Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Epistle to the Romans - Introduction Part 1

Paul, even though inspired by the Holy Spirit, really THOUGHT about what he was writing.  His systematic and precise approach to the faith shows his intensity everywhere one may look in Romans.  His focus is overpowering at times.  With these thoughts in mind, one must approach and study this book with a passion and emotion that may not be required of other books.  Such passion and emotion, like Romans, are found in the searing questions of Job, the near death experience of Daniel as he hears of his nation’s future, the Jonathan and David friendship, John’s very personal writing about Christ in his gospel, and the near death experiences of this same John as he receives the Revelation from Christ Himself. 
These reasons, and more, make Romans compelling.  As to why we should undertake this task, there are a number of reasons.
First of all, Romans like Revelation, is a book few preachers in the brotherhood want to tackle.  There are three reasons for this. 
First of all, Romans is the “territory” of the Calvinist and we would just rather stay away.  (They agree to stay away from Acts and James, don’t they?) 
Secondly, we shy away from Romans because it requires far more exegesis and exposition than many a brotherhood preacher is prepared to give.  Romans does not lend itself to superficial topical sermons so popular today.  Paul doesn’t address any subject in Romans “generally!” 
Finally, we don’t typically like Romans for Paul deals with two subjects far too frankly for our contemporary “tastes;” sin and obedience.  Paul takes no prisoners!
There are several other reasons that compel us to embrace this book.  Number one, because of what Paul has to say about deviance in chapter one, Romans has become the most “politically incorrect” book in the world!  Whatever portion of Scripture that the world opposes at any given point in time with the most enthusiasm is just that portion we should preach from the roof tops.  (Paraphrasing what Luther once said)   
A second reason, and perhaps the most urgent, is that the apostates among us after having surrendered to Satan on the instrument and female leadership, are in the process of “studying away” biblical baptism.  (Max Lucado et. al.)  The former “Otter Creek church of Christ” in Nashville has now become “Otter Creek – A Church of Christ” that is fully Calvinist and has rejected the New Testament teaching on salvation.  From their own website their apostasy is readily apparent; “Salvation is by God’s grace, through Christ’s cross, and a result of the Spirit’s active work. It is received through faith. It is sealed in confession and baptism. It is demonstrated in a life lived under the lordship of Jesus.”  They are, in effect, adopting a Calvinist approach to Romans.  Every spirit must be tested.
Thirdly, the misinterpretation of Romans is the citadel and high ground of the so-called “sinners prayer” salvation experience.  A proper understanding of Romans…as written…will crash their fortress to the ground.
And now, let’s board the theological rollercoaster that is ROMANS!

I  Introduction – 1.1 – 1.2
     a. The name of Paul and it's meaning
     b. Paul's slavery
     c. Paul's calling
     d. Paul's apostleship
     e. Paul's severance for the gospel of God
          1. Promised beforehand by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures
The rock and roll band, "The Who," had a popular 1978 song with the lyrics; "Who are you?  Who? Who?"  (1)  The church of Christ at Rome must have had that same question!  "Who is this Paul?"  "We never met him!"  "Who does he think he is writing to us, total strangers, an epistle?!"  The Holy Spirit, driving Paul along, anticipates this potential reaction and Paul answers the question before it can be asked by the recipients. 
Paul - Paul is an interesting name.  It's Latin and it means "little or small" according to Thayer's Greek Definitions (TGD). (2)  This is in sharp contrast to what he was once known as to his Jewish compatriots, Saul.   Saul was Hebrew for Paul and it meant "desired."  (TGD)  Even his name describes who this man Paul is, the man who’s gone from "first to worst."  He's traveled from "desired to small," a "somebody," now a "nobody."

Paul does not leave anything to assumption.  Right off the bat he lets his Roman audience know who he is at his core.  He's a slave.  He's called.  He's an apostle.  He's been severed expressly for the gospel of God.  The raw rendition of this verse in the Textus Receptus reads thusly, "Paul, slave of Jesus Christ, called, apostle, severed into well-message of God."  (3)  Paul knows who he is!
First of all, he's a slave.  Not a very good way to start off a typical letter, however, this is no typical letter!  It is a letter to the beachhead congregation of the church of Christ.  It is the church of Christ at Rome, the epicenter of the entire known world at the time.  It is the church of Christ that meets all around the city, perhaps even just blocks away from Nero's palace!  It is a string of congregations that likely consisted of a number of slaves.  Up to 35% of the population of Rome may have been in slavery.  By the time of Nero the slave population of the empire had swelled to some 60 million persons. (4)  These congregations in Rome also may have included some masters as well, some perhaps even under the authority of elders who, in the outside world, were slaves!  There were Jews, Gentiles of all kinds and many former pagans.  Paul identifies with the lowest of the low.  This is the way of Christ.  [Matt. 10.39; 16.25, Mark 8.35, Luke 9.24; 17.33]   As he states later in 6.22, "...But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God..." (5)  The faithful church identifies herself with enslavement to God.  Rome was faithful!  [See 1.8]
Next, in describing himself to the Roman church he states that he was "called."  Of course we are all called by God, as it were, by the gospel.  However, Paul had a very unique, special and one of a kind call never duplicated to any other person...EVER!  In Acts 9 and in Acts 22, Paul relates his calling.  A number of things make his calling totally unique.
1. Unlike all the other apostles, Paul was called by Christ in His glorified state as He is in present tense "...ruler over the kings of the earth..."  (Revelation 1.5)
2. Unlike all the other apostles, Paul was called by Christ while he was in open rebellion, outrageous blasphemy and violent persecution of Christ Himself.  (Acts 9.5)
3. Unlike all the other apostles, Paul was required to repent and be baptized to wash away his sins in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be added to the church of Christ.  (Acts 22.16)
4. Unlike all the other apostles, the words of salvation were spoken to him by a reluctant third party preacher.  (Acts 9.13 - 14)
5. Unlike all the other apostles, he was commanded to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the kings of the earth and to the Israelites as well.  (Acts 9.15)
6. Unlike all the other apostles, "uber-suffering" was promised to him on the front end by Christ Himself.  (Acts 9.16)
7.  Unlike all the other apostles, his calling included a three fold promise from Christ Himself; a) that he would "know His will,"  b) "..see the Just One," and  c) "hear the voice of His mouth."  (Acts 22.14)
Not only was Paul a slave and had a unique calling, Paul was no ordinary messenger, preacher or evangelist...Paul was an APOSTLE!  He was chosen by Christ to be part of His eternal "inter sanctum."  He was added to the twelve.  He had apostolic authority.  He spoke on behalf of Christ Himself.  His words were to be obeyed and not ignored. 
(1) Source: wikepedia.com
(2) via e-sword.net
(5) Quoted from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation Version of the Bible (LITV).  Currently out of print, Green translates from the Textus Receptus.  (TR) The LITV is available for free on the website: http://www.e-sword.net/ 

 To be continued...


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