“Wrestling With Romans”
Heaven Sent Messenger (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)
The theme is the gospel, good news (Romans 3.24), which is necessary for everyone, whoever they are, wherever they are coming from. Whether they be poor or rich, religious or not, Jew or Gentile. It is an effective gospel, Paul claims, because it produces the goods of peace with God, holiness of life, and liberty in the Holy Spirit. Only the gospel of God can do such as that. He begins with this salutation (vv1-7), which is unusually lengthy and jam-packed full of theology. Paul begins by introducing himself, who he is, and what he is (v1). Notice the lovely common bond between Paul and his readers, and all who are true Christians (v6). When Paul describes himself as a servant or slave of Christ he is describing all Christians really, because we too have been bought by Christ, through his precious blood (1Peter 1.18-19). We belong to him lock stock and barrel as we say (Ephesians 6.6; 1Peter 2.16; Romans 6.16-20; Romans 14.4-8; 1Corinthians 7.22). That means we, like Paul, are not free to please ourselves, to do our own thing, but from a heart filled with love, to please our Purchaser, Christ Jesus, our anointed Messiah, Prophet, Priest and King.
Paul of course was an Apostle in the sense he received a direct and immediate call from the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 22.21; 26.17). We must remember there were others who were designated apostles (Romans 16.7; 1Corinthians 12.28). The Twelve were special, no question, but there were others who were sent, that is what apostle means. They would be sent like Paul to plant and establish Churches, to encourage and edify believers, very much an itinerant ministry. There is still a Biblical warrant for such a mobile ministry today surely. It was for such an apostolic ministry that Paul was set apart. The New Testament pattern is that the itinerant evangelist is given the financial support of the Church, the settled pastors find work and support themselves. Today we appear to do it the other way round.
The gospel of God, well we could preach several sermons on that one phrase. There seems to be so many who do not even understand what the gospel is, professing Christians I mean. It is God’s call to people, calling them to repentance, faith, costly discipleship, to live under Jesus’ Lordship, through the gospel God calls folk to himself. It is something God does, not man. That gospel is God’s, it belongs to him, that means we have no right to interfere with it, to change it, dilute it. Because to do so would be catastrophic for people, for as we have seen in our study of Mark’s gospel, it is a saving, a rescuing message. Saving from the dreaded disease of sin and its consequential judgment.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)