About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Longing To Visit Rome
– ch. 1:8-17
verse 8 Paul thanks “God through Jesus Christ” for the people of Rome. Once again, he thanks the
God of Jesus Christ, not some generic; all purpose God that many believe
in today. Jesus Christ is
central to Paul’s life and thoughts. Why was Paul thankful to Jesus?
It was because of their faith that was reported all over the
world, or actually, all over the known world in his day.
Here we see that faith is the important thing that Paul notes in
these people. As you will
see later, faith is fundamental and basic for Christians, but amazingly
enough, it's a very misunderstood concept.
Without faith it is impossible to please God as is stated in
Hebrews 11:6. As I've
previously said; faith is more than mentally accepting the truth about
Jesus. Biblical faith is
trust. Biblical faith is
trusting your life to Jesus.
Roman believers faith was reported throughout the world Paul said.
Obviously, there was no internet, phones, or high tech devices
that would report this faith. It
was reported by word of mouth as people travelled throughout the
verse 9 Paul says that he remembers these people all the time in his
prayers. Paul is in constant
prayer for these people, and this is how it should be with any leader
who is a real servant. I
wonder at times how often the modern pastor prays for God's people as
Paul would have.
in verse 9 we note that Paul serves God with his whole heart.
Any brief study of Paul in the Bible will show you that to be
true. He not only served God
with his heart, but with his very life.
I believe Paul's greatest testimony for Jesus was his execution.
Instead of caving into Caesar Nero's demands, Paul graciously put
himself on the chopping block. Tradition
states that Paul was beheaded for the sake of Christ.
Martyrdom, although never looked for, is the ultimate witness.
People will take note of the gospel you preach if you are willing
to die for Jesus.
verse 10 Paul says that he has always desired to come and see these
people to whom he is now writing. He
prays for an opening, a way to be revealed, that he can come to them in
the will of God. Paul did
finally come to visit these people, but not as a free man.
The book of Acts tells us that he was falsely arrested by the
Jews in Jerusalem, taken to the Romans, and would have been released if he had not
appealed to Caesar. Paul was
both a Jew and a Roman citizen that meant it was his legal right to
appeal to the highest court in the land when falsely accused.
Along each step of the way, he would preach the gospel to
governors, politicians, and to the emperor himself, just as it was told
him in the prophetic word in Acts 9.
of the main reasons why Paul wants to see the Romans, as seen in verse
11, is to impart to them some spiritual gifts.
Paul could impart many things in the form of education,
friendship, and other things, but he wanted to give them something
spiritual, something long lasting, and useful in the service of the
Lord. This could be
individual callings from God or a gift of the Spirit.
These gifts of the Spirit are seen in 1 Corinthians 12.
What is called the gifts of Christ, that is, evangelists,
apostles, pastors/teachers, are seen in Ephesians 4:11.
These four ministry gifts Paul might have had in mind as well.
reason for this impartation of spiritual gifts is seen in verse 12.
Paul wanted mutual encouragement to flow from him to them and
from them to him. Such
mutual encouragement is vital for the work of the Lord.
The sad fact of church history is that there has not been much of
this mutual encouragement. Rather,
church splits have simply been par for the course.
verse 13 Paul says that he had been hindered many times in the past from
seeing these Romans. This
text alone does not say how Paul was hindered.
It might have been satan's interference, or simply God's will. We
do know from the book of Acts that God did step in at times to redirect
Paul to a place he had not intended to visit.
I suggest that what hindered Paul from visiting
Verse 13 tells us why he had not visited Rome
earlier in his ministry. It
was so he could have a better harvest of people now.
It is clear that if Paul had of gone earlier, the harvest of
people would not have been as great.
Thus, in my thinking, it was God who prevented Paul from visiting
earlier, and of course, God has His reasons.
verse 14 Paul says that he is obligated to both Greeks and non-Greeks
alike when it comes to preaching the gospel.
The term "non-Greeks" should be understood as
"barbarians". Paul felt that he had no other choice but to preach the gospel,
and to anyone who would listen, whether Jew or Gentile.
Many of us have a very lax feeling about these things.
We'll preach when it is convenient. This
was not so with Paul. We
must remember that in John 1:29, John announced Jesus to be the Lamb of
God that takes away the sin of the world.
just doesn't say he is obligated to Greeks and Jews, but also to the
wise and unwise. Again, Paul
doesn't just travel in elite circles to make himself look good as some
preachers do today. Paul was
comfortable among scholars and also among the uneducated.
I know of some pastors who are not comfortable with the poor.
They feel rich people will be turned off with the presence of
poor people in their congregation.
Paul had no
Greek word translated as "obligated" in the NIV is
word simply means a debtor. It
was often used in financial circles.
So, Paul felt he had a debt to pay everyone he came in contact
with, a debt that could only be paid by the preaching of the gospel.
A debt that could only be paid by offering eternal salvation to
all he came in contact with. In
part, he might have felt this indebtedness because he had persecuted the
believers in times past. Also,
the way the gospel was presented to him by Jesus Himself in Acts 9 would
easily make anyone feel indebted.
15 says that Paul was “eager to preach the gospel” to the people of Rome. These people were already
Christian but there were many non-Christians in
16 says that Paul is not ashamed of the gospel.
Many of us are ashamed, but not Paul.
He believed that the gospel was the power of God that leads to
salvation. We tend to think
that we need to add to the simple gospel with great preaching, music,
high tech aids, and all sorts of other things, but that shouldn't be.
Only the gospel, the pure gospel, can lead someone to salvation
in Christ. In many respects,
all of our additions to the gospel actually take away from its
effectiveness. Our preaching
thus becomes more humanistic than godly.
clearly states that the gospel itself is the power that leads people to
salvation. That means we
must preach the real gospel, not an adulterated or rethought gospel. Any
changes to the gospel changes the gospel to be something other than what
it is meant to be. This
changed gospel has no power to lead anyone to salvation.
This might well be one reason why much of the gospel preaching is
ineffective today. It's
because it's not the pure gospel. It
is powerless, perverted gospel.
then says that the gospel is first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.
This is a principle that is seen throughout the Bible.
First comes the Jew, and then comes the Gentile.
God chose Abraham to be the father of a special race of people
that He would call His people. These
are Jews. Paul demonstrated
this in his preaching. The
first place he would always preach was in the Jewish synagogues.
From there, and it was usually because the Jews rejected him,
he'd go to the Gentiles.
this point I should say that the Jews are first. They aren't special,
because they are any better than Gentiles, because that is not the case.
Paul will make that plain later when he says that both groups
have sinned and have fallen short of God's glory.
The specialness of the Jews is their calling, their God given
role among the nations. Israel
was meant to be a priest to the nations as seen in Exodus 19:6 and
Isaiah 49:6. It's their role
that is special and distinctive, not them as a people.
There is a big difference between being special because of who
you are and being special because of what you do, a difference that
chose Abraham to be special. Again,
Abraham wasn't any better than anyone else.
When God chose him he was a polytheistic pagan.
It wasn't because Abraham was special that God chose him.
It was because God had a special role for Abraham to play among
the nations. It was his role
that was special, not he himself.
17 is key to the rest of the book. Paul
introduces the fact that righteousness is by faith.
What does that mean?
of all, faith is trust. So,
when Paul says that righteousness is by faith, he means that
righteousness comes through trusting Jesus.
That is what faith means in relation to Jesus and the gospel.
righteousness simply means living the right way, according to God's
definition of right and not ours. We will see later
that there are two aspects to Biblical righteousness.
One aspect is seen in the way we live.
We either live righteously, as God would have us live, or, we
live in an unrighteous manor, not as God would have us live.
The other aspect is that God views us as living right, even
though we are not living right. It
is the second aspect that Paul is speaking of here.
We will see that because of the cross of Christ, God now views
the believer as if he was completely righteous, even though he is far
from righteous. We'll spend
much more time on this later.
theological terms, what I've just said is called "imparted
righteousness" and "imputed righteousness".
Imparted righteousness is the righteousness that is worked in and
through us with the help of the Holy Spirit.
That is to say, as we grow in Christ, we become more righteous.
Imputed righteousness means that God views us as being righteous
even when we are far from righteous.
The fact that Jesus lives the perfect life, satisfying the
justice of God, makes it possible for us to be seen as righteous.
is important to understand that just because God views us as being
righteous, does not give us an excuse to not grow in righteousness.
We take advantage of God's grace when we merely accept this
imputed righteousness from Him and fail to allow Him to make us more
righteous than we presently are.
Paul quotes from Habakkuk 4:2 when he says that "the righteous shall live by faith". This is one well known statement. This statement is seen by many to say that our righteous standing before God is due to our faith, or, our trust in Jesus. That being said, many Hebrew scholars say we should understand the text this way. The righteous shall live by His (God's) faith, or, trustworthiness. I view Habakkuk 4:2 the second way, mainly because our faith is less stable than God's faithfulness. If things depended on our faith, little would be accomplished.
You might wonder that if our righteous standing is now by faith in Jesus, was it always that way? Many believe those living in Old Testament days were viewed by God as being righteous when they obeyed the Law. Paul will later point out that Abraham was declared righteous before there was any Law of God spoken to Moses. Abraham was actually declared to be a man of God, not by works of the Law but by faith.
The NIV states that maintaining the righteous declaration that God places on those who trust Him is by faith from first to last. The Greek actually does not say from first to last but "from faith to faith". Therefore, we maintain this righteous declaration as we learn to trust Him from one test of faith to the next. As was the case with Abraham himself, our faith is often faulty, and therefore needs to be strengthened. The strengthening of our faith comes through trials which causes us to trust Jesus more than we presently do. When we pass each of these tests of faith, we trust more. So, it's from faith to faith, from one step of faith to the next step of faith.
I grew up in an Evangelical world that stressed salvation by faith, but then stressed you stay saved by doing certain things and by not doing other certain things. That's not what Paul is saying here. We get saved by faith and not by works and we stay saved by faith and not by good works.
1:17 is often associated with Martin Luther. It is this verse that
formed the foundation of his life once its understanding was made clear
to him. A lot of good has come from Martin Luther and his
teaching, but, it is important to know that even Luther didn't fully
grasp the full meaning to this verse, or so I think. He still
maintained certain practices that compromised the meaning of this verse,
one of which was the baptizing of babies into the church and salvation.
A baby does not have faith and therefore infant baptism does not