About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Romans (ch. 1:1-7)


The very first word in the book of Romans is "Paul".  Paul was a Jew and his Hebrew name was "Saul", but, when Saul is translated into Greek it is a derogatory word.  For this reason, most feel that Paul chose Paul as his Greek name instead of this derogatory name. 


The name Paul in Greek means small.  Tradition states that Paul was a small man.  That might be why he chose the name Paul to be spoken in Gentile circles.     


The first time we see Saul being called Paul is in Acts 13:9.  The text simply states; "Saul who was also called Paul".  There is no reason for the name change stated in the Bible.  We can only speculate why the change.  I would guess, as many do, that it has something to do with Paul's ministry to the Gentiles.  The change occurs when Paul and Barnabas go out on their first missionary trip.  Nowhere past Acts 13:9 is Paul called Saul.  


Note how Paul introduces himself.  He says, “... Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”.  Unlike many leaders in our Christian world today, Paul was a real servant.  The Greek word "doulos" is translated as servant here.  "Doulos" means a servant by choice.  You might wonder if Paul had any real choice once you know how he met Jesus in Acts 9, but he did.  We all have a choice when it comes to our relationship with God.  He sacrificed all for Jesus as seen in Philippians 3.  The test of a mature Christian is his ability to serve.  Serving others goes against our human nature, but if we are to follow Jesus, we must learn to serve, as Paul did.   I see Paul as one of the greatest servers in Christendom.  


Also note that Paul did not claim to be a servant of God but of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s message to everyone was about the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember, to be technical, it was Jesus who Paul met on the road to Damascus.  As in our day today, there were many people who believed in God or gods in Paul's day.  Paul had to be specific.  He preached Jesus and Him crucified.  See 1 Corinthians 1:23.   There is a difference between following God and following Jesus.  Many people claim to follow God, but the God of the New Testament is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That's why I say there is a difference between following God, or should I say, following god, (small g god) and Jesus.  To the true Christian, there should be no difference.  


One of the biggest things Christians should understand these days in our multi-cultural and multi-religious world is that it is mandatory that the world knows that Christians serve the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe we are failing to make this clear these days. 


Once Paul tells the Romans that he was a slave of Jesus he then tells them that he is an apostle.  The Greek word "apostolos" that is translated as "apostle" simply means "one who is sent".  "Apostolos" isn't a religious word.  It was a word used in normal conversation.  Anyone who was sent by another for any reason would be called and "apostolos".  For Paul, it was God who set him apart from others to preach the gospel.   Jesus called Paul to preach in Acts 9.  He was actually sent out as an apostle from Antioch in Acts 13.  If you read Galatians 1 you will note that there were many years between Paul being called by Jesus in Acts 9 and being sent out by the church in Antioch in Acts 13.  Many Bible teachers say there were about thirteen years between Acts 9 and Acts 13.   


Note the words "set apart" in verse 1.  Paul saw his life as a life that was set apart, set aside, for a specific cause.  Jesus plucked him off the road he was on and placed him on a completely different road.  We may not have the same ministry as Paul, or to the same degree of importance, but like Paul, we have been set aside, plucked out of our own world and put into God's world.         


Growing up as a child in the Evangelical world in the 1950's and 1960's it seemed to me that the words "set aside" meant to withdraw from the world and live a life called holiness.  That is not the meaning of these words here in verse 1.  Paul was not set aside to hide from the world.  Just the opposite was true.  He was set aside to be an apostle, go out into the world, and preach Jesus to a lost world.      


In verse 2 Paul notes that the gospel was promised beforehand in the Holy Scriptures, meaning, the Old Testament.  Remember that was the only Bible these people had at the time.  In his pre-Christian life, Paul was a Pharisee.  He would have known the Old Testament quite well.   


You might ask how the gospel was preached in the Old Testament.  Well, that would take a whole book to answer.  The gospel was first preached as far back as Genesis 3 when God brought judgment on creation.  He spoke of the serpent's head being bruised, and Eve's seed's feet being bruised.  This is prophecy concerning the cross of Christ. 


Another way we see the gospel being preached in the Old Testament is through the Abrahamic Covenant.  God promised certain things to Abraham, to his descendents, and to his special offspring that we know is Jesus.  Jesus is seen in the Abrahamic Covenant, which by the way, is still in effect today.  The Abrahamic Covenant was reconfirmed over and over again by the Old Testament prophets.  The prophetic books foretold the Jewish Messiah that would some day appear on this planet.  Isaiah 53 is obviously one of the most well known of these prophecies.     


In verse 3 and 4 Paul says that this gospel is all about Jesus.  Right away Paul tells these people who Jesus really is.  He is both man and God.  He is both human and divine.  His mother is Mary.  His Father is God.  He is a direct descendent of David according to the flesh.  He was declared to be the Son of God.  As Christians we must believe that Jesus was, and still is, God.  While on earth, Jesus was God in human flesh.  Now in heaven, He is God in what we call glorified human flesh.  This is fundamental to our faith and doctrine as Christians.  We must accept this as universal truth or else we are not Christians.


Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus is the proof of His deity  When NIV uses the words "declared to be the Son of God", that doesn't mean Jesus was simply declare to be God's Son.  Some suggest that this was simply a declaration, not a fact.  The Greek suggests that the resurrection "affirms" Jesus to be the Son of God. 


In verse 4 Paul uses the words “Lord Jesus Christ”. This is significant.  Jesus is His earthly name which means, "Yahweh or salvation is with us".  It was God who gave Jesus His name, not Mary.  See Luke 1:31.  Jesus has two titles, Lord (of all things) and Christ (Saviour of all who believe).  So right in the first five verses we plainly see who Jesus is.  He is Lord of all things.  He is the Saviour for all to believe.  He is God in human form.  He was killed and was raised from the dead.  What a way to start his letter.  This is the gospel in a nut shell.  If anyone would have trouble with what Paul would say in this letter, the trouble would start here.  Jesus is referred to as a stumbling block in Scripture (1 Peter 2:8).  Many people can’t get by the fact that Jesus is God to this very day.  In our day of present tolerance, it is Jesus that will separate the true Christian from everyone else, and it is our association with Jesus that brings persecution our way. 


It's my thinking that western style Christians these days speak more about God than they do about Jesus.  That is a sad and dangerous fact because all religions speak about God.  If we don't tell the world that our God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, they will soon believe that we're talking about their generic God, when in fact we aren't.  To be specific, it was Jesus who sent the first apostles out into the world to represent Him.  It was not God the Father who sent them into the world.  The Father sent the Son into the world while the Son sends us into the world.


The title of Christ in an Old Testament Messianic term.   Throughout the Old Testament the prophets predicted the day when the Jewish Messiah would appear on earth.  By the time Jesus appeared on earth the general thinking among the Jewish intellectuals was that the Messiah would be a man, a military general, who would free the Jews from Roman domination.  In this, the Jewish intellectuals were wrong on two counts.  First, the Messiah would actually be a divine human, not just a human.  Second, the Messiah would be the Messiah for the world, not just for the Jews as was seen in John the Baptist's introduction of Jesus to the Jews,  He said, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29)             


In verse 5 Paul says that he is called to bring Gentiles “to the obedience of the faith”.  Here is another key phrase that he will later expand on.  Obedience was once to the Jewish Law, but no more.  Obedience to God is an obedience to faith in Jesus Christ. 


Sometimes in Evangelical circles we don't think of obedience in terms of salvation.  We just think in terms of believing, and even then, many people don't understand what believing really means.  Believing is not mental assent to truth.  It's giving yourself to truth.  That is to say, the truth that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.  Simply put, God expects us to obey Jesus.      


When it comes to the obedience of faith, it is simple.  Faith requires obedience.  If there is no evidence of faith I believe I can say there is no genuine faith.  This is a truth that must be preached today in this era of our washed down definition of faith.   


Since the cross of Christ there is one condition we must meet in order to receive God's unconditional love, and that is to have faith, or, to believe, which means, to give yourself to.  Saying God's love is unconditional and then saying there is one condition might not sound right to you.  The fact of the matter is that we can do nothing to receive God's love, other than to give ourselves to His love, and even then, we need His help.  We can't do that on our own.   


In verse 5 we read that Paul received grace and apostleship for His “name sake”.  The name that Paul speaks of here is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul had the grace, meaning, the ability to represent the name of Jesus as an apostle.  We have this same grace. 


At this point I will state that there are two meanings of grace found in the Bible.  You see this by the context of the word.  The most popular meaning is "unmerited favour".  There is however, a less known meaning to grace and it is used here by Paul.  The other meaning to grace is "the God given ability to do God's will".  This definition fits Paul's statement here much better than unmerited favour.  


The “name of Jesus” is more than a phrase attached to the end of a prayer.  It is the authority we have been given by Jesus to properly represent Him to others.  Christians have often misunderstood what the phrase "in the name of Jesus means".  Again, it means that we represent Jesus to the world because He is no longer here in physical form to represent Himself.  I equate this to an employee employer relationship.  The employee represents his employer and therefore must do his job in the way the employer wants.              


In some Evangelical circles, especially in that which is called the deliverance ministry, the term "in the name of Jesus" is thrown around, is used, way too casually.  If you use that phrase in association with anything, you better be certain that Jesus has given you the authority to do what you do in His name.  If He has not asked you to do what you claim to do in His name then you are misrepresenting His name.        


Notice that Paul the Jew claims to be commissioned by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  Many of his Jewish brothers struggled over this.  As a matter of fact, this was the most contentious element in the first generation church.  The conference found in Acts 15 was supposed to have settled this problem but it didn’t'.  This problem remains to this very day.  I will comment on this later in my commentary because it's an issue that Paul raises later.   


In verse 6 Paul tells the Roman Christians
that they too were called to belong to Jesus Christ.  The word "belong" is important here.  It is a possessive word, meaning, Christians no longer belong to themselves or pagan gods.  They belong to Jesus.  Christians are a possession of Jesus.  That really is the outcome of faith in Jesus.  True faith is giving your life to Jesus so that you belong to Him.  Once again, we should live our lives as though we belong to Jesus.  We are His possession.  


In verse 7 Paul uses the words “to all in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be saints“.  All Christians are loved by God and are saints.  The designation of saints is not given to just a few super Christians as Catholicism states.  All true believers are saints, not because of anything they have done, but because of the blood of Jesus.  Paul will elaborate on sainthood later.    


The word "saint" is translated from the Greek word "hagios", which simply means "holy".  Thus, saints are holy ones, holy because of the cross of Christ.   


Paul also says, "grace and peace" be to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.  Note that grace and peace are from both God and Jesus, not just God.  Once receiving grace, we have peace.  There is no peace without God's grace. 


There are two aspects of grace found in the Bible.  One is God's mercy towards us that we do not deserve.  The other is the ability from God to do His will.   


There are two aspects to peace found in the Bible.  One is peace with God.  That is to say, we are no longer his enemies.  We are on His side.  Two is that we have peace in God, meaning, that inner peace that can only come to the believer through the Holy Spirit. .


The greeting of grace is more of a Roman Gentile greeting while the greeting of peace is more of a Jewish greeting.  Paul seems to be combining the two here, and probably for reasons we'll find out about later.    


Note the connection between God the Father and Jesus the Son in verse 7.  Christians serve the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is the God of the Bible.  It is not the god of Islam or any other world religion.  It's my thinking that Christians speak more about God than they do about Jesus.  This should not be.  We must make sure the world knows that our God is the Father of Jesus. If we don't speak of Jesus, God's Son, the world will think we believe in the same generic god as they believe in, and that is certainly not the case.    

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