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Thursday, January 23 2020

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

Introduction

We will be considering an in-depth study on the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Who are the intended recipient of Paul’s letter? Who is this writer himself? What exactly is the message? Who is the center focus of this message? Why is this letter important to Paul and his intended readers? What are the benefits of this letter to us as believers? These and other questions will be addressed in today’s study.

 

Verse 1: Paul Introduces himself

Paul here introduces himself to his readers. He identifies himself as:

  1. a servant of Christ Jesus indicating his allegiance and commitment;
  2. 'called to be an apostle indicating his divine commission; and
  3. 'set apart for the gospel of God indicating his mandate.

In identifying himself in this way Paul establishes his authority to write to the believers in Rome. What do you think that Paul meant when he said he was 'set apart for the Gospel of God'? Was it that he felt called to do nothing but preach the Gospel to unbelievers? Or was it that he felt compelled not only to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers, but also to teach its true and full significance to believers, clarifying its meaning and implications, and defending it against the false interpretations which so quickly were attached to it?

Verse 1b – 3a, 9: Paul introduces the gospel

  1. It is 'the gospel of God'. This teaches us that the Gospel originates in God. It comes from God. It is God's idea. This immediately prohibits any tension or division between the God of the Old Testament and the Father of Jesus. They are one and the same. It also prohibits any tension or division between God the Father and God the Son. In preaching a Gospel centered on Jesus Christ Paul did not for a moment consider that in doing so he was turning his back on God. Rather the Gospel is God's Gospel, God's good news.
  2. To further enforce this point Paul teaches us that the Gospel was 'promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures'. Not only is the Gospel God's Gospel, it is also something that has always been in God's intention. It is not something altogether new, not an innovative attempt to redeem fallen humanity. From the first embryonic prophecy of the crushing of the serpent's head (Gen 3:15), to the fully-fledged description of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), the whole of Scripture points forward to the coming and sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ. Rather than contradict and nullify the Old Testament, the Gospel fulfils, validates and establishes the deepest significance of the Old Testament.
  3. It is about 'His Son'. Here the whole content of God's good news is encapsulated in two words: 'His Son'. God's good news is about 'His Son'. Over and above all else, the Gospel is about God's Son. This is stated again in Romans 1:9 where Paul refers to 'the gospel of his Son', again identifying the person of Christ as the center of the Gospel. If in our supposed telling of the Gospel we have failed to tell people about the true, divine identity of Jesus Christ, we have in fact not told them the true Gospel at all.

Verse 3-4: Paul Introduces Jesus Christ

  1. He is God's Son. To make this statement meant to claim for Jesus Christ equality with God. A 'son' is, without reduction, of the same essence as the 'father'.
  2. He is, according to his human nature, a descendant of David. Paul links Jesus with all the prophecies relating to the Davidic king who would one day rule God's people.
  3. Paul repeats his affirmation of Jesus' divine sonship: Jesus was, through the Spirit of holiness, declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Here Paul teaches that the resurrection of Jesus confirms his deity. Why is this? Because the resurrection means that Jesus' death was not a death for his own sins, that he had no sins of his own for which to bear the death penalty. That in turn means that when Jesus made the claims that he did he was speaking the truth - when, for instance, he called God his Father, when he said 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30), when he said that seeing him was seeing the Father (John 14:9). All of Jesus' claims are validated by the resurrection.
  4. He is 'Christ'. The English 'Christ' translates the word 'Christos' which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew 'Messiah'. Again Paul identifies Jesus as the subject of Old Testament prophecies, this time the prophecies concerning the Messiah - the Anointed One, who would come to save and lead God's people.
  5. He is 'our Lord'. We can very easily slip over this word 'Lord' in our familiarity with it, but we should not lose sight for a moment that 'Lord' is one of the common Old Testament names or titles of God. God is the Lord. The Lord is God.

Verse 5: Paul Introduces his ministry

Paul sees Jesus Christ as the source/origin ('through him') and goal/purpose ('for his name's sake') of his ministry. His ministry was not his idea, nor is he in it to make a name for himself. It is a Christ-focused, Christ-centred ministry. He also sees his ministry as 'grace', that is, as something that he did not earn, deserve or merit. Both his ministry, and the ability to pursue it, are a gift.

Verse 6-8: Paul identifies his readers

It would be easy when we read some parts of Paul's letter to the Romans to forget that his readers are already believers, and because of that, to misunderstand his meaning. He here identifies them as 'among those called to belong to Jesus Christ', 'loved by God' and 'called to be saints’ and mentions their faith which 'is being reported all over the world.' Paul's readers are true believers in Jesus Christ; they already belong to Jesus. They already are loved by God. They already are 'saints' - set apart by God, for God. They already have faith. Paul is not writing to them to bring them to the point of faith. Rather, he is writing to them to spell out the implications of their already existing faith. He is not writing to them to bring them to Christ. Rather, he is writing to them so that their already existing union with Christ will find expression in the way they relate to God and to each other.

Verse 8-13: Paul introduces his priorities in relation to the Romans

Although Paul has not yet met the Roman believers, he already has them firmly fixed in his heart and mind. He thanks God for all of them (verse 8). He prays for them all the time (verse 10). He longs to come to see them but has been prevented (verses 10-13).

Considering that he has just stated that their faith is being reported all over the world, this is an interesting and informative comment. It gives us the insight that to 'preach the gospel' was not limited to initial, conversion-generating preaching, but included explanatory teaching of the meaning and implications of the gospel in the on-going life of the believer. Most of Paul's letters contain this kind of gospel teaching, and we know from his letters that the care of the churches and the preservation of the purity of the gospel within the churches lay heavily on his heart. This burden he affirms in verse nine where he states that he serves God with his 'whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son'.

Conclusion

Those who truly know the Gospel know that its impact is not initial only. Indeed, the more one knows and understands the Gospel, the more one realizes that it is increasingly impactive for every moment of the believer's life.

The more a believer studies the message of the Gospel the bigger he/she understands it to be. So, Paul was eager to preach the Gospel - to expound its depth and its greatness, even, no, not just even, but especially to those who had already embraced it. He longs to see them and strengthen them through his ministry (Romans 1:11). It therefore follows that our call to preach the gospel to a dying and decaying world does not stop at the point of conversion, necessity is laid on everyone of us, believers, to bring men to the place of maturity.

Some parts of this study culled from https://www.godswordforyou.com/bible-studies/romans/183-study-one-introductions-romans-11-15.html

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 12:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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