by Christ Himself. Luke supported this claim by recording Paul’s Damascus Road encounter three times in the book of Acts. (9:3-5; 22:6-8; 26:12-18)

(Interesting reading on apostles if you have the time:

In verses 2-4, Paul declares his knowledge of prophecy and Scripture, which influenced the Jews, and verses 5-6 affirm the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan. Verse 7 unites both groups under the same pronouncement of God’s love. Talk about knowing and appealing to your audience!

This is followed up by a wonderful word of encouragement for these believers (vv. 8-10) – Paul, an apostle of Christ, praises them for their faith! Remember, Paul had not yet been to Rome to see them. He’d heard about them because their faith was being “proclaimed throughout the whole world.”

I don’t know about you, but people can tell me all day long that I’m doing a good job at something and I just take it with grace, offering a sincere thank you for their praise. However, it makes a big impact on me when a leader in my life tells me I’m doing a good job at something. Suddenly, I realize that important people are noticing what I’m doing and I’m SO glad that it’s not for the wrong reasons!

Paul didn’t keep the news about their faith to himself either; he told others as he went about preaching the gospel. He was proud of them, he thanked God for them, and he prayed for them. He also prayed that he could meet these faithful believers face to face.

His desire to share with them a “spiritual gift” that would help “establish” them is found in verse 11. When a preacher ministers the gospel, God imparts gifts to those who receive the message. Whether it is hope or healing, knowledge or salvation, grace, peace, or comfort, God wants to share His gifts and Paul was eager to bring to the Roman Christians whatever the Lord would share with them through him.

He knew that a spiritual gift from the Lord would help make them even stronger and more stable in their faith, establishing more firmly in their hearts their belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul also knew that being together with them would encourage his faith as well (verse 12).

It seemed important to Paul to let the believers in Rome know that he’d been thinking about them for some time (verse 13) and, had there not been other things to prevent him, he would already have come. He looked forward to ministering there so he could “obtain fruit” among them, possibly salvation of souls, encouragement of believers, and other “fruits” that come of laboring for the harvest. While he loved his fellow Jewish-Christians, his mission was to the Gentiles.

Verse 14 distinguishes “types” of Gentiles that Paul was obligated to preach the gospel to, so that none would think themselves above the others, nor beneath the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, either the Greeks (who were Gentiles) called all others not of their nation Barbarians, or Greeks represented the more cultivated nations of the world while Barbarians were the ruder, more uncivilized parts. Either way, Paul knew to make reference to both groups. He also was clear that he preached to both the educated (wise) and the uneducated (foolish). The gospel is for everyone.

So far, Paul has summed up his credentials, his audience, and his purpose, all of which compel him to be “eager” to preach to the Christians in Rome (verse 15). He knew that God had called him, he had a passion for those God told him to preach and minister to, and he was confident in the gospel he had to share. Paul was “good to go” as soon as he could get to Rome!

Many people today wish they could have the faith to preach (evangelize) like Paul did. What was his secret? Why was he so bold? Did God give him an extra portion of the Holy Spirit or did it have to do with the fact that Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road? Surely, we’d have more faith had we been knocked off our high horse and blinded for three days!

If it had anything to do with the latter, how do you explain the lack of faith in some who actually walked with Jesus and saw Him perform miracles? Throughout history, man has denied Jesus Christ even when they come face to face with Him.

I am convinced that it had to do with the fact that Paul actually listened to what Jesus told him and then had a conversation with Him. Paul developed a relationship with Jesus right from the beginning that he never let go of!

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul walked and talked with Jesus every day. It was this experience of a personal relationship with Christ that led Paul to boldly declare, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘but the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Verses 16-17)

We can all have that!

Every man, woman, and child on the planet is invited to experience the power of salvation – “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 – italics mine)

God does reveal His righteousness – “The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations.” (Psalm 98:2)

The longer we spend time with Jesus the more we experience with Him so our faith grows. He shares more and more over time taking our faith from one level to another with each revelation of His righteousness.

Paul spent time with Jesus. It’s that simple. His faith was great because his relationship with Jesus was great. It was important to him and he worked to maintain it. Knowing Jesus so well is why he was eager to go wherever and to whomever the Lord asked him to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Oh, that I should desire to know the Lord so well, that none who cross my path should pass without a seed being planted!