Lesson 66: "To All That Be in Rome, Beloved of God, Called to be Saints" (Romans 1:7)
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. Welcome to lesson #66. Please turn to Romans chapter one. The KJV has the first seven verses of Roams chapter one; as one big long sentence. I suppose, what we would call the salutation. The basic sentence simply ways: Paul to the saints in Rome. To that basic sentence, the apostle added several modifying phrases describing himself, his apostleship, the gospel of God, Jesus our Lord, and the Roman Christians themselves. Each phrase is tucked very tightly and tied very systematically to the phrase it follows and the phrase it introduces. Let's read the first seven verses! Please put your eyes on that text and read with me. Beginning in verse one. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, if you haven't tried to analyze that sentence on your own; take a minute or two and do that. As you analyze, you might imagine Paul pacing back and forth and wringing his hands as he dictated to Tertius the scribe (or stenographer, we would say) in the household of Gaius. Paul used (what we call) the first verse to identify himself. Paul was (#1) a servant of Jesus Christ, (#2) he was called to be an apostle, and (#3) he was separated unto the gospel of God, then, v.2 notice in the parenthesis, Paul began to describe the "gospel of God", the last phrase in verse one. I think it is fair to conclude that the Roman church in general had heard of Paul. Many in that congregation knew Paul personally, it is obvious from the list of names in Chapter sixteen. What right did Paul have to demand and command the attention of the roman church? The greatest reason, of course, was the fact that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, i.e. a personal appointee. Paul did not put his apostolic claim first. Up front, Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ; i.e. the simple relationship that any Christian can claim to our Lord and Master, a serving relationship. Symbolically, Jesus Christ is our Master and Lord; we are his servants or slaves. It seems all the apostles preferred this description of themselves over their official titles; although they did not hesitate to assert and declare that relationship for clarification and for proclaiming the truth. In saying he was "separated unto the gospel of God," the apostle was saying it was his vocation and his career imposed on him by his Master, Jesus Christ and that he willingly accepted that calling.
You might notice that when Paul mentioned the gospel of god; he immediately thought of the gospel as having been promised in the ages before by the prophets in what we would call the Old Testament. It was a natural association. Those holy Scriptures of old, foretold the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord (v.3). Thus, Paul began to describe Jesus in that context: the Son of god; our Lord; the seed of David according to the flesh. But, our Lord was not a mere man and Paul could never leave a description of Him without pointing out that He was "declared to be the Son of God with power." This was established by the Holy Spirit and this was established by Jesus resurrection from the dead. Two irrefutable facts! And, having thus established the credentials of Jesus; the apostle said: "by whom we have
received grace and apostleship." It was by Jesus that Paul was made an apostle and it was by Jesus that the Roman brethren became Christians, children of god. It was by Jesus that many nations; i.e. the Gentiles, would be brought to Jesus also. How? By obedience to the faith, for his name. It's easy to pass over that statement quickly, as just a natural thing for Paul to say. However, store it in a brain cell or two for quick ready reference. This touches very close to the theme of this book, we've already mentioned down in v.17. Paul was a special apostle to the Gentiles. The Romans were undoubtedly well aware of that. Thus, as Gentile Christians they were among those in Paul's jurisdiction. It was to them, that Paul directed this letter: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints..." (V.7). Then, at the end of v.7 is Paul's customary spiritual wish: "Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (almost verbatim with Gal. 1:3).
O.K. so much for salutation; let's read on down through v. 15. Have you got an eye on it? Beginning in v.8; let's read. "First, I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gifts, to the end you may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also."
You will recall that we touched on some of these verses back in our introduction in the last lesson. Paul started off with the word "first." Now he never exactly gets to a second, third, etc. But the idea was: before getting occupied with his main message; he is in effect saying this: let me take a moment to say this. O.K., what is it Paul? "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all...", i.e. every Christian in Rome. Why are you so thankful in your prayers for these Roman Christians, Paul? (#1) "Your faith is spoken through the whole world." (Endv.8). Paul was up-lifted and encouraged by what he had heard with reference to this church. And then notice here, Paul brings in the faith of the Romans; the theme that the apostle planned to start with. (#2) "Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers:" (end of v.9) Why Paul? That "at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you." We looked at Paul's reasons back in our introduction. First, that Paul may impart to the Romans some spiritual gifts "to the end ye may be established." Now, that does not mean they were not established as a congregation. That they might be established with more and more solidity. Paul was asking that more and more of the miraculous might assist them: in teaching, healing and speaking with other languages of the empire, i.e. tongues. In every case recorded in the N.T., with the exception of Jesus, spiritual gifts were always imparted by an apostle. Rome was no exception (v.l 1). As we have said before, this was before the New Testament was written and the children of God had to depend upon the inspired apostles and other inspired men for the source of their information. When the bible was written, given by inspiration of God (II Tim. 3:16-17), then the miraculous was closed out. (I Cor. 13:10). Then secondly, I think v.12 here, Paul was saying in effect; I hope we can work together, i.e. both he and the Roman brethren might be comforted and up-lifted by their working together. Paul had wanted for sometime to come to Rome. The only real difference being, Paul had always before worked with congregations he himselfhad started; he told the Romans this down in 15:19-20. Then, that parenthesis in the middle of v. 13, "but was let hitherto," in the KJV, this seems a little peculiar to me. When I first read it, I thought it said "led" L-E-D "hitherto"; the word is let, L-E-T. The ASV and some others have it "and was hindered hitherto." One translation says; "but God did not let me." I can understand "let" in that sense. David Lipscomb said, with reference to v. 14, that "the Greeks" were the more educated class of the Gentiles that spoke the Greek language and that they in turn spoke of everyone else, that did not speak the Greek language as Barbarians. That seems to explain that "both to the wise, and the unwise" at the end of that verse. In v. 15, Paul states he is ready and it is obvious he was anxious. But, as was pointed out before, when Paul came to Rome he was in chains; not as he had hoped. Paul didn't let those chains stop his reaching, we shall see. It was from under the weight of those prison chains he wrote four more books of the New Testament: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. We shall cover those four books at a later time as PAUL'S PRISON EPISTLES. Right now, let's read v.16-17. V.16 states why Paul is anxious to come to Rome and v.17, as we have said, is the theme of this book. Let's read! "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jews first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
Alright, I suppose that the elite among the Romans, the educated class as they thought of themselves (up in v.14), were impressed by the great power of the Roman empire; though, the Romans knew only a sophisticated form of the bow and arrow, the sword and a brute force type warfare. I suppose they could not have even have imagined gun powder, bombs and missiles; let alone, atomic weapons., Nevertheless, the elite of that fair city were impressed by the great powers of Rome; the dynamos of might. And, from the elitist Roman viewpoint; Christians were probably looked upon as a little barbaric and promoters of some backwoods superstition. But, Paul told his Roman brethren: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Why Paul? "The gospel of Christ...is the power of God unto salvation..." The Romans may have been impressed by physical powers of the sword and they may have gloried in their military skill with the bow and arrow. However, just like today's atomic enthusiast and those who trust in the annals of warfare; they had no idea of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew! Paul gloried in the saving power of the gospel of Christ. The gospel is the power of God "unto salvation to every one that believeth." That great power of the gospel is unleashed through faith, i.e. believing in Jesus Christ as God's Son. Paul told the Corinthians, "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (I Cor. 1:21). Notice in v. 16; Pul emphasized the power of the gospel and the power available through faith. Jesus had said in Mark 16:16, "he that believeth not shall be damned." Thus, faith is the only means of salvation from sin and the only means of a better life with God the Father. Therefore, faith is the most powerful tool known of man. It came to the Jew first; but, it was then extended to the Greeks also. This is the only way in which the Jews have any preeminence over the gentiles. Paul was ready to preach the gospel to all that were in Rome, the emperor, the senators, the educated and the uneducated; any that would listen. Paul was anxious. Then in v. 17; Paul stated the reason. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed..." Now, I want you to look at that phrase: "righteousness of God." Take the time to write I out on a piece of paper. "Abraham believed god, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness..." (James 2:23). The righteousness of God comes to man through Faith. It does not have to do with Man's doings. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. What does that mean? Faith to Faith? Please get this now! Faith does not come fully grown with just one big bang. Faith comes by degrees. You can get a little today by reading Romans ch. 1. You can get some more tomorrow by reading more. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17). According to Heb. 10:39, one can "believe to the saving of the soul." There are higher and higher degrees of faith. You can go from one level of faith to a higher level of faith, i.e. from faith to faith. And let me ask you! Can you turn on faith and turn off faith like a light bulb? What abut it? Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe Jesus Christ was/is God's Son? If you do, you have faith. You didn't get it by looking under a rock. You either read the Bible, or someone else read the Bible and told you about it. Anything else is not Bible faith. And no other faith will save. It's just that simple. Do you want to go on to higher levels of faith?: Read the Bible! You got it! Now, hang on to this! Obedience to the gospel springs from faith. First faith and THEN obedience. You cannot obey what you don't know and you cannot obey what you do not believe. If you believe, you will obey. One would be foolish not to. But, please get this! The way the word "faith" is used here and elsewhere in the Bible implies that when you believe, you obey, without second thought. To try to separate faith and obedience is like trying to separate pain and response. Thus, to have faith implies an obedient response. One of the greatest errors in religion is to try to separate faith and obedience. Some have tried to make everything depend upon faith and very little to depend upon obedience. James said: "show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18). You cannot separate the two. One implies the other, that's James' thesis. A little further down, James said: 'Taith without works is dead..." (James 2:26). He said faith cannot live without an obedient response, any more than the body can live without the spirit. So, all the works you can stack up won't save unless it is faith motivated. It is my understanding that Martin Luther concluded from his very study, the book of Romans, that one can be saved by faith along. Through his teaching and through others since that time, the doctrine of faith only came into being. A great error! The truth of the matter is it doesn't all depend upon faith. It doesn't all depend upon works either. Faith and works go together hand in hand. "It is written: The just shall live by faith." Paul here appeals to Habakkuk 2:4, one of the minor prophets in the O.T. where this was first prophesied. Or, as the RSV says, "He through faith is righteous shall live." The righteousness of God; if you'll think of the book of Romans, from here to the end of chapter 11, as simply as expansion upon this thought (v.17); you'll keep it in the right ball park. We'll get back to this in our next lesson, we'll begin our next lesson with v.18. So, turn the tape over, sharpen up you faith and have a good day.